Tag Archives: Scott Tobias

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 278: The Hateful Eight and the Theatrical Filmgoing Experience

Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hateful Eight." (The Weinstein Co.)

It’s a split verdict from the Pop Culture Happy Hour panel this week on the merits of Quentin Tarantino’s eighth and—on account of having been shot in 65mm Super Panavision, for a 2.76:1 aspect ratio when projected in 70mm—widest feature, The Hateful Eight. I don’t think I was at my sharpest trying to defend the picture. All I can tell is you that I saw its refusal to give us any character to empathize with fully as a strength, not a weakness, and reflective of a deliberate decision by Tarantino. Although more modest in scale and contained in its setting, this is a more complicated film than the two historical fantasias that preceded it, 2009’s Inglorious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained. I enjoy and admire all of these films, but it’s very clear in the latter two who is supposed to enjoy the audience’s support. Not so in The Hateful Eight. That discomfiture ain’t for everyone. “The viewership for this one narrows to the self-selected,” wrote my pal Scott Tobias in his NPR review three weeks ago.

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Cut to Black: The Dissolve, 2013-2015

Godfather funeralI just got home from attending a two-week criticism institute, wherein I was one of 14 working arts journalists, aged twentysomething to fiftysomething, to benefit from the instruction of critics for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other influential publications. That’s where I was on Wednesday morning when I got a mass e-mail from Scott Tobias indicating that The Dissolve was shutting down, effective immediately. In its two years of life, that site had firmly established itself as the best place on the web to find smart, enthusiastic, formally inventive writing about movies new and old, famous and obscure. I’d declined a review assignment from Scott only days before, citing my wall-to-wall schedule during the institute.

Scott’s e-mail came just as I was heading into a session on restaurant reviewing conducted by Sam Sifton, the Times’ food editor. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about food coverage. I don’t usually read it, and I often find it precious and/or pretentious when I do. To me at least, it’s obvious that food is not art. Yes, it’s an important component of culture. Yes, cooking is an admirable skill. But a meal cannot express emotion. An entree cannot communicate an idea. There are sad songs and sad paintings, but there are no sad foods, unless you’re buying your dinner at a 7-Eleven. Continue reading