16) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman’s final film is a celebratory note to go out on. Adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name, the film accounts for the 1927 recording of Ma Rainey‘s new album, featuring the song “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“. For a film that only has two locations, it contains tremendous energy, as you can feel the heat and pressure in the recording studio. Levity feels like fresh air, and the music swells off the screen. Any artist will resonate with the clashing personalities on screen; some may have even had similar arguments with collaborators. Artists may also resonate with the film’s themes of artists’ exploitation and systemic racism as it relates to the music industry. In addition to Boseman’s stellar performance, Viola Davis transformative performance as Ma Rainey leaves her unrecognizable. The rest of the band, played by Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and especially Michael Potts, all lend the film weight and character, helping prevent the film from feeling restrictive due to the limited sets. With excellent music and a passionate story, this was a fitting final film for 2020.
You can read Knockturnal writer Jonathan Tolliver’s full review of the film, along with a discussion with Colman Domingo here.