Ray

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     23 September     Birth of Ray Charles, 1930 On this day in 1930, Ray Charles was born. Six times married, the father of 12 children, Charles also found time to help create what is now known as soul music, a fusion of gospel, jazz and blues, a prime example being his song Georgia. Sighted at birth, Charles started losing his vision when he was five and was completely blind by the age of seven, thanks to glaucoma. Charles was playing in bars in his early teenage years, by the time he was 19 he was having his … Read more

Dirty Dancing

The lake scene from Dirty Dancing, with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     14 September     Patrick Swayze dies, 2009   On this day in 2009, Patrick Swayze shimmied off to the great dance studio in the sky. 1991’s “sexiest man alive” (according to People magazine) had been propelled to that position by 1987’s Dirty Dancing, a position he reinforced with the ridiculous 1989 bouncer movie Road House – in which he plays the sensitive PhD slumming it as the hired muscle in a one-horse town. Not forgetting 1990’s Ghost, in which his spirit threw beautiful clay pots with Demi Moore. Or Point Break, playing the Buddhist surfing bank robber. … Read more

Walk the Line

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     12 September     Johnny Cash dies, 2003   On this day in 2003, Johnny Cash died, aged 71. A star from the mid-50s, after discharge from the army, until his death, the baritone Cash was known as a country singer though unlike many a country act he was a Christian who aligned himself with the sinners rather than the saints. Dressing in black rather than the more ostenatious garb favoured by country compadres, he was also unusual for the way he publically acknowledged the breadth of his taste – he made an album with Bob Dylan in … Read more

Neil Young: Heart of Gold

Neil Young on stage in Jonathan Demme's Heart of Gold

    Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads film, Stop Making Sense, is one of the best concert documentaries ever made. Now he’s done the same favour for Neil Young, who was just recovering from a brain aneurysm when he delivered this two-part country set in Nashville. The title itself is something of a misnomer, or a hard sell (take your pick) since the first part of the concert is Young’s Prairie Wind album in its totality. It’s only in part two that Young gets the back catalogue out, mostly songs from Harvest, After the Gold Rush and Harvest Moon, his slight return to the acoustic-y banjo-y style of Harvest. As with Stop Making Sense … Read more

Elvis: That’s the Way It Is Special Edition

Elvis in rehearsal in That's the Way It Is

      Here’s Elvis trying on the cape, the batwings and the wide belts in Las Vegas in 1970. There must have been a lot of material in that original white outfit because it was certainly let out a lot as the Seventies progressed. But not here, this is Elvis at his sleekest, only two years after his famous 1968 comeback special, when he proved he was one of the few people in the world who could wear top-to-toe black leather and not look like a gimp. This “special edition” is a recut of the original film, there’s a lot more goofing about, more pre-show rehearsal with the band (watch James Burton … Read more

Song of Summer: Frederick Delius

Max Adrian as Frederick Delius in Song of Summer

  Any follower of British arts programmes on TV, from the South Bank Show backwards, will be aware of the bleating of Ken Russell and his ilk that no one really makes ’em like they did in the Sixties, when clever chaps freshly down from Oxbridge would be sent out with a curmudgeonly working-class crew and instructed to make films on anything that took their white-shirted fancy. Well, I have to report that Russell’s 1968 B/W film on Delius does back him up. Detailing the strange five-year relationship between Eric Fenby, the young amanuensis who helped blind dying syphilitic Frederick Delius complete some of his most noted works, it is very good indeed. Russell … Read more

Jazz On A Summer’s Day

Anita O'Day in Jazz on a Summer's Day

    Back when cats wore hats, stills photographer Bert Stern, fresh from his famous shoot with Marilyn Monroe in the buff, went off to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and made a film about Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Jack Teagarden, Gerry Mulligan, and even Chuck Berry, as they displayed their formidable talents and charismas for the moneyed and honeyed of Rhode Island. It is the only film Stern ever made and the result is a colourful impressionistic blur – the musicians are at their relaxed best, and the audience is no less entertaining, decked out in what looks now like the finest retro-chic hip, … Read more

Forty Shades of Blue

Dina Korzun in Forty Shades of Blue

    An oblique drama which appears to be about a retired Memphis music producer and ends up being more about his much younger Russian, possibly cash-up-front, wife. Rip Torn plays Alan, the legend, blustering egomaniac and serial boozer whom everyone appears to idolise, on the surface at least. The remarkable Dina Korzun is Laura, the Russian import whose eyes tells us she’s dealt with far worse than Alan, but even so she wishes he’d treat her with a bit more respect. The film does little more than observe them as they go about their muted life… until Alan’s son, Michael (Darren Burrows) turns up to throw a metaphorical hand grenade into the … Read more

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Dave Chappelle and invitees

    Hot off Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Michel Gondry takes an abrupt left turn with a documentary about US comedian Dave Chappelle hosting a block party in Brooklyn, where the likes of Kanye West, the Fugees, Jill Scott, Mos Def and Erykah Badu rock the house. Gondry has previous directing music videos so it’s not so much of a stretch but the idea is unusual – we watch as Chappelle organises things, calling in favours from friends, putting the celebrity lock on people too timid to turn him down while a camera is rolling, but most of all he’s handing out tickets to just about anyone he runs across … Read more

Rize

Rize

    Fashion photographer and music-video director David LaChapelle’s documentary about Krumping, the brutally physical, adrenalised street dance movement in South Central LA which rose, in the aftermath of the 1992’s Rodney King riots, from the Clowning movement. Yes, clowning as in painting the face and putting on big baggy clothes. Think rap face-to-face showdowns, but instead of spinning rhymes they do the most ridiculously amazing dances with their body, the court of audience opinion more often than not deciding the winner. Both clowning and now krumping are a leftfield response to deprivation and the added blight of the gang culture and originally allowed those who do it to pass unmolested from one … Read more