(whiplash is a great movie)

On Wednesday morning two enlightened individuals on Twitter mentioned what is arguably my favourite movie of the 2014/15 Award Season – Whiplash (I will admit to not having seen The Imitation Games nor The Theory of Everything). I’d go as far as to say the final scene might have been one of  the most conflicting, melancholic and deviously great endings of all time. The movie centered around the “cost of greatness” and was a particularly dark “Sports-Movie-Pupil-Earning-Adoration-of-Master” type flicks. Think Coach Carter being egotistic with obsessive and sociopathic leanings. We could all relate to this desire to pursue something, whether it be your passion or a love interest, the analogy of “blood, sweat and tears” was brought to life in what is sure to be a timeless classic. One takeaway from the movie on what one has to give in the pursuit of happiness ( or greatness rather) is a quote from the main character Andrew Neyman: “…is there a line?” Fuck Me.

So what is ‘great’?

On the same day I published the first part of a series I’m toiling over on whether South Africa is truly a great country. I received a question, honestly – I pre-empted it, but did not have the confidence to speak to it in the original post. The question was from another luminary I’m proud to call my friend Potswe (Montedi Maputla)  and went as follows:

Interesting. However, what is “great” in this context? What are the fundamentals that define a “great” nation?…

I posted my reply in the comments section of the post. The idea behind what I believe is “great” is invariably linked to understanding what is basic or inherent to the subject in question. The Evidence of Absence.

The world worships excellence but runs on mediocrity

Above is another nugget from Whiplash, we’re tamed to adhere to a baseline in our day-to-day – a “norm”. Once in a while we have one event or individual who significantly exceeds all our expectation – one of the greats. The world runs on mediocrity, because unless you want to become a Laundromat Tycoon, you don’t want to necessarily be known for being great at doing the laundry. The movie very obscenely confronts us with a truth we’ve all pondered, that is, greatness is some odd suspension of everything we had come to believe about the object of our adoration and often results in the creation of a new normal.

Mike Teller’s character, Andrew, differentiated the difference between being “great” and being “one of the greats”.  Andrew was already an exceptional student, but when you then find yourself caught in a web of individuals who share your aptitude for the extraordinary, that is when The Greats pull away towards the edge of destruction into a realm where many of us would question whether the reward is worth the risk. It is Van Gogh cutting off his ear for the sake of his art, Newton being antisocial and asexual for the sake of science. The Greats drive themselves mad with desire, they flirt between hell and pantheon. To be great is to perform above expectation to be graded above the pack, to be one of the greats you have to break the scale. My god!

Here’s another YouTube channel I love, Shots of Awe. The episode I’ve posted below speaks to how creativity is madness. Crack a few eggs to make an omelette.

4 responses to “Quickie: How a brief conversation about Whiplash helped answer a question on “Greatness””

  1. smakhathini2 Avatar

    That last paragraph, maybe you ought to write a book. Ghadly!

  2. smakhathini2 Avatar

    That last paragraph, maybe you ought to write a book. Ghad!

  3. Alex Arthur Avatar
    Alex Arthur

    Just because the music teacher (or any teacher) thinks something is great doesn’t make it so. Arguably, if he was so great he wouldn’t be teaching — he’d be playing at a high level. Van Gogh didn’t cut his ear off for the sake of his art. It was because he was mentally unstable and he was trying to impress a hooker. His ear had nothing to do with his art. Whether his mental illness affected his art is another question and difficult to prove. Picasso or Kandinsky wern’t crazy.

    1. admin Avatar

      The ear is the art. The instability, the need for validation from a hooker – that’s the art. My piece was really about how we’ve misappropriated the idea of greatness, to be truly extraordinary.