Mike’s Letter


Allow me to tell you the absolute truth: I decided to restore the State Theatre and reopen its doors to the people of northern Michigan seven years ago this Monday simply because I knew I would get to bring to our town, every now and then, a masterpiece like “Birdman.”

That I would be so fortunate to have the honor of sharing a movie like this magnificent opus with you — to let you see it the way the filmmaker intended for you to see it, in a perfect theater — well, this has brought a lot of personal joy to me over these years.

Birdman” is one brilliant mindf*** of a movie. I can’t put that up on the marquee, but I will shout it from the top of Wayne Hill if that will help convince every single one of you to drop what you’re doing and come experience that rare movie that will transport you from your daily ho-hum to a place where only the true greats of cinema can take you. At the end of the film you will walk out of the State Theatre wanting to yell, “Oh, yeah, baby — THAT’S why I go to the movies!”

I’m pulling no punches here — this is, hands down, my favorite film of the year. Deb Lake says it is her favorite film “of all time!” Take that, “Star Wars!” You think we’re messin’ with you? You think we got nothing better to do than traffic in cheap hyperbole just to sell tickets and Junior Mints? You think that’s why we do this? If you don’t know this by now about me (and Deb and many of our movie-crazy volunteers), then you’ve missed something very crucial, very fundamental along the way: I will kill to see a great movie!

And when I see a great movie, I’ll throw everything I’ve got at the oncoming train of conventional wisdom to bring it to you. I believe in the transformative powers of this art form to literally change hearts, minds — and that boogeyman conventional wisdom, which is so often wrong.

There is no film you’ll see this year like “Birdman.” I’m loathe to describe it to you because I want to give nothing of the experience away in advance. I want it to hit you cold. This movie is for anyone who has wanted to ask the basic life questions, “Why am I here, how can I change, is this all that there is, and can theater — not Hollywood — restore one’s soul?”

Michael Keaton plays a slightly-washed up, former A-list actor who made his fortune playing a superhero — Birdman. But the years of superstardom have left him empty and lost and looking for some meaning to it all. So he decides to adapt Raymond Carver short stories into a play that he will direct and star in on Broadway. But everybody — including his (very real) inner demon — wants him to be Birdman. Give us more Birdman! He simply can’t win, can’t get out of the box he built for himself so that he could be a STAR.

Actually, the only really important thing you need to know about “Birdman” (its full title is “Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)“) before you walk into the State Theatre is this: You are here to watch a Mexican film. MEXICAN. Oh sure, don’t worry, it’s in English and stars only great American actors — Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis, etc. — and it’s set in New York City. But make no mistake about it — just like last year’s great Mexican film, “Gravity” — this cinematic treat is brought to you by one of the brilliant Mexican directors working today in Hollywood, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (he also made “Babel,” “21 Grams,” and “Amores Perros”). The sensibility of this film is very Latin American, the “magical realism” genre that has given us great books by authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”) and Isabel Allende.

So come to this movie and check your Hollywood cliches at the door. You are going to a place you don’t usually go to at the movies — if you’re looking for something different, something fresh, then “Birdman” is your movie. Bring your inner demons with you. They’ll like it, too.

Yours, Michael Moore

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