The Hateful Eight

Don’t Overlook “The Hateful Eight”

With the Oscars coming up very soon, I couldn’t help but notice that one of my favorite movies of the year went completely under the radar—and not only to the Academy, but also to the entire public. Grabbing only a mere three Oscar nominations, Quentin Tarantino’s new film, The Hateful Eight, contained everything one can hope for in a Tarantino film: malicious characters, excessive blood and gore, an intense climax, and dialogue so funny and natural sounding that any actor can have a ball with it. This new “who-done-it” murder mystery takes place in a snowed in haberdashery in Wyoming during post-Civil War America, where eight unlikely visitors are forced to spend a whole night with each other. Questions about race, capital punishment, war, and loyalty to one’s family brings these characters to violent ends, and the story culminates in a third act that kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing the whole way.

Some people were skeptical of Tarantino making another Western right on the heels of his last huge hit Django Unchained, the controversial film about a former slave turned bounty hunter. But this film has a completely different vibe and pace to it, and a much bigger emphasis on the characters and story arc. In fact, the whole movie feels as though you are watching a stage play, which is exactly how Tarantino wanted the movie to feel to the audience. Tarantino discovered that this was meant to become a stage play after a live reading at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (ACMA), and plans to adapt the movie for the stage after he ends his film career.

It also should be noted how great this movie is considering the controversy surrounding its release and the fact that it almost wasn’t made at all. In December of 2013, a first draft of the script was leaked onto the internet. Tarantino reacted to this by nearly pulling the plug on the film altogether. The studio also had to fight it out with Tarantino because he shot the film in 70mm and caused the studios and theaters to pay large fees for upgrades. Not to mention the fact that Tarantino brought the film on a classic road show, as if it were an epic film like Ben-Hur or Spartacus. Tarantino also dug up legendary Western composer Ennio Morricone to score the film, the first time he has done so for a Western in 40 years.

So with all of these elements going for it, an all-star Tarantino cast (including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Micheal Madsen), a controversial screenplay and release, and some of the best writing ever from Tarantino, why did this movie receive so little attention from audiences and the Academy? I have two theories.

The first one is that it fell into the black hole that was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which easily grabbed audiences’ attention faster than a gritty drama set in a western saloon. This explains why the movie only saw $4.6 million on its opening weekend, where Tarantino’s last movie, Django, opened at $30.1 million, and the movie before that, Inglorious Bastards, received $38 million.

The second theory is that there was nothing immediately controversial with this movie regarding its subject matter. Tarantino’s last two movies grabbed the Academy’s attention because one was about a black slave killing white people for money, and the other was focused on a Jewish underground militia that joins together to kill Nazis in France. Both of these are heavy subjects, which is what attracts the Academy. When broken down, this film is really only about eight people who are trapped with each other, trying to solve a murder. While the central story of The Hateful Eight does not focus on a particular topic like slavery or Nazis, big issues do come into view, mostly centered on Jackson’s character being ostracized for being a black war hero. Other topics like loyalty, justice, and vengeance are also addressed in a very stylistic matter that creates an intense and entertaining film.

I think it’s a shame that a movie is getting overlooked because it lacks a certain amount of substance that would create public conversation. This is a great film with an amazing amount of energy that should be seen and appreciated as one of the best films of the year, regardless of what the Academy says.