Friday, January 8, 2016

movie review: The Hateful Eight (70mm)

(reviews may contain spoilers for those that have never seen the film or are unfamiliar with the characters.)

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT – 70mm Roadshow Edition (2015)

Eight strangers take refuge in a lonesome roadhouse, waiting for a blizzard to pass. All they have to do is wait it out. But, that might be easier said than done.

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The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarintino’s second homage to the Spaghetti Western genre.

The 70mm Roadshow edition includes an additional 20 minutes, with an opening Overture and Intermission, like the olden days of theater. While I could’ve done without the intermission, it was neat hearing Ennio Morricone’s overture music, which was straight out of his earlier works, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West.

Tarantino and Cinematographer Robert Richardson made the daunting decision to film this in Ultra Panavision 70 format.

The normal aspect ratio of high definition televisions is 1.78:1, meaning that for every foot tall it is, it’s nearly two feet wide. The Hateful Eight’s aspect ratio is 2.76:1, making it a short, but very wide image. This extremely wide screen lends itself to magnificent vistas, yet gives the cinematographer enough latitude to keep both actors in a closeup conversation.

To understand how unique that is, one has to look at the very short list of films shot in that format. The Hateful Eight is only the 11th film ever to be shot in UPV70, and the first since the Charlton Heston epic Khartoum, back in 1966, when I was a wee lad of one-year-old. All the lenses had to be rebuilt, and camera bodies were retrofitted to mount them.

The 70mm film stock adds a pleasing grain texture to the film (yes, I said grain!) which is something you don’t see in most of today’s digitally mastered films.

My theater seat was up near the projection booth, so I could actually hear the film passing through the projector; the sprockets methodically clicking along; adding to the old school atmosphere. 

When the film starts we’re treated to a long slow moving shot which takes us from a closeup of an old wooden cross to the rugged snow covered scenery of southwest Colorado. All that undisturbed whiteness actually gave me a chill, and I had to cover myself with my coat to keep warm.

But, with all that said about the scenic gorgeousness, you’d better soak in the first half hour of the film, because once that’s gone you’re pretty much cooped up inside a single-room roadhouse for the remainder. But, Richardsom makes good usage of the wide format inside; even in the extreme closeups.

The ensemble cast is incredible, including Academy Award nominees Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern.

Jackson’s familiar sarcastic wit is riddled throughout the film, and plays well against the drier characters. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him nominated again for an Academy Award. (1995 – Best Supporting Actor – Pulp Fiction).

While all of Tarantino’s characters were fascinating, he seemed to take a particular interest in building up Maj. Marquis Warren’s back-story (Jackson), particularly when playing opposite Bruce Dern’s character, a former Confederate General.

Playing somewhat second fiddle to Jackson is Kurt Russell, as the bounty hunter John Ruth. While Jackson’s Warren is impeccably dressed, John Ruth looks more at home deep in the mountains, with his thick animal pelt coat, and big handlebar mustache. At 65-years-old, Russell still packs an impressive theatrical punch in his acting.

At first I didn’t care one way or the other for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue. It seemed like she was just along for the ride for most of the first half of the film. But, once the intermission was over, Domergue became more pivotal, including a very important exchange between Daisy and the local sheriff, (Walton Goggins).

Now a word about violence. Anybody whose either seen, or heard, about Tarantino’s films knows there’s going to be a fair amount of violence, and this was no exception. If you’re squeamish about blood, torture and general mayhem, The Hateful Eight probably isn’t for you. Or putting it another way, Count Dracula would be a well-fed 400 pound fat man if he’d drank all that blood shown in this film!

And I’d be remiss for not mentioning the foul language. While there wasn’t a huge variety of it, there was a tremendous usage of the word “nigger.”

I purposely spelled that out above to make a point.  If you’re offended by my single usage of the word in this review, you’ll be leaving the theater absolutely livid. Tarantino received quite a bit of heat for its liberal usage in Django Unchained. You might have thought he would have toned it down a bit here. But, it’s the exact opposite. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson gets in on the act too, so in retrospect I’m not sure why I was surprised.

There are a couple of death scenes which had theater goers laughing. I even chuckled a bit at Tarantino’s exaggeration of reality.

Besides the above-mentioned intermission, there were a couple other things I might have not done. Tarantino divided the film into six chapters, and took the time to display the chapter and chapter name on the screen. This added nothing, and broke up the flow.

Additionally, when we came out of the Intermission we were greeted with Tarantino’s voice reviewing some of what had just happened. Tarantino’s East Coast accent is more suited for a Jersey Mob flick, than a Spaghetti Western. I understand what he was trying to accomplish. But, it just sounded unnatural.

I haven’t been mesmerized by a three hour film in quite some time. I went in knowing it’d be violent, and I accepted that. It’s a stylized homage to the westerns of the late 1960s, not an attempt at portraying a real life story, which another theater-goer suggested to me after we were leaving.

If you particularly like westerns, I’d definitely seek this one out, and if you can see it in the roadshow version, choose that.

RATED: 8.5 out of 10 STARS

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The Hateful Eight is currently showing in nationwide release. A full listing of show times and locations can be found at Fandango.

The 70mm Roadshow Edition is in very limited release, and according to one of the workers at the Grand Lake Theater, they will be the only Bay Area theater showing the extended version in a few weeks.

1 comment:

robertjm said...

Oscar nominations were announced this morning:
Jennifer Jason Leigh: Actress in a Supporting Role
Original Score