by Boseman, who died of colon cancer in August, could become only the eighth posthumous acting Oscar nominee and only the third posthumous acting Oscar winner.
And Chadwick Boseman, who tragically succumbed to colon cancer in August while the film was in post-production (and to whom the film is dedicated), seems to relish playing feral Levee and delivers the best of the film’s numerous lengthy monologues (an electric one about his mother), although it must be said that each member of the band — the others played engagingly by Colman Domingo, Michael Potts and Glynn Turman — has his own moment to shine.
Both will be formidable contenders for lead acting honors throughout the season to come. (Some stats to note: Boseman, who is also in the running in the supporting category for Da 5 Bloods, could become only the eighth posthumous acting Oscar nominee, and would be only the third posthumous acting Oscar winner after Peter Finch for Network 44 years ago and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight 12 years ago.)
As for the film itself? I anticipate that the two most common responses to Ma Rainey — not necessarily mutually exclusive — will be that (a) it is a bleak story centered on some pretty hard-to-warm-up-to characters, and (b) its script and performances do a great job of provoking thought about the way that artists of color have been treated in the past and present. Davis herself has said, “A huge motivating factor with me is feeling like I’m not valued,” which is why it was a treat for her to play a performer who knows her worth and won’t accept anything less than it for anyone.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set to have a limited theatrical release later this month before hitting Netflix on Dec. 18. A week later, on Christmas Day, the streamer’s competitor Amazon will release Regina King’s festival darling One Night in Miami, which is set 37 years later but touches upon some related subject matter (particularly in its Sam Cooke story arc). Will the SAG Awards nominating committee include both in the five-horse SAG ensemble category? And will the increasingly diverse Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences include both in the five-to-ten-horse best picture Oscar category? Only time will tell.
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