THE HATEFUL EIGHT: movie in review
Lets take a ride on the wagon wheel to Minnie’s Haberdashery. And before we pick up any strangers along the way, let me forewarn you, though I plan on keeping this review as spoiler free as possible, don’t get mad if I let a few things slip from here to there. Okay? Okay. You’ve been warned. THE HATEFUL EIGHT is as you may have guessed, if you’re a fan of this particular type of movie, and this type being very much a Quentin Tarantino movie, is his eighth film, with Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds before that. With this new adventure behind the pen of Mr. Tarantino, we’re brought into the western/frontier world of a very recent post-Civil War America. After watching his last film, Django, I suspected Mr. Tarantino would be making a return to frontier/western film-esk America. If you’ve seen that film, then you may agree, with the story and the characters, he seemed to have a lot of fun with his screenplay and directorial duties. This new film runs nearly 3 hours, and the pace is one of the more interesting or “telling” aspects, pointing to an otherworldly reference, mentioned in other reviews by more talented reviewers than myself. Our eyes first witness a white landscape with a very large snow capped mountain. From there, we then get to spend, about an hour or so, inside the wagon with one John Ruth (Kurt Russel), Maj. Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), Sheriff Chris Mannix (with a running jag how no one believes he’s really the sheriff of this town everyone’s trying to get to), and imprisoned outlaw, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) before finally arriving at the Haberdashery. The conversations are what you may have come to expect from a Tarantino film, filled with plenty of adult language, the use of the N-word, and exposition. If you can stomach all this, well…as the saying goes, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
But don’t come expecting high octane action. You’re not going to get that. Instead, you’ll get a colorful mix of exposition told without the need of repetitive flashbacks. In a somewhat risky move, especially with today’s attention-deficit-disorder generation, Mr. Tarantino allows the characters to interact as naturally as conversation. Conversation, imagine that! And while some of the interaction seemed awkward and forced, we have to be somewhat honest here, isn’t most conversation forced and awkward? Or am I such a recluse that natural conversation seems wholly unnatural? Hmm… MOVING ON! After spending a lengthy, what I found to be quite comfortable, amount of time in the wagon, shooting the breeze and sharing stories of past bounties, nicknames, Lincoln letters, and Civil War exploits, we finally arrive at the crux and final stage of our play…oops, I mean movie. That’s right. We get the wagon. And we get the Haberdashery. No exotic local, no trip around the world, not even a walk downtown. Nope. And why? Django at least trotted across the rural south. And Basterds carved swastikas throughout Germany and France. Well, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is not a wide-birth story, its a story about suspension as well as vengeance. Its a classic “who-done-it” with the added benefit of being a western paranoia story. And one of the best ways to invoke the dread of paranoia is to isolate the cast…and the audience. And there’s another reason too…
My “otherworldly” reference before was a nod at what a few other reviewers have claimed regarding this eighth film by Mr. Quentin Tarantino. And I’ll flat out say it here, people are claiming that THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a homage to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, THE THING. When I heard this floating around the web, it pretty much sealed the deal. I was going to watch this movie. And I’m so glad I did because they were absolutely right. Besides the obvious markers, the opening sequence with the white landscape and snow capped mountain, isolated “cabin” with a male dominate cast, the only woman technically being Daisy Domergue, and I’m not sure if she is really counts as a lady, there are other THE THING identifiers. The biggest and best is the musical score. As advertised in certain cycles, Ennio Morricone gave his all in the fantastic musical score for THE HATEFUL EIGHT, even including unused music from, you may have guessed, THE THING. And its very very noticeable and awesomely chilling, invoking the very essence of paranoia, and filling the audience with the same dread and distrust the characters are struggling with.
Here is a mere sample of the overture:
From here, there’s not much I can reveal without giving away too much. There is a certain level of dark humor to the movie. I found myself laughing several times…though admittedly, looking around in the movie theater, I was the only one. And there was some gore, which I thought played wonderfully with the whole THE THING nod. All the characters were fantastic, all but for one…and he wasn’t entirely terrible either, just didn’t really need to be in there. Michael Madsen makes an appearance through the second half of the movie. He plays the role of John Gage, a rough but silent “cowboy” archetype. And yes, much like in all the roles Madsen plays in Tarantino pictures, he’s a man of few words. And perhaps that’s fitting for a “western” type movie, but I just didn’t see that great of a performance from him…its hard to describe without ruining it. He acts as he always does, its not bad or all that great, I guess…maybe he wasn’t really used as much as he could have been. He seemed pretty much in the background for most of the movie while all the others were for the most part front in center. I had the vibe Madsen was just there because he’s buds with the director…and its sad, because as we know from previous Tarantino films (Reservoir Dogs), he can play a really sinister “man of few words” guy.
Well…in summary, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a fantastic show, well worth the price of admission. For fans of THE THING, this movie needs to be on your “must watch” list. The musical score alone with make you giddy. And if that don’t, then a certain scene involving Kurt Russel, when he says, “One of them fellas is not what he says he is…,” will.
My Review: 5/5
The Baleful of Syria
On Friday, April 26, 2013, President Barack Obama made a public announcement concerning recent reports regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons on their civilian population. According to BBC news, President Obama has vowed a “vigorous investigation,” warning that the use of chemical weapons will be a “game changer” for U.S. action if “proven true.” But whatever action that may arise; proof will be the deciding factor. The problematic question is what action should take place, if any.
Consider the Halabja Massacre (Bloody Friday), the largest chemical weapons attack directed towards a civilian population, a chemical genocide directed towards the Kurdish people near the close of the Iran-Iraq war on March 16, 1988. The Halabja attack killed an estimated 5,000 people, injuring up to 10,000 more; most were civilians. Thousands died, if not outright, by complications resulting in diseases and birth defects. According to regional Kurdish rebel commanders, “Iraqi aircraft conducted up to 14 bombings.” Eyewitnesses told of clouds of smoke billowing upwards to an estimated 150 feet in the air. Survivors have described the chemical agent as smelling of sweet apples, only to be followed by a horrid combination of death: some “dropped dead, [others] died laughing, [for the rest] burning and blistering…or coughing up green vomit.”
Intelligence reports had gleaned that Iraqi forces used a mixture of chemical weapons, including: mustard gas, sarin and VX (both are nerve agents), and even perhaps hydrogen cyanide. Though, initially the U.S. State Department blamed Iran for the attack, Human Rights Watch researcher Joost Hiltermann concluded through a vigorous field investigation, an analysis of confiscated Iraq police documents, declassified U.S. documents, and interviews with Kurdish survivors and Iraqi defectors, that the United States was fully aware that the Iraqi government used chemical weapons on the Kurdish people, but simply decided to blame Iran. It wasn’t until December of 2005 when actions were taken against parties responsible for the genocide. Frans van Anraat, an arms dealer who bought the chemicals on the world market and sold them to Saddam’s regime, was sentenced by a Dutch court to 15 years in prison. On November 5, 2006, Saddam Hussein was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity; he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Senator John McCain commented to CNN reporters on Sunday that the Syrian people were “angry and bitter…And that legacy could last for a long time too, unless we assist them.” Senator McCain concluded that the United States has not taken a bigger role in ending their (Syria’s) conflict. This begs the question: should we? Should we play bigger roles in decided a countries political outcome? According to CNN, last week the White House “told lawmakers in a letter that intelligence analysts have concluded ‘with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin…’ But the analysis was characterized as preliminary.” So, what bit of intelligence is missing, to which President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron are waiting to make a decision based on? Actually, a rather important one: a confirmed chain of custody of the chemicals in question. Basically, can we confirm the circumstances in which the sarin gas was used, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s role in said use of chemical agent?
For some U.S. Senators, such as Senator McCain, any action that can be taken is already too late. The Syrian political environment has for the past two years deteriorated, affecting the stability of both Lebanon and Jordan, who are both taking on refugees. At this point, President Obama and other political leaders are waving on the side of caution and calling for more conclusive evidence. The British Prime Minister addressed his own concerns regarding the escalating situation in Syria, that:
“Unreliable evidence could again be used as a justification for the West to become involved in [another] Middle Eastern conflict… I think the Iraq lesson must be about how we marshal and use information and intelligence and I think that lesson has been learnt. But I think it is very important for politicians and leaders of this generation to look at what is happening in Syria and ask ourselves what more we can do.”
According to Michael Chertoff, a former aid under President George W. Bush, that, “I think putting aside the question of exactly what we do, once we announce there’s a red line, if we don’t take it seriously, we are discrediting ourselves in not just Syria, but Iran, North Korea, all around the world,” insinuating that if the U.S. refuses to take direct action against Syria, it could have drastic implications with other “not so friendly” countries who may be gauging U.S. response. Obviously the death and destruction that is going on in Syria right now is numbing. According to the Boston Globe, more than a million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape Syria’s catastrophic civil war. A near million have been confirmed dead…and “divisions are so deep among Syria’s main ethnic communities — the majority Sunni and minority Alawites, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and others — that the country might fracture into competing fiefdoms when President Bashar Assad is finally driven from power.” In the face of all this conflict, what can we do? What should we do? Well, for Senators on both Republican and Democrat spectrums have voiced opinions on probable action, ranging from rearming the rebel forces and providing airstrikes against Assad forces, to U.S “boots on ground,” though not all Senators are agreeing on what the “right choice” is.
While the UN scrambles for more evidence, because let’s be honest here, with any action, it could lead us into another Middle East war, with both the Syrian government and Iran, what do YOU think the next step should be? Is President Obama justified in airing to the side of caution? Is Senator McCain justified in saying it’s too late? Should we have boots on ground or should we rearm rebel forces? Or…should we push for more diplomatic outcomes?