Volume 4, Number 45
This Week's Reviews: 8 Mile, Bloody Sunday.
This Week's Omissions: Das Experiment, 8 Women, Femme Fatale.
Capsule Reviews: Jackass: The Movie, Paid in Full.
Dancer in the Dark
BY: DAVID PERRY
"The views and events expressed here are totally fucked and are not necessarily the views of anyone. However, the events and suggestions that appear on this album are not to be taken lightly."
Rapper Eminem opened his first album, The Slim Shady LP, with that "public service announcement." By taking the time to excuse himself of the controversy that would surely follow his belligerent, antisocial treatise, Eminem showed the parallel between his work and that of, say, an editorial columnist. His viewpoints are exactly that: his. He doesn't expect people to follow his words part and parcel (though some do), but is still going to let it all out for everyone to consume and decide the merits of on their own.
I've been sitting the fence on Eminem's artistic abilities for some time: his rants are equally hypnotic for their abrasive stylings and repugnant for their injurious meaning. The pain that he imparts in his songs about his ex-wife comes to life in the words he chooses to describe their relationship; but the way he deals with her, usually involving killing her in some gruesome way, cannot be seen as constructive.
His first song to find the balance of pathos and violence needed to create something of perfect poetry (whether or not it created a perfect song is in the eye, or ear, of the beholder) was "Stan," a faux open letter to the fans who were actually living their lives in hopes of being Eminem. As he clearly tries to instruct them (which, as he has found through his career, is something he has more power in doing than their parents), the Slim Shady character who spouts out the misogynistic, anti- establishment, homophobic, racist dialogue is just a singing representation of Eminem (real name: Marshall Mathers -- even the Eminem character is a creation) and his id.
After using "Stan" to clear some of the misconceptions, Eminem then used Elton John for a duet on the song. Of course, soon afterwards, he went to trial for attacking Kim Mathers and her new boyfriend, again destroying his attempts to clear his name of the Slim Shady stigma. Hoping that the third time's a charm, Eminem has brought his next clarification to the screen in the form of 8 Mile, a semi-autobiographical tale of his own Rocky-like rise to the top of the rap world.
Set in 1995, 8 Mile looks at the life of a wannabe rapper in Detroit trying to make his place in the industry (whether or not he can release an album as successful as The Slim Shady LP four years later is left for the audience to decide). Jimmy Smith, Jr., (Eminem) known by friends and family as Bunny Rabbit, is introduced rehearsing a rap in front of a mirror in a filthy bathroom, people knocking angrily on the locked door and a rap beat permeating the atmosphere.
B-Rabbit is at a weekly rap competition where two rappers have 45 seconds to make as many remarks about their competitors and go on to the next round. B-Rabbit is white -- thug white, but still white -- and competitor Papa Doc (Mackie) and jury, the loud audience in the abandoned factory, are all black. Papa Doc immediately gets on this fact and brings the audience to his side; when B-Rabbit gets his turn to mutilate Papa Doc, he freezes and gets the expected audience reaction.
"You know that everyone's calling you a loser," his ex-girlfriend Janeane (Manning) tells him. And B-Rabbit is a bit of a loser -- leaving Janeane after she lied about being pregnant, living with his alcoholic mother (Basinger) and her May-December boyfriend Greg (Shannon) in a trailer, losing his job at a pizza place and working at an ex-con-friendly pressing factory. He spends his days hanging out with his friends -- the hopeful Future (Phifer), the jolly Sol George (Miller), the pontificating DJ Iz (Wilson), the slow Chedder Bob (Jones), and the mobile Wing (Byrd) -- before going to a job he hates and a home that hates him.
The film itself is not a surprise -- its pretenses are exactly what would expect from Eminem -- but its director is a shock. Curtis Hanson, who did wonders with L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys, saw something in Eminem that many of his critics were oblivious to: if Eminem can portray his second-self in his albums, what can he do with his first-self on film?
Hanson brings production designer Philip Messina (Traffic) and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros) to help create the 1990s Detroit in its most devastated form. Looking like a low-income disaster area, the setting of the film helps to show the pitiful world that creates the billowing self-hate that B-Money (i.e. Eminem) is eliciting in his lyrics. This also helps to create the curious impropriety of upper-middle-class suburban kids finding a philosophical union with the world Eminem is rapping against.
More amazing, though, is how Hanson et al. are able to find the occasional beauties in this atmosphere. A climactic rap competition has Roman gladiatorial levels of intensity; the odd, counterculture look of Alex (Murphy) has a 'hood glamour that cannot be created on a catwalk; and the friendship that B-Rabbit and his cohorts show is more engaging than anything that might be seen between, say, golfing buddies.
At the center of the film, of course, is the work of Eminem, whose hands seem to be on nearly every element of the film. He is a grand screen presence, showing a mile-long stare that breaks through the frame. His acting is not as much of a part of the film as his persona -- after seeing the film, it is impossible to say that Eminem is really a great actor, but the abstract idea of Eminem is unquestionably commanding.
His story is, without a doubt, a cinematic one. There
have been countless rags-to- riches stories littering the screens for decades with only
the occasional high points. 8 Mile looks at the formula (at its best was Rocky,
at its worst was Fame) and attempts to portray the rags, not the riches. Nothing
in the film comes without pain and, in the end, it becomes clear that such pain was an
inexorable barrier that had to be broken. 8 Mile's best way to pounce on the
simple clichés it's working with is to leave the audience with a question the film cannot
answer: does breaking these barriers really promise anything?
Hiroshima, Mon Amour
BY: DAVID PERRY
"They don't talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What's the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where's the glory in that? Where's the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old-age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day? Where's the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution that the majority of the people in my country don't want."
Bono stopped in the middle of his song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" to say those words to an American crowd on 8 November 1987. That day, IRA terrorists had killed 11 people and wounded 60 others during a parade of veterans in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The day happened to be a Sunday.
The 1984 song, of course, was about another bloody Sunday, the one that occurred on 30 January 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland, when the British Army and the IRA helped to turn a peaceful civil rights march in a massacre of civilians: 13 dead, 14 wounded. The new film Bloody Sunday does its best to document this day, the day that many people see the escalation of the IRA beyond rebellion and into terrorism.
Director Paul Greengrass tells the film in documentary vérité style, pat with handheld cameras and gritty 16mm film stock. The movie has an immensely realistic look that feels like an exact replication of what would have really been filmed had cameramen captured the various entities in the 1972 massacre. Greengrass and cinematographer Ivan Strasburg film the events of Bloody Sunday with a style that may turn off viewers loath to the shakiness of the camera, but one that seems just as tumultuous and chaotic as the actual event.
At the core of the film is Ivan Cooper (Nesbitt), the Member of Parliament for the area who planned the Civil Rights march that would later turn into Bloody Sunday. He spoke to reporters the day before, trying to help people understand that he just wanted the people of Derry to have the rights that every other British citizen enjoyed. As he passes out the fliers to the citizens of Derry, MP Cooper keeps reminding people that this will be a peaceful protest. All this is shown alongside the press conference of British Major General Ford (Pigott-Smith) as he speaks on the decree that all marches are illegal and that any violence committed during a march will be on the shoulders of the planners, not the military.
Greengrass openly identifies with the Irishmen marching and not the British military, but he refrains from turning the film into a heavy-handed call for action, much like what Bono has tried to do with his song. He does show that there were some IRA marchers brandishing firearms and that there were some British soldiers averse to using live rounds against what had been a peaceful protest. But Greengrass makes it clear that only one side was really hurt by this day: the fact of the matter is that none of the British soldiers received a flesh wound while many unarmed Irishmen were shot in the back.
Every scene in the first half of Bloody Sunday has the nervy tension that tells the audience, at least those not already aware of what happened on that day, something is surely going to go awry. This anxiety becomes almost unbearable until the film finally hits the actual altercation, when the fears become reality and their bloody consequences spring forth like a mine. Playing a game of three acts perfectly, Greengrass spends the final third on the end of the day as everyone tried to make sense of what had just passed. As Cooper walks through the hospital, consoling those who had lost loved ones, his aggravation is lost in a sea of sadness. He knows that this day in Derry has been more than just the killing of 13 people -- this massacre is all the ammunition the IRA will need to continue its violent fight.
Bloody Sunday makes sure to let the audience
know that we cannot take solace in the fact that the incident in Derry (13 dead, 14
wounded) happened so long ago -- it would be remembered throughout the next three decades
as the Troubles in Northern Ireland continue. We remembered it as the reports came in from
Enniskillen in 1987 (12 dead, 60 wounded) and from Omagh in 1998 (28 dead, over 200
wounded). As we look at the numbers, 3,523 people killed from 1969 to 2001 in the Troubles
according to Malcolm Sutton's death registry (1,856 marked as non-political civilians),
the greatest fear becomes clear: that we will be forced to remember these dates again when
another massacre in the name of Irish nationalism occurs.
|Jackass: The Movie
(Dir: Jeff Tremaine, Starring Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Dave England, Jason Acuña, Preston Lacy, Ryan Dunn, and Ehren McGhehey)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Potty humor has never been quite as hard to excuse as it
is used in Jackass: The Movie. And, yet, it is impossible to say that the film
does not strike some innate, masochistic chord with the audience. The film's collection of
pranks and stunts (more or less, an editing together of three episodes of the show with a
little more vulgarity freedom) may be troubling, but they are also, at times, hilarious.
Those disturbed by the guys from Jackass should find some solace in one fact:
considering some of the outcomes of their antics, they probably won't be able to
|Paid in Full
(Dir: Charles Stone III, Starring Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer, Cam'ron, Chi McBride, Esai Morales, Elise Neal, Regina Hall, and Kevin Carroll)
BY: DAVID PERRY
The ghetto-gangster drama has been regurgitated into so
many similar forms that it becomes impossible to not get them mixed up. Paid in Full
seems destined to follow suit with the forgettable train of similarly themed films even
though it has more heart than many of its relatives. The protagonist's rise into the shoes
of a drug kingpin during the 1980s -- played, at times, beside Brian De Palma's superior
treatment of such a story in Scarface -- has as much ambition as a John Singleton
film, but with only half the cinematic know-how.
|BUY THIS FILM'S
|BUY THIS FILM'S