Awards season may be over, but several of the Oscar nominees and winners are just starting to become more readily available to those of us who live outside of Los Angeles, New York and other major metropolitan areas.
Just two days after the Oscars, Redbox managed to get an earlier than expected release of "Whiplash," which picked up three Academy Awards this year, with J.K. Simmons also picking up just about every trophy possible for Best Supporting Actor.
"Whiplash" is a good film, but not only for Simmons' performance. Miles Teller stars as a college drumming student, Andrew, who gets a big break when he is chosen to be part of his school's revered jazz ensemble, under the strict instruction of Fletcher (Simmons).
The film quickly turns into a tense race of sorts between Andrew and Fletcher, seeing how far the young drummer can be pushed in pursuit of perfection. It is this back-and-forth that drives the movie, accented by an equally tense score, and I doubt Simmons would've received all this awards attention if he had scenes with an actor who wasn't able to keep up with the intensity like Teller.
Teller may be known for his roles in big-budget action films including the "Divergent" series and the upcoming "Fantastic Four," but he is quickly proving himself to be quite a talented actor, too, whether it's in this or the captivating coming-of-age drama "The Spectacular Now."
Yes, Simmons is intense and this performance may be in contrast to some of his more recent work (those insurance commercials, playing the dad in "Juno"), but I was not that surprised to learn he could pull off this masochistic drum instructor quite believably.
To be honest, I still stand by my previous pick in the Best Supporting Actor category: Edward Norton gave one of the best performances of his career as "Birdman," and I think it will stand out for me down the line more than Simmons' performance will.
However, I would go back and amend my choice for Best Actress.
Just as Simmons swept the Best Supporting Actor race this year, Julianne Moore picked up award after award for her leading role in "Still Alice," including the Oscar. And she deserved it.
"Still Alice" follows a renowned linguistics professor (Moore) and her family as she faces a devastating diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease. In addition to Moore in her Oscar-winning performance as Alice, the film co-stars Alec Baldwin as her husband, John; Kristen Stewart as her youngest daughter, Lydia; Kate Bosworth as her oldest daughter, Anna; and Hunter Parrish as her son, Tom.
The film collects a series of heart-wrenching moments over the course of a year or two of Alice's life, and Moore brings them to life without ever making anything overdramatic.
It would have been easy to play the overdramatic card in this film, but it is to the credit of both the actors and the story that some of its most intense moments come from a more realistic place, whether it's Alice forgetting one of her kids' names or a conversation between Alice and Lydia turning into an argument or a conversation between John and Lydia turning into an absolutely heartbreaking moment when it comes to the topic of Alice's care.
"Still Alice" and "Whiplash" both bring raw, emotional stories to the screen and are prime showcases for their actors to shine.
Four stars out of five.
MPAA rating: R for strong language including some sexual references
Four stars out of five.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material and brief language including a sexual reference