The Hateful Eight was a bit of a wild card coming into Oscar season. Quentin Tarantino has a lot of support from the Academy, but his movies are gory and sometimes off-putting. There is a lot of love for his script and for Jennifer Jason Leigh in the Supporting Actress category. Everything else is tenuous.
Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight is vintage Tarantino. It’s a little bit of Django Unchained, a smidgen of Inglourious Basterds, and a pretty big helping of Reservoir Dogs. The script is profane, violent, and very funny. The actors, especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Samuel L. Jackson, are great, as always. Robert Richardson, the cinematographer, though given a small space to work with, manipulates depth of field beautifully and does give the audience some picturesque outdoor shots of the snow. All in all, everything you would want from a QT joint.
And yet, I think perhaps that is becoming the problem. Though I enjoyed Hateful and thought there were some great moments and some deliciously unexpected surprises, it felt like Tarantino was repeating himself more than usual. As the Oscar season has progressed, Hateful has mostly moved out of the Best Picture discussion. I feel that has to do with the voters (and audiences) having seen most of his bag of tricks. This is not necessarily a criticism, as his style and his one-of-a-kind dialogue will still bring people to the theater for as long as he makes movies. However, those movies are no longer considered some of the best of any given year. (Django also generally underwhelmed.) He coaxes marvelous performances out of his cast (I wish that Walton Goggins were in the awards discussion this year) and is a master filmmaker on the other side of the camera. I doubt that Tarantino has run out of ideas; perhaps he has gotten a little lazy, since the things he does are so fun and interesting and shocking. But those fun, interesting, shocking things are starting to feel repetitive. By no means does Tarantino need reprimanding, but perhaps he does need to go in a different direction. When The Hateful Eight ended, I was satisfied, as I am sure Tarantino was when he finished it. But, I was no longer in awe as I was when I finished Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill: Vol. 2. It is a tribute to the respect I have for QT that I want to challenge him to instill that awe in me again. I think that would also return him and his movies to the Best Picture discussion.