2015 Calvin Awards: Best Picture
By David Mumpower
February 13, 2015
Last year’s race for Best Picture basically came down to one question: Have you voted for Gravity yet? After everyone did that, they moved along to the rest of the potential contenders. In 2015, the polar opposite occurred. On the last day of voting, five films were still in contention and a sixth feasibly could have been if all of the stragglers had supported it. Meanwhile, the films that had been in first and second place for most of January suddenly fell behind as a surprise champion came from behind to win on literally the last vote.
To the surprise of everyone who voted early, Whiplash is our staff’s selection as the Best Picture of the year. How did this happen? Well, are you familiar with the concept of woodshedding? It applies to Whiplash in a notable way. Jazz legend Charlie Parker later became known as Bird as a tribute to his natural gifts as a musician. His iconic status does not paint a true picture of what he had to overcome to become a legend. He was frequently laughed out of clubs during his early days. He simply lacked the skill to play with the best jazz musicians at the time. One day, he determined to take his craft seriously, and he basically vanished off the planet for a time. He spent months on end practicing in his woodshed, attempting to master his craft. Whiplash is the movie version of this concept.
Andrew Neiman is a freshman musician at the vaunted Shaffer Conservatory. Simply by getting accepted to this school, he has been acknowledged as having natural ability as a drummer. He is still stuck as second chair behind someone more experienced and thereby more skilled. One day, the most famous teacher at the school, Terrence Fletcher, challenges Neiman to demonstrate his gift. Soon afterward, Neiman is promoted to the school’s jazz competition group. There, he must “woodshed” in order to prove that he belongs with the best musicians in his age group.
What follows is a battle of wills between Neiman and Fletcher, as the latter gentleman uses every tool at his disposal to motivate the gifted drummer whom he believes has not achieved his potential yet. The combustible nature of the tutor/protégé dynamic has never been so skillfully and plausibly examined onscreen before. Actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons hammer at each other for a full hour of the movie and yet it is never clear whether their goals are mutually exclusive.
Whiplash proved so popular with our staff that it even triggered a previously unknown clause in the voting rulebook. Whiplash also won the award for Best Overlooked Film, but such a victory is negated if the winner in that category also emerges triumphant in Best Picture. It also claimed victory in Best Use of Music, Best Scene, and Best Supporting Actor. So, it’s fair to say that Whiplash was our staff’s favorite film in a lot of different ways.