Whiplash was released in UK cinemas this January, and has become the most critically-acclaimed. Which is saying something, since it’s come-out in the infamous toilet bowl month.
Screenwriter Damien Chazelle wrote the screenplay (available here) almost as therapy for the nightmarish memories he has of an abusive music teacher, brought to life by J.K. Simmons’ Terrance Fletcher. Fletcher’s teaching methods cause student Andrew Nieman to mentally and physically deteriorate over the course of the story, leading to a psychological battle between them – Nieman wanting to constantly usurp Fletcher’s doubt, while Fletcher wants to continue pushing Neiman. It soon descends into a primal endurance test between them, which ultimately manifests through Nieman at a performance, in-which he becomes one of the greatest drummers of all time. The ending is ambiguous in that respect, in that it doesn’t tell you what to think – did Nieman find his skill within himself regardless of Fletcher, or was Fletcher responsible for bringing it out of him? One ethical debate between them, which Nieman later recalls to his family, implies than anyone can become a great drummer under Fletcher’s tutelage regardless of previous experience.
As a screenplay, Whiplash has been very controversial at this year’s Oscars. To gather funding for the complete production, Chazelle (also the director) produced an extract in the form of a scene, which was shown at film festivals to encourage potential patrons. On that basis, the Academy decided that Whiplash is an adaptation. Regardless of it being an adaptation of an extract from itself to fund the rest, it’s still an adaptation as far as the Oscars are concerned, and it’s been nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. And yet, the British Academy have nominated it for Best Original Screenplay, determining the obvious logic around it to make it that thing, rather than using a loophole to deny it the chance of the award it actually deserves.
I spent my evening today reading the Whiplash screenplay. I have a bit of a sore throat right now, so I was drinking a black currant, but it looked like wine. So let’s just say I was drinking a wine and reading a screenplay on my laptop. I now officially know how it feels to be an Executive Producer.
Have you seen Whiplash? What did you think? Is it really the best release of January? Sound off below. And if there are enough comments, I might just feature them in next month’s blog. I don’t know yet. I don’t make promises I can’t keep (though they’re the best kind).