Author Topic: Whiplash  (Read 4292 times)

verbALs

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2015, 02:49:32 AM »
Does my question above go any way to resonating with your feelings Noff. I know you've come down against films where you have no sympathy for those involved?

To clarify, there's little doubt that both teacher and pupil feel totally justified in their methods and beliefs. I think its a massively positive feature that the film stands back and does not decide that either is a success for taking this path. The opposite. The film doesn't even allow them a round of applause. It doesn't love the characters. It doesn't even like them. It is ambivalent. It watched them without judging. I see this as a major plus point such that it makes a good film into a great one.

To me your phrasing- more than one way to skin a cat at least implies that you conclude the film shows success for these methods and beliefs. Obviously I dont. These two guys can feel justified all they want. In that way they remind of Llewyn Davies who never wavers from a solipsistic belief in his own genius even as Dylan changes music in front of his eyes.

You also have to wonder at anyone teaching with the ambition of finding a genius. Kind of like a president deciding that the safest guarantee of security for his country being to invade and conquer every other country. A Napoleon syndrome applies to Fame Academy. Of course it may suit the ego to view your work as this "important". It suits the perfections of Jazz to explore this megalomania.

« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 03:30:22 AM by verbALs »
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smirnoff

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2015, 04:48:37 PM »
Does my question above go any way to resonating with your feelings Noff. I know you've come down against films where you have no sympathy for those involved?

My original instinct was to equate Andrew's story to Zuckerberg's in The Social Network, or Steve Jobs in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, two films I like a lot, but which shine a more critical light on the characters and the consequences of their sociopathic determination. Here I felt the film let Andrew off easy. A few people's feeling hurt along the way, but all in all he achieved what he wanted to achieve so good for him. When the reality is he ran roughshod over other people's dreams to get to his. The film may not have given him an applause, but to me that was not an eye for an eye... the bad guy won. That is the problem for me in this case, and not whether I liked Andrew or not. In fact I think Andrew is a relateable character. His break up with his girlfriend and the logic behind it strikes a chord with me. It's getting in a wreck and not seeing if he killed anyone, and stepping on other people to earn the core position, and a general adoption of an at-all-costs attitude that I don't like. I don't care to see how far it can take him. I already believe people can get to the top with that kind of approach. And yea, I do think that's what the film here shows.

It may be success as defined by Andrew and Fletcher, but I have little doubt they got their applause in the end whether the film showed it or not, so it' success as defined by others too. I just didn't find that a very satisfying ending. Comeuppance is a valuable thing. It's satisfying on it's own, but useful when it breeds humility in the person. As a viewer you can relate the to motivations that lead to the persons rise, and then learn from what they learned after they fell. I got less out of this film than I do out of Goodfellas because it only showed one side of the mountain, so to speak. I was deeply engaged, I would've been more than happen to stick with it and see how it unfolded over another hour. It's a rich film as far as it goes though. Very well done.

I do find our fundamentally different read on the film pretty interesting. And I'm surprised by it. I'm not surprised at you though, it just didn't occur to me how else a person might interpret it (it never does of course, which is why we're here I guess). :)

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You also have to wonder at anyone teaching with the ambition of finding a genius. Kind of like a president deciding that the safest guarantee of security for his country being to invade and conquer every other country. A Napoleon syndrome applies to Fame Academy. Of course it may suit the ego to view your work as this "important". It suits the perfections of Jazz to explore this megalomania.

What do you make of Fletcher's reaction to the student committing suicide. I haven't answered this myself yet. The obvious conclusion to draw seems to me to be that he's covering it up so as it doesn't discredit his methods. A defensive reaction. But at the same time, those emotions seemed pretty real to me. Do you think he felt genuine grief about that person having died, or was it grief of another sort? I mean it wouldn't surprise the students in his class to hear of a former student committing suicide, and the character strikes me as the type who would be happy criticizing that suicide as having a weak character, and disparaging him.  But Fletcher doesn't do any of that, he seems to really be sad at the loss. Does that reaction feel true to the character to you?
« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 05:04:55 PM by smirnoff »

verbALs

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2015, 05:23:50 PM »
Yes. There are instances in the movie of Fletcher in non angry mode but we only ever see those moments from Andrews perspective like everything else. The film stays with Andrew so the question would be how does it effect Andrew? Now he never knew the guy so it's debatable how he would feel. Given how psychotic he is, I think he might find the suicide a weakness he doesn't suffer from. Like the guy couldn't take the pressure. That's extrapolating because the film doesnt really have time to explore every nuance.
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verbALs

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2015, 05:52:13 PM »
I may have you at a disadvantage. My review might give some perspective;

Looking for Charlie Parker.

Astonishing. Pitch perfect.

The extraordinary ability to communicate musical obsession but also the power and perfection of a musical form like jazz. To do this in a second art form is remarkable. Using the language of cinema to transmit the beauty of music is what stuns me about this film. It would be enough to embrace the technicalities of jazz but to compose an expression in film form is the directors gift and achievement.

Don't you hate jazz by the midpoint of the movie? If this what it takes to perform, then what use is it? Except the film contains two characters who don't question what it takes to reach for greatness in this artform. JK Simmons convinces as a teacher trying to coax mastery; possessing another attribute of the educator, the ability to recognise potential. He also smells the hunger for attainment in people.

There is a conventional way to tell this story. The Red Shoes is a beautiful film about obsession in performance but also in svengaliism. Whiplash is about halfway through, ready for its second act at about the point Moira Shearer disappears under a train. Whiplash is effortlessly the movie Black Swan stumbles around trying to be- into the mouth of madness; but losing the focus of its goal, just to tell the story of damaged goods and how trying to be great will crack you down the middle. Miles Teller's Andrew carries a sure knowledge of his own potential throughout the film. He may be mad because in his reality, he is already Buddy Rich. He just needs the push of a great teacher.

This is the movie that you could describe as JK Simmons gets really angry. However he isn't an angry man. That implies restless frustration and impatience. In the moments outside the music, Simmons gets to display a man at ease with himself. Like most things in this intelligent film it doesn't labour the point, but it certainly makes it. He says he hasn't found Charlie Parker but he tried. He isn't justifying his disgraceful methods, which are truly abusive; just saying he believes that the search was his vocation; his responsibility. A movie that can adequately communicate such a concept is great indeed.

There's a section here, where a member of the studio group plays out of tune. Fascinatingly, the guy in question doesn't know whether he is playing out of tune himself. He can be told he is, because he doesn't realise the truth. It is a typical example of "Whiplash" exploring some deeper ideas. In Andrew's case, he is a markedly younger man than the other musicians playing at his level; playing a complex instrument, integral to the rhythmic form of jazz being performed. He can be moulded and he expects to be guided. He can be told he is wrong even if he is right. Part of the lesson is that you need to know for yourself, and that is part of the package of talent. When Simmons says, "not quite my tempo" he means that Andrew might be right, he might be playing perfectly, but that might just be the first lesson; to become perfect, so that you can then endlessly change it up or down. That perfection in the context of the band is different from technical perfection.

Simmons teacher cannot assume the role of father figure because the role is successfully filled. Imagine the fireworks it would set off if it was Andrew's mother who had been left to look after him- it's an interesting decision not to leave the father gap for Simmons to settle into. So Simmons and Paul Reiser become...what? Symbols of compromise and no compromise? Nice and nasty? No spoilers but the actions of Simmons and Reiser in the final minutes, for me, emphasise that the director knows precisely what he is doing with these characters. {OH I CAN SPOIL! ANDREW GOES STRAIGHT FROM HIS DAD'S ARMS BACK OUT ONTO THE STAGE. I SAW THIS NOT AS A CHANCE TO GET BACK AT SIMMONS BUT MORE AS A REJECTION OF HIS FATHER'S ACCEPTANCE OF COMPROMISE. ANDREW DOES NOT WANT TO BE THIS MAN! IN DOING SO HE STEPS AWAY FROM REALITY FURTHER. AGAIN SEEING THIS AS AN INDICATION OF SUCCESS SEEMS BARMY TO ME. HE IS CREATING HIS OWN REALITY- SLIPPING FURTHER INTO MADNESS....GENIUS/MADNESS; IS THIS WHAT IT TAKES [NOBODY SAID CHARLIE PARKER WAS A NICE GUY DID THEY?]} I'm not saying I know what he is doing. I'm saying HE knows what he is doing, and I get to ponder what these men represent. How gorgeously chewy! I can masticate for days on this one small part of the meal that Damien Chazelle has set before me!

I will try to work out which genre this follows most closely. It isn't "A Star is Born". In fact, the physicality is akin to a sports movie. Perhaps it has that structure of dedication and life threatening bodily injury. Really I think it leaves genre behind very early on. The assurance of Teller's dinner table "I have no friends" is outside the norms. Travis Bickle levels of weirdness. Close to what Nightcrawler achieves with Louis Bloom. Quite a nihilistic worldview.

The film jarred my expectations. I love good music films. I don't care for jazz, in the sense that it doesn't draw me in the way other music does (it says nothing to me about my life- just to give away where my heart lies), but I wanted to be transported to a world of affection for it. The movie resolutely hates the music; makes it a trial and an academic study to be dissected and looked at through a microscope. However, finally it returns to the beauty of the form. It gives the music the final word. No more words no more anger. Just wait for your cue.

EDIT: I wrote "Pitch perfect" meaning to return to it. This isn't Pitch Perfect. Like I say I don't find it generic at all. From what you wrote, I think you do; so I think that's where the difference lies.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2015, 06:08:17 PM by verbALs »
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smirnoff

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2015, 06:50:04 PM »
Given how psychotic he is, I think he might find the suicide a weakness he doesn't suffer from. Like the guy couldn't take the pressure.

That's what I would figure as well, which is why his teariness surprised me and made me wonder where that came from...

It'll be a non-factor question for some, I was just curious your reaction.

EDIT: I wrote "Pitch perfect" meaning to return to it. This isn't Pitch Perfect. Like I say I don't find it generic at all. From what you wrote, I think you do; so I think that's where the difference lies.

It strikes me as one half of a generic film. By ending where it ends it leaves certain actions open to interpretation. A generic film would circle back around and make some of those actions less ambiguous. In that sense I could see how a non-generic description would apply.

verbALs

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2015, 01:47:12 AM »
There wouldn't be much purpose. Life would go on. The teacher has been sacked and the pupil has been  expelled. You can argue that either they have a strength of purpose to go on exploring the music or that they love performing so much. Both are a natural response to failure. Andrew's reaction to abject humiliation is to get a pat from his dad and continue on. The alternative would be giving up. In that way, Andrew is refusing to fail rather than succeeding. You only fail when you give up. I think he ends up at a point you get to in life where a sign of maturity is that you can't be knocked or put off; pursuing something important to you.

Interestingly, Andrew's humiliation is based on his inability to perform a piece he doesn't know. However, earlier, he performed a piece by heart that the senior drummer couldn't do without the sheet music. So he had shown once that he had an exceptional ability. When he returns to the stage, he starts to perform way outside of the sheet music form of the tune- which is a key element in jazz. Fletcher asking him to perform a piece he has never heard or seen is fanciful, but, as a direct result, it pushes on to break another barrier. If I interpret jazz properly then a great player will reach a point of perfection in his playing as a jumping off point into improvisation and new forms. I feel the director is communicating something of a complex musical form into dramatic and cinematic terms. Interesting that he also shows that jazz is a discipline beyond simple enjoyment. It ain't much fun. Perhaps in that sense he separates jazz from popular music; one as art and one as entertainment. Like the demarcation between art cinema and blockbuster movies.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2015, 01:55:44 AM by verbALs »
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smirnoff

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2015, 04:09:48 PM »
There wouldn't be much purpose. Life would go on.

You don't seem to have much use for the potential contemplations by the character, post-event. I would like to see where he goes from here and why. Get a sense of his reasoning when the dust has settled.

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The teacher has been sacked and the pupil has been  expelled. You can argue that either they have a strength of purpose to go on exploring the music or that they love performing so much. Both are a natural response to failure. Andrew's reaction to abject humiliation is to get a pat from his dad and continue on. The alternative would be giving up. In that way, Andrew is refusing to fail rather than succeeding. You only fail when you give up. I think he ends up at a point you get to in life where a sign of maturity is that you can't be knocked or put off; pursuing something important to you.

At the risk of someone giving me the "neat little bow" lecture, I gotta say, I would've been game for any of these potential epilogues. I like results. Results allow you to draw conclusions. I don't need to know what happened to the trombone player who got thrown out for not being out of tune and not knowing, that would be taking it too far, but as far as Andrew was cocerned I was left wanting more.

verbALs

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2015, 04:44:43 PM »
Oh you just want everything wrapped up with a neat little bow, don't you? (.........sorry).
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

smirnoff

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2015, 05:13:32 PM »


:))

jmbossy

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Re: Whiplash
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2015, 05:16:08 PM »
There wouldn't be much purpose. Life would go on.

You don't seem to have much use for the potential contemplations by the character, post-event. I would like to see where he goes from here and why. Get a sense of his reasoning when the dust has settled.

I see Whiplash and Nightcrawler as very similar movies, but with some key differences I feel may lend to this discussion...

In Nightcrawler we explore a character who we do not understand and see how far his line of thought expands beyond our own, whereas in Whiplash we see someone far more relatable discovering himself. Where Whiplash ends is almost exactly where Nightcrawler begins. His final decision to return to the stage, signified to me, a kinship. He felt his father hug him, and reconsidered Fletchers "there are no two words" speech. His father loves him, but Andrew does not need love to achieve his goals. He sees this as a disconnect from his father; his father wants A, but he wants B. The screen cuts to black, 10 years later, he is Lou Bloom, skulking the world finding a success that fits his ideologies.

I'm of a personal belief there are only two objectives to living a "good life"; (1) Identify the Ideal, (2) Embody the Ideal. Andrew's is the tale of someone in phase 1, where Lou's story is of phase 2. Both are interesting because their "ideal" lifestyle is so far removed from our own, but they are both results of a "greatness" focused culture (the american dream). In fact, I'd say the third part of the trilogy is something like the second half of Scarface, where after attaining success they become stagnant without ambition, and just go batsh** crazy (only I imagine Lou Bloom becoming less Tony Montana and slightly more Hannibal Lecter).

I don't think Whiplash should have continued any further than it did, otherwise it wouldn't have been a story of someone finding themselves, and more a commentary on a specific world view (a la, Scarface or The Wolf of Wall Street). We know the rest of Andrew's life, because it begins exactly with his final decision. It's a coming of age story, but for someone with a much more sociopathic world view.