Whiplash – Damien Chazelle (2014)

Whiplash is my second favorite film of the year (top honors go to Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition). I skipped it earlier in the fall, as it centers on drumming and a striving student / taskmaster teacher relationship, neither of which I’m overly enamored with as subjects for a narrative. I’m glad I gave it a chance, and was able to see it on the big screen. In some ways, it is reminiscent of cult classic Breaking Away (which I’ve always had a warm fuzzy for), but is less character driven and more concerned with questions of the line between art and madness and the will to power underlying such strivings for “greatness.” It features a clash of the titans that keeps you guessing as to how it will resolve, but boy oh boy, when it does, it provides more pure cinematic catharsis than anything mainstream of the past year (even topping Snowpiercer). A few bits of the musical montage verge on the cheesy, especially in the climax, but unlike many films, the editing does actual work. The resolution is brilliant (especially the final few shots) and should leave audiences breathless and feeling great. I hope it finds a wider audience on video, as it is perfect Oscar material – serious, intelligent, and crowd-pleasing all at once.

Four and a half stars out of five

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