J.K.Simmons, Miles Teller, Whiplash

J.K.Simmons and Miles Teller in Whiplash

Another Oscar movie (trailer) with a Princeton connection. Director Damien Chazelle was “inspired by” his musical experience at Princeton High School to explore how the drive to excel can become all-consuming. Not that the character Fletcher, superbly played by Oscar-winner J. K. Simmons, the tightly wound and sadistic studio band leader, mirrored Chazelle’s own band leader (“fear inspires greatness”), he is at pains to say, but still . . . Chazelle wanted the film to explore the line between a healthy passion and an obsession, and, boy, did he do that, garnering five Oscar nominations in the process.

Miles Teller is terrific as the young drummer pushed to the limits of his skills and endurance—and beyond—by teacher Fletcher, “sworn enemy of the merely O.K.,” says Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Characteristically, Fletcher says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’” The Hank Levy tune “Whiplash” is the rack of a tune upon which the drummers in Fletcher’s jazz band are broken.

Here’s a movie where I really felt the tension—it made me clench my fists to the point where my hands, too, were almost bleeding. The playing of the drums enters your skull, and your heart must keep time. If you missed it in theaters, Netflix has it!

Rotten Tomatoes critics rating 95%; viewers, 96%. “Bring a welder’s mask to ward off sparks,” advised critic Donald Clarke in the Irish Times.