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Field Notes: Antonio Sanchez’s “Birdman” Live

A singular cinematic experience in NYC

Antonio Sanchez

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a film that needs to be seen twice, maybe more. It is so saturated with anxiety, and so visually startling-with its racing, marathon tracking shots and zoomed-in, wide-angle framing-that the brilliance of its screenplay can be overlooked. For all of its onscreen dazzle, this is a movie that deserves to be read. At least the Academy got that award right.

Where the Oscar voters failed Birdman was in eliminating its percussion score by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez. Here was a chance for a staid institution to recognize honest-to-god innovation, but instead it kowtowed to a technicality: Because Sanchez’s score shared the film with preexisting orchestral music, it was deemed ineligible for nomination. It’s an outright injustice, especially since Sanchez’s score functions in the way that the best film music does-which is to say it’s impossible to imagine the work without it. Take out the gorgeous Rachmaninoff melody that carries Michael Keaton in his flight through Manhattan and you still have Birdman; subtract the propellant force of Sanchez’s score and the movie loses its soul.

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