Saturday, 4 July 2015

"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than "good job"."



WARNING: THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD... BIG ONE'S, TOO. PROMISE.


It's been a while since I've posted on here - mainly because I only write if I have something to say (which is generally a good rule of thumb, rather than just slapping out a few words that have little point or meaning in order to keep your 'on-line presence' up...).

Last night I watched "Whiplash" - finally - and I can honestly say it is the best film I have seen in a long, long time. Yes there were great performances, an excellent script, cinematography, editing... (why it didn't clean up at the Oscars in anyone's guess - it's the classiest film that's been out in aeons.)

Reservoir Drums.
The thing that struck me about this film are the two main characters: promising drummer Andrew (Miles Teller: An even more intense, younger John Cusack) and Fletcher, an aggressive sociopath whose charm and warmth can drop at any time to reveal a far less pleasant being.

What I loved the most about this film is that the 'villain' of the piece truly believes he is doing the right thing. In his own eyes, he is not a villain. He is doing what's necessary to get things done at the highest standard possible. So whilst it's easy to despise his behaviour (as a viewer I found myself hating Fletcher), you can also understand why he behaves the way he does - which makes it (at times) very uncomfortable to watch.

Jurassic Park 5 finds its newest predator...
It certainly pressed buttons with me. Having been on the receiving end of a couple of sociopaths in my time, it was painful to watch. I found myself really hating Fletcher's behaviour - and him - and it's been a long time since a film has provoked such an emotional response. Throughout the film I was hoping and waiting for Andrew to shove his drumsticks so far up Fletcher's arse that he would sprout antennae.

But he never does. Okay, he does jump on Fletcher at one point, but that wussies out in a blink. After Fletcher delivers his 'revenge' in the final moments of the film, it seems Andrew's career is over for good. But Andrew returns to K.O. Fletcher by... being exceptional. He could have stood on that stage and told the audience what a totally abusive bastard Fletcher was. But he didn't. He beats him by gaining Fletcher's approval. By playing the best he's ever played.

Revenge is a beat best served mid-tempo.
And that ending is a very uncomfortable piece of story-telling. Was Fletcher's method right, even if it was extreme? He got the result he desired. He pushed Andrew to breaking point and beyond. His mind games, mood swings and physical abuse would have been enough to make anyone walk away. But if Andrew hadn't faced such opposition would he have pushed himself that far? Just seeing the pair of them make eye contact during the final drum solo, the look in Fletcher's eye... the answer seems to be 'YES IT WAS WORTH IT'. And that's scary.

In an age where people are celebrated for idiotic behaviour/sex tapes/complete willing lack of education; where they become rich and famous for displaying zero ability or talent, or even any redeeming qualities, is it true that the recognition of genuine aptitude has to be so hard won?

Watching Big Brother makes me smash things, too...
As a writer, I know that the voices that drive me aren't those that say "Hey, you're great!". It's the voices from the past, from last year, ten minutes ago that spit venom. The one's that want you to fail. To clarify, I'm not writing for them, or trying to prove them wrong (though perhaps I am trying to prove myself, which I'm not sure is a good/bad thing? ) - I write because I want to. I enjoy it (mostly), and it's what I do. But I know that when I receive a rejection letter or a knock-back - unless it's useful, insightful criticism that I can build on - I have to use that as fuel to keep going.

Pushing yourself is fine. It's a necessity. You can't wait for things to just land in your lap. But I can honestly say that public humiliation and psychological abuse are not recommended as ways to nurture talent. Especially throwing chairs at your students (that never happened to me, but the mentor in question might as well have been...). Dealing with teachers, mentors or those who could be considered 'in a senior position' can be difficult - especially when you're never certain of who it is you're dealing with. Someone who smiles whilst hiding the knife behind their back is not beneficial to your own well-being. I've been on a self-imposed 'hiatus' from writing this year. Not because I've given up or don't want to do it anymore. More for my own sanity. Literally a physical snap occurred, and I've not really written since (Except this blog post). Being around people who say they want you to exceed, succeed, be your best - but then floor you with their own self-aggrandising agenda will only lead to a dead end - mentally and/or spiritually.

"Oh, good work Katie Hopkins on being all famous 'n such..."
So it's a difficult story to weigh up. The sudden note on which 'Whiplash' ends left me wondering "Oh, is that it?". But after a five minute internal argument, I concluded that it had to end there. Did we need to see Andrew bowling up to Fletcher, proclaiming "IN YOUR FACE, FLETCHER!"? Did the two need to hug it out, have a nice chat over a coffee?

Nope. The story ends when Andrew proves himself.



The. End.