Thursday, March 02, 2006

"...they're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls..." - Don Zaluchi - The Godfather

Admittedly, I didn't watch Hustle and Flow until months after its release. I purchased it one night at Target on Moreland in Atlanta, and I went straight home and watched it that evening.

I was very entertained with the movie, but I felt it was missing something. I felt that Terrence Howard, who has entertained us for years now in a variety of roles, came with his usual bravado and brilliance, and it did not go unnoticed by the Hollywood Foreign Press nor the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. However, there's a problem with his performance, or maybe just the way his character's story was written.

The problem is that the outside world never, ever penetrates his life. Granted, the outside world may have led him to his chosen profession, and the influences of the outside world may have even directed him to take a different career path, and become a rapper, but it seems that the rules of the world, never, ever penetrate DJay's daily life.

For instance, DJay is a pimp. In the film though, the fact that he is a pimp is never once compromised. He is never investigated for pimping, never questioned by the police, never even close to being caught or brought in for anything have to do with prostitution. It's as though the world, or maybe his world, doesn't really care that he does that for a living. Also, he deals in 'gateway' drugs. At no time in the movie, deleted scenes nor in any of the commentaries is there any questioning of the fact that he deals drugs or in essence does what he has to do to get by. Not once is he caught or suspected of being a drug dealer throughout the movie, even though essentially he's a middle man anyway. No, the only time that he goes to jail or that we even see the police in this film is after he gets into an altercation and beats the daylights out of someone. I just found that whole thing conveniently odd.

Now, it can be looked at in a number of ways. There is a famous line in the book The Godfather as well as in the movie when Don Zaluchi stands up and says, " I want to keep it respectable. I don't want it near schools. I don't want it sold to children! In my city, we'd keep the traffic in the Dark People, the Coloreds - they're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls." One could make the argument that since the police don't really care if African American women prostitute themselves, or if African Americans sell drugs to each other and destroy their bodies and their lives, that's less of a burden on the local P.D. Yes, that argument could be made, and there are parts of this fine country where that is still most definitely the case, even today in 2006. However, the film either presupposes that you, the viewer, know and understand that or subscribe to that notion, or it feigns a blissful ignorance to the rules and laws of civil society.

While Terrence Howard's performance is moving, and even makes one feel sympathetic for and definitely root for a drug dealing pimp, the fact that he never really addresses the illegal way that he gets by in life leaves a hole in the performance for me. My friend Tash dismisses the whole movie because the writer and director is of European American. And while he may have said that jestily, the truth still stands that that is the case.

I am however very proud for Terrence Howard, whom I first recognized as Quentin in The Best Man. His current meteoric rise is an interestingly sad commentary on the fact that what Black America knows for years is all brand new when the majority of America realizes it. Calling Terrence Howard a newcomer is as irresponsible as calling Cornel West a teacher, or leaving off the 'Dr.' in Condeleeza Rice's proper title (they never left it off of Kissinger's name). I also feel that Terrence Howard should've been nominated for his role in the ensemble piece and my choice for Best Picture, Crash. He defnitely should've gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film. He had a very, very quiet dignity that simmered and boiled only once in the film, and even when the chips were down against him, that dignity or cool, got him out of a seemingly unwinnable situation.

Win or lose, and do I believe good old P.S.H. (Philip Seymour Hoffman) will win a most deserving Best Actor statuette, it's always great to be nominated, and hopefully Mr. Howard will find solace in that.

The question was raised as to how I feel about Three Six Mafia performing. I think it will be one of the most memorable moments in the history of Oscar. And hopefully they will give it their all, which I'm sure they will. "Hard Out Here For A Pimp" is exactly what a Best Original Song is supposed to be; it captures the essence of the film. Its brilliance is the same that Mencken and Ashman had with Aladdin's 'A Whole New World' or Prince with "Purple Rain" or Stevie with "I Just Called To Say I Love You" or Eminem with "Lose Yourself." The best original songs capture the essence of the film. I was ecstatic in 1999 when "Blame Canada" was nominated, because it showed the Academy was dead on accurate at awarding the best music from the year. However, "La Resistance", "What Would Brian Boitano Do", "Up There" and of course "Uncle Fu**a" were also Oscar worthy as well.

I'm Joe and that's how I see it.


At Friday, March 03, 2006 9:52:00 AM , Blogger the good son said...

Wait.... Three 6 is performing at the Oscars? Oh man, I gotta get a TiVo box ASAP....

At Friday, March 03, 2006 11:54:00 AM , Anonymous Augustine Audubon said...

One day we will get nominated for the top awards in roles that aren't exploitive to the culture. I got love for pimps; I enjoy hearing their stories and understand that were there is demand there must be supply. Hopefully we will run out of roles that depict the less dignified aspects of our community. Maybe Samuel L. can get nominated for portraying a good father or a responsible citizen.


At Saturday, March 04, 2006 9:01:00 PM , Anonymous The Killa Cal said...

It occured to me in the midst of arguing about this movie on a message board (in the minority as always) that I should get around to reading your thoughts on it. And of course you are on point.

My only problem (and obviously not with you, because you watched it) is with people who haven't seen it who pass judgement on it.

Maybe you'll be compelled to do an entry one day on why "we" are so sensitive about "us"? I'm at a loss myself....


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