Whiplash and Selma

Get some popcorn and Raisinets and a drum kit if you have one, because I saw Whiplash for a second time and need to rave about it just a little.

whiplashIt’s a very intense film, centered on the relationship between music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons – nominated for best supporting actor) and Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and what Fletcher will do to push an aspiring musician to realize what he’s really capable of. Neyman is a first-year student at Shaffer Music Conservatory in New York, where Fletcher takes notice of him and invites him to practice with his jazz band.

Practice as in he can turn pages, be ridiculed and abused to tears at the hands of Fletcher and have musical opportunities given and taken away in a second.

It was hard to watch during my first viewing and I think the level of intensity and violence took away from being able to really focus on the dynamics of the two main characters. (Only because I’m a bit squeamish about violence, it’s not a flaw of the film by any means.)

Whether you can handle the violence or not, my advice would be to watch this film twice (I’m almost ready to go a third time.) Fletcher and Neyman are complex characters and the film presents the opportunity to really think about why they act the way they do in their own lives and in contrast to each other with really good jazz music in the background.

Just wait until the final scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As far as the Oscars, I honestly don’t know how much of a contender Whiplash is for best picture but Simmons could get the statue following his win at the Golden Globes.

Teller isn’t nominated, but I hope the role leads him to more of the same and subtle, solid performances like he made in The Spectacular Now. He’s actually got a couple of Fantastic Four movies coming out and others that appear to be more action than drama, so it will be interesting to see that play out on screen after his role as Neyman.

selmaI also saw an equally intense-but for different reasons-  film this week, Selma, starring David Oyelowo as  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led a movement for voting rights through a peaceful campaign and marches in Alabama in 1965.

The true story told by Ava DuVernay showcases King as a person through his public mission and private life one in the same. It is a film and story that wouldn’t need artistic technique through cinematography to showcase that but the chosen visuals focusing on Oyelowo as King were one of my favorite aspects of it, second to his performance and again the story overall.

It too is unclear if Selma will be a surprise winner or close second or third for best picture on Sunday, but at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter. It’s a film everyone should see to know more of who Martin Luther King Jr. was and is as an influence in history.

I don’t have the best transition here, so I’ll just move on to a couple of comedies I can’t wait to see as Oscar season winds down and as a break from all the dramas (as amazing as they are.)

The trailers before Whiplash this time around included What We Do In The Shadows from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi about a group of vampires in modern times. It. Looks. Hilarious. I’ve heard several interviews with Clement and Waititi and cannot wait to see it after hearing about their vision for the project and time they spent perfecting their work.

Last but not least, Amy Schumer, one of my comedy heroes has her film Trainwreck, which she wrote, coming out this summer.

I hope the film is not, well, a trainwreck, but with Judd Apatow at the helm and Schumer as the sole writing credit, I think it has promise to be a comedy to relate to while showing Schumer’s skills in stand-up comedy played out on screen.

Next time I write, most likely, the Oscars will be over and it will be time to start following potential nominees for next year. It’s also my goal to see, and document, more of the movies that should be nominated and win but never will.

Over and out.

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