Saturday, November 20, 2004

I'm behind on my film reviews, way behind.

Taylor Hackford's Ray is a simply great biopic. Except for one brief moment, you simply don't realize that Jamie Foxx is playing Ray Charles. He is Ray Charles, period. This film plays much more like a documentary (albeit one ever-so-slightly sensationalist) than a biopic. Hackford's direction isn't perfect; it's a bit heavy-handed at moments, but is largely effective. The performances, however, make the film. Kerry Washington smolders as Ray's wife, and Regina King, as a Raelette Ray has an affair with (which ends badly), continues to evolve as a dramatic actress (remember her major start, in a supporting role on 227?). But here's the thing: for all of the glowing reviews, for all of hype Foxx has received, you will still be stunned by the power and glory of his performance. That in and of itself makes Ray a must-see. A-

Sideways is a week in the life of two guys travelling through California wine country, one of whom will be married at the end of the week. Director and cowriter Alexander Payne just goes from strength to strength - I didn't think he could top About Schmidt, but he clearly has, in not just the script, but the tone and feel of the film. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church shine in the lead roles, but the film's true revelation is Virginia Madsen, heretofore known largely for starring in b-movie after b-movie. As a divorced waitress, she's electrifying, giving a performance of quiet intensity. It's difficult to explain in words what makes Sideways so sterling, in large part I think because this is the whole package. Sideways is 2004's best film by far, touching, witty, biting, and heartbreaking. A+

Pixar has made great films before, as everyone knows, Toy Story and Finding Nemo foremost among them. But until now, they'd never made a film about humans. In The Incredibles, however, they've done more than they ever have previously, in terms of story. I was reminded of classic Hollywood while watching Incredibles, in that it's got everything: humor, romance, action. And in direct contrast to most recent animated films, it's refreshingly not larded down with popcult references. Brad Bird should have assured himself of the Best Animated Feature Oscar with this achievement. A

Still on my to-see list: Fade to Black, Birth, Tarnation, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and Kinsey.

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