Overworked, stress-ridden, sweat-drenched and blood-stained, Miles Teller's character Andrew Neyman in Whiplash is all of these things (usually simultaneously), but I'm referring to his drumsticks. The drumsticks Teller had to relearn to hold in order to master a convincing jazz grip (he's a self taught rock drummer); the drumsticks whose absence result in one of the film's most adrenaline-inducing scenes; the drumsticks that rub Neyman's fingers and hands so raw during relentless practice sessions that his drum kit is coated in blood; the drumsticks that also happen to be made in the U.S. and have been since 1963.
Located in Newport, Maine, Vic Firth has manufactured drumsticks for everyone from Buddy Rich, arguably the greatest jazz drummer of all time and a constant reference point in Whiplash, to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. His factory produces 85,000 sticks per day from Tenessee's Appalachian hickory.
More than anything, Whiplash is a story of limits and how far you're willing to push yourself to succeed. Like Teller, Firth understands drive.
Vic's sticks undoubtedly serve as Whiplash's unspoken third lead, and given the performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, his drumsticks are among this year's most elite performers, according to the academy.
I make it a habit to watch every best picture nominee prior to the oscars each year, and having seen all eight, I can decisively say that Whiplash was hands down my favorite. It's intense, gripping, and a serious roller coaster of emotions. As one reviewer put it, "In an era when so many films feel more refined by focus groups or marketing managers, it is a deeply personal and vibrantly alive drama. Damien Chazelle has taken a relatively staid subject like the relationship between a music student and his teacher and turned it into a thriller built on a brilliant undercurrent of social commentary about what it takes to make it in an increasingly competitive and cutthroat world." Do yourself a favor and check out Whiplash if you haven't already, and while you're at it, Vic Firth's drumsticks.