On “Birdman,” the movie

Birdman poster.jpg



It’s not often – after spending 63 summers here on this earth – that I leave a movie and say:  “What the [expletive deleted] was that all about?!?

Which is being interpreted:  This is a review of Birdman , the movie.  It’s also the first post on my new blog, the “Georgia Wasp. ”  (Georgiawasp.com.)

Which leads up to an interesting story:  A story about me not being a “dating psycho.”

It all started when I signed up for the domain name, “Georgia Wasp.”

That was supposed to be a clever take-off on the Carolina Israelite.   The Israelite was a pre-Internet blog of sorts.  A newspaper, published in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1944 to 1968, by “journalist, social critic, and humorist Harry Golden.”  See also:  Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

I bought a copy of his book, “Only in America” – as shown below – and it’s been an inspiration ever since.  I’ve always wanted to do an homage to him and his style of writing.

Harry Golden was Jewish, and he lived in North Carolina.  That’s how he came up with the name “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a classic WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), and I live in Georgia.  So I figured it would would be perfectly natural – not to mention, an homage –  to have the nom de plume (pen name) of “the Georgia Wasp.”

But there’s a problem…

Apparently there’s a website, “dating psychos.”  (Or “words to that effect.”)  One of the bulletins tells of a crazy guy – “Alias ‘Georgia Wasp’” – who is said to be a “pathological liar…   married many times and has cheated on each wife with multiple partners!”

So here’s a heads up:  I’m not that guy!!!

Now, about that Birdman.  First a brief summary from Birdman (film) – Wikipedia:  The movie is a “2014 American black comedydrama film.”  That’s an important note:  Black comedy “employs farce and morbid humor,” and takes on “subject matter usually considered taboo.” 

It’s sometimes called “gallows humor” – as in the image at right of “Major ‘King’ Kong riding a nuclear bomb to oblivion, [in] Dr. Strangelove.”  And it’s often controversial.

So Birdman stars Michael Keaton – as Riggan Thomson – “a faded Hollywood actor famous for his role as superhero Birdman, as he struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver.”   What follows are some expanded notes I made about the film, the day after viewing.  (In the manner of Hunter Thompson and his Gonzo journalism.)

Basically, Birdman is to the world of Broadway actors what A Few Good Men was to the Marine Corps and the military justice system.  It gives a fascinating, inside view of the world of Broadway actors, and that alone made it well worth while.  (Worth the $10.68 “we” paid to get the tickets, but not worth the extra $13.29 for the one large soda and large popcorn…)   

In doing so, the film focuses on one, slightly-demented caricature of a main character.  (If not a poseur, as was the case with Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup in AFGM.)

Riggan (Keaton) is a washed-up actor who used to be famous for his role in a blockbuster series of hack films.  (That is, as “Birdman.”)  He’s trying to make a come-back on Broadway, and one person stands in his way.  That’s the “evil” Broadway critic, “Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan), who tells him she hates Hollywood celebrities [who] ‘pretend’ to be actors.”  (I on the other hand, I found her to be the most sympathetic character in the whole movie.  She alone made sense, and was an island of sanity in an otherwise loony bin of a film.)  Then this happens:

On opening night, Riggan uses a real loaded gun for the final scene in which his character kills himself, and shoots his nose off onstage.  He earns a standing ovation from all but Tabitha [the critic], who leaves during the applause.  In the hospital, Jake tells Riggan that Tabitha gave the play a rave review, dubbing his suicide attempt “super-realism,”, a new form of method acting.  After Samantha visits Riggan, he dismisses Birdman and, seeing birds outside, climbs onto the window ledge.  When Samantha returns, Riggan has disappeared.  She looks down at the street, then up at the sky, and smiles.

Incidentally, “Emma Stone [plays] Samantha Thomson, Riggan’s daughter and assistant, a recovering drug addict.”  That may explain some alternate theories about that ending.

Birdman EndingThe best alternate theories come from the site: Let’s Talk About the Birdman Ending – Film.  (Which included “Samantha,” at left, watching her father “take off.”)

But first, here’s that writer’s take on the film in general:

This movie doesn’t just want to make you feel something, it wants to say something about humanity and stardom and the inner lives of celebrities and the “cultural genocide” that superhero films have wrought upon us.

Mmmmm-m-okay!   And here’s his first thought on the ending:

Every time in the film Riggan does something “supernatural,” there’s always some natural explanation for it, but this time, when he flies away [at the end], his daughter looks up, not down…    Thus, I posit that the very last shot of the film is Innaritu’s way of joining the metaphorical/imagined with the real.  Riggan still can’t fly, nor does he actually jump out a window in that last scene.  The movie is just conveying that for the first time, Sam is seeing her father the way he sees himself.  (E.A.)

But then the reviewer gave an alternate theory:  Essentially that Samantha went wacko after seeing her father’s body on the pavement.  (Remember, she’s a recovering addict):

Riggan, in a bout of self-delusion, does actually jump out the window.  When his daughter looks down, she sees his dead body and experiences a psychotic break, resulting in her look upwards at the end.  (E.A.)

But then this guy came up with yet another theory, about Riggan.  The theory is that this Riggan guy is actually the real jerk that he seems.  That he has a noble cause, but an unhealthy obsession.  In addition, he’s “destroying relationships left and right (not to mention his face).”

And this even though he manages to get a measure of “Twitter” fame, but still isn’t respected as an artist.  (And this even though he did manage to fool that theater-critic babe.)

He’s still a freak show.  And perhaps that’s really what the ending is trying to say:  no matter what we try, no matter what drastic measures we take, we will always remain prisoners to ourselves.

Which all adds up to this:  This movie was way too whacked for me!!!

That’s another way of saying this:  If you feel like a “prisoner to yourself,” this movie may make sense.  On the other hand, if you happen to like yourself, then the script comes off as having been written by some pompous, self-absorbed, left-wing, pointy-headed bleeding-heart Hollywood hack.  (See also personification.) 

So other than an inside look at the often never-never land of actors – Broadway or otherwise – this film might be a waste of time.  Like I said, the movie was well worth the $10.68 “bargain” price of admission, but not the extra $13.29 for popcorn and a drink.

(On the other hand, I do agree about that “cultural genocide” remark about super-hero films…)


That’s probably not how Harry Golden would put it, but it’ll do for a first post.


The upper image is courtesy of  Birdman (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Harry Golden – Wikipedia.

Other full internet references are available by clicking on the icon or link.


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