Jazz Hands

Every year around this time I try to catch up on movies that I’ve missed from the previous year.  So I was excited to see Whiplash, because it’s about music and obsession and I like scary J.K. Simmons quite a lot.

It was, quite easily, one of the dumbest things I’ve ever watched.

And the racial dynamics are predictably horrendous, as the chosen white-boy drummer magically brings the mostly black jazz orchestra to life.  (We invented rock and roll too!)

And yet again I’m reminded why this annual movie binge is a waste of my time.  90 percent of “critically acclaimed” films these days just bore me to tears at best or, in this case, make me angry at how terrible people’s taste in movies have become.

Update:  Richard Brody in The New Yorker:

“But those performances of musicians with a secret are made possible by scripts that don’t rely on index-card psychology, as ‘Whiplash’ does. Certainly, the movie isn’t ‘about’ jazz; it’s ‘about’ abuse of power. Fletcher could as easily be demanding sex or extorting money as hurling epithets and administering smacks. Yet Chazelle seems to suggest that Fletcher, for all his likely criminal cruelty, has nonetheless forced Andrew to take responsibility for himself, to make decisions on his own, to prove himself even by rebelling against Fletcher’s authority. There’s nothing in the film to indicate that Andrew has any originality in his music. What he has, and what he ultimately expresses, is chutzpah. That may be very helpful in readying Andrew for a job on television. ‘Whiplash’ honors neither jazz nor cinema; it’s a work of petty didacticism that shows off petty mastery, and it feeds the sort of minor celebrity that Andrew aspires to. Buddy Rich. Buddy fucking Rich.”

Amen.

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