November 5 - 11, 2004 • Vol. 24 - No. 45

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Ray: His Life Gave the World a “Ray”
of Light that will Live on Forever

by The Blonde and The Maven
Film Columnists

Ray, directed by Taylor Hackford, is a musical biographical drama about the life of American music and civil rights icon and Ray Charles (Robinson). The genius of soul, Ray Charles, is played by the brilliant Jamie Foxx (Collateral and Ali). Ray paved the original and creative way for all artists of his time and for all artists to come.

Born in the thirties, in a poor town in Georgia, Ray started his life with very humble beginnings. After witnessing his younger brother's accidental death (drowning in a tub of boiling wash water), he went blind due to glaucoma at the tender age of seven. His strong-willed, tough, independent mother, portrayed by Sharon Warren (film debut), insisted he make his own way in the world and taught him to depend on his other senses. She was his rock, even though she at times seemed cold and never showed Ray even the slightest bit of affection and tenderness. Aretha truly loved him, but knew that she had to keep him tough so that he could survive.

Ray found his calling and his musical brilliance behind the piano keyboard. He was the first artist who dared to combine gospel, country, jazz and orchestral influences with his own unique style. After touring the southern musical circuit, a star was born. His worldwide fame earned him 12 Grammys, among countless other honors. He became a guiding voice who fought for civil rights, against racism and segregation. Ray faced and overcame drug addictions as well as his 20-year addiction to heroin. His wife Della Bea, portrayed by Kerry Washington, (The Human Stain and Save the Last Dance), had to endure not only Ray's horrendous addictions to drugs but also addiction to woman.

The film takes you from Ray’s childhood up until his recent death in June, due to liver disease. You will hear many of Ray Charles' classic hits such as “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “Hallelujah,” “Doin' the Mess Around,” and, of course, “Georgia.” The film shows how young Ray met the young Quincy Jones. The story goes on to tell of his many affairs, including one with the elegant Margie Hendricks, played by Regina King (Legally Blonde 2), who was one of his three back-up singers.

Ray is a portrait and a tribute to a legendary man, who overcame gigantic obstacles of blindness, addiction, prejudice, the civil-rights movement, and infidelities, to achieve the American Dream. Brother Ray Charles is a light and a towering figure of modern-day culture, music and history. Ray is a film about an American man who can teach us all about the hardships and triumphs of life.

The Blonde:  This film was like, well it was like…Ya know what, forget it! This film was like no other film! It stands alone! Wow, Jamie Foxx will take your breath away with his stunning performance. For Jamie, this is his role of a lifetime. OSCAR, OSCAR, AND OSCAR! REMEMBER YOU HEARD IT HERE, MOVIEGOERS! From recreating Charles' mannerisms to his very soul, he mimics the man so RIGHT-ON, down to the physical looks that he almost seems to be channeling the legend. Foxx is a skilled pianist himself. As for the singing aspect of the film, Foxx only lip-syncs the vocals. (Ya know, like Simpson did on “Saturday Night Live”!) Ray would have been proud of Foxx’s perfectly executed portrayal.

The Maven: NO COMMENT  to you, Blonde…

The Blonde:  I thought when Foxx was talking about the election that he…

The Maven:  Readers, this is a cheap trick by the Blonde. There was no election talk in the movie or in the theater for that matter.  NO COMMENT!

The Blonde: ARE YOU MAD AT ME?   

The Maven: YES, actually I am!   

The Blonde:  What for?

The Maven: You just had to talk politics, so you wrote your own article (“Clinton Pours his Heart out for Kerry”) and cheated on me AND with someone I adore. You KNOW how much I think of President Bill Clinton!

The Blonde: You were busy at a Kerry rally.
The Maven: NOT THAT BUSY! So was he as wonderful in person?

The Blonde: TO DIE FOR!  Like the best chocolate candy! I AM TOTALLY WITH MONICA LEWINSKY ON THIS ONE! He is such a charmer!

The Maven: You haven't stopped talking about Kerry and NOW it's Bill Clinton!

The Blonde: That's only because you wouldn't let me talk about Kerry! Moving right along, it was a shame that Ray Charles never got to see the film before died.  

The Maven: How could he see it, he was blind! You ARE so blonde!  But just to let you know, he did get to hear the film in its entirety before his death.

The Blonde: Oh, that does make me happy! I thought the way Ray's childhood was told, through the use of flashbacks, was very touching and effective. It brought so much compassion to all the characters involved. It was deeply sad how he blamed himself his entire life for his brother's death. That is too much guilt for any kid to live with, which explains why he got involved in drugs in the first place to hide his pain. I thought that Martin Luther King’s daughter did a terrific acting job in this film as Ray's girlfriend.  

The Maven: That wasn't Martin Luther King's daughter! That was Regina King, the famous actress! Remember her in Jerry Maguire? There are many kudos I want to extend to this film. First and foremost, I applaud the director Taylor Hackford for spending fifteen years of his life to bring this fabulous story to us. He imbued this biopic with a sense of Ray as an inspiring man of artistic talent that transcended racial, physical and social barriers. He didn't whitewash Ray's life at all. Ray's addiction to heroin and his womanizing behavior was shown with unflinching honesty.

The Blonde: This was a film I would have expected Spike Jones to have directed. However, this film was directed, cast, paced, written and edited incredibly. I haven't seen a movie in a very long time that all the characters in the film deserved an Oscar. In addition, we all knew how talented Ray Charles was, but this film brought out just how brilliant, creative, and ahead of his time he actually was. Ray was the first artist in history to request or get to keep control of his recording masters. He got a better deal than Sinatra. He had chutzpah.

The Maven:  I must stand and applaud Jamie Foxx. His portrayal of Charles was so wonderful I forgot that it wasn't Ray up on the screen. Jamie dropped from 190 pounds to 157 pounds to better fit the role. He also learned Braille and jazz and blues style piano playing. That was ALL Jamie in the movie playing those keys. Jamie actually used prosthetics on his eyes to make the physicality of the role more convincing.

The Blonde: I thought he was so great that no other actor even has a shot for the Oscar this year. This film takes your emotions on a roller-coaster ride. I found it most difficult to watch the scenes of his brother dying, when he became addicted to drugs and when he kicked the drugs cold turkey. Ray the film was a very powerfully moving and exquisite triumphant display of acting. By the way, Maven, this movie raises the question, do all men cheat?

The Maven: Do you really think it is cheating if the wife knows and looks the other way?

The Blonde: Don't change the question!

The Maven:  Well, one man’s cheat is another man’s excess…

The Blonde: So the answer to my question is YES!....???  Well I loved the strength and courage of his wife and mother. They were amazing women.

The Maven: I never really appreciated what it took for Ray to create his music. He had such a sweet, strong and tender soul. It's hard to believe that no studio wanted to make this movie, so Hackford made it as an independent film. Then Universal picked it up for distribution. I bet they won't regret it! Not only do I recommend Ray, but I think only a fool would avoid this movie. I rate an A+.

The Blonde:  Ray Charles lived every single word of his music. He said, “If I feel the music, then its real.” Every unique musical idea he had became legendary not to mention a smash! His music, courage, inspiration, politics and life were a gift to this world, and this film makes you realize that. I rate the film Ray an A+ as well and recommend it to EVERYONE. For your munchies, just get some plain popcorn and soda because you'll be too enthralled with this movie to eat anything else. RUN to see this one, folks!

Shrek 2: Free Screening This Month
at Weston Regional Park

This month’s Maroone Moonlight Movies screening will take place at 7pm on Saturday, November 20th with a free screening of the 2004 Dreamworks computer-animated sequel, Shrek 2. This film will be presented free of charge at Weston Regional Park, 20200 Saddle Club Road, Weston.

Released earlier this year, Shrek 2 runs for 93 minutes and—like its Academy Award-winning predecessor Shrek—stars the delightful voice-overs of Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona). The film also includes the voices of Julie Andrews and John Cleese as Fiona’s parents, Rupert Everett as the anything-but-charming Prince Charming and Antonio Banderas as Puss-in-Boots.

Movie-goers taking advantage of this cost-free entertainment are encouraged to bring picnic fare, lawn chairs and blankets to make the most of the series’ moonlit, fresh-air venue. In addition to providing valuable information about the services they provide, local charities will be on-hand selling affordable refreshments.

Upcoming films include: Santa Clause 2 (December 11), Ice Age (January 8), Snow Dogs (February 5), Agent Cody Banks (March 5) and Spy Kids 2 (April 2).

Presented by Sun-Sentinel, the Maroone Moonlight Movies series—a partnership between Maroone, an AutoNation company, and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival—is held on the third Saturday of every month; all movies are free.

For more information, contact the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival offices at 954-760-9898.

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