Oh, spoilers.

The Avengers and the Guardians and all the new guys like Strange and Panther collide, as a space monster with a firm belief in genocide as the cure for the universe’s problems kills a few people (Loki, rainbow bridgekeeper Idris Elba, green Guardian Gamora, Vision) en route to collecting the Infinity Stones vaguely mentioned in previous movies. The heroes put up strong resistance, but the movie’s all about personal sacrifices – brothers Thor/Loki, lovers Scarlet Witch/Vision, lovers Starlord/Gamora, foster family Thanos/Gamora/Nebula, barely-just-met-allies Strange/Iron Man. Some are prepared to sacrifice, others aren’t so sure, and their hesitation gives Thanos the edge, so he gets the stones, literally snaps his fingers and kills half of everyone everywhere, including: Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Bucky, Don Cheadle, all the Guardians except Rocket, and Samuel L. Jackson. We are assuming that either (1) Benedict Wong uses space-time powers or (2) Ant-Man uses subatomic multidimensional powers to somehow undo the carnage, or (3) everyone who wanted out of their contracts got turned to dust and we just carry on with whoever’s left, throwing in some X-Men and Captain Marvel and Young Han Solo or whoever to take their places.

I was worried that with my poor memory of the previous movies, we’d be lost as to the location and importance of each infinity stone, but the movie does a good job explaining stuff without getting bogged down Matrix-style – all you need to remember are the characters. Mostly it’s ‘splosions and wisecracks, as usual, and those are on point. We dug Peter Dinklage as a giant dwarf weapons forger, can’t make myself care about Young Spider-man or Iron Man’s wedding to Gwyneth Paltrow, didn’t miss Hawkeye. Was warming up to Strange, surprised to see him and Panther turned to dust already. It’s disappointing that these movies are doing the same things as the X-Men series but in a different order… I suppose next we’ll get Avengers: Days of Future Past.

I didn’t know who James Baldwin (writer/activist) was, nor one of the friends/subjects of his unfinished manuscript, Medgar Evers (killed for working for the NAACP to integrate schools). So I watched this half as history lesson and half as experience, taking in Baldwin’s great language and experiences, the director’s intercutting of film history (Baldwin commented regularly on the movies), and Sam Jackson’s narration in a low, very un-Sam-Jackson voice.

M. Sicinski:

Baldwin’s prose focuses on his memories and observations of these three pivotal men, but also veers into other related questions: his sense of duty to leave his expat life in Paris behind and return to America at the height of the Civil Rights movement; the historical legacy of slavery and the culture of the South; the psychopathology of the white man; and his becoming reconciled with his position as a “witness,” a man of letters in the midst of a historical epoch too often cemented by bloodshed.

Sicinski comments positively on Peck’s filmmaking – M. D’Angelo counters:

The conceit of structuring this film around Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript requires Peck to find images to accompany the words … and he does a thuddingly literal job … Most of this just isn’t a movie — it’s a visual audiobook.

Second of the oscar-nominated documentaries we’ve seen at the Ross this month. We’re almost through the O.J. doc, about to watch Life Animated, and we’ll see if we can get to 13th before True/False.

The most awesome/unevenly ambitious Spike Lee movie since She Hate Me. I knew in advance that Teyonah Parris (Coco in Dear White People) has a plan to deny her man (Nick Cannon) sex until he stops fighting with a rival gang led by Wesley Snipes, but didn’t know she gathers a legion of women who commandeer an army base. The social issues within a heightened, unrealistic comedic production (rhyming dialogue, dance scenes, narrator Sam Jackson) make for a great combo.

Cowriter Kevin Willmott was here last week but I didn’t go see him since my parents were in town.

Did anyone else count nine? Maybe Kurt Russell isn’t considered hateful since he always appears to be telling the truth? But he does punch Daisy in the face a lot of times (to the great amusement of the Alamo crowd). So if we count him, there’s the seven star actors mentioned in the trailer, plus the definitely hateful Mexican Bob (Demián Bichir, Castro in Che), and certainly-hateful not-surprise (since there are opening credits, though when he showed up three hours later I’d just about forgotten) guest star Tater Channing. So I suppose the title is meant to throw you off, as is most of the script.

I got to see the little-known 35mm roadshow version, though now having seen it, I wouldn’t cry to lose ten minutes of footage and the intermission. Alamo’s a cool place, though they ran out of half the stuff we ordered and came crawling down the floor to let us know, which all seemed awkward. Mostly it was fabulous to sit front row watching a great-looking 35mm widescreen film from a perfect print.

Let’s keep this short: bounty-hunter Kurt Russell transporting criminal Jennifer Jason Leigh picks up fellow bounty-hunter Sam Jackson and would-be-sheriff Walt Goggins on the way to a rest stop to wait out a blizzard. Waiting there are, as we find out in the second half, an ambush of J.J. Leigh’s compatriots pretending to be random travelers, including hangman Tim Roth, quiet cowboy Michael Madsen and the aforementioned Bob… and confederate general Bruce Dern, a genuinely random traveler searching for his son. Also, Leigh’s outlaw brother Tater is hiding in the basement. Everyone gets shot except Kurt Russell gets poisoned and Leigh gets hanged by ragged, barely-survivors Goggins and Jackson, who reluctantly team up as the plot unfolds. Partly an homage to The Thing (Kurt Russell trapped in snow, nobody being who they say they are). Oh also Zoë Bell of Death Proof appears with others in a flashback massacre. And haha, QT cast a guy named Stark to play a naked man in the flashback leading to Dern’s death just before intermission.

The actors are all perfect for their roles. I’ve barely seen JJ Leigh since the great eXistenZ, though she was one of a hundred confusing people and things in Synecdoche, New York. So the film is well-shot, though confined to the damned cabin for most of its runtime, and the new Ennio Morricone music is lovely, though sparsely used, and the actors are super, though their characters are truly hateful. So I’m not sure what to make of this, or why it’s the movie Tarantino felt he had to make right now. There’s a lot to talk about, and Glenn Kenny takes a great shot at covering it.

Sam Adams, in an article amazingly titled “Fear of a Black Dingus” (just beating Cinema Scope’s headline “You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me”): “Tarantino has never worked so strenuously to get a rise out of his audience … Watching The Hateful Eight is a little like being [Bruce Dern], knowing that Tarantino wants you to jump, and feeling like a sucker when you do.”

J. Reichert in Reverse Shot:

So, after his biggest box-office success, one of our most obnoxious filmmakers made a movie whose worldview lines up with the Republican presidential debates or a Donald Trump rally … It functions as the opposite of Reverse Shot’s best film of the year, In Jackson Heights, which shows Americans our best selves. The Hateful Eight may not be the Quentin Tarantino film anyone wanted, but it may be the Quentin Tarantino film we deserved.

A. Nayman in Cinema Scope:

One possible way to approach the pachydermous beast that is The Hateful Eight is as a hybrid tribute to/remake of Carpenter’s The Thing … And one possible way to look at Tarantino at this point is as the artistic equivalent of Carpenter’s parasite: an unscrupulous shape-shifter who will throw on any disguise that suits his purposes before moving on, leaving the host party hollowed out as he proceeds on his relentless mission of conquest … This is Tarantino’s most audience-alienating film to date. A line from The Thing springs to mind: “I don’t know what the hell’s in there… but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

Between watching Hateful Eight and getting this post online we also saw Inglorious Basterds at the Alamo, since they’re having a Tarantino fest to celebrate Hateful’s release. Fassbender made more of an impression this time, since now I know who he is. I’d forgotten Waltz’s defecting to the allies at the end, and personally planting one of the basterds’ bombs under Hitler’s chair. Katy was surprised to like the movie, despite all its graphic violence.

Nick Pinkerton, quoted by Nathan Silver last week:

Re-watching [A Nos Amours] gives the frustrating awareness of how comparatively petty many of the experiences I have — and have had — with movies are, how a diet of mediocrity accustoms me to betraying a natural expectation that art can expand its frame into the world I’m living in; the sad truth is that most films evaporate the moment we emerge from the theater, vanquished by the more engaging muddle of life.

Movies vanquished by the muddle of life this month include Love, The Wolfpack, Actress, and Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.

Haven’t seen this in 18 years, so I’d forgotten most of it, and didn’t realize it contains The Definitive Samuel L. Jackson Performance.

Sam Goody:

Shot by Tarantino buddy Robert Rodriguez’s cinematographer Guillermo Navarro – close-ups galore and terrific acting. Part of a mid-90’s cinematic Elmore Leonard craze, between Get Shorty and Out of Sight. Grier, Forster and Jackson got various awards and nominations. Only Forster made it to the oscars, though… jeez, it was an all-white year at the oscars except for a 4 Little Girls documentary nomination.

Keaton, the year after Multiplicity. De Niro shortly before he turned to self-mocking comedy in Analyze This and never looked back. Bridget Fonda apparently retired after 2002. Jackson would continue the 1970’s references with his Shaft remakquel. Chris Tucker’s Fifth Element costar Tiny Lister appears as Forster’s employee at the bail-bond place.

Unfortunately Pam Grier’s follow-ups don’t look so good: Chris Elliott comedy Snow Day, Fortress 2, Snoop Dogg’s Bones, Ghosts of Mars, and finally the career-killing Adventures of Pluto Nash. I assumed Jackie Brown was a comeback for her, but it looks like the movies she made the year before were better than any that came after: Mars Attacks, Escape From L.A. and Larry Cohen’s Original Gangstas.

Sure sure, I can slightly, vaguely, ever-so-minimally agree with some specific charges of political incorrectness and racial insensitivity I’ve read from online critics who would apparently prefer that Richard Gere make more movies instead of Tarantino. But Django Unchained was so awesome that even Katy loved it. Seems looser and less purposeful at times than his other movies, but that’s hard to say without having seen most of them in a long time.

Bounty Hunter Christoph Waltz (giving just as delicious a performance as in Inglorious Basterds, but this time as a good guy), the only non-racist in the slavery-era American south, frees Jamie “Django” Foxx from slave traders so Foxx can help identify and kill the Brittle Brothers. I figured from the trailer that they’d be more important, but they’re killed off a few scenes later with barely an introduction. Django stays on with Waltz, learning new strategies for killing villainous white men, until they come up with a plan to rescue D’s wife Kerry Washington from the estate of Leonardo DiCaprio. Many monologues follow, and when Leo gets wise to the scam, Waltz kills him (“I couldn’t resist”), leaving turncoat house-slave Samuel L. Jackson (the movie’s most hilarious performance) for Django to finish off. QT cameos as a doomed Australian.

A couple of quotes contradicting anything negative I said in the first paragraph:

Slant:

[Samuel L. Jackson] reveals himself as the film’s true enemy, a totally indoctrinated subordinate whose slave-subject mentality is so deeply inscribed that he acts out his master’s cruelty and viciousness even in his absence. He hints at the more complicated idea that the kind of violence Django trots out with decadent aplomb in the film’s finale is learned from white folks, a notion implied with more subtlety in the relationship between Django and Schultz. In visiting the film’s most protracted, and ultimately fulfilling, scenes of vengeance against a black man, Tarantino stumbled into his most intriguing social-historical corrective: a full-on reconsideration of classically defined algebra of Civil War antagonism, a counterintuitive take on the well-worn rivalry that pitted “brother against brother.”

A. Nayman:

Once again, in this deceptively baggy, ultimately precisely structured movie, the surface effect belies what’s going on underneath. The sight of two black men locked in a battle to the death at the behest of a white overseer is a tip-off to script’s true conflict. The expression of hatred on Jackson’s face as Django rides up to the inevitably named Candieland transcends the jokey Spaghetti Western posturing — it’s genuinely unnerving.

I was so glad to see a high-quality big-budget comic movie for once, enjoying the story and the evil Russian with a whip and Sam Rockwell trying to outdo Tony Stark as a self-obsessed showman (the movie never lets us forget that Tony, despite his braggadocio, has humanity’s best interests at heart). Then Samuel L. Exposition came along and ruined it. Nothing against Mr. Jackson – he can be awesome – but why cast him in a momentum-killing non-awesome long dialogue scene in a donut shop? After this, the movie wastes a lot of time on Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character, as if we know or care who the hell she is, plus gives Rourke a go-nowhere back-story, doesn’t punish Cheadle for stealing an Iron Man suit and giving it to the transparently evil Rockwell, and provides Downey with a happy-meal redemption from his so-called dark days (ooh, he’s drunk on his birthday) and a permanent cure for the illness that’s supposedly afflicting him (Katy and I forget some origin-story details from part one). It falls into fragments and never reattains its pre-Samuel-L innocence. Anyway, I liked Mickey Rourke’s electric whip and parts of the final fight scene. And the cockatoo. Katy likes Gwyneth Paltrow, but not as much as in the first movie.

Weirdness: this was written by Justin Theroux of Mulholland Dr. He and Favreau (who cast himself as comic relief) must not have a thing for comic superhero names, since I didn’t know that Mickey Rourke was supposed to be called Whiplash (or Don Cheadle “War Machine” or Scarlett Johansson “Black Widow”) until IMDB told me. A post-credits scene sets up THOR, which we’ll watch some weekday night as soon as it’s free.

Now that I’ve seen some exciting, excellent/horrible Argento movies from his peak period (Suspiria, Inferno) and some depressing, horrible/horrible movies from his more recent period (Giallo, Pelts), it’s safe to say I never need to watch these three all the way through (although I’m still undecided on Mother of Tears), so here’s The Last Ten Minutes of them:

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005, Dario Argento)
First thing I see is a black-gloved hand. First thing I hear is an unconvincingly delivered line. It’s an Argento movie, all right. Looks like I’ve stumbled into a crap remake of Rear Window. Police chase the black-gloved girl onto the rooftop, where she falls, hanging Vertigo-style from the gutter while the crippled Giulio (Elio Germano of musical Nine) watches across the alley. But a minute later everyone is friends? So there was no killer? Down on the street a shopping cart lady puts on a wig. Huh? Anyway, months later, Giulio watches a hot nude girl across the alley and enters a confusing flashback montage. One of the girls was Elisabetta Rocchetti, who later appeared in something called Last House in the Woods (oh Italian movie industry, how you amuse me).

The Card Player (2004, Dario Argento)
“I’m sorry, I had to kill him,” says a dude with a cellphone (and disappointingly, no long mustache to twirl) who has tied a girl to the train tracks. He cranks up a CD of funky electro music and lies on the tracks with her playing cards on his laptop, while she taunts him instead of smashing the computer into his face like it seems like she should do. He gets run over by a train, and she shoots out his car stereo, mercifully stopping the electro music. Someone in the movie was Liam Cunningham of Wind That Shakes The Barley – hopefully not the card-playing killer, because that guy was terrible.

Phantom of the Opera (1998, Dario Argento)
Oh no, it’s a period piece. Asia Argento is pretty convincing as an opera star until a sewer troll interrupts the performance and handsome Julian Sands (Warlock himself – the description says he’d not physically disfigured in this one, but was “raised by telepathic rats”) sweeps Asia away. It is very dark, and a man with a funny mustache stumbles upon an enclave of dead bodies. Long-haired hero Andrea di Stefano (star of a Marco Bellocchio movie) shoots Julian and escapes the bloodthirsty search party (wasn’t he part of the search party), as Asia screams in horror (she’s good at that sort of thing). This looks a ton better than the last two movies, though it has the lowest rating. Maybe that’s from people thinking they were getting the Joel Schumacher version. The rat-squealing sound effects over the finale got my birds very excited.

First Snow (2006, Mark Fergus)
This dude Vince says he still considers Guy Pearce his best friend, but says that Guy has fucked up and pulls out a gun. Vince goes off with a long, tortured speech then tries to kill them both but only manages himself. Guy Pearce is sad, flashes back to a pretty girl in a cowboy hat as it starts to snow. The writers/director worked on Children of Men and Iron Man, so I suppose this should’ve been good. Didn’t look awful, but I’m not saying I wanna see 90 more minutes of it.

Noise (2007, Henry Bean)
Tim Robbins’ car is making a ton of noise and William Hurt is angry, then he makes it stop, then start again, then he has some kind of noise-epiphany as judge Chuck Cooper smashes his car with a golf club. A Baldwin tackles the judge, who is arrested under suspicious of being Tim Robbins’ anti-noise vigilante. A way unrealistic court scene follows, in which Tim helps Chuck win in order to set precedent that noise can be considered assault and battery. High on his success, Tim considers joining a pimply militant in blowing up city eyesores but chooses not to. He smashes cars Michael Jackson-style as the credits roll. Overall the movie looks pretty fun, if kinda silly. From the writer of Basic Instinct 2.

Lakeview Terrace (2008, Neil LaBute)
Controversially interracial couple Patrick “Little Children” Wilson and Kerry “Last King of Scotland” Washington come home to a mess of a house, then dude goes out back to thank Samuel L. Jackson for helping him for a break-in. But Jackson knows that Wilson knows that Jackson knew the guys who broke in, and now Jackson’s on the attack. Much punching and many gunshots ensue. I wish Samuel L. had the integrity I always imagine he had. Ugh, his character name is Abel. Cops shoot Sam a bunch, the couple turns out semi-okay and family values are protected. Besides rogue cop Abel, the rest of the LAPD force is portrayed as remarkably restrained and competent. Follow-up to The Wicker Man by Neil LaBute’s doppelganger – the one who killed the real Neil and replaced him in 2000, halfway through production of Nurse Betty.

Obsessed (2009, Steve Shill)
Beyonce catches Ali Lartner (Resident Evil 3) in bed surrounded by rose petals, presumable waiting for Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. Girlfight ensues! So which one of these girls is “obsessed”? I think it’s Lartner, who plays it weirdly affectless. Generic thriller music, fight scene, camerawork and everything. Lartner is killed by a falling chandelier and family values are protected. Idris Elba comes home just in time for the credits, dammit, the only reason I watched this was to see him.

It’s Alive (2008, Josef Rusnak)
Thought I’d peep tha remake since I recently saw the original and more recently saw Splice. Oh it’s the ol’ flashlight-into-the-camera trick from X-Files. This is taking place in a very dark house, not a sewer – the movie probably couldn’t afford a sewer. Father Frank (TV’s James Murray) catches the baby (how? we don’t know) in a trash can and creeps off to a very dark outdoor area, then unwisely opens the can and gets savaged by the baby (played by an out-of-context CG effect). Motherly Bijou Phillips (of Hostel II, here with the horror-in-joke character name Lenore Harker) catches up with them and takes the baby into a burning house where they both perish… or DO they?? Hmmm, no cops – the movie probably couldn’t afford cops. That seemed longer than ten minutes.

Simon Says (2006, William Dear)
Key phrase from the description: “Simon and Stanley (both played by Crispin Glover), backwoods twin brothers with a fondness for booby traps.” That’s all you needed to tell me! Helpless Stanley is being groped by some girl – but he’s got a knife!! She’s got a bigger knife! Did he just headbutt a corpse? Now he’s screaming with a fake southern accent in the woods, wounded and toting a scythe. Could this be the end of Crispin Glover? Yep, got a knife in the skull by a girl who I assume is Margo Harshman (good name). Where’s the twin brother? Maybe there never was one. Oh Crispy is still alive and gets the girl, twist ending. They said “you forgot to say simon says” about four times. I missed the epilogue bit since someone knocked on the door, but I saw a bunch of mirrors and I’m guessing there was never a twin brother, which is disappointing. William Dear, also the writer, once made Harry and the Hendersons.