8 Mile is out today. I am so not an Eminem fan: other than a (very few) catchy little numbers (“Trailer park girls – please stand up – wikky wikky Slim Shady”), nothing about this pud interests me at all (he’s making fun of white trash??).
White rapper? So what, the Beasties are much better, cooler, and partake of more appealing aspects of black culture than does poor little Marshall, for whom the world is a ghetto.
I also don’t get this media ass-kissing he has been receiving of late: Jan Herman has done a great job of identifying the puckerers:
- Both the current Entertainment Weekly and Sunday’s New York Times magazine put him on their covers. And that’s just the leading edge of the flackery.
For ET he’s posing like a macho boxer, showing off his tattoos. For the Times he’s posing like a sad choirboy, looking so angelic. Everyone loves Eminem. He’s such a sweetheart.
But which is the real Eminem? Everyone wants to know. You’ll never find out from the interviews in either magazine, both of which read like studio advertisements for his new flick “8 Mile.”
Frank Rich, the Times’ former “butcher of Broadway” once feared for his take-no-prisoners theater criticism, wrote a mash note: “We were meeting on the afternoon of the MTV Video Music Awards, in a Midtown hotel under semi-siege by those underemployed fans who always manage to find out where their icons are holed up. I was there as a sort-of fan myself. I’ve been fascinated by him ever since I first heard his songs at the inception of his notoriety.”
Rich, who I’d say is one overemployed fan, writes up the usual Eminem blueprint: Broken home, Detroit trailer trash, nasty lyrics, hates homosexuals, insults his mother, ugly divorce, gun charges, but boy, he loves his daughter, loves the ‘hood, spreads his mightiness to the suburbs, and now he’s got it together, he’s even OK with gays, but he’s risking it all because maybe Hollywood’s a trap and what if he doesn’t cross over to screen stardom, maybe the ‘hood will drop him and the recording industry will really tank, so stay tuned, etc.
Nobody expects a probing profile or a tough line of questioning from Entertainment Weekly. True to form, here’s how the magazine’s Daniel Fierman begins: “Hey, man. I know your time is valuable. So I hope you don’t mind if I jump right in.” Eminem doesn’t mind at all. “Wow,” he says to his publicist. “Why can’t you be more appreciative like that?”
- Eminem is a screen natural who has a ways to go before he can claim a body of big-screen work. But in 8 Mile, he does himself proud with a director who’s accumulating one.
Coming off the glossily corrosive L.A. Confidential and the whimsical Wonder Boys, Curtis Hanson (news) has fashioned a dynamic Detroit-based saga about showbiz upward mobility — though, to the credit of both movie and filmmaker, not that upward.
As if it weren’t tough enough being an aspiring white rapper, Jimmy (Eminem) finds himself living back in a trailer with his mom after having just lost his girlfriend. But because his mom is played by Kim Basinger, she’s not just a mom; her new live-in boyfriend (Michael Shannon) is about Jimmy’s age. Basinger manages to convince us this woman could pull off the feat, even though she looks as if life long ago wore her out.
…The rap sequences are shot and edited with the excitement of a crisply broadcast sporting event, which in a way they are. Eminem may be a success in real life, but you don’t get the sense that anyone here will break out and bankroll mansions or hot cars (though in Detroit, you could probably get a deal). The victories here will be small on the world stage but immense in self-esteem terms.
USA Today also provides some background on the Detroit area from which the film gets its name:
- It means more than the street that marks the northern edge of Detroit. 8 Mile Road divides city from suburb, blacks from whites, lower class from middle class. The east-west artery has been emblematic of the hostility and social ills that beset the city three decades ago — and later cities across the country — and that still linger along pockets of the eight-lane road.
….”I’m going to see (8 Mile) the first day it comes out,” says Lamar Swanson, 44, who has lived in Detroit since 1968, when the riots set the city afire. ”But not because of that silly white guy; I don’t even like that music. I just want to see if someone can make a movie about how life here really is. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Hmm, that’s a different perspective.
- Along its most crime-ridden stretches, 8 Mile Road remains what it was three decades ago: a catch basin for the city’s human flotsam. Detroit’s destitute and drug-addled still participate in a grim parade along the south side of the road. To travel north means risking quick attention from some suburban cops who watch the street as if it were a prison fence.
….To his credit, much of Hanson’s 8 Mile is a dead-on portrait of the real thing. Detroiters say ”yo” in the beginning of a sentence, not the middle of it. Cars here aren’t rusted, they are rusted through. Gutted homes still dot the city, providing a haven for drug addicts and rapists. As they did 10 years ago (and in the movie), some residents still opt to burn the structures down themselves rather than wait for the city to raze them.
….Hanson also captures one of Detroit’s best-kept secrets: that it’s one of the most racially harmonious cities in the nation. While the riots and subsequent white flight left the city 82% black, the whites who remain are welcomed by the racial majority in a way the suburbs could only envy.
”Where the people are concerned, it’s one of the warmest cities I’ve ever seen,” Hanson says. ”They welcomed us all with open arms. In the movie, too, the characters don’t care if Jimmy is black or white. As long as he can rap, he’s acceptable.”
Some 8 Mile residents have offered the same approval to Eminem, both as musician and actor. Taking a break from washing clothes at a laundromat, Marketta Jones, 19, says she will be ”the first in line” for the film.
”A lot of rappers just sing about women or money,” Jones says. ”At least he sings about his life and our neighborhood. I don’t care what color you are. If you’re true to yourself, I respect that.”
Report from the LA premiere in Variety:
- Since when does a movie premiere in Westwood require the same security as a Salman Rushdie book-signing in Kandahar?
From the look of things at Monday’s “8 Mile” premiere, a man takes his life in his hands when he walks those mean streets in search of a movie and a bag of popcorn.
Monday’s ambiance included metal detectors, bodyguards, a sign at the after-party that read “No cameras, no video equipment or firearms inside the party” (Guns are OK outside?) and the star arriving in a convoy of identical black, window-tinted Excursion SUVs (to confuse the assassins with the heat-seeking missiles?)
Then, when Eminem and posse did depart the relative safety of their vehicles, the rapper made his way down the press line with a speed that gave new meaning to his film character’s nickname: “Rabbit.” To watch the trenchcoat-wearing, NFL linemen-size bodyguards waddling after him was visual comedy at its best.
….After the dual screenings at the Village and Bruin theaters (the best overheard line came from the tall black man who exited the screening, immediately got on his cell phone and said: “I was shocked! There were only, like, four white people in the movie!”), guests took buses to a massive tented party at the Wadsworth Theater.
It was inevitable that Eminem would be in a walled-off VIP section at the after-party. The entry was besieged by posse wannabes calling to friends (“Yo, dawg, get me in”), but most were denied entry.
Yo, yo, yo keepin’ it real.