Birdman / Starry Eyes

Sherif Awad-Film Critic-Egypt



by Sherif Awad
The backstage of the entertainment industry can sometimes be more interesting that the final products we see sometimes. There is a lot of drama, comedy and also some horrors taking place every now then. That’s why many films have tried to analyze the hunger for stardom and the sorrow of losing it.
Last week, I have seen two American films that have approached that topic in completely different ways.  The first is Birdman which everybody should know about now after it received two Golden Globes: a Best Actor for its star Michael Keaton and a Best Screenplay for its four writers Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo. We started to read good European reviews about Birdman since its premiere last August as the opening and as a competition film at the 71st Venice International Film Festival. Last November, it got its wide release in the US after limited release during the month of October.
The main character is Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, who used to be Hollywood star famous for making a blockbuster trilogy of a superhero called Birdman decades earlier. Riggan is not only tormented by the voice of Birdman but also imagines himself performing levitation. Riggan comes to Broadway as a writer, director and star of Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. However, he has trouble communicating with his co-star Mike (Edward Norton). Another day, a hangover Riggan imagines he can fly over New York City like the character Birdman he used to play.
Keaton was perfect in the role as echoes of his playing Batman in two Tim Burton’s film before going in the shadows of Hollywood helps him to get the essence of the role. Also, the film was shot in an unconventional way with the camera works and editing style give the appearance that Birdman is one continuous long take. Birdman owes a lot to his Mexican co-writer and director Alejandro González Iñárritu who always comes up with britlliant idea and directing methods since Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams and Biutiful.

The second film is called Starry Eyes belongs to the horror genre made in an independent way yet with good quality. It revolves around an aspiring actress called Sarah Walker (Alexandra Essoe) who is determined to make it in Hollywood so she spends her days working as a waitress in a fast-food chain and her nights with other her roommates who happens to be a group struggling actresses  and wannabes. Between this and that, Sarah keep on trying her luck out on countless casting calls in the hopes of finally catching a big break. After a series of strange auditions with a mysterious casting duo from famed production company Astraeus Pictures, Sarah finally lands the leading role in their newest film. The old chairman of the company (Lou Deszeran) thinks she has a bright future ahead of her, so he invites her only to reveal himself as a bizarre leader of a cult involving some Hollywood veterans who practice some kind of satanic worships. Sarah starts to lose her mind then her body is exposed to strange metamorphoses as she become a monster taking revenge on her mocking friends before surrendering to the dark cult of her new future. I saw Starry Eyes not only as a horror picture but surreal look at Hollywood when the obsession of money and fame becomes a nightmare.