What a great film! Intelligent, smart and funny. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's black satirical comedy has got it all (almost; more on that later). Great acting from everybody, smart writing, brilliant cinematography, ambitious - and very well executed - directing (and editing), and a fantastic soundtrack. No wonder it had been sweeping up accolades, and if Boyhood took just one year less and more to tell its story, there would not be much competition against it from this year's crop.
Innaritu told a story that is beyond one man's struggle for self-worth. He satirised the entire world of showbiz - the actors, the critics, the assistants, the agents - and also the state of our humanity - the latter of which could be a bit too much on the nose, though.
However, Innaritu did something unexpected in the final act. It was an unexpected act in what could have been really expected but dramatic. And the open ending was refreshing.
Technically, this film was amazing! Almost the whole 119 minutes (minus about 2 scenes) had been edited to appear as if it was one long continuous take. Initially, for the more aware, this could have been distracting, but slowly you get used to it and appreciate the style. It literally does make you feel like you are in the scene with the actors - very fly-on-the-wall - so everything feels more visceral, and as you follow Micheal Keaton's character you get a very realistic experience on his feelings. Perhaps, we are the voice in his head? Or maybe we are all just observers during our brief time in this world?
Kudos to the writing team of Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr, and Armando Bo. The script was smart, witty and on-point. Humour was sprinkled liberally throughout the script, intelligent play on words, witty quips, dry, deadpanned, black, all sorts. The monologues felt organic and in character.
Keaton was superb. As our protagonist, he is in a lot of the scenes, and as aforementioned, most of the scenes were in one take (then edited together) and that puts a lot of demand on the actor. Keaton accomplished it brilliantly. He brings us into the mind of his character, such that in the beginning, we are not even sure if he is insane, schizophrenic, or truly super. And, that final act, was truly a tour de force moment. You could never really tell what was going to happen next.
So in this year's race for Best Actor, where does Keaton stand? Between Keaton, The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne, and The Imitation Game's Benedict Cumberbatch, Redmayne has the showiest role; Cumberbatch has the most nuanced performance; and Keaton had the most engaging. Keaton might still be the front runner against the Brits.
Edward Norton gave his best performance since Primal Fear. It was a vanity free performace that threatens to steal the limelight from Keaton in the first two acts. The scenes between Norton and Keaton were one of the best, but that said, Norton scenes with Emma Stone were a good counter-balance to all the craziness around.
Stone had one great scene, and she nailed it! That would be the scene that would nail her an Oscar nomination. (Although after that I could really appreciate the joke that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made of her during the 72nd Golden Globes Awards)
Naomi Watts did not have a showy role here but better her than anybody else. Zach Galifianakis was so much better in smaller doses, where he could actually be found to be funny. Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough rounds up the capable cast.
My utmost kudos and amazement to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. His work here was so more deserving of an Oscar than on Gravity. Now I just need him to work with Guillermo del Toro.
It is a pity that Antonio Sanchez's work on the soundtrack has been disqualified for the Oscars, but perhaps because it was almost completely improvised which made it quite good.
How do you differentiate between a director who had vision and one who was technically very skilled? Both had ambition which was more than met.
Similarly, how do you differentiate two films about two great stories?
In my opinion, the answer is: which one had the most heart. And in this case, Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Simple and visionary in its story, but sincere in its execution.