J.K. Simmons, Oscar winner for Whiplash, turns in a frightening and disturbing performance in the engaging new drama from writer-director Damien Chazelle. Playing Fletcher, a brutal, sadistic instructor of jazz music at an elite performing-arts school, Simmons has a unique way of spewing the vitriol and playing mind games with his students. At times, he comes off as nice and encouraging, someone who is simply trying to motivate the young men to be the next Charlie Parker, but most often, he’s a hate-filled teacher who slaps students, throws them out of the core group for one wrong missed note and manipulates their respect of his musical skill.
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the Oscar winner for Best Picture, is an often effective film about Hollywood and Broadway and their effect on the many actors who call this strange entertainment world home.
Michael Keaton turns in a career-defining performance as Riggan Thomson, an actor best known for his role in a superhero series known as Birdman. Nowadays, although he’s stopped by autograph-seekers on the sidewalks of Manhattan, he’s a has-been, someone who’s broke and needing of respect in an industry that eats up and spits out young talent.