| February 2, 2015

The world of jazz drumming at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school brings us one of the most intense films in the hunt for an Academy Award this year, words that no one intended to ever read.  Brought to you by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is an inspiring, thrilling, and captivating film that will leave hearts pounding and feet tapping when all is said and done.

19-year old Andrew Niemann (Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now) is a first-year student at Shaffer Conservatory and ambitiously trying to make Studio Band, an award-winning jazz ensemble led by the terrifying Terrence Fletcher.  It is quickly after being asked to join the band that Andrew learns what is expected of him by Fletcher (the brilliant J.K. Simmons) and what it will take to be the lead drummer.  As Simmons describes the character in his own words, what you have is a “guy that used to have more of a life, obviously as a talented musician, who had wanted to be a great jazz musician, is a very good jazz musician – piano player, conductor, but ultimately came to realize that his purpose in life was to find and cultivate greatness and to find somebody who had that potential and pull it out of them.  If pulling greatness out of somebody means pulling their internal organs out of them at the same time, that’s okay as long as I’m getting what I want out of this person.  As long as I’m getting the absolute most that this person has to give.”  Simmons’ words perfectly sum up what it is Fletcher is attempting to do to young Andrew, but in no way can the words alone do justice to the visuals audiences must endure as they watch Andrew take the criticism and emotional abuse at the hands of his instructor.

Whiplash is as captivating as any other film in the hunt for Best Picture this award season, and carries the heart of an independent film alongside the star power of two men with blockbuster greatness.  On the cover you see an instructor who is way out of line in how he treats his students, but as the film progresses you start to argue internally the pros and cons of having such an emotion-driven teacher as Fletcher.  The true genius behind his character is that even while he is explaining to Andrew why he is the way that he is, “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’,” his actions leave viewers wondering what his end game is and if it is all for show.  Ultimately, without spoiling anything, Andrew and Fletcher find their own common ground in a way that will leave audiences clutching their chests as they try to figure out how it will all play out.  Ultimately, Simmons has earned himself an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and already won for his role at the Golden Globes.

The music in the film is so wonderfully used that if you’re anything like me, you will be listening to the soundtrack on repeat for days.  The drumming is so majestically intricate and intense that it will stun both audibly and visually.  Every time the camera shows the sticks hitting the drum heads you are captivated as to how such fast-paced motions can produce such incredible rhythm and sound.

Whiplash will go up against the likes of Boyhood, Birdman, and American Sniper come Oscar night on February 22nd, two days before the film is released on DVD/Blu-Ray.

About the Author:

Mike works during the day in beautiful downtown Chicago as a Digital Sales Campaign Specialist and fights crime by night, stopping those who prey on the weak and the help-- no, he just watches movies. A lot of movies. Follow him on Twitter: @Mike_DaltonNAF
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