When it was first announced that Netflix were set to heavily push Chadwick Boseman‘s final two performances for Academy Awards consideration, there was an unfair line of criticism directed towards the streaming service that accused them of leveraging his tragic passing from colon cancer at the age of 43 in an attempt to secure Oscar glory.
The Black Panther star is more than worthy of being put forward in the Best Supporting Actor category for his turn in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, though, and if the early critical reactions to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are anything to go by, then he’s also become the clear favorite to land the Best Actor trophy for what’s being described as an extraordinary showcase for a talent that was taken far too soon.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s T’Challa may always be remembered as Boseman’s career-defining role, but Ma Rainey’s Levee is being called his best work yet. The upcoming adaptation of August Wilson’s play has already scored a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is clearly going to be in the running for virtually all of the major prizes during awards season, but the late leading man has made a serious case to become just the second posthumous Best Actor winner after Peter Finch for Network back in 1977.
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See below for a sample of what critics are saying about him in the film:
“While Black Panther remains and enormous part of Boseman’s legacy, his flashy, fast-talking role here — using music as a means of seduction — demonstrates his extraordinary range and at least while watching nearly erases considerations beyond what’s on screen, which is no small feat,” CNN’s Brian Lowry writes.
Thrillist’s Esther Zuckerman, meanwhile, says that “he’ll be best remembered certainly as T’Challa, but that performance, as great as it is, doesn’t come close to demonstrating the range of his talents. Here, he’s a tornado on the screen, singing and storming, while also capturing an insecurity that all the bravado is trying to conceal. Seeing him in this way feels both a gift and a curse. It’s magnificent, but there should have been so much more.”
Chadwick Boseman‘s final role of any kind will see him voice T’Challa in an episode of Marvel’s animated What If…? that imagines the King of Wakanda becoming the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord, but his live-action swansong in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom could serve as a fitting monument to the legacy of an actor who had so much more to offer the industry from both a personal and professional standpoint.