Awards Profile 2019: Craig Brewer’s ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ from Netflix

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Dolemite Is My Name”

DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix
DIRECTOR: Craig Brewer
PRODUCER: Eddie Murphy, John Davis, and John Fox
WRITER(S): Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Chris Rock, Ron Cephas Jones, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Luenell, Gerald Downey, Aleksander Filimonovic, Ivo Nandi, Phil Abrams, and Chelsie Gilson
SYNOPSIS: The story of performer Rudy Ray Moore, who assumed the role of an iconic pimp named Dolemite during the 1970s. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: TBD 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS:

The original “Dolemite”

Eddie Murphy hasn’t completely disappeared, but he also feels like a fringe player doing just enough industry work to prevent the door from shutting completely. With his previous ties to Brett Ratner and the Oscar hosting debacle behind him, he’s currently one significant role away from returning to the mainstream limelight. Partnering with Netflix for his newest film is the best way to stage his grand return. Millions of subscriber eyeballs will watch Murphy, some fans of his former glory days and other Gen-Z newbies who are experiencing the bedazzlement of live-action Eddie Murphy for the first time.

As much as this comedy biopic about standup comedian and blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore is both comeback and awards vehicle for Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name” is also a reminder of the “Hustle & Flow” (2005) director who helped nab its breakout star at the time, Terrence Howard, an Oscar nomination. As we know, Craig Brewer’s musical drama is best known for its shocking “Best Original Song” victory against presumed winner “Crash” (2005) with Three 6 Mafia’s rousing “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.”

The Murphy and Brewer pairing can act as a warmup in preparation of their more anticipated 2020 collaboration, “Coming to America 2.” The original film catapulted Murphy to superstardom, and with Murphy taking over for John Landis, “Dolemite is My Name” is the perfect test to see how comically in-sync he and Murphy are.

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES:

Murphy’s Oscar loss to Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) was a career-low moment for the famed funny guy. It’s difficult to imagine his Netflix effort is going to elevate him back to his former stature. Netflix Original Films are still viewed as creative dumping grounds, carrying a stigma that won’t unlatch itself anytime soon despite the recent awards success of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” (2018). 

Many will also view this project similarly to Jack Black’s “The Polka King” (2017): a biopic comedy exclusively rendered appealing because of its attached star. The awards conversation might stop before it even begins if weekend streaming buzz reports negative feedback. Netflix has been a firm supporter in providing black cinema a wider audience, though Brewer’s whiteness could instigate important discussion about how he’s not the best fit for telling the story of an entertainer entrenched in the blaxploitation subgenre. Finally, with heavy awards fare on the horizon — Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” — it will difficult for this biopic to find its way into the conversation considering its studio’s propensity to spend selectively.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (Eddie Murphy, John Davis, and John Fox)
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Eddie Murphy)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, and/or Ron Cephas Jones)
  • Original Screenplay (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski)
  • Costume Design (Ruth E. Carter)
  • Film Editing (Billy Fox)
  • Cinematography (Eric Steelberg)
  • Original Score (Scott Bomar)

Does “Dolemite Is My Name” have what it takes to go the Oscar distance…or not? Let us know in the comments section below!

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