Saturday, January 17, 2015


Well, this certainly looks like someone seeing the list of Oscar nominees and catching up with the ones he hasn't seen, doesn't it? It's not like that - I've been trying to see it for weeks, maybe even months, but there's always been something else that's only around for a week, or the night I do plan on it, the Kendall is using that screen for a preview of some sort, and then I see it's not ending on Thursday, so it can be put off...

Darn shame on my part, because this is a pretty great movie, not necessarily having me on the edge of my seat to see what's going to happen next, but almost always making me anticipate how it's going to happen. It's a tremendous triumph of craft, but not a hollow one, especially at the end.

The funny thing is, I remember being really taken by the trailer, going to look the movie up, and saying something like "done by the guy who made Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench? Man, I hated that movie!" Despite that, I was never particularly put off from it, if only because "great role for J.K. Simmons" is a pretty good way to draw me into a movie.

The thing I kind of don't get? People leaving during the credits. The music from the last scene kept going as the screen went black, and if you had been enjoying the movie, why pass up a few more minutes of its great soundtrack to get to the parking garage a couple minutes faster?


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 15 January 2015 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

So far, three of the four films that Damien Chazelle has written and/or directed have been about musicians, and for all I know, his script for The Last Exorcism II had one in a prominent supporting role. In guessing he has some sort of connection to the field, but that's less important than how he has clearly refined his presentation of it to the point where Whiplash is a riveting film told in large part by how people play.

It starts with Andrew Neeman (Miles Teller), an aspiring jazz drummer in his first semester at a prestigious conservatory, in a practice room working late into the night. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the conductor of the school's top jazz ensemble hears him. He does not offer words of encouragement, but soon recruits Andrew for his group, and from there, the practices which often cross the line into abuse only pick up. Andrew doesn't quite welcome it, but like the rest of the ensemble, he knows that Fletcher is a path to prestige and perhaps greatness.

If Fletcher is any sort of teacher, that doesn't show on screen; he's a hundred percent taskmaster, and J.K. Simmons dives into that with relish, screaming half of his lines, plowing through strings of vile insults without any sort of breath or slowdown, and always seeming like a vein is about to burst. He'll rein it in a bit in scenes meant to humanize the character a bit, but even then, he always seems to have a purpose, and that's why scenes later revealed to be manipulations also feel like he was being entirely true to himself.

Full review at EFC.

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