by Sam Robinson
I want to state first off that for me, picking top films of the year is a difficult process. I find it very hard to pick favourites, especially as there were some great films released in 2014. The Lego Movie stretched family entertainment into a side-splittingly hilarious adventure about invention. Guardians of the Galaxy was an idea that on paper looked ridiculous, but became an extremely clever journey into space, cast perfectly, with the qualities of a Star Wars film plus an incredible soundtrack from yesteryear. Begin Again was a beautiful love letter to New York City. The Spectacular Now also won me over (Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller made the film sublime), and with its late Australian release date it fell into eligibility for votes in our 2014 Readers Poll*.
The film that has taken out the 2014 Reel Gospel Film of the Year however, is Whiplash. I’ve no doubt this film has been underseen around the world. It hasn’t even been released yet in the UK and various other locations. Even when I went to see it in the cinema I was the only one in the theatre until ten minutes in. And despite hundreds of votes, not one person voted for it as one of their favourite films of 2014 in our recent Readers Poll.
This is a real shame. Whiplash is a movie you need to see for yourself.
Whiplash is the story of Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a drum-playing student at the prestigious Schaeffer Music Academy in New York. He cross paths with the school’s highly-respected jazz conductor Julian Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who takes Neyman under his wing as a protege. But as the film plays out, this relationship becomes strained, intense and blood, sweat and tears are shed.
Whiplash can be seen as a film about jazz music, about a competitive environment, but it’s really about two players: Neyman and Fletcher. Director Damien Chazelle has created a film that draws you in, and is essentially set on the relationship between the two. As Fletcher pushes the boundaries of how an ordinary teacher should be conducting, you feel for Neyman. The sheer intensity of their relationship gives you sweaty palms and you never really know how the film is going to end.
Stylistically too, Chazelle has crafted Whiplash so well. As I mentioned in my review of the film, he uses long, stationary, held shots which focus in on the intense dialogue between Neyman and Fletcher. There’s also super sharp close-ups of grainy music manuscripts, spit being emptied from brass instruments, sweat drops on cymbals – Whiplash looks spectacular. There’s no need for big budgets here, or special effects. It’s all about performance and style, and it is outrageously gripping right until the very end of the film.
As I advised in my review, there is a stack of strong language in this film, so be aware of that if you haven’t seen it yet. Congratulations to Damien Chazelle and all involved for Whiplash, which is the 2014 Reel Gospel Film of the Year.
Whiplash will be released in the UK on January 16th. It will be released on home media in other places in February. Read our review of the film here.
And in case you wanted to know our team’s favourite films of 2014*:
Sam Robinson: Whiplash
Keith Hill: Interstellar
Mark Woodhouse: The Lego Movie
Sami Nguyen: Frozen
Vincent Chan: Interstellar
And what was my least favourite film of 2014? It has to be If I Stay. Read my review here to see why. And come back tomorrow as we announce the 2014 Reel Gospel Album of the Year!
*Films eligible for votes were those released in Australia between December 1st 2013 to November 30th 2014.