Whiplash reviews

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:43 pm

I don't care about whether or not it was first based on an original screenplay of Damian Chazelle's anymore than I care if Nia Vardalos totally wrote the screenplay to My Big Fat Greek Wedding before she turned it into her one woman show. He made a short film from that original screenplay with big name actors to get it financed. It's adapted. I was bewildered by their choice to submit as original in the first place. If pushed for adapted, Chazelle can absolutely win. Nothing in adapted is a lock, especially not The Imitation Game.
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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:29 am

A bunch of reactions:

1) I'd actually advocated for this a while back, having been under the impression this was a Sling Blade analogue (short first/expanded feature following). The situation you describe is way more grey area.

2) Harris answers the first question that occurred to me: had WGA ruled the same? Answer: no. Whiplash is original at WGA; if it turns up tomorrow, that's where it will be. Didn't we have the same situation with Syriana back in '05? – nominated one way at WGA and another at AMPAS?

3) Why did it take so long for someone to discover this? Given how many people spend 24 hours a day on every bit of Oscar minutia, you'd think it would have turned up sooner. (I'm remembering back in '02, when I looked at my wife's SAG Nominating ballot, and saw that Streep's Adaptation performance was listed, along with her The Hours work, under lead. I mentioned it here, and even emailed it to Sasha's site (she was then the only major Oscar blogger, and also not yet insane); it was the first anyone had heard of it.)

4) Is there a possibility some who want to vote for Whiplash as original won't think to look under adaptation, costing it votes that deny it a nomination? (Certainly supporters will claim that, if it's left out)

5) I'd lean against that – I think the movie's got too strong a base following, enough it probably was going to crack even the tough original slate. Getting onto adapted should be fairly easy. And it does offset the imbalance between the two categories (adapted and original). Previously, it seemed like we could have multiple wild cards under adapted, with only Imitation Game and Gone Girl sure things; maybe Theory of Everything likely. If you add Whiplash to that crew, there's only one spot for American Sniper, Inherent Vice, Still Alice, Wild and (personal instinct pick) Snowpiercer to fight over.

6) On the other hand, it means one more worthy candidate won't be boxed out under original. But there's still plenty of competition: the B-claque -- Boyhood, Birdman, Budapest – should be safe, but Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Selma, Mr. Turner and a Most Violent Year (the latter two previous writers' branch choices) are all fighting for those last scraps.

7) Might Whiplash threaten to WIN adapted? It may be I underestimate Imitation Game's strength, but I already thought Gone Girl had at least a bit of a chance to upset it (esp. if Gone Girl gets a best picture nod). Whiplash might be just the sort of beloved-by-many script that could triumph over a best picture candidate (with Sling Blade being the obvious precedent).

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:39 am

Mark Harris is reporting that, per the Academy ballot, Whiplash is being considered an Adapted Screenplay, when most of us had assumed it would compete under Original.

The categorization seems wonky any way you look at it -- on one hand, if other features based on shorts (like District 9) have been slotted as Adapted, it doesn't seem fair to consider Whiplash an Original. At the same time, the feature was written FIRST, and the short film was essentially one scene from the movie produced in order to raise money for the feature -- in other words, the feature script wasn't adapted from anything.

This seems to pretty clearly move Whiplash from an on-the-bubble Screenplay candidate to a dead-certain nominee.

So...good news for the writers of Nightcrawler, Selma, and Foxcatcher...bad news for the writers of Wild and Still Alice (which I actually think are the two best Adapted Screenplays this year, and if American Sniper continues to rise, I fear BOTH will be out on the sidelines.)

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby danfrank » Mon Dec 29, 2014 5:08 pm

Spoilerish: I finally caught up with this, and liked it quite a bit. Given all the plot contrivances and implausible behaviors by its characters I think this works best if thought of as a theater piece where the characters are more archetypes than real people. And very theatrical it is, with its sweat- and blood-covered drum kits and whatnot. I like that it's set up as a sadomasochistic duel between the two primary characters, where it's unclear from moment to moment whether they are acting at cross-purposes or in concert. At the end, when the Miles Teller character has his apparent "Bird" moment, it seems to be a win-win. But is it? The at-what-cost-greatness theme is explored in a very creative and thought-provoking way here. I'm guessing that Damien Chazelle is a filmmaker we'll be discussing a lot more in the years to come.

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 25, 2014 2:21 am

Damien Chazelle was born in 1985. This is a fact that annoys me more than anything else in the film.

Whiplash is a terrific calling card film and Damien Chazelle is an inordinately talented director. He won a Nicholl Fellowship for easily the weakest aspect of this film, its screenplay. This speaks more to how Syd Field worship persists to this day in evaluating writing. I would not say this is a very well-written story but it is a story told with such panache and conviction that it's hard to care. With the exception of ten, sloggish minutes, Whiplash held my attention as strongly as anything I've seen in a while. Mr. Fletcher believes the new Charlie Bird will be birthed not from platitudes but by putting these children through the gauntlet and Chazelle creates boiling cauldron of tension out of watching the unexceptional and young Neiman (Miles Teller) learn the steps. Damien Chazelle, Director of Photography Sharone Meir, and Editor Tom Cross grabbed me and didn't let go. When there's nothing to grab you with (like the sloggish moments I mentioned, really anything involving his relationship, going home to see his parents, etc), it feels entirely competent yet totally forgettable. As I've said though, these moments are relatively scant.

This would be a perfect role for Jesse Eisenberg years ago. What Miles Teller does so well is showing us a talented kid in a totally reactive state to Mr. Fletcher's psychological onslaught. And the detachment with which he lays down the terms for his breakup seem borderline Aspergers. But are we honestly to believe this is the kid to finally cross Mr. Fletcher's finish line? I see no spark of genius in this doof. With his lithe frame and black clothing, J.K. Simmons, the baldest actor in Hollywood, resembles a floating head with conductor arms. I say this now and risk being grossly disappointed but I want nothing more from this year's Oscars than to see J.K. Simmons win Best Supporting Actor. It's no great stretch for him but this is a character actor who must have 200+ credits on imdb, finding a juicy role that could have gone to a Paul Giamatti or a Willem DaFoe, he knocks it out of the park, he's not likely to get another opportunity like this, and it would be great to see him recognized.
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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Oct 27, 2014 2:18 am

Even in a field of five, it was rare for Oscar to nominate the five most critically revered films of a given year for Best Picture. Some perfectly hideous films were nominated and even won due to factors that had nothing to do with quality.

I wouldn't expect this to be nominated for Best Picture in a field of five, but with nine or ten there has to be at least one film outside the mainstream of thinking - The Blind Side; Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Philomena - that gets in. At the moment, this is the one that prognosticators like because it appeals to young people who haven't seen The Paper Chase or An Officer and a Gentleman or What Price Glory or any of its other antecedents. It could be nominated not only by the handful of younger voters who are awed by it but by those who are looking to nominate something they think will appeal to the younger crowd and thus get them to watch the awards on TV.

Even the usually savvy Scott Feinberg (now with the Hollywood Reporter) is not only including it among his anticipated nominees for Best Picture, Supporting Actor and Screenplay, but for Best Director along with Linklater, Inarritu, Eastwood and Nolan. He also considers Miles Teller as a serious threat for Best Actor. Mind you, this is the guy who prides himself on being the only major prognosticator to predict nominations for Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) so beware.
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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Oct 26, 2014 10:52 pm

Not even the music? Them's fighting words!

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:35 am

The Original BJ wrote:
Precious Doll wrote:Whiplash (2014) Damien Chazelle 1/10


So obviously you need to chime in on our "this movie is overrated" discussion.


Thought I would 'quote' your comment in the Whiplash thread rather than the Last Seen Movie thread.

I absolutely hated it and never believed a frame of it. What teacher is going to behave is such a manner? Maybe 40 or more years ago, but not these days. It wasn't the armed service for God's sake! That alone undermines anything the film was trying to achieve for me.

I went to this knowing very little about it. I had it earmarked to see earlier in the year only because of Amy Taubin's rave in Film Comment when covering the Sundance Film Festival. It was never No. 1 film of the festival and Laura Kern's No. 5. Not renewing my Film Comment subscription after over 35 years of readership is something I will give some thought to over the next couple of months. I hadn't really even seen the trailer properly. Only 'saw' it once a couple of weeks ago in the foyer of the cinema with no sound playing.

I was aware of the acclaim for the film so even though what little I had been exposed too did not appeal to me and went in with the expectation that the film stood a good chance of being at least good. I also dragged my partner off to this and needless to say he shared my disdain (we have somewhat similar taste in cinema which may help to explain why we have been together for over two decades now).

To sum it up, it is about as realistic as Stars Wars (which I like for what it is) and as bad and 'overrated' as any American film since Silver Linings Playbook. And at least SLP had a charming and appealing thought grossly miscast Jennifer Lawrence to give it one redeeming attribute. This has nothing, not even the music.
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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:11 am

I really wasn't crazy about the entire relationship with the girlfriend, given that her character struck me as a total non-entity. I read a lot of scripts by young guys featuring mostly male characters and then "the girlfriend," and it seems to me that this is basically what Chazelle came up with here -- someone who only really exists to show the protagonist's single-minded pursuit of career success to the detriment of everything else in his life. I DID think the break-up scene was interesting, because it showed that Andrew wasn't unwilling to be cruel to get what he wanted out of his music (suggesting he and Fletcher were in some ways two sides of the same coin), but for a character that was so uninteresting, the girlfriend occupied way too much screen time.

I, too, thought Fletcher took the binder, though it would have been nice to see that (or another explanation for what happened to it). As it stands, the binder just vanished in a nanosecond, which of course seemed wildly convenient.

After the bus breakdown and the loss of the sticks, I did actually think to myself, what next, is he going to get hit by a truck?

It can often be hard to gauge awards prospects for films in which you're off-consensus. I saw Whiplash at a Film Independent screening of industry types, and the audience response was euphoric over the end credits. I wouldn't want underestimate the chances of a movie that has left so many that excited, even if I didn't respond the same way. And yet, given how many big contenders are left unseen, it's very possible that once the big dogs come out to play, something this tiny (and it really is TINY) will just fall by the wayside. (Last season's Sundance phenom seemed a much stronger Best Picture candidate to me, based on topical social relevance, but once so many of the year's heavy hitters delivered, Fruitvale Station couldn't get much farther than the Indie Spirits.)

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Okri » Fri Oct 24, 2014 10:24 pm

Heh.

a) I totally thought that he lost the binder on purpose - even though it doesn't make sense within the frame.

b) Okay, that dinner scene was actually what sold me on this as being better than I expected. He IS an asshole. It wasn't motivated by anything other than his own attitude/persona.

c) I have listened to the entire 17-minute drum solo from "Moby Dick" repeatedly.

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Oct 24, 2014 9:02 pm

SINCE IT'S THE THING TO DO: SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW!!! DO NOT READ IF YOU CARE

My answer to Is this a masterpiece? is, Of course not. It's way too small a thing for that word to even enter the conversation. I may be the skunk at the garden party though, because for me the film's limitations go deeper, enough I question the film even being considered as a best picture nominee.

Not that I found it less than enjoyable. It moves along, and there are some fun sequences (the "you try the drums -- no, you -- no, YOU" scene the best). But the concept isn't exactly fresh -- it's pretty much The Paper Chase on drums -- and most of the way it went exactly as I'd anticipated. The last third of the film offered the only narrative surprises.

And I'm split on whether those surprises work. First off, I'm dubious that a man with Fletcher's clear reputation could have been tossed off the faculty merely on the basis of one anonymous witness. And as for the Andrew/Fletcher meeting at the jazz club: I understand what okri is saying; it felt something like a cheat to give Fletcher such a big "humanizing" scene (his brief encounter with the child had already given him his his decency-voucher). On the other hand, I like, BJ, felt it was a good, well-written scene, and the later plot-turn at Carnegie doesn't entirely undercut it (yes, it's possible Fletcher only opened up that way to lure Andrew -- but it's also possible that, while he knew it would draw Andrew in, he was sincere about it, as well). I can understand why each of you reacted the way you did to this last section; I had, if it's possible, BOTH reactions.

But back up a bit: I thought the film suffered from an excess of contrivance almost from the start. Fletcher tells him be there at 6AM/Don't-be-late -- and his clock reads. 6:03. Fletcher says Don't dare lose these binders -- and he sets one down to be lost (am I the only one who entertained the thought Fletcher took it, for the purpose of elevating Andrew?). Fletcher says Don't be late for the competition -- and first his bus gets a flat tire, then he forgets his drumsticks, THEN he's hit by a car? Cue Thelma Ritter: Everything but the hounds yapping at her rear-end. (And both the binder and drumsticks were practically double-underlined by the director, with a close-up shot on each before they became plot fulcrums)

And, to okri's citation of Howard Hawks -- the other part of that quote is, And no BAD scenes. I'd submit this film has at least one very bad scene, the family dinner when Andrew indulges in what seems unmotivated assholishness (if the point was he was feeling under-appreciated, it needed to be set up better; he popped off way too easily). As far as expressing his superiority complex, I preferred the inadvertent way it showed in his pizza scene with the girlfriend. Though I'm not crazy about how the relationship with the girl went in general; it seemed like there was either too little or too much of it (I never saw what he got from it, unless it was simply to get laid; the could have broken up after the first scene just as easily). Same with his father; those scenes didn't seem to convey enough information or create enough dramatic heat to warrant the time spent with them.

I should probably also mention I wasn't made euphoric by the final drum solo. I enjoyed it up to a point, but it just went on and on and on. But, hey: Ginger Baker's solos were never my favorite parts of Cream concerts, either.

Mostly, what I liked were those scenes with J.K. Simmons playing drill sergeant. They were kind of as expected, but fun to watch, and it's nice to see a good actor who's paid so many dues get his chance to run away with a movie. I think he's got to be a strong Oscar favorite (and that scene okri didn't like probably helps his case).

Overall, maybe a three-star movie, for me. Boyhood, Grand Budapest and Birdman are all EASILY better.

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Re: Whiplash reviews

Postby Okri » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:44 pm

I see where you're coming from, BJ, but I have to admit I liked it more than you. SPOILERS BELOW, READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION

a) I never quite bought the humanizing aspects of the teacher. I mean, I thought JK Simmons did a terrific job at embodying that manic zeal, but when they tried to nice-ify him in those moments, I rolled my eyes. His behaviour was unconscionable and he didn't have the students best interests at heart - not really.. So it didn't bother me that he went out of his way to embarass Miles Teller.

b) I will agree that ending on the triumphant note was disappointingly conventional. I liked the idea of it ending with the idea of this character striving for but not reaching that level of greatness he really wanted. Like you said, that scene was just thrilling though. Indeed, there were a few truly dynamite scenes that just made the whole thing thrum. The scene where the three drummers are trying out for "Caravan" was just nuts. The car accident moment . The title scene. It certainly fits Howard Hawks dictum

c) I saw it with someone who drums for a band, so it was rather amusing to get his perspective.

---

What would you shout masterpiece for? This isn't meant to be a dig or anything (Whiplash certainly isn't a masterpiece) but I'm more curious than anything.

Lead vs Support: I look forward to this debate, actually, for Simmons. But ultimately I think he's supporting. A major supporting role, to be fair. But still supporting.

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Whiplash reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:14 pm

I'm curious to see where the members of this board will come down on Whiplash. It's been greeted with near unanimous critical raves since its Sundance premiere, and most people in my personal life who have seen it are through the roof. I like the movie -- I think it's an impressive essentially-debut feature from a filmmaker with promise, well-made given the obvious budget/time limitations, and providing long-time character actor J.K. Simmons a stellar showcase of a role that is certain to bring him an Oscar nomination. But I must say, I'm a little baffled by the level of praise the film has received -- like many a Sundance hit before it, it strikes me as a minor pleasure elevated by many to a level out of proportion to its merits.

To start with the things I like, I think the movie looks really good for such a low budget effort. You can see where corners had to be cut -- most of the film takes place in a few locations, with a limited number of actors -- but the lighting and the framing of images make the movie pop more visually than many underlit, we-don't-care-how-ugly-this-looks indies. And the movie's rhythms really capture the thrill of musical performance in a way we don't much see on screen. Both major characters are compelling, at least up to a point -- Miles Teller as the student determined to do anything to be great, Simmons as the torturous teacher attempting to pummel greatness into him. Much of the movie's energy and edge comes from Simmons, in a totally dominant role as a musical maniac whose methods are beyond abusive, and it's great to see such a hard-working vet as Simmons finally get the chance to shine in such a major way. (I assume there'll be some category fraud debate about his Supporting Actor candidacy, though I'm not sure I'd strongly take a side in that argument just yet. It's obviously a role with a lot of screentime...but Simmons is absent from all of the scenes involving Teller and the other characters (his father, his girlfriend), and Simmons is never in a scene without Teller, making the movie pretty clearly the younger character's story. In terms of fraud annoyance, this wouldn't be the hill I'd go to die on.)

But I think the film has its limitations. (Frankly, I was astonished Sasha Stone tweeted that she thought critics nit picked TOO much, when there's barely nothing but a rave in sight!) For starters, it's a small movie, and I'm a lot less inclined to shout "masterpiece!" at something I didn't think amounted to anything all that tremendous. Part of the reason I felt that, too, was because, for at least 2/3 of the movie, I was wishing its writing offered up a little bit more insight into these characters and their situations. Although I didn't think the movie FELT repetitive -- it certainly escalates in dramatic ways -- a good chunk of it is basically Simmons abusing Teller, and Teller taking it, and at some point I started to wonder if, beyond increasing stakes, this relationship would be explored in a manner any deeper than that. The last act of the movie was the most interesting, for me, because it FINALLY offered that up, in a jazz club scene that allowed Simmons to express why he taught his students in the manner he did, and showed Teller coming to understand that. I thought this was easily the best written scene in the movie, the one time it seemed to explore the question of whether or not Simmons's methods were destructive or not with any kind of complexity.

But then there's a big plot turn at the finale. And while I enjoyed the left hook of this narrative reveal (many in my audience outright gasped), I thought it undermined some of the psychological believability of this story...

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

For starters, I didn't believe Simmons would go to the amount of effort he did to punish Teller in such a way. Throughout the whole movie, Simmons is telling his students that their performances reflect on him...so he's going to purposely put up a band he knows is going to be a disaster at Carnegie Hall just to get back at the kid? Sorry, but that seems like kind of a stretch to me. Furthermore, it made Simmons's character a whole lot less interesting to me. I'd thought most of his behavior was pretty unconscionable throughout the movie...BUT the two scenes obviously intended to make the character more sympathetic (the phone call, the aforementioned jazz club conversation) were effective in that regard. But if Simmons knows that his former student hanged himself in part because of his abuse, and his response to that is to humiliate Teller to an almost unfathomable degree...well...at the end of the day, it makes me think that he DOESN'T have his students' best interests at heart, and is just a jackass. My reaction here is not dissimilar to what I felt about Amy in Gone Girl -- there's a point where the character just starts to seem like a soulless sociopath, and I felt like it drained quite a bit of complexity out of the movie.

END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS

The final Carnegie Hall sequence definitely has a ton of energy, and I think this is part of the reason why audiences have left the theater feeling so enthusiastic -- it does really get you at a primal level, and I wasn't immune from wanting to cheer once it was over. But, even that feeling, too, came with a caveat: the reviews suggested Whiplash was a dark movie with some edge -- and there were moments I felt the story was heading to such a conclusion -- but by the end, the film revealed itself to be a lot more conventionally triumphant than I wanted it to be.

So, on the whole, I think it's well worth seeing, and J.K. Simmons is a major Supporting Actor contender, for good reason. I just can't say I was as blown away -- by what seems more like a promising start than a full-blown masterwork -- as some have been.


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