A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: An ambitious young drummer lands a coveted spot in his music school’s demanding jazz band where he’s berated, humiliated and inspired by the world’s most terrifying teacher.

Total nominations: 5 (picture, supporting actor, adapted screenplay, editing, sound mixing)

Directed by: Damien Chazelle (nominated for best adapted screenplay; first nomination)

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons (nominated for best supporting actor; first nomination)


J.K. Simmons, left, and Miles Teller in “Whiplash.” (Daniel McFadden/Sony Pictures Classics/AP)

Why it deserves to win: Simmons has a lock on the best supporting actor Oscar, but his portrayal of the jazz ensemble’s ferocious taskmaster isn’t the only thing “Whiplash” has going for it. The movie is artfully shot with shadowy cinematography and efficiently told, injecting a shocking amount of heart-pounding suspense into a movie about a school band. And while the narrative may have a limited scope, it speaks to universal themes about what we’re willing to endure — and how far we’ll go — to achieve success.

Why it won’t win: Few people have actually seen the movie. Of the best picture contenders, “Whiplash” has the smallest box office returns. And when it’s placed next to movies about civil rights and wartime post-traumatic stress, “Whiplash’s” parable of artistic aspirations feels less weighty.

Ann Hornaday’s review: 2.5 stars

“At its best, ‘Whiplash’ conveys with pungent detail the striving of young people eager to make their bones in a Manhattan that’s as foul and forbidding as it is seductive. The rehearsal room where much of ‘Whiplash’ transpires isn’t an Eden of harmony and collaboration, but a snake pit where every high note is awash in flop sweat and spit, blisters and blood.”

Box office as of Feb. 17: $10.5 million domestic, $11.4 million worldwide

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