Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” is a tremendous insight into the pressures and sacrifices of artistic ambition. Miles Teller stars as Andrew Neeman, an up-and-coming jazz drummer trying to win a spot in the prestigious jazz orchestra in New York. Standing in his way is the psychotic, perfectionist conductor Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons. The film delves into the personal sacrifices that Neeman must make to become the best drummer he can be and achieve greatness. The dynamic between Neeman and Fletcher is the driving force of the film. Fletcher’s foul mouth and penchant for violence contrasts starkly with the timid and unassuming Neeman. Chazelle’s second feature length film soars as a window into the hard work and isolation that comes with singular ambition. — Kyle Luther, Deputy Sports Editor
“Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Grand Budapest Hotel” is the perfect movie for anyone looking for a comedy with a quirky twist. Director Wes Anderson steers clear of trite jokes and offensive commentary, and instead offers a whirlwind movie about the adventures of Gustave H, a hotel concierge, and his protege, a lobby boy named Zero, who becomes his best friend. While not packed with prototypical action and explosions, Anderson’s jump cuts and witty dialogue keep viewers invested and entertained for the duration of the movie. “Grand Budapest Hotel” is an instant classic, and can serve as a great excuse to stay inside during this freezing weather. — Bobby Wagner, Sports Editor
The documentary “Citizenfour” depicts Edward Snowden’s life leading up to and following his leaking of classified documents that were originally obtained from the National Security Agency. Director Laura Poitras spends time with Snowden, following him on the road before and after he leaks the documents in the British newspaper The Guardian. “Citizenfour” presents a captivating story, revealing wiretapping practices of the NSA. Though people may have different opinions about Snowden’s actions, “Citizenfour” crafts a thought-provoking storyline for all audiences. — Alexa Spieler, Arts Editor
“Two Days, One Night”
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Two Days, One Night” is as tense as an episode of “Homeland,” yet it is anything but a thriller. A Belgian woman — Marion Cotillard, who is nominated for an Oscar for her work here — is fired from her job. One by one, she goes to each of her coworkers to ask if they will vote for her in a
petition to get her job back. What starts as a simple, naturalistic story climaxes in one of the most emotionally complex, piercingly honest endings put to film last year. And, in a film world still dominated by the cynicism of films like “Foxcatcher” and “Leviathan,” “Two Days” does the impossible — it affirms the power of pure, genuine, beautiful human compassion.
— Alex Greenberger, Editor-at-Large
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 18 print edition.