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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, January 4

The H8teful Eight

Before I decided to see Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it. Almost three hours later, I still wasn’t sure. I knew I enjoyed it and knew it would be a film I’d remember for a very long time. It was funny (in an epically banana-peel way), it was visually interesting, and it was oh so bloody. It also alluded to several other works: 1960’s The Magnificent Seven, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and the old board game Clue. It also seemed to be looking back at Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Tarantino may have said, “So, you think you had blood? Well, take a drink at my blood well.” As in most of his films, Tarantino loves to go to extremes. If violence offends you, then he’ll give you so much violence it becomes comical; if the “n-word” offends you, then he’ll have his characters say it so often it turns your brain numb; if bloody scenes disgust you, then he’ll show you so much blood it becomes meaningless. But back to the allusions. If the seven amigos in The Magnificent Seven were magnificent and admirable in their fight against evil, Tarantino’s eight are truly hateful and evil. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None had characters stranded in an island mansion, dropping inexplicably dead one at a time, with the final explanation coming at the very end. Just like in H8teful Eight, bad-ass folks dropping one at a time, sort of as in Clue—“The big guy did it with poison in the kitchen.” Act One (Tarantino loves to give his films a stage play feel) opens with a stagecoach racing through a brilliantly white Wyoming landscape, about a decade after the Civil War. It’s been snowing for days and a blizzard in on its way. The stagecoach is heading for Red Rock but hopes to make it to Minnie’s Haberdashery before the storm catches them. Pristine snow everywhere, the sound track a nervous high pitch underscoring an as yet undefined tension. Slow pan out from a snow-covered stone Christ hanging on a stone cross. The stagecoach comes to a full stop because the roadway is blocked by Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and the bodies of the three outlaws whom he’s taking to Red Rock for the $8,000 bounty. His horse gave out in the storm and had to be put down. Inside the coach, John “the Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking his $10,000 bounty baby to Red Rock, the killer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). But this killer lady is certainly no lady, her left eye black as a raccoon’s, her face bloody from a broken nose delivered by her captor’s elbow when she talks too much. The major is allowed into the coach, his three bounty bodies are loaded on the top. Rush and Warren know each other, since they both have earned reputations as successful bounty hunters. The journey continues until the coach is stopped again, this time by Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, whom you and I remember fondly from his role in Justified). Mannix is on his way to Red Rock where he will become the town’s next sheriff, but his horse also gave out on him. He is allowed into the coach and the four continue on to Minnie’s place, comprised of three separate buildings shivering in the snow—the outhouse, the horse barn, and the haberdashery—a large, single room with bar, kitchen, piano, and sitting area near the fireplace. And now we have the equivalent to the mansions in And Then There Were None and Clue. Tarantino loves his surprises and his jokes. One of the running gags in this part of the story is the front door that has to be nailed shut each time someone enters, with everyone screaming at the entrant, “You gotta kick it in!” and then instructing the entrant to take the hammer and nails near the door and nail not one but two pieces of wood to keep it shut. The building itself is a running gag with the walls showing enormous cracks through which snowflakes are blown. During one confrontation between Major Warren and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), Bob, the interim manager in Minnie’s absence, plays a strange version of “Silent Night.” Bob (Demian Bichir) speaks with a noticeable Mexican accent, thus Major Warren knows something is amiss because he also knows that Minnie hates Mexicans. Who is this Bob and where are Minnie and her family? And who are all these others also stranded here at Minnie’s? All are part of the mystery, with nearly three hours before resolution. There seems to be quite a bit of critical disagreement about this movie, many critics loving it, quite a few hating it. I agree with those who thought it was overlong by about forty minutes. One thing I’m reasonably sure of, though, is that Jennifer Jason Leigh will get some Oscar attention for her really comical portrayal of Daisy Domergue. She says to John Ruth just after he’s coughed up a fountain of blood in her face and just before she shoots him, “When ya get ta hell, John, tell ‘em Daisy sent ya.” You’ll just have to see it to appreciate how funny that line really is.
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