Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sunday's Oscars and the gruesome beauty of WHIPLASH. A movie that provokes you, inspires and hurts "so good." "Good Job"

WHIPLASH , (2015) Miles Teller, J.K Simmons. Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle.
The official plot is synopsized as :
"A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential."

I can not understand why only five others were in the movie theatre in mid-January, or why when I beam and sigh discussing the movie, no one recognizes it.  Whiplash is a suspenseful ride for all the senses. I knew nothing about Jazz, the "Greats" or even what young musicians endure to get recognition only a small percentage of the population TRULY appreciates.

I am so excited to see the 2015 Oscars realizing this movie's greatness. Up for five Oscar nominations:

-Best Picture
-Film Editing
-Sound Mixing
-Actor in a supporting role

Although, disappointed that Teller, and his incredible (actual drumming) commitment to the role were not nominated, I am willing and hoping that they win Best Picture! They should.

I didn't breathe for most of the movie. A nineteen-year old drummer, Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller) begins his personal tour-de-force at the Schaffer Conservatory of Music. Young and seeping with ambitious drive, he's noticed by Terrence Fletcher ( JK Simmons) the infamous conductor. From there, a maniacal battle of wills takes flight.

Intense, dark, and gut-wrenching, you feel Nieman's internal fight. You smell his sweat, and the salty iron of his blood blisters. If nothing else, and that's impossible, this movie highlights the rigorous training and physical toll drumming takes. I remember laughing at a poster in the movie that read: "If you fail, you can always be a rock drummer."

The score is full of thumping and melodic genius that sets the tone and literally finds musical notes and tempo for every emotion that your heart tries to push away. Justin Hurwitz put together a story of its on in the soundtrack and mixing.

The entire premise, prose and pictures in each scene create juxtapositions and stir within you a conscious battle of "light and dark". I was furious, and inspired, deeply sad and joyous, shocked and accepting of the absolute beauty in Nieman's heart-breaking devotion to be "something special". As a parent, you feel the helplessness of a father (Paul Reiser)  who can't understand it, but knows his instinct to protect his son is calling. The dialogue, and writing in this movie drip with the undertones of success, drive, fear, and courage, but in a restrained and simplicity that has deep impact. It is so subtle and stinging.

Fletcher is outright demonic. He is all the disgust and abuse of a sociopath, and then JK Simmons shows you a crack, a humanity and piece of ourselves that "got so close" to our dream(s), only to miss it.  And misplace he does, crushing and painful are his own demons that hauntingly simmer and cracker on the wire of pure abuse and encouragement. His stellar acting is cringe worthy. As a mother, I wanted to choke him, but deep down a whisper within was agreeing with SOME of what he says. Now, in the age of apathetic millennials, and easy-come-easy-go students, a part of me felt Fletcher's frustration.

The last ten minutes of this movie had my jaw clenched, and heart beating beyond it's perceivable capacity. I sat in witness to the explosion of a boy's will to fight and not wait his turn, but stand up and  take it. It's either insanity or final indifference to the outcome that ignites it, but his self-value, worthiness and confidence rip everything to pieces to put them back in singing vibration.  The final scene will lift you up, set you on fire, and stay with you for weeks and weeks after.

 The passion, intensity and confusion is electrifying. I literally grit-tooth whispered "fuck ya" to myself. But just as mystifying and disturbing as it's entirety, the movie left me spinning still. Who won? Really? In this tumultuous journey of mentor and student.

"The road to success can take you to the edge." 

I'd argue, simply watching this masterpiece of said road, DOES take you to the edge. 

February 22, 2015 on bluray and DVD

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