9 April 2021.
In my exasperation last week, I had written, “I give up now.”
I may have been exaggerating, though a kind reader took it seriously and wrote me not to give up nor lose courage and continue on into the Covid haze, finding new outlets for films and such…
I shall continue, for the art of cinema is too precious to me, even if it can’t be seen on the big screen for the time being. No, we must not lose hope.
The press screenings here in Geneva are actually trickling back in – such bliss to be in a real theater and in front of a BIG screen… (By the way, the newly renovated Scala is a dream – you will not be disappointed.)
So back to Netflix for now, which I must admit has a great deal of diverse quality to offer. This week I suggest two completely different films, depending on what you’re looking for:
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM ***1/2
It’s a hot summer day in Chicago and they’re waiting for Ma Rainey (brilliantly played by the multi-nominated Viola Davis) to arrive from down south for an important recording session. Her musicians are already there, rehearsing.
This film about the real life blues singer Ma Rainey has already chalked up many awards leading up to the Oscars, where it has five nominations. Most of the awards have gone posthumously to Chadwick Boseman (who died from a stroke last summer), playing the ambitious, cocky and emotionally-tortured trumpet player in Ma’s band. His is a powerful portrayal of all that can befall a young black man, especially back then in 1920s Chicago.
Ma is one tough dame and will not be intimidated by her white agent, nor the pushy head of the recording studio. This film revolves around their very tense recording session which, though set in those early years, is really a metaphor for the consequences of all the tribulations of black people. Written by famed playwright August Wilson, this is a searing, difficult, brilliantly acted piece of drama. It’s heavy-going but very important.
THE PROM **
Now if you’re looking for some light entertainment, this musical might be your thing. However, one critic described it as “quite possibly the cheesiest gay musical ever”, and he wasn’t far wrong.
To its credit, it does have a top-notch cast of Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and James Corden. But they can’t quite save its heavy clichés and the silly premise of narcissistic Broadway stars turning into real do-gooders defending closet gays in mid-America. Oh, but they have to save the high school prom – for altruism or a road back to fame?
Its razzle dazzle can be fun, as are the stars at times, though the script tends to get muddled and embarrassing.
So check out those super stars if you want, and see how long you can last among all the overblown sweetness….
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.