By James Hancock December 15th, 2015
This post might resemble me attempting to tap dance across a few moving laser beams as I try and discuss the New York premiere of The Hateful Eight without breaking the embargo on reviews for the film. Nobody mentioned an embargo at the screening but the consensus online seems to be that it would be in incredibly bad form to post an official review before December 21st. That said, many writers have already tweeted reactions to the film. Whether or not they broke the embargo is debatable but I see no reason why I can’t discuss the film in a general way especially since the New York Premiere and the after party at the Rainbow Room are both worth writing about in their own right even without my full review of the film. If you see any evidence online that I can release the hounds and hold nothing back, just let me know on Twitter and I’ll gladly throw down all my thoughts about the flick. But for now, in the interest of not getting assassinated by Harvey Weinstein’s enforcers, I will play ball with the rest of the critical community. What I will say, however, is that this movie is going to make Tarantino fans very happy. The cast, particularly Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins, all deliver astonishing performances. I am 100% in Tarantino’s corner and love his films, in particular his work from the 21st century. Even when his films do not quite work like with Death Proof (2007), he still manages to imbue each frame of film he shoots with an absolute overwhelming love for the power of the medium of film and its illustrious history. I don’t think there is a director alive who likes movies more than Tarantino and The Hateful Eight is proof that his obsession has only intensified with age. When the embargo is lifted, Tarantino’s enemies inevitably are going to sharpen their knives and offer their usual inane, misinformed observations from “he steals everything” to “his films are too violent”. These buzz kills might as well record their comments once and just play them on a loop each time Tarantino makes a movie. Their objections have no impact on the acute mania Tarantino’s fans have for his films. The reality is that Quentin will get the last laugh with a unique body of work that is arguably the best of any filmmaker of the last 25 years and one that will endure as long as film freaks like myself have eyes and ears with which to enjoy his singular brand of storytelling.
I rarely get a chance to attend a star-studded screening so I do want to share a few special experiences from last night. The only reason I was able to attend at all was by virtue of my working with director Bill Plympton. He had an extra ticket to the red carpet event due to his wife’s aversion to violent movies. If at any point, it sounds as if I am bragging, I’ll say in advance that I am a total coward who enjoys shamelessly gazing at movie stars from a distance but who then freezes up anytime I am in close proximity to them. I did not personally hang out with any celebs or movie industry luminaries last night; I was just lucky enough to attend a screening and after party where a lot of people who I have a lot of respect for were letting off a little steam. The screening was at the historic Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan and we were treated to the full road show experience with a gorgeous program about the event as well as an intermission. In spite of vague threats by the NYPD a few weeks ago, there was no incident with the police. Unlike some other screenings I have read about where there were problems with the 70mm projection, last night the movie played without a hitch. The color, the grain and the richness of detail are going to blow people’s minds. I urge you to see this movie in 70mm no matter how far you might have to drive to find a theater participating in the road show experience. I almost had the chance to meet Quentin Tarantino in the lobby before the film began but as I moved in to say hello, some douchebag tied to snag a selfie with Tarantino, prompting Tarantino to chastise him over how much he hates that shit and that when he is in church (a movie theater) he expects people to be cool. I stepped away and let the movie legend pass. Before the movie began, Harvey Weinstein took the stage to make a surprisingly lifeless speech before Tarantino had his turn on the microphone. Tarantino introduced his cast as if he were Bruce Buffer in the middle of the UFC Octagon introducing some of the greatest fighters in the world. Apart from Samuel L. Jackson, the majority of the central characters were in attendance and the crowd roared with approval as Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen & Demian Bichir joined Tarantino to make a few brief comments before the beautiful overture to the film began to play.
The 12-minute intermission was total chaos with everyone rushing to the bathroom only to get trapped in a bottleneck of desperate men that included Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Adrian Brody, Christian Slater, Dylan Baker & Richard Kind. The collection of actors unaffiliated with the film that showed up for this screening was genuinely intimidating but extremely cool to see all at once. The Ziegfeld has 1131 seats and is not set up to service this many people in 12 minutes especially when free food and drinks are being handed out in the same space as the entrance to the restrooms, but I managed to make it back to my seat just in time for the latter part of the film. When the movie ended, I said goodnight to Bill Plympton who has been suffering from a broken ankle but who was not about to let that interfere with his seeing the flick. I was told by some friends that there was a good chance I would get into the after party at the Rainbow Room due to the ambiguity of their official invitation so I decided to roll the dice and follow them through the rain to the event which was on the 65th floor at the top of the famous Rockefeller Center overlooking the city. The gamble paid off and once inside we proceeded to get absolutely shitfaced talking about what we liked about the movie and shamelessly star gazing at some of the famous faces in attendance. Seeing Ethan Coen (one of my favorite writers) in the flesh was a huge thrill, but it paled in comparison to watching Zoë Bell, in my opinion the greatest stuntwoman who has ever lived, dancing her butt off with her friends. Her physique is godlike. I also noticed a crowd forming around Channing Tatum right as the DJ played ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine, the song from the trailer to ‘Magic Mike XXL’. I couldn’t get close enough to see what was happening but apparently he treated his admirers to an impromptu performance of some kind. Sadly, the evening eventually drew to a close and I drunkenly stumbled back to the subway to head downtown to my apartment.
In a way I am kind of glad the embargo still stands for now. If I were allowed to write a review after last night’s gathering I would likely be shamelessly drooling all over the movie. I may still end up doing that but at least my brain will be allowed to cool off somewhat in the interim. I am dying to write about this movie and as you can probably gather from my tone, I am a fan of the flick. If like me, you read the screenplay to the movie online, I should tell you that Tarantino made some dramatic improvements to the text especially in the last half of the film. Waiting ten days to see the movie again is going to be agonizing to endure but at least I have Star Wars: The Force Awakens to look forward to Thursday night. So like I said earlier, if any of you see any evidence online that the embargo on reviews has been lifted please let me know. I am chomping at the bit to offer more details on my tremendous admiration for this very special movie.
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