“Whiplash,” first-time director Damien Chazelle’s fiery look into the painstaking perils of performance art, fared well at Sunday’s 87th Academy Awards.

“Whiplash,” first-time director Damien Chazelle’s fiery look into the painstaking perils of performance art, fared well at Sunday’s 87th Academy Awards.

Outside of the film’s expected Best Supporting Actor win for J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash” netted trophies for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

The story follows Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a hard-working music student at Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Neiman, a blooming drummer, has aspirations to be the next Buddy Rich.

The young percussionist gets a chance to show off his talents in a major way when Shaffer’s infamous conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) invites him to be a part of one of the school’s top ensembles. Fletcher is notorious for his aggressive method of teaching, and he immediately begins to push Neiman to his limit – and even further.

In the film, Fletcher best displays his inner methodology when he tells Neiman he believes the most dangerous words in the English language are the words “good job.” Far-removed from the world of compliments and back pats, Neiman must fight through Fletcher’s borderline-abusive teaching methods and his inner desires to achieve greatness – but at what cost?

Chazelle orchestrates his first feature like a pro, utilizing a snappy pace throughout. The film won an editing Oscar for a reason — Tom Cross cuts the film together as if it’s grooving on to a drum’s beat. It’s quick and impactful.

Teller and Simmons go head-to-head for much of the film, and both absolutely nail their performances. While it’s easy to identify Fletcher’s flaws, Teller’s Neilam is no saint. Even though Neiman lacks Fletcher’s firebrand attitude, he’s as ruthless to himself as Fletcher is, and he’s willing to sacrifice what’s needed on his pathway to perfection.

Teller gives Neiman some empathy, as anyone having to deal with Fletcher should. He’s flawed, but he’s also young and has a lot to learn about what’s truly important in life. Teller also infuses Neiman with raw intensity, best on display when he’s slamming away at his drum kit.

In the film’s most entrancingly eerie moment, an infuriated Neiman drums until his hands bleed, and Teller emerges on the other side of the scene as one of the most gifted young actors working in show business today.

Simmons is a perfect foil for Teller. His Oscar was well-deserved, as Fletcher is as villainous a character to come along in some time. Fletcher screams and hurls disgusting insults at his students. He also hurls chairs at his students’ heads if something doesn’t go his way (i.e., the film’s now-famous “Are you rushing or are you dragging” scene between Fletcher and Neiman).

The scariest part comes from Fletcher’s self-convincement of his actions as necessary to groom great talent. He’s completely bought into his mantra of “no extreme pain, no extreme gain,” and he’s willing to push anyone he deems worthy to the brink of insanity in order to pull them out on the other side a star. Simmons creates a mesmerizing monster with Fletcher – deserving of the highest acting honors.

Chazelle’s deft, tight script captures all of this with great aplomb, and the writer/director couples a great jazz arrangement to play in the film’s background.

“Whiplash” is ending its run in theaters now after a re-release, but the film is now available on home video. It’s a captivating piece of work that will leave you on the edge of your drum seat.

Reflections of another Oscar gone by

Last week, I shared my predictions with WillCo Arts readers for the 87th annual Academy Awards, and I must say, I didn’t do half bad!

I correctly called “Birdman” to take home the top prize of Best Picture, and I nailed down all four of the acting categories. I whiffed on director (“Boyhood” helmer Richard Linklater, my guess, lost a tight battle with “Birdman” director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu for the honor) and both of the screenplays (“Birdman” swooped in on Original Screenplay instead of my predicted “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “The Imitation Game’ got the best of my guessed “Whiplash”).

The crafts didn’t go as bad as I thought they could, but I still missed on Film Editing, Costume Design, Sound Editing and Original Song.

So, while it wasn’t my 2012 record year (21/24), I still went 17/24! Hopefully, the Oscars will shine more in my favor next year. But, then again, 17 correct guesses ain’t too bad if I do say so myself!