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Birdman/Rated R for sex, language, smoking, drinking, drug use, nudity and an embarrassing wrestling match.

In the “envelope please” category, it”s time to consider some movies few have seen, but many may soon know about because of the upcoming Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe and Oscar awards.

First up is the dark comedy Birdman – not to be confused with Bird (1988), Bird (2015), The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) or Larry Bird. It has more in common with Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds (1963), than any other “bird” film. In Birdman, Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomas, a has-been actor who once played a superhero called Birdman.

True to proven Hollywood formula, Thomas has tumbled from the heights of stardom to dope- and booze-fueled, hallucinogenic depths. (See The Party [1968] for details).

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Riggan tries for a comeback as Broadway director, attempting to stage an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He partners with Mike, another washed up actor played by Edward Norton.

Zach Galifianikis plays Jack, Riggan’s unfailingly supportive manager and the show’s producer. Emma Stone plays Riggan’s equally on-the-skids daughter, and Naomi Watts plays the ex-wife who discovers that Riggan raised the money to produce the show by refinancing the Malibu house they own.

From the get-go, the production is one calamity after another. As premiere night approaches, disaster looms, and it seems that only “Springtime for Hitler” (The Producers) was a worse production. Riggan’s hallucinations reach new heights. Everybody drinks and screams at each other. Mike and Riggan fight – possibly the most embarrassing brawl ever filmed. In one of the best scenes, Riggan runs through Times Square at midnight in his underwear because he locked himself out of the theater.

The outstanding cast alone should assure the film some major award nominations. The plot has some unusual surprises and plenty of irony. Unfortunately its two-hour length allows a lot of detours into soap opera. At times, the dual dramas in the downstairs theater and the upstairs apartment get so foamy, I expect Marlon Brando to appear onstage, grab his head, look up and yell for Stella.

This is a dark, and in many ways esoteric, film – reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove (1964). There’s no real score. Instead, a drum track provides all the musical accents. Adding to the esotericism, onscreen Riggan passes by the drummer, Antonio Sanchez, adding tracks during the course of the action. Sanchez would make John Beal, the late Joe Morello and Bernie Dresel proud to be fellow drummers.

Birdman opened in mid-November and reportedly cost $22 million to make. It has grossed over $22 million. If it wins some awards, maybe it will win fortune as well. Right now, it looks like a has-been before its time. Rated 3.0 out of 4.0 reasons I may take up the bongos.

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