The Foxx And The Oscars

Dubby Bhagat


Thank god this is nearly over — the whole reporting from the frontline number that I have been doing for the last few weeks, with Bal Gopal and Rajendra from Jenish and Suwal and

Uttam rushing me the very latest in Oscars contenders. In a little while we will know who won what at the 77th Oscars Awards Ceremony.

‘Ray’ came to me as a disc without a cover from Jenish in Pulchowk so I could rush a review about the legendary music icon Ray Charles into print. It was so good and the music and the acting and the sets so wonderful and Jamie Foxx so deserving of the Best Actor Oscar that I watched the movie several times and nearly did not write what follows. Ray, is so hypnotic it has nominations for Costume Design, Directing, Editing, Best Picture and Sound Mixing. A total of six Oscar nods. Jamie Foxx was a pianist before he was an actor and when he was cast as Ray Charles he worked with the musician he was portraying for months. Says Foxx “We got a chance to sing the blues with each other, and I hit the wrong note, and he said, why the hell would you do that? And I said, I don’t know ‘Ray’. And he said, no, tell me, because the notes are right underneath your fingers, and all you gotta do is take time out to find the right note. That’s what life is, we all got notes underneath our fingers and we gotta take time to find the right notes to come up with our own music. You gotta do it”. The notes underneath Ray Charles fingers were not always beautiful. The movie ‘Ray’ is about the painful loss of a brother and his eyesight, about drug addiction, about infidelity and about being black in the 50’s and 60’s, about segregation. It’s a movie about the loss of friends to money and about being ruthless in show business.

The movie follows the progress of Ray Charles’ life interspersed with flashbacks, flashforwards and flashinwards. There are moments of joy, moments where history was made and surreal moments when we are taken into the mind and the times of Ray Charles. Like Charles almost accidentally supporting desegregation. Like Ray Charles never being allowed to think of himself as a cripple by his mother. Like his guilt about his brother’s drowning. Like the stories behind some of his greatest hits. “Hit The Road Jack” was written while he fought with his girlfriend Margie Hendricks brilliantly played by Regina King.

Like the fact that his wife Della, ably acted by Kerry Washington knew that the great love in his life was not his family or his many women or even the clutches of his heroin addiction; only music mattered. Like Ray Charles slapping convention in the face by adapting religious gospel songs to popular music. Like sticking on in America while his best friend Quincy Jones found creative peace in Paris.

Foxx learnt to play blind by wearing prosthesis for the 61 day shoot, he learnt to play ruthless, cajoling, frightened and every other emotion you see on the screen. The only way you made out that Foxx is acting or, as he prefers it, “channeling”, is if you happened to have seen Collateral. Jamie was a taxi driver and foil to Tom Cruise’s hitman — he is up for Best Supporting Actor for that role, and he couldn’t be more different than he is in Ray, if he tried. For anyone over 30, Ray Charles towered over the music scene going from R and B to pop to folk music in a lifetime of great and unforgettable achievement. In the movie you tear over as his famous Georgia On My Mind becomes immortal. But for me the song that sums up Ray Charles life is Unchain My Heart.

Listen to the word carefully because it’s a song about the freedom of expression and the right to live life on one’s own terms. Something that will apply to that great interpreter of Ray Charles’s life, Jamie Foxx. An Oscarwinner?