“Whiplash”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

WHIPLASH_03.jpg
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Written by: Damien Chazelle
Main Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, and more…
Past Oscar relations: None (yet)

Today we have another article in this particular series of mine concerning certain 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of actual Oscar attention as a contender at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is a small yet potentially major player in Whiplash, which hopes to be the latest Sundance sensation to appeal to the Academy. Can it actually do it after high profile subsequent showings at the Cannes Film Festival and New York Film Festival? Let us discuss that possibility a little bit now below…

This character/drama is an expansion of the short film by writer/director Damien Chazelle, who pulls the same double duty here with the feature. The cast is comprised of J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller in the main roles, though Paul Reiser has a supporting part alongside the likes of Melissa Benoist, Chris Mulkey, and others. The story surrounds a talent musical student at the best conservatory in the country and his dealings with a brutal jazz band instructor. Teller is the student while Simmons is the instructor, and their interactions will likely remind you of Full Metal Jacket to some degree.

What this film has going in its favor is tremendous work all around by its cast and crew. From the performances of Simmons and Teller to Chazelle’s filmmaking, everything is on an insanely high level here. The flick is nearly perfect, with Teller portraying dedication/obsession in such a compelling way, while Simmons gives you a monster you come to really understand (or do you?) by the end of the movie. Chazelle’s writing supports his phenomenal directing, all of which is worthy of consideration. Simmons is all but a lock for Best Supporting Actor, while Teller finds himself somewhere among the glut of Best Actor contenders. If Academy members take to this like everyone else has so far, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay could certainly be in play as well (the former really only possible if the latter becomes a reality though). Best Director is a long shot, but stranger things have happened.

Working against Whiplash is that this is one of the smallest Oscar contenders this year, which can sometimes wind up getting the film lost in the shuffle. Many a worthy movie has ultimately ended up with few nominations than it deserved, or even completely shut out. The high quality of the work and almost universal praise could keep the shut out from happening, but there’s a chance that Simmons in Supporting Actor could be Whiplash’s sole representation. It’d be a shame if that were the case, but such is the nature of the beast sometimes.

So, can this be a player at all? I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Simmons is getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but after that it gets a bit hazy. There’s a chance for Whiplash to wind up with perhaps three or for nods, but it’s just as likely that it only gets one or two noms in the end. We can more or less bank on Supporting Actor, where Simmons is the frontrunner to win, while Chazelle has a real shot at that Original Screenplay citation. All of that will begin to work itself out once the precursors begin, but in the meantime, this is a must see folks. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss Whiplash, as it’s easily among the very best films to be released so far in 2014…

Grade: Very Likely Contender (in Best Supporting Actor, at least)

Stay tuned for another one of these profiles coming your way next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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