Whiplash, the underdog for 2014 Oscars

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

With the Academy Award nominations for best picture now upon us, “Whiplash” seems to be one of the weakest among them. With powerhouse films such as “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything” vying for the best picture award this year, “Whiplash” doesn’t have the momentum to take the victory. This by no means indicates that it is a bad film, far from it, in fact.

Director Damien Chazelle paints a beautiful portrait of the competitive college music scene but does so in a way that doesn’t feel like a rehash of “Drumline.” It feels like a traditional college sports movie, but it is much more character-driven. The film rides on the two lead actors who both deliver some of the best performances of the year.

The main character is Andrew, played by Miles Teller, who we will no doubt be seeing in more films. His MacBethian-drive to acquire and then maintain his first seat position in his school’s prestigious jazz band drives him to near madness.

We, as the audience, watch a struggle that seems all too familiar as his ambitions get the better of him. It’s not hard to project our own perspectives and experiences into the film.

Despite Teller’s excellent performance, it is J.K. Simmons’ performance as the cruel and immensely intimidating Fletcher, director of the jazz band, that really carries the film forward. His performance alone is worth the ticket price. I can honestly say his character is one of the most intense characters I’ve ever seen on the screen. The early days of Jonah Jameson’s career being defined by his role in the original “Spider Man” films may be far behind him.

The mental sparring between Andrew and Fletcher is invigorating to watch. The film had me on the edge of my seat from the start.

Obviously, the music of the film plays a huge role, considering the plot revolves around a college drummer and jazz performer. It is delivered in a way that is relatively legitimate, although fans and members of the band community may find inconsistencies and a little dishonesty in some key scenes. As someone who isn’t plugged in with the band community, I didn’t notice much, but some musicians have criticized the film for some syncing problems with the sound of the movie and the actual sounds being played on the instruments.

My only other complaint about the film is a minor one, in that, while I find the dilemma of the main character relatable, the character himself is quite a jerk. His passion and willpower lead him down a path which at first seems optimistic, but some decisions he makes along the way don’t make any logical sense. Even in his madness, the logic does not play out in a feasible way.

This film is absolutely worth seeing and is worthy of the Oscar nod. Only time will tell if it can stand up to the other nominees.