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On Hateful 8 and the heinous characters within…


With The Hateful 8, Quentin Tarantino opts for the same narrative trick employed by David Chase with The Sopranos: Let’s take some violent, destructive sons-of-bitches and see how long the audience rolls with them. Tony Soprano’s such a compelling force because he combines relatable charms and anxieties with genuine sociopathy. His love of the ducks swimming in his family pool backs up against his orders to dump asbestos in New Jersey waters, threatening the lives of ducks among other animals.

With the Hateful 8, Tarantino does away with conventional hero and villain personalities. And thank christ he does. In a flick like Iron Man, Tony Stark takes on an anti-hero persona because he drinks too much and gets snippy sometimes…all right, it works for PG-13 family actioners but Tarantino’s flying on different wings. Samuel L. Jackson plays the ostensible lead, a black man in a white world who claims a past correspndance with Lincoln. We’ve also got Jennfier Jason leigh, a woman in a man’s world, beaten and bloodied. But as the film unwinds, we see the sadistic side of the former and the genuinely evil side of the latter. Other characters share abysmal traits as people. They’re homicidal, racist, and/or duplicitous…usually and. With The Sopranos, we didn’t just witness the odious actions of gangsters. We saw the complicity and complacency of their wives, the entitlement of their children, and the acquiescnet nature of family members, friends, politicians…almost any with whom they came across. Kurt Russell wants that bounty and Carmela loves her fur coat

To say Tarantino encourages audiences to whoop it up every time Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter beats the hell out of Leigh isn’t exactly innacurate. He films these flashes of violence in a damn-near comedic fashion, making the smack of skin-on-bone really POP. And Leigh’s pain provokes either amusement or nonchalance from other characters…including herself. She does not carry herself as a victim. To see her as one means ignoring her virulent racism, psychopathy & absolute disregard for any one but those in her own small, viscious circle.

Characters played by Bruce Dern & Walton Goggins express pride in the role they played as Confederates during the Civil War and hardly turn bashful on the subject of the scenes of carnage they initiated. So, as 21st century audiences, we’re not exactly pre-disposed in their favor, either. I don’t want to spoil the movie in case you haven’t it but I don’t think I’d send anyone a case of the vapors by mentioning that the characters played by Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Demian Bichir & Michael Madsen also fail to bring to mind the gentle countenance of Jimmy Carter.

We do see the victims of the so-called Hateful and the film’s better for it. Sticking 8 fuckos in a room for 150 minutes might make for fun banter but it doesn’t necassirily amount to a whole helluva lot. By slipping innocents into the margins of the narrative, Tarantino allows for a measure a tragedy to permeate the loathsome surface. Just as The Sopranos gave us Dr. Melfi, turning away from the temptations of crime and vengeance even as Tony’s magnetism kept her close to his realm.

You’re all hopefully smart enough to make the following point unnessecary but what the hell, maybe you’re not: Depiction does not equal endorsement. I was astounded by the response to WOLF OF WALL STREET in which detractors claimed it celebrated its characters debauchery. My ass, it did. But what do these Puritans want, the Jordan Belforts and Confederate marauders of the world to sit in darkened rooms contemplating their sins? Look at the white south today. It stll boasts legions of oafish crackers clinging to Confederate imagery. These aren’t men and women stricken by guilt over the atrocities committed in the name of slavery and secession.

So we can’t expect Bruce Dern and Walton Goggins to take on the rhetorical patter of a recent Oberlin graduate. Likewise, we can’t expect them to slither through the movie whilst expelling pussy venalities. There were men of charm, men of humour, men of, in the combat sense of the term, courage fighting for the South. A racist consumed entirely by ugliness offers no threat because he boasts no followers. But racists with loving families, devoted soldiers, positions of prominence…these are men who can espouse the wretched ideals which spread across the lands. Tony Soprano was a man of violence and of appeal. And thus he led his own crew hellbent on sacking the Eastern seaboard.

Tarantino gave us the articulate assassins of Pulp Fiction & Kill Bill…the Inglourious Basterds Nazi who accepted the bashing of his skull over betraying his troops. Men of deplorable action still earn a level of fascination or even respect when presented in a certain light. Tarantino takes such a notion to an extreme with the Hateful 8, revealing the ugliest elements of the post-Bellum America. But it was a very real element of America, one easy to overlook as a time of wretched violence years in the past and thus forgotten. By lacing moral corruption into scenes of humour and realistic interrelationships, he re-opens a sadistic world still present within our own. The best and worst among us bitch about coffee and do our damnest to stay out of the cold, just as the children of mobsters fill out the same college applications as the children of pediatricians. We live in an interlocking world.

Missed Connections Part Deux


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*I originally posted a truncated version of this on Hollywood-Elsewhere*

I drove solo from New York to LA in about 53 hours a few years back. Not recommended. I left Manhattan at 11:00 in the morning and pulled into a Davenport, Iowa Days Inn/Best Western/Whatever at 1:00 in the morning. Wheee! I was so tired I didn’t even bitch about my supposedly non-smoking room stinking like an off-Strip casino bathroom. I crashed for 8 hours and decided to aim for Los Angeles in a straight shot. Another night in a Days Inn/Best Western/Whatever didn’t hold much appeal.


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Blow Job


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In contrast to the title, the following post is a touch racy:

During my freshman year of college, a guy in my Intro to Screenwriting class (I’ll call him Guido) asked me to appear in his short film. I’d done some acting in high school and harbored hazy but persistent fantasies of landing Young Pacino roles somewhere down the line. So I said “sure” and he scheduled a Saturday morning to shoot.


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Vanity Fair


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I subscribed to Vanity Fair until about two year’s ago; it catered to the sorts of people who spoke earnestly of “Lost Hollywood Glamour” and saw Robert Evans as the pinnacle of hip. I.e., it catered to me. My love affair with the Conde Nast publication began to wane when I realized they printed the same two goddamn articles month after month after month. There articles were:

  1. Pieces on Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Both women lived compelling lives but enough is enough. They’ve been dead for decades and the continued coverage of their personal lives reads as both ghoulish and dull. “The Lost Letters of Marilyn.” “The Secret Passions of Jackie.” Over and over again. I don’t care about “Repose at Doubleday” or “What Joe DiMaggio Never Got the Chance to Say.” It’s 2015, my god. How about something on Martha Hyer? She’s a dead blonde. Or Grace Coolidge? She even had a pet raccoon!
  2. Pieces on hedge fund managers who are often Jewish, mostly assholes, and always obscenely rich. The occasional gaze into the tony lifestyle of someone who KNOWS LARRY SUMMERS! can provide a minor vicarious thrill but…these instances are rare. Hedge fund managers aren’t the most compelling of souls. You listen to them talk about money and immediately understand that erections rarely burden them. Also: these weasels are constantly, I mean constantly fighting with their neighbors over dock space at their Southampton estate. Occasionally, Vanity Fair would give me a break and write about someone fighting with their neighbors over Oyster Bay dock space and I’d hold off on the cyanide for another day. But after the paragraphs on Wharton and learning to tie a tie despite already accumulating millions and the first divorce that led to a 3-week retreat at a Taos monastery…after all this crap, you come to the coup de grace, a rumination on Mr. Monopoly’s three concurrent lawsuits because the dock he built for his garish yacht pissed off half of Suffolk County.

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Personality Politics


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My mother recently asked why I don’t write about politics (in between asking why I didn’t run for office; my shoulder-length hair and uneasy relationship with charm could prove hindrances). The answer is simple: research. I write these posts for free in between real work that pays the rent. Any piece on the political issues would merit hours, days, weeks of study because I really don’t need to be the 4 billionth Internet moron blathering on subjects about which I know nothing. It’s difficult enough to compose autobiographical pieces when *Roger Daltrey voice* I don’t even know myself.


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In my junior year of college, I signed up for intramural softball. Three years away from organized sports built up a troublingly substantial reserve of competitive energy that had me spending an hour each morning picking out baseball games on which to bet.* Team sports in the fresh air seemed a touch more wholesome.

*I did reasonably well, making a few hundred bucks early on and then breaking even for about a month. I had a system, man. A SYSTEM. But I also almost had a coronary when a Carlos Marmol blown save cost me about $400 and for the sake of my blood pressure, I hung up my spreadsheets. 

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Friday Night’s Alright For…


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I recently took an improv class in which some of us tried to organize outside practices to further hone our skills. The first practices met on Friday evenings because the organizer was married and thus disinclined to venture out into the vomit-slicked sidewalks in search of nightlife. I passed on attending; my Friday nights involve squiring stylish young songstresses of dubious skill through varied soirees at canyon estates. It’s a rough job but I play it as it lays, baby.


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Cat Litter


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I spent part of today editing the book. I looked over a piece that previously produced feelings of ambivalence at best; it reads smoother now. You know what doesn’t read smoother? These sentences. But I can half-ass the daily journal if I do productive work on the novel…Hmm? You don’t think so? Well, you’re reading some idiot stranger’s blog and thus lose the position to take stances on time well spent. So there.

I retain a remarkable talent for running into sexy neighbors whilst drenched in gym sweat and holding a bag full of cat shit. My current apartment, my last one, same story. Even in college…I didn’t have a cat then but if the dorm babe and I crossed paths, you better believe that somehow I was armed with the scent of cat urine and clumping litter.

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I recently began using spin bikes as opposed to my usual treadmill routine. I’m 25 but my knees are all shot to hell and I run like Charles Durning trying to catch a bus. Spin bikes…I thought them the provenance of botoxed former debutantes who call their chronic diarrhea a “cleanse.” Damned if the bike doesn’t give me a good workout, though; 20 minutes pumping away on gear 14 and I leave enough to sweat to fill the Snake River (a small river, admittedly, but a river all the same).

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