8 Mile

Picture: producers Brian Grazer, Curtis Hanson, Jimmy Iovine
Director: Hanson
Screenplay: Scott Silver
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Original music: Eminem

“8 Mile” is the cultural intersection where Hollywood studio filmmaking meets hip-hop’s inner-city origins, and where Eminem has entered the movie star fast lane.

Before its release, conventional wisdom had the film symbolizing a generational chasm, appealing to Eminem’s fans but too intimidating to late boomers and seniors long put off by rap’s message and profile — precisely the key age groups that comprise the majority of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters.

Now, with “8 Mile’s” astonishing opening B.O. week attracting a wider audience than expected, any presumption about its limited reach into the Academy elite has to be re-evaluated.

The filmmaking team, led by director-producer Curtis Hanson (Oscar winner for the script for “L.A. Confidential” and a nominee for “Wonder Boys”) and producer Brian Grazer, just off a picture win for “A Beautiful Mind,” establishes the film as an Oscar contender.

What makes “8 Mile” accessible to a voting audience that has, to put it mildly, not been part of Eminem’s fan base, is the story’s account of Jimmy (Eminem) bucking the odds and proving that he can be a rapping heavyweight. The narrative fits comfortably inside an old showbiz framework that stretches at least as far back as “42nd Street” and, for shorter-term memories, “Flashdance.”

Although the Academy has never been terribly supportive of movies starring pop stars-turned-leads (think Elvis, Prince and Madonna), it’s tempting to consider that the 2003 Oscars may go nostalgic for the 1950s — melodrama (“Far From Heaven”); the Broadway musical tradition (“Chicago”); and the working-class drama of “8 Mile,” repped in that decade by “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “On the Waterfront” and “Marty.”

The final, perhaps key, element in the movie’s favor is it is emerging as Universal’s major year-end release. In the end game, the studio’s full resources could be thrown behind Hanson, Grazer and Eminem’s hip-hopped Horatio Alger tale.

The main wild card will be its star, a distinct long-shot for an acting nom with a habit of swimming in controversial waters.

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