Wednesday, 21 January 2015
106 Minutes. Starring: Miles Teller & J.K. Simmons. Director: Damien Chazelle.
Drum roll please, as I peel open the envelope. And the Oscar goes too...? Just when you thought it was all over with 'The Theory Of Everything' and all the other fall, fantastic, films for February that could even beat last years Academy of 'Gravity', 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years A Slave', another Oscar contender comes marching in after Christmas with a little drummer boy. With this movie of the moment, that's getting heads talking, soon everybody will be claiming 'Whiplash' like fender benders. Boy this movie is really something else! After last years Oscar theme of heroism over insurmountable odds, this years Oscar season films from the 'Fury' and 'Nightcrawler' pretenders to the 'Birdman', 'American Sniper' and 'Foxcatcher' nominees, have all been about studying the dark side of the American dream (it really has been 'A Most Violent Year'). This film however tunes into both and its the perfect pitch for critical and commercial gold, worthy of the award tour. In concert with a terrific territory of tight competition, this dramatic premise is for those with skin tougher than what you find on a set of drums, as our kid with the jazz hand sticks is eager to impress a musical maestro who is a conductor and manipulator of human emotions to a script perfect Hollywood singing and screaming hymn sheet. Its all signed off in creative cursive by new director Damien Chazelle who with his second movie brings the superhero connection and makes award worthy stars out of recognisable actors young and old. Making them more than Marvel's Mr. Fantastic and Peter Parker's boss at the Daily Bugle in this Avenger, 'Age Of Ultron'.
Read all about it though however, because stretching across the skins like he had Reed Richards arm-strong limbs, Miles Teller has his milestone moment. The baby-faced, still able to play characters that get carded, 27 year old is a star in his own right now thank to this. The kid from 'Divergent' and 'The Awkward Moment' now gives character credibility, alongside his co-star and 'Fruitvale Station' standout Michael B. Jordan in their 'Fantastic Four' franchise reboot. Marvel's first family may be lagging in popularity behind the Avengers, X-Men and now Guardians Of The Galaxy, but after these powerhouse performances the hype expectation may have just gone from laughable to formidable. Besides just look what Jackie Robinson/James Brown Chadwick Boseman is doing for the Black Panther. Going the extra mile here, Teller banks the performance of his or any of his contemporaries career until all manner of skins are left bleeding. And he does all this three years shy of 30 in a matured and focussed role. This is more than his remarkable, rolling drumming, practice makes perfect background. This is the young looking enough to play teenage, but old enough to know better and wiser, perspective performance like Channing Tatum in 'Foxcatcher'. Another limelight dream, under the nightmare shadows of an overbearing, would be mentor with more push than they deserve. Oh and for all the golden statues their handing put this year Teller was as robbed as Tatum...just like their characters. A theme of coincidence? Oscar Issac isn't the only rising star to tread the bridged gap, gene and acting pool of Pacino and De Niro. Miles isn't far from that too...just a little younger.
Still its Simmons who keeps this exhilarating and mesmerising gig, working out like his sculpted, sixty year old frame, marching to the beat of his drum. The recognisable and memorable face of everything from 'Ladykillers' and 'Burn After Reading' to 'Spider Man' and 'I Love You Man' goes from a character actor to a classic one in a one to four count in. J.K. rewrites his career like Rowling. This is his tempo. His new groove and he's about to have the Oscar orchestra playing for him and his every gesture...like his character or not! Playing a cruel conductor bordering on abhorrent abuse as a tired and legality testing teaching method, Simmons is superb at being super bad. Decked out in a black t-shirt clung tighter than the white on rice ear he has for the slightest mistake, with not a hair of a room for error allowed, like not a single note of it on his scalp, this man is terrifying for the perfection defying. Going from nice to vice grip threatening in the flick of an an imaginary wand, this character that is being acted bulldozes the line of what's too far. The line is a dot to him like your favourite friends would say. Its hard to believe this guy has any either. Going from a musical appreciation of the arts one stanza, to a New York taxi-cab vocabulary of compliments the next. With eyes and heads down responses of scared shame, all waiting in anxious apprehension fate for his conducted, cut hand gestures as menacingly terrifying as Joaquin Phoenix's thumbs down death sentence in 'Gladiator'. Yep, Simmons is that good. Scarily good. Even with a stand up cast of stars, like Paul Reiser offering fatherly advice and 'Glee' girlfriend Melissa Benoist giving musical direction, nothing is more of an influence than Simons. This powerhouse performance with percussion lashes the whip and bands everything together as he takes knocks at Teller's confidence and set up to fail cockiness like a bass drum. As this film provides the youth of todays impossible to achieve, head in the iCloud dream, future with an important message, do all the players understand? Just how much would you do, or more appropriately put up with for your dream...and after that is it really all it seems? Its a notion of shakey devotion. A metaphor of all or nothing, rest of your life gambles at 21, versus the purgatory of young adult indecision or action. Its all in how you conduct yourselves. This film stays with you like your best teacher...or worst. Emotions roll high. This is one of great note. Now beat that! TIM DAVID HARVEY.