Homage or remake, Hateful Eight has grandmaster Tarantino in a reductionist frame of mind, somewhere between Sleuth and Deathtrap rather than the film he's consciously trying to ape (also another film set in 70mm on release), John Carpenter's The Thing. The plot is mercenary whodunit, the patron saint of the spoiler, that fumes into projectile bloodbath. Framed in the insanity of Ultra Panavision (the only anamorphic boost of widescreen), this dark chamber pot has all the pieces but not the connectionist constructions Tarantino used to be known for. Despite the airtight plan for the takeover of Minnie's, visually built out of brilliant touches like the door missing its latch, the candle Tim Roth's Oswaldo Mobray lights to set the stage, plot leaks sprout up everywhere. Maybe we'd excuse Major Warren's late remembrance of Minnie's anti-Mexican maxim that sets off the whole explosive ending, but impossible to ignore is the Daisy Domergue backstory hide-and-seek that's played with the audience. It's meant to be a sleight of hand rendered real by sexism in an overarching framework of racial fear, but we're in 2016. We know women can be dangerous, and anyone with a 10K beheading fee takeaway has got to be a little dangerous. We're supposed to believe two hard-nosed bounty hunters let their guards down long enough to miss clues that lead to their demise. Hiding her and her gang's history from us amidst all the bullshitting that's going on is a poor play for interference. And that's how the film tailspins. We're conscious to the mechanical distraction once the big reveal happens, we can tell the magician is working too hard to call our attention away from the lady in question just to hide the Domergue Gang's history. Sure it's got the misidentified villain, the only death before the intermission curtain is the one 'innocent': the sole survivor of the slaughter at Minnie's (a fair distraction from the real danger). But that's just like the 'ignoring miss Daisy' routine we've been spoonfed, just like all the lies and deceptions these boys practice. Lincoln-penned letters, hangman milleu, diaries of a cowpoke, etc. all are bags of tricks we've become accustomed to. Props for a play within a filmed play. Compare it to the razor-edge fears of The Thing, where anyone can be anything, and the reveal of Blair as infected let's us backdate his clues as coming not from a human, but from an alien planting effective tools to tear apart the remaining humans: his diary, his warning about Clarke, his booze-soaked destruction of the base's radio; even his 'post-mortem' lecture about the remains keep us confused as to who is and who isn't. We need another point of ruse from Tarantino, not this same old/same old. A pity this chance for an optical high point was abused for filming a 3 hour Playhouse 90 remake of the far more cinematic Resevoir Dogs. Note to Robert Richardson: please stop beaming miraculous skylight onto tables because you're too lazy to create realistic fill.
Goodbyes to the Ziegfeld, the east coast's great cultural beacon of cinematic language, 1969-2016. From the G-rated/1975 pot scent filtering from the loge's smoking section (yes, there used to be smoking sections in movies) during semi-perennial re-release Fantasia, to the might-have-been closing film Hateful Eight (a fitting end: taken over by Disney's Force Awakens), this post-roadshow movie palace transported moviegoers to the best alternate realities: Close Encounters, Cabaret, Barry Lyndon, Apocalypse Now, Inglorious Basterds, Episodes I-III all premiered here. Raiders, Episodes IV-VI Sp. Ed., Vertigo, Lawrence of Arabia, 2001, Blade Runner, even Jaws and On Her Majesty's Secret Service all revived here for brief moments. All in a 60's faux 1920's gilded box covered in red velvet. Anyone needing a largescale optical fix will have to visit their local Imax.