I've seen this movie a few times now. For me it is a great film because it is about someone who helped shape the future of popular culture in America, and so hence the rest of the world. Charlie Parker was his name, but the world remembers him simply as 'Bird', which is also simply the title of the film.
Many of my heroes are African Americans because we should never forget that popular music for the most part and the popular culture that was conceived in the United States largely has its roots in African-American culture, history and experience. The Blues, Jazz, Soul, Funk, Rhythm & Blues and many other forms of popular music really come out of the African-American experience and their originality and creativity and their different take on life from the dominant mainstream White culture of America.
The 60's is well remembered by millions of people, and the happenings and films and music and art and photography of that deeply exciting era are still celebrated today all over the world. The 50's by contrast seem rather neglected, but it was the 50's, particularly in the United States of America, that really saw the birth of one kind of popular culture, which was Rock and Roll and all that went with that, the fast life, more egalitarianism, an eroding of race differences, fast food and that whole 'want-it-yesterday' sort of society that really could have only been born in America. Again, the music of the underclass, primarily African-American, would come to dominate American popular culture, even if the first greatest proponent of it was a poor White boy called Elvis.
Bird was the forerunner of other improvisational musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Peter Green and Eric Clapton, to name but three, who would shine in the next decade, those wonderful, heady, exciting, world-shattering 60's. Bird's playing was seat-of-the-pants and thrilling and exciting, much like the later guitar heroes of the 60's and he stands out from many of the great Jazz men of his era. His music is for me eternally nostalgic and yet fresh as the day it was made-it makes me feel good and just glad to be alive. His music hasn't dated, whereas someone like Herb Alpert, as great as he was, seems dated now.
America has always had two themes running through it; one was that a person should be virtuous, clean living and godly; the other was that you should find your pleasures where you could, be hard living, hard drinking and a fast living kind of person always looking for the next exciting thing to come along. Bird fits into the last category; his America is the underbelly, the rootless, the fast living kind, the kind that is most interesting. I say this as a Christian who doesn't take illegal drugs and lives moderately and drinks alcohol in moderation too! But you get my point; Bird is part of that American dream, that freedom, that raw excitement that America seems to have and certainly the 1950's America had in aces. The freedom of the open road, the freedom of going where you please, the freedom of free-form Jazz with those powerful improvised solos and the wonder of America with it's long straight roads, and lonely town and villages, and big dirty dangerous and downright wonderful big cities filled with every kind of person on the make and all looking for something that will thrill them and give some meaning to their lives, and the forests and coasts and all that America had to offer; Bird's music encompasses all this and more; he wasn't the only one but he was one of the greatest exponents of explaining the freedom of America in an art-form that was originally and uniquely American, and African-American at that.