Remember when I said Boyhood was my favorite movie of 2014? Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t see Whiplash until now, because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since seeing it yesterday.
More on that in a bit.
I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of movies over the holiday break. It worked out nicely because when I went home for the holidays, all of a sudden there were half a dozen movies I wanted to see, and like half a gazillion free Krikorian tickets available for my use. I was able to watch a lot of them, although still need to see Big Eyes (Christoph Waltz!) and Birdman.
A few that are worth watching:
The Imitation Game. I’m aware that the writers took liberties with parts of Alan Turing’s personality and life, but that’s kind of a given when it comes to Hollywood. I’m just glad they made the movie, because it’s a story that should be more well known, and I’m sure has led tons of people to read more about Turing, myself included. Props to the movies this year that celebrated science and nerdiness!
The Interview. Like many Americans over Christmas break, I bought and watched The Interview online rather than seeing it in the theater. Which is good, because I doubt I would’ve wanted to see the movie for $12, haha. Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched it. It starts out funny and then just gets uber bizarre at the end. [SPOILER ALERT] Case in point: Kim Jong-un’s face getting blown off while a stripped down version of Katy Perry’s “Firework” plays in the background. I was thinking about how outrageous some of it was, then realized it’s not that different from what Charlie Chaplin did in The Great Dictator. Chaplin basically turned Hitler into a joke: a dictator with an effeminate salute who falls down stairs and climbs up curtains. It was a bold thing to do and got people talking, and the same can be said for The Interview.
Whiplash. This movie in one word: WHOA. I immediately wanted to see Whiplash after a coworker mentioned it the other day; how had I not heard of it before? It currently has a very limited showing in SF, so we decided to see it at the (awesome) Clay Theater on Fillmore. I think everyone who has ever been a musician, artist, athlete, or performer of any kind should see this movie. You will be on edge the entire time.
The whole thing brought back really distinct feelings that I haven’t felt since playing in an ensemble: the intense passion for wanting to be good at something, the nauseating anxiety of being singled out (just the phrase “down the line” made my palms sweat), the competition and heart-pounding relief of success. I obviously never experienced anything as intense as in this movie, but I know what it feels like to be pushed to tears over trying to get something right, and Whiplash hit it on the nose. There were people in the theater laughing at some of Fletcher’s colorful insults, and I have a feeling those were the people who have never been in a room with a teacher yelling at them while anywhere from 20-150 pairs of eyes silently watch. Because unlike what those few audience members seemed to think, this was one of the darkest, most intense movies I’ve ever seen.
Like the movie suggests, verbal (and physical) abuse is a messed up form of motivation. It shouldn’t be effective yet somehow it often is. I won’t lie, watching the movie made me want to practice again, for nothing else than that feeling of devoting so much time to something that it becomes 100% yours (there was a time when playing mallets occupied every hour of my day; it was my thing). I think personally I miss the challenge, I miss having a teacher, I miss the constant ambition to get better. It’s fitting that I should see this movie on the first day of the new year, because now it makes me want to dedicate 2015 to getting that back.
(For the record, I believe that a good mentor offers a healthy, not lethal, dose of intimidation. You can only bleed on your instrument so much, I mean geez.)