Jamie or Ray?
Jamie Foxx captures every nuance and mannerism of Ray Charles without sacrificing naturalness. His physical transformation into the person he's playing is astounding, mostly because after a certain point in the film, one forgets that it is not Ray Charles that one is looking at. It is an amazing performance, made all the more so by the fact that Charles himself is such a recognizable and beloved figure. If Foxx doesn't get an Oscar for this role, it is further proof (if that was really needed) that the Academy can't honor a black actor worth a damn (note how they honor Denzel Washington not for his searing portrayal of Malcolm X, but rather for his performance as a dirty cop, etc). Foxx's brilliant portrayal extends to his piano playing; in addition to being an enormously talented actor, Foxx is a classically trained pianist.
Ray Charles' life was about music, and so is this movie, and that is what makes it so watchable despite its two and a half hour length. The songs and jams that have come to have a life of their own in the American aural landscape have lost none of their power over the years, and are given additional specific relevance here by being integrated into the narrative in a particularly entertaining manner (if you're not laughing by the time Charles starts working on his arrangement of Percy Mayfield's "Hit the Road, Jack" shows up, there's no hope for you).
The film is not perfect. While the cast is all fantastic (yes, they are all outshined by Foxx, but that's not their fault, he's playing Ray Charles, and it works with the film, as who wasn't outshined by Ray Charles?), the framing device of the Robinsons in Georgia isn't well integrated into the fabric of the film. Director Taylor Hackford's smokey mise-en-scene is very atmospheric, and the use of wipes as the primary transition method gives a the film a nice forward momentum, it really seems that this was a much longer film that had to be cut down. At times, it seems to move a little too fast, characters and situations are introduced but never paid off and the ending feels like it is rather abrupt. If there is another hour or so of footage, Hackford would do well to restore it to the DVD edition to allow the film to breathe a bit more (besides, more of Foxx's performance and Charles' music can't be a bad thing).
What does work about it though is that it is a very clearly heartfelt tribute to Ray Charles himself (whose participation in the film before his death gave the music recordings used in the film an authenticity that they wouldn't otherwise have had), and the subject is worth the attention. Charles broke barriers that were racial, social and creative, and the film makes a game attempt at hitting as many of them as possible. The fact that film is wildly entertaining throughout doesn't hurt.
The fact that Warwick Davis is in this film also serves to satisfy a major craving that every right thinking person has had for a very long time: to watch Willow smoke dope.
Last week, I had to print up a few resumes for Tim, and in searching for the paper, I stumbled across a paper written several years ago for a sunny class entitled "Death and Dying." The professor asked us to have a friend write a eulogy for ourselves. I had a friend of mine whom I no longer interact with do mine. Here's what he wrote:
Eulogy for Josh Gizelt
All of the people that I have the bitter honor of addressing today share one thing. What we share is the memory of Josh. To each of us here, he has filled a different gap. He has played a different role. Relative, friend, debtor. I have had the honor of calling him a friend.
The thing that made Josh beautiful in my eyes is this. I have seen him in many situations, and many stages. The thing that always has helf true about Josh is that which is Josh. He was always the one that looked you back in the eye when you thought nobody could hear you. And he always handed life to you straight.
I can remember many times when I was a little less than high on life when he would come along with his Cheshire cat smile and wild eyes, and hit the point of the day right on the dot with a proberbial skewer and then hand it to me to gnaw on. He was able to do this. He knew the value of humor, and the value of perspective.
I looked up to him. I looked up to his ability to stay clear in concept and communication, his ability to say the right thing. His ability to laugh at life, and most of all his sense of beauty.
To most of you, whether you know it or not, you see the day differently having known Josh. It takes an individual of true understanding to influence people in this way, and he is one of them. He is one that can pick the beauty out of all there is to pick from. We laughed at him in high school for listening to classical music, and as we grew, we were humbled by his beating us to it, and then he showed us the beauty there. He could talk on any subject that shared beauty. He delved deep into films, into Shakespeare, into art of all forms.
This is the sign of a person that knew he was alive. This is the sign of a person that had the courage to look at life and see straight on how very wonderful it is to be here. And I will thank hem every day for showing me this. And all of us will thank him every day by seeing things differently, whether we know it or not. Thanks to Josh.
A rather glowing send-off. It certainly made me tear up at the time. In fact, when I found it, and recognized it, my first thought was that it would happen again, especially now that my relationship with this person had apparently ended. But it didn't. I was puzzled by this.
In re-reading the eulogy, I realized that much of the reason for my disconnect was because it was written about a much younger Josh, one whose outlook on life was much narrower (and more idealistic) than the Josh who read it last week, and is writing this. Yes, I had a fixation on beauty then, but that was something of a shallow interest, one which as I grew and (possibly) matured, I found was only worthwhile in contrast to that which was not beautiful.
Furthermore, while the situation with this friend had weighed heavily upon me for a very long time, time has begun to smooth out many of the rough edges. My disturbance has given way to a more sober perspective. I realize now that my initial shock at having had this person break off our friendship was unwarranted, and that his girlfriend had been positioning us for this for some time. There were signs that I didn't notice, and she became quite hostile to myself and others when it became apparent to us (although not to him) that she hadn't been conducting an exactly monogamous relationship. She moved to push us into a negative light, which was possible in my case only by distorting certain information that she possessed. It was therefore not a quick act on his part, but a long process on hers.
I have found that while I don't feel much about the person I once counted as a close friend one way or the other by now (from time to time I still get concerned, but most of the time he's out of sight, out of mind), I have quite a bit of ire still left towards this woman who took it upon herself to break us apart, not so much because she did it, but because she would. On the other hand, while I did feel betrayed by my former friend, the new perspective I have allows me to see that this is perhaps not such a surprising turn of events; he has always had a weak will and a laziness that causes him often to merely accept the status quo of a situation, no matter how ridiculous.
Interestingly, I was not the one who got the brunt of the ire. That honor belonged to Tim, which is without a doubt one of the silliest bits of illogic to manifest itself. While it is not impossible to find fault with Tim, there is no reasonable way to assign any sort of malice to him without projection.
The reason why this is coming out now is because it had been quite a while since I had really given the situation much thought, something which speaks volumes about how distant our friendship has become to me. A shame, but not a terribly hurtful one anymore.
This part is an extension of a previous entry in which I reflected that the sound quality I'm getting off of the uncompressed stereo linear PCM 44.1 khz digital tracks is much fuller and more enveloping than the equivalent compressed Dolby Digital stereo track, and in many cases, Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
In cases where there is only a Dolby 2.0 track to compare with the laserdisc's soundtrack, there is no comparison. A Dolby 5.1 track though, especially one encoded at 448 khz, can ace the laser's audio only in separation detail. In some cases, the effect can be a dead heat; an example of this is the audio for the Star Wars trilogy DVDs versus the original version lasers... the DVDs have amazing separations, but lack the body and presence that the lasers have.
In fact, because the Dolby Surround process that is how the digital tracks of how a laserdisc had tended to be encoded is very similar to the Dolby Stereo system that was employed in theaters, often they are more representative of what a film is supposed to sound like than the 5.1 track on a DVD, which may not take into account the fact that surround material encoded into the front channels should be send to the rear. This is because the rear channels in Dolby Stereo and Surround were matrixed from the two stereo channels by encoding them out-of-phase. The center channel was derived from the common information from the left and right channels. Those sound effects should be isolated and worked into a discrete 5.1 track, but this is not usually what happens. That is why the Dolby 2.0 track on the U2 Rattle and Hum DVD (an example that easily springs to mind, but there are plenty of others, such as La Femme Nikita) is more enveloping than the 5.1 track. The former is closer to what the intended sound of the mix was.
I am in the process of reclaiming several of the lasers I had sort of bequeathed to Raz (I'm so glad I didn't sell them off now!) in order to be able to hear the throatier power of the sound. In some cases, despite the obvious improvements that the DVD may manifest in terms of picture quality, the presentation I prefer might very well be the laserdisc because of the strength and envelopment.
An aside... lasers could also support a Dolby 5.1 track as well (the home delivery format was originally developed for lasers, and premiered with A Clear and Present Danger), which my Pioneer D-704 supports. I have found that the discs with a Dolby track have tended, for the most part, to de-emphasize surround activity on the digital tracks to make the Dolby track sound better in comparison.
Ah, my sweet, you've still got it...
Stereo Review's contemporary report on my first electronic love can be found to begin here, continue here and conclude here.