The Nominated Film You May Have Missed: WHIPLASH

Every year, ten movies are bestowed the honor of becoming nominated by the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Many of these films will already have had various successes throughout the year: good festival attendance, box office success and probably received other prestigious awards. Yet, only one of the ten films ends the night being declared the best of the best.

With the height of award season over, many moviegoers will find themselves looking forward to the summer box office releases, as well as the beginning of a new round of breakthrough films. There is no longer a rush to see the movies that would be going head-to-head, and as many have already been released for home viewing, they can now be seen at any time.

Each month, I select a nominated film that, while did not receive the ultimate prize in the end, should be at the top of your must-see list – a film for your reconsideration. Every film nominated by the Academy has something special about it that makes it stand out amongst films from the entire year. Just because they didn’t get the highest recognition, we can’t ignore that there is something must-see about them. Whiplash is one of these films.

Whiplash Summarized

Whiplash is a film about the tumultuous relationship between an ambitious jazz school student and his merciless jazz conductor. Andrew Nieman (played by Miles Teller), a first year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, dreams of being the greatest jazz drummer of all time.

The Nominated Film You May Have Missed: WHIPLASH
source: Sony Pictures Classics

His instructor (J.K. Simmons) sees potential in him, yet believes the only way to pull the greatness out of Andrew is to try everything in his power to break him. Through the abuse this young man endures, the film is the perfect rollercoaster ride of abuse and obsession. The pace of Whiplash is perfectly timed out, immediately introducing its central characters and instantly sweeping audiences up into a dynamic and intensely building crescendo of storytelling.

Writer and director Damien Chazelle not only demonstrates his talent at creating a powerful story, but also his skillful decisions during filming. The film’s low lighting in several of the scenes is reminiscent of a jazz club, maintaining the momentum and mood of the film. It is these strong foundations that the film’s cast was so successfully able to work off of.

J.K. Simmons delivers the performance of his career in Whiplash, perfectly encapsulating the volatile abusive character of Terrence Fletcher. From the first moment that he steps out into the light in the film’s opening scene, he owns this role.

The moments in which his character is seen berating his students are the most mesmerizing; the physical tension validates every word spoken and the rage emanating from his eyes fully rounds out the performance. The control Simmons‘ has on his character’s bipolar disposition leaves you with full confidence that there is no other actor out there that could have performed this role.

The Nominated Film You May Have Missed: WHIPLASH
source: Sony Pictures Classics

Miles Teller, still fairly new to the industry and to viewers, delivers a solid performance as well. The multiple transformations his character goes through is proof of Miles Teller ‘s range. The obsession and passion that pours through his interpretation of Andrew Nieman is unmistakable, and promises a successful future for the actor. His character is one who is easily overlooked and overshadowed by Simmons‘ strong performance.

Why See Whiplash

Whiplash is a perfect representation of what people will do and who they are willing to become to reach their idea of greatness, as well as what others are willing to do to stay on top. Each of the main characters is perfectly structured to represent each of these concepts. Andrew Nieman is a young student, thirsty for success and greatness, who strives to become a student of renowned Terrence Fletcher  – a path that he believes will enable him to achieve everything he has ever dreamed of.

Even after revealing his true self, Fletcher continues to be the only person who Andrew strives to impress and learn from. Throughout the film, you begin to see Andrew exhibit signs of becoming his mentor, as demeaning of his fellow band members becomes acceptable behavior. Andrew is willing to do anything to impress his teacher and be the best – even if it means he will lose his own self-identity in the process.

The Nominated Film You May Have Missed: WHIPLASH
source: Sony Pictures Classics

Terrence Fletcher is the opposite. He has already achieved his success. He is renowned and sought after by his peers and by those who desire to learn from him. He needs and wants to stay at the top, no matter how hard he has to push his students or how much he has to break them.

Fletcher’s need to stay on top is compounded by his need to be the individual to discover the next great jazz musician. He needs to be the one to find him, to teach him – to break him and watch him rise to greatness. He believes that he is the only one, and that only his extreme methods are the way to make it happen.

Conclusion

Whiplash is one of the lowest grossing movies to be nominated for an Academy Award, so it is safe to say that many people missed this sensational film. Yet, this is a film that needs to be seen.

The story is a captivating observation of what an individual will do to be the greatest – and what a mentor will do to get them there. The film will leave you wondering what it really takes to make someone great, and how hard one should be pushed to achieve that level.

With its highly talented cast and brilliant filmmaking decisions, Whiplash is sure to become a classic.

Have you seen Whiplash? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

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