Wednesday, November 21, 2018


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WHIPLASH--  a film written and directed by  Damien Chazelle
I really disliked the movie Whiplash very much, chief among my complaints that it replays several clichés and stock situations from other music-oriented dramas. A young, promising drummer comes under the harsh tutelage of an unforgiving taskmaster. I have the feeling that this was the "Drumline" movie for white people, the irony being that we have instructor directing a student ensemble which is predominately white in the ways, technique and nuances of an African American art. Besides that, what we have is two hours of the poor student being harangued, harassed and intimidated by a psychotic instructor who screams "not my tempo" yet who is never displayed playing a musical instrument. Smells fishy. The ending, of course, was cornball and inevitably trite, the student rising the tyrant's standards in live performance, the instructor allowing him the space to soar as he demanded the student to do all along, both staring at each other with a new-found respect. This movie had more clichés than a Ronald Reagan speech. You're right, but the scene is inconsequential to making the otherwise magnificent JK Simmons a convincing musical presence in the strike ’s, correct fingering or not, seemed like he was miming all the same. I will concede that he did as good a job aping the moves as Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid, or Sean Penn in Woody Allen's Movie "Sweet and Lowdown" (incidentally one of Allen's best late-period movies). What irritates me is that the only movies about blues or jazz musicians that get the high profile treatment are those whose protagonists are white males. the results are overwrought clichés with skewed senses of history. The results are mediocre movies that play the audience for fools and, in fact, dishonors great music created by the great musicianship. JK Simmons does a good job with a role that is an over-used archetype, that of the bullying mentor who is an extreme mix of contempt and compassion. The use of this strawman, or any other characters who are stereotypes before anything else, is that the story is predictable. It ceases to be drama, where the flammable spark of human emotion keeps events and their outcomes unforecastable. I knew what was going to happen in "Whiplash" and was a little pissed off about all the obvious button-pushing the writers, producers and the lot were engaged in. 

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