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The 1A Movie Club Sees ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

In Netflix's 'Ma Rainey's  Black Botton,' 
Chadwick Boseman stars as Levee, Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Colman Domingo as Cutler.
In Netflix's 'Ma Rainey's Black Botton,' Chadwick Boseman stars as Levee, Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Colman Domingo as Cutler.

It’s Chadwick Boseman’s last onscreen performance and Viola Davis is already generating Oscar buzz. And that’s before you even know anything about the plot. The film adaptation of “‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” August Wilson’s 1982 play has come to Netflix and select theaters. It follows a Chicago recording session for Ma Rainey and her band in 1927.

Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Aisha Harris reviewed the movie for NPR:

As Ma, Davis is up to the task of portraying this tempestuous, flamboyant figure; the actress inhabits the singer’s body fully, carrying the weight of a hard life lived in her proud gait, the creases of her makeup-smeared face and the weariness in her eyes. (Most of the musical scenes are sung by veteran soul singer Maxayn Lewis; Davis lends her own vocals to one song, “Those Dogs of Mine.”) She’s facing pressure from her white manager, Irvin (Jeremy Shamos), and white recording studio owner Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne) to sign the contracts that will ultimately give them control over her music, and by stalling, she makes it as difficult as possible for them to get it. Her gruff demeanor is a defense mechanism, a way of resisting the forces of capitalism. She stands in defiance of white supremacy even as she knows she can only delay its effects on her life and career, not eradicate its inevitability.

We’re watching ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ for 2020’s last edition of the1A Movie Club.

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