Whiplash (as reviewed by a jazz musician)

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j e : more like astrophysicists complaining about a star is born

synairesis : I'm really glad I'm not a trained jazz musician so I can actually just enjoy the movie


Raging S : "This is like astrophysicists complaining about Interstellar." No, if Whiplash were like interstellar, every time the protag hit a drum it would make piano noises, and he and the teacher would reconcile when they learned the secret to winning Jazz is the power of love.

Christopher Wallace : I loved the breakdown; but I'm going to have to call foul on some of your knit-picked terminology critiques. I'm a music-school trained jazz drummer and in the South and they do use some of those terms. W say "know it by heart." And some folks south of the Mason-Dixon do have bass backpacks--sometimes hardcases (because mud, water, and stairs). The often uses "double-time" to refer to anything in cut time. We had musicians from all over the country. You shouldn't assume that everyone in the music school in the movie would steeped in New York-style jazz culture only. And, as a drummer, hell yes, I've been publicly called out at not knowing a tempo. Think about a Sousa march (not quite "Jazz", I know). Folks KNOW when the tempo on a Sousa march is a little too fast or slow because we have some of those charts etched in our American hearts because of politics.

Adam Neely : This sort of deep analysis of film is new to me. One thing that I noticed while combing through this movie for jazz nitpicks is that...this movie is insanely narratively tight and focused in it's storytelling! No second of celluloid is wasted - everything has a purpose. It really is a joy to behold from that perspective. My critique is mainly coming from a cultural analysis - not a narrative one. Please take that for what it's worth!

Григорий Дубров : Are hands supposed to bleed?? I mean... I am a drummer and after hours of practice nothing happened. IF YOU HOLD STICKS THE RIGHT WAY

Riley Courtier : In Whiplash, a student kills himself because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Fletcher. One of my friends romanticized the abuse in the movie Andrew suffered as the only way he could be the best. It's something so dumb, it makes me angry. People are seeing these great story elements/performances and taking away the dumbest bullshit from it. Torturing someone to the point of depression and suicide isn't the path to make them better at something.

Dipo Ogunmodede : I can't believe you seriously said "looks like a jazz musician"

geoff394 : Nitpicking aside, the movie strains credibility. Its entire premise hangs on an abusive teacher at an expensive music school. This isn't even a sports movie, it's an army movie.

Travis Hunt YouTube PhD : Adam isn't fun at parties.

Thomas H : I clicked hoping this guy would review the song Whiplash by Metallica lol

_Paws_ : YouTube has exposed me to doctors reviewing medical practice in movies, skaters reviewing the lifestyle in movies, chefs comparing recipes in movies, and now a musician analyzing a movie about the particular details of what one can actually experience.

J : I was mad during the middle of the movie where he is just practicing and it plays the audio of him 'practicing'.....HES JUST PLAYING A TERRIBLE BLAST BEAT.

shoobagoo : it annoys me to no end as a former trumpet player that people thing the chairs are some sort of hierarchy. Yeah sure put all your shit players on the low notes thats a great idea.

Hulavuta : I always saw that kind of coldness as the point. The overly technical and competitive nature of the band and the players destroyed all of the fun and happiness of creating music. Honestly, I had a similar experience in middle and high school. Things were just way too damn competitive and it took the fun out a lot for me and caused me a ton of stress, even losing sleep and all that. I was first chair alto saxophone, it felt like people were trying to "assassinate me" so to speak, and get the spot themselves. A lot of friendships were ruined through band. I eventually switched to tenor just so I could face less competition, only two of us. Even that guy kept trying to put me down and bully me, make fun of me for having a cheaper instrument, not being as good as him, etc. Even though I beat him at every audition and stayed first chair, even THEN I felt bad because I knew how badly he wanted it and how much it crushed him that I beat him. I even had teachers who weren't exactly similar to Fletcher, but definitely felt that way. In marching band, tons of guilt tripping, lots of "you're not giving 100% to the band" "you're letting your bandmates down" "we expect more from you" etc. Marching band techs even telling you to "shut up" and that your technique "sucks" in front of the whole band. Really makes you feel like a right piece of shit. Fletcher is definitely a cartoon character, but I didn't mind that. Bullying always *feels* worse than it looks, that's why when we see people getting bullied we often don't think twice about it or feel that sorry for them. But anyone who has been bullied knows that what others see as "just words" can have a huge psychological impact. So amping him up to ridiculous levels to really get how much of a bully he was across made sense to me. Even then I actually quit music for about a year after that, until I learned how to have fun with it again. I think the severe psychological damage you can get doing any kind of competition in school, where kids are merciless, is realistic. Even the kid who killed himself in this movie is believable to me. I won't say I ever seriously considered or attempted suicide but there were times I felt on the edge. I think it would be a weird interpretation for anyone to watch this movie and think it's cool and fun. I thought it was quite obvious it was supposed to kind of be a tragic hero story, but maybe that's only because I had that same experience myself.

Grand Master Flash : Ya know this is a whole video about picking on the little things, which is totally fine I loved the vid but I’m going to nit pick this video. In it you say the term “negative reinforcement” when referring to how fletcher treats his students. This is not the correct term. Negative reinforcement refers to taking away a stimulus or object to encourage a behavior. He’s using positive punishment, when they screw up he adds a stimulus, specially him yelling and throwing things, to get a behavior to stop. So there ya go there’s you’re fun psychology terminology fact of the day.

J H : Some people in the comments need to chill.. he's just reviewing the movie from his position. I don't see what's wrong with that. Since there's not the many jazz movies out there, ofc Adam, with a lot of interest in Jazz, is gonna analyse with the main focus on the jazz elements. I don't know how he sounds like a snob to people.

Alf Lemon : Finally someone explains this shit. As someone who doesn't have enough musical education I always wondered why Jazz musicians love to trash this film.

HotRatsAndTheStooges : Seriously, half the time, jazz musicians are just getting fucked up and messing with each other and riffing on each other. They didn't have any of that. And the endless track exchanges. Jam sessions. The movie failed to show the main character's attachment to music in any meaningful way. Also I was laughing out loud when they made the main character get in a car wreck, totaling his car, and yet he was still able to play a show. At this point they could've thrown in a shoot-out on the way and still been about as believable.

SpectreSoundStudios : As a metalhead, I loved this film... and it actually got me to check out some jazz for the first time ever.

Maurice Chak : I think a fundamental problem with Whiplash is that the creator never went to a college jazz band, and since he created this in a college setting but had only experienced it in a high school setting, he had to guess--a lot.

Safe UnderHill : Enjoyed your thoughts here. Regarding the track 'Fletcher's Song In Club', Justin Hurwitz has said that Chazelle wanted a tender, slow piece to contrast with Fletcher's character. Hence why it doesn't sound like the typical New York jazz club music - they weren't going for that. In fact, it's kind of like the 'Starbuck's Jazz' that Fletcher describes as hating. Damien Chazelle seems to enjoy showing hypocrisy in his characters, for example in La La Land Ryan Gosling's character claims to this passionate advocate for 'real jazz' and yet he is the guy who goes into jazz clubs and talks over the music (Chazelle explains this in the commentary track)!

Alexander Lea : That's not starbucks jazz, that's the elevator music that can put people to sleep.

Nazrin Yusnaidi II : Those people hatin' on the comment section, I can assume most of y'all don't even play music at any gigs/concerts, at all. Adam's right, the point of playing & creating music is because it's fun. I've been playing drums for 10 years now, and after I saw Whiplash few years ago, I was pretty depressed on how I played drums, I always thought I wasn't good enough, it kinda affected my relationships with my peers. After seeing this review, it makes me realize why I picked up drums in the first place. Because I enjoy playing drums. I love playing on time signatures, tempo, rhythms pattern, groovy drum beats, etc. Thanks, dude. You made me realize that. For those who criticize so much about this review, y'all never played at any gigs/concerts in your life. Y'all don't know the psychological effects on musicians, when playing music is starting to not look fun anymore, when everything is all about competing with other musicians to see who is the best. That is not fun at all. Every musicians have something unique about their playing style and we as musicians should be proud of our unique styles. Just keep on practicing and showcase your talents to the world, there is no harm in that. Thank you Adam, for making us musicians realize that the most important part in music is FUN. Have fun playing music, and everything else is gonna be okay. Peace.

Tania Isabel : People on the comments complaining that "he didn't get" the point of the movie, I'm pretty sure he's not dumb, this isn't a cinematography critique, it's supposed to be seen from the jazz technical point of view. If you asked him if he liked the story, character development, photography or lighting, his commentary would be different.

Maverick Kajita : As a jazz drummer I hated that movie

Sarah Maia : At first I didnt like the idea of the review, cause it seemed that you were just going to take away the magic of the movie, but now I see it was actually for the best. As artists we get a lot of the crazy obssessive masochist representation (van gogh for example) and this image it's not only unhealthy, but can also be an obstacle for begginers that buy in to the idea that pain and misery are vital components for creativity and "greatness". The movie, as you said it, is amazing as fiction, but should not be seen as a "how to suceed as an artist" or as a fair representation of jazz culture

Stoney Mahoney : I had a piano teacher as a kid who systematically murdered any love I had for playing music myself. She never asked me what kind of music I liked, never tried to encourage as particular style, she was purely focused on getting me through board exams, nothing else. Result: I couldn't be bothered to practice and eventually she kicked me out. The first thing my next piano teacher asked me after we'd introduced ourselves: "What kind of music do you listen to?" It was like she'd given me permission to play what I *wanted* to play. Result: practiced for stupidly long hours to get good enough to play the music I wanted to be able to play, breezed to an honours pass in my next exam. Bottom line: if you don't enjoy music, you don't play it well and don't want to play it at all.

alexander love : The life of a jazz musician not being able to get a job and then making a YouTube video and not playing music and just critiquing someone else's work

Schaffrillas Productions : Very great analysis. Whiplash is my favorite film simply based on its filmmaking and narrative merits; I don't know anything about jazz, but it was to hear a perspective on this film from someone who does understand jazz culture. However, I also never believed for a second that this movie's depiction of college jazz bands was realistic. Put simply, this isn't supposed to be a jazz movie - it's an obsession movie.

Natsu Dragion77 : I totally get why people who are into jazz are annoyed with this movie. I do. But it is first and foremost a Movie. it has to be narratively interesting more than anything , And it was for me . Also , it being the only movie heavily relating to jazz and jazz education doesn't mean it has to bear the burden of it being 100% accurate, even to sacrifice the storytelling in favor of it. I know that's not quite what you are saying but i felt the need to bring it up because that's how we get movies with very muddy storytelling Imo

Tuomo Luukkanen : "If this is the way that gets people interested in modern jazz music, I'm OK with it" Oh thank god you're OK with it. Don't know what I would've done with myself otherwise.

escher2112 : Overall - Good review! In reference to the "physicality" you took issue with.... Drummer here.. (former actually - carpal tunnel syndrome). Marching, Concert and pit percussion. Drumset after HS through age 35 (when the carpal tunnel got too bad). Yes... drummers hands bleed. Yes... 5 hours of practice - you get blisters, they pop, your hands split, and they bleed. During Marching drumline practice - it was common... you tape your hands and deal with it. Drums are extremely physical.. Just saying - the movie is from the standpoint of a drummer - and that part is very real. I would play until my hands were so numb I couldn't hold the sticks - and I used good technique along with stretching exercises and thorough warmups..... many many of us have had carpal tunnel surgery, and bouts of tendonitis.. drums are rough on the body. Oh - and as an side note - My HS drumline instructor - could have been JK's long lost brother... without the sexual and other slurs... but he would yell, throw things, and generally work us until we dropped... and I then signed up for private lessons form him. The good ones are worth the pain - because they teach you to work. JK's character just seemed to hate life and people in general... my instructor was just passionate and hated mediocrity..

Bronson Carder : Hey Adam, question for your Q+A: Have you watched the show Metalocalypse? Did you know show creator Brendon Small is a graduate of Berklee as well? He performs all of the guitars and and most of the vocals in the show (he does some of the drums, but he brought in the amazing Gene Hoglan to do most of it). Just curious as to what you think about a fellow Berklee alum taking that direction with his music, and what you think about the music in the show (if anything at all lol)?

resevil2396 : You watched it....on a tablet...in a busy park....thats just painful to see lol

Sean Deegan : The fact that he said “yours truly, an academically trained jazz musician” without sarcasm or ingenuity pisses me offff

Elliott Stanger : My take on your Part 6: Based on my experience in music school/conservatory, from undergrad all the way through my DMA, I took that scene where Fletcher is playing "Little Tikes Jazz" as more of a sign that he's not who he makes himself out to be. His jazz chops aren't as polished as people think, and his standards and expectations for his students are greater than the standards and expectations for himself. I think that is very common in professors and music teachers who exhibit aggression and displeasure towards their students. When Andrew sees this, the layers start to get peeled back and maybe he starts to realize, like I realized, "this guy is full of shit." Often times when you go into a new school, or really any new environment, the shine starts to wear off after awhile, and you end up seeing people for who they really are. That was definitely the experience I had: I idolized teachers because of how tough they were and strived to meet their ever-changing expectations, even put up with their mind games and mental abuse. Looking back, that obviously wasn't normal behavior, and in moving up in the musical world, you develop the theory that those people put up an aggressive facade in order to mask their own incompetencies. Great video! (Edited to fix the name of the character)

MrLeviNielsen : Please don't tell me you watched the movie on an iPad.

Supernova Sightseeing : I watched this movie with a former band-friend. We had a long discussion afterwards. What we could relate to is the constant pursuit of perfectionism. Not that the music in the movie was "perfect", but that many musicians strive for some kind of "perfection", wich is a very elusive concept. Different genres have different ideas of what perfection is. This review was really good, with interesting sidenotes about Bird and Buddy. :)

Harry Ashley : I'm a bit disappointed that you watched it on your iPad in a park. The film is so brilliantly shot... It deserves a little more than that xD

theysaidyes? : i swear to BASSing god...

SquidwardAF : It's funny that an anime with cute girls "Hibike! Euphonium" doesn't have the biggest problem of Whiplash. Please review musical stuff in "Hibike! Euphonium"

Alex Thompson : I still need to see the movie, but I'd offer some criticism of this criticism - I did jazz saxophone for college, see my posted videos for proof. First of all, the director of jazz studies at my alma mater had a somewhat tyrannical coaching style, used odd lingo, and even looked bizarrely similar to the character that jk simmons plays. I had another that exhibited "casual misogyny" and would say a solo was "good for a girl". My first saxophone teacher for private lessons drove many students to tears, and even me one time. Which is all to say that my experience with that kind of person in real life suggests the characterization is actually pretty accurate. More importantly, though, is the aspect of competition. There is definitely some sentiment of it not being a competition: "Haven't you all seen the jazz scoreboard?" is a joke I remember particularly well, because it was such a ridiculous idea. However. Competition exists. Jazz camp actually *did* have a sort of hierarchy to it - the kids from the two big jazz high schools (Roosevelt and Garfield) were clearly a cut above the rest of us. Jamming with people above your weight class was (and remains, for me) incredibly intimidating. And the scene Mr. Neely points out as unrealistic where a second banana guy is sitting in wait for a spot to open up? That exact situation would be described to me, by my saxophone teacher, as the way the world works - a line of saxophone players waiting for your spot to open up on a bandstand, for their chance to get in a solo; any kind of opening, because they're hungry for the opportunity. So I think it's wrong to paint it as a strictly peace-love-dove situation regarding competition. It isn't quite a sport, but there is definitely tension. Mr. Neely says that "New York City collegiate jazz ensembles don't enter competitions all the time, they...gig" - as if gigging isn't a competitive endeavor (cut to a video of Berklee kids playing Club Coca Cola. I have never played Club Coca Cola). I have failed to land gigs on cruise ships because of a bad audition; I go on Instagram and see friends touring the Bahamas playing in the cruise ship band; they won that one, and the Charlie Parker cymbal story is based on a true story. One last thing regarding the competition point: practicing can totally be playing until you're in physical pain and getting so frustrated that you want to completely destroy your instrument! How is an accomplished musician saying this isn't the case?!?!? Here's a test: try learning guitar. You will get blisters! And contort your hand into painful positions! Yes, practice can be boring, but that probably means you aren't focused on executing correctly or what you're working on is too easy? As for destroying your horn, I would get so insanely frustrated with how I sounded and yes, one time I smashed my saxophone on my (carpeted) bedroom floor; damage was minimal, thankfully, but needless to say that isn't a totally unrealistic event. Mr Neely is totally right, tho, about how music is super fun and basically every conversation boils down to "have you seen this thing on youtube that I've been listening to, oh god that piano solo on lingus is so crazy". I am no longer a semi-professional jazz musician. To be completely honest, I got so upset during my senior year of college with how mediocre I considered my playing to be that I switched focus in school. I nearly turned down my music degree altogether because I was tired of the rat race and hoop jumping involved in getting it. I got out of school, went home, and started working as a business analyst; so what do I know.

Cd B : Some very interesting analysis here. Although calling kids stupid is actually pretty low. They're not "stupid", they just don't have the same life experience as you. Perhaps a senior would consider you to be "stupid".

8 Bit Brody : I had my own Terrance Fletcher, and he's a pretty big reason why I dropped out of Jazz school. He also loved Parker, and I can play far too many Parker tunes because of it.

Juha Lumiaho : When the kid doesn't play the rudiment of a paradiddle was my breaking point too

Conrad Impresario : okay youtube i watched it leave me alone

Joey Estridge : Yeah i stopped watching at a very arrogant "Yours truly, an academically trained.. Jazzzz Musiccciiian" Nope

streetcrawler : Buddy Rich is a better technical drummer than Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. I would definitely say Tony and Elvin were way more creative and listenable, but Buddy is on different level technically.