Weird title, eh? It’s supposed to be like one of those Wheel of Fortune puzzles. Can’t remember the category but I always had trouble figuring them out. Anyway, after watching Birdman recently I thought I needed to get a little artsy and confusing with my title.
So I was at a conference this last weekend and I always love how you can watch movies in your hotel room that have not been released on DVD, or should I say “for streaming.” (Hard to believe “DVD” is now an ancient term. Hate getting old.) So my wife and I were browsing through the movies and there was Birdman. Awesome. I missed it while it was in the theatre and heard it was great and of course it had to be great because it won best picture. So, we paid the $17.99 crazy fee and watched it.
Two plus hours later, the movie ended and as I sat up in my pillow-topped Westin bed leaning against all the extra pillows they give you (anybody know which pillow you are supposed to actually sleep on?) many different emotions flowed through me. Confused and angry initially and if you’ve seen the movie you will understand. Then a little sad. Then I tried to think through the movie. What was Birdman really all about? What was it’s message?
Relevance? Yes, it had a lot to say about relevance and man’s need to feel relevant. Michael Keaton plays a fading and aging movie star who is trying to re-invent himself by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. There were other themes, but certainly “man’s search for relevance” was one of them. But what was the movie’s message about this theme? I thought it was somewhat ambiguous. And the more I thought about it, the more the movie really didn’t say anything. It just told a story and let the audience decide for themselves what it meant. Kinda like an old REM song. And I think that was part of the point. If the director reads this post he might well be pleased with himself. He made me think about things for myself and that might have been what he set out to do. But the more I thought about the movie the less relevant the movie became. Is this getting too confusing?
It was for me too but then it hit me like a ton of bricks. And here it is boiled down. Read slowly
Birdman, a movie about man’s search for relevance, fails to BE relevant. There is one layer of irony right there. But wait, there is more. This movie about relevance which fails to BE relevant beat out American Sniper, a movie that is chock full of relevance for the entire world, for best picture. American Sniper is about a REAL person and a REAL war and the things portrayed are REALLY happening in the world and affect almost every single person in the world. Pretty relevant, right? Am I the only one who sees the elephant named irony in the room?
I searched Google, I really did. I used “Birdman irony,” “Birdman beats Sniper ironic,” “Sniper snub irony,” and “Oscar’s irony 2015.” I could not find a single blog post or article that points out this irony. So, maybe I’m out on an island by myself here. I will admit that when I watch movies like Birdman I kinda feel like I’m too stupid to understand them. I felt that way when I saw a Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas also.
“Excuse me, garcon? Do I have to be a snobby Frenchman to understand what’s going on in this here show?”
So, all you artsy fartsy Birdman fans, feel free to write me off as a stupid country hick. I don’t mind, really.
But maybe there is yet another layer of irony to all this. Maybe Birdman IS relevant because it made me write this post. It did make me think, I’ll give it that. And, as if I needed another reason, it made me even more happy to serve people as an eye physician. If you really think about it movie stars are just really high paid clowns. They live to entertain people and I could understand if they might question their relevance. I think the good actors probably believe in what they’re doing not to mention they like getting paid a ton of money. But to stay good, you must stay passionate. And to stay passionate, you must believe that what you are doing is important. It seems to me that physicians, especially eye physicians, should have little trouble with this concept. Days in the office may get mundane sometimes, but it would be hard to imagine that we could deny our importance. We live and work to help people see better. We get to cut on other people’s eyeballs and let them see things that haven’t seen in years, sometimes. We get to help an elderly person clearly see their grandchild for the first time and give glasses to a pre-teen and watch as they notice leaves on trees for the first time. So, as physicians, let us vow never to go all Birdman and question our relevance. Let us proudly understand the relevance of our profession and be thankful that we get to participate within it.