Monday, October 12, 2015

Miles on Monday: First reviews of Miles Ahead

With the debut this past weekend of Don Cheadle's film Miles Ahead at the New York Film Festival, this week's Miles Davis news is full of items about the long-awaited movie.

* On the eve of the Festival, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott thought Miles Ahead could be an Oscar contender, writing, "Anyone who wants to get a jump on possible Oscar nominees for 2017 — as I said, it’s never too soon! — should check out “Miles Ahead”...Blending musical biopic standards (ill-starred marriage, drug addiction, record-company shenanigans) with caper-movie riffs (pistol-whippings, car chases, sketchy deals with shady characters),“Miles Ahead” at its best is as witty and knowing as Mr. Cheadle’s sly, whispery performance. The music is pretty good, too."

* Over the weekend, film distributors Sony Classics released a couple of short clips from the film online. You can see the first one here, and the second is embedded at the end of this post.

* For his part, Cheadle talked to the Guardian newspaper to defend his decision not to do a straight-up biography, saying, “I just wasn’t interested in doing a story that way with this particular artist – this singular artist. I wanted to make a movie that I think Miles Davis would have wanted to star in.”

* The film site IndieWire offered up in-depth analysis via three separate reviews of the NYFF screening.

In "Don Cheadle Strives to Make a Film That Miles Davis Would, in 'Miles Ahead'," reviewer Tambay A. Obenson opined, "Despite any misgivings I have about the film, it's undoubtedly one of significance - a necessary work in a time when the clamor is over projects about musicians who came along decades after Davis' peak period, who stand on his shoulders, and may not even realize it. And while it's not a factual cradle-to-grave story, and more of a flight of fancy, and wouldn't necessarily serve as an introduction to Miles Davis for the uninitiated, there's enough in it to make it a worthy addition to the Miles Davis canon."

Meanwhile, in his article titled "Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Isn't Really a Miles Davis Biopic," reviewer Eric Kohn noted that "Davis, after all, built his unique sound on the backs of earlier jazz inspirations and the improvisatory processes of dissonant elements. "Miles Ahead" follows suit with mixed results, but its ambition is formidable..Like Davis, the movie keeps reaching for new ideas, occasionally hitting on some great ones."

Fellow reviewer Rodrigo Perez seemed marginally less impressed, concluding, "In the end, it's clear Cheadle’s movie’s reach exceeds its grasp and capabilities, but as recent biopics go, its musicality, flair, and verve certainly count for something."

* In other reviews, Patrick Ryan of USA Today said the film "captures Miles Davis' spirit"; Nick Shager of Variety called it "A wild, and wildly uneven, free-form investigation of Davis’ turbulent personal and professional life that’s bolstered by an outsized lead performance"; David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter says the film's "freeform riffs on highs and lows from the musician's life are a fine example of structure emulating the ever-evolving style of an artist defined by unrelenting experimentation"; and Esquire magazine's Matt Patches said, "The biopic stays faithful to the Kind of Blue trumpeter's essence at the expense of his output."

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