Alejandro González Iñárritu is the three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind Birdman, the movie that swept the Oscars in 2015. After Alfonso Cuarón’s success with Gravity last year, Iñárritu’s wins for Birdman represent a boon for Mexican filmmakers in Hollywood. In honor of Iñárritu’s Oscar wins, here’s a look at his five critically acclaimed movies.
1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Birdman is getting an expanded theater release in honor of its four Oscars, so if you didn’t catch it already, you’ll get another chance to see it soon — and that’s a chance you should definitely take. The movie was nominated for nine Oscars in total, including for the performances by Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, and Edward Norton. As well as taking home Best Picture, Birdman won Iñárritu Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won his second Oscar in a row for his work on making the movie look like it was shot in one continuous take.
The dark comedy sees Keaton playing a sort-of washed-up former Hollywood star Riggan Thompson, best known for his role as the superhero Birdman. Thompson is haunted by the poor artistic decision-making the three Birdman films was, but also by how much money he could have if he agreed to a fourth. Instead of doing that, though, he’s sinking all his money, time, and reputation into a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story that he’s starring in, writing, and directing himself, despite having no experience in theater.
Stone plays his daughter fresh out of rehab who comes to New York to work as his assistant. Norton is an unpredictable method actor whose reputation could save the play. Zach Galifianakis makes a surprisingly great turn as Thompson’s lawyer and best friend. The movie is hilarious, heartbreaking, and full of the magical realism that characterizes much Latin American literature.
This 2005 movie was shot in four countries on three different continents, inspired by Iñárritu’s travels across the Atlantic to Europe and Africa during his late teens and early 20s. It stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Adriana Barraza in four different stories that take place in Morocco, Mexico, the United States, and Japan. The movie also uses many unknown actors and non-actors. This drama, comprised of four rather tragic vignettes, is considered to be the final film in Iñárritu’s “Death Trilogy.”
Babel was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Iñárritu. Iñárritu’s writing partner Guillermo Arriaga, whom he parted ways with after this movie, Arriaga told the Los Angeles Times, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi both received nods for Best Supporting Actress. The film only ended up winning the Oscar for Best Original Score. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Picture in the drama category.
This Spanish-language film stars Spanish actor Javier Bardem in a role that landed him an Oscar nomination. Bardem was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for a Spanish-language performance, and he also won Best Actor at the Cannes film festival. Biutiful was nominated for the Academy Award in the foreign language film category, as well. This was the first movie Iñárritu made in his native language since his debut film, Amores Perros.
Like Birdman, this film is heavily influenced by magical realism. Bardem plays a man named Uxbal living in Spain who can speak to the dead and makes a living by finding work for illegal immigrants. When he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, the single father Uxbal grapples with finding someone to raise his children when he’s gone, as well as a series of traumatizing events that result in the deaths of some illegal immigrants he was supposed to be protecting. While Bardem’s performance was unanimously praised, some critics felt the film overall was too melancholy.
4. 21 Grams
21 Grams is named after the supposed amount of weight that a person loses after they die, scientifically “proven” by the research of 20th-century physician Dr. Duncan MacDougall in his efforts to attempt to prove the existence of an immortal human soul. Like other Iñárritu films, this movie uses a nonlinear narrative to follow several intertwining story lines connected by a fatal car accident, presenting the characters’ lives as they are before and after the accident.
Sean Penn plays an ill mathematician, Naomi Watts plays a grieving mother, and Benicio Del Toro plays an ex-con who is now a born-again Christian. Watts and Del Toro both received Oscar nominations for their performances. The themes of addiction, healing, forgiveness, and overcoming grief are explored through the interconnecting journeys of the characters.
5. Amores Perros
Amores Perros was Iñárritu’s 2000 debut film and exhibits the vignette style that dominated his early work. The movie, which is sometimes referred to as the Mexican Pulp Fiction, examines human disloyalty using the motif of human cruelty toward man’s best friend, dogs.
Many of the characters in the film are disloyal to each other, as one man tries to seduce his brother’s wife, one husband maintains a mistress while being married, and a hit man loses his loyalty toward his former idealism. The wide class divides in Mexico are also explored, as the three main characters are from the lower, middle, and upper class and would have remained segregated if not for the chance car accident that brings them together.
The movie stars Vanessa Bauche and Gael García Bernal. This film served as Bernal’s breakout role, and the Mexican actor has gone on to have a very successful Hollywood career. Amores Perros was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at that year’s Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
Film award info is courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.
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