Film Friday #216

Whiplash (2014)

Aspiring jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a student at Schaffer music academy,  figures he is on the road to the future he’s always dreamed of when he’s spotted by professor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) while he is practicing. Fletcher invites Andrew to perform as part of the Academy’s jazz orchestra but it’s not long before Andrew realises that Fletcher’s methods are unlike anything he has ever experienced before. At the same time Andrew is driven to a point that borders on being disturbing –  willing to risk relationships as well as his physical and mental health to be the best. As these two forces are pitted against each other a battle of wills unfolds that could destroy both of them. I’m not a jazz fan but that’s definitely not a prerequisite for enjoying this intense look into the nature of motivation and what differentiates the talented from the truly great. Simmons is brilliant as the ruthless, Fletcher. While Fletcher could easily come across as a complete monster, Simmons manages to inject humanity into a man who believes unequivocally that he is doing the right thing. At the same time Teller matches him scene for scene. Andrew is a somewhat weird young man who is to a large extent unlikable but Teller ensures that he is someone you can respect by giving a visceral, raw performance that demonstrates that he is a genuine talent. Whether Fletcher’s methods are justified based on the results he gets are up to the audience to decide but the level of mind games employed is fascinating to watch no matter what your opinion is. The praise that has been heaped on Whiplash is well-deserved and I found myself thinking about the final showdown between the two for hours after I watched it. 4/5

What's the matter, bitch? You shit yourself again?

What’s the matter, bitch? You shit yourself again?

The History Boys (2006)

Based on the Alan Benett play and featuring the same cast, The History Boys, follows a class of gifted boys at Cutler’s Grammar School in 1980s Britain as they prepare to take the Oxford and Cambridge University exams. The boys are taught General Studies by Hector (Richard Griffiths), a well-loved, eccentric and obviously homosexual gentleman near the end of his career who is known for his somewhat inappropriate attentions towards his pupils. The headmaster (Clive Merrison) has high hopes for the class and for their ability to raise the profile of the school so he decides to bring in Mr Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore)  to teach them history and share in their preparation with Hector and Mrs Lintott (Frances De La Tour). Hector and Irwin have very different teaching styles, which inspire different reactions in the promising, but often rough around the edges pupils. In between their rigorous preparations, the boys wrestle with love, sexuality and choosing their futures, while Hector realises his career may end earlier than he expected after he is spotted touching one of the boys and Irwin becomes confused by his feelings for the gorgeous, flirtatious, Dakin (Dominic Cooper). The History Boys raises an interesting question about what an education should actually be. Hector focuses on exposing the boys to a wide range of disparate and subjects including literature, language and history with very little off-limits while Irwin is more interested in getting them to form arguments for controversial opinions and training them to answer Uxbridge interview questions. And then it raises a disturbing question about educators’ opportunity to groom their pupils with the seeming message that it’s okay as long the pupils in question don’t really mind being fondled… which I thought was weird. That aside there are some great performances here. Griffiths is excellent as usual, reprising elements of Uncle Monty and bringing a melancholic turn to a man who realises that he’s let his life pass him by while preparing others for theirs. Cooper also stands out as a future star playing charismatic, attention-seeking Dakin, along with Jamie Parker, who plays sweet, self-effacing Scripps who struggles with his unrequited love for Dakin. Charming, funny and often bittersweet. 3.5/5

ABC

You see this boy… he is an example of why you shouldn’t get your willy out in public

UnHung Hero (2013)

Actor Patrick Moote proposed to his girlfriend at a basketball match on live national television. She turned him down, later claiming that one of the reasons she decided not to marry him was because of his small penis. Fixated on this, Moote decides to to make a documentary exploring and sometimes testing different penis enhancement methods from pills, to pumps to surgery while trying to answer the question, “does size really matter?”. It doesn’t take long to realise that Moote’s obsession with the size of his penis is just one small element of his general problems with self-esteem and body image which are in no way helped by the constant taunts of his arsehole “friends” and that if he actually focused on self-acceptance rather than cock weightlifting and a frankly horrible sounding procedure called “jelquing” he’d have a lot more success. While this is certainly an interesting topic for a documentary where it kind of falls flat is that Moote never actually reveals the dimensions of his member (or the creature itself), which makes it hard to understand whether his fears are real or imagined. Although he does see a doctor during filming who describes him as “lower average” but it’s hard to contextualise that. This review is making it seem like I have a desperate desire to  see Patrick Moote’s penis, which I’m really not but when it’s the subject of an entire documentary it’s kind of relevant. He could have at least used some kind of vegetable of a similar size to demonstrate it. Anyway, this isn’t a particularly challenging or interesting documentary… unless possibly you have a very small willy… which you probably shouldn’t tell people. Skippable. 2/5

The Oracle of Film's latest feature wasn't drawing the crowd Luke had been expecting

The Oracle of Film’s latest feature wasn’t drawing the crowd Luke had been expecting

The Oranges (2011)

The Walling’s and Ostroff’s have lived next door to each other for years with a close bond of friendship existing between the families, especially dads, David (Hugh Laurie) and Terry (Oliver Platt). When Terry and his wife, Cathy’s (Allison Janney) daughter, Nina (Leighton Meester) arrives home after a long absence, Cathy is keen to set her up with David and Paige’s (Catherine Keener) son, Toby (Adam Brody). But Nina isn’t interested in Toby… she has her eye on David. When a romance blossoms between the two of them it threatens to rip both families and the connection between them apart. I suppose the overarching theme here is whether you should be allowed to have your happiness at the expense of everyone else’s and also about how people disconnect from each other over time as they fall into the same old routines. Although The Oranges has a pretty impressive cast there is nothing unique here and the script is flat. All the characters behave outrageously and in the end it’s hard to know what you want for any of them. David and Paige’s daughter, Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) provides a voice over throughout and is kind of set up as the central character but for the most part she is on the sideline of the action, which I found odd. Really this is just a plodding, below average dramedy which is neither interesting or memorable even though there is a scene where Paige drives across her lawn knocking over a massive Christmas display. Best skipped. 1.5/5

David and Nina's masturbation techniques were worryingly different

David and Nina’s masturbation techniques were worryingly different

22 Comments

  1. Yeah, I think I’ll skip The Oranges but I liked The History Boys and Whiplash was superb. Just superb!

    1. Abbi

      Definitely skip The Oranges. Nothing about it is good.

  2. The History Boys is one of my favourites. 🙂

    1. Abbi

      It has some amazing moments like the French lesson about the brothel.

  3. That last film sounded dreadful, Shame as I’m a fan of Gossip Girl, West Wing and Arrested Development and recognised the actors. Loved Whiplash. What didn’t you like about it?

    1. Abbi

      For me to score a film 5/5 I have to believe that in years to come it will one of the films that is ultimately a complete classic. I didn’t dislike anything about Whiplash but did it move me so much that I think it’s one of my favourite all time films? No.

      1. Well explained. Which film do you think will win it this year?

  4. I agree with Mark–The History Boys had a lot of charm and loved Whiplash–it was great seeing J.K. Simmons up front and center, kicking ass in a role.

    1. Abbi

      Simmons was excellent.

  5. theipc

    Wait… Abbi??? You’re saying you’re NOT allowed to take your willy out in public?????

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPS

    1. Abbi

      If you don’t get caught then who’s to stop you….

  6. Cool post! I adored Whiplash. My favorite film of 2014 (of the ones I’ve seen so far).

    1. Abbi

      It really is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

      1. I think it could win Best Adapted Screenplay and of course it’ll take Best Supporting Actor but it should’ve been up for Best Director as well!

  7. I let it slip before cause I thought it might be a typo, but seeing it here again makes my anal-retentiveness to detail flare up. It’s Hugh Laurie, not Lawrie :-p

    1. Abbi

      Haha. Oops. I’ll update it.

  8. Still need to see Whiplash. As for The Oranges, I haven’t even heard of it but best to avoid that one I reckon, bummer that they wasted the talents of great actors like Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener.

  9. I have a deep love for the history boys..the use of language and development of characters is utterly delicious xxx

  10. And here I thought your movie watching week was on a roll… then the last two made their appearance. Meh.

    However, Whiplash is something I am looking forward to, and The History Boys looks like it could be worth a watch!

  11. I really liked Whiplash. I felt worn out by the end!

    1. Abbi

      It was really intense.

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