Actor in a Supporting Role - J.K. Simmons
Film Editing - Tom Cross
Sound Mixing - Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley
Adapted Screenplay - Damien Chazelle
By now, most people know the basic premise of the film, Whiplash. An ambitious, driven young drummer, Andrew, played by Miles Teller gets into a highly selective music school, and then is taken into the elite jazz band led by a teacher who is a ruthless bully (J.K. Simmons). There is nothing Andrew won't do to please his teacher, and he will stop at nothing to become a great musician. He is driven by the same unflinching focus that one sees in Olympic athletes, who train 8 hours a day to achieve their dreams - he does nothing in the world save practicing the drums. His father (played sweetly by Paul Reiser) doesn't understand his son's drive, and is troubled by seeing his son hurt. The teacher, Fletcher, is manipulative, abusive (mentally and physically), and believes himself to be working for the good of the students - though it is unclear why his tactics have been allowed or overlooked by the school.
This film pushed a lot of buttons for me - bullying in any form is very hard for me to take, and I have seen ruthless bullies in the workplace who go unchecked for one reason or another. J.K. Simmons took this character to the extreme, supported no doubt by the excellent screenplay that built his back story. It is hard to believe that any one person could be so ruthless all the time, and yet Simmons manages to convince us that his one-note personality is authentic. He has his own undaunted eyes on his own prize, and there is a certain parallel between him and his student in that they both have greatness on their minds. There is something about this film and determination to succeed that is inspiring.
As I have shared in prior posts, films with lots of music, especially complicated rhythmic music are perfect candidates for technical awards like editing and sound mixing. The difficulty rating on these kinds of achievements is very high, and in this case, it was done flawlessly.
This is a hard film to watch, so I recommend being thoughtful about whether this is the kind of film that is for you. If you do choose to see it, I believe you will not regret it, it is superb. Just make sure you go out for ice cream afterward for a palate cleanse.