Before this year’s Academy Award nominees were announced, it seemed reasonable to think that Straight Outta Compton, the bravura, socially relevant account of hip-hop group N.W.A.’s rise and struggles against racial prejudice, would be included in the Best Picture category. A lot of pundits certainly did, because of one key metric: The film had already been nominated in the Screen Actors Guild’s best motion picture ensemble category, and by the Producers Guild of America for outstanding film of the year. Historically, when a movie is recognized by both of those industry organizations, many of whose members are also voting members of the Academy, it means an Oscar nomination for Best Picture is practically guaranteed.
Key word there is “practically”: This morning, when the names of the eight films that made the Academy’s best picture cut were revealed, Straight Outta Compton was not among them. The Big Short and Spotlight, the only other two movies this year that received those approval stamps from SAG and the PGA, were both there. But Straight Outta Compton, an award-buzzy film with a largely black ensemble cast and an African-American director in F. Gary Gray, was absent. It did receive a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, though. If it wins that Oscar, the award will be shared among four writers and story developers, all of whom are white.