Were you rushing or were you dragging?
Whiplash is a fucking masterpiece. I know it, you know it, Sundance knows it, The Academy knows it, the world knows it. Damien Chazelle apparently wasn’t so sure about it.
Let me tell you the story of how we got here. I was thinking about writing something on Damien Chazelle, that guy that wanted to be a jazz drummer and ended up getting an Oscar nomination. Why Chazelle? Because La La Land is plopping at all the posh festivals and because I have this switch on my brain that only allows me to feel worthy of spreading some words on a director when I’ve managed to watch all he/she has ever done. This guy is good and he only made like half a dozen movies, piece of cake. So, I got digging. And stopped when I found out all the bumps leading up to Whiplash.
Chazelle started Whiplash to get out of a writing slump created by some other script. The very basic, overdone, practically a cliché «I can’t write this shit, let me develop this award winning script in the form of a chill pill». He then proceeded to show it to no one on the basis of being too personal. We can get that. He’s Miles Teller, except he didn’t actually make it, and J.K. Simmons is some asshole of a teacher he met once. But, hey, if Miles Teller was destined to become Damien Chazelle we’d all rather have him giving up on the drums anyways.
Whiplash eventually ended up on The Black List, which is this survey made up of awesome scripts that don’t get turned into movies. When someone eventually thought it was possible to get some money into this, they had to go through a proof of concept first, the famous short film that made it into Sundance and includes practically every single actor from the cast of the feature film, even the ones that show up for like two minutes and have one mumbled line, except for the main character. (Auch!) All this while we keep paying Michael Bay to screw to the bone audiences all around the world. I digress.
|| Insert the Whiplash short film we can’t really find online anymore, because ||
The thing is, Whiplash got made, it wrangled up five Oscar nominations and won three of them. I’m not one to measure film making success through Oscars, as odd as it might sound, mostly because a lot goes into getting one of those, and just a small part of it as to do with actual film, besides we all know how batshit crazy some winner choices end up being. The thing here is that Whiplash deserved everything it got and then some.
It’s said there are only 7 basic plots. 6, 7, 8, it doesn’t really matter, of course there are only so many stories we can come up with. Whiplash might be your typical tale of overcoming the monster. But, you see, the extended effectiveness of a plot isn’t built on the crucial moments, anyone can come up with a nice beginning, a shocking climax or a thrilling ending, it just takes some imagination and a bit of theatricality. What allows you to truly enjoy a book, a show, a movie or whatever you pick, is the in-between. And the in-between sucks. It takes hard work and struggle to come up with a proper filler. But, guess what, your audience will be stuck on that in-between for most of your book/show/movie, so you have to make it count. The in-between is the holy grail that carries all your important details, the nonsensical metaphors, the reasons for me to give a fuck about said characters. The in-between granted J. K. Simmons an Oscar, the in-between made you care for Teller’s character, it gave you blood, sweat, tears and tempo.
And this script was sitting in a drawer for God knows how long and it took forever to get financed. Yet, every time Nicholas Sparks poops a book half of the world already bought a ticket to the adaptation. Now, imagine Chazelle never showed that script to anyone, imagine he never felt stuck with that other story, imagine he never touched a set of drums. Now, think of all the people out there with something to tell. A kid who knows his father’s life story would make an awesome movie, this teacher that came across the best mathematician of the century, an accountant that goes outside after dinner and makes up civilizations in the night sky. Think off all the stories that never get told, think of all the stories we lost.