FLICKS: Birdman, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks & DeliMan

Posted on 26 February 2015 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As a Florida State University Communications graduate, I took at least two classes in which Luis Bunuel’s films were examined. Working in cooperation with Spanish compatriot Salvador Dali, Brunuel surrealistic cinema inspired Mexican filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu. After directing the depressing Biutiful (2010), it seems that Inarritu decided to examine some of his recurring philosophy theories from a comedic perspective.

With the absurdist visuals, over-the-top-ensemble-acting and the story about a backstage nervous breakdown, one can see why the Academy Awards chose Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), as the best motion picture of 2014. In a year in which the motion picture industry made most of their box office mojo from costumed superheroes like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Birdman allows industry insiders to assuage their guilt from reaping benefits from themes they don’t necessary believe in.

Years after being out of the spotlight from playing the superhero Birdman, actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) seeks to perform in something “relevant.” Thomson funds a Randall Carver short story What We Talk About when We Talk About Love on Broadway. The film focuses on the final three preview rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Backstage, we witness intense backstage drama. Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone) helps her Dad backstage and is a recovering drug addict. Newly-hired method actor Mike (Edward Norton) gives a brilliant performance, but is a backstage louse. Mike’s girlfriend Lesley (Naomi Watts) has been a journeyman actress who is getting to perform on Broadway for the first time. Under pressure, backstage and alone, Riggan begins hearing the voice from “Birdman,” his dormant superego.

People either love or hate Birdman. The crowd I saw this film with departed the theater in silence. Some people walked out of Birdman, claiming that this was the first motion picture they have walked out of in four decades. Birdman is truly one of the most unique motion pictures to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and will be an influence upon future releases for artistically inclined producers and directors.

As I write this column, the ABC Network is releasing their celebrity participants on Dancing with the Stars, which will preview Monday night. Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opens this weekend and features Gena Rowlands as a South Florida senior citizen who makes an offbeat friendship with Michael Minetti (Cheyenne Jackson), a gay dance instructor. This film explores the themes of intolerance and ageism, but also the spiritual redemption of dance.

My Dad would have turned 93 this weekend. One of my fondest memories was sharing a pastrami sandwich and coffee with him on Broadway 14 years ago. While Birdman retraces our steps on Broadway, the newly released DeliMan reminded me of how good that meal was, even though this documentary takes place in Houston.

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