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September 10, 1999 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-10

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The Michigan Daily -' Thursday, September 10, 1999 - 11

'Whiteboys' wraps racial question

Porn flicks rage in '99

By Christopher Tkaczyk
Daily Arts Writer
What do you get when you mix
many drugs, one gun, several black
gangstas and three whiteboys in one
a e Midwestern city?
serious comedic film that ques-
tions racial differences and the habits
of character linked to them.
"Whiteboys," the new film by
'Slam" director Marc Levin, is
strictly an American tale. No other
ulture could be the highway for this
;parking, combustable engine of
-acial politics that focuses on soci-
stal reaction to a culture group that
:an't find a secure placement in
ern America, save pop-music
: ts.
New York City performance artist
)anny Hoch stars as a corn-fed,
owa-raised white male who acts and

At Showcase

thinks like ' a
"brother." His
interest in gangs-
ta rap runs far
deeper than mere
appreciation. He
speaks and pre-
sents himself as a
traditional black
American rapper
would present
himself to a pay-

infested environment that plagues
the gangsta rap image. A house party
visited by police, eventually lands
him in jail for disobeying an officer.
Rap artist Snoop Doggy Dogg
makes a guest appearance during a
fantasy scene that finds Flip in a
prim and proper prison where dinner
is served on silver platter and lit by
candle light, a perception distorted
by his white background. Dogg lends
his rap skills as he joins Hochs for a
solid commentary on the deluded
justice of Flip's fantasy.
Flip longs for Chicago, where he
can be set up with some homies who
will sell him the drugs to deal back
in Iowa. His confusion of identity
swims in a world of 40 ounce malt
liquor, and begins to drown when he
isn't taken seriously by anyone.
Even Flip's sole black friend,
Khalid, played by Eugene Byrd,
doesn't find Flip's black-ness amus-
ing. For reasons unexplained, the
upper-middle class cola-drinking
Khalid chooses to pal around with
Flip and friends, who seem to be
less-educated and have a larger pen-
chant for trouble. He agrees to
accompany- them to Chicago and
take them to an acquaintance who
can fulfill all of their mind-altering
needs. Their trip into the South
Side's Cabrini Green sets the screen
for a humorous encounter between
gold chain-laden dealers and white-
boy Flip. The film reaffirms what
many already know: You can take a
whiteboy 'out of the sticks, but you
can take the sticks out of the white-
Flip's mother offers an emotional
turn on the opposite end of the lower
class spectrum. When he and mom
go shopping; he throws a pack of
gum into the pile of food necessities..
His mother breaks into tears as she
publicly announces that the family's
food stamps won't pay for luxuries
such as gum.
Flip's parents also confront him
about his choice in clothing. In a

family where the father is slaving to
make ends meet, the money for the
clothes becomes an issue. His blue
collar father asks him why he choos-
es to act the way he does. It's on the
inside, he says, and is irrelevant to
the color of his skin, a statement that
turns "Whiteboys" from a
comedy/rap flick into a cultural
statement by addressing the freedom
of expression that is still being per-
secuted in what is believed to be a
supremely tolerant and diverse soci-
Flip's confusion of identity is
mapped out in a zany ending fantasy
scene that finds him at a music
industry reception set in the corn
fields of Iowa. Those in attendance,
including his parents and illuminar-
ies from the gangsta industry, greet
him and celebrate. But soon others
appear, including a white dress-don-.
ning Klan member, police officers
and army guys. Flip runs through the
maze of corn, unable to find security
or comfort. Levin's fast-paced shots
and imaginative predicaments offer
an artistic presentation of the mater-
As a white rapper, Hoch can't
compete with the best of them. Most
of the material in the film was taken
from plays he has written and per-
formed in New York. His talents are
defined by his perception of self in
relation to the rest of the world and
of the white rapper, a profession that
is quickly etching a new style in
modern music with such successes as
Eminem and Kid Rock.
Whether Flip is viewed as a laugh-
ing stock or as an example of yet
another classification of American
culture, Hoch's performance is out-
standing. Through serious moments
and laugh-out-loud one-liners, his
affinity for modern street language is
superb. Hoch is the sole power of the
film, both as star and co-writer, with
Garth Belcon. Without Hoch, the
film would surely lack in statement
and importance.

Los Angeles Tries
While Hollywood is fretting about a
downturn in production and the flight
of jobs to cheaper markets such as
Canada and Australia, a certain niche
of the entertainment world isquietly
flourishing - porn.
This summer, grips, gaffers and best
boys of mainstream movie-making are
marching down Hollywood Boulevard
in an effort to save their jobs. But in
the San Fernando Valley area of Los
Angeles, where the bulk of the world's
adult films are made, stagehands will-
ing to stretch a boom over a couple in
bed have noproblem finding work.
It's not an industry that civic leaders
embrace, and many people find
pornography morally offensive. But
the Valley's adult filmbusiness plays
an increasingly large role in the
region's economy and is having its
most prosperous year ever, indicators
In July, one out of five shoots was a
porn film, even though these produc-
tions cost just a fraction of a
Hollywood release, according to the
Entertainment Industry Development
Corp., whichoversees the granting of
film permits in the area.
And though major studios are trim-
ming the number of features they pro-
duce annually, adult video producers
are stepping up production. This year,
the industry is on track to release
10,000 new titles, according to trade
publication Adult Video News, upfrom
8,950 last year - an X-rated mile-
stone that probably won't make it into
the mainstream trade magazines.
Powered by the explosive growth
of the Internet and shifting social
mores, the San Fernando Valley's S4-
billion porn industry has proved
seemingly impervious to the bean-
counting, cost-cutting culture seeping
into Hollywood. "You may not
approve of the product, but the adult
filmindustry is an amazingly large

business," said Jack Kyser, chief
economist of the Economic
Development Corp. "Given the dis-
tress inthe entertainment industry, the
success of the adult segment is awel-
come anchor in the wind"
A crasser, darker side of Hollywood,
the adult film industry makes its stag-
gering sums quenching lust -- often
with youth. There's no getting around
the fact that porn is a business that
transforms apple-checked young
women, many only one or two years
out of high school, into buxom sex
workers. It's a business with little over-
sight, no unions and serious health and
safety risks.
Los Angeles Mayor Richard
Riordan wishes the industry was head-
quartered somewhere else. Although
he may not be planning a war on adult
businesses like his counterpart Rudy
Guiliani waged in New York, he is
"ashamed" of the porn industry, he
But porn is entrenched here for a
reason. Close to Hollywood, the
Valley's adult video industry benefits
from the busloads of young starlets
coming to town, the entertainment
infrastructure and the easy morals of
the region.
"Why would we want to leave?"
asked Greg Alves, vice president of
hard-core producer Metro Global
Media Inc. in Van Nuys. "If I need
something printed, I can go to a print-
er and they'll do it, noquestions asked.
If I go just 30 miles from here, they'll
say, 'Hey, I don't do that."'
Home to the world's largest commu-
nity of porn stars (around 1,600) and
50 of the 85 top porn companies, the
Valley has earned the nicknames
Silicone Valley and Valley of Sin.
Though nobody knows exactly how
many local jobs porn creates, econo-
mist Kyser estimates the number
between 10,000 and 20,000.
The industry has been based here

amid the aging strip malls and count-
less cul-de-sacs since the mid-1980s,
when the home video revolution
opened up huge opportunities for
Today, the Valley is full of signs of
prosperity - -if you know where to
look. Jenna Jameson, a 25-year-old
actress with a tattoo below her belt that
reads "heartbreaker," races around the
Valley in a $90,000 Mercedes. She and
other top female performers - -with
stage names such as Jenteal, Sky, Asia
and Lexus - earn as much as S5.000
per sex scene, compared with the S500
a scene typically paid tomale perform-
The insatiable demand for new titles
is driven by men, who watch the
movies to see their favorite female
stars. An evolving trend among top
producers is more couple-friendly
porn, graced with plot,shot on 16mm
film and often costing more than
$200,000 to make.Still, 71 percent of
sex videos are watched by men by
themselves,according to Adult Video
Though the business is rapidly
evolving, 1999 wasn't a perfect year.
Adult video sales and rentals leveled
off to 54.1 billion last year, down a
touch from $4.2 billion in 1997, partly
becauseporn is available via the
Internet, cable TV and digital versa-
And while the proliferation of new
titles - 175 to 200 releasedeach week
-- may be a dream come true for skin-
flick junkies, itmeans lower prices for
producers. A common refrain is that
the glutof adult product, much of it
amateurish, has dragged down prices-
from $70 per new release five years
ago to S40 today.
Still, there are few flops in the adult
world. "You have to try really hard to
lose money in this business,"'said
Steve Orienstein, president of Wicked

ing public.
The main ten-
sion of the film
lies between
Flip's self per-
e tion and how he is viewed by the
de world, by blacks and whites
nd everything in between. The
vhite youth of his hometown, repre-
ented by a three-person gang of
eefy skinheads, don't take kindly to
hose differences, and clashes ensue
t the local carnival. Much of Hoch's
erformance is hilarious, as his
etermination for "ghetto speak"
ften confuses the average Iowan.
lot limiting his mirror of gangsta
ato the music and the image itself,
lip also tries to recreate the drug-
atthew Barrett
aily Arts Writer
"Go" consists of three interwoven
tories, told out of sequence, that
nvolve characters living life to the
ullest. Sound familiar? It should, as
he format worked to perfection in
he revolutionary "Pulp Fiction." And
lthough a debt to Quentin Tarantino
s obvious, passing "Go" off as just
nother rip-off of "Pulp Fiction" is a
irector Doug Liman
"Swingers") packs "Go" with ener-
y from the instant it begins, as he
ounces around from techno raves to
rug busts to car chases in Las Vegas
nd never misses a beat. The film
lso benefits from its eclectic young
ast including Taye Diggs, Katie
olmes, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr,
cott Wolf and the supreme Sarah
4y, all of whom contribute to the
madness that makes the movie.
The DVD version of "Go" is
oaded with extra features. First,
here's a commentary track with
Liman (who also served as the film's
director of photography) and Stephen
Virrione, the film's editor. The two
;hare several great production stories
ranging from a late night trip to a Las
Vegas strip club to Sarah Polley's ini-
ia refusal to do the picture because
as being filmed in Los Angeles.
.iman and Mirrione also give listen-
ers a realistic view of what it was like
o make the movie and delve into
;ome of the problems that they expe-
ienced while shooting the film.
Also included are three music
iideos, a production featurette and 14
leleted scenes, many of which
nclude great moments left on the
:'ng room floor. So go with the
low, and check out one of the year's
est movies to date.

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