Culture Connoisseur: Whiplash

Man, this movie.


I’m dreadfully behind on newer television (I really need to get it together for Better Call Saul and Broad City), but I saw a fantastic movie I’ve been thinking about all week: Whiplash.

Whiplash has been getting a lot of awards buzz lately, and it’s well-deserved. The semi-autobiographical movie is about a young music student, played by Miles Teller (hearts-for-eyes emoji), who wants to be one of the best jazz drummers of all time. At the He’s given the chance to play in a very prestigious jazz ensemble at a fictional music conservatory. Very quickly, however, the audience finds out that the conductor, played by J.K. Simmons, is a complete and utter sociopath.

I won’t spoil the rest of the movie, since I didn’t know that much about Whiplash beyond the premise. The cinematography is beautiful and the soundtrack is fantastic. I’m not exactly impressed with the all-white list of Oscar nominees this year either, but J.K. Simmons definitely deserves some kind of recognition for his performance.

What really sealed my high opinion of this movie, though, was how artfully it translated to the audience how Miles Teller’s character was supposed to be feeling without succumbing to overly dramatic music or carefully framed camerawork. While watching it, I felt anxious and strung-out, which I presume is how the audience is supposed to think a first-year music student would feel trying to make it in a very competitive industry. The entire time (especially the ending) I was on the edge of my seat. And moreover, I almost always Google the plot of a movie before I watched it. I didn’t with Whiplash, nor did I feel compelled to look mid-movie. I was that enthralled from the very beginning.

I know that some of my favorite publications have criticized Whiplash for getting jazz wrong, but I don’t really think that’s the point of the film. The music is certainly a big part of the movie, but I think Whiplash is supposed to be a study in how far a person can be pushed, and how much that person can possibly want something — regardless of who or what prohibits you from getting it. For that exploration, Whiplash has earned a spot on my list of favorite films. 

See any good movies lately? Let’s talk about in the comments.



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