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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the Movie

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Filmed plays are often unjustly denigrated for being “uncinematic.” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the movie adaptation of the 1984 August Wilson play, is a triumphant example of just how good a filmed play can be if both the play and the acting are first rate.

A film director doesn’t have to shoot the works to hold an audience. If the drama is galvanizing enough, that’s all you need. And what we have here is more than enough: Viola Davis in one of her greatest performances, and the late Chadwick Boseman in his final and most powerful appearance.

Wilson’s play was his first to make it to Broadway and is an early entry in what became known as his “Pittsburgh Cycle” of 10 plays (and the only one not set in Pittsburgh) about Black Americans in the 20th century.

As directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted by screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson, it takes place in a Chicago recording studio over the course of a day, and, except for a few exterior shots of the streets outside, that’s where the action remains.

The time is 1927, and the centerpiece of the drama is the legendary “Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, with her gold-capped teeth, whom we first see in flashback wailing away in a tent show in the Deep South, and then later, in the prime of her career, spotlighted in a flashy club.

Her band musicians, waiting on her in that Chicago studio to cut a record, take up much of the early action. Rainey is late to the session, but the musicians, with their easygoing bonhomie, are unfazed. In its own freeform way, their cagey, chuckling rapport resembles a bluesy jam session without the music. The music is in the badinage.

The men constitute a motley crew. The aged, aptly named Slow Drag (Michael Potts) is the bass player; the world weary, philosophic Toledo (Glynn Turman) is the piano player; Cutler (Colman Domingo) is the trombonist and unofficial leader of the troupe. All of these roles are beautifully acted.

And then there’s Levee (Boseman), the cocky, furiously ambitious trumpet player, who makes his entrance with a pair of gold-colored shoes.

Levee is all about style, about showing off, and he doesn’t put much store in the life lessons of his older mates. He sees them as the past, while he represents the future. And the future for Levee is a music that moves away from the slow rhythms and blues roots of Ma Rainey and her generation.

That’s not music you can dance to. He wants to be his own boss, lead his own band, make his own music, record his own records. This, of course, puts him in direct conflict with Rainey, when she shows up for the session.

She will only do things her way, and Levee, who even makes a play for Rainey’s chorus girl flame (Taylour Paige), represents something that must be eradicated.

The greatness of Boseman’s performance is that he simultaneously shows us Levee’s youthful brashness and the pain and rage smoldering beneath it.

As young as he is, Levee has a full history of racist family horrors to unfold, and when he finally does so, the screen all but trembles in the telling. Wilson is a champion at fashioning monologues that have the force of operatic arias, and Boseman takes flight with them.

Davis fully matches Boseman’s intensity. She helps us see how the singer’s almost frightening willfulness serves a higher ambition. Ma Rainey wants to control not only her music but her life – which are much the same thing.

She knows that the white music establishment only tolerates her because of the money she brings in. “They don’t care nothing about me,” she says at one point.

“All they care about is my voice.” A shrewd businesswoman, she wants what’s coming to her. She’s smart enough, and cynical enough, to know that her fame won’t last forever. But thanks to Wilson and Davis, Rainey’s spirit and sorrows will continue to resonate.

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Entertainment

Jamaica’s Producer DJ Kemmo To Transform Dancehall Music

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Producer DJ Kemmo said he hopes to bring a change to the area of dancehall music production.

“I saw where the authenticity of the genre is lacking. I saw an area of opportunity for change and I felt like the spice that I add to the scene can make a difference.

Dancehall needs more of its original flavour and that’s the direction I want to take music with my production skills,” DJ Kemmo told the Jamaica Observer.

“I believe music is my true calling because I decided to get into music at a very young age. Music has always been something that I have been passionate about and to be a music producer you must be confident in yourself and your work. I find it amazing that I learn something new about producing every day. I also have to adapt to emerging genres and musical styles and those are a few of the reasons why I got into music production,” he continued.

Born in Cornwall Barracks in Portland, for the past four years he has resided in Orlando, Florida. He recently released the song She Gone featuring deejay G-Statik.

“The song has been doing well on the underground dancehall scene here in Florida. I am pleased with the reception that it has so far received,” he said.

One of his biggest hits is Exotic by deejay Korexx. The song has so far racked up more than 9,000,000 views on YouTube since its release five months ago.

Said DJ Kemmo, “I knew Exotic would’ve been a hit song and that it would’ve gotten the attention from the public because of the creativity of lyrics and the visual content.”

He has worked with artistes including Drizzy Fade, Hot Frass, CMR and Laden. DJ Kemmo released the Mello Vibez rhythm album during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Getting the music heard in the streets and in dancehall is harder than what it used to be so that kind of affected the album, but I’m willing to adjust myself to work with the new social media wave just as everyone is doing now,” he shared.

Born Kemoy Lewis, DJ Kemmo has been working to establish himself in the music business for over a decade.

He first tested the waters as a disc jockey in Port Antonio. Along with some of his friends, he made the transition into music production by turning a back room of a shop into a recording studio.

“I remember when me, DJ Barunga, DJ Free and DJ Dalla Coin used to lock up in Paulette shop in the back and put sponge in the windows so when we record a song no air would come through in the building,” DJ Kemmo reminisced. He also credits King Nose I for introducing him to music.

“I had to work very hard for someone to hear the name DJ Kemmo. I use to upload music on YouTube just like Akam Entertainment and Crush Road with my DJ Kemmo tag in them just to spread the name and the brand. I also tried vlogging at one point. I have built my career from the ground up to where it is now even though I have a long list of accomplishments to tackle.”

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MX Player Back With New Crime Thriller

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There are some nights where all you want to do is stay in bed and watch some rom-com that gives you a good laugh but then there are times when you need a series that gets your blood flowing and sends a chill down your spine.

The only way to add that rush to your life is with the help of a good thriller and after some successful launches in this trope, MX Player is back with yet another high-stakes story.

An adaptation of the popular crime novel, Anti – Social Network, by Piyush Jha, Chakrayvuh – An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller explores cybercrime, exploitation and the unknown world of the dark web through the lens of Inspector Virkar. 

This MX Original Series marks the debut of Prateik Babbar as a cop, making him a welcome entry to the super cop universe that we see ruling the roost on OTT platforms and in Indian films.

In the titular role, we see Prateik as the eccentric and angry Inspector Virkar, as he races against time to catch the people behind a rapidly growing cybercrime.

The show is definitely high-paced and keeps you guessing about who the real mastermind is till the very end.

The story takes us through a series of murders that take place after a group of tech-savvy miscreates use the internet to hack into computers or private accounts of women and start blackmailing them. 

Prateik Babbar showcases great versatility as he navigates through the show. The series sees his character in a constant chase against time, trying to stay ahead of a ruthless blackmailer and not allowing the wrong to overpower the truth.

Virkar is a character who bends the rule book when needed and that is a trait that gives this show another edge.

As a lover of thrillers and cop-dramas, this show is definitely topping the list with an incredible cast, great storyline and exceptional direction.

I was hooked till the last minute and couldn’t help myself from finishing it in one sitting.

Directed by Sajit Warrier, the eight-episode series also stars Simran Kaur Mundi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Shiv Pandit, Ruhi Singh, the late Asif Basra, Gopal Dutt, Anjali Singh, Mahir Pandi, Ankit Narang and Ayesha Kanga in pivotal roles.

Chakravyuh– An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller is now available on MX Player for free, so give your weekend a thrilling start by binge-watching this new series!

India Times

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Spike Lee to head 2021 Cannes Film Festival Jury

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Spike Lee, a US director has accepted to head the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in July. Lee said he was “very humbled”.

“Way back in 1986, my very first film She’s Gotta Have It played there and it was my introduction to the world of cinema, so Cannes will always have a deep, deep spot in my heart,” Lee said.

Lee, 63, has been a fixture at Cannes over the years, premiering seven of his films there and winning the second-place Grand Prix in 2018 for BlacKkKlansman about a black police officer infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan.

“Throughout the months of uncertainty we’ve just been through, Spike Lee has never stopped encouraging us,” said festival president Pierre Lescure in a statement.

“We could not have hoped for a more powerful personality to chart our troubled times.”

With a back-catalogue that has thrown a spotlight on issues of race and politics in the US, Lee was seen as a symbolic choice at a time when the French film industry has been mired in controversies over the representation of minorities.

Lee has tried his hand at many genres, but is best known for films that put the African-American experience front and centre.

“I have a special place in my heart for Paris, for France and for the Cannes Film Festival… Book my flight!” he said in the Twitter message.

The official selection for this year’s festival, along with the rest of the jury are due to be named in early June.

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