Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Drama/Musical | English | 94 minutes
In a music recording studio in Chicago, a band of musicians await the arrival of their leader, Ma Rainey, known as the “Mother of the Blues.” Tension ensues as the hot-headed and overly ambitious cornet player, Levee, pushes the white producer, Mel Sturdyvant, to help him get a record deal featuring the songs he’s composed. The group then discovers that the finished recording did not take due to a technical malfunction. The group believes that Levee sabotaged the recording and harsh words are exchanged. Ma fires Levee believing his ambition detrimental to the band. Levee suffers a mental breakdown. When band member, Toledo, accidentally steps on Levee’s brand-new shoes, this misstep becomes tragic. Sturdyvant does record Levee’s songs but with a band consisting entirely of white men.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
- Metacritic Score: 87
- Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman); Best Actress (Viola Davis)
- Boston Society of Film Critics: Winner, Best Ensemble Cast
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Winner, Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman); Nominated, Best Actress (Viola Davis)
- American Film Institute: Listed, Ten Best Films of 2020
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“MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM saves its most emotional moments for Levee, and Boseman devours them with a ferocity that sears the screen. I know it’s just acting, but for me, reality intervened and I saw something transcendent.”
“There in the singular music of Wilson’s language is a vehicle for the delivery of vernacular poetry as durable and adaptable as the blues itself. It’s also definitive because it will be hard, from now on, to imagine a Ma Rainey other than Davis, or a Levee to compare with Boseman.”
“MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is a celebration of language – Wilson’s colorful tapestries with his words – and of music’s transformative power.”
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