‘American Sniper’ vs. ‘Whiplash’

I finally got around to seeing the two Oscar-nominated films that I hadn’t screened yet, American Sniper and Whiplash. Both are good, not great. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (3 ½ stars) is dominated by a solid performance (by Bradley Cooper) and a relentless series of combat scenes that drive home the brutality and fog of war, though some of the acting and writing is mediocre at best. I did not have a problem, as did some, with the film’s politics or lack thereof. Whiplash (3 ¼ stars) is a bit smarter and crisper than Sniper, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole thing was hopelessly contrived and that J.K. Simmons’ character, though acted well, was not much more than a cardboard cutout of a bully. Unlike in the short film that inspired the feature, I was much more focused on the student (Miles Teller). I highly recommend both films, but neither is in my top 10 of the year.

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