It occurs to me — as I sort through the movies I watched over the last year in preparation for naming my Top Ten — that I never wrote about The Hateful Eight.
I didn’t start out as a Quentin Tarantino hater and still like Reservoir Dogs and, to a lesser degree, Pulp Fiction.
But, I admit it: I put off seeing The Hateful Eight until I couldn’t dodge the bullet any longer.
This semester, I’m teaching a seminar on Deadwood and The Western. I think David Milch’s HBO series is important and brilliant in its way (why else a course built around it?), so don’t call me squeamish or label me a traditionalist who hates modifications to the genre.
In fact, revisionist Westerns are among my very favorites.
Two nights ago I re-watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to prepare for class, and I was reminded again how a film can challenge the genre (and the very notion of myth/legend), stand for something (by offering a coherent thesis), and have lots of heart (mine breaks every time I see that picture).
Give me McCabe & Mrs. Miller or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford or Unforgiven or any number of other Westerns to watch again instead of making me sit through The Hateful Eight another time because it bored me silly and left me thinking “What’s the point?”
And, that’s precisely why The Revenant works for me while Tarantino’s latest does not.
The multiple narrative threads and elliptical storytelling serve a larger purpose to ultimately unify those threads into a pattern that is revealed to the viewer as a treatise on the destructive and even futile nature of revenge.
There is a point here for those who care about such things and beautiful cinematography and superb performances to bolster it.
This is a strong year for movies, and The Revenant may or may not make my Top Ten list, but in many other years it most likely would secure a spot. That Alejandro G. Iñárritu just might have a future in the movies…Leonardo DiCaprio, too…