Some days ago and after a long time, I finally had the chance to watch Whiplash. I’ve heard very good things from different colleagues, so I decided to watch it without knowing anything other than the title.
Honestly, if I have to guess a motive why Whiplash hasn’t won an Oscar instead of Birdman, I have to open a small thought on a psicological level. Stay with me on this.
The Academy Awards are, as its name says, decided by the Academy members. In other words, by artists. Both Birdman and Whiplash deal with the same subject: the huge struggle to become a recognized artist. In other words, the stuggle for recognition. The difference between the two films is that the first, Birdman, focus on the most superficial aspect of this quest. The second, on the other hand, talks about a desire to strive as a human being. The quest for excellence, to put it simple.
The main character in Birdman tries to become an artist, moving away from his past on the star system and diving into a world that is considered the “Mecca” of acting: Broadway. Undoubtly, all his efforts are concentrated elsewere, mostly on getting recognition, affection, praise. Whiplash is exactly the opposite.
The interest in becoming memorable is not focused on the memory itself, but in raising mankinds’ “bar”. This is clear in the scene in which Fletcher states “the worst two words of the english language are: good job”
Recognition in Whiplash is not a goal, but mostly the result of another quest: the quest for striving, for the sublime.
I’d like to clearify something now: in both films I’m talking about the characters’ intent, not the authors. Birdman is probably a great critique that portraits the artists’ vulnerability like no other.
Long story short, I think both films tell the story of two different type of artist, the Whiplash and the Birdmans.
From this point of view, and thinking a bit, the fact that Birdman won leaves at least a glimpse of suspition that the Academy members probably feel closer to this character, or at least they empathized more with a “Birdman” artist, and less with a “whiplash” artist. A sign of times, and a principle statement from Hollywood.
This way, the Accademy and/or their members prioritized one art from the other. And that is pretty much a global trend. In a world focused on margins and profits, the value of excellence is necesarilly undermined.
A deep discussion both ethic and aesthetic, that probably any person that for any reason belongs to the art world must have had at some point, at least once. From day to day the economic pressure pushes us towards Birdman’s dicotomies, but the true interest moves us necesarilly to this healthy autocritic, to this constant and sick frustration with our own opus, this permanent crave for more, this will to get closer day by day, in one way or another, to sublimation.
The world seem to have forgotten that the research for this chimera is what gives us true happiness, and that happiness simply can’t be bought.
That’s why I raise my glass for all the whiplash out there. Do not let the Birdman that put us down win.