Posts From Author: there will be blood

Some Men Achieve Greatness

Whiplash directed by Damien Chazelle Sony Classics, 2014; 107 minutes A violent game of fuck-you one-upmanship, Whiplash is one of the best American movies of the year. In the red corner is Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman, a nineteen-year-old jazz drummer with ambitions of greatness. In the blue is Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a teacher in the R. Lee Ermey mold. Their antagonism plays out in the practice rooms at Shaffer Conservatory, where Fletcher teaches and Andrew is in his first year. Simmons, dressed all in black (the uniform of the jazz savant), is a true teacher-terrorist. He spits racial and homophobic slurs, takes his musicians apart over undetectable shifts in rhythm or speed. He dismisses one trombonist simply because the boy does not know — or is too frightened to say — if he’s slightly out of tune. (He isn’t, but the crime of ignorance is sufficient for Fletcher to cast him out.) He’s exacting but impossible to please because he seems to believe that only a moving target can draw greatness from his players. From their first meeting on, Andrew wants nothing more than to impress him. Andrew’s approach to musical improvement seems to be based on the so-called […]
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Do The Movies Have A Future?

“Is the theater really dead?” asked Simon & Garfunkel once upon a time. Forty-five years later, and at the height of the movies’ annual silly season, one might well ask the same of the cinema. Whither the great American movie? Whither directors of integrity and vision? Whither criticism? These are the questions David Denby poses in his excellent collection Do The Movies Have A Future? (Simon & Schuster, 2012). It’s mostly reprints of his New Yorker articles but reworked and reordered to orbit his central worries. These include so-called “conglomerate aesthetics”, the notion that it’s “not only possibly but increasingly easy to attract audiences by making movies badly”, the loss of lyricism in the rise of digital cinema, and a decline in ethical seriousness in criticism. Sound grim? Worry not: Denby’s no wallower. Alongside sharp critiques of the movie industry as it currently stands are a series of lucid, sometimes rapturous readings of a selection of the greatest recent American movies, including Capote, The Tree of Life, Winter’s Bone, The Social Network, and (to my mind the best) There Will Be Blood. In the book’s final pages, we even find Denby an unlikely advocate for 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This isn’t stuffy stuff; Denby […]
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