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November 01, 2004 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-01

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November 1, 2004
arts. michigandaily.com



. . ................ . .
. . . ...... . ....

Courtesy of Universal
"No matter what happens, I'll always be the guy from 'Booty Call.'"
Foxx views 'Ray' as
chance to break out

Hey, it's the guy from the Pepsi commercials.


By Andy Kula
Daily Arts Writer

Four months after his untimely death from liver
failure, the life of legendary musician Ray Charles
is finally chronicled the silver screen in the form
of the new film, "Ray." Focusing on his rise to

stardom in the '50s and '60s,
the film highlights the profes-
sional triumphs and personal
tragedies that defined Charles
as a performer.
The film opens with Jamie
Foxx playing a young, strug-
gling Charles as he crosses

At Showcase
and Quality 16

While several scenes of the star battling per-
sonal demons border on cliche, the film has many
redeeming values. First and foremost, Jamie Foxx
is astounding. Throughout the film, it is difficult
to remember that the man on screen is not actu-
ally Charles, but the actor who played a character
named Bunz in "Booty Call."
The supporting cast also works nicely to rec-
reate the people who influenced Charles's life.
Regina King ("Jerry McGuire") delivers an
impressive performance as Charles's back-up
singer and mistress, Margie Hendricks.
Through the solid directing of Taylor Hackford,
the performance scenes take on a life of their
own. Clever sound work splices actual recordings
into scenes with Jamie Foxx's voice and other
dialogue. A particularly interesting touch comes
from the explanations of different songs' origins.
"What'd I Say" is born as an improvisation in a
strong concert scene, and "Hit the Road, Jack"
develops out of a bitter lovers' quarrel.
Unfortunately, some scenes seem extraneous
and forced. Repeated flashbacks to Charles's

childhood occur as he uses more and more heroin
throughout the film. Though a funeral scene is
very powerful, the device of flashbacks is sloppi-
ly administered and a bit too simplistic. Charles's
problems seem to be conveniently derived from
the pain caused by his brother's death and sepa-
ration from his mother. That kind of formulaic
style does injustice to Charles and the psycho-
logical factors that put that mysterious smile on
his face.
At one point, Charles decides not to play a con-
cert to a segregated crowd in '60s Georgia. The
scene is not particularly well-emphasized, and
seems to be hastily added out of necessity, yet
this resolution is later described as "the proudest
moment" of Charles's life. A bit more consider-
ation would have helped here. If racial injustice
had been stressed more heavily, it may not have
seemed like such a leap.
Ultimately, the film benefits from its subtle wit,
its fantastic music and its adequate storytelling.
If nothing else, it is worth the ticket price to see
Foxx churn out a mind-blowing performance.

By Zac Peskowitz
Daily Film Editor
Jamie Foxx, the Texas native who first
came to fame in the early '90s with his
performances on "in Living Color," has
gone on to give acclaimed performances
in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday"
and Michael Mann's "Ali" and "Collater-
al." In his most impressive performance
to date, Foxx gives a stunning portrayal of
Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford's "Ray."
Between his ferocious doodling, constant
wisecracks and dead-on impersonations,
Foxx discussed the challenge of perfect-
ing Ray Charles, the evolution of his act-
ing career and a forthcoming single with
rapper Kanye West.
Wasting no time, Foxx was glad to
hear that "Ray" was well received by the
audience at a press screening the previ-
ous evening. "That's great. How great is
that for Ray Charles? He was alive and
he got a chance to view the movie before
he passed. He worked with Taylor Hack-
ford for 15 years to get this story told and
I'm glad they waited on me to get my life
together and get a chance to do the film."
Foxx's musical training - he began
playing the piano at age three and attended
music school in San Diego - was essen-
tial in preparing for the role. Charles and
I "sat down on dual pianos. We started
playing Thelonious Monk. 'Now why
the hell would you do that? Why would
you do that? The note is right underneath
your fingers."'
Foxx's uncanny ability to channel
Charles's mannerisms stands out as the

most impressive aspect of "Ray," and the
actor had a distinctive method for getting
the character down pat. "I filmed him
while he was just doing regular things:
how he ordered his food, how he talked
to his kids, how he did his business. So
in the movie you're watching the nuance
of him as opposed to the impersonation
because you want to channel him in a
Throughout the filming Foxx had pros-
thetics placed on his eyes. "They were
glued shut for 14 hours a day. I hyper-
ventilated for the first month because you
feel trapped. It's like someone holding
your head under water and, of course,
when you feel like you're running out of
air you're going to panic' a little bit. And
once you get past the panic you started to
enjoy the darkness of it."
While Foxx is happy to be focusing
on his film career he still jumps at the
chance to dabble in music with his friend,
rapper/producer Kanye West. "I've got a
song that I'm going to release pretty soon
called 'You've Still Got It' It's about a
young couple. The girl says, 'Do I look
fat to you?' She is fat, but she's having a
baby. She goes in the bathroom crying."
Breaking into a pitch-perfect falsetto,
Foxx gently sings "I'm still in love with
your figure / I'm still amazed by your
smile / Girl, I'm so proud you're my lady,
havin' my baby and you're still drivin' me
crazy, and girl you still got it / You're my
world ..." Foxx continues "so we'll roll
it up a little bit, combine it with hip-hop.
Get Kanye West on that and we'll change
the game a little bit."

the country in search of musical opportunities.
The next two-and-a-half hours follows Charles
as he tours on the road, attains musical celebrity,
builds a family, engages in extramarital affairs
and develops a heroin addiction that threatens to
destroy his life.

Liz Janes delivers
asexual album with
newest release 'Poison'

By Michael Martin
Daily Arts Writer
Rock'n'roll is a boy's game.
Although female musicians exist,
there is little crossover, inter-gender
appeal. This isn't because rock'n'roll
is inherently sex-
ist; rather, most
men simply can't Liz Janes
relate to the con- Poison & Snakes
cepts preached Asthmatic Kitty
by mainstream
female artists
- like Sarah MacLachlan - in the
same way that most females have
little in common with Robert Plant.
Sufjan Stevens protdge Liz Janes has
created an album that manages to
sound musically asexual while still
expressing femininity through its
Many of the album's tracks are con-
cerned with being in and out of love.
Songs like "Wonderkiller" express
broken hope after a failed relation-

ship, while others, like the title track,
praise -found love. Like labelmate and
sometimes cohort Stevens, many of
her lyrics also have religious under-
tones. Poison & Snakes contains
several affirmations of faith, such
as "His promise is not dependent on
my belief / but on His word only."
Janes' lyrics are inoffensive, taking
on a merely average character, but
are admirable in how well they stick
to themes. The song "Ocean" is about
just that and nothing more - five and
a half minutes of cliched water meta-
phors ("Will the current take me on
/ to bottom or to shore?"). Similarly,
"Deep Sea Diver" does an adequate
job of depicting its main character,
but suffers from the G.I. Joe action
figure image conjured by its title.
The music on the album is, like
the lyrics, typically bland. "Won-
derkiller" and "Go Between" make
use of vibraphones, lending a kitschy
1950s feel. Most others feature gen-
tly strummed acoustic guitars, while,
in another Sufjan Stevens similar-
ity, banjos appear on several tracks.

~ y
When the soft instrumentation occa-
sionally reaches a breaking point, the
transition between Janes's quiet and
loud dynamics is startling. Heavily
distorted electric guitars play in both
speakers while calculated cymbal
use underscores the few attempts at
"rocking." The problem, however, is
that there are only "soft," "soft/hard"
and "soft with vibraphone" songs on
the album, and they are all played
at slow tempos. The lack of variety
among the 10 tracks makes it hard to
actively listen to the album in one sit-
Poison & Snakes does little to erase
the gender lines in rock music today.
The lack of innovation in its music
and lyrics results in an album that is
unremarkable, but inoffensive; there
is little in Janes's work that is notice-
ably (or notably) bad, but, unfortu-
nately, little deserving of praise.

As Americans continue to die in
combat the question comes up of
how to memorialize the dead and
the battlegrounds they fought on.

By Rachel Berry
Daily Arts Writer

The University's
Museum of Art is
housed in Alumni
Memorial Hall, a
facility built to
the 1,500 alumni
who died in the
Civil War.
In light of the
current engage-
ment in Iraq,
Sept. 11 and
the Museum's
history, Sean
Ulmer, curator
of Modern and

Changing landscapes on display
with Civil War photographs

of the Civil
War and the
Today through
At the University of
Michigan Museum of Art

In this exhibit Huddleston pairs
historical images of the conflict
with his own color-photographed
modern counterparts. Ulmer notes
Huddleston's ability to place "a per-
sonal face on war."
The museum procured a piece
from Huddleston to show Ann
Arbor's involvement in the Civil
War. Huddleston paired an image
of Ann Arborite John Noll with one
of the battlefields that he fought on
at Wilderness, Va. This site remains
a place of death, as a modern-day
farmer sprays pesticide in the field
in Huddleston's contemporary
photograph. This acquisition will
remain in the museum when the
other 42 images travel.
Huddleston offers a comprehen-
sive look at the conflict. He covers
all geographical regions, and sol-
diers are listed as "American," not
as "Union" or "Confederate." This
collection includes some of his sig-
nature photographs that appear in
his book. A particularly poignant
pairing shows a Kmart where a
bomb shelter once stood. Another
pairing places dead from the battle
of Gettysburg with a football field

complete with equipment. Ulmer
says this exhibit is meant to make
visitors question "how we treat our
charged sites."
Visitors should start at the panel
with the explanation of the exhibit
and the new acquisition. After the
Noll acquisition, the images are
hung chronologically so that the
viewer can see how the war unfold-
ed. While it is nice to gain perspec-
tive on the chronology of the war,
this format doesn't highlight the
key images particularly well:
Half of the exhibit resides in
prime viewing space, but the sec-
ond half, due to space constraints,
is tucked away in the lower level of
the museum in the Works on Paper
The exhibit, while interesting,
feels flat because all of the images
are mounted in the same size frame
and are hung side by side at the
same level. The images succeed in
drawing visitors in, but the captions
do not offer sufficient detail that
visitors craze. Visitors will leave
the exhibit wanting more informa-
tion on the images and the experi-
ence of the Civil War.


Contemporary Art, jumped at the
opportunity to show John Hud-
dleston's project that photographs
contemporary sites touched by the
Civil War.


meet LFnDOn

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