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Saturday, December 13, 2008

My 2 Cents On Cadillac Records; A Breakdown....

Saw I saw Cadillac Records, and maybe the same person hypnotized me as Sergio, but I really enjoyed it....even more shock inducing is that Beyonce did not annoy me! (and y'all KNOW how I feel about Bey).

But in all seriousness, I was grabbed by this film. One thing I honestly believe about watching movies, and I've said this before, is that how one feels about a film greatly comes from their experiences and perspectives in life. In other words, I may love a film, and you may hate it, or think it's boring because we come from different perspectives and are probably not paying attention to the same themes or images as each other. This movie is not perfect, it could have gone much deeper into the characters and their lives, but it is completely attention grabbing all the same.

Some movies are so universal, that no matter what your walk of life is, you will get something out of it. I believe that Cadillac Records has a universality for the Black community for a variety of reasons.

It shows the excitement of being in a time and place in music when there was an explosion of creativity for Black artists. It came from nowhere, and no one even knew what to call it (eventually rock and roll). It reflects that no matter how we are oppressed as a race, our creativity is so huge, so spiritual and natural, it bubbles up even larger when we are held down the most.

These men and women were made up of the same stock our near ancestors were; sharecroppers, garbage men, the lowest of blue collar laborers. How many relatives and folks do/did you know that can play the hayell out of an instrument or sing their azz off? If you are like me, more than a few. The only difference between those who kept toiling and those that sprang out of oblivion with their talent, like raw country folks Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Little Walter is that God (or whatever you believe in) put his hand on them to make it.

There are those of us who like to feel they are so very bougie and important, or don't want to acknowledge their roots, or act like they were born in Buckingham Palace. The truth is, none of us are really more than 2 or 3 generations away from those who built the foundation of this country and it's music; raw, struggling, mostly uneducated, basic, blue collared folks who did what they had to to survive, and did what came most naturally to get relief from extreme hardships--two being singing and playing music. Cadillac Records shows all of that that rawness in it's glory; the fights, the love, the violence, the racism, the pride, the hard work and sacrifices.

Here is a blow by blow on the main actors/characters in the film:

Jeffrey Wright/Muddy Waters: I have a huge amount of respect for Jeffrey, but as I've said on this blog, a lot of times I find him over mannered and unnatural, like he is going by the method acting playbook verbatim. In this movie, it is the most interesting and exciting I've ever found him, and I was fascinated by the fact that the bigger his fame became, the more complicated his hair became. From rough country greased down, to marcelled waves, to carefully manicured pompadour--Jeffrey's hair was a distinct parallel to Muddy Waters' success. Jeffrey has huge presence in this movie.

Columbus Short/Little Walter: Amazing. It took me a while to even know it was him, as he was barely recognizable with the "conk" and mustache, looking like your Uncle Eddie from back in the day. His part was small, but his portrayal as a very troubled, addicted but talented harmonica player was off the hinges, right down to his southern accent and charm.

Eamonn Walker/Howlin' Wolf: People are making big noises over his Meh. In all honesty, his part was a side piece, and not really imperative. He gave a few intense stares to stress out Muddy, but I didn't see much beyond that.

Mos Def/Chuck Berry: Another small part, but he kilt it whenever he showed up. Damn that dude is talented--I think he can do practically anything. In the film Chuck is portrayed as an activist against racism of sorts (who knew?). He apparently had no vices such as smoking, drinking, etc., except for the lone one of women. And what a freakin' whopper that one was...

Gabrielle Union/Muddy's wife: Sorry forgot her name in the film. Which is probably a testament to her performance. Don't get me wrong; I felt that she actually did an great job the first part of the film. But whenever it got too focused on her, there she was with her same ol' disingenuous performance. As long as she was part of someone else's central scene she did fine. As a total sidenote, I was very startled to see how much she looks like a little chipmunk with no make-up on. I guess that's why she always keeps it glamorous.

Adrian Brody/Dude That Owned Chess Reords: Token. I know Adrian can bring it, but it this movie he seems resigned to being in the background, tho he is a central character as the owner of Chess Records. It's OK, time.

Beyonce Knowles/Etta James: Yes. Hmmm. Let me say that I feel she was right for the part, except for the weight thing. I'll tell you why...Etta said that she felt Bey was "too bougie" to play the part, but let's be honest, those of us that are even mildly observant know that Beyonce and the Knowles clan are hella ghetto. Yes, ghetto. It's just her image that is "bougie" and the fact that Mama Knowles revels in the fact that she is "creole" instead of reading the real history and what it means.

Beyonce's inherent roughness is what makes this part work for her; her unrefined speech, her willingness to be led by men like Etta. Even her singing doesn't bother me, as I believe the very talented director, Darnell Martin, kept a very keen eye on Bey and her scenes to make sure she didn't swallow the movie. As a matter of fact, she wasn't even in the whole first half of it, which was one of it's saving graces, for sure.

So there you have it. Darnell Martin is a thoughtful director, I loved her outing "I Like It Like That", and even tho she has made a commercial movie, those indie sensibilities are still peeking through. Don't be fooled by the low box office numbers; it only opened in 700 theatres, which is nothing. I purposely didn't read any reviews before writing this so I could make up my own mind free and clear...Ms. Invisible says check it out.


charcoalink said...

IW, Can I convert you to start stanning for Bee like me?

LOL, I'm joking.

I don't think CR is getting a UK release so I don't know what the film is like but inresponse to you talking about Columbus Short - I really think his career could take off a lot. He was in that Aaron Sorkin drama thing that got cancelled but he was really fab in that.

And he is sexilicious too - and we all know that doesn't hurt.

And Mos Def too wow -- it's odd, I see him as more of an actor now that a rap star [which is a good thing]. He's fine too.

Also, a question about Jeffrey Wright, did you think he was over mannered in Basquiat or any other films he did? Love to hear your thoughts on that.

Okay, I've written enough. Off to watch Beyonce on the X Factor lol.

clnmike said...

I think I'll wait till the DVD comes out, seen to many "music" movies of late.

Sergio said...

You see what did I say? This is one terrific film. In the first 20 minutes I could tell this was going to be something special and that Martin was definitely a director with some real talent. I still think Eamonn Walker was really good as Howlin' Wolf but theat's a minor point.

And I know studio has been sending out DVD screeners of the film to Academy members which means they feel that they have some realistic chances for some Oscar nominations.

Also thanks for reminding me about that quote Etta James made about Beyonce that she was too "bougie" to play her. I remember cracking up when I first heard that. James should have known of all people that Bey is about as ghetto (or rather as country) as they come

madame z said...

IW, thanks for your review, but unless they open it up to more theaters, I won't be watching it until the dvd release.

Days like These! said...

I'll have to check it out. GREAT review!

Kellybelle said...

I agree this movie was enlightening. It made me go research the characters. Having done that, I think the rivalry between Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf would have made a much more interesting film. (I LOVED Eamonn--I saw some old footage of Howlin' and Eamonn nailed him.)

I saw CR a second time after having seen 'Milk.' Gus Van Sant's movie made Cadillac Records look like an After School Special. I know Black films don't get big budgets, but I don't think that's it. I got distracted in Cadillac by all the stars:"Here comes Beyonce in a blonde wig--oh, look, Gabrielle Union, wait, is that Mos Def?" In Milk, I forgot about the actors and cared about the people. I think that's where Cadillac Records comes up short.

Still I'm happy to have seen it onthe screen.


SolShine7 said...

You kinda make me want to see this film. But there are a bunch of indies and some Oscar buzz films that I want to see first.

Invisible Woman said...

@charcoal ink: i see mos more as an actor now too--i agree that sort is long on the sexy, haha!

will never, ever, stan for bey (but u already know that) but at least i said one nice thing about her :-)

@clnmike: i think that this is one of the better's worthy of your time

@sergio: i had to see it to believe it! I guess I should say "country" as oppossed to "ghetto" lol

@madame z: i honestly think it's worth seeing at a matinee before dvd release...

Invisible Woman said...

@days like these: hi there :-) thanks for the compliment...i do believe you'll enjoy the energy of the movie.

@kellybelle: twice huh? good for you! :-) Beyonce wasn't exactly Oscar worthy, but she wasn't nearly as bad as i thought she'd be. boring is better than horrible.

@solshine: i know what you mean, but if you are in the mood for Black Cinema, this would be it.

madame z said...

I've read about issues with the narrative and/or direction of this film. I wonder if there was a 'rush' put on it, so that it could make Oscar season???

It's still not showing in my neck of the woods. I read also, that it's fallen out of the top ten, having only grossed, 5.9 million or something? I saw a promo highlighting Beyonce's awesomeness (insert sarcasm) in her role with the caption and voiceover stating that her performance is OSCAR-worthy. I wonder why Eamon and Columbus haven't received those same 'promos' because I've read nothing but how awesome they were in their respective roles.

Ms☆Go (dcmoviegirl) said...

"...even more shock inducing is that Beyonce did not annoy me! (and y'all KNOW how I feel about Bey)."


O_o whuuut?

I'll believe it when I see it...For free, on TV.