This Oscar weekend, join us for the Battle of the Divas. Part I: Meet ‘My Rainey’

Ma Rainey’s black background

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend of diving into adjacent queer and queer past titles worth watching or revisiting.

The Untold: The Black Background of Ma Rainey

One of the best films of 2020, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has won several Oscar nods this season, including lead actor nominations for stars Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. Will they win the highest honors? Do they deserve it? Look and see …

In the film, Davis plays Ma Rainey, the true queer singer who popularized the blues as a musical genre. Boseman plays Levee, Rainey’s trumpeter with an ambition for musical glory… and who is also developing an eye for Rainey’s girlfriend (Taylour Paige). Leave it to George Wolfe, the openly gay director of the original Broadway production of Angels in America for haunting performances from his cast and for retaining the majesty of playwright August Wilson’s dialogue. The supporting cast, including gay actor Colman Domingo (Fear the living dead) also turn into intense work.

As an actress, Viola Davis might be the only name worth mentioning alongside Meryl Streep and Glenn Close as America’s Greatest Actresses Alive. She brings her usual ferocity to Ma Rainey, making her in turn funny, demanding, unapologetic, and self-defeating. Boseman gets up to meet her every step of the way, giving her the performance of her career. Watching him deliver one of August Wilson’s most iconic monologues on the curse of God takes on an odd meta-meaning: a gaunt Boseman, who hid his cancer during filming, had reached the peak of his career and knew that ‘he wouldn’t be here much longer. to enjoy. It is both thrilling and tragic to watch.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom brings to life an almost forgotten African-American homosexual heroine. That alone would make the movie interesting. The fact that it also features two incredible actors at the height of their power makes it something of a classic: a masterclass inducing goosebumps in dramatic fury. Davis makes an exceptional case for a Best Actress victory over fellow diva Andra Day, while Boseman gives the performance of the year.

In other words, don’t miss it.

Streams on Netflix.

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