Author: Best Actor - Jamie Foxx (2004)
Ray Charles went blind at the age of seven. Inspired by his mother who insisted he make his own way, he found his calling at the keyboard.
Jamie Foxx’s uncannily accurate performance isn’t the only good thing about Ray. Riding high on a wave of Oscar buzz, Foxx proved himself worthy of all the hype by portraying blind R&B legend Ray Charles in a warts-and-all performance that Charles approved shortly before his death in June 2004. Despite a few dramatic embellishments of actual incidents (such as the suggestion that the accidental drowning of Charles’s younger brother caused all the inner demons that Charles would battle into adulthood), the film does a remarkable job of summarizing Charles’s strengths as a musical innovator and his weaknesses as a philandering heroin addict who recorded some of his best songs while flying high as a kite. Foxx seems to be channeling Charles himself, and as he did with the life of Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, director Taylor Hackford gets most of the period details absolutely right as he chronicles Ray’s rise from “chitlin circuit” performer in the early ‘50s to his much-deserved elevation to legendary status as one of the all-time great musicians. Foxx expertly lip-syncs to Ray Charles’ classic recordings, but you could swear he’s the real deal in a film that honors Ray Charles without sanitizing his once-messy life. —Jeff Shannon