Friday, August 14, 2015
Straight Outta Compton 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review
Straight Outta Compton  (directed by F. Gary Gray, screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff story by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff) is a biopic about the late-1980s early-1990s Los Angeles-based "gangsta rap" group N.V.A.
Perhaps the most important thing that I can say about both their story and the film is that despite a very long list of (legitimate) complaints about the content of their songs and then their often violent / often misogynist off-stage behavior, the group did OFTEN tell the truth, certainly the truth as viewed from their perspective.
And I think I can say that because I LIVED IN LOS ANGELES during those same years, studying for a PhD (in Chemistry) at the University of Southern California, at the northern edge of South Central L.A. I knew very well the buzzing of police helicopters over my head at night, pretty much _every night_. And I watched a black man being spread-eagled / arrested at night in front of my student room for rent where I was living.
Later, after I finished my PhD, I still lived in the area during the L.A. Riots following the trial of the LAPD officers in the Rodney King arrest. I will never forget the smell of the city burning on the first night of the rioting. And I spent the second night at a priest friend's out in the suburbs near where I was working because I could not get home to the apartment where I still lived at the time (on the east side of Hollywood) because the area was still cordoned off by police who were trying to restore order. I spent that evening with my priest friend and his Hispanic gang-intervention group standing on a street corner by a shopping center a few suburbs away, chanting to very agitated passerbys essentially "Give Peace a Chance" and I've never forgotten my impression of that angry night as: "So this is how the Apocalypse would look like" as it seemed like there was a near total (if thankfully temporary) unraveling of social order.
While I did not know Compton as well as I knew South Central L.A., I would have to say that comparisons to the notorious Soweto Township in South Africa would _not_ be entirely off-base. As such, I totally get the sharp, spare-me-the-B.S.(!) language / anger of N.V.A.'s songs and the current film.
Now a fair number of non-blacks who've never lived in an area like Compton / South Central L.A. will simply not understand or _not get past_ the anger expressed in the N.V.A.'s songs and videos (Hence a fair question could be asked: 'Okay, you're absolutely right, but ... if you turn a lot of people off who's going to really listen to you?' But a fair response would probably be: 'Well a lot of those people who don't like us weren't going to listen to us anyway..."). A fair number of observers will also discount / dismiss N.V.A. (and other rappers like them) for their attitude / descriptions AND OFTEN ENOUGH (DOCUMENTED) BEHAVIOR toward WOMEN. I also _completely_ understand the AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENTS precisely living in places like Compton / South Central L.A. who would be saying: "WE GET IT. WE SEE IT. BUT WE _DON'T_ WANT OUR KIDS LIVING LIKE YOU -- with guns, drugs and whores (or living as drug dealers / whores)."
So this is a film that is edgy about a rap group whose music was and remains _very disturbing_. Parents, this film certainly deserves its R-rating. But it's NOT a film / story to dismiss.
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