“Birdman”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

birdman michael keaton 600x375
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Armando Bo, and Alexander Dinelaris
Main Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and more…
Past Oscar relations: Iñárritu was nominated for directing and co-producing Babel, Norton has been nominated twice (Best Supporting Actor for Primal Fear and Best Actor for American History X), Ryan has been nominated once (Best Supporting Actress for Gone Baby Bone), and Watts has been nominated twice (Best Actress for 21 Grams and The Impossible)

Today we have another article in this particular series of mine concerning certain 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of actual Oscar attention as a contender at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for here for us is a festival favorite in Birdman that’s looking to take its sensational festival screenings and use that buzz in order to appeal to the Academy. Can it actually do it in the face of myriad competition? Let us discuss that possibility a little bit now below…

This dramedy is a real change of pace for the normally super serious Iñárritu. It surrounds an actor who used to play a superhero and is trying to stage a comeback through a broadway production of a Raymond Carver story. Michael Keaton stars as the actor, with the supporting cast including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, Damian Young, and others. All of whom are fantastic from top to bottom, with special praise so far being given to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and his work. Now, it hopes to become an Oscar nominee.

What this film has going in its favor is how technically proficient and well acted it is. It’s also perhaps the most overtly funny Academy Award contender of the year, which never hurts either. Keaton, Norton, and Stone are almost surefire acting nominees (Best Actor for Keaton, Best Supporting Actor for Norton, and Best Supporting Actress for Stone), while Iñárritu is locked into Best Director and likely Best Original Screenplay as well. Lubezki could very well win Best Cinematography and Antonio Sanchez is likewise in play for Best Original Score. Across the board, Birdman is looking like a really heavy player. A winner? Well, that could be a harder sell, but a nominee seems like a pretty sure thing in a number of categories.

Working against Birdman is that it’s not exactly a traditionally Academy friendly movie. Oscar voters normally like things a little bit “easier” to digest, if that makes sense. A half dozen nods are certainly in play for the film at least, but how many of those noms could actually turn into wins? There’s a chance that the movie could wind up being shut out when all is said and done. That won’t stop it from showing up in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Cinematography at least, but they all could wind up falling short to more traditionally awards friendly flicks.

So, can this be a player at all? I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s going to be nominated in a whole bunch of places, but it just remains to be seen how many wins, if any, it can muster up. My suspicion is that in the technical categories there can be a win or two to be had, but other than that, right now it’s got other contenders to look up at. The tech citations could very well be Birdman’s only chance at victories, but time will tell in that regard. No matter how it does with voters, it’s well worth seeing and begins its theatrical run this weekend. Be sure to check it out…

Grade: Very Likely Contender (across the board)

Stay tuned for another one of these profiles coming your way next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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