March 9th, 2006



I watched the DVD in three sittings - it's kind of long, and the DVD from Netflix was marginal - cleaning it helped, but it wouldn't show the extended version with the extra scenes. No spoilers here, mostly because there can really be no true spoilers in a famous figure's biography.

First things first. Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. He deserved that Oscar, no question. That was one fine piece of acting. I think C.J. Sanbders, the kid who played the young Ray, also deserved some sort of honorable mention - his part was not big enough or challenging enough to warrant a "best supporting" nomination, but he gave us a solid base on which the older Ray is built.

Kerry Washington was good as Ray's wife, but this film is all about Ray, and short-changed his family, so her part was not as dynamic as it should have been. Ditto the parts of his children.

I've had the honor of spending most of a day with Q - Quincy Jones, and Larenz Tate (and the script) bear no resemblance to the real man. Come to think of it, most of the band members were unconvincing. Regina King struck me as a poor choice for Margie Hendricks - she has her moments, but I didn't feel the chemistry to justify her becoming Ray's wife-on-the-road. None of the original Raylettes were particularly magnetic.

I was especially impressed with these folks:

Curtis Armstrong as Ahmet Ertegun - the producer at Atlantic Records who discovers Ray and nurtures his career, somehow without becoming a smarmy record company executive.
Sharon Warren as Ray's mom, Aretha Robinson, could easily have been nominated for best supporting actress.
Harry J. Lennix as Joe Adams, the hard-nosed manager who alienates pretty much every member of the original band. It's a character written for the audience to hate, and he is spectacular at it. Reminds me of Billy Dee Williams playing Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi.
David Krumholtz as booking agent Milt Shaw does a fine job, despite the handicap of having to work while wearing several coats of Armorall on his hair.
And finally, Kurt Fuller is also short-changed in his miniscule role as Sam Clark, the guy who steals Ray from Atlantic and manages his relationship with The Gy-normous Record Company. Fuller is just perfect in this role, and he does smarmy better than almost anyone. Though he also enjoys comedy, as you can see from this photo of him in another venue.

Some impressions, in no particular order:
The film spends an inordinate amount of time on Ray's drug habit. The movie ends with him kicking the habit, and covers the next 40 years of his drug-free works in a 30-second montage. Hair sucked - some of the characters looked like they used black enamel spray paint. The sound editing was very good, especially for the dialog. This is the first film in a long time where I didn't need the subtitles. We don't get enough of his music, so his wife's line towards the end saying he is addicted to his music falls flat. The film won some awards for film editing, but I thought it was very choppy. May have been the bad DVD, but I don't think that accounts for all of it.
It was something of a coup to get Julian Bond to recreate his speech in the GA legislature welcoming Ray back "home", but I seem to remember a much younger, somewhat less honkey Bond in the original newscast. One of those rare cases when an actor would have looked more real than the actual participant.
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The Lost Note

Just before I tossed my Consonance program into the pile of things to file, I noticed one random note I had left out of my writeup. It stands alone, so Collapse )
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