FYMS * "Whiplash" + Thoughts on Talent

If you're like me, you might have a certain affinity for talent. Or maybe the better word is "appreciation". As someone who was (sadly) never declared a musical prodigy at the age of 7, I've done the next best thing that I can think of - which is to surround myself with the stuff. Talent, that is (hence, the purpose of FYMS).

It takes a lot to be really talented. Sure, you can study music theory all you want, or get along just fine playing in the school band, but let's face it - some people have it, and some just don't. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous. Not just of the talent, but also of the drive that comes with it. Right now I'd give anything to be able to say, "I know I'm great at something, and that's all I care about doing". The majority of musicians will never make it big, will never be able to make a living solely off of their music. But you're a fool if you let money or rejection or fear get in the way of doing whatever it is that you love.

That being said - the movie Whiplash is a thought-provoking film about an incredibly talented jazz drummer whose only goal is to be the best. Portrayed by rising actor Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, That Awkward Moment), the impressionable teenager Andrew Neyman is placed into the highest jazz ensemble at his music conservatory school after being discovered in a practice room by the fear-inspiring conductor Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons (Law & Order). The story that unfolds is one of intense, character-building moments between the mentor and mentee - from the first interaction, it's clear that Fletcher has a manipulative influence over Neyman, playing puppet master with Andrew's desire to be the best. The audience gets thrown on an emotional roller coaster in regards to Fletcher - we either hate him for being the rage-aholic perfectionist that he is, or love him when he shows a tiny bit of human emotion. "Maybe he's not so bad after all," we think. The final scene of the movie is an epic battle between the two that basically sums up their entire relationship, and ultimately, we realize the reason behind the madness, 

Whiplash, which was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, tells the story of talent, motivation, hard work & sacrifice, failure, and the drive to overcome it - themes that many struggling musicians call their way of life. How far are you willing to go to be the best? How much failure can you endure? Do you have what it takes? As one of my favorite sayings goes, "the hotter the fire, the stronger the steel". Being the best is about talent, yes, but also about the motivation to get there.

I could go on and on about this movie - the acting is incredible, the music is even better; Miles Teller can in fact play the drums extremely well (self-taught), and the screenplay is brilliant. There's a reason why this film, which premiered in January for opening night of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, won the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) and the Audience Award (Dramatic).

If you've got the same respect for talent that I have, or if you ever played in a school music ensemble, or if you love jazz, or drums, or if you want to see some really amazing acting, go see Whiplash. The amount of artistic torment will make you squirm, but the build-up to the final scene is totally worth it.

-FYMS-