The new film "Whiplash" is brimming with potential Oscar nods. From extraordinary acting to brilliant editing, direction, scoring and scripting, this movie never misses a beat. And, for starters, it has one of the best endings in the history of filmmaking.
Playing the drums under the tutelage of a sadistic instructor at a prestigious music academy becomes a blood sport. J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, the chair-hurling, physically and verbally abusive jazz conductor who sees promise in drummer prodigy Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller). Andrew endures Fletcher's excessive rage because he's driven to be the best. Even after having been brutally slapped during rehearsal, Andrew remains steadfast in his quest.
You're, no doubt, curious how depraved vulgarity (and there's lots of it) and cruelty toward a dedicated musician can make for a film about the world of competitive jazz that pulls you into its underbelly and leaves you reeling as the credits roll. It's because "Whiplash" is perfectly engineered.
Director-writer Damien Chazelle ("Grand Piano") may just qualify as a genius. He shoots the film in 20 days, hires supporting actors in leading roles and manages to electrify his audience with up-close and personal camerawork. Chazelle comments that he "wanted the music sequences to feel like action scenes."
And that they are. The drum playing becomes so out of control that blood is, literally, flying everywhere.
Casting credit has to be given to Terri Taylor for what had to be a gut feeling that Simmons and Teller could pull this off. And they do — big time. Simmons, primarily known for smaller but always memorable roles in films such "Juno" and "Burn After Reading," is the guy who does the Farmer's Insurance commercials.
Teller's supporting roles in "Rabbit Hole" and "The Spectacular Now" were impressive but not particularly noteworthy. That's all about to change for both of them after their Oscar-worthy performances in this fine film.
"Whiplash" is a movie about artistic ambition and the toll it can take on a human being. Toward the end of the film, Fletcher tells Andrew, "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job.'" And Andrew totally gets it.