Whiplash & Nightcrawler

Share

I’m not sure whether I liked Whiplash so much because it managed to accurately portray the musicality and ambience of big-band jazz (a unique accomplishment, I believe), or because J. K. Simmon’s performance as the “conductor” was so deliciously over the top (imagine Kubrick’s abusive drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket times 10), but I do heartily recommend it, particularly to jazz and classical musicians. Yes, there are some scenes that could have been toned down a bit, and not all of the acting and writing is equally strong, but I’ll be very surprised if Simmons doesn’t win a few awards for his performance. Justin Hurwitz also deserves more-than-honorable mention for the music (not to mention the players who made it happen). Here’s the trailer, which makes the film look much tamer than it is-

The other similarly low-budget but high-quality film currently in theaters is Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Gyllenhaal has been getting much of the hype for this one, and his portrayal of a man (alien being?) with a “business plan” is impressive: highly controlled, consistently tense, and definitely disturbing. But for my money, the performance to watch here is Russo’s. Her subtle reactions to Gyllenhaal’s bizarre presence are shockingly effective; if she doesn’t win at least a nomination for best supporting actress, there is no justice. Watch the trailer on Vimeo-