Connect with us

Entertainment

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom review – Chadwick Boseman glorious in his final film role | Film

Published

on

A detonation of pure acting firepower is what’s on offer in this movie version of August Wilson’s 1982 stage play. Declarative and theatrical it might be, but it’s also ferociously intelligent and violently focused, an opera of passion and pain. We see African-American musicians hanging around a white-owned Chicago studio one stiflingly hot day in the 1920s, waiting for the legendary blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey to show up with her entourage so they can cut an album. The lead track is expected to be her live hit, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the drama imagines a certain pushy trumpeter in the band named Levee angling for his own version to be recorded. A simmering argument about how this song is to be arranged and performed forms the basis of a confrontation about race, sex and power.

Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey with tremendous hauteur: Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth I never arrived at Hampton Court with more magnificent display or more queenly prerogative than Davis’s Rainey making her entrance, with her own lovers and court favourites, sweating at the temperature, her painful feet and the incompetence of the studio chiefs. And Chadwick Boseman gives a moving performance as the fiercely talented but insecure Levee, crucified by a childhood experience of racist violence and dreaming of fronting his own band.

This is Boseman’s final performance on screen, and what a glorious performance to go out on. It is a head-butting confrontation of the galácticos: Davis and Boseman are each the immovable object and irresistible force. Amusingly, both are concerned with their feet. Poor Levee has just blown every cent on a fancy pair of shiny shoes and he is always showing them off, hopping and dancing around like a little kid. Ma Rainey’s feet, on the other hand, are in agony. We see her picking her way down the stairs at her hotel in discomfort, yet her rolling, heavy-set gait is part of what imposes her authority on the room. She gets to wear a pair of comfortable indoor slippers in the studio and doesn’t move anywhere she doesn’t want to.

Levee has, quite without Ma’s permission, prepared an ingenious new version of Black Bottom that downplays her slow, bluesy vocals and gives a more demanding, uptempo orchestration for the boys in the band: Toledo (Glynn Turman), Cutler (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and of course Levee himself with his flashy trumpet. This is with the sneaky connivance of the white manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and studio boss Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne) who sense this is how to make it a lucrative crossover hit.

Ma furiously rejects the new version, sensing – accurately – that this means getting upstaged and that Levee wants to use her prestige as the launching pad for his own stardom. The only male she wants to showcase is her own teenage nephew Sylvester (Dusan Brown) that she capriciously wants to let him introduce the number, despite the fact that he has a stammer. To add to the tension, she has brought along her gorgeous girlfriend Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige), who is dangerously enamoured of Levee.

So who has the power in this contest of wills? In some ways it is Ma Rainey herself – she is the talent, she must be placated, and everything depends on her – yet the band are bleakly unimpressed about her ability to connect with non-black audiences.

Levee has power of his own with new ideas about music, but it is the duplicitous management who control it, and the tragedy and the violence are ignited by the band’s derision at Levee’s sycophantic attitude to these white chiefs. It triggers Levee’s own memories of racist violence and humiliation – and while others in the band get set-piece speeches, too, there is something a bit contrived in these theatrical arias. But they are delivered with such intensity, and the film has a genuine coup in its final scene, showing how Levee’s talent is to be exploited and the way black culture itself is destined to be appropriated.

Boseman’s face is so open, so transparent, so needy – he is a reed instrument for every painful emotion. It is such a generous performance: the portrayal of a man sacrificed on the altar of his own past.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is in cinemas from 4 December and on Netflix from 18 December.


Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Entertainment

Multiverse of Madness? Why the Marvel Cinematic Universe no longer exists in perfect isolation | Film

Published

on

By

The internet briefly looked up from its coffee and raised an eyebrow last week when Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson appeared to confirm that every Spider-Man movie since Tobey Maguire’s 2002 debut as the wisecracking web-slinger is now considered to be part of the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. “All Spider-Man iterations are defacto MCU,” wrote Derrickson during a Twitter exchange with Moon director Duncan Jones.

The film-maker, currently working as an executive producer on the Sam Raimi-directed sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, later clarified he was only joking. But given how connected Marvel’s movies now seem to be to the Sony Spidey films (and that Raimi directed all the Tobey Maguire movies), it’s easy to see why fans wondered if Derrickson might have inadvertently revealed a Hollywood insider secret.

For where the MCU was once its own perfect, solitary island in the superhero ocean, able to craft intelligently interconnected tales of costumed crimefighters without fear of interference from other, less competent studios, it now finds itself in a position where shaky land bridges have inadvertently formed to other continents, created not for creative reasons but for corporate ones. The danger here is that allowing its gleaming superhero monolith to be taken over by invasive species could undercut a quality control system that has seen Marvel outpace all rivals over the last 12 years.

It all started after Sony made a mess of its own Spider-Man films with the undercooked The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014 and came wall-crawling to Marvel for help. Thanks to this link-up we now have a Marvel-led Spidey (Tom Holland) who appears both in his own Marvel-Sony spin-offs and also regularly in the mainstream of Marvel films. But we have also started to see strange nods to the older Spider-Man movies, such as the inclusion of JK Simmons’ J Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far from Home, ostensibly an MCU movie. There are also industry reports that Jamie Foxx is to return as Electro (reprising his role from The Amazing Spider-Man 2) in the as-yet-untitled third Marvel-Sony Spidey film.

Then, of course, there’s Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth is due to arrive in the MCU thanks to a different corporate deal, the one that saw Marvel owner Disney buy up 20th Century Fox last year. Industry insiders now report the potty-mouthed mutant will retain his R-rated status, despite the Marvel movies always being made for a PG-13 audience. There are two solutions here: either Reynolds avoids dropping f-bombs and keeps the bloody violence to a minimum whenever he appears in a mainstream MCU film, or he simply does not appear outside his own standalone movies. Neither sounds precisely perfect.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness offers yet more potential for crossover with other superhero universes, since it will introduce the concept of the multiverse, via which alternate reality versions of Marvel’s best-known superheroes might well exist and end up meeting. Then there’s the speculation in the geekosphere, fuelled by news that Warner Bros is to bring back Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as different versions of Batman for the rival DC universe’s crossover episode The Flash (loosely based on the comic book Flashpoint event), that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might return as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the next Spidey movie. Sony already included multiple wall-crawlers in the Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse after all, though it’s an unwritten rule of comic book flicks that film-makers working in animation are usually allowed far more leeway than their live-action counterparts.

The studio has so far handled its newfound interconnectedness to other people’s movies relatively well. The monologuing vlogger J Jonah Jameson of Spider-Man: Far from Home may or may not have been the same as the rowdy newspaper editor we saw in the Sony films; only Spider-Man has been allowed to appear in the main Marvel series, though I cannot be the only fan of Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina who would love to see the Green Goblin and Doc Ock somehow resurrected.

But can Marvel really just cherrypick all the best bits of the movies it didn’t have a part in making, while asking us to ignore the worst? If you turn up to the cinema in 2022 for the opening night of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and are greeted with the horrible sight of Tobey Maguire sashaying through Manhattan’s theatre district with an awful emo-haircut, you’ll know it’s all gone horribly wrong …



Source link

Continue Reading

Entertainment

And the Oscar goes to … a movie by a streaming platform? | Film

Published

on

By

Usually at this time of year, thoughts are turning to awards season and an enticing winter of quality cinema ahead, but – and you’re probably utterly sick of hearing it – this year it’s different. Instead, we have got shuttered cinemas and no prestige dramas to put in them anyway. Hollywood is in hibernation.

But the awards show must go on. Next year’s Baftas and Academy Awards are delayed until April, rather than the usual February. Deadlines and eligibility rules have been loosened: usually a movie must have screened in a Los Angeles cinema for seven consecutive days to qualify for the Oscars, but this year an online release is enough. So, good news for Trolls World Tour but potentially disastrous for cinemas.

In the absence of Hollywood competition, this could be the first year the best picture award goes to a movie by a streaming platform, which could be something of a tipping point. The current frontrunner is David Fincher’s Mank, which goes out on Netflix this Friday. It ticks all the boxes: Hollywood mythology (Gary Oldman plays the writer of Citizen Kane); marquee names; technical brilliance; impersonations of real figures (awards juries love that); and unanimous critical acclaim.

Mank’s chief rivals might include Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (a posthumous best actor for Chadwick Boseman seems likely), Da 5 Bloods and The Trial of the Chicago 7 – also all from Netflix. Or Regina King’s One Night in Miami (Amazon Prime Video). There are non-streaming contenders – Nomadland, for example – and big releases such as Tom Hanks western News of the World, due in January. Others could slip in under the wire, although these movies may well also have to release online to qualify.

It would be a tragic irony if awards season killed off the very institutions it was designed to celebrate. Traditionally, Bafta, the Academy and others have been the champions of Cinema – with a capital C – as worthy of gongs and black-tie formality and reverent speeches as any other artform. But the type of “cinema” the awards bodies were geared to celebrate is disappearing from actual cinemas, which are now powered by big-budget franchise movies. Awards buzz was one of the few tools left to staunch the inexorable defection. If the buzz goes to a Netflix movie instead, it’s another reason to stay at home, and another nail in the coffin of the industry.

It would be a double irony if Mank was the movie that sealed this deal. It is a loving, lavish homage to Hollywood at its height, not only in its detailed industry lore and its digital recreation of 1930s cinematography, but also in its nostalgia for cinema as both an auteurist artform and a popular medium with the potential to topple giants. Will either of those ideas still hold true after this year? The jury’s out.


Source link

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Can You Name All 11 Of These "Outer Banks" Characters From Season 1?

Published

on

By

Continue Reading

Breaking News

Shares