“This be an empty world without the blues,” Viola Davis’ titular character remarks at the top of the trailer for Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” An adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s 1984 play of the same name, the film drops on the streaming service on Dec. 18. The very first footage of the highly anticipated film centers on Davis’ real-life blues singer and her trumpeter Levee, played by the late Chadwick Boseman in his final film role, both of whom are extremely likely to contend for Oscars. Watch the trailer above.
In the trailer, we see Ma Rainey’s band, which includes actors Glynn Turman, Michael Potts and Colman Domingo, arriving in Chicago to record her next album. Tensions run high between Ma Rainey, the band and Levee, though, when he tries to modernize their “jug band sh–” sound with “real music.” Interspersed with scenes from the recording session are a number of Ma Rainey’s past performances in front of rapt audiences, disagreements between her and her manager (Jeremy Shamos), and an offer from the studio manager (Jonny Coyne) to buy Levee’s songs.
In our combined odds, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” currently sits in a competitive fifth place in the race for Best Picture. Davis, seeking her second Oscar, just trails Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) to win Best Actress, while Boseman leads the Best Supporting Actor contest; if Netflix campaigns him in lead, he’s down in eighth place. Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s adapted screenplay looks like a solid contender in third place, while director George C. Wolfe trails in 10th.
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