Sean Beaudoin

Enough excellent writing to fill a large tube sock

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Movie Review

Cadillac Records dir. Darnelle Martin — 5.7

I guess it's good that this movie was made at all, just so that anyone who catches it might get a sense of the history of Chess Records and how important it was, but the movie itself is pretty limp and obvious. Where's Phil Chess? They made it like he didn't exist. Jeffrey Wright was good with what he was given in playing Muddy Waters, and actually looked quite a bit like him in spots. The dramatic arc of each of the musicians, particularly Etta James, is unconvicing. Beyonce does a good job, but she's way too pretty to capture Etta's grit. Eamonn Walker does as pretty fair job capturing Howlin' Wolf's intimidation and righteousness, but he's just another character toss off in the end. Chuck Berry also gets a silly, shallow treatment. One thing that drives me crazy is seeing shots of people who clearly don't play instruments playing instruments. I mean, yeah, Mos Def isn't Chuck Berry, and everyone knows he's just acting, but why keep shooting him at angles where you can see he's fretting the same note the entire song? The best thing about the film is the overall point (could have been hammered a lot harder) about the theft of rights, riffs, and royalties of black musicians by white producers and executives, not to mention the biggest white bands of the day. Hello, Zeppelin? Beach Boys? Clapton? Elvis? At least the Stones acknowledged it. The WORST thing about the movie: where the hell is Bo Diddley?
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