FauxPolitik

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sidenote: Saw the new movie Ray last night, with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Overall, I'd give it a B+, a good story with lots of great music. Foxx makes a good effort at imitating Charles' unique facial expressions and head movement. The supremely talented musician who becomes a womanizing junkie and cleans up his life after hitting bottom is not a new story, but I expect much of it is true, so they did their best to tell it well. Ray was apparently traumatized as a young kid when he watched his brother die in a drowning accident and he takes drugs to repress the memory, and can't be free of heroin's grasp till he deals with it. Okay, I've seen this before.

Really, the best parts of the movie deal more with his struggle to find his musical voice, his own style instead of replicating other more established stars. His dealing with Atlantic Records and eventual move to ABC for more money and control of the music is also interesting, though I'd be interested to find out how much back story was left out.

Also, the movie makes it seem as if Ray's social conscience was nearly nonexistent until one sudden day in Georgia when he refused to play to a segregated audience. As a black, blind musician playing in Southern clubs, he must've been the vicitim of some pretty nasty discrimination and formed some thoughts on civil rights along the way. But in Ray he goes from Southern "boy," content to make a living playing the Jim Crow "chitlin' circuit" to standing up to the man in about 30 seconds. Some evolution might have been portrayed.

Some of the best secenes were of Ray and the Sonny Fulson band playing those Southern, black, clubs. Interestingly, I spotted two places within a few blocks of my old New Orleans apartment, the Half Moon and Saturn Bar. Whether Ray actually played those places or not I don't know; they may have just made good film and apropriately signaled that he was playing in New Orleans, but not many people would recognize these two places so I doubt the latter. Maybe they're just cool signs.

It's worth seeing, even if you wait to rent it.

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