If you haven't made it to the movie theater to see Birdman, save some money, stay home, and just watch Biutiful; the filmmaker's previous film that is better crafted in every single way than its more widely-targeted younger brother.
Biutiful is a film released in 2010 that follows Uxbal, a Spaniard in Barcelona, as he attempts to balance an impossible amount of responsibilities in his life as he is diagnosed terminally ill. The film focuses on his remaining days and how a man copes with that type of stress.
In addition to a knockout performance by Javier Bardem and stunning natural cinematography, Alejandro González Iñárritu, the film's director, shoots movies in the order the scenes are written. This is a rare technique for the industry and something to be appreciated when watching his films. Because of this technique the performances in his films tend to be much better than any other. However, besides Bardem most actors in the film were found, and had no previous training.
I was lucky enough to see a 35mm print of Biutiful the year it was released followed by a Q&A with Iñárritu himself. During his talk he spoke about the difficulty in financing a film like Biutiful and how Hollywood's obsession with superhero movies is making it increasingly difficult to produce anything else. I remember him claiming how in order to make movies in the industry these days you almost need to make a comic book film or else you'll stop getting money.
In a lot of ways Birdman is his response to that line of thinking. It's a film he made already with Biutiful but it speaks to a different audience saying a few new things along the way. But without a doubt Biutiful is one of the best films you could watch on Netflix right now. [Netflix]