Whiplash

The Sundance Film Festival may have built its name on showcasing new talent, but the best pieces in this shorts collection were made by veteran filmmakers. In Skinningrove, director Michael Almereyda (Nadja, Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, William Eggleston in the Real World) presents Chris Killip revisiting a series of photographs he shot three decades earlier in a depressed English fishing village; his analyses are heartfelt and astute, recalling Agnes Varda’s fine documentary shorts about photography. In Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle builds upon the jazzy, observant style of his Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench by adding an element of dark psychodrama; it centers on an emotionally abusive instructor at an elite music academy (an impressively scary J.K. Simmons). The other six shorts in the program are heavier on style than substance, though only one of them (a cloying Spielberg knock-off from Tanzania called Jonah) registers as substance-free.