Film Review: “Battle of the Sexes”

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell and Bill Pullman
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 1 mins
Fox Searchlight

Do you remember where you were 44 years ago?  I do.

On Thursday night, September 20th, 1973 I was at my friend Mike Schwartz’s house (my parents had gone out that night) and, along with his family, sat down in front of the television to watch what was being billed as “The Battle of the Sexes,” a tennis match between reigning superstar Billie Jean King and former champ Bobby Riggs. Having just turned 13-years-old the week before, I had no idea who Riggs was and the only thing I knew about King was that her brother, Randy, was a pitcher for the Giants and I owned his baseball card. Thankfully there was much more to the story.

Depending on your age you probably can’t believe that there was a time where it not only seemed like a joke to suggest a woman could run for President, it was news any time a woman was elected to office. In 1973, there were 16 women in Congress (out of 433 members) and a grand total of ZERO in the Senate. Any woman who showed any gumption was looked down upon by a very chauvinistic male society. One of these women was Billie Jean King (Stone). The #1 ranked women’s tennis player in the world, King was very vocal in getting the prize money paid to women at tournaments raised to the same amount as the men. Learning that, for winning the US Open, the winning man would receive $12,000 while the woman champ took home $1,500, King not only boycotts the tournament but convinces the other top female pros on the circuity to join with her and form the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Meanwhile, Bobby Riggs (Carell) is now married to a socialite (Elizabeth Shue) and pushing papers in an office. Always a hustler, Riggs hates being behind a desk and often leaves the house to run errands, which mostly consist of him playing tennis against his friends for money. He also attends Gambler’s Anonymous, though he’s not a good disciple. He reminds his fellow attendees that the reason they are there isn’t because the ARE gamblers, but because they are BAD gamblers. One night, while watching King on television, Riggs comes up with the ultimate hustle – a tennis match between he and King. “The Battle of the Sexes.”

An entertaining and charming film, “The Battle of the Sexes” is just the backdrop in a look at the life of one of sport’s greatest figures. The film looks at King’s home life; her marriage to Larry King (Austin Stowell) (not THAT one) seems happy but when she meets a young female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) she realizes that maybe she’s not. There is also the constant bickering between the WTA members and tennis honcho Jack Kramer (Pullman at his pompous best).

Not only is the film fun to watch, it handles it’s subject matter (both the tennis and the unexpected love story) with reverence. Both Stone and Carell give standout performances, and they are aided by quality performances from Pullman, Riseborough and an incredibly funny, but serious, Sarah Silverman. Look for the film to garner an Oscar nod of two come January 2018.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “Battle of the Sexes”

Media Mikes has teamed up with it’s friends at Fox Searchlight to give 50 readers and their guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Battle of the Sexes.”

The story of the famous tennis match between world #1 Billie Jean King and former tennis champ Bobby Riggs, the film stars Academy Award winner Emma Stone and Steve Carell and will be shown on Wednesday, September 27th at the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza. The screening will begin at 7:00 pm.

All you have to do is click here and download your pass. This giveaway is first come/first serve. When the 50 allotted passes have been claimed the giveaway is over.

Good luck!

“Battle of the Sexes”
Where: Cinemark Palace on the Plaza, Kansas City, MO
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.

Film Review: “La La Land”

 

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and John Legend
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 128 minutes
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Earlier this year I found myself listening to 80’s music thanks to “Sing Street,” a semi-original musical about growing up and finding your own unique voice in the chorus. I was enamored with the movie’s somewhat original music. I found myself reflecting on what makes original content, that pays homages or mirrors the past, refreshing for the soul. Something fresh and new makes you feel young, but if it’s also acting as a salute to previous generation, conjuring up fond memories.

I’m not going to claim that I’m old. If anything, I’m always jokingly belittled by my co-workers for being the young pup. So, I can’t claim that “La La Land” is evocative, but I understand what it’s reminiscing about. From the get go it establishes itself as a neo-classical musical that generously throws back to the tap dancing or over-the-top ensemble singing of “Going Hollywood,” “On the Town” or “Singin’ in the Rain.” The style clashes with the 21st century in unique ways, allowing the viewer to take a step back in time and refocus their senses in the current era.

Sebastian (Gosling) is a jazz pianist, struggling to make it as a musician for hire. So much so that when he’s handed a setlist, he finds himself playing off into his own groove or rhythm. Then there’s the aspiring actress Mia (Stone), who’s paying the bills by being a barista and making it to as many auditions as she can. The two awkwardly, and too consistently, bump into each other indirectly or directly. The sparks fly however when the two realize their encounters may not be coincidence.

“La La Land” is a love letter to a bygone era of cinema and antiquated model of love. It may be intentionally subversive that the two leads bump into each other so much before eventually exchanging flirtatious jabs or a callback to how gimmicky people on the silver screen used to fall for one another. Regardless of Damien Chazelle’s intentions, he has a lot of fun playing with the clichés of the movies, while sadly using them to help move the story along.

What Chazelle does do wonderfully however, is show off his expertise as the writer and director as if he’s become a scholar of the musical genre. The script isn’t as airtight when the theatrics, dancing, and music aren’t all working together, but this kind of endeavor could easily suffer more if it was too heavy on the music. The length is the right amount of time and the ending is a wonderfully melancholy exclamation point on a movie that will inspire some, and cause others to give pause and reflect.

Despite not being natural singers, Goslins and Stone on their own carry a tune, moreso Stone. The big numbers, including the opening, blend together whimsical dancing and music infused with jazz, swing and big band. Chazelle, a musician himself, knows when to have the music take over a scene and simply allow the lyrics take over. Just from listening to the soundtrack, I can determine that Chazelle spent more time on the production than the lyrics.

“La La Land” may become the winter darling of those who manage to catch it, I know it’s caused me to spin the soundtrack a few times and tap my foot to its catchy, heartwarming tunes. 2016 has been a dour year, and even worse for the cineplexes that have been populated with big budget sequels that lack creativity to DC superhero movies that lack originality. I’d like to believe that “La La Land” is the light at the end of the tunnel and that anyone who catches it can at least end this miserable year with a smile on their face.

Media Mikes 2016 Fall/Holiday Movie Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, and unless you’re dressing up as a ghost, you better not be wearing anything white! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall and the start of Hollywood’s “Prestige Movie Push!”

We’ll take a look at what the studios hope are their best bets to fill the multiplexes and bring home the Oscars. Once again, a big thank you to our friends at Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) for some synopsis information. Opening dates noted are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!

OCTOBER 7

THE 13th

Documentary
Directed by: Ava DuVernay

The director of “Selma” gives us an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

OSCAR CHANCES: Will surely make the short list.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Nate Parker

Set against the antebellum South, the film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

OSCAR CHANCES: After last year’s #OSCARSOWHITE controversy, the early buzz on this film almost guaranteed a bounty of nominations. However, it was recently revealed that writer/director/star Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow college student in 1999. Though Parker was not found guilty and Celestin had his conviction overturned, their alleged victim committed suicide. Not sure how this news will affect the Academy voters.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor

In the film, being compared to “Gone Girl,” a recently divorced woman
takes the train to work every day and imagines the lives of a young couple she
sees every day. Things get weird when the young wife disappears.

OSCAR CHANCES: Blunt is already getting raves for her performance.


OCTOBER 13

MASCOTS

Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch
Directed by: Christopher Guest

Simply described as “a look into the world of competitive mascots,” this is the latest opus from the great Christopher Guest. Sadly, unless I missed it, this is the first of Guest’s films that does not include Eugene Levy.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible screenplay nod.

 

OCTOBER 14

THE ACCOUNTANT

Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. What I like about the trailer is that Affleck seems to be a young genius. Maybe this is his chance to play Will Hunting?

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe.


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

Starring: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story

Kevin Hart performs his comedy in front of 50,000 fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: No.


OCTOBER 21

AMERICAN PASTORAL

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Ewan McGregor

In 1968, a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.

OSCAR CHANCES: Adapted screenplay?

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Starring: John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Karen Gillan
Directed by: Ti West

A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody cross-hairs of revenge. Ethan Hawke’s second western this season and John Travolta in a cowboy hat for the first time since “Urban Cowboy.” Yee-hah!

OSCAR CHANCES: Sadly Western’s very rarely get recognized.

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Director Zwick has helmed three of my favorite films (“About Last Night,” “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” but only has an Oscar for co-producing “Shakespeare in Love.” It’s about time this man was recognized, though I don’t think it’s going to be for a Jack Reacher film.

A MONSTER CALLS

Starring: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: J.A. Bayona

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

TYLER PERRY’S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens. I’m scared.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”

OCTOBER 28

INFERNO

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ron Howard

When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot. The second Felicity Jones film in as many weeks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Sorry, Tom, but your nomination this year is coming from “Sully”

 

NOVEMBER 4

BLEED FOR THIS

Starring: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Ben Younger

The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Robert DeNiro and Hillary Swank won Oscars for portraying boxers so never say never. Hell, Stallone got nominated…TWICE!

DOCTOR STRANGE

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

HACKSAW RIDGE

Starring: Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington
Directed by: Mel Gibson

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Mel doesn’t appear in this one but his dead-ringer son, Milo, does.

OSCAR CHANCES: Gibson (Mel, not Milo) already has an Oscar for directing so you never know. I’m sure people have forgotten what all of the hub-bub was about concerning him a few years ago.

LOVING

Starring: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Back in the dark ages, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Apparently they had nothing better to do in Virginia at the time.

OSCAR CHANCES: Acting, picture.

TROLLS

Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn

Remember those little plastic things with long hair that you used to put on the end of your pencil? When I was a kid we called them Kewpies but apparently they are Trolls and they have their own movie. Good for them!

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe best hairstyling?

NOVEMBER 11

ARRIVAL

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

OSCAR CHANCES: Picture, director, acting.

SHUT IN

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Farren Blackburn

A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Unsure, but young Mr. Tremblay should have been nominated last year for “Room.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE

Starring: Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. If you saw “Jaws,” this is the tale that Quint tells. Other “Jaws” related facts: this was the original idea for “Jaws 2.” Also: Mario Van Peebles starred in “Jaws the Revenge.”

OSCAR CHANCES: To me it looks like a “made for TV” movie. How about Emmy chances?


NOVEMBER 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Starring: Hailiee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. Is that weird? When I was in high-school I wanted to date my best friend’s older sister. Hopefully Stevie Nicks got some money from this.

OSCAR CHANCES: Nada

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jon Voight and Ezra Miller
Directed by: David Yates

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. Even though Harry Potter and his pals are less than 20 years old it seems like they’ve been around forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, music (the great James Newton Howard)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Affleck and Williams have been nominated in the past so I’m not ruling anything out.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Starring: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Tom Ford

An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. November is Amy Adams month.

OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board


NOVEMBER 23

ALLIED

Starring: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Cotillard isn’t married so maybe we can look forward to reading about “Bradarion” soon.

OSCAR CHANCES: Pitt, Cotilliard and Zemeckis have been there before.

BAD SANTA 2

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox
Directed by: Mark Waters

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

OSCAR CHANCES: I thought Billy Bob deserved a nod for the first film but I’m going to say no.

MOANA

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Scherzinger
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams

A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated feature, original song

RULES DON’T APPLY

Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Ed Harris
Directed by: Warren Beatty

An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for. Beatty has been wanting to do a Howard Hughes-based film since the 1970s. Not sure if this is what he had in mind back then but, after a 15-year absence, it’s great to see him both in front of and behind the camera.

OSCAR CHANCES: Only two people have been nominated in the same year for acting, directing, writing and producing the best picture: Orson Welles and Warren Beatty. And Beatty did it TWICE!


NOVEMBER 25

LION

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis

A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

OSCAR CHANCES: Many


DECEMBER 2

LA LA LAND

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Directed by: Damien Chazelle

From the creator of “Whiplash” comes a film about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. And it’s a musical!

OSCAR CHANCES: Early film festival buzz say’s this may be the film to watch (both on screen and at awards time!)


DECEMBER 9

MISS SLOANE

Starring: Jessica Chastain
Directed by: John Madden

An ambitious lobbyist faces off against the powerful gun lobby in an attempt to pass gun control legislation.

OSCAR CHANCES: Actress. Madden directed the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Starring: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston
Directed by: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

OSCAR CHANCES: Zip

DECEMBER 16

COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Starring: Will Smith and Keira Knightley
Directed by: David Frankel

A tragic event sends a New York ad man on a downward spiral.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’ve already had to apologize to Will Smith twice for doubting he’d get nominated for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” There won’t be a third. Good luck Will.

FENCES

Starring: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Directed by: Denzel Washington

An African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. Based on the August Wilson play.

OSCAR CHANCES: YES!

THE FOUNDER

Starring: Michael Keaton and Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

The story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. You may look at your next hamburger differently. Keaton is said to be so good that they pulled the film from it’s original release date.

OSCAR CHANCES: Keaton

A KIND OF MURDER

Starring: Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel
Directed by: Andy Goddard

In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman. This will be a day of decisions for Patrick Wilson fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: Don’t see any

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Starring: Felicity Jones, Jimmy Smits and Warwick Davis
Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Or, as I like to call it, “Episode 6.5” The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. Holy crap! The Death Star, Leia’s family, Darth Vader AND Wicket the Ewok? I’m already in line!

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, make up.

DECEMBER 21

20th CENTURY WOMEN

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Laura Wiggins
Directed by: Mike Mills

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

OSCAR CHANCES: Can anyone tell me why Annette Bening hasn’t won an Oscar yet? Didn’t think so. Keep your fingers crossed.

ASSASSINS CREED

Starring: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel

When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. This synopsis seems so crazy considering the cast. I wonder if the two leads made the same mistake Bill Murray did when he thought “Garfield” had been written by one of the Coen brothers!

OSCAR CHANCES: Fassbender elevates everything he’s in so I’m not saying no!

PASSENGERS

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It’s so weird to see Lawrence in a movie at the end of the year NOT directed by David O. Russell. Oh well, there’s always next year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, technical stuff

PATRIOTS DAY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Peter Berg

An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Sounds better than what I thought it was – knowing Wahlberg is a huge New England Patriot fan I thought it was about a day with Tom Brady. The third film by Wahlberg and director Berg and second this year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yes.

SING

Starring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Garth Jennings

A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated film….maybe.

DECEMBER 25

GOLD

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. When he was outrageously thin in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” McConaughey still looked good. In this one he’s bald and….dammit!

OSCAR CHANCES: No sir.

WHY HIM?

Starring: James Franco and Bryan Cranston
Directed by: John Hamburg.

A dad forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend. Based on a story by Jonah Hill. Somebody needed money.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m ashamed that I have to include those words with this film.

DECEMBER 28

PATERSON

Starring: Adam Driver
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.

OSCAR CHANCES: Love Jarmusch. Maybe a witting nod.

New York Film Fest “Birdman” Press Conference

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s reality-bending Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) closed the 52nd New York Film Fest this past Sunday. The film which opens on October 17th stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson an actor trying to distance himself from an iconic superhero film franchise by starring and directing his own broadway production. Keaton’s huge cast of co-stars includes Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough, all of whom joined the director at a press conference after the film at AMC Lincoln Center.

Much of the film revolves around Riggan’s struggle with his own identity versus his public image. Specifically he’s faced with a particularly vicious theatre critic whose sole objective is  to destroy Riggan’s show with her pen. Michael Keaton however maintained that he keeps himself in the dark when it comes to critics now. “This is where I’m really a dope” laughed Keaton who looked at reviews in his early days but not so much recently.  “I thought originally…you should be courageous and read everything and I did that a couple of times and I thought ‘well I’m not doing that anymore!’  Although he did add “Admittedly if someone says ‘hey you had a got nice review’ I’ll read it. I’m open to making myself feel better!” Addressing an entire auditorium of NYC critics he concluded “I think I’ve been treated basically fairly, I know I’m the wrong person to ask…There’s probably a lot of you out there going “Oh no you haven’t!”

            British theatre actress Andrea Riseborough, who plays Riggan’s co-star also avoids critical reviews “because [she finds] them debilitating, not because [she doesn’t] respect them” Riseborough added that there’s a certain element of fear when it comes to actors encountering critics, rather than hostility, especially in the world of theatre. “You know, they saw Gambon doing his bit back in the day and now they’re going to come and see me. It makes me just want to shit myself!”
 Zach Galifianakis confidently chimed in “I’ve never had a bad review, so I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. It sounds familiar. I’ve heard people talk about it. But I’ve never had one” cracking up his cast and the audience.

Naomi Watts compared some of her theatre experience to the unorthodox way Birdman was shot: “I can say, I haven’t done a huge amount of theatre, but just from back in the days when I was studying and you know, doing plays then, a lot of my nightmares revolve around being on the stage; And forgetting my lines, or having the wrong clothes on or no clothes at all. So it is that classic recurring nightmare. A lot in the way this film was shot, with this speed and the high stakes and the technicalities and the dependency on each other and the, also the effects, you know the props and things, the cameras, the lighting and the removing of tables and putting them back, you know all those things sort of created this high level intensity and pressure that felt sort of emblematic sort of how it feels on the stage.”

Soon to be joining Watts in stage experience is Emma Stone, who in November will replace Michelle Williams in the current broadway revival of Cabaret. I asked her how she felt between making this film about a movie star entering Broadway and now actually facing that in reality.
“Well, you know, I did write the character of Sally Bowles and I’m directing the production”  the Amazing Spider-man star laughed, then added  “No, I you know, of course this movie brings up a lot of horrible fears of coming into the broadway community and having a Tabitha [the film’s villainous critic]…it feels very different. But I will say that making this  movie and kind of what we had to contend with, as actors, in making something like this, all of the pieces that Naomi was talking about had to–you know, having the table moving out and needing to rely on each other  the way the company does, I think is incredibly helpful now going into theatre in that way and realizing that you’re you know you operate very much as a unit. We all operate as a unit. And in a lot of films it’s not that way at all. It’s a very separate experience. So yeah, I’m nervous as hell. I’m shitting myself!”

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu elaborated on the challenge he and DP Emmanuel Lubezki faced in shooting Birdman in mainly long contiunous shots. “Basically all the camerawork, all the blocking and all the lighting was pre-assigned in advance, months in advance. So there was no improvisation everything was precise, meticulously…Without the editing everything has to happen in the flow and then so you have to really get everything together…So the difficulty was the point of view–where this camera would be located to tell the story right. Who has to be in frame or not. Who has to be the listener…The challenge of that was that there was no lights, shooting film lights. Everything was practical lights and sometimes it was 360 degrees in tiny cooridors with guys with microphones. So all that thing that they’re talking about–the things moving and the ‘you have to be behind him’ and then you go under the legs of somebody and then crawl over the other side. It was kind of the kids playing a theatre play and the camera going around with this 17mm lens which is a wideshot. So every bit, every line, every open door has to be performed exactly the same…it has to be right.”

Actress Amy Ryan described this process as causing a “happy accident” whereby Keaton’s character had to be laying on a dressing room counter top in order to accommodate the camera manuevers “That was the only place really that worked best for every moving part in the scene, boom operator and [Lubezki], myself, Michael. And now I can’t think of a better choice for that, that’s exactly where he should be in that moment.”

Of course with a past Hulk, a Gwen Stacy and an iconic Batman in the room, the idea of the Superhero Film had to be raised with the cast and although the film is definitely not that, it doesn’t entirely shy away from some CGI effects. Keaton was pleased with this “When the special effects come in, I mean it’s just outta nowehere! And I totally dig it. I go yeah, there’s a little treat…A little megaplex action superhero movie dose for you right there…”
He and Edward Norton previewed some footage at New York Comic Con the evening before.  “Michael and I went over to New York Comic Con last night to do a little panel there,” said Norton, “and in the dark right before we went on I looked at Michael and said ‘do think this is the ultimate bait and switch?’ Can you imagine if you go to this actually thinking it’s a superhero movie?”

Birdman is now in limited theatrical release.