Published in L.A. Weekly
If Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) wins the Best Picture Oscar will we hear the whole title?
And the name will, indeed, read Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) on the Oscar envelope if it were to win. Come Sunday, it has the chance to become the longest-titled Best Picture winner of all time.
And yes, to address your now squinty-eyed expression of disgust, that is the punctuation — or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
The filmmaker's intention probably was to place the whole subtitle entirely within parentheses, as in (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), so that this second title issue read as an aside. But the “or” fell out somewhere along the way. The fact that someone let this pass means that perhaps no one was really taking this second title thing too seriously anyway.
What to make of a second title that no one uses?
Since we all call it Birdman, as in the sentence “Let’s go see Birdman,” this second title exists in name only. Even Wikipedia seems to be confused. Iñárritu, of course, isn’t being revolutionary — Stanley Kubrick famously named his film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and similar titles show up across media.
I've always had trouble with these titles, thinking them to be lazy or disingenuous, trying to have it both ways. But after a journey down the dual title rabbit hole, and a more nuanced picture, I'm ready to be accepting — to a point.