Do young people even realize what a huge movie star Michael Keaton was at one time? Heck, do they even know who Mr. Keaton is? There was a ten-year period(roughly 1982-92), when he was a BIG star…and another 5 after that saw him consistently working in notable and eclectic films(1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, 1994’s “The Paper” and 1997’s “Jackie Brown” among them). Of course, 1982’s “Night Shift” catapulted him into stardom and 1983’s “Mr. Mom” helped continue the rise. When 1988’s “Beetlejuice” became a monster hit in 1988, Keaton was at the peak of his comedic genius. When he followed it later that same year with the addiction drama “Clean and Sober”, folks began respecting his serious acting chops too(the National Society of Film Critics bestowed its Best Actor prize on Keaton’s head that year for his two 1988 roles). Then…the stratosphere. The controversial choice by director Tim Burton to cast Michael Keaton as 1989’s “Batman” paid off in spades, when the film grossed over 400 million dollars and made Michael an international star. 1992’s “Batman Returns” continued his superstardom by becoming the 3rd highest grossing film of its year. But when he stopped being a superhero, Keaton’s fame slowly began to ebb. We’ve still seen Michael in the last decade or two, but with much less frequency and consistency. That may be about to change.
I’ve just recently witnessed the trailer for Alejandro Inarritu’s “Birdman”, and I’m practically giddy with delight in anticipation of its excellence potential. Now, I’m hit-or-miss with Mr. Inarritu’s celebrated resume. For instance, I was a big fan of 2003’s “21 Grams”, but 2006’s “Babel”…not so much. I have not experienced 2010’s “Biutiful”, but it goes without saying that Innarritu has developed a reputation for “heavy” films. Some might even say heavy-handed. But “Birdman” has me jazzed. Not only does it appear to have a sardonically funny spirit, but it’s reportedly the story of a struggling actor trying to resurrect his career, as his popularity dwindled years after portraying an iconic comic book character. What’s that?! Michael Keaton riffing on his departure from the Batman franchise for two hours, in a role that combines his talents for dramatic work with his ability to make people laugh? Where do I line up for a ticket?! And if you peek at the above trailer, I believe you may agree that there is a damn good chance that this thing could be fantastic. And 62-year-old Michael Keaton seems to have landed his best role in over twenty years. I’ve got a good feeling about the upcoming “Birdman”. It hits U.S. theaters on October 17th, and also stars Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan and Emma Stone.