‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’: Will Chadwick Boseman Win An Oscar?

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is now streaming on Netflix and features one of Chadwick Boseman‘s final performances. The actor’s tragic and untimely death in August rocked the entertainment landscape and lent a rarefied air to his final projects.

The prerelease hype for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has led many fans and awards season pundits to wonder: can Boseman win an Oscar for the role? Posthumous Oscar wins are certainly not unprecedented, but they are extremely rare. That said, as of the film’s release, the odds look good.

Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar chances are growing

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee | David Lee/Netflix
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020) Chadwick Boseman as Levee | David Lee/Netflix

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Netflix has confirmed that it will be submitting Boseman for the Best Actor category for the Academy Awards in 2021. This has perplexed some fans and pundits, as Boseman would have likely been a guaranteed win in the Best Supporting Actor category, which is much less competitive this year.

Nevertheless, Gold Derby, a premier outlet for award season news prized by film insiders, reports that Boseman’s chances are surging. Following two screenings of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the outlet reports that the actor is now its second most favored to win Best Actor. He still trails Sir Anthony Hopkins for his role in The Father, which has topped the Best Actor odds for months.

Once Netflix confirmed Boseman for Best Actor, he leaped from eighth to fourth place. Later, after the two screenings, he surged to his current spot. With that kind of momentum and over two months left before the 2021 Oscars deadline, Boseman could easily become the frontrunner.

In the film, Boseman plays Levee Green, a fictional trumpeter, opposite Viola Davis as the real-life Ma Rainey. Rainey was one of the first-ever Black blues singers to record music and is often known as the “Godmother of the Blues.”

The history of posthumous Oscar nods

Chadwick Boseman in Avengers: Infinity War
Chadwick Boseman | Film Frame/Marvel Studios

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Whoever ultimately wins, Boseman seems to at least be a shoo-in for a nomination this year. Notably, this would be his first-ever Oscar nomination, despite a career full of strong work before his untimely passing.

Only been four people have been nominated for Best Actor after their deaths: Peter Finch for Network, Spencer Tracy for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Massimo Troisi for Il Postino, and James Dean, who was nominated in two consecutive years for East of Eden and Giant. Of those actors, only Finch actually won. Famously, Heath Ledger became only the second posthumous acting winner in 2009, taking Best Supporting Actor for his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

For the time being, Boseman might have momentum on his side against Hopkins. Ma Rainey is now streaming on Netflix, a hugely popular service with massive audience reach. The Father is getting a limited theatrical release in February by boutique outfit, Sony Pictures Classic, limiting its mainstream appeal.

Boseman winning Best Actor for potentially his only nomination would be the feel-good moment of the show and fitting tribute the actor’s legacy. Sentiments like these can often have a tangible effect on awards show results.

Boseman also has another shot at an Oscar next year. He is a strong candidate for Best Supporting Actor thanks to Spike Lee’s Netflix original, Da 5 Bloods. No actor has ever received two posthumous nominations in the same year.