SAG Awards cliffhanger: Could ‘Straight Outta Compton’ pull off upset for Best Ensemble?

Logic (and all of my Gold Derby colleagues except Tariq Khan of Fox News) says that the SAG award for Best Film Ensemble will go to either “The Big Short” or “Spotlight”; I am predicting the latter. Both films are populated with well-known actors doing outstanding ensemble work and both have landed supporting actor Oscar nominations.

But Tariq, who is predicting a win for “Straight Outta Compton,” may be on to something. (See all of my predictions HERE and all of Tariq’s HERE.)

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Even setting aside the kerfuffle over the vanilla content of Oscar’s acting categories, and subject matter that is, let’s say, a challenge to the bulk of the academy membership, “Straight Outta Compton” is due some industry love, and the actors may be the ones to give it.

F. Gary Gray’s bio-drama, about the gangsta music movement that blasted out of Compton in the 1980s and changed the course of hip hop culture, was released in mid-summer to positive reviews and grossed $161 million in the U.S. It landed on numerous year-end critics’ top 10 lists and was named one of the year’s 10 best pictures by the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute and the Producers Guild of America.

It was primed for an appearance on the Best Picture line-up at the Oscars as well, and in the collective heart-of-hearts of academy voters, it may have been the ninth-highest finisher in a field of eight. That damned weighted voting template! The academy should just go to 10 and save themselves some trouble.

In the meantime, there is this exemplar of an ensemble film that has been ignored in all but one Oscar category, a deserved nomination for its original screenplay. Chalk it up to human nature, or to racism if you insist, that a sufficient number of members of the actors’ branch of the academy was unfamiliar with the cast members of “Compton” to settle on one or two names to nominate. That is likely true of the SAG membership, too. But they have the added award — their top award, actually — to make good in their appreciation of the ensemble work.

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(It’s worth taking a moment here to thank our lucky stars that Paul Giamatti was not nominated for “Compton.” He could have been. Playing the music manager who discovers and promotes the rap group N.W.A., he’s certainly good enough in it. But as the only major white character, and the only name known to all actors, his nomination would have been a cup of kerosene added to the coming conflagration known as #OscarsSoWhite.)

SAG members have had #OscarsSoWhite to chew on since they made their nominations, and a Best Film Ensemble award from them would be, if not just, at least a measure of prime time compensation for the academy’s failure to acknowledge “Compton” as one of its year’s best.

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Photo credit: “Straight Outta Compton” (Universal)

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