Two Oscars! Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Mixing

Oscar Winner! Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Mixing “In Whiplash, the promising feature debut of writer-director Damien Chazelle, J.K. Simmons plays a music professor named Fletcher, who joins a long line of cinematic drill sergeants, coaches, and dysfunctional fathers as a towering patriarchal figure who breaks down an impressionable young man, the better to build him back up.

“The young man is Andrew, a freshman jazz drummer at a prestigious, hyper-competitive music school in Manhattan. In Miles Teller’s sensitive portrayal, Andrew emerges as a damaged kid whose soulfulness belies deep-seated ambition. Whiplash opens with a slow-building drumroll, the camera traveling down a narrow corridor to reveal Andrew feverishly bashing away, coming to an abrupt end when he sees Fletcher in the doorway. “Why did you stop?” the older man barks, beginning a borderline sadistic Socratic dialogue that continues throughout.

“Not that there aren’t moments of lyricism and beauty in Whiplash, including the film’s gorgeous title tune and a scorching version of “Caravan,” played by the college jazz ensemble that Fletcher conducts with abusive, profane authority. Whiplash conveys with pungent detail the striving of young people eager to make their bones in a Manhattan that’s as foul and forbidding as it is seductive. The rehearsal room where much of Whiplash transpires isn’t an Eden of harmony and collaboration, but a snake pit where every high note is awash in flop sweat and spit, blisters and blood.

“Whiplash plunges viewers right into that milieu, offering brief respites of tenderness when Andrew courts a pretty girl or catches a vintage movie with his kind but skeptical father. Fletcher, on the other hand, receives no such latitude from the filmmaker, who portrays him as a seething, snarling taskmaster. He’s tough love without the love, and Simmons plays him with merciless focus and commitment, the blue vein on his aggressively hairless head popping out every time a hapless player flubs a note.

“The dynamic between Fletcher and Andrew makes for highly pitched drama. Whiplash manages to both celebrate and question youthful drive and confidence, and Chazelle lends a Rocky-like sense of high stakes and punishing self-discipline.”- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post


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