By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

From Cannes, 90 Seconds Of HATEFUL 8

In 2012, when there was a Django Unchained banner resting high above the Croisette, it felt like a poorly-kept secret that The Weinstein Company would be showing extended footage of Tarantino’s 7th film (this is after a few weeks of speculation that the film would be ready for Cannes, until it wasn’t).

And sneak us some Django they did. Three years ago, that event was more intimate—and more pertinently, the event was smaller. That year TWC showed only three films: The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, and then a number of memorable scenes from Django, and by the time it was over, everyone was pretty ramped up. And recall that all three films of those films were strong.

Weinstein’s panel this year showed sneak peek teasers of ten titles: Adam Jones, Southpaw, Carol, No Escape, The Little Prince, Macbeth, Tulip Fever, Hands of Stone, Lion, and The Hateful Eight.

By the end of it, with each one of them more or less informing us of the respective Academy Award winning/nominated talent (I mean, it’s Weinstein, c’mon), the films and trailer beats began to merge together as a shrug-worthy reel of “yup, those are movies alright,” and realistically very little stood out, including The Hateful Eight, which I’m up front about being in the tank for when it eventually hits my eyeballs.

Impressions: they’re hard and probably reductive, especially when we’re only given 90 seconds. I realize now that I wrote none for Tarantino’s film, because I was glued to the screen for as much information as possible. Still, nothing much to glean. The teaser opened with Samuel L. Jackson saying to a mysterious carriage, “Got room for one more?” which spoke to me as a line coming from QT himself, somehow; as if he’s trying to make sure he hasn’t overstayed his welcome with Django being universally understood as too long.

Yeah, man, we got room for one more. Don’t start writing novels just yet.

But realistically: this Hateful Eight footage was almost 100% dialogue. Basically zero violence. And in terms of lines, I didn’t hear anything that was really humming or notable—is that a bad sign? Hard to say. Previous trailers don’t have that issue. But Tarantino staples, like a pointed gun under a wooden table, were certainly back (though I’ll say that particular image felt like a retreading), and the tagline “Eight strangers / one deadly connection implies that the film is going to have more of a Reservoir Dogs feel in that stand-off scenario (or competing interests) way. I haven’t read the script, which has surely changed loads since its leak, but that’s the way it felt.

Other highlights from this demo, surprisingly, were from Adam Jones, a film where Bradley Cooper plays a high-end executive chef. I can’t say much distinctively about this—it’s a Bradley Cooper comedy/drama!—but it definitely had a stronger sense of artistic variation. Shots of food; a distinct element of pacing, like the film is going to be a three-course meal. It also featured “Trainwreck” by DFA1979, which is a sign of confidence to me. The screening led with this and closed with Tarantino, which felt deliberate, and perhaps another hint to overall quality to their 2015 slate.

Southpaw, featuring a totally busted-up and tattooed Jake Gyllenhaal, looks like it might actually be pretty interesting. It’s certainly looking stronger than the seemingly-mediocre Hands of Stone, a Robert De Niro boxing film that managed to show us its entire rote plot in 90 seconds.

No Escape – Owen Wilson is not a dramatic actor. He should not be in dramatic movies, especially some that look like they’re easily recut with the addition of Yakety Sax as a braindead romp. “How far will you go,” the film asks, “to protect the ones you love?” If it involves walking to a cineplex to see this unlikely motion picture event, that might be a difficult question.

Finally—and I know these thoughts are fairly disjointed—Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) and Rooney Mara are sure to have a big year, given their two films apiece for Harvey. At the event Gyllenhaal was also trumpeted by Weinstein himself as having deserved a nomination for Nightcrawler, which he hopes to “get revenge” for with Southpaw. Maybe? Who knows. But the rest of the crop seemed a little too gimmicky, or perhaps a worthwhile attempt at awards. The Little Prince, mind you, did have some intriguing combinations of animation style, which was cool to see (think Pixar CG in one scene, stop-motion the second). Carol looked very strong, yet impossible to gauge—it’s not that kind of movie. But then again, we’re seeing Carol this week in the Competition, so stay tuned.

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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton