Actor - Michael Keaton
Supporting Actor - Edward Norton
Supporting Actress - Emma Stone
Director - Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Cinematography - Emmanuel Lubezki
Sound Editing - Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock
Sound Mixing - Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
Original Screenplay - Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
Birdman is the tale of an actor, known primarily for his portrayal of a superhero, seeking validation by mounting a serious production on Broadway. At the start of the film he is in rehearsals just days away from opening as he deals with emotional actors, a nervous lawyer, a recovering drug addict daughter, and a haunting voice of self-loathing and self doubt embodied by his former character, Birdman.
Michael Keaton gives a vulnerable performance and we understand that this play means everything to him - financially, spiritually, and emotionally. He has constant hallucinations of superhero powers that range from telekinesis to flight, and each setback in the play slowly chips away at his sanity. His ex-wife very pointedly tells him, "you confuse love for admiration," and the most powerful Broadway reviewer says, "you're not an actor, you're a celebrity." All of this while he deals with a nervous female lead (Naomi Watts), an insane but clearly brilliant last minute cast addition in Edward Norton (himself manic and unstable, but hilarious), and a confused and struggling daughter in Emma Stone, who is raw and emotional in her own right.
For the technical categories, the cinematography is subtle - I had to watch the film a second time to really ingest the brilliance of the camera work. Yes, there are lots of shots in dark places with interesting lighting that usually attract the attention of this branch, but the amazing work comes in taking a drama and shooting it like a superhero movie. I'm not sure that any of the three technical awards will go to Birdman, but the merits of the nominations are clear.
Watch the trailer here: