The reviews are in: Chadwick Boseman could soar to a posthumous Oscar win in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Written by: Kelly Levine – November 17th, 2020 6:11 pm pst

Film Review

The reviews are in for one of the year’s most anticipated films, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Although set to release December 18th on Netflix, the movie was screened virtually for critics in partnership with the American Film Institute on November 14th. The film follows a 1920s Chicago band and their eponymous lead singer Ma Rainey played by Academy Award winner Viola Davis. Over the course of a hot summer day, tensions within the band reach a breaking point with deadly consequences. Produced by Denzel Washington, who saw major success the last time he was involved in an August Wilson adaptation, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom deals with hot topic issues like race, art, religion, and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.

 There is a high indication that not only will the film get some love at the Academy Awards, but Chadwick Boseman has a chance at being the third actor to receive a posthumous Oscar. The only two other posthumous acting winners Peter Finch for Network (1976) and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008) were both white. If he wins, Chadwick would be the first person of color to receive a posthumous Oscar for acting. Boseman, who died in August of colon cancer, plays Levee, a trumpet player whose ambitions drive a wedge between himself and the other band members. The Black Panther star is also getting rave reviews for his performance in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, meaning he could also could make history as the first actor nominated for two posthumous Oscars. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is looking to submit Boseman to the lead actor category while Da 5 Bloods will campaign for Boseman as a supporting actor. Matt Neglia of NextBestPicture calls Chadwick’s final performance “his best with two stunning monologues that rank among some of the best ever.”

Chadwick isn’t the only actor getting love for their performance. LA Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty said of Davis, “Viola Davis gives a performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom that should win a Tony, an Emmy, and an Oscar. Hell, I’d throw in a Grammy too.”

While Erik Anderson of AwardsWatch, also praised Viola Davis’s outstanding work as Ma Rainey he says, “it’s Chadwick Boseman that leaves it all out on the floor in a stellar, Sidney Poitier-level, Oscar-worthy performance.” Sidney Poitier was the first African-American man to win the award for Best Actor in a leading role for his performance in Lilies of the Field. He is considered one of the most iconic and talented actors of all time, so Boseman’s performance being compared to his work is a high compliment. 

I think perhaps Mark Johnson of AwardsDaily said it best, expressing that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, “is Chadwick Boseman’s film.” Even in his last moments, Chadwick Boseman made every second of screen time count. Johnson continued on to say, “his jaw-dropping performance is full of spry hubris and fiery rage. If his ineffable talent wasn’t enough, Boseman is made immortal by the buoyant smile and infectious charm he brought to everything he touched.” Seconding Johnson, Oscar or not, Chadwick Boseman will always be remembered for his shining talent and unstoppable range. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will premiere on Netflix on December 18th.

About The Author:

Kelly Levine is a screenwriting student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. She hopes to one day pursue a career in television writing and production. Kelly loves television, movies, and all things nerdy in pop culture!

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