Friday, January 13, 2006


The year of Terrence Howard

By Edward Copeland
Where in the world did Terrence Howard come from? IMDb says he had roles in films I've seen like Ray, Dead Presidents and Mr. Holland's Opus, but he never registered with me until he started getting a lot of buzz for his work in 2005.

I saw him first in Crash and he was one of the many great performances in that really good movie that is what Lawrence Kasdan's awful Grand Canyon wanted to be.

Last night, I caught up with Hustle & Flow and it's hard to believe it's the same actor. Howard's work as DJay, a pimp and drug dealer trying to realize his dream of becoming a hip-hop star in Memphis is astounding.

The movie itself is pretty good too. I sort of guessed where it was heading, even though the tone of the film itself is a mixture of eyes-wide-open hope and down-to-earth cynicism.

When SAG nominated Hustle & Flow for best ensemble, but didn't nominate Howard for best actor, I thought that was odd, not having seen the film yet.

Now SAG's reasoning is clear. As great as Howard is, so is the ensemble that surrounds him: Anthony Anderson, who showed his acting chops last season on TV's The Shield; Taryn Manning as Nola, one of DJay's working girls; D.J. Qualls as the skinny white kid who shows DJay lots of tips on making the music; Paula Jai Parker as the feistier of DJay's streetwalkers; and Ludacris (who also appeared in Crash) as Skinny Black, the hometown boy who returns after making his name in the music industry.

For me though, of all the supporting cast, the standout is Taraji P. Henson as Shug, who is pregnant with DJay's child and becomes a crucial part of his music as well. It's a shame that supporting actress seems to be the most crowded category at this year's Oscars, because she deserves to be a contender.

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I am delighted that you share my enthusiasm for Hustle & Flow - and particularly for the brilliant performances of Terence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. She was just cited by Entertainment Weekly in it annual Oscar predictions issie as the supporting actress category's "lovable loser" - a performance worthy of Oscar consideration that seems destined to be overlooked. And with good reason - the scene where she tells Howard what being involved in his music has meant to her is one of the most moving moments captured on film this year. It's unfortunate that the machinery of the Oscar season, driven largely by publicists and promoters, conspires to elevate certain performances to the status of pre-emptive frontrunners (often regardless of their merits) at the expense of so many others.
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