Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons), Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
So, this film is intense. A kid who's really driven and not terribly socially adept gets into one of the best music schools out there because he wants to be a jazz drummer, and meets up with the hard-ass, brilliant, auteur prof (J.K. Simmons) who really just wants to make the next jazz great by pushing someone good until they excel (or break). Is that so much to ask?
Whiplash is a hell of a ride. It's the director's first film (he wrote and directed it) -- he couldn't get funding for it (and it was shot on a shoestring, basically) and so he made it into a short film and took it to Sundance, where it did very well and then he got the funding for the feature length version. This film is basically every indie filmmaker's dream process come true. J.K. Simmons is ferocious -- he is a musical predator that you never know whether he's going to accept you as part of the pack or turn on you without warning. It was uncomfortable to watch him in places -- if you've ever been bullied by a prof, this movie makes you squirm.
That said, the music... it's amazing. And Miles Teller who plays Andrew, the lead drummer, actually does all his own playing, including that freaking incredible 9 minute solo at the end. This is the shortest movie in the list, which is frankly refreshing -- not only because it doesn't feel like a marathon, but because it's a hard sprint all the way through, and you really can't fathom that you could have ridden that rollercoaster any longer than you just did.
As for the nominations -- J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor. I'm behind it. He was amazing -- he owned that entire film. Holy cats. Sound mixing was pretty damn amazing too. I don't think it will get Best Picture, but that's okay. We should see more awesome work from Damien Chazelle in the future, and who wins Best Picture for your first indie film? Save something for the rest of your career, you know?