hateful eight roadshow

The Film

Okay, but enough about the technical presentation and the audience and the theater and the special menu and the free souvenir program. How was the movie?

The Hateful Eight is very, very, very good. Maybe even great. Even while watching it, I could tell that the film was going to require a second viewing. This is, after all, a movie about eight strangers who spend 187 minutes lying through their teeth – once we know what’s true and false, we can luxuriate in the strong performances and the menacing tone without trying to keep up with the action.

Menacing is probably the best word to describe The Hateful Eight. From opening credits, where Ennio Morricone’s unsettling score hints at the dread to come, to the grand finale, complete with all of the trademark viciousness you’ve come to expect from Tarantino, this is a film that refuses to treat the audience with kindness or even give them someone to relate to. Every single character in this movie is a bad person and all of them suffer and none of them learn anything. The Hateful Eight is, above all else, an exercise in tension. What happens when a group of hateful, despicable people find reasons to draw their guns while stranded in the middle of the blizzard? The fact that this is a movie about an ensemble of not-nice people distrusting each other in a single location invites Reservoir Dogs comparisons, but The Hateful Eight is more like a feature-length version of that the bar scene in Inglourious Basterds. Even when the guns are holstered, you know that no one is telling the complete truth. Tension is derived from waiting for the lie that will finally topple everything.

While The Hateful Eight functions as a taut and grotesque mystery (it would feel like Agatha Christie if not for the fact that the film features an exploding head or two), its nastiness feels all too close to home. It’s no accident that Samuel L. Jackson plays the sole black man stranded in a room inhabited by white men (and one woman) in post-Civil War Wyoming. It’s certainly no accident that Walton Goggins plays a former Confederate war criminal who has just accepted a job as a lawman. Racial tension drives much of the action in The Hateful Eight, but it’s just the doorway. This is a movie about hate of all kinds and how the deep divides that continue to wound America today are nothing new. This is a movie about humanity’s dirty secrets, the rotten core that lurks under the visage of civilization. Above all else, we are powered and empowered by our hate.

The Overall Experience

The Hateful Eight is probably too long. During our walk back to the car following the screening, my wife described wanting to take a juicer to the first half and I can’t help but agree. This is Tarantino at his most indulgent.

Then again, this whole roadshow experience is nothing but pure indulgence. The Hateful Eight didn’t have to be released like this. It could have been dumped into theaters via DCP and The Weinstein Company could have saved themselves a lot of time and a lot of trouble. A significant portion of moviegoers wouldn’t have cared and would have seen it anyway.

But I’m thankful for this indulgence. Tarantino may be indulging his film fetishistic whims with this endeavor, but he’s also indulging film fans all over the world. The Hateful Eight roadshow feels like modern master reaffirming a great truth: movies matter and how we watch movies matter. The next time you go to a theater and endure lousy projection, tinny sound, texting audience members, and management that doesn’t care about providing you with a memorable time at the movies, remember that you have a powerful ally in your despair over the state of modern film presentation. You don’t have to like Tarantino and you don’t have to like The Hateful Eight to recognize that this is something very cool and very special. Digital projection is here to stay and that’s okay. It’s fine. But 70mm roadshows complete with souvenir programs and an intermission? That’s an indulgence I can get behind.

I know that not every theater will perform up to this level. I know that not every audience will be as great as mine. But if you are going to see The Hateful Eight (and it gets a hearty recommendation from yours truly), this is the way to go.

Did you see the roadshow? Was it a memorable experience for you? What went right? What went wrong? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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