Monday, November 08, 2004

Ray of light

"Ray" with flavor of the year Jamie Foxx in the eponymous role makes you laugh, cry and sing along. With an incendiary performance by Foxx, a set of songs from his early days peppering the soundtrack, and very good direction, this movie is easily among the best this year. Foxx is a shoo-in for an Academy nomination, and I won't be surprised if the director and screenplay pick up nominations/awards too.

The story focuses on Ray Charles' early years, from his losing his sight in early childhood, to his arrival on the vibrant Seattle and then New York music scene. It's an uncompromising and yet celebratory look at the genius (and the man behind the genius, warts and all). His fight with drugs and philandering as he rose to fame make up the bulk of the story.

Although a tad on the longer side, a non-linear narrative, with the use of flashbacks to show the loss of his sight, and his mother's tough-love upbringing, makes this film eminently watchable. If you don't have a thing for the blues or R&B, this might just make you interested enough in Charles' music as it uses his songs to great effect to enhance the narration. The ending to me was a tad reminiscient of "A Beautiful Mind". However, I'd say it was more of a nod to it, since like "A beautiful..." , it was a decision to focus the movie on the part of his life that was the most difficult.

An interesting sidelight was the executive at Atlantic Records who notices Ray's talent and nurtures it. I don't know if such scouts exist in the record industry anymore. Maybe they do, because we still have good music being made. But the amount of bad (or simply mediocre) music on the airwaves means that these people are few and far between. With the focus shifting from music to the bottomline, the big labels are on their way down musically.

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