The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s.
A chronicle of John Lennon's first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
Kristin Scott Thomas,
Ray Charles has the distinction of being both a national treasure and an international phenomenon. By the early 1960s, Ray Charles had accomplished his dream. He had come of age musically and had made it to Carnegie Hall. The hit records "Georgia on My Mind" and "Born to Lose" successively kept climbing to the top of the charts. He had made his first triumphant European concert tour in 1960 (a feat which, except for 1965, he has repeated at least once a year ever since). He had taken virtually every form of popular music and broken through its boundaries with such awe inspiring achievements as the LP's "Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz" and "Modern Sounds in Country & Western". Rhythm and blues (or "race music" as it had been called) became universally respectable through his efforts. Jazz found a mainstream audience it had never previously enjoyed. And country and western music began to chart an unexpected course to general acceptance, then worldwide popularity. And along the way, Ray ... Written by
Let's get the flaw out of the way right off the top - the movie should have been much longer. Ray Charles was a brilliant, fascinating man who lead a complex, challenging life. There was simply no way to fit it all
or even touch on it all - in a standard length movie. Given that, the
makers of this film did an admirable (and I'm sure quite agonizing) job of putting together a film that could not tell the whole story yet managed to set forth a representative sampling of the man and his music. Ray Charles' strengths were evident throughout the film and his weaknesses were neither amplified nor sugar-coated. We could have wished for another hour chronicling his life after 1980, but I suppose that would have tended to turn the film into an homage and, while it would have also allowed for the resolution of several things that were left hanging at the end, on balance I guess it was better as presented.
Now for the big question: what are the criteria for an Oscar? The wife and I have seen untold numbers of films in our years, but we immediately agreed that we have never seen a performance the equal of Jamie Foxx's. The line between actor and character was not blurred - but rather it disappeared completely. We had heard much of the hype before seeing the movie, but this was uncanny. Foxx WAS Ray Charles. You didn't watch the movie with the feeling that you were watching Foxx do an outstanding job of portraying Ray Charles - you watched it somehow believing or understanding that you were watching Ray Charles himself. I don't know how else to put it. We were completely blown away. I'll admit that we haven't seen all of the other performances up for an Oscar this year, but that really doesn't matter. Foxx took this to a whole nuther level, one which we've never witnessed before and doubt that we may ever see again. I can think of no other movie I've ever seen in which a person playing a part so completely and convincingly became the person portrayed. We salute you, Mr. Foxx. We understand that the awarding of an Oscar has to do with much more than the performance, but whether or not you win, we want you to know that you have done something that is in a class absolutely by itself and you should take enormous pride in your unparalleled achievement.
P.S. The music was naturally great. I remarked to the wife that if there is one moment in the history of music to which I wish I could have been witness, it would have been the genesis (in Kansas City, wasn't it?) of What'd I Say? The film did a wonderful job with it - just wish I could've been there!
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