Combustible Celluloid
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With: Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora, Michael Zelniker, Samuel E. Wright, Keith David, Michael McGuire, James Handy, Damon Whitaker, Morgan Nagler, Arlen Dean Snyder, Sam Robards, Penelope Windust, Glenn T. Wright, George Orrison, Bill Cobbs, Hamilton Camp, Chris Bosley, George T. Bruce, Joey Green, John Witherspoon, Tony Todd, Jo De Winter, Richard Zavaglia, Anna Levine, Al Pugliese, Hubert Kelly, Billy J. Mitchell, Karl Vincent, Lou Cutell, Roger Etienne, Jason Bernard, Gretchen Oehler, Richard McKenzie, Tony Cox, Diane Salinger
Written by: Joel Oliansky
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 160
Date: 04/30/1988

Bird (1988)

4 Stars (out of 4)

All That Jazz

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Any true fan knows about Clint Eastwood's love for jazz music. Many of his urban action films feature jazzy soundtracks, sometimes performed by the man himself (who plays a mean piano). Eastwood made the switch from Hollywood icon to great world director with his viciously underrated Bird (1988). This gentle, moody bio-pic of Charlie Parker (brilliantly played by Forest Whitaker) emphasized slowness and darkness, taking time to explore the corners of Parker's life, rather than zooming over the surface. Diane Venora plays a sympathetic Chan Parker, and Samuel E. Wright is Dizzy Gillespie.

Paradoxically, Bird was a success only in France, where, in the film, Parker finds his most truly appreciative audience. In the U.S., the movie won a single Oscar for Best Sound, for the innovative way it took old recordings of Parker playing saxophone, isolated Parker, and then added present-day musicians recorded on modern equipment to make the sound worthy of a big screen experience.

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