COMMENTARY: HUSTLE & FLOW FOLLOW-THROUGH 

Memphis is in a continued love affair with itself. The hottest topic in Memphis this summer was whether Hustle and Flow was good or bad for the city. The negative side said that pimpin’ and hoin’ added up to a negative image for Memphis to project or portray in a film. Well, having read dozens of articles nationally about the film, I came to realize the only people who cared where the movie was set were Memphians. People outside of Memphis saw the story of the film and the performances; people inside Memphis are far more focused on the locale.

I would venture to say that most people complaining about the image projected in the film did not see it and just like to hate a player. I would say that if you don’t like the image portrayed in Hustle and Flow, don’t shoot the messenger: i.e., the film-maker. My corollary to this point is: if you don’t like the pimpin’ & hoin’ lifestyle presented in the film: A) it wasn’t a documentary; B) do something about it. Memphis is a high-crime, low-education city that needs a lot of fixing. Memphis has many similarities to the poverty problems currently exposed in New Orleans--especially in the neighborhoods Hustle and Flow filmed. If people want to better the city—or at minimum the projected image of this city—they should work with Habitat for Humanity, Memphis Food Bank, Streets Ministries, Bridges, Yo! Memphis, or many of the other fine services out there bettering Memphians’ lives.

Final thoughts on Hustle & Flow:

*The movie itself was far better than I expected. Didn’t even have a happy, sappy Hollywood ending.

*Jay Leno loved this movie. He had 4 (!) guests from Hustle & Flow, including just about everyone but the director. DJ Qualls, Terrence Howard, and Ludacris. After the movie came out, Anthony Anderson made a rare late-night post-release visit.

*David Letterman was too busy creaming over Wedding Crashers to notice the film when it came out and missed the boat. Someone must have just hipped him to it recently as he had Terrence Howard on this week--seven weeks after the film came out and while it is showing in only 122 theaters. Letterman told Howard that he hopes Howard wins the Oscar! It is very rare for Letterman to bring on a star this long after a movie comes out.

*Hustle & Flow has taken in 22$ million in its run so far. I expected it do that much the first weekend, but it is still very successful by anyone’s standards for a movie that cost 3 million to shoot.

*The much-ballyhooed (uh, mainly by me) soundtrack featuring the Bo-Keys actually only briefly featured the Bo-Keys -- less than a couple of minutes of screen time. However, the overall sound of the film was rock-solid Memphis: I heard Al Green, great Jason Freeman folk/country, down-in-the-church gospel, and above average hip hop. I also found it extremely ironic that the main song in the film, when Lexus was hitting her parts, “Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” was much more of a soul song—esp. lyrically--than hip hop.

*I have lived in Memphis since 1974. I have never heard a song take over the city and its car stereos like “Whoop dat Trick” has.

*Brewer might have a much more difficult time pimpin’ his next flick, set in North Mississippi about an unemployed blues man and a sexaholic white girl chained to a car, without hip hop stars and hip hop soundtracks. Brewer wisely hedged his bet with aces-in-the-hole Samuel Jackson (who has already gone on Conan, Jay Leno, and the Daily Show just this week giving away hats and promoting the as yet unfilmed movie!) and boy-band superstar Justin Timberlake.

*As far as government cheese goes, I would much rather Memphis government support local artists like Brewer (free rent in the Pyramid for a couple months) than huge international corporations like International Paper ($15 million in tax breaks for 15 years for about one hundred jobs), but did anyone really believe Brewer was going to film a movie set in North Mississippi in Georgia? Please! The Hustle continues!!!

*Let’s hope the music in Black Snake Moan is as exciting and diverse a representation of the body of Memphis music that Hustle & Flow included.

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