“Coming from a violent country, I don’t find violence funny.”
Mexican born writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu
If The Hateful Eight and The Revenant were a MMA match then The Hateful Eight is Leonardo DiCaprio and The Revenant is the bear in the already classic bear attack scene in The Revenant—at least the first and second rounds of the fight. (Part of which is at the 46 second mark of the trailer below.)
Two heavyweights going at it. Two time Oscar-winner Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds) and Three time Oscar-winner Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)—and at least from my perspective The Revenant is the better film.
Which was echoed Monday night at the Golden Globe Awards where The Revenant won for best dramatic film, Iñárritu for best director, and best actor (DiCaprio).
Here are some of the similarities between the two films:
—Both movies are set in the 1800s
—Both movies are set in the Rocky Mountains
—Both movies are intensely violent
—Both movies over 2 ½ hours long
—Both movies are set in the snowy winter
—Both movies had a limited release in December 2015, and a wider release in January 2016.
—And while the beauty and serenity of the Rocky Mountains can create may high moments in people’s lives, there is also a downside survival mode that can create horrific low points in other people’s lives (avalanches, hypothermia, floods, fires, rattle snakes, etc.). Both of these films deal with the lowest points in the character’s lives.
And, of course, there are differences between the two. Mainly that The Hateful Eight is verbal—almost a stage play—while The Reverent is visual, it could almost play as a silent movie. One movie goes inside from the snow storm, the other stays outside shooting in the harsh elements. Which explains why The Reverent came in at least twice the budget of The Hateful Eight. (The obvious lesson there is if you’re going to set a story in the Rocky Mountains, it’s a lot cheaper to take the horror template and basically lock in all the actors in one room.)
Both movies are beautifully shot and well acted. And at this point both movies so far have made in the $60 million range at the worldwide box office. Time will tell how the movies fare at Oscar time and in the box office in coming weeks.
I saw both movies back to back last week and while I loved the whole roadshow approach that Tarantino took because it gave me that experience for the first time ever. The 70mm print, the movie program, the prelude music, and no movie trailers at the start. Loved it. And loved the long John Ford/Orson Welles-worthy opening shot.
But when the three hours was up, well, I wondered if I’d missed the point of the movie. I went to see The Hateful Eight with a friend who was a teenager when Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction came out and could not have been more enthralled with a director than Tarantino at that stage of his life. The first thing he said when we walked out of The Hateful Eight was “I get to pick the next movie.”
My friend is no longer a teenager—he just turned forty and now has four children. He wondered why he just had to slog through a 3 hour movie that for all its sound and fury signified nothing. One that just seemed to land on nihilism.
“A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.”
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Tarantino set the tone early when he has Kurt Russell’s character smack Jennefer Jason Leigh’s character in the mouth. There was a row of 5 or 6 fanboys sitting behind me who broken out in instant loud laugher at the backhand punch—and every subsequent punch.
Of course, The Hateful Eight isn’t really in competition with The Revenant, and many reviews have been positive. Some not so positive reviews pull out the ole “self-indulgent” lines which I chalk up to Tarantino being Tarantino. Like Jack Sparrow—”Pirate!” But even the positive reviews seem to hedge their bets.
“Tarantino always swings for the fences. He doesn’t connect with every wild pitch thrown here. At three hours, this Western whodunit can feel like too much of a good thing…Coffee is poisoned, bullets are fired, blood is splattered, bodies pile up, and a letter from Abe Lincoln is read. Okay, maybe it doesn’t all add up. Screw coherence. Dig in for the fireworks and a whole lot of crazy.”
I was disappointed in The Hateful Eight (even with the fireworks and the craziness), but all I’m saying is if you only have the time and the money to see one of these Rocky Mountain movies, go with The Revenant. My next post will be on Iñárritu’s one-two punch, as it’s possible he may land back to back Best Picture and/or Best Director Oscars.
P.S. Not all mountain survival stories take place in the wild. For all writers dreaming of escaping to the mountains for some quiet time to write, remember what all that isolation did for Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (A stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was Stephen King’s original inspiration for that story.)
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