Film Review : Whiplash (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance

Directed By – Damien Chazelle
Starring – Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, and Nate Lang

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Wow.

Fucking WOW.

I have only clapped at the end of one movie(which was this year…Boyhood), but now I can say I clapped to two. I couldn’t help myself. The theater couldn’t help itself. Whiplash was that good. I turned to my friend with absolute glee and shouted “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this film. The plot is simple. Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer in the most prestigious school in the country. He is hand picked by Terrence Fletcher (Simmons) to join his competition band comprised of some of the best musicians in the country. While there are a small amount of secondary characters including the return of Paul Reiser, the film mainly focuses on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher; a relationship that grows more volatile by the second.

There just isn’t enough to say about this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t let up from the starting drum roll to the final curtain. I was captivated the entire time. I’ve had experiences with all the parties involved. I saw Chazelle’s first film “Grand Piano” earlier this year and found it to be entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Miles Teller broke onto the scene with his role in “The Spectacular Now” but is mostly known for his college party films such as “21 & Older and Project X”. JK Simmons is a brilliant character actor who was perfectly cast as Jonah Jamison in the Spiderman films and always delivers an interesting performance. All three combine to give the highlights of their careers in this film. Teller is remarkable. He completely sells Andrew’s strive to be the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. He is passionate, dedicated, and driven. Simmons is a force of nature. It is, without a doubt, the performance of the year so far. He dresses in all black. His face is stone cold and the boom of his voice is thunderous. Not even the smallest mistake makes it past his ears and of you don’t fix it on the next try, you’ll be sorry. The thing is, never was anything he did, no matter how terrifying, ever over the top. Simmons played Fletcher with a frightening sense of realism that will notch him into the lists of greatest villains of all time. This thing was full on psychological horror film for most of its running time, and I couldn’t get more of it.

The films writer/director, Damien Chazelle, knocked this out of the park. The editing was perfect. The pace was perfect. The dialogue and story were engrossing. There was symbolism in the cymbalism. The sound design was amazing. The music was amazing. The man has made a perfect film. It’s always a good thing when as soon as the credits begin to roll, I want to go out and buy a ticket to the next showing. The final 20 minutes was one of the most batshit emotional tornado I’ve ever experienced. In minutes, I was on the verge of tears to almost jumping out of my seat with excitement. His script is uplifting, scary, and ambitious. It tells the story of people who try to be the best and try to get the best out of people. If you have EVER been REALLY REALLY good at something, this film will show you just how much you have to go.

I just…can’t say enough about this film. I know this review is kind of short, but I really just can’t talk about this film in too much detail. I’ve noticed that most of the films I review that I consider fantastic pieces of film, have short reviews. I want you guys to experience these movies with a general idea of what to expect but to still be blown away by completely unexpected events. This film is not a masterpiece. This film is like your grandma’s cooking. It may be lasagna, but there isn’t a thing you can find wrong with it or a thing you would change. I can’t wait to see this again. I can’t wait for it to be released in more theaters so others can experience it.

Fuck it. This is my film of the year. So earned. It was just my fucking tempo.

5/5




Documentary Review : Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary
ON NETFLIX WATCH INSTANT

Directed By – Zachary Heinzerling

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.

I am sick. I am sitting in bed trying to breath and constantly asking myself why I have to suffer like this every time the temperature changes. It’s my semi-annual hell hole and it’s also an excuse to watch some films lazily in my bed. My first film ended up being such a joy to watch that I don’t know if I’m going to continue my viewings so I don’t lose this feeling I have.

“Cutie and the Boxer” is a film about a married Japanese couple, Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, who are trying to make a living selling their art in New York City. They have been artists for decades and the film chronicles their artistic journey as well as the journey they take in their relationship.

Let me get this out of the way first. This is a gorgeously shot film. Zachary Heinzerling eloquently constructed this film by focusing on the intimate way that these two artists live their lives. Nothing is held back and we soon realize that holding nothing back is the entire nature of their relationship. It’s really as if Heinzerling isn’t in the room with them as they discuss the problems they have with each other with smiles instead of frowns. They are open books and Heinzerling was able to capture some real forms of the human heart and spirit while following the couple. The film also utilizes a fantastic score by Yasuaki Shimizu. Saxophones and Cellos routinely fill the scenes captured by the camera and add a light and peaceful atmosphere to the film. It’s one of those scores that kind of gets under your skin and makes what you’re watching more relaxing and content. That and I’m a sucker for anything with an oriental feel to it.

The art displayed in the film is pretty fantastic. Perhaps the most interesting art is the pieces that give Ushio his nickname, “The Boxer”, where he straps on boxing gloves filled with paint and punches a canvas from left to right. Did I mention that this man is 80 years old? It just goes to prove that there is something in the Japanese gene that makes them live forever and do amazing work while doing so. Ushio is also a gifted sculture, making make acid filled fantasies from cardboard, usually involving motorcycles. His wife, Noriko, is also a gifted artist and focused more on the art of drawing. Her “Cutie” series chronicles the early part of her relationship with her husband as they raise a child together, mostly while Ushio is piss drunk. This is where the open-ness of the film lies. Her work is literally a series of painting and drawings that highlight how difficult it was to be married to Ushio and standing next to her is that same man with a smile on his face. It’s one of those relationships where you know they’ll stick together through everything due to them being two individual souls spending their own lives together instead of trying to make a single life from two people. I always thought those kind of relationships were the best at making it all the way.

The film also focuses on what it’s like for two people who happen to be artists to share a life together in a business sense. They are both vying for a chance to have their work shown at galleries. Ushio is the more famous artist and Noriko has usually helped the man out and neglected her own work. She was also forced to bear most of the responsibility of raising their child and actually had to give up painting for a long time. She is now able to fully focus on her own artwork and it was great watching her try to succeed. I was rooting for her like I knew her.

The whole film was just magical. It was like watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” but instead of fish the art is on a canvas. It may not have been the best documentary in the Academy Awards but it is a completely unique film that will make even the least artistic person want to grab a paint brush. Oh and the montage during the credits is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended.

4.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Exit Through the Gift Shop, Wasteland, Jiro Dreams of Sushi