Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
The last time Jamie Foxx offered to rock our world, it was via an eerie, cross-dressing come-hither as mannish Wanda on In Living Color. Reject his more recent invitation only if, for inexplicable reasons, you can’t stand Ray Charles or his music.
Foxx’s 2004 Oscar-winning inhabitance of Charles represented actorly transformation that rocketed beyond weight gain, gender switching or ugly makeup. Charles’ familiar stagger, speech, sensibility, shakiness and, most of all, smile, come to life in an outstanding film that would’ve been powerful even if it hadn’t been posthumous.
Charles approved of the finished product before his 2004 death, and not because it’s a glossed-over greatest-hits treatment of his life.
As alive as Ray is with the prospect and power of Charles’ raw musical talent, it’s countered by the inappropriateness of extramarital affairs and concerns for a person for whom self-destruction through heroin abuse seemed as passively easy as taking a breath.
Intelligence and idiocy clashed within this man, and director / co-writer Taylor Hackford is unafraid to unnerve. Still, there are inspiring movie-music moments (such as the birth of “What’d I Say”) and Foxx isn’t the only star in the spotlight: Sharon Warren’s work as Charles’ mother, Aretha, is so intensely focused that it’s unbelievable she has no previous credits.
Foxx became one of only three black actors to win a Best Actor Oscar, for a performance that uncovered a bevy of fascinating new nuances to share about someone we all knew — whether it was from concerts or Diet Pepsi commercials.