Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a meta-satire of actors, acting, critics and comic book movies. It was shot in the real-life St. James Theater in New York in what is made to look like a single take. It is also incredibly fun — watching top-flight actors scream and yell and kiss and punch, as they zip through narrow hallways, back and forth from the stage to their dressing rooms.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a former big-screen superhero who has mortgaged everything to write, direct and star in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Thomson “is about to destroy what’s left” of his career, according to the voice in his head. That’s Birdman, the comic book hero played by Thomson in three blockbuster movies. Keaton’s Birdman voice is a just-right goof on Christian Bale’s Batman. Keaton played Batman first and best. Thomson is aiming for a comeback. Keaton might be, too. There are a lot of layers to unpack.
Thomson is dealing with a lot of shit and personalities — his producer (an understated Zach Galifianakis), a pretentious theater actor (Edward Norton), a high-maintenance actress (the ageless Naomi Watts), his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), his ex-wife (Amy Ryan), his straight from rehab daughter (Emma Stone) and an iconoclastic theater critic (Lindsay Duncan).
Norton, another survivor of comic book movies, threatens to steal this one from Keaton. His character sees Thomson as a big-budget interloper crashing the New York stage. Norton plays a brilliant actor who acts brilliantly during rehearsals and the play. It is a stunning performance inside a performance. Norton was once the best actor of his generation. His first six films were Primal Fear (1996), the musical Everyone Says I Love You (1996), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Rounders (1998), American History X (1998) and Fight Club (1999). He received Academy Award nominations for Primal Fear and X. By 2008, he was the The Incredible Hulk.
Stone deserves better than playing the lead girl in the last two Spider-Man movies. She is an interesting actress, with a husky voice and big, expressive eyes — made even bigger by the camera work of director Alejandro Inarritu.
Inarritu’s movies — 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful — have been real downers. Not this one. He directs with excitement and confidence, and he co-wrote the smart, snappy dialogue. Inarritu is complemented by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, Gravity). The score is by Antonio Sanchez, and it’s all drums. When Keaton navigates Times Square in his underwear or rushes to the stage on opening night, Inarritu shows the drummers as they pound out the score. Birdman is full of these little bits of fantasy — Thomson trashing his dressing room by moving objects kinetically, Birdman stalking Thomson down the street. “Let’s go back one more time and show them what you’re capable of,” Birdman says. “There you go, you motherfucker.”
Keaton and Bill Murray were the most influential comic actors of the 1980s. Keaton’s performance as manic, fast-talking Bill Blazejowski in Night Shift was a touchstone for many actors. They are both in their mid-60s now. Murray plays it safe in St. Vincent, also in theaters. It is the first touching movie from Murray. It leads with the heart. Keaton is leading with his balls.
November 1, 1989
October 4, 1989
Commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Reds manager Pete Rose from baseball for betting on games. Giamanti died of a heart attack eight days later. Mike Schmidt retired in May. The next month, he was voted to the All-Star Game. Vince Coleman stole a record 50 consecutive bases without being caught.
Babe Ruth Award | Will Clark, Giants. 23 home runs, 111 RBIs, .333 batting average, .407 on-base percentage, .546 slugging percentage, 111 runs, 38 doubles.
2. Kevin Mitchell, Giants
3. Howard Johnson, Mets
4. Lonnie Smith, Atlanta
Walter Johnson Award | Orel Hershiser, Dodgers. 15-15, 2.31 ERA, 178 strikeouts and 77 walks in 256.2 innings. Hershiser threw 169 pitches on the last day of the season, giving up one run on 10 hits and three walks, to avoid a losing record.
Jackie Robinson Award | Greg Harris, Padres. 8-9, 2.60 ERA, 106 strikeouts and 52 walks in 135 innings.
2. Dwight Smith, Cubs
3. Jerome Walton, Cubs
Connie Mack Award | Don Zimmer, Cubs. 93-69 [.574]
2. Roger Craig, Giants
3. Jack McKeon, Padres
Catcher | Craig Biggio, Astros. 13 home runs, 60 RBIs, .257 batting average, .336 on-base percentage, .402 slugging percentage. 2. Mike Scioscia, Dodgers. Best fielder | Scioscia
First base | Will Clark, Giants. 23 home runs, 111 RBIs, .333 batting average, .407 on-base percentage, .546 slugging percentage, 111 runs, 38 doubles. Best fielder | Eddie Murray, Dodgers.
2. Glenn Davis, Astros
3. Jack Clark, Padres
Second base | Ryne Sandberg, Cubs. 30 home runs, 76 RBIs, .290 batting average, .356 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage, 104 runs. Best fielder | Jose Oquendo, Cardinals.
Third base | Howard Johnson, Mets. 36 home runs, 101 RBIs, .287 batting average, .369 on-base percentage, .559 slugging percentage, 104 runs, 41 doubles, 41 stolen bases. 2. Bobby Bonilla, Pirates. Best fielder | Ken Caminiti, Astros.
Shortstop | Ozzie Smith, Cardinals. 2 home runs, 50 RBIs, .273 batting average, .335 on-base percentage, .361 slugging percentage, 29 stolen bases. Best fielder | Ozzie
Left field | Kevin Mitchell, Giants. 47 home runs, 125 RBIs, .291 batting average, .388 on-base percentage, .635 slugging percentage, 100 runs.
2. Lonnie Smith, Atlanta
3. Barry Bonds, Pirates
Center field | Eric Davis, Reds. 34 home runs, 101 RBIs, .281 batting average, .367 on-base percentage, .541 slugging percentage. Best fielder | Gerald Young, Astros.
Right field | Von Hayes, Phillies. 26 home runs, 78 RBIs, .259 batting average, .376 on-base percentage, .461 slugging percentage, 101 walks, 28 stolen bases.
Outfield | Tony Gwynn, Padres. 4 home runs, 62 RBIs, .336 batting average, .389 on-base percentage, .424 slugging percentage, 203 hits, 40 stolen bases.
Starting rotation |
1. Orel Hershiser, Dodgers. 15-15, 2.31 ERA, 178 strikeouts and 77 walks in 256.2 innings.
2. Bruce Hurst, Padres. 15-11, 2.69 ERA, 179 strikeouts and 66 walks in 244.2 innings, 10 complete games.
3. Ed Whitson, Padres. 16-11, 2.66 ERA, 117 strikeouts and 48 walks in 227 innings.
4. Greg Maddux, Cubs. 19-12, 2.95 ERA, 135 strikeouts and 82 walks in 238.1 innings.
5. Dennis Martinez, Expos. 16-7, 3.18 ERA, 142 strikeouts and 49 walks in 232 innings. 6. Bryn Smith, Expos. 7. Mark Langston, Expos. 8. Mike Bielecki, Cubs.
Reliever | Mark Davis, Padres. 4-3, 1.85 ERA, 44 saves, 92 strikeouts and 31 walks in 92.2 innings.
— Kevin Brewer
June 28, 1989
1. ROSE DEFEATS FOSSE | 1956
X. BO! | 1989
X. PARKER’S THROW | 1979
X. PEDRO’S STRIKEOUTS | 1999
Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park was an event. The 1999 All-Star Game was no different.
He struck out five of the six batters he faced, including the first four, and became the first pitcher to begin the All-Star Game by striking out the side.
Martinez struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell — four of the past five National League MVPs and five players who hit a combined 2,222 career home runs.
Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball: 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts in 213.1 innings. He won the AL Cy Young Award, the All-Star Game and two playoff games.
X. BASEBALL IS BACK | 1981
Also | 1994
June 14, 1989
The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat played their first season. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played his last. The Jazz fired coach Frank Layden and hired Jerry Sloan. TNT began televising NBA games.
Player of the Year | Michael Jordan [Bulls] 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 55.3 2-point shooting, 85.0 free throw shooting, 2.9 steals. Jordan moved to point guard near the end of the season and had 10 triple-doubles in 11 games.
2. Magic Johnson [Lakers]
3. Charles Barkley [76ers]
4. Karl Malone [Jazz]
5. John Stockton [Jazz]
Rookie of the Year | Mitch Richmond [Warriors] 22.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 47.5 2-point shooting, 81.0 free throw shooting.
Defensive Player of Year | Akeem Olajuwon [Rockets] 3.4 blocks, 2.6 steals. First player with 200 blocks and 200 steals in a season.
Sixth Man of the Year | Eddie Johnson [Suns] 21.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 51.0 2-point shooting, 51.3 3-point shooting, 86.8 free throw shooting.
Coach of the Year | Chuck Daly [Pistons] 63-19
Forward | Charles Barkley [76ers] 25.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 63.6 2-point shooting, 75.3 free throw shooting. Age 
Forward | Karl Malone [Jazz] 29.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 52.1 2-point shooting, 76.6 free throw shooting. Age 
Center | Akeem Olajuwon [Rockets] 24.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 51.1 2-point shooting, 69.6 free throw shooting, 2.6 steals, 3.4 blocks. Age 
Guard | Michael Jordan [Bulls] 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 55.3 2-point shooting, 85.0 free throw shooting, 2.9 steals. Age 
Point guard | Magic Johnson [Lakers] 22.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 12.8 assists, 54.8 2-point shooting, 91.1 free throw shooting. Age 
Forward | Dominique Wilkins [Hawks] 26.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 47.5 2-point shooting, 84.4 free throw shooting. Age 
Forward | Chris Mullin [Warriors] 26.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 52.7 2-point shooting, 89.2 free throw shooting, 2.1 steals. Age 
Center | Patrick Ewing [Knicks] 22.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 57.0 2-point shooting, 74.6 free throw shooting, 3.5 blocks. Age 
Point guard | John Stockton [Jazz] 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 13.6 assists, 56.1 2-point shooting, 86.3 free throw shooting, 3.2 steals. Age 
Guard | Clyde Drexler [Trail Blazers] 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 51.1 2-point shooting, 79.9 free throw shooting, 2.7 steals. Age 
Forward | Larry Nance [Cavaliers] 17.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 54.1 2-point percentage, 79.9 free throw percentage, 2.8 blocks. Age 
Forward | Kevin McHale [Celtics] 22.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 54.8 2-point percentage, 81.8 free throw percentage. Age 
Center | Moses Malone [Hawks] 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 49.6 2-point percentage, 78.9 free throw percentage. Age 
Point guard | Kevin Johnson [Suns] 20.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 51.4 2-point shooting, 88.2 free throw shooting. Age 
Point guard | Mark Price [Cavaliers] 18.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 54.8 2-point percentage, 44.1 3-point percentage, 90.1 free throw percentage. Age 
Center | Robert Parish [Celtics] 18.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 57.0 2-point shooting, 71.9 free throw shooting. Age 
Guard | Ron Harper [Cavaliers] 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 54.0 2-point shooting, 75.1 free throw shooting, 2.3 steals. Age 
Forward | Tom Chambers [Suns] 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 47.9 2-point shooting, 85.1 free throw shooting. Age 
Forward | James Worthy [Lakers] 20.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 55.6 2-point shooting, 78.2 free throw shooting. Age 
Center | Brad Daugherty [Cavaliers] 18.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 53.8 2-point shooting, 73.7 free throw shooting. Age 
Guard | Dale Ellis [SuperSonics] 27.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 50.7 2-point shooting, 47.8 3-point shooting, 81.6 free throw shooting. Age 
Point guard | Fat Lever [Nuggets] 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 46.3 2-point percentage, 78.5 free throw percentage, 2.7 steals.
— Kevin Brewer