The Hateful Eight.

 

Recently I saw Quentin Tarantino’s, The Hateful Eight, and it left me wanting. Mostly it left me wanting there to be any reason as to why the director decided to film it in 70mm when he barely utilize the format. It also left me yearning for Tarantino to revive his standard of tone and pace, and in short tighten up a bit — in his most effective films Tarantino may meander, but everything has a purpose, in his less effective works Tarantino’s tendency to allow scenes to linger can make for awkwardness, and sometimes causes good actors to act poorly and amateur actors to be next to intolerable. Nonetheless both seem calculated, it’s just that the latter appears to have something missing in the equation.

Whether this is his way of harkening back to the grindhouse films he saw growing up (and now owes so much to), or if it could be described as sloppy filmmaking, I don’t know. I don’t think Tarantino is a sloppy filmmaker, but perhaps he could do with exploring a new theme, because The Hateful Eight could have done with some more profundity. The violence, blood, and sounds of the film are on par with what the audience has come to expect from Tarantino, but the message of the film seems to not only be redundant, but almost pointless in execution. This is not to say the themes of revenge and race politics in the film are not still relevant, but that Tarantino failed in making them relatable.

Many people have compared The Hateful Eight to Reservoir Dogs, but the only real aspects the two films have in common is that a large part of each movies take place in one room, two of the stars of Dogs are also starring in Eight, and both films deal with the concealment of identity, beyond that however Eight is lacking in the human element seen in Dogs – the heart of the film is effectively left out int the snow. The only reason I could think as to why this would be so is that the point of the film was the exploration of pointlessness. Showing the absurdity and needlessness of hatred due to race discrimination as perceived by a modern audience, and pointlessness of violence that comes from fear and mistrust stemming from that hatred, though important topics, it seems to be somewhat muddled in the execution.

Seriously though, what was the point of filming in 70mm? There were a few truly stunning exterior long shots, but most of the film was shot in variants of medium close-up. Which to be fair makes perfect sense considering Tarantino seemed to be going for a classic American Western style, which was known to consist of expensive exterior long shots and the more confined medium shot — it would be accurate to say medium close-ups were once a staple of American filmmaking.

However, the film seems a bit confused. The grindhouse films Tarantino so often calls his “teachers” were made with little budget, often using unknown or amateur actors, sometimes filmed in a guerrilla style, and would usually have their seems showing all over the place in terms of being “unperfect” films, but they were nonetheless entertaining, and depending on the film, impactful.

The thing is the people who made these films weren’t trying to make “bad films” or “grindhouse” films. They were simply trying to make movies that said what they wanted to say, films that told the stories told nowhere else and didn’t follow the rules of “conventional” cinema. In modern filmmaking any attempt to recreate the time or feel or style of these films is more often than not just that, a recreation, rather than a creation. This is why any modern attempt to make grindhouse films is so often only a mirrored idea of the style rather than a continuation of it — the modern grindhouse shouldn’t even be given the same label as the original grindhouse films, because they are more like cousins than siblings.

But back to The Hateful Eight.

The film is simply not effective in terms of how the 70mm film was used past the opening shot. Everyone in the theatre awed at the snow covered hills that stretched across the screen, but all the shots that followed were lacking in the marvel of the format and called into question why the choice to use it was even made — was it pure gimmick? A money grab? A harken back to films of old? Or just because they could? I’m all for more movies being shot with film, and having one shot in 70mm is a real treat, but it is also not a cheap venture. I would like any film I watch to be purposeful, because there are few things in the cinematic world I distain more than waste, but sadly while watching The Hateful Eight any sense of purpose seems secondary to an elbow in the face.

The revenge driven Eight was entertaining enough, but the use of 70mm film was a real let down, especially after Tarantino’s last film, Django Unchained, raised audience expectation and rekindled faith after the release of the jumble that was Inglorious Basterds. Sadly The Hateful Eight is more akin to Basterds than Django, which is to say both value entertainment over substance, and come off more like a mess of ingredients that don’t quite make a recipe. There is a lack of depth in The Hateful Eight, and what depth that is attempted in the film seems too obvious and not properly integrated, rather than being the driving force it was seemingly meant to be. By the second half, the film feels more like a poor remake of Clue with more blood, more cussing, and less payoff.

I will admit that I did enjoy the film as much as I could, like others in the audience I laughed and cheered and enjoyed the experience. Sadly that’s all I got from the film, it was an experience, an in-theatre entertainment that holds little weight after viewing is concluded. It made me mad, but not in a good way. That being said, I do want to watch the film again if only for the masochistic need to further understand why it didn’t hit the mark for me.

If Tarantino is attempting to makes films like the ones he viewed while growing up, he is sadly misguided — even his “Grindhouse feature” Death Proof is simply holding a mirror up to films that contributed to the original grindhouse style. Death Proof is at best a parodic, or revisionist attempt. That being said, the modern “grindhouse” movement has very few (if any) examples that could be considered “real” grindhouse pictures, especially considering grindhouse (like film noir) is not considered a genre, but rather a style. The difference being that once genres like horror or comedy are established by their consistent and duplicable iconographies they are considered constants whereas styles are defined as periodic, meaning they are popular for a time but do not constitute becoming a genre, because the style of film eventually dies out, though like film noir it can come back, often redefined (aka neo-noir).

Reflecting on the original films that contributed to the style we now refer to as “grindhouse” there is a common vein in the films — they were heavily based in politics and even if this wasn’t the main focus, these films were made to say something that was lacking in “conventional” genres – sadly Tarantino sometimes seems to forget this by focusing on the style more than substance, or seemingly having little to say that he hasn’t already told us.

It could be that Tarantino has set his own bar too high to surpass it, what with films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction being among his first released, which is undoubtedly a high standard to maintain. All I know is when Death Proof came out I cheered, when Inglorious Basterds was released I grimaced, and when Django came out I believed I could finally have hope in Tarantino again. Now. I just don’t know. Maybe his new standard is to make a good movie every second time, but being that he has released just under ten features in his career it makes for a weighty percentage to allow.

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Hunter’s Night EP Review by Brent Morrison

“The self-titled debut by Vancouver Indie duo Hunter’s Night is a sonic tapestry of Greg Withers’ crunchy, scratchy, fuzz guitar work, and Ali Parassidis’ powerful, soaring, melodic vocals.

The EP features five original songs (as well as 2 sensational acoustic demos) with Withers also providing drums and bass duties – although it is his guitar playing that truly stand out – while Parassidis handles all the vocals. The first four songs are full out rockers, while Oh Lady ends the EP on a beautiful acoustic note, Withers playing a mellow, laid back guitar while Parassidis again demonstrates the soul and power of her beautifully melodic voice.

A mélange of genres (punk, metal, blues, rock’n’roll) , the Hunter’s Night debut improves with each listening, and succeeds in the most important aspect of any debut – leaving listeners wanting more!”

Brent Morrison

The Rockin’ Blues Show : http://www.rockinbluesshow.com/

It’s an interesting time! Only a few months have passed since our debut EP was released, and it feels like a lifetime. We’re working tirelessly on a new sound: Ali is now playing electric guitar, and Greg is embracing a gross sounding multi-octave organ-esque guitar tone. We have also recently been strongly influenced by the creativity of our friends Mohsin Siddiqui and Siobhan Sagessa, playing drums and keyboard, respectfully. The result we’re achieving now feel to us to be a more naturally organic flow, and tone. Amidst a flurry of exciting new demos (https://soundcloud.com/huntersnight) we were extremely pleased to have been reviewed by local blues junkie. No, blues connoisseur! Brent Morrison – thank you sir!

 

Hunter’s Night EP!

HN YouTube Channel Art

Back in March (though in retrospect it seems like a mystical time, years ago and long past, that only our great, great grandparents know the true tale of) Greg and I decided to engulf on the journey of making an EP in my workshop aka the jam space we use at my house that holds the slight and lingering scent of cat pee.

It was meant to be simple. We would record the songs and release them in the hope that we would attract a drummer. With this in mind, Greg and I agreed early on that we were completely against any sort of auto-tuning, because we wanted potential drummers to really hear us, and not the computer alien versions of us.

Now. Back story. We had been auditioning drummers for quite a while and although at times we saw potential in the men (it was only ever men) who came out, we just couldn’t find “that” person who fit in with us in sound and personality. You would get one or the other, and at times neither at all. For the record, and to be out-rightly sexist for a moment, if a lady drummer had tried out the rarity of her breed would have probably caused me to completely lose my shit and just bear-hug her until she agreed to join us…

Side note story: Drums were the first instrument I decided I HAD to play when I was a child. I loved Sandy West from The Runaways and Patty Schemel of Hole, and the second I saw the child-sized drum set I would later save all my money for months to buy, I knew I had to have it and hit it repeatedly, if only to give my mother’s pots and pans a break from my incessant thrashing. The point of me telling you this is that ever since, I’ve grown a curdling rage towards the lack of female drummers who are readily seen in media and on stage, because there needs to be more bad-ass, hard-hitting women out there! Seeing Zoe Bell pummel and conquer on the silver screen just doesn’t cut it some days. And yes she isn’t even a drummer, my alluding to her is completely out of context…she’s just AMAZING. I don’t even care how transparent her “acting” is, or that in Death Proof this lack was compensated by Bell playing herself. You don’t need to play a character when your real life self can ride the hood of a car in a high speed chase, or be kick-ass enough to be Xena’s stunt double and on top of that be the reason why people believe Uma Thurman could ever cut down scores of Yakuza ninja types unscathed, all by her lonesome. I want to see Zoe Bell’s new movie Raze.

But to steer this boat back to the point. Greg and I had been going insane, and just needed something, anything to happen. We set up a recording space in the workshop, rented gear, borrowed some from a few fantastic guys (I’m looking at you Brian, Jer and Mat) and we began to record whilst eating “guaccus” — a guacamole/hummus hybrid with magically delicious results. Come on up and see me sometime, maybe I’ll make you a bowl 😉 … …But call first. No one likes it when someone just shows up and demands to be fed. I’m not your mother! Did things just get weird? *repress, repress*

We started by recording the drums, then the bass, the guitars and finally the vocals. Greg played all the instruments, except for one acoustic guitar in one song *brushes shoulder off like someone who does that* and I sang all the vocal parts. We each recorded the other and produced, altered and added along the way. But we also encountered technical difficulties from the start.

On top of that (and to take a personal moment to whine a bit), earlier this year I couldn’t seem to help from being ill. I would get better from one virus or infection and a new germ would mosey its way on in. Needless to say this caused some unneeded stress and wear on my voice – some of the vocal parts were actually recorded when I had a throat infection, so that’s not great. Our set backs didn’t just end there however. At one point during recording Greg’s computer – the computer we’d be using for ALL the recording – broke down. And it stayed that way for quite a while.

This caused for some changes. Not only did we decide not to record a song we had originally wanted to include in the EP, we also had to wait until Greg’s computer was functional again in order for him to edit, mix and master what we were able to record.

Now. I just want to take a moment here and give some major props to Greg. I don’t want to get into every dirty detail and mountainous hump we ran into during this process, but Greg is a CHAMP. Not only did he have the technical know-how that basically enabled our entire recording process, but he put the songs together. I mean sure I was there to constantly be a little bird on his shoulder, pecking my revision notes into his ear, but Greg put in so much post-work with these songs, it was amazing. I mean the boy even learnt how to master!! That’s pretty impressive.

But anyhow, long story concluding, we are finally done!!! We can stop rocking back and forth in the corner and share some music! It’s just in the nick of time too, that corner gets chilly. And winter IS coming. I don’t care if that quote is overused, I like it. You’re not my mother either!

Indeed.

EP for all! We hope you enjoy it 🙂

Call Her Savage.

Anyone who has ever had to spend an extended amount of time with me will know that I like to ramble. I will start with one point and along the meandering road it takes to get to it, I will explode in an on-going trail of additional information. I like context. More often than I like to admit though, I’ll get too excited about with what I’ve veered off to and forget the initial point of the story…but this usually only lasts a moment. There’s just so much information, AH. So think of me as a wondering grandma you found in a park who wants to tell you all about the “good old days” but can’t quite recall the current year. She knows it, at least she knows she knew it, but everything else she has to tell you just seems so much more pertinent to her being that she must let you know too.

And that’s what happened when I decided I wanted to write a little paragraph about my favourite Clara Bow movie, Call Her Savage (1932). Now. For those of you who don’t know who Clara Bow is, she was cinema’s original “IT” girl. A legacy of hers you may not know you’re already acquainted with is Betty Boop. Boop was the fictional creation based off of two very real women Annette Hanshaw (Voice!) and Clara Bow (Sex! Flapper hair bob!). Bow was once Hollywood royalty during the silent era of cinema, and fell victim to the “talkies” that proved to destroy the careers of so many silent stars and actors. Bow made her last film in 1933 (Hoop-la) and after years of fighting what has been described as a “mental imbalance” that caused her to be confined to a sanatorium on different occasions, Bow died in obscurity in 1965 at age 60.

You with me? Good. Abrupt change. People know Marilyn Monroe. At this point it’s difficult not to. Even if someone has never seen one of her films, they at least know her image and iconography. During her lifetime, and years past her death, Monroe has proven to be a sex symbol who may never lose her appeal. However before Marilyn there was another blonde bombshell who rocked the cinematic screen. One who Monroe in fact saw as a role model and fashioned herself off of, and her name was Jean Harlow.

Harlow too was once Hollywood royalty. She starred along some of film’s greatest actors during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood – a time when living in Hollywood meant you could order a full glass of cream to wash down your meaty, meaty death burger, instead of closing your eyes as you will your body to gulp down yet another shot of wheatgrass. Harlow was known to be a spitfire of the screen. She made her first big mark in film starring in Howard Hughes costly production Hell’s Angels (1930). Additionally, Hughes insisted that a handful of reels of the film be made in colour – not a common or economical practise at the time – to this day one of these rare reels which was found in John Wayne’s personal belongings, is the only known colour film of Harlow in existence. Harlow was the type of woman who could hold her own with Clark Gable, or James Cagney and play both vulnerable and dramatic, or hilarious and effervescent. My favourite films of hers are when she is paired with the talented and hysterically funny Una Merkel, those two were just comedic GOLD together. Sadly Harlow died in 1937 at age 26.

So why am I telling you this? Okay. Sex symbol time line: Marilyn Monroe based herself off of Jean Harlow, Jean Harlow based herself off of Clara Bow, Clara Bow was the first American “sex symbol” of the screen.

To be clear, saying Bow was the first “sex symbol” could cause a ruckus for film geeks. But think of it this way. Before the 1930’s there were no real genres. Sure you had German Expressionism and American melodrama just to name a couple, but there were no set categories of film types that had “formulas” – that came later, and really was more to do with film being an economic machine rather than a form of art, and let’s not even go into the mess that the Haye’s Code made in cinematic freedom… … …GAH.

So when I say Clara Bow was cinema’s first sex symbol I’m not saying there weren’t sexy women onscreen fulfilling the role of the “bombshell” before her. What I’m saying is that what Bow did for film sex symbols is what the Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man films did for the horror genre – they set a standard and made a categorization that was clear and thus could be continued and copied rather easily. Does that make sense? Alrighty.

So some of you may be confused, but me thinks that just means a need for more context! As I mentioned above, Bow was Harlow’s inspiration and much like how Monroe based herself off of Harlow, Harlow fashioned herself off of Bow. Harlow and Bow met on the set of The Saturday Night Kid (1929) and as legend has it Bow took a liking to Harlow. It is arguable that the original blonde bombshell may not have risen to stardom at all if not for Bow’s disposition towards her. In 1930’s Hollywood being a “discovered” bit player (like Harlow) was something only half-conceived dreams were made of, and more often than not these stories would end in tragedy, such as with the “Hollywood Sign Girl” Peg Entwistle.

RANDOM STORY. Entwistle was a struggling actress who, after too many rejections and career failures, took her own life by jumping off the H of the iconic landmark (then still “Hollywoodland”, the last four letters were not removed until 1949). Entwistle landed on the hills below at the age of 24 in 1932 and reportedly did not die right away. There are now tales that Entwistle’s perfume can be smelt around the same area and even reports of visitors seeing a woman fitting her physical description with appropriate dress, wondering around the sign. What makes Entwistle’s story all the more tragic is that allegedly a day or two after her suicide, her household received a letter letting Peg know that she had been chosen for a lead role. Even so, Entwistle was able to be immortalized in one film before she died, Thirteen Women (1932). The film was produced by David O. Selznick and was released just weeks after Entwistle’s body was found in the famous hills. And just for an extra dash of information, in a 1976 interview Bette Davis once attributed Peg Entwistle as the reason she wanted to go into the theatre. In Davis’ 1962 memoir “A Lonely Life” she even talks about how captivating it was for her to watch Entwistle onstage portraying Hedvig in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck back in 1926. If you are wondering who Bette Davis is… *sheering glare*

But back to Bow. The entire reason why I wanted to write this was initially to point out how I thought it was humorous that my favourite movie Bow ever made was in fact a “talkie”, rather than a silent. Call Her Savage is my favourite Bow film for a few reasons. Firstly, though the film is deeply flawed it also manages to have some pretty interesting and unexpected framing, angling and editing. And like any “good ol’ American” film of the 1930’s it’s chalked full of sexism, racism and even an insertion of night club homophobia. But hold that thought…

When Bow revealed her Brooklyn accent to the world, there was HUGE backlash. Like many silent stars, her real life self did not measure up to the conception of her silent screen persona. People thought her voice was harsh and unappealing. However. That is my next reason, I LOVE hearing Bow speak. Ironically enough Harlow had a rather similar sounding voice to Bow, sadly the studio just didn’t know how to market the seemingly “lower class”, brassy, sassy, assertive, sex bomb type at that time. Also, the quality of the mics after they were first introduced left a lot to be desired – the harsh quality in turn amplified the harshness of Bow’s New York accent which then served to amplify her insecurities. There is also an interesting cross-over happening in the film where parallels of the conception of who Bow was, who Bow really was, and the character she was playing in the movie all seem to mirror each other and overlap. Geek pleasure abounds!

One other aspect of the film that makes it oh so very excellent is the inclusion of Thelma Todd. Todd was a comedic actress who did her most well known work in the 1930’s. Her most notable works were probably her films with the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. I have to say right now, I find Todd hilarious. I’ve hunted down everything I could of her work and even when the films are falling apart at the seams, Todd is rarely ever a let down. Weirdly enough, before Harlow, Todd was also often coupled with Una Merkel – seriously Merkel and her timing, DAMN. Ahem.

However, another less enjoyable aspect of viewing Todd’s work is knowing about her death. Even today there is debate on the “accident” that took Todd’s life. What is known is that in the 1930’s Todd fulfilled her dream of running and owning her own cafe (named “Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe”), and during this time she was also dating a well-known gangster, Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Apparently “Lucky” had been pushing Todd to launder money for him through her cafe, but she out-rightly refused, saying “over my dead body”. Not long after Todd’s body was found in her car, parked in a closed garage. The death was ruled as an “accident” despite the visual indicators that Todd had been beaten before she succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. There was also evidence that Todd was not the one who had driven the car, as her body was found slumped over the drivers side, almost as if someone had dragged her, but from the position she was in it was clear she had been sitting on the passenger side. Moreover, the closed garage was all but a highlighted sign blazing MURDER. Due to the connections of Luciano however, the truth of Todd’s death has never been fully revealed and still to this day the facts are rather confused. Todd died in 1935, at age 29.

Even so. When I see Todd onscreen it is always a pleasure. I’ll watch HBO’s Carnivale and just by hearing Libby (Carla Gallo) talk about how she wants to run away and go to Thelma Todd’s café, a certain kind of joy is sent through me. But I digress, so so much. Back to Bow.

Clara Bow was known to have a fear of the microphone – due to the backlash of the public hearing her voice, as well as the new-ness of the technology that caused it not to be trusted. This fear could very well of also been due to the lack of movement allowed to the actors of early “talkies”. The mic would usually be placed in a prop, like a vase of flowers, and the actors would then have to deliver their lines while hovering over said prop, talking into it. This caused for a static form of framing and for someone like Bow who was an onscreen totem of freedom and carnality, being limited in movement must have felt like being strapped down to the floor.

It was because of Bow’s fear of the mic that director Dorothy Arzner crafted the very first boom mic system by attaching a microphone to a fishing rod while on the set of The Wild Party (1929). This then allowed Bow to move more freely onset, while Arzner, or another set hand, would follow her around the stage. To deter from the point once more, I need to talk about Arzner.

Arzner is quite a notable woman in her own right. Not only did she create the first boom mic, she was also one of the only, if not the only, female director to successfully work through the silent era and into the “Golden Age” of Hollywood (she made her last film First Comes Courage in 1943), she was also the first woman to direct a “talkie” (Manhattan Cocktail (1928)), and was the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America.

But back to the point one last time. Call Her Savage is a film I like to watch and rewatch. Much like Bow herself and the sex symbols who followed her, it is heartbreaking, uplifting and enthralling. It may not be the “best” film Bow ever made, but it is my favourite nonetheless.

Also. The year is 2013.

Good day.
-A.

Inspiration.

Most often hard to come by. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning, and what keeps you up at night. That finite spark of brainpower that keeps you connecting the dots: Inspiration.

Like Ali said in the last post; “people emulate what they love,” so here i am writing off the top of my head looking for inspiration… Inspiration… Who inspires me? Who do I emulate?

On guitar, Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), Jamie Hince (The Kills – mentioned in my previous post, with a RAD video!), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Jack White (White Stripes, Dead Weather, Raconteurs), Dave Grohl, and that long-haired guy from the Tragically Hip, what’s his name? Oh yeah – Rob Baker. Heh heh heh …

With guitarists inspiration is a somewhat grey area, at least in my opinion. There’s always that one song that got you going, (for me: “Lake Of Fire” from the unplugged Nirvana record), and there’s always another musical hill to climb. But are your awesome licks your own creation? Probably not. Did you use some other guy’s riff, and put a little deedle-dee on the end? Maybe. Personally, I don’t care; I do it all the time! I believe if something sounds good – it is good! To me, it doesn’t really matter where a riff came from or who wrote it, as long as the performing guitarist/musician puts their own spin on it! (Plagiarism/Copyright infringement isn’t cool).

“That riff is awesome, I’m just going to keep it to myself,” said NO GUITARIST EVER. (We can be cocky, egotistic, show off, glory hogging, bastards). But really, once you release a song out into the world, is it really YOUR song (or riff) anymore? I mean, look at “We Will Rock You” by Queen, or 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes; both songs are chanted in sports stadiums around the globe, potentially inspiring millions of people! Maybe not in a musical way every time, but hey – inspiration is inspiration.

Hmm… I think I’m getting a little off track. Or drunk…

Bottom line is we need to stick with what inspires us, and use that inspiration to empower our lives. Who knows? Maybe your pet cat inspires you to write rippin’ metal shredding solos. Whatever connects your dots 😉

-Greg

Reboot, Rethink, Rebuild

Okay great! The first blog post. Where to start..?

The beginning… I’ll keep it short. Sometimes you have to break down all you think you know, go back to step one, rearrange yourself, and begin again. This is one of those times for us, and now I’m here putting up websites, making drummer ads, posting on craigslist, and writing a goddamn blog ffs! Who would’ve thought? Urgh… sorry, got a little sidetracked there. Anyway, if you would like to join Ali and myself on our musical adventure of awkward awesomeness … uh, well it just started so … yeah. Sweet.

With our music, every song begins and ends with an emotion. Some undeniable feeling of bliss that momentarily delivers you to a faraway place. The strum of a chord or the breath in the voice – some spark that will quiet the constant, maddening, bullshit clutter in your brain…

If that sounds good to you too, come back when you have a chance and see what’s up. Maybe we’ll even have songs posted! Ooooh songs… mmmm…

Cheers,

Greg