Waking Up With Whiplash


Now that I’ve gotten that bold red header out of my system, let me say I’m not going to get in the habit of doing film reviews (this is not a review, by the way), but it is very seldom that a movie truly catches hold of me, slams me against the floor of my soul, strangles me with the tethers of own fear of inadequacy, and then makes me want to stand up and cheer for it, like it’s done me a favor, so bear with me for a moment while I just add to the endless list of accolades this film has already received:  Whiplash is absolutely spectacular,  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are phenomenal, and really, you must watch

Okay, I’m done raving.

Since its release in October, it has been up for debate whether or not Whiplash sends the right message to aspiring artists, or if it crosses a moral line, especially where the pedagogy is concerned, as J.K. Simmons attempts to torment Miles Teller until he is one of the greatest drummers who ever lived.  We know every artist suffers for his art, because in order to create masterful works, one must first become a master, and that takes time, patience, practice, dedication, a willingness to debase and humiliate oneself on a daily basis, admitting even the tiniest faults as many times as is necessary to perfect both the artist and the art, and, of course most imperative, one must have a massive will to survive, because in order to be great, one must first be broken… repeatedly.  Given the volume of clichés surrounding the tortured and struggling artist, it would seem on the surface, if you haven’t bled for it, your work just can’t be good, or maybe it is good, but just good, and the work will never be anything beyond that because the suffering isn’t there.  There are plenty of good works out there.  As a matter of fact, the abundance of good in the world can be so deceptive, some would claim we’ve forgotten what great really should be.

Though I’m certain a slew of people would argue with me, in my opinion the best line in Whiplash is when Fletcher, the abusive professor, says to Andrew, his impressionable student, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.’  It’s true.  To those who could be great, but don’t know it yet, those two words build a barrier to achieving excellence, as the average praise smothers the drive to be more.  To those who would be great, and are struggling, the words are a poison.  They find themselves whispering quietly to themselves, “Just good?” and if they lack survival skills, they don’t make it past being repeatedly broken by those two little words.  That’s why there are so few greats.  It takes so much more than talent to be great.  It takes fortitude.  Not many people have that.

As a writer, I completely related to Andrew Niemann’s brutal affair with his drum kit.  Most days I’m content with being the drummer, pounding away, seeking perfection, knowing I’m not good enough, not yet, and I may not ever be, but I will continue on until the day I die.  On occasion, I find myself playing the part of those drums, being beaten by bloody hands I can hardly recognize as my own.

Is it wrong to admit that I don’t want what I create to be good?  I want it to be great, so I’ll continue struggling.

Time to get back to work.

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