Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Netflix Film Review

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Like millions of others around the globe, I was shocked and upset about the death of Chadwick Boseman in August, and while seeing him on screen makes me sad because it reminds me he’s gone, I found some solace in the fact that he delivers an almighty final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

The film is set in a recording studio in Chicago on one hot and sweaty afternoon in 1927. Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), the fearless diva known as the Mother of the Blues, is running late and her band await her arrival in the rehearsal room where tensions arise between hot-headed trumpeter Levee (Boseman), bandleader Cutler (Colman Domingo), bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts), and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman). Levee ruffles feathers by flirting with Ma’s girlfriend and making his desire to play his own music and start his own band known.

I hadn’t done any reading up on this before I settled down to watch it and within 15-20 minutes it became immediately obvious that this was based on a play – one by August Wilson, I discovered later. A good chunk of the film is spent in the downstairs rehearsal room where the band spends more time bickering than rehearsing and then the action moves upstairs to the recording room once Ma eventually shows up. Levee has a huge amount of dialogue as he goes off on rants about various grievances and verbally spurs with the band about all sorts. It was interesting to a point but I was glad when Ma arrived to change up the dynamic.

The performances are the main draw here and I expect to see Boseman and Davis’ names come up during awards season. This is Davis like you’ve never seen her before. She is practically unrecognisable as Ma thanks to the weight she gained for the role, plus the heavy make-up and gold teeth she wears, and the fact she is drenched in sweat. Ma is fierce, determined, and refuses to make any compromises – things have to be exactly her way, much to the displeasure of her white manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and producer Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne). I considered her the lead since she’s the title character, but she’s surprisingly not in it as much as I expected.

Knowing what we know about Boseman now, it’s truly incredible that he managed to pull off such a barnstorming performance in his last-ever film role. There is so much anger and rage in Levee from past trauma and it requires so much energy to go off his rants. He is a man on the edge and out of control and Boseman throws his all into the role. I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t get honoured posthumously for this.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes a while to get going but really hits its stride when Ma shows up – the recording scenes are a fascinating watch – and from there it builds to a shocking finale. Definitely worth checking out.

Streaming on Netflix from Friday 18th December

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rachel Weisz, Timothee Chalamet & Letitia Wright at the 2019 BAFTAs: My pics

Tonight soooo many film stars hit the red carpet at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the annual BAFTAs. I was lucky to be on the red carpet and inside the winners’ press conference, and here are my pics.

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Widows: Film Review

I’m a big fan of Steve McQueen‘s previous films – like Hunger, Shame and 12 Years A Slave – so I was excited to see him take on more mainstream, blockbuster fare, and the incredible cast he recruited for Widows was another big plus. Thankfully, Widows is just what I hoped it would be – a thrilling heist drama.

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Top Films for November 2018

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Michelle Rodriguez and Daniel Kaluuya at the Widows LFF premiere

Tonight the 2018 London Film Festival kicked off with Widows, its opening night gala, and to celebrate, director Steve McQueen hit the red carpet in London’s Leicester Square with castmembers including Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Daniel Kaluuya.

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BAFTA 2017 winners’ conference: My pics

Tom Holland

Tom Holland

Tonight it was the BAFTAs and I was there, at the winners’ press conference which meant all the prize winners came down to chat to us and I took the opportunity to take plenty of pics of stars like Emma Stone, Tom Holland, Viola Davis and Dev Patel.

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fences

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20th

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Suicide Squad: Film Review

suicide2

I wasn’t keen on Suicide Squad when it was announced because it sounded awful but I was won over by the trailers and I eventually became excited for it. That was until the reviews came out and, although I tried to ignore them, it was impossible not to take note of the negativity and lower your expectations. But I just want to assure the fans that the film is not the travesty it has been made out to be – it is messy and extremely flawed, yes, but I enjoyed most of it.

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