Damien Chazelle

Damien Chazelle is one of the most talented and original directors in Hollywood. He burst onto the scene in 2014 with his second film “Whiplash” and has been dazzling audiences ever since. He scored big hits with “La La Land” and “First Man,” reaching the point where he could do whatever he wanted. And maybe that’s a problem, as his ambitious “Babylon” landed with a thud and bombed at the box office.

Still, we can’t wait to see what he does next.


Whiplash” (2014)
Our movie critic Jason Zingale loved this film, as did most critics and movie-goers.

A gripping, electrifying and brutally unrelenting thriller, Damien Chazelle’s sophomore effort draws you in from the very first beat of the drum and never lets go, like a freight train of intensity and emotion that leaves you breathless and your heart still pounding when it’s over. “Whiplash” isn’t just one of the best movies of the 2014; it features perhaps one of the best endings to a movie ever. Chazelle doesn’t waste a single frame in this pressure cooker of a story about a young musician so determined to achieve greatness that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if that means enduring the physical, verbal and psychological abuse of the one man capable of squeezing out every last drop of potential. Miles Teller is phenomenal in the lead role, capturing Andrew’s commitment and passion to his craft with an all-in performance that’s soaked in literal blood, sweat and tears, but it’s J.K. Simmons who steals the show with his turn as the borderline psychotic Fletcher, hurtling insults like a drill instructor (think R. Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket”) that are as funny as they are frightening.

Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Chazelle instantly became the hottest young director in Hollywood after this film.

Whiplash movie 2014 from Damien Chazelle starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons

La La Land” (2016)
Chazelle wins the Oscar for Best Director for this film, and for a moment thought he had Best Picture as well during the fiasco at the awards ceremony. From our review by Jason Zingale: “Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” wasn’t just my favorite film of 2014 – in my estimation, it’s one of the best movies of the past decade. So it goes without saying that the bar was set pretty high for his latest project, a loving homage to the big, bold and colorful musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Age featuring two of today’s brightest stars. Making a musical these days is already a huge risk, but the fact that “La La Land” is a completely original piece of work rather than an adaptation of preexisting material is what makes it truly daring. The film’s ambition is evident from the very first frame, launching into an elaborate song-and-dance number set during a gridlock on the Los Angeles freeway that announces itself in grand fashion. Though it falls just short of matching that ambition (perhaps due to a tiny bit of overhype), “La La Land” is still one of the most dazzling, effervescent moviegoing experiences of the year.”

La La Land by Damien Chazelle

First Man” (2018)
This film presents the story of national hero Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his life leading up to the Apollo 11 mission that successfully made him the first person to set foot on the moon. From our review by Steve Katz: “In the end, “First Man” is a bit of an oddity in Chazelle’s young filmography, but it is in no way a failure. As a space story, it stands in contrast to the rest of the whizbang ‘60s NASA fare, though it suffers a bit trying to flesh out the stories on the ground.” Jason Zingale has it as his third-best film of 2018.

Ryan Gosling in First Man by Damien Chazelle

Babylon” (2022)
Opinions vary wildly on this ambitious and over-the-top project from Chazelle. From our review by Steve Katz: “My favorite movie podcast, “Blank Check with Griffin and David,” structures its episodes around the blank check theory of directing. It’s a long-held belief that directors who hit it big are often given the opportunity to make whatever they want as a reward for their success, with more budget availability and minimal studio interference. It’s arguable whether Damien Chazelle, who came out of “La La Land” with a Best Director Oscar, cashed in his blank check on the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” but his newest film, a three-hour sprawling look at nascent 1920s Hollywood, is a far more undeniable example of Chazelle using his clout to do whatever he wants.” But many called this film a disaster that wasted the talents of huge stars such as Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, Katz had it in his top-ten list for 2022.

Margot Robbie in Babylon by Damien Chazelle