Trophy Talk: Can ‘Whiplash’ Win Best Picture?
People love watching famous people accept trophies. So, every so often, The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen and ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan will speculate about these trophies and which famous person might win one. It will be fun. Let’s talk some trophies! Today, we discuss the possibility of 'Whiplash' being a dark horse Best Picture winner.
Mike: We've both been kind of convinced that 'Imitation Game' will win Best Picture. Not that it's the best movie -- but it IS very good -- but more because it hits every beat that movies that win that trophy usually hit. Adversity, triumph, tragedy, World War II and Harvey Weinstein. What, if anything, can get in its way? Last week you mentioned 'Boyhood' as a sneaky possible winner -- but I really think 'Whiplash' could pull this off.
Chris: I knew this was coming, Mike, but I don't know if I necessarily believe you. There are a lot of enticing narratives for "Whiplash" -- a young director who could become the next Martin Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson, an incredible performance from a beloved veteran actor at its core, the fact that it's about creative people and the lengths they'll go for success -- but I'm not convinced 'Whiplash' has enough for even a Best Picture nomination, let alone win. Convince me.
Mike: It's this weird narrative for this movie that keeps surprising at every level. It opened the Sundance Film Festival -- historically a spot reserved for average-at-best movies -- and winds up winning the festival. Then, everywhere it goes, it just keeps getting accolades. It just seems to have the perfect amount of momentum. It just keeps on coming and everyone who sees it really loves it. Even the people who don't love it don't dislike it. I don't think it will beat 'Imitation Game', but, I think, right now, based on what we've seen, it has the best shot.
Chris: That's actually kind of perfect: it's an underdog that continues to get underestimated. The Sundance connection -- and the fact that director Damien Chazelle kind of looks like Benh Zeitlin -- has me thinking of 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' which did score nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. I just think there's going to be an increasing amount of backlash to this one. On a social level, 'Whiplash' isn't all that interested in its female characters; from a filmmaking standpoint, I've seen people critique the contrived ways Chazelle gets to his big finale. These are blips on the radar now, but when the knives come out in December and January, they could become more pronounced. (The flipside of that is all the Best Picture contenders will find similar slings and arrows tossed in their direction.)
Mike: Yeah, but remember when people were mad at 'The Imitation Game' because the depection of Alan Turing didn't delve into his sex life enough? The fact there is some minor backlash at this point is a good sign: people are starting to see it as a threat. Plus, it's a crowd pleaser. 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' was a little too weird to ever have a legitimate shot at winning and was in a field with a lot heavier competition: 'Argo,' 'Les Mis,' 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Lincoln,' 'Silver Linings Playbook.'
Chris: You're starting to convince me. A little. The fact that 'Whiplash' is a crowd pleaser could really work in its favor. Think about this year's contenders: None we've seen so far, from 'The Imitation Game' to 'The Theory of Everything' to 'Boyhood' to 'Birdman,' leave you feeling as exhilarated as 'Whiplash.' It's final 10 minutes are like a shot of adrenaline (this sentence brought to you by pull quote). People will leave 'Whiplash' feeling PUMPED, and that's not the case with a lot of the other films. That's kind of why 'Argo' won, right? It's just a good story with a satisfying finale.
Mike: "Argo' is an interesting comparison to 'Whiplash,' they, strangely, have some of the same beats (I mean that literally with 'Whiplash'). They are both suspenseful, featuring lead characters that we don't know a ton about other than that they are good at what they do and are sometimes cocky about that fact (and that Ben Affleck may or may not be a ghost). And, yes, the last ten minutes of both really are an adrenaline rush. But, one of those movies used escaping Iran as an adrenaline rush, which seems like an event that should cause such a thing. The other movie uses a drum solo to get the same effect. That's kind of remarkable. And, yes, people love this movie. I get that these people don't vote, but the chatter among the populous is starting and if that gets too loud, it's hard to ignore. It's funny, people talk about "The Academy" like they are some sort of holy sanctuary for film prestige -- when, in reality, most of them are just people. And people love 'Whiplash.'
Chris: And 'Whiplash' is also unique in this year's field. There aren't a whole lot of movies like it in competition. That helps as well. That written, I'm still not convinced it will win, but I'm about to head over to Gold Derby and add it to my list Best Picture nominees. Chazelle also stands a great chance of getting two nods himself: Director and Screenplay.
Mike: Hey, does that mean I convinced you? I will not be going to Gold Derby because I do not have an account, but, I am going to eat some Goldfish crackers and think about 'Whiplash.' (After all this, I STILL think it's going to be "The Imitation Game' wining.)
Chris: On the Goldfish crackers site, I actually have 'Boyhood' still winning, just to cover all my bases.
Chris Rosen is the senior editor of Huffington Post Entertainment. You can reach him on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.