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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

8 Mile [Blu-ray]

 

(Curtis Hanson, 2002)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Brian Grazer/Curtis Hanson

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: ALL

Runtime: 1:50:37.756

Disc Size: 22,271,656,788 bytes

Feature Size: 20,092,305,408 bytes

Average Bitrate: 24.22 Mbps

Chapters: 21

Case: Custom Blu-ray case

Release date: April 14th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4097 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4097 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUBs: DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras (Hi-Def):

• (none)

 

Additional Extras (SD)

• The Making of 8 Mile (10:02)

• Exclusive Rap Battles Uncensored (23:39) first about rap battles then the 20 15-second battles themselves.

• "Superman" Music Video Uncensored (5:02)

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• (none)

 

 

The Movie: 7

If you've an eye for these things, you aren't likely to miss the flash of Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life that flickers in passing across the TV screen.  It's a film about coming to terms with one's true identity in racial terms, a proper backdrop for Curtis Hanson's pop movie about a white boy in a black man's world, whose only gift is his ability to rap.

Enimen, the actor, renders a joyless rendering of his character, Jimmy Rabbit, who hasn't much joy in his life to console him.  He just left his girlfriend because she was pregnant, but left her his car as a sort of consolation prize.  (He's consoled; she's confused.)  He practices the rap gestures in front of mirror before throwing up before going out on stage to confront his audience before freezing and walking out in disgrace. 

Jimmy's slatternly mother (a dynamic and unexpected Kim Basinger) lives in a trailer with her young daughter – the one creature he has unqualified love for – and her boyfriend (the personification of domestic violence) – the one creature he has unqualified disrespect for.  Jimmy demonstrates this, as he does with others, in his volatile temper – as often the inciter of violence as its victim.  It is in the relatively constrained world of the rap battles where insults can be hurled without likely violent retaliation, but away from the stage, things can get pretty dicey.

Rabbit hangs out with a small group of friends, among them "Future" (Mekhi Phifer) who is the MC at the Shelter, a sort of bombed out warehouse where rap battles are staged.  Future encourages Rabbit to take the stage and square off against those who see him only as an "Elvis" – a white man who appropriated the black man's music, so they say.  A potential new love enters: Alex (Brittany Murphy), who is loyal to Rabbit, if not faithful, but we suspect she may be using him as just one piece of her ticket out of Detroit and on to New York. 

The formula is familiar enough: talented kid fails, finds love, loses love, pisses all over his friends in a deluge of self-hate, finds self-respect and returns to the scene of his disgrace to face down the opposition to cheers for the new king.  We don't get beyond this, to his likely success (the movie being the legend of the Eminem persona itself), nor does other pop music enter into this world, as if Detroit's Motown had never existed.  The movie is clear about what it is and what it is not.

A personal view: I've long thought there was a tendency for whites in this country to identify with what they saw as black aggression just to keep it all safely at arm's length - thus, in part, the embrace of rap.  In the movie there is always the threat of arbitrary and murderous violence, but I gather that things are changing in the gangbanger world: taking their cue from Stringer Bell, some of these guys would now rather blend in with the business world than to give it the finger, commit serious crime or go to jail. 

 

Image: 9/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Except for a tendency for the blacks to block up in dark scenes, which isn't at all inappropriate for the content of this movie, I found the image to be very good, indeed.  It's sharp, solid, with honest and tangible textures and surfaces.  The grime and grunge of the back rooms at the Shelter and the machinery at the punch press shop comes through with gritty realism.  I found no distracting artifacts or enhancements.

 

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7

I was surprised that the music did not have the punch or the bass that I expected from a theatrical version of a rap movie.  Not that rap usually gets much better treatment on disc.  It's just that I thought that the money it would take to produce a movie of this level would also come with a dynamite soundtrack – like the music equivalent of The Fast and the Furious.  Not that there isn't plenty of bass, it's just that's it's lacks huevos.  I was surprised, too, that the acoustic fails to change with location within the Shelter and its corroders: the rap challenge is happening a few turns away, but the music volume and EQ remains the same as people make their way toward or away from it.  The occasional background hip-hop instrumental score opens up the sound stage to bring in the rears.  But the real sound show is at the pressing plant, which has some of the most crushing bass and shearing treble you'll ever hear.  And it feels REAL.  (11 points there.)

 

Operations: 5

The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. But particularly irksome was that there were no subtitles for songs not sung by the actors.  So, in the beginning of the movie, for example, Eminem's character is listening to a track on his headphones.  We can hear it well enough.  In fact that's about all we do hear since it represents his internal struggle to do battle in front of a live and likely hostile audience.  But no subtitles.  I can make out Eminem and his competition well enough when they rap in large part because I have context and their performance to help guide me.  Even so, subtitles, which are available here, are necessary for such as me who is relatively unfamiliar with the genre.  Without those cues, I'm at a loss.  No subs.  No comprende.  So, why not all the time?

 

 

 

Extras: 4

In the Making-of segment, Curtis Hanson (the director of Wonder Boys and L.A. Confidential) and Brian Grazer (the default producer for many a Ron Howard movie) assure us of the realities of Detroit street life, of a divided city, and especially the backstory of Eminem, and how he worked out as an actor:  Yes, he acts as well as he raps.  He's wonderful.  Better than expected.  Etc. Etc.  I'm happy to have their reassurance.  Exclusive Rap Battles (Uncensored)!  Are there such things as censored rap battles?  What would be the point?  This is actually a fairly interesting featurette: a kind of video blog where Hanson, who first makes some introductory comments about the title "8 Mile" that divides the black hip-hop part of Detroit from the white suburbs, and then invites the "extras" that make up the audience for the Shelter rap battles to do some impromptu rapping on camera in 15-second snips.  By turns the twenty "contestants" are ingenious, amusing and whathefuck by turns.  Speaking of uncensored, Eminen's music video of "Superman" pretty much makes the case for what engages and revolts its audience.

 

 

Recommendation: 7

It's now six or seven years after the fact, and 8 Mile can be judged and appreciated for a movie on its own terms as well as a kind of pop doc on rap culture or a faux-biopic on the legend of Eminem.  The Blu-ray sports a terrific image.  The audio is OK, I guess, some aspects of it are significantly better than others.  Extra features pretty much suck.  For devotees of the genre, this disc can't be beat with a stick.

 

Leonard Norwitz
April 6th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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