Tag Archives: films

REVIEW: The Hateful Eight

My thoughts on THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which I can only really review by talking about its score by Ennio Morricone:

We all know that Morricone is an unparalleled Master of film music. His history is rich with some of the most memorable scores, from the spaghetti western days and the groundbreaking music of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY through to the incredible soundtracks for THE UNTOUCHABLES, CINEMA PARADISO, and THE MISSION, this new entry is a welcome and solid new installment for a composer who is now 87 years old.

There has been a lot of Morricone’s work in previous Tarantino films, but it was all licensed material of previous work. For THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Tarantino went right to the source, and Morricone didn’t disappoint, delivering powerfully thematic music that breaks open the narrative and adds new dimensions to a film that, otherwise, is a middling effort from Tarantino. From the descending melody line to the pulsating drums and churning drone of the low strings, the score makes the film feel bigger, wider, and more stark and suspenseful  than the movie might have otherwise been in the hands of any other composer. It’s impossible to ignore the power it drills into the film, and you will leave with its hypnotic and insistent melodies running ‘round your brain.

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But its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness. As masterful as the music sounds, its effectiveness may be more accidental than intentional. I couldn’t escape the feeling that the music was pre-written and adapted to the picture, more like a licensed use would be, rather than a collaborative effort with the filmmaker. This may not even be the case, but so much of it feels recycled and repurposed that I couldn’t ignore it. Also, mixed in with the score are several Morricone pieces that actually are licensed, pulled from other earlier works of his.

It all amounts to THE HATEFUL EIGHT being an effectively entertaining Quentin Tarantino film, which is to say, it has all the Tarantino elements in place: long, talky, undeniably cool dialogue; amazing cinematography and auteristic direction; brutal sense of absurd violence juxtaposed with comedic timing; and over-the-top music selections to power its retro-contemporary feel. In other words, it’s Tarantino Remixed, and the biggest difference might be that there was also a custom score added to the ingredients.

As much as I love it, it’s not the Oscar-winning score I hoped it would be. This is in no way the fault of its composer; rather, it is the result of the filmmaker’s vision—and I don’t know that there was a better approach available for this film. Having said that, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Morricone has never won an Academy Award (other than an honorary one), despite multiple nominations, so I would be happy to see him finally win one here. The film itself will mostly be remembered for not being RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, KILL BILL(s), and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, ending up alongside JACKIE BROWN and eventually DJANGO UNCHAINED in the collective memories of film-goer.

The movie is too long, but damn, it looked glorious in 70mm, so if you still want to see it in a theatre, find yourself the Roadshow version. It’s totally worth it.

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A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

Recently, my sweetheart and I have been on a Disney kick.

Mostly we’ve been visiting the glory days of Walt’s time with films like the original Fantasia, Saludos Amigos, Fun & Fancy Free, Bambi, Melody Time, Mary Poppins, and The Three Caballeros. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching the DVD special features, which have all contained a healthy measure of behind-the-scenes materials to fill in the real spirit of the era, living vicariously through the one of the most fertile creative times in film history.

It pains me that I missed all of it.

Walt was gone nearly a decade by the time I hit the world stage, and sure I’ve enjoyed the fruits of those labors since my childhood, but it’s only now that I’m fully appreciating the depth of his accomplishments and what it must have been like to grow up during—or better yet, grow with—the golden age of Disney.

Two recently released documentaries highlight the heyday of the Walt Disney company, and in the past week we have watched them both.

Walt & El Grupo travels with Walt and team as they head to South America on the U.S. dime as part of an outreach goodwill tour during World War II (and just prior to the U.S. entry into the war). The time they spent observing art and culture in countries like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and others informed much of what they released in the 1940s, but most particularly Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

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Flashing ahead twenty years, The Boys chronicles the history of the beloved Sherman brothers, the songwriting team behind so many of Disney’s most beloved songs and films: all of Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, and songs like “It’s A Small World,” and “(There’s A) Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” to name just a few. Their songwriting genius, fueled by Walt’s inspiration and encouragement—and filtered through a dysfunctional brotherly relationship, practically defined the Disney experience for all generations to follow.

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The one thing both films have in common is that they effortlessly validate every myth I’ve ever heard about the magical Walt Disney himself. There is little or no direct footage or interviewing with Walt.  Instead, he is defined through the eyes of people who worked alongside him or had their lives irrevocably enhanced by whatever chance meetings they had with him.

They speak with utter admiration. They speak with love. They speak with wonder.

There’s no doubt Walt was a savvy businessman—direct when he had to be and hawkish when he needed to be, but his love of art, music, and all creativity was boundless. He was genuinely filled with puckish glee and fed by imaginative ideas; and he built and surrounded himself with a culture that cherished and rewarded all of these things—rare back then, rarer today.

This foray into Disney history has been incredibly inspiring and has driven home the point that I am limited only by my imagination. Truly, everything is possible. For all of us.

We can be more supportive. We can be more encouraging. We can take the time to value more than just our balance statements, our portfolios, our bottom line, our ability to pay the bills. We can change the course of things, with even a single song.

After all, for Walt, it all began with a mouse …