My newest piece over at Unwinnable is about Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. It is mostly spoiler free, though I suppose that some folks who hate spoilers might take umbrage at some of my hints so if that kine of thing bothers you, I strongly mention that you go see it first. Then you can read the piece at Unwinnable and then you can swing back here.
Anyway: SPOILER WARNING
One of the things I think are so interested about Westerns is how alien they feel even as they purport to show us our own mythic past, the root of our identity as Americans.
Think about the worlds depicted in the Hollywood Westerns, where explorers try to form civilizations upon harsh landscapes in spite of the resistance of its hostile inhabitants. If you told me that those movies took place on a far off planet or in the ashes of the apocalypse, I would believe you.
Lots of science fiction movies feel like Westerns with a different paint job for this very reason. Think of Star Wars cribbing shots from The Searchers or Avatar cribbing… well… basically everything from Dances With Wolves.
That is what makes The Hateful Eight so interesting to me. THIS is a movie that could never be mistaken for anything but a mythic history of America, with all of its hateful raced, classed, and gendered scars laid bare. It defies that sci fi escapist feeling by confining itself visually to a single room with only a few (gorgeous) glimpses of the pristine plot of land that it sits on. It refuses the utopian notion that starting over on fresh land would make for a fresh start by demonstrating how old ideology follows all of these settlers, one might even say haunts them.
It is not a fun movie to watch. Parts of it feel slow and parts of it are cringy and parts of it are so disgustingly gory that they become funny just before the terror of them fully sets in.
But it is a more apt mythic telling of our own history than the ones that John Wayne taught us.