Oscar Movies: Boyz N' Hood

John Singleton was the first director to successfully translate the swing and heat of hip hop culture into cinematic language. His movies are studio-financed, but he is responsible for making the quintessential Boyz N’ Hood, which launched a whole cycle of indies about inner-city life.

Boyz N’ the Hood received Oscar nominations for original screenplay and director, making Singleton the first African-American and the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar. Produced for a modest $6 million, it grossed $57 million, an input-output ratio that made it the most profitable picture of the year.

The first all-black movie to be bankrolled by a major studio, Boyz N’ the Hood dealt family disintegration and gang wars. A sharp portrait of violence and retribution, the film centers on the struggles of one family to provide its son with the necessary tools for survival. Having grown up in drug-ridden hoods, Singleton knew the environment firsthand; living in South Central has given him a perspective different from that of white directors.

Amidst gang war and hard-core rap, Boyz ‘N the Hood follows three males from pre-teen years to post-adolescence. Singleton turns the sexual confession of Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) into a hyped-up fantasy; the scene of older boys intimidating younger ones becomes a primal myth, both intense and pathetic. Doughboy, the hood’s gun-toting enforcer, returns from prison with a sense of doom, cruising the streets with a posse, ogling women, sizing up rivals.

Of the trio, only Tre has a father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburn), who steers him away from gang activities. Furious preaches black pride sermons about discipline and dignity. But can the one-parent family survive the mean streets of South Central

Inundated with the crackle of gunfire and whirl of police helicopters, the soundtrack is a constant reminder of the violence and police patrol. Demythologizing ghetto life, while advocating self-sufficiency, Boyz ‘N the Hood featured another novelty: None of the women is a prostitute, servant, or welfare mother–all demeaning roles black women have been assigned to play in Hollywood movies Critic Armond White has noted that the father’s name, Furious Styles, suggests what drives Singleton’s art: a sense of commitment and interest in technical display.

Singleton turns a typical coming-of-age drama into an expression of the contemporary social pressures affecting black males. Drawing a contrast between Boyz N’ the Hood and 1980s Brat Pack youth films, White has observed that black teens see life in terms of survival, whereas white kids perceive life in terms of fun. As was shown, introducing fun into black films was the novel point of the House Party films.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Director: John Singleton

Original Screenplay: John Singleton