'A thing is a thing': so goes the profound platitude that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman would encourage you to consider - one of many brazenly unsubtle subtextual details that it may have been sensible to consider itself. Not that the lack of discretion irks me, since I can appreciate a fancy cinematic lesson in philosophy quite well if it feels worth my while, but in Birdman it does not. No photographic ingenuity nor editing wizardry can truss up a turd this abrasively stinky, a silly and shallow film that masquerades its gauche inaccuracies as comedy and, much worse, as social commentary. That the film is likely to appeal to highbrow, probably theatrical, types compounds the dissatisfaction - how easy it is to pander to the pop culture-hating crowd, throwing out basic, indulgent swipes at every aspect of its influence on the art scene and justifying it with self-gratifying self-deprecation. The self is at the core of Birdman's concerns, a typically ageing white male, his glory years resolutely behind him, his indefatigable desperation a bleakly comic reflection of our own, self-serving hopes and desires. A dogged Michael Keaton is surrounded by talented performers inhabiting tropes, validating the screenwriters' view of him as a figure of faded glory; only he is afforded the depth to develop his character, predictably, though only Amy Ryan achieves any such suggestion of development. Joining this sad soul on his downward spiral into a state of self-parody that only this screenplay (well, perhaps a few others) would consider destructive ought to be a tangibly torrid experience, yet Inarritu seems to insist that we find hollow, perverse enjoyment in it: the pointlessly employed camera trickery, somewhat shoddily executed in the joins, and disrespectful insertions of orchestral classics on the soundtrack (the most artistically rich element to this film) hint blatantly toward such an interpretation. A thing is a thing, Mr. Inarritu. It's no more profound than that.