2 February 2015

Our Finest Gifts We Bring

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Personally, I've never learnt how to play a musical instrument but that's okay because people assume I have anyway. I'm scruffy, I have an eyebrow piercing and my hair hasn't been cut in years. If people aren't asking me if I've found somewhere safe to sleep for the night then they're asking if I'm in a band. Sadly the only thing I lack to be able to start a group is any musical talent whatsoever... Although when did that ever stop Nickelback from giving it a go? I tried to learn the ukulele a few years back but as I wasn't a master player straight from the beginning I threw the thing in the cupboard and haven't touched it since. Maybe I'd have had a chance when I was younger but fuck it, I've since been inflicted with a strong desire to not be arsed with anything that doesn't provide me with instant enjoyment. This is why my grandparents are in an old folk’s home, my ex-girlfriend is my ex-girlfriend and my Ukulele is currently gathering dust. If I did have the patience, I think I'd start by learning to play the drums. Not because I have any interest in the instrument but more because I can't fucking stand my next-door neighbours. 

I saw Whiplash last night which is about a guy played by Miles Teller who not only can play the drums but seems to have some higher motivation than looking cool or being a local nuisance. Like Ash Ketchum, he wants to be the very best, like no-one ever was, and decides his best chance is by winning the approval of some mad bald cunt played by J.K Simmons. That's pretty much the story really as Teller spends the duration of the film trying to be the drummer in his college band despite the constant abuse of their psychotic conductor. Simmons’ character Fletcher claims to be trying to spur his band on to greater things by chastising them at every opportunity, but then, there's also a chance that he's just a relentless fucking bully. Some people have compared this film to the opening half of Full Metal Jacket in the way that Fletcher attempts to psychologically break his students and screams in their faces, and the comparison seems justified to me. The film even begins with him throwing a kid out of his band that looks suspiciously like Private Pyle. Presumably what we didn't see was that boy then get beaten by his colleges for annoying Fletcher before going in the bathroom and blowing his fucking brains out. Considering it's a film about getting people using bits of wood and metal to make nice sounds, it isn't half fucking intense! Some might compare this film to Full Metal Jacket but for me it's also like a remake of School Of Rock but for psychopaths!

I suppose the one thing that everyone is going on about for this film is the performance by J.K Simmons and I can see why because he's clearly brilliant. He's what Empire Magazine refers to as a twenty-seven percenter in that any film he appears in becomes instantly twenty-seven percent better. However as great as he is, he's always being relegated to playing supporting characters and who are usually the comic relief. I suppose Fletcher is a little bit like Spiderman’s J. Jonah Jameson if his hair fell out, he swapped careers and he started using his anus to store wasps in. However, although both are fast talkers and bullies, Fletcher seems significantly more unhinged. He even looks like one of those ugly, bald Persian snake-cat things in this, as his skin has tightened to reveal every taut tendon and pulsating head vein. The film never bluntly reveals if he believes his own bullshit about hunting down the next great musician-prodigy or whether he is just a mental bastard with serious issues, however for me it's probably the latter. I won't reveal anything but the character does something near the end which is surely the revenge equivalent of a suicide bombing and as such proves that the music isn't his top priority. But I suppose it's ambiguous enough that we could all come out believing what we like about his character. If we agree on anything though it's that Simmons is brilliant and it's about time a film was able to give him as substantial a character as this.

On the flip-side to him however is of course Miles Teller's little drummer boy. Convinced that he's worthy of greatness, Teller is brilliant at seeming both annoyingly arrogant and yet still likeable. Perhaps though this is due in part to his resemblance to a melted-down wax work of John Cusack- and he's pretty much the master of this juxtaposition. I've not really seen much by Teller in the past but based on this, I'm looking forward to seeing him do other things in the future. Not only does he hold his own against Simmons whose on the acting equivalent of steroids, but he's also more than engaging when just on his own practicing and obsessing. I know nothing about playing the drums but as good as he may be, I suspect it's a wide-shot on the easy beats and intense close-ups of his face and somebody else's hands during the harder bits. In fact, due to some of the expressions and gyrating of the facial close-ups, I suspect it won't be long until the internet replaces the drumming shots with a close up of somebody tossing off. I think the beauty of the film and proof of its intensity and brilliance is that I barely laughed at all, even though half the film made it look like Teller was wanking furiously into the abyss.

In terms of the story, well- it never slows down for a single second. From the opening right through to the end, it's a rush of aggression, adrenaline, music and swearing. Like a Rocky film, we follow an under-dog attempt to battle his way to the top whilst occasionally having to stop to punch his bloodied fists into some jugs of icy water. Actually those shots kind of looked like a Bacardi advert but that's fine. I got that he was in pain and it just made me realise that I need to start drinking more white rum. The camera swoops back and forth with the music occasionally batting between Simmons and Teller like a musical game of pong. Everything’s given a sort of low-light Jazzy kind of feel too, which makes sense considering they're playing Jazz music. I'm not really a fan of this genre as it tends to sound like somebody’s stuck a cattle prod up a bands’ collective arse hole but that didn't prevent me from enjoying the film. Like all the best sports movies, the subject is really just a MacGuffin for the characters to be able to express their obsessions. I couldn't give a fuck about boxing but there is something really satisfying about seeing Stallone get punched in his cinematically droopy face. The same applies here in that, irrelevant to its subject, there is something entertaining about watching a person push themselves towards breaking point as a hairless bastard screams. Having said that, I'm sure any fans of this music would enjoy the film even more because well... obviously they would, they enjoy the music!

Anyway, so to wrap this up, Whiplash is deserving of the praise for not only being a good film but in the performances it happens to contain. If we learn anything from this, it's that the desire to make noise against the resistance of a twat makes for some intense viewing. People called Hitchcock the master of suspense but that cunt had murder and guns to rely on. All we have here is a guy hitting a drum and I think my arse chewed through my pants through sheer nerves. It might not be anything massively original in terms of story but in its execution, it makes most thrillers look like children's films. I watched Saw the other day and spent most of it just shouting 'cut your fucking foot off, dickhead!' but here I couldn't blink in case I missed him miss a beat. So yeah, see it if you've not seen it and I'm sure you loved it if you have. I heard some people in the Jazz community criticised it for ignoring how improvised jazz is compared to how routine it is here, but like I said before... I don't care about Jazz so that's really not an issue for me, in which case I guess I'll say thanks for reading and see you again, motherfuckers!


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