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Archive for July, 2017

This isn’t my usual topic on this blog, and I’ll get back to some science shortly, but I’ve got something on my mind.

For me, a good movie is one that I’m still thinking about long after I see it. I’m still trying to work out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I’ve even read a philosophy book on it. Well, it’s been a month and I’m still find myself thinking about Whiplash. I need to debrief, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it on Netflix now. There will be spoilers from here on.

Whiplash tells the story of a young jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), who is studying at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Despite being a first year, he is chosen for the big band of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher is a highly respected tyrant who controls his students with fear and intimidation. Neiman initially jumps through Fletcher’s hoops, but the two eventually clash.

In his commentary on the film in The New Yorker, Richard Brody calls the movie’s “very idea of jazz is a grotesque and ludicrous caricature. … [Neiman’s] life is about pure competitive ambition—the concert band and the exposure it provides—and nothing else. The movie has no music in its soul … “Whiplash” honors neither jazz nor cinema.”

I would like to offer the theory that the movie is not supposed to honour jazz, and the lack of music in its soul is no accident. That’s the point. Brody is close to the mark when he says that “the movie isn’t “about” jazz; it’s “about” abuse of power.” Here’s my case. (more…)

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