Hello friends! First, your weekly dose of the strange: Birdman’s Oscar nods last week prompted me to publish an observation I made back in December—that the film is a Muppet Movie. Maybe even the best Muppet movie.
Here I am on Tor.com:
Here’s how it breaks down:
Michael Keaton is Riggan Thompson is Kermit D. Frog, neurotic leader of a troupe of misfits desperately trying to make it on, or at least near, Broadway with a charmingly dated concept (Vaudville in the 80s / painfully earnest Carver adaptations in the ’10s). Their shows are a weird mix of cynicism and blinding idealism, on a shoestring budget, with enough of a revue aspect to allow for hilarious backstage costume antics—bet-the-farm passion projects helmed by a director/writer/producer/star so desperately earnest it sometimes hurts to watch him.
Read the rest of the article. Honestly, I think this may be why I got so into this film. It has problems, of course, and friends of mine keep pointing them out! Basically every critic or critically-inclined individual I know has struck sparks off the invective Keaton’s character directs at the film’s main critic character, not to mention the critic herself, for example. (Granted, there may be a little bit of hitting-too-close-to-home at work there—back when Stuff White People Like was a thing, I’d been studying Chinese intensely for several years and living in Anhui for a while, not to mention that I was in my early 20s and had very little sense of humor, so I was not let’s say properly primed to be able to laugh at the site’s “White People Like Studying Chinese” article. I am now, but that’s another story.) And its portrayal of big-ticket New York theater, and of Chandler, is… hopelessly romantic? Especially given that Big Ticket NYC Theater is a Business, and film people on stage are hardly a new phenomenon. But I made the Muppet connection about halfway through the film, and so—of course what’s at issue here are these Big Overwhelming Simplistic Emotional Questions of Authenticity and Wanting to Do the Right Thing By These Flawed Weird People, of course the theater’s almost out of money, of course the critic is genderswapped Statler and Waldorf, of course of course of course. It’s even possible that, because of the Muppet-like vibe, I was prepared to accept e.g. the film’s lionization of Carver, who’s a great writer but such an easy touchstone for spare artistic excellence that he tends to get used as a kind of lazy metonymy for Art even though the film doesn’t really interact all that much IIRC with, like, Carver himself, as kind of fun-poking at the whole unreflective Carver-is-PURE-ART thing, in the same way that The Muppets is always both winking at the camera and refraining from winking at it, at one and the same time. (And in the same way it’s possible to think Carver is awesome and recognize the existence of the aforementioned Carver Thing.)
And there’s something to be said for raw freneticism that holds together; this film is sort of applying the Tony Jaa aesthetic (speed! continuity! choroegraphy!) to drama; it’s like Eddie Izzard’s American Adaptation of British Film method applied to, say, the first season of Slings and Arrows.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about re: Eddie Izzard, watch this.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about re: Slings and Arrows, watch this.
If you don’t like the first season of Slings and Arrows, you’re wrong, and you’re on the internet, so… keep being wrong, I guess?
Anyway, I had a wonderful time at Arisia. Good cons and good conversations and good parties! I got confused for a Doctor Who cosplayer at the Doctor Who party, even though I was just dressed like normal. This is maybe the best compliment I’ve ever received. Lots of good crunchy conversation on all panels. Theory abounds! On the final day I even engaged in some good old-fashioned postmodernist (or metamodernist) moon-shouting. Hooray!
In Publishing News for the Week, it looks like preorders for Last First Snow are live! I think they’ve been for a while, but maybe they’re extra-live now or something? Go ye forth and preorder! It’s all for the best!