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“Straight Outta Compton” is making the case for Oscar consideration

Straight Outta Compton

During the end of the summer, any surprise critical and financial success story seems to generate Oscar buzz. Frankly, that’s sort of the case whenever an early year or pre awards season release exceeds expectations. This year however, we have an interesting case to study in the biopic Straight Outta Compton, about the seminal rap group NWA, which has gone above and beyond any of its goals so far. Now, some are beginning to wonder if the Academy might have an interest. I remain skeptical, but it’s well worth taking a look at. Perhaps the investigation will reveal something? Let’s find out now…

The film is a look at the rap group NWA, how its members came together, and what kind of an impact they had on the culture. Started in the city of Compton, California in the mid 1980’s, the music would spread across the world and have a huge impact on hip hop culture. Not your garden variety biopic for sure, but mixing up the formula is always welcome in my book. Veteran filmmaker F. Gary Gray directs, the script is written by Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman (with story credits going to Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus), while the cast includes O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Easy-E, Neil Brown Jr. is Dj Yella, and Aldis Hodge is MC Ren, along with Paul Giamatti, Keith Stanfield, and more. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre produced this look at their careers, while behind the camera Matthew Libatique is the DP.

Among the many things that pundits have praised about Straight Outta Compton, the acting seems to be chief among them. Gray’s direction has been given kudos, but the acting trio of Hawkins, Jackson, and Mitchell have been saluted in particular, saying that they add a lot to these iconic characters. Jackson in particular is playing his actual father, so there’s an added layer of interest to be found there. Could one of them wind up in awards contention? That seems like a bit of a long shot, but anything is certainly possible, especially if there’s a distinct lack of solid minority contenders. I hate qualifying things in that way, since a good performance is a good performance, but the Academy does have a spotty track record when it comes to non-white acting nominees. They’re getting better, but Oscar isn’t quite there yet.

Speaking of awards, where it might it actually contend? Well, there are plenty of places that you can look for it to try to make a dent with voters, though where it’s actually going to be given a realistic chance is another story. The categories where it can at least make a case are obviously Best Picture, Best Director (for Gray), Best Actor (for Jackson), Best Supporting Actor (for either Giamatti, Hawkins, Jackson, and/or Mitchell), Best Original Screenplay (for Berloff, Herman, Savidge, and Wenkus), and Best Cinematography. It may struggle to gain traction, but if Picture becomes a legitimate possibility for the film, look out for Original Screenplay as well. It’s already well reviewed and has crossed $100 million at the box office, so it’s making a case for sure.

In the end, it’ll be an interesting case watching to see how Straight Outta Compton does during the precursor season. It could be easily ignored and swallowed up by more traditional contenders, but if it continues to stand out, voters will have decisions to make. Right now, my inclination is to expect a shut out, with perhaps the Golden Globes being the last place to cite this flick, but all bets are off if it continues to capture the zeitgeist. Straight Outta Compton isn’t your usual Oscar bait movie, but it might be one of the top biopics in contention this year, which is no small feat. Stay tuned…

Ice Cub

Be sure to check out Straight Outta Compton, in theaters everywhere now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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