Sunday, August 23, 2015


A group of young black men topped Tom Cruise.  For the second weekend, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON took the number one spot at the box office.  This biopic about black gangsta rap music stars and made by a black director put Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation in second place.  Straight Outta Compton takes us to South Central Los Angeles in the late 1980s to see the origins of the seminal hip-hop group, N.W.A.  This film, with mostly unknown new actors, racked up some really good reviews from veteran movie critics and surely made Universal movie execs smile with its box office business.  It grossed $100 million domestically in just nine days.
We rarely get biopics with a son playing his showbiz father.  For classic film fans, Eddie Foy Jr. played his stage entertainer father opposite James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).  Dick Powell Jr. played his movie star father in The Day of the Locust (1975).  In Straight Outta Compton, O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays his father, N.W.A's Ice Cube.
Here's something that aroused my curiosity about the promotion of this hit movie:  From my teen years well into my adult years, I pretty much grew up seeing movie critics do weekly regular segments on the original network morning news programs.  Gene Shalit was on NBC's Today Show, Joel Siegel was Good Morning America's longtime movie critic and CBS' previous early morning news programs had Gene Siskel.  Nowadays, you don't see weekly film critics on the morning shows.  I think that's because the networks now have corporate ties to movie companies.  CBS is attached to Paramount, NBC to Universal and Disney is the parent company to ABC.  Can you just imagine if a movie critic got on Good Morning America and said that he or she did not like Frozen?  Meetings with management would not have been pretty.

Instead of reviewing movies, the morning news shows now tend to cross-promote the attached movie studio's product.  Think of how often we heard "Let It Go" from Frozen played on GMA.  Think of how often we saw females on GMA dressed like platinum blonde Elsa from that animated Disney feature.  On NBC, the Today Show gave some nice exposure to two Universal summertime releases.  Go to Google and search "Jurassic World The Today Show" and about six segment feature items pop up.  Google "Minions The Today Show" and about six segment feature items pop up.  Now google "Straight Outta Compton The Today Show."  There are only two mentions of box office news (as of Sunday night, Aug. 23rd).  No segments.  In my current living situation, I don't get to watch the network morning shows as frequently as I once did.  But I wondered if Today would have features on Straight Outta Compton after its hit opening weekend.  I saw that actor/pro wrestler Jon Cena was on last week as a guest co-host.  He's currently seen as one of Amy Schumer's boyfriends in the hit comedy, Trainwreck.  That's also a Universal release.  Google "Trainwreck The Today Show."  About ten segment features pop up -- on the first page alone.  I didn't seen any mention on Twitter of a Today Show feature on Straight Outta Compton.  Matt Lauer, Carson Daly, Willie Geist and Al Roker didn't dress up like members of N.W.A.  The show didn't broadcast live from Compton.  Jenna Bush Hager didn't do an exclusive interview with Ice Cube.  If you've been watching Today, has it given some love to Straight Outta Compton?  I'm curious.  Here's a trailer.
The lack of racial diversity in Hollywood has been a hot issue this year going back to the Oscar nominations at the beginning of 2015.  An article on the lack of blacks, Latinos and Asians in the Academy membership was reported by The Los Angeles Times.  Black actress Viola Davis was vocal about accepting a TV series on ABC because, despite two Oscar nominations to her credit, Hollywood had no interesting, challenging and plentiful script offers for her.  Other black actresses on TV who have Oscar nominations to their credit know the feeling.

This could be a good time for Today to interview Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray.

If I was a segment producer for that NBC morning news show, I'd approach Mr. Gray to come on and discuss the Hollywood diversity issue from his standpoint.  He directed Friday (1995), a big hit with black moviegoers, and The Negotiator starring Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson.  He also directed the 2003 remake of The Italian Job starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham and Donald Sutherland.

With the success of Straight Outta Compton, what major offers -- if any -- has he received from Hollywood?  What kind of respect has he received from Hollywood?  Did he see the major praise Selma director Ava DuVernay had for him on Twitter?  Would he like to be a member of the directors branch of the Academy?  Does Hollywood see Universal's Straight Outta Compton as "a black film" even though several good reviews came from white critics and, obviously, white moviegoers have paid to help make the film a hit?

Those questions could make for an interesting interview.  Let me know if you've seen Straight Outta Compton features and/or references on the Today Show like viewers did for Universal's Jurassic World and Minions.

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