Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Tensions rise when the trailblazing Mother of the Blues and her band gather at a Chicago recording studio in 1927. Adapted from August Wilson’s play. (Letterboxd)
Retains the stage-y feel of its source material, but that’s not a bad thing (the rapid dialogue jazzily bounces the film along at a great pace and the monologues simmer and explode from out of the cramped and sweaty setting) and it has powerful filmic touches too (see the poignant opening misdirection). Davis and Boseman give particularly powerful turns in this rich work (themes of past and future, art and ambition, race and power all bubble between the gut-punching compare/contrast bookends).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

Widows (2018)

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Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms. (IMDb)
Great cast, cool flourishes (see the car-convo tracking shot), but never gets into a good groove (maybe for a few minutes during its heist prep montage). There’s a grief-themed character study, a women-empowerment thread, a shady politics sub-plot, and a heist movie all thrown in there-all with potential, but focusing on just two of the four would’ve made for a more impactful film. As it is, it feels disjointed (the attempt at a plot-tying twist only raises more questions) and is hard to get into.
6.5/10 (Alright)