My script review for The Hateful Eight which will be available 01/04/15:
Happy New Year!
With that fun little greeting out of the way…
You’re not Quentin Tarantino.
Before we start ANYTHING, that needs to be stated.
It’s so important a fact that I feel the need to create a t-shirt, so when newbie screenwriters even BEGIN to utter the phrase, “Well, Quentin Tarantino,” they can look down at the shirt and mutter, “Never mind.”
The problem is, how to abbreviate it?
I don’t know. Any ideas here?
1.) Marketability of the Idea
Only Mr. Tarantino is, so when he breaks out the typewriter to write a 200+ page draft of people stuck in a cabin during a blizzard, people will want to read it.
Those people know he has a loyal following, and also realize that sometimes you’ll get Pulp Fiction, but you may also get Death Proof.
Do I like Mr. Tarantino? Some of his stuff yes, other stuff no.
Enjoyed Django Unchained, drifted in and out of boredom with Inglourious Basterds, walked out of Death Proof.
My issue with him is that he comes across in interviews, etc., as the person you’d desperately try to avoid at a party.
He’s self aggrandizing in a manner that makes you wonder if he’s trying to convince us he is what he says he is, or himself.
Personally he’s probably a nice guy, because many of the people he works with continue to be in most of his movies, but publically a little of him seems to go a long way.
Moving onto Script-Gate 2014(?)
Whatever the year, this script leaked and he went batshit crazy, attacking the internet saying he’d never direct the movie.
“Screw you guys, I’m going home.” – Eric Cartman
But now the movies made, so was it just a momentary lapse in judgment, or did the stunt generate enough buzz that provided the leverage he needed (and perhaps wasn’t initially offered) to make the movie? (Maybe he wasn’t originally allowed to shoot it in 70mm Super Cinemascope.)
No clue here, but again, given this sort of behavior, if Mr. Tarantino’s in front of you at a public event, your eyes are probably going to plead with any passerby, “Save me!”
You need to move the plot along, not dedicate individual portions of your script to unrelated dialogue that makes you feel clever.
Having said that, I did enjoy this script. Being a fan of the contained, I enjoyed once everyone was finally stranded at Minnie’s.
It just felt like it took longer to get there than needed, reading until page 51.
The characters being connected helped a lot too, once we’re inside said location.
Page 63 – Chris knows of, and respects General Smithers, bonding over everything Confederacy.
Page 70 – The friction between General Smithers and Warren is also good, based on what Warren did during the Civil War in contrast to how the General views black folks.
Page 87 – THEN it turns out that the dead son Gen. Smithers is coming to get was actually out to kill Warren, something Chris has alluded to many former sons of the Confederacy doing earlier in the script.
(My issue here was the whole “warm dick in a snowstorm” bit was a tad over the top.)
Then the characters start dying…General Smithers. John Ruth. O.B. Now it’s a western style murder mystery! Who done it?!
The main plot worked, and I enjoyed it. (Even hoping the wife and I can sneak away to see it.)
The background information was obviously needed for how Jody and his gang got there, but I wonder if there wasn’t a better way to convey it.
I don’t subscribe to the whole “all flashbacks are bad” newsletter, and it does certainly fit with Mr. Tarantino’s storytelling, but again, since we’re NOT him, can we do better?
(My mind flashes to someone going outside to feed the horses, getting lost, and stumbling onto the dead bodies buried in the snow.)
Fuck the broken door you have to nail shut.
It was such a stupid fucking gag that I felt liked it belonged more in the Jem and the Holograms script than The Hateful Eight.
On top of that, characters consistently go in and out to give this gag its “running” moniker.
I literally screamed, “GET YOUR SHIT DONE,” as I read, mad that one of the other characters didn’t voice my frustration when a fucking BLIZZARD is about to engulf the cabin and maintaining heat is a primary concern.
The two other issues were minor.
First, it felt very odd how Chris is suddenly taking orders from Warren after some pretty racial slurs earlier AND Warren killing the old General he respected. (“No biggie,” Chris says, “Old people die all the time!”)
Second, near the end, as Bob and Oswaldo slowly go for their hidden guns and no one seems to notice. They’re still under suspicion, or at least should be by Warren and Chris.
3.) Quality of Characters
Here more of an inspiration than a thing to avoid.
Say what I will, Mr. Tarantino does create fun, memorable characters. As screenwriters this is DEFINITELY something we should be emulating.
There’s only one I’m choosing to focus on, however.
In another discussion, Quinn mentioned he’d be rooting Walton Goggins on for “Best Supporting” if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been so damn good in Creed.
Walton Goggins is America’s Gr8est Actor. (See what I did there?)
It was very entertaining to read a version of his Justified character, Boyd Crowder, in this plot.
Is this character completely original? Not exactly, but Mr. Tarantino does put his personal spin on classic archetypes, and it is no different here. Chris Mannix is the hero of this story, despite all his flaws, being the last one to die. (Taking all the bad guys with him.)
The wife calls it a “man crush” (and perhaps that’s true as my last three scripts all have parts for him), but if you’ve watched his work you can see his talent is undervalued.
(His cameo as Venus Van Dam on Sons of Anarchy was so convincing, it creeped my conservative brother-in-law out so much, he had to stop watching the show.)
But anyway, other characters work, and a point to remember here is CONNECT YOUR CHARACTERS!
You may not be Quentin Tarantino, but the more you do that, the stronger your story will be.
4.) Dialogue and Description
Okay, here we go.
You’re NOT Quentin Tarantino!
You don’t have the luxury of bombarding people with walls of text and including banter simply because it’s “witty”.
And the N word?
Just because you’re good friends with a pretty Bad Mother Fucker, does not suddenly translate to an entire race of people being okay with you continually using the word. We get it, it’s a period piece, but beating us over the head with that particular profanity over and over again tends to diminish its emotional impact.
Here are some examples of stuff you SHOULD NOT include in your script.
Page 3 – We get it, the fucking movie will be shot in 70mm Super Cinemascope. No need to tell us aside from MAYBE once at the beginning.
Page 6 – Just name your characters initially. Unless it’s a surprise in a mystery novel, don’t use entries like “black guy” or “voice behind the rifle” for a half page, just name them and be done with it. (Here you can maybe use “Voice” for a single line of dialogue if you want that fancy reveal.)
Page 9 – Please be more interesting, or at least use subtext, when giving exposition similar to Ruth’s dump about Lily.
Page 13 – Well, pard’ner, if yins is gonna have yer characters be cowboys, maybe let dem varmints add in the slang and accents. (Especially if you consistently use ‘em where you meant ‘im.)
Page 27 – Don’t reference that your characters are trying to outrun a blizzard and then have them stand around debating if they’ll take another passenger. Remember, a simple “yes” or “no” can add to drama, especially if the wrong decision is made hastily.
Page 34 – Don’t do a good job including subtext AND THEN end up doing an exposition dump spelling it out. (Chris talking about Warren’s past.)
Page 39 – Don’t commit the sin of over-description when describing everything Minnie’s Haberdashery can offer you, when “Minnie’s Haberdashery is a lot of things, but the one thing it wasn’t was a haberdashery” works better.
Page 54 – Continued use of (beat), which I’m not against, I simply point out because The Captain doesn’t like it, but with Mr. Tarantino being his hero, I wonder if we haven’t encountered a paradox.
Page 109 – Well…Well…Well…consistently using this word back to back to back doesn’t even work if your name’s Quentin Tarantino.
Page 116 – Remember to include a line of description saying a character came back into the scene. Don’t tell us a character went downstairs and then suddenly they’re behind another character delivering a line of dialogue. Readers will be confused and jarred out of your story.
Just like most other scripts we review, there are things done properly that we should take note of.
Page 4 – The description of Capt. Warren sitting in the middle of a snow storm on top of three dead white guys was quite the image. If nothing else, it should get the other characters talking.
Page 24 – Admittedly, I chuckled out loud at the “bad day for horses” line, especially due to the subtext of all these characters with potential motives being right where John Ruth doesn’t want them to be.
Page 65 – Clever subtext having Warren check Bob on the brand of tobacco Minnie favors.
Page 86 – Oswaldo sets up half the main room as [I]Georgia[/I], the other side as [I]Philadelphia[/I], names later referred to as Warren goes from one side of the cabin to the other. (Felt like a figurative nod/wink to me the reader and I enjoyed it.)
Um…yeah…well you’re no Quentin Tarantino.
No 146 page spec scripts, please.
No mention of the uber, ultra classic style you’re visualizing the story in.
No uncapitalized use of the word “i” in any of your dialogue (among other easy to correct typos).
Walton Goggins is the mutha fuckin’ HERO!
7.) What I disliked…
That Big Wide 70mm Super Cinemascope even exists.
Rating: Read this script for some of the fun, but constantly reminding yourself, “I’m not Quentin Tarantino.”
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