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The Three Amigos, Part 3: Alejandro González Iñárritu

The Three Amigos, Part 3: Alejandro González Iñárritu

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The ‘Three Amigos of Cinema’ trilogy comes around full circle with this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu.

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Iñarritu’s career started off a bit differently than the other two amigos.

Unlike Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, he didn’t start his filmmaking career right away; he started as a radio host. During his time there, he became the director of the station and composed music for six Mexican films.

In the early 1990s he created Z Films, where he started writing, producing and directing TV commercials and short films. Z Films became one of the most important Mexican production companies at the time. You can find some of the TV ads he made on YouTube. It was until 1995 when he made his first film: Amores Perros.

Let’s be honest: not every directorial debut is a success. There are so many great directors with truly terrible first movies, and those who manage to make a really good first piece and keep up the quality in their following movies, are to be respected and admired. Iñárritu is one of these.

Amores Perros, written by Guillermo Arriaga, has an element that became distinctive in Iñárritu’s work: intertwined stories. The story explores Mexican society through the cruelty of humans towards animals and other humans. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and won the Critics Week Prize; it was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Amores Perros was the first piece of Iñárritu’s “trilogy of death”, followed by 21 Grams and Babel.

Critics Week Prize and an Oscar nomination? For a directorial debut?! It doesn’t get any better than that.

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But it did; it got better.

The second movie from the trilogy was 21 Grams, with the same structure of intertwined stories used in Amores Perros. This movie marked Iñárritu’s jump to Hollywood. It competed at the Venice Film Festival where Sean Penn won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.

The third movie was Babel.

It doesn’t matter how many times my school’s principal says the story sucks and the movie is crap (why is he the principal, I will never know), Babel is a gem. My screenwriting teacher used it as an example of excellent writing and ways of making the minds of your audience explode. She knows best, as you can see.

Babel also uses the intertwined stories structure to get you right in the feels. It’s set in four countries (México, Morocco, Japan and the United States) which makes it a bit ambitious but it definitely works out. Babel got several nominations at the Academy Awards and won one for Best Original Score. It was also the last Iñárritu-Arriaga contribution, as they professionally parted ways after some authorship controversy.

Thanks to this film, Iñárritu won the Best Director Award at Cannes Festival in 2006, becoming the first Mexican-born director to win this award.

If you haven’t watched Babel, I highly recommend you do.

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In 2009, he directed and produced one of my favourite movies of his: Biutiful.

Biutiful was his first movie in Spanish after Amores Perros, starring one of Spain’s favourite children: Javier Bardem. Unlike his previous work, this movie does not use the intertwined stories structure and, in my opinion, has a much darker tone.

The story follows Uxbal, a divorced father who is dying of cancer. He has the ability to see and talk to the dead, which only makes his agony more intense. It’s about fatherhood, love, guilt, death… it breaks my heart everytime I watch it, but I love it. I am a sucker for movies with these level of melancholy.

Biutiful premiered at the Cannes Festival in 2010, winning Best Actor for Javier Bardem (shared with Elio Germano for La Nostra Vita); it was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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And now, the movie that finally gave him the recognition he deserves: Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

I’m still all about this movie.

Birdman is his first approach to dark comedy and he nailed it. I feel there’s no need for me to tell you what the movie is about because you probably know by now… but it’s about an actor who wants to revive his career after being famed for playing a superhero.

I love it so much I don’t even know where to start.

The photography was the most beautiful thing I saw last year (and I saw a lot of stuff!). Emmanuel Lubezki truly outdid himself with this one. He is a master.

The thing that made the world go wild over this movie is that it looks like it was filmed in one, continuous shot. Here lies the magic of the Iñárritu-Lubezki duo; there are very few parts where I can say “oh, there! there’s a cut right there!” It’s choreographed beautifully and everyone deserves a prize for their impeccable work.

And don’t get me started on the music! I had the opportunity to attend a concert of Antonio Sánchez, the man in charge of the drums section of the score, and it was magical. So much talent in this production!

Birdman explores the ego, and as Iñárritu once said “everyone has a Birdman.” It’s true, we all do, and we sometimes let it win.

It’s one of those movies that give me a different epiphany everytime I watch it. I’m going to dare to say that it’s a masterclass because it truly is a complete package.

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What’s next for Iñárritu?

He is currently shooting The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Emmanuel Lubezki is once more teaming up with him and they are reportedly working with natural lighting.
What’s that? Do I hear another Oscar for Lubezki?

All eyes are on him thanks to the success of Birdman, which only makes me even more proud and excited to see what he will come up with next.

Alfonso Cuarón was my number 1 reason and inspiration when I decided I want to be a filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro is my everything, and Iñárritu is one of my screenwriting sensei. What can I say? These three are my unholy trinity.

Now let’s raise those tequila shot glasses for the three amigos of cinema!

You can follow Adrienne on Twitter at @AdrienneTyler.

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