JayDee's Movie Musings

→ in
Tools    





"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



What'd you think of his performance in Brothers?
I considered that my favorite movie for awhile. I don't think I still do, but it's one of them.

I think Gunslinger is right about Prisoners and Jarhead -- those two stand out for me with Gyllenhaal. Those and Brothers. I need to give Enemy another watch, too.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Total Recall on TV in the UK now. Such a mind****, up there with the best of them.
__________________



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
I don't know why you guys are having such a lengthy discussion over this. Quite clearly Gyllenhaal's best performance was his small but pivotal role as Billy Crystal's son in City Slickers!



I watched that fairly recently and loved it, I think you saw my review. JayDee, we have more in common than you want to admit!
I enjoyed Nightcrawler quite a lot and thought it worked great as a dark comedy, loved the ending. Agree it's Gyllenhaal's film, he's brilliant.
This is starting to freak me out. We're agreeing on way too much just now; we both liked Killer Joe, are fans of McConnaughey and the McConnaisance, love Total Recall and really liked Nightcrawler. I can't handle this. I need to throw something your way that will re-establish our divide. Ummm.......of yeah I hated Under the Skin! Assuming you've seen it I'm guessing that's right up your street.

I hated The Lone Ranger, but your review makes me want to give John Carter a try.
My mentioning it in the Lone Ranger review or did you go back and read John Carter?

I hate the fact that everyone thinks Nightcrawler is now THE best Jake Gyllenhaal movie/performance.

Also, JayDee -- you couldn't tell that Jake's character was a sociopath until he sat down to dinner with Rene Russo? You guys really need to work on spotting psychos before they take advantage of you.
I thought you'd just be pleased that he was getting so much praise and love thrown his way. It's the best performance of his that I've seen but I didn't state that in the review because I've not seen Brothers and I've somehow also not seen Brokeback Mountain. This despite the fact that I fancied seeing it at the cinema all the way back in 2005. I've even got it on DVD and have done so for probably 5 years or something.

Well I could tell that he was quite a detached guy but I felt it wasn't until that scene you really understood the extent of it

I'm looking forward to seeing this, and it's this review JayDee, that gives me the most hope, because you don't seem to love a lot of dark movies.
That's a fair point for the most part. And for much of the first half it was going that way. I was thinking it was very good and very well made but that it wasn't really doing a great deal for me. I felt it was heading towards something in the
to
range but then the longer it went the more gripped and enthralled I became



I hated The Lone Ranger, but your review makes me want to give John Carter a try.
My mentioning it in the Lone Ranger review or did you go back and read John Carter?

Just you noting that you liked John Carter, regardless of the way it was trashed by most critics, is the reason why I'm considering watching it. I've avoided John Carter because I've heard some pretty bad reviews of it, but you seem to have good taste in movies, so I was thinking about giving it a try based on your opinion of it.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
I'm breaking from the pack a little with this one in that I seem to about the only one on here so far that hasn't fallen head over heels in love with this film



mirror
mirror

Year of release
2014

Directed by
Damien Chazelle

Written by
Damien Chazelle

Starring
Miles Teller
J.K. Simmons
Paul Reiser
Melissa Benoist
Austin Stowell
Jayson Blair

Whiplash

-

Plot - Andrew Neiman (Teller) is a young and talented drummer who dreams of being one of the absolute greats. He is in his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, regarded as the best music school in the country, when the respected and feared Terence Fletcher (Simmons) selects him to play in his Studio band. It doesn't take Andrew long however to learn that his selection does not guarantee a smooth ride to the top. It is only when he joins his class that he realises how much of a ruthless tyrant Fletcher is; he will abuse his students both verbally and even physically to try and get what he wants. In his attempts to please him Andrew's determination soon spirals into full-blown obsession. With these two constantly clashing who will come out on top?

In amongst all the massive event movies (Interstellar), issues movies (Selma), technical marvels (Birdman) and awards bait (Theory of Everything) that are jostling for Oscar nominations one smaller, unassuming film seems to have shot up the outside and become the darling of many a viewer; Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. In the last month or so I went from being almost completely ignorant of this movie to greatly anticipating it as a result of a string of reviews that have lavished unreserved praise upon it. Well it's certainly a very good movie and one that I definitely enjoyed, I can't deny either point, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations which had only recently gone from non-existent to sky high. And perhaps that's why I didn't fall for it quite to the extent of others. Whiplash is the kind of small film that people love to just sort of stumble upon with limited knowledge or expectations. Had I seen it a few weeks ago I may well have loved it, but now that I was greatly looking forward to it there was a degree of pressure on it.

Back in 2002 the Eminem-starring 8 Mile hit cinema screens, with countless reviews proclaiming it the rap version of Rocky with the film's thrilling rap battles standing in for boxing bouts. Well Whiplash could almost be categorised as the drumming version of Saving Private Ryan. It seems a truly preposterous notion but somehow Damien Chazelle has managed to make the act of banging away on some drums into one of the most thrilling things you'll see in cinemas all year, capturing a level of drama and intensity that doesn't feel a million miles away from that delivered by Spielberg's epic depiction of warfare. And to make things even tougher on itself, Whiplash focuses on jazz music, a genre that doesn't exactly have the cool, rebellious image of rock for example. That still doesn't stop Chazelle however. He employs a roving camera that likes to get up close to the performers during the musical performances, fixating on every bead of sweat and every throbbing vein, to bring a real sense of intimacy to proceedings that really pushes its immersive and absorbing qualities. Lots of credit for these sequences is also due for the film's editor, Tom Cross, who does an exceptional job.

So I was very impressed with Chazelle's efforts behind the camera as Whiplash's director. I would be more reticent with my praise when it comes to his writing however. His dialogue is good, it flows nicely and feels natural, but I did find myself questioning the movie's extreme approach to its subject. Now Chazelle was actually in a jazz band back in high school so perhaps it really can be this way but I just found myself struggling to imagine that such an environment could exist in this day and age; an environment where a teacher could possibly be so abusive to his students, not just verbally but physically, and seemingly get away with it for a substantial length of time. Never mind being fired he should be in jail for assault. Perhaps it could be explained away as just a heightened sense of reality but at times it just felt rather over-the-top and unrealistic. And then at around the hour mark the film takes a brief detour into full-blown melodrama that I felt was unwise and quite frankly unnecessary; the film was doing just fine at generating drama through Andrew's exploits and struggles at his drum set without resorting to something that felt comparatively cheap. And when it came to the film's finale, as undeniably enthralling and adrenaline-fuelled as it is, I felt it was a touch contrived and didn't ring particularly true. Even the character of Terence Fletcher, as incredibly portrayed as it was by J.K. Simmons (more on that later), was so big that he was right on the brink of crossing over into caricature throughout the whole film.

Above everything else the film seems to about sacrifice. It's about the sacrifices you have to make and the lengths you have to go to if you want to be truly great at something. It's only the very lucky few that are blessed with the natural, innate talent of a prodigy at birth; for everyone else you have to really work at it. And boy does Andrew Neiman work for it. In this film, pouring your 'blood, sweat and tears into it' isn't just a glib expression, it literally is the case. And there's even a bit of spit thrown in for good measure. Earlier on I mentioned the Rocky comparison that was frequently brought up in discussions of 8 Mile. Perhaps I should just have stuck with that analogy for Whiplash because after drumming Andrew often looks like he's just gone three minutes with the heavyweight champion of the world. As he sits on his stool, drenched in sweat and with hands bloodied, I was half expecting him to say something along the lines of “cut me Mick.”

For all this talk of sacrifice however I was left to question some of the exact ideology and messages at its core and its depiction of this world. I got the feeling that Chazelle was under the impression that he was making an inspirational film, but I'm really not sure I'd say that's the case. Given that the film has lifted much of its structure from your standard sports film you feel certain that at some point Andrew Neiman will rise up and overcome the abuse and anguish he has suffered to emerge victorious and heroic. Instead of rebelling against it however, he embraces it. It's almost as if the film is arguing that Fletcher's approach was right all along; that all the abuse he handed out, all the dreams he crushed, even driving someone to suicide, it was all worth it just to help one student.

Film Trivia Snippets - During the more intense scenes of drumming Damien Chazelle would not yell cut to force Miles Teller to keep drumming until he had completely exhausted himself. /// The role of Andrew Neiman was turned down by Chronicle and Amazing Spider-Man 2 star, Dane DeHaan. /// For the slapping scene, J.K. Simmons and Miles Tellar filmed several takes with Simmons only miming the slap. For the final take, Simmons and Teller decided to film the scene with a real, genuine slap. This is the take that is in the film. /// Miles Teller has been drumming since he was 15 years old. When he was hired for the film however he took additional lessons 3 times a week for 4 hours a day to prepare. /// Damien Chazelle was unable to get funding for Whiplash as a feature film. As a result he instead turned it into an 18 minute short film and submitted it into the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. The short film ended up winning the Short Film Jury Award, and he got funding soon after.
And if this really was an accurate representation of the music landscape then I feel it would be a very sparsely populated world. I felt there was a complete absence of joy and passion for the music being performed. Those unfortunate enough to be under Fletcher's tutelage are forever wearing a grim look on their face and eyes of fear. They look less like a music class and more like a POW camp. Even Andrew's aspirations seem somewhat questionable. He doesn't appear to be doing this just out of love for drumming. His end goal is not to just be a great musician but to be remembered and talked about after he's gone; for him that would be the definition of creating great music. It feels like a lack of respect to create art, instead just making it a quest for glory, and somewhat souring the drama and excitement of the performances. I'm left wondering how many teachers and coaches the film may unfortunately inspire to act in a similar totalitarian fashion to Terence Fletcher, and also how many potential musical students it may turn off.

I was also somewhat turned off by the film's fixation with homophobic insults, particularly numerous uses of the word 'f*ggot'. All of the cursing and verbal abuse is one thing but this just felt unnecessary and to me it just came across as cheap, lazy and sensationalist. Remove Fletcher's repeated use of the phrase and replace it with just a general insult and it's not going to lessen his monstrous image any. There are several films and situations where it would be an acceptable element, or even strange to omit it. Here however I didn't think it had any real justification and it slightly disturbs me that it seems to be acceptable. For example there are several black students in Fletcher's class. Had he uttered the 'n word' on several occasions throughout the film I imagine it would have caused a bit of an outcry.

I think that another part of the reason why I didn't love the film to the extent that many people have is that while I was captivated by the on-stage trials of Miles Teller's Andrew Neiman, I don't think I could say the same for the character himself. Beyond his undeniable passion and drive for music I don't feel that I ever really get to know him, and what we do get to know isn't the most likeable or sympathetic of individuals as he wallows in self-absorption. There are some brief snapshots of his home life that attempt to sketch out why he is so insanely driven that didn't do a great deal for me. There is also a romantic sub-plot for Andrew, the purpose of which is to show the effect his obsession has on his everyday life outside of music, but I felt it was one of the film's weaker elements even if it was sweetly and tenderly played by both Teller and Melissa Benoist.

Now the one facet of Whiplash that dominates everything else is most certainly the performance of J.K. Simmons as noted conductor and fearsome music teacher, Terence Fletcher. Simmons' is one of the most reliable and watchable actors out there. Up until now however he had pretty much made a career out of being a character actor, of impressing and of stealing the show from supporting roles. Well it may have taken him some 20 years but he has finally found the role that has allowed him to take centre stage. Simmons is probably best known for his role as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. That series featured such iconic comic book villains as the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom and Sandman; well Terence Fletcher would have eaten every single one of them for breakfast! It is a truly monstrous performance from Simmons that has seemingly put him in pole position for the Best Supporting Actor award at this year's Oscars, Golden Globes, Baftas and every other awards show in existence.

There has perhaps never been an individual more suited to convey the sentiment, 'doesn't suffer fools gladly' than his Fletcher. If you make a mistake he will absolutely destroy you. Even if you don't make a mistake he will probably still destroy you just for the fun of it. He is absolutely terrifying, the kind of teacher every single one of us dreaded having. He is basically what would happen if you were to take R. Lee Ermey's drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket and put him in charge of a music class. This tyrant is a character that would fit snugly on many a 'Greatest Movie Villains' list....except is he truly a villain? How much of this snarling, abusive, sadistic beast is who he really is, and how much of it is a performance aimed at deriving the absolute best out of his students? Is he pushing them to deliver their best, or is he pushing them to their breaking point? I don't think there's much doubt that he is an exceptionally flawed individual but as to what the final verdict on him will be, I think that will very much depend on the viewer.

Conclusion - Whiplash is without a doubt an exhilarating film the is powered by two excellent performances, particularly the performance of J.K. Simmons which explodes with the energy of an atomic bomb. On a technical level it is a great success but I was left less impressed by its overwrought approach to the material, slight characterisation and some of its questionable ideology. I certainly didn't find the masterpiece that so many others have. Though I will admit I am perhaps looking too hard for morals and messages here; perhaps I should just have taken it more on a surface level



cricket's Avatar
Pimpin' ain't easy
I never even heard of this movie until last week when it started getting raves on here. I'm very curious to see it. Great review as always



Unlike some, I actually think I prefer to read reviews for movies that I haven't seen, since a positive or negative review can tip my interest if I'm on the fence. Plus a good reviewer, like yourself, can give me a better idea of what to expect without ruining any of the plot. I've seen a few people on here rave about the brilliance of Whiplash, but until I read your review, I knew nothing about it except that the plot revolved around a drummer. The synopsis doesn't sound very dramatic or intriguing, but judging by your review, looks can be deceiving. I'm more interested in the movie now than I was before reading your review, so

Some of your criticisms, like the lack of sympathy for the main character, or the coarse language and "questionable ideology," rarely bother me as a viewer, so it's possible that I'll like the movie more than you did.
__________________



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
The synopsis doesn't sound very dramatic or intriguing, but judging by your review, looks can be deceiving. I'm more interested in the movie now than I was before reading your review, so
Thank you very much. That's probably the best compliment you can get as a reviewer if you make someone want to watch a film. And you're right, the plot summary makes it sound like it should be exceptionally dull. All you can imagine is some dreary made-for-TV movie.

Some of your criticisms, like the lack of sympathy for the main character, or the coarse language and "questionable ideology," rarely bother me as a viewer, so it's possible that I'll like the movie more than you did.
To be fair quite a few of them I didn't intend to be so much as criticisms as just reasons why I personally didn't love it. Although just to be clear I have absolutely no trouble with coarse language in general. I'm Scottish for goodness sake! I personally just feel that when it comes to certain extremely offensive words that denigrate entire groups of people, be it sexual orientation or race, they have to feel justified. They have to feel a natural fit for the story, the place or the era. Dallas Buyers Club for example, it's not just ok to have the word 'f*ggot' frequently used, it's kind of necessary. Same goes for 'n*gger' in 12 Years a Slave. Here I didn't feel it was necessary, and the use just felt lazy and rubbed me the wrong way a little.

However with every additional gushing review that I hear or read I feel myself questioning my opinion more and more. I feel so alone on this!



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
I've mentioned my backlog of reviews numerous times which are all saved in a big text document. However a while back I divided off the smaller micro musings and the like into a separate document and forgot all about it. Anyway I just recently discovered it so I'll get these out of the way.

First up is one that would qualify for that middle musings category I came up with or whatever it was called. And if you want an idea of just how long this has been kicking about you'll see that I reference the 1970s countdown as a future event.



mirror
mirror

Year of release
1971

Directed by
Anthony Harvey

Written by
James Goldman

Starring
George C. Scott
Joanne Woodward
Jack Gilford
Rue McClanahan

They Might Be Giants

-

This may not have held up quite as strong as I remembered but I still find it to be a fun and quirky little oddity that has a great deal of charm to offer. Trying to assign a label to it is rather tricky; it really is quite the hodgepodge of genres and tones. Parts of it are a mystery-adventure, parts are romance, parts are a slightly poignant drama whilst other moments find humour in rather farcical fashion. It also brought to mind one of my favourite films in a small way, Lars and the Real Girl. Like that film it questions what is insanity. At the centre of the film is a character who deals with the death of his wife by retreating into this persona of Sherlock Holmes. Now he is in no way harming anyone and it is bringing a vibrancy and depth to his life that would otherwise be missing. So is that really all the bad?

The film may have its flaws but for me they are generally outweighed by the two excellent performances at its core. George C. Scott makes for a great Holmes, capturing both the highly frustrating and wondrous natures of the character. Like all the best portrayals of Sherlock, if you knew him he would have you pulling your hair out one minute and then marvelling at his genius the next. As the psychiatrist given his case (a psychiatrist who just happens to be named Dr. Watson) Joanne Woodward is rather delightful; just giving a really heartfelt and endearing performance as the put-upon and feisty doctor. Together they have a really nice chemistry that helps to develop a sweet and surprisingly touching partnership. Returning to the film I was struck by the vast amount of familiar faces to be found, generally in very minor roles as an assortment of oddballs that Holmes and Watson cross paths with. So amongst the supporting cast you've got the likes of Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls' Blanche), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), F. Murray Abraham and M. Emmett Walsh.

Its plot may sound like it could deliver something decidedly mainstream but in reality They Might Be Giants has a bit more of an independent, Bohemian spirit to it. It's also quite a nice city movie, giving a retro insight into New York, complete with some time spent in a sleezy Times Square that is still crawling with the debauchery of sex and crime. One thing I had forgotten about though was the rather frustrating lack of closure at the film's conclusion. It leaves the viewer with a very open-ended closing image that you can interpret in two vastly different ways. Some people may enjoy that aspect but I just found it rather irksome.

I wouldn't say this is vital watch for people ahead of the 70s list. I don't envisage it making many lists. However I know people are going to be watching a lot of highly acclaimed, serious dramas for the list. So if you're looking for a little break and something a little bit different I certainly think you could do a lot worse than give this a go.



Christ, my index finger feels like it's on a treadmill when I have to use it to scroll down past one of JayDee's reviews on my phone.



I wouldn't say this is vital watch for people ahead of the 70s list. I don't envisage it making many lists.
And I thought my dial-up was slow.

I don't think I've ever heard of They Might Be Giants. It looks/sounds more like a movie from the 50's than the 70's.

Your new avatar is awesome, by the way. It hypnotizes me into wanting to do that same dance.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Not too surprised a few people are unfamiliar with They Might Be Giants, though it is quite common to find it on lists of cult films.

Also what was it about quirky Sherlock Holmes films in the 70s? In addition to this one (about a mental patient who believes he is Sherlock Holmes) you had Murder by Decree in which Holmes goes up against Jack the Ripper and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution where he teamed up with Sigmund Freud

Christ, my index finger feels like it's on a treadmill when I have to use it to scroll down past one of JayDee's reviews on my phone.
Is this you setting the grounds for a potential lawsuit down the line about how you've injured your index finger because of me? I know what you Yanks are like, you'll sue for anything.

Your new avatar is awesome, by the way. It hypnotizes me into wanting to do that same dance.
Thank you. Now let's try a wall of hypnosis.

Dance boy, DANCE!!! Groot commands it.