Monday, January 25, 2016

Weekend Box Office

The storms that swallowed all the business, and more! Thanks to Box Office Mojo for the reduced figures.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Weekend Box Office

Ride along with us, won't you? And thanks to for the raw material.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Weekend Box Office

It's the deep, dead of winter and there is little good news; but thanks to Box Office Mojo it's accurate!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

QT's Roadshow Gimmick: or, The Heuristic Eight

This still is the actual proportion of Ultra Panavision 70mm.
Went to a late screening of The Hateful Eight at the Century San Francisco Center, where a friend (Chris) has successfully seen the thing. Very nice place with leather seats where you can buy a beer. At 11:00 on the dot the projected cranked up and the overture screen appeared on that wide, wide screen.

The rest of this is going to a Hegelian dialectical analysis of The Hateful Eight in Roadshow format. It's important to quantify the entire experience this way because when you get right down to it, the synthesis of technology and subject here is super goddamned peculiar.

THESIS: The Ultra Panavision 70mm Roadshow Release.
The extra wide format Tarantino used here -- 65mm source with an extra anamorphic squeeze bringing the frame to a stunning 2.76:1 aspect ratio-- is quite rare and was used exclusively for prestige Hollywood productions. Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Fall of the Roman Empire were previous films lensed in this format.

The technical presentation at the Century San Francisco Center was simply excellent. The image suffered a little bit from the screen masking, which was open at the bottom, showing a soft edge. I believe the auditorium was equipped for either 'scope (2.35:1) or spherical/HD (1.8:1) and simply could not mask the screen down to the right aspect ratio.

70mm film. This is a faded clip from
Hello Dolly! (1970) which was shot in 65mm.
For the sheer visual experience, it's worth the effort seeing the film this way (and you can until January 11th, when they will dismount all the 70mm projection gear). I have been fortunate to have seen several films in Ultra Panavision before (Ben Hur and It's a Mad x4 World, in the Cinerama Dome no less) and the sheer visual aspect of the film-- incredible 70mm detail, rich color and natural tone of photochemical film makes for a memorable experience. (it would have been even better to have seen a screening on a deeply curved Cinerama screen but those are no longer available in the Bay Area.)

No less pleasurable is the entire Roadshow experience: an overture, intermission and a quality program handed to every patron. More films should do this. When I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in Cinerama Roadshow when I was a little kid there were programs, but you had to buy them.

ANTITHESIS: The Hateful Eight
The movie itself was vile. Set in the Old West, it's a tale about a collection of mostly unpleasant Western movie types holed up in a mountain trading post during a blizzard. Having a full complement of characters, Quentin advances his story by having his characters give little speeches and then kill each other. His idea of a "plot twist" is killing off a character and letting the story dynamics fall into a reductio ad absurdum pattern until the next killing. If anything (and H/T to Chris for pointing this out) it's a lot like John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) complete with Kurt Russell.

They're hateful and there are eight of them.
Walton Goggins (#6 here) turned in a great,
unusual stand-out performance.
There are no overarching themes aside from vengeance and pointless violence and super-casual 19th century racism. Like Django Unchained, one could look at this film as a addressing slavery and institutional racism, but it's clear that ol' QT is only vaguely aware of this: he merely loves having his characters say "nigger" over and over and over until the shock value hardens into dull acceptance.

Some critics have argued that Quentin Tarantino is expertly deconstructing archetypes of classic cinema in his movies. That may well be, but I do not think I have ever seen a Hollywood or spaghetti western quite as nihilistic and meaningless as The Hateful Eight. If anything it gave some glimpses into QT's thought processes-- and man, it's ugly in there. Maybe he's trying to meld the classic low-budget Western with the Austrian horror genre (i.e. Funny Games) in terms of sheer lack of human empathy, but I doubt it. It's all just those ugly thoughts. In fact he's so in love with his own tough-guy, everyone-is-a-killer narrative that he reads the left-hand narration out loud right after the intermission-- apparently because he believes we're a bunch of goldfish who forgot everything in the first half of the movie.

The Hateful Eight also claustrophobic. Most of the movie is set in one room. Wide film notwithstanding, this film has the lowest and simplest production values of any Quentin Tarantino film-- and this includes Reservoir Dogs, another one-set film but with a lot of interesting scenes set in other interesting places.

SYNTHESIS: Tarantino's Roadshow Gimmick
Roadshow implies prestige: Every other film released in Ultra Panavision 70mm had incredibly large budgets, stellar casts and sweeping vistas and locations. Even the ones shot in spherical 65mm, from Oklahoma! (1955) to Samsara (2011) have a certain cachet, a promise of an enhanced experience. Add to that the roadshow format, with an overture, intermission and a program-- all elements of legitimate theater transplanted into cinema to impart a sense of occasion and importance--  it adds up to the anticipation of a special, full-sensory, even transcendent cinematic experience.

We don't get any of that here.

The Hateful Eight is an anti-prestige movie. It's a grindhouse Western full of grungy, glib characters who spend the majority of the film in a rustic shack pointing revolvers at each other. There are some gorgeous sweeping vistas in the beginning of the film, when the first four of the eight meet up in a stagecoach, set in the snowy wilds of Wyoming. But aside from some clever use of cross-frame staging and mise-en-scene, the super-wide frame and rich film look is wasted. It's the least spectacular large-format movie I've ever seen.

The synthetic effect is, as I said, super goddamned peculiar. It's like putting on evening wear and paying a premium to watch a bunch of YouTube cat videos. I overheard a few conversations during the intermission: Most other audience members were trying to define what the big deal was about 70mm and why the screen was so squished. This represents a misuse of the format. Tarantino should have made Inglorious Basterds in Ultra Panavision 65: it had sweep, spectacle, a huge cast and amazing settings. Hell, he should have made Kill Bill into a single, 200-minute-long-with-intermission roadshow production. In terms of matching content to format The Hateful Eight deserved to be filmed in 16mm and blown up to plain HD.

If you want to see a bit of cinematic history, a real live roadshow 70mm release with the full bells and whistles, The Hateful Eight technically qualifies, I suppose. If you're all hype to see Jennifer Jason Leigh (who was great, BTW) get punched in the face, covered with her own and various people's blood, and called a bitch about a million times, see the Digital Cinema version: it's shorter and cheaper.