What Up Yo.
“Everybody in the 3-1-3…put your mother-fucking hands up and follow me…”
I completely love this film. It may be in my top 50.
I didn’t expect to when I first heard of it I remember.
I was aware of Eminem when he was coming up, but because he was too popular I stayed away from him, from his music.
Then Eminem makes and prepares to release the film “8 Mile“. It comes out 2 days before my 27th birthday. I put in my blind spot until I hear that the director of “The Wonder Boys“, Curtis Hanson, had directed it.
I had a deep love for “Wonder Boys”…it stuck a deep nerve within me. It was the type of film I wanted to jump inside and live in for a while, and I knew that energy was due in large part to the talent of Curtis Hanson. I think it’s a wonderful movie.
His involvement in “8 Mile” made me take note of it.
Next, I see the one sheet for the film.
The simplicity of this one sheet has stayed with me since I first saw it.
One man, black and white…sitting and writing lyrics on the palm of his hand. Just a great great photograph.
It reminded me of when I used to sing and write lyrics. I would sing most Wednesdays at the bar I worked at…Timmy came those nights with his acoustic guitar and gear. He would set up in the back of the bar and we would all come to watch him and his sister Megan play. They were amazing. Then he and his friend Frank would jam, a lot of Counting Crows and beautiful renditions of Beatles songs, Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel.
I began sitting in with Timmy after a while as I used to sing with my friend Eric at a bar, but Eric and I were a bit louder than Timmy and Frank. We did a ton of Pearl Jam, Janes Addiction, Floyd…and I knew some Beatles (“Don’t Let Me Down” was my jam). I had a deep baritone singing voice that I molded after Mr Edward Vedder.
Some nights while I was down there hanging with my friends…I would slip away, sneak out of the bar, go to the back patio, scale the back wall of the bar and climb up onto the roof. It was quiet up there. I would write in my lyric book…
I would pace back and forth…
I would sing at the top of my lungs while all my friends were raging in the bar below, oblivious to where I was.
I’m on the roof singing while my buddy Sunthar is working and all our friends are inside.
I was singing a particularly loud A cappella rendition of Pearl Jams “Release” when all of a sudden I turn around and see 2 police officers standing behind on the roof.
They are just staring at me.
They question me.
I explain that I work downstairs in the bar.
“What are you doing up here?”
“I’m singing. I know. It’s crazy. But it’s quiet, and I can get my aggression out up here.”
They walked me down.
They like me (thank the gods)…
but they need to make sure I work there like I’m saying I do, and to make sure in not crazy.
One can be proven easily.
One is a matter of opinion.
As they began to walk me into the bar. I stop them, turn them around and say…
“Listen. I know this will sound crazy, but would you mind if one of you waited out here with me while you ask them? They are going to tear me to shreds when they find out that you guys found me up on the roof singing.”
They looked at me smiling and said …
“Just wait here man. Give me your ID. I’ll go speak to Sunthar”
One stays with me outside. It’s the female cop. She is asking me questions. I have no idea what because I’m horribly embarrassed and I know I’m going to look like a freak to my friends in 2.5 seconds.
The male officer goes into the bar with my ID in his hands. He walks up to the Sunthar, who is standing behind the bar in front of most of our friends and says…
“Do you guys know this guy?”
They showed Sunthar my ID…he’s like a big brother to me. He said
“We found him on the roof. He was singing real loud. We just want to make sure you know him. He’s to embarrassed to come in.”
They confirmed they knew me and I was ok.
The cops come out, give me back my license and say:
“Listen man, no more going on the roof, you could hurt yourself up there.”
“Ok. Thanks. Sorry guys”
I slowly walked into the bar everybody was staring at me probably good 20 people Sunthar says:
“Dude are you okay?”
“Yea brother. I was just singing…”
Then the laughter comes.
“HAAA HAAAAA HAAA”
Anyway…that’s what the poster made me think of for some reason.
Then I caught the trailer:
I was intrigued. The look of the film, the look in Eminem or Marshall’s eyes in each clip in this trailer…the fact that his hair was brown, not his trademark platinum blond. This was symbolic. He was giving us him, not Slim Shady, not Eminem, but Himself…Marshall Mathers. This wasn’t a goofy sloppy movie, this was a drama…and it had class from what I could see. Brian Grazer was producing it …
Hmm. This sounds interesting.
I observed that the studios were marketing it as the “Rocky” movie of rap music.
The marketing was working on me. Maybe this guy, this Eminem…maybe he was trying to put out a good film?
I finally saw the film a few months later on DVD and I was floored. I just loved it. His performance was fantastic. The pacing and honesty of the film, how relatable it all was.
We know this formula. Sure. Genius is shy, but destiny has his back. He struggles. We hope. He falls and we hope. He starts to rise, he falls harder. He learns a lesson. He stands up and succeeds on his own terms
Fine. Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.
But this formula didn’t hamper my experience. Even within the confines of the standard 3 act story metaphor…this was working so well.
Partly due to the direction and screenplay. It was Eminems film though. He had to carry it. He had to pull it off. Never having acted before, yes he was playing a version of himself…but he gave a consistent performance, a heartfelt performance, from beginning to end like he had done it 50 times before.
I’ve come to admire and respect Eminem since then immensely…but at that point, he needed to win my respect as he was leaving his arena of rap and entering the film domain where I wasn’t sure he belonged.
By the time the final rap battle begins…the film owned me. It disarmed me, broke down my barriers and I accepted it fully.
I hung on every word, battle through battle…until finally the last battle takes place and Eminems “Bunny Rabbit” character does what Rocky Balboa did in Russia in “Rocky IV”. Rabbit, like Rocky facing the Ruasian crowd, faces the packed audience at this rap battle head on. They all want to see him fall. He gives them his soul…they embrace him as he demonstrates to them that he is the better performer.
They once cheered for the “Bad Guys” of the film, the “Free World” rap gang,
They now cheer for him.
It is amazing to watch
Below is the video of the rap battles.
Whenever I watch this I get chills.