The Movie Summary:
Whiplash (2014), written and directed by Damien Chazelle, stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, an aspiring jazz drummer under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). You should know who J. K. Simmons is from Spider Man and the Legend of Korra, but if you don't recognize Teller, he also stars in the Spectacular Now and Divergent (both alongside Shailene Woodley).
This was the best movie I saw last year. The. Best. Nothing came close, and I saw Gone Girl, Birdman, American Sniper, etc. Everything about this movie has an supreme level of craft and expertise that I rarely see in movies these days
And I'll explain why.
What Makes Whiplash the Best Movie of 2014:
From beginning to end Whiplash understands how to take the basic direction, editing, acting, staging, cinematography - pretty much everything - and pump the most out of each scene for the most cinematic and dramatic effect. Teller does exceptionally well playing a drummer, and it begs the question whether he can actually drum, since the movie conceals his drumming ability so well that I'm convinced he's the one drumming and not some external overlaid sound mix.
This was the best movie I saw last year. ... Nothing came close.
Then there's J.K. Simmons acting accelerated by Chazelle's intense script and direction. Simmons presence and intensity can be felt in every scene and he essentially steals the show each and every time. Chazelle's direction calls to mind David O. Russell in Silver Linings Playbook, if you liked that movie, you'll love Whiplash.
What makes Whiplash exceptionally great, and separates it from the generic AAA movies that populate the rest of the Academy Award nominations comes down to the subject matter and what Chazelle is able to pump out of it. Music movies generally piss me off because they play out like cliche sports drama with the same stupid message of "try your best and you will win!" without showing any of the struggle and practicing that's required to actually achieve greatness.
Whiplash actually shows you how Neiman navigates all the obstacles presented to him, and throws in extra dramatic flair to keep you on the edge of your seat, shaking in anticipation for what will happen next and if he'll actually overcome whatever adversity which plagues him. Furthermore, the character development of Neiman and Fletcher shows how great, simple writing propelled by intense direction can yield the most intense character driven drama I've seen since in a while. Watching these two characters play off each other was a real visual treat worth seeing over and over again.
Some viewers may criticize the movie as being too intense and therefore unrealistic, but I cut slack for movies that play up the unrealism as long as it comes across as believable enough in some perturbed version of the world. Also, if you're a music person (I'm not) you may pick apart details of the movie that normal people without a musical background may see, which may take you out of the film.
Regardless, from someone not musically adept, those shouldn't matter as much when compared to the acting, editing, script, direction that I look for whenever I watch a movie.
In that mindset, this takes all the things a movie can do, and does them exceptionally well. The Academy should buck the trend of picking established directors and their movies for best picture, and select this amazing movie instead of the usual play-it-safe bland crap (*cough* Argo *cough*).