Monday, January 18, 2016


STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is one of the movies folks are touting as being overlooked for the Oscars because of the non-white subject and actors (for the most part). Though there was a writing Oscar nomination. But that was for the four white male screenwriters, which raises the question why Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who produced it, hired "white" writers (couldn't get made without them?).

And despite some great acting (including from the uncannily look-alike son of Ice Cube) those writers are the ones responsible for why I wouldn't vote for it for a best picture nomination. For me, the first scene in the movie sets up expectations of pace and drama that the rest of the movie doesn't live up to, and that rest of the movie seems like two different movies anyway.

The origin story of NWA makes for pretty good filmmaking, but then the story falls apart as drama as it touches on a hodge podge of experiences, some related and some barely, in an attempt to chronicle the fates of the different leading characters.

Biopics, as they call them, especially of creative artists, are difficult to write and make work (LOVE & MERCY is an exception, as was RAY and a handful of others). Much of that is due to studio and producer interference, in my experience.

I was hired by a Hollywood studio to write the Otis Redding story back in 1980s (because I had actually played music in segregated clubs on the Chitlin Circuit back when Otis was doing the same) and was told when I turned in a first draft that chronicled Redding's growing up in an oppressively segregated environment (and the challenges that presented to his youthful ventures in the music business) that they didn't want all that back story, because they assumed they already had a guaranteed black audience, but needed to get the white kids into the theater.

They wanted me to rewrite it, and begin the screenplay with Redding's appearance as one of the few black acts (one of the others being Jimi Hendrix's explosive debut) at the Monterey festival documented in MONTEREY POP. And go on from there, leaving out all the "racial" stuff, as they put it (!).

So, I'll cut the writers and producers some slack and say they made a strong effort to make the story of NWA work. But for my taste, they only partly accomplished that.

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