Hackford’s “Ray” Hacked to Bits by Projector, Sound System, and Self

I’m posting my thoughts on Ray right now, before it leaves my memory. I will be honest; Taylor Hackford is a cool guy. He knows what he’s doing and he’s a good director. But I just saw Ray at the Beverly Center (avoid this theater—more on that later) and it blew, big time.

Joined by intrepid if slightly lackadaisical cinematography duo Cindy F. and Chuck D., we proceeded into the theater at the very top of the Beverly Center complex. It is large and seems underutilized, but it was a Wednesday night, so I’ll give them some slack. And slack it was, the sound system rates a D- on Phil’s Phonic Quality Rating System (PQRS) and the projector had some major registration issues. The film jumped and jittered vertically (no, that’s not a dance move) which made me feel as if I were starting to go blind. Perhaps the creators intended it this way, to make it a more visceral experience and help us identify with Jamie Foxx? (Who, by the way, was brilliant in this film and its saving grace.) I’m afraid not. All it did was give me a headache and made me want to run out of the theater and complain to management. As a matter of fact, a half hour after the movie should have ended, Cindy did just that, but alas, alack, to no avail.

As for the dramatic structure of the film, it needed work. I can understand the tremendous difficulty of making a picture like this work emotionally, and some concessions must be made for the sheer technical prowess of getting so much playback to work beautifully, but I draw the line when it negatively impacts the story. The story started with an early uphill build, peaked, slowly started downhill, then stayed flat until some unfortunately contrived titles towards what I can only assume was the denouement. I seem to recall Taylor saying something about having trouble cutting the film down from its tremendous length when he visited Kagan’s directing class last year, but apparently he needed to make some more drastic decisions, instead settling on this compromise. The editing style was also unimpressive and felt superficial and unnecessarily Hollywood at times.

Jamie Foxx did an outstanding job as Ray Charles Robinson and I hope he wins the Academy Award for his tremendous efforts and personal sacrifice. Ray’s mother Aretha, played by Sharon Warren, also did a fantabulastic job (that’s Phil-speak for great). So do I recommend this film—yes, I am glad I saw it. I just hope you saw it in a better theater than I did. Rent, but don’t buy. Although I can imagine the soundtrack album will sell well.

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Author: PhilRW

software engineer, pianist, polymath

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