Real vs. "Real"

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)  is a film with many layers-- but the layers are shallow . . . we never leave the epidermis-- and in the end, though there's some good performances and some interesting irony and meta-irony (Michael Keaton plays an actor past his prime trying to stay relevant, but all people can remember him for is his role as the superhero Birdman . . . sound familiar?) the movie is overwrought and forgettable; Edward Norton does his impression of the best actor in the universe, the arch-fiend is a critic-- who might destroy Michael Keaton's play and might even destroy the movie as a whole, but then Keaton saves the day with his performance and his "performance" and for some inscrutable reason (perhaps to make it more "real") this is all done in one long Steadicam shot, giving the illusion that the film is one long take . . . but all this does is make the film far too long (two hours) for this kind of comedy, there's too much time to "get" the irony and the ambiguity (and maybe all this quality TV has ruined me, but I'm used to brevity now) and so while there are funny and profound and vivid moments, as a whole the movie is ponderous (JCVD does it better) and Emma Stone's various rants and lectures about Twitter and social media are annoying and dated, but if you want to see something real (rather than "real") then check out On the Ropes, a 94 minute boxing documentary from 1999 that tells the story of three boxers and their trainer Harry Keitt; Keitt has been homeless, shot his cousin over a drug deal, and addicted to cocaine, but he fought his way out of trouble and now tries to inspire his fighters . . . but even if you train hard, it's tough to defeat the ghetto: Tyrene Manson is a Golden Gloves contender, but she gets screwed by her crackhead Uncle Randy, who sells drugs to an undercover cop, and Tyrene gets charged with intent to sell as well (simply because some drugs were in her room, which is hardly "hers" as she lives in a house with many other people . . . watching her incompetent lawyer and the cold-hearted judge that sentences her is heartbreaking); George Walton is a young fighter with professional aspirations and ability, and he leaves his trainer behind and learns some hard lessons about trust and talent; and Noel Santiago is a likable slacker who finds inspiration and enthusiasm in the boxing gym, but also learns that even if you try, sometimes success is elusive . . . Birdman takes a long time illustrating a few things about some shallow and insipid characters, but On the Ropes cuts to the bone much quicker, and though the film is gritty and at times ugly, there's some unforgettable moments in it.

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