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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Even though I don’t go out to the movies very often, especially on opening weekends when there are crowds to be avoided, I do take note of what’s playing, for future DVD reference. I’ve found a way to work the Netflix system so that I can get two or three new films delivered to my door on the day they’re released each week. (And no, I’m probably not going to share, but I fully expect The Dark Knight to appear in my mailbox this Tuesday.) Is it wrong to hope that some flicks tank at the box office so that they get released on video that much sooner?

The ads for Cadillac Records, which opened this weekend, have been unavoidable, and the reviews have been surprisingly positive for a combination biopic and docudrama with few stars. One of the stars is Adrien Brody. Another is Beyoncé, who plays the singer Etta James. Since I’m not likely to see the movie at the theater, I got out my box set of Etta James recordings and whoo boy! My first thought was, if Beyoncé can sing like that, why doesn’t she sing like that all the time? After seeing her on Saturday Night Live last month, I wouldn’t have thought she had it in her, but the critics have been gushing.

Etta James is known for sixties hits like “Tell Mama” and “At Last,” but she also sings bluesy versions of standards. She has interpreted parts of the Great American Songbook in ways Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow never dreamed of. She sang her classics (and still sings, at 70) with a powerful, soulful rasp that drips with emotion and heart and (oh, yes) sex. She’s a cross between Otis Redding and Lena Horne (or James Brown and Rosemary Clooney; I haven’t quite worked it out). Beyoncé should be honored to bring her story to the screen, and I’m grateful that she’s done it.

5 December 2008


The movie is the history of not only a record label, but the resurrection of blues and soul and how artists like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Little Walter were discovered and presented to new audiences. I don’t really hope the movie fails, because I want as many people as possible to see it. The rest of us will pick it up when it comes out on DVD.

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