whiplashOn Wednesday night, I went to see the new film, Whiplash, which is in limited release.  Limited release means that I can’t see it at my local $5.00 for seniors theaters but my local Artsy-Fartsy Theater, also known as the Edwards Westpark 8 Theaters.  I found Whiplash on my favorite movie app, Flixster, where I discovered it got 97% positive reviews from the critics and 96% from the viewers.   The film is about a young jazz drummer, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) who enrolls at an exclusive music academy and seeks to be accepted into the top jazz band in the academy , the Studio Band, led by its infamous director, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons).  Fletcher, it turns out, uses a combination of encouragement, degradation and emotional abuse to drive his students to excellence.  Under Fletcher’s brutal mentorship, Andrew becomes driven with being first drummer in the Studio Band, giving up everything else in his life.  The film is intense, wonderfully acted and filled with wonderful big band jazz.  Critic Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald says, You don’t have to like jazz to savor the increasingly contentious relationship between Andrew and his teacher, which reaches such heights that you occasionally gasp at how psychologically violent it is.  The film’s true subject, though, is innate talent — for music, writing, painting, sculpture, plumbing — and the superhuman lengths we sometimes have to go to in order to wring it out of ourselves.  The latter is what made the film so intriguing to me.

God gave me an analytical and sometimes creative mind that made school easy on those occasions   I was willing to apply myself.  I have an eye for beauty and the ability to create art that satisfies my creative impulses and seems to please most people.  I love words and writing seems to come naturally to me.  I have an ear for music and remember not only the melody of songs I love, but the musical arrangements of my favorite versions.  But I have never been Driven and I sometimes wonder what I might have done with one or another of my inate talents if I had been.  Could I have won a Nobel Prize or even been an Andrew Viterbi**?  Instead of writing a novel and leaving it lost in my desk drawer, would I have done what it took to get it published or64000 written another that was publishable?   And what would it have taken to make me Driven?  Did I need a Terence Fletcher in my life or are my less-than-driven ways written in my genes?  Then there is the $64,000 Question (Is anyone else here old enough to remember that show?): Would I be happier with my best-selling novel or being as rich as Andrew Viterbi than I am now and what would I have given up to get there?

Sitting here at the end of a lovely Socal day, getting ready to make dinner before a Movie Date with my wife, Muri, it’s hard to imagine a better outcome.  But that’s probably because I’m not Driven.

**According to Wikipedia: Andrew James Viterbi (born Andrea Giacomo Viterbi; March 9, 1935) is an American electrical engineer and businessman who co-founded Qualcomm Inc. and invented the Viterbi algorithm. He is currently Presidential Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, which was named in his honor in 2004 in recognition of his $52 million gift.


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