Seeing Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful 8” is Your Civic Duty
By Cole Smithey
Quentin Tarantino is a national treasure. Unfortunately, Americans don’t much appreciate their great artists. If Tarantino were French, he'd already have a statue. If he were French, film-loving citizenry would flip out (and rightfully so) if the police tried to pull as disgusting an act of character assassination as the libel war police unions are waging against this revered writer, director, and prodigious film historian. There would be protests. Here, alas, nothing.
QT ran afoul of the corrupt Blue Wall of Silence when he spoke out against the ongoing plague of police-committed murders, which occur at an average rate of two to three times every day, at a “Rise Up October” rally in Manhattan.
The Rise Up October rally’s goal was to put relatable life narratives beside the names of victims who get quickly lost and forgotten in the escalating number of citizens shot, Tasered (you can picture the trademark symbol), choked, or otherwise destroyed by America’s highly militarized but poorly hired and trained police officers.
This demonstration was different from a “Black Lives Matter” protest in that it brought together families and loved ones of the victims in order to tell their personal stories about those who were senselessly taken away from them. It was a rare chance for people directly affected by police murders to bear witness. It’s impossible to put too fine a point on the obvious necessity for this forum of social communication, in order to provide people with a communal release of emotion and suffering. People need expression. They must be heard. We must listen. The families of victims such as Eric Garner, Sam Dubose, Antonio Guzman Lopez, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott took the stage one by one to express their grief and share stories of the people they still love.
During the course of the seven-hour march, Tarantino took the stage.
“I got something to say, but actually I would like to give my time to the families that want to talk," Tarantino said. "I want to give my time to the families. However, I do just want to also do want to say, what am I doing here? I’m here because I am a human being with a conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by, and I have to call the murdered the murdered, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
Tarantino’s impassioned speech clearly came from his heart. It was messy. He was upset. These are the words of a man speaking a sad truth that has been gestating in his mind and gut. Evidently Tarantino’s use of the word “murder” — but really, is there a better word? — hit a nerve with police organizations unwilling to address the crisis at hand in an appropriate, much less ethical, manner.
The National Association of Police Organizations decided to go after the filmmaker behind such modern classics of American cinema as “Pulp Fiction” and “The Inglorious Basterds.”
The police group is calling for a boycott (by police officers) of Tarantino’s hotly awaited Christmas day opener “The Hateful 8.” The alliance is requesting that its officers “stop working special assignments or off-duty jobs, such as providing security, traffic control or technical advice for any of Tarantino’s projects.” One wonders if these guys have lawyers. What if something happened bad to the director because he couldn't get police protection? Their legal exposure could be breathtaking.
Wait, it gets better.
Fraternal Order of Police president Jim Pasco said, “Tarantino has made a good living out of violence and surprise. Our officers make a living trying to stop violence, but surprise is not out of the question. Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happed anytime between now and the premiere. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.”
The veiled message of inherent violence and intimidation is clear. Surprise? This is like a school bully telling the nerd, “You won’t see it coming, but you will feel it.” Disgusting.
Cops are threatening to “hurt” Tarantino (um, “economically”). I don’t know about you, but the last time I heard someone use “harm” in such a threatening tone, they meant bodily harm, It’s implied here that the director might be in physical danger from the very agencies charged with protecting public safety and paid by taxpayers — like Tarantino.
Now the LAPD is attempting to smear Tarantino’s integrity by claiming that there is “no record” of an arrest for which QT has said he was jailed for eight days for unpaid vehicle infractions. There is an obvious possible explanation for that: Tarantino has repeatedly stated that he was sent to a LA County lockup run by the Sheriff's Department, not the LAPD. Anyone familiar with the LAPD’s well-documented history of conveniently misplacing evidence — including thousands of rape kits — will recognize the “leak” as a hack effort at obfuscation. Is there “no record” of the arrest because someone at the LAPD shredded it? I wouldn’t be surprised.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see QT’s lawyers begin to open up cans of legal whoop-ass on police unions, and even the LAPD, in the days before “The Hateful 8” opens.
Apparently police union bigwigs have a problem with high-profile celebrities exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Their message is chilling; if you have something critical to say about police officers’ nonstop killing rampage, you have the right to shut the fuck up.
I suppose we’ve learned something about where police leaders fall regarding their would-be regard for the cultural significance of the filmic arts.
Tarantino intended his presence at the Rise Up October rally to open up a public discussion for police departments to engage in, to stem the plague of police killings. Rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to engage in public discussion about ways to correct the ongoing crisis, however, police unions across the country are doubling down on a pattern of murders that cost police departments millions of dollars in settlements.
How can they afford the tab?
The story is as old as the hills: follow the money.
Modern-day police departments are beholden to a myriad of corporations, some backed by the Pentagon. Gun makers, Taser (which also makes body cameras — as used by the LAPD), bulletproof vest manufacturers, and car companies are just a few of the players in the lucrative business of “law enforcement.” The biggest of all may be the prison-industrial complex that has reengineered American society. This matrix of commerce, authority, and power creates an invisible call for a set of lethal and racist ideologies to find their level in personal action.
Corporations instill their personalized fascist ideologies through product placement in police departments that arm, train, and shield their police officers from ever going to jail regardless of how visible their crime. That trend, however, is changing. The Blue Wall of Silence is being peeled away, though incrementally, one layer at a time.
We are seeing more instances where police officers are being charged with murder, as in the Chicago case in which officer Jason Van Dyke was charged for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, albeit a year late.
It’s no accident that you commonly see officers emptying their revolvers, sometimes repeatedly, into their victims. Shooting someone 18 times isn’t just trigger-happy; it is the sociopathic behavior of an insane person pleading for help. These killings affect both sides of the equation — police and civilians. Killing another human being is a terrible thing that no one escapes without the experience etched forever in his or her darkest memory.
To put things in a filmic context, notice when you watch a video of a police shooting someone more than once that it is 1000 times more upsetting than the most gory scene in any Tarantino film.
The Guardian reports that U.S. cops have killed 1,041 people so far this year. Although this is (disgracefully) the first year that such a comprehensive tally has been kept of people killed by police in America, all evidence points to police conducting this level of incremental genocide against its populace for decades.
Wake up, America! Between the mass shooters, white male terrorists, and the cops, your odds are getting worse all the time.
It’s more than a little ironic that New York Fraternal Order of Police leader Patrick Lynch is accusing QT of being a “cop-hater” (Tarantino never said or implied that he hated cops, his films don't depict cops as evil or really much at all, and has denied it) considering that hating the thing that scares the living shit out of most people would be a luxury. Lynch’s choice of words leads the discussion into a confrontational realm that also lets loose a self-reflexive inference to self-hatred. Hello, Sigmund Freud.
Let’s consider the boycott for a moment. There are 330,000 police officers in the country. Even if none of them buys a ticket to the Christmas Day release of a movie for which 100 cinemas have been outfitted with classic Panavision 70 projectors, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of movie lovers worldwide who will queue to see a movie that promises to dominate the 2016 Oscars.
Even if his films aren’t your cup of tea, any movie lover should acknowledge QT’s mastery of writing and directing. His exceptionally original stories expand cinematic language in a myriad of provocative ways. QT hasn’t just reinvented cinema, he has rekindled an ongoing interest in the directors (such as Howard Hawks) that continue to inspire him. Quentin Tarantino is a modern traditionalist. His use of Panavision 70 on “The Hateful 8” creates some of the most beautiful and lush images ever created on film, and by “film” I do mean old-school 65mm celluloid. Magical. The screen image you see is three times more picture than you see with your average film.
There’s a reason that there are so few filmmakers as talented as QT: he’s a one-of-a-kind thinker. In full disclosure, I had the pleasure of meeting Quentin during my first visit to the Cannes Film Festival in 1992. I’d been accepted into the American Pavilion volunteer program only to be cancelled at the last minute (after I’d already booked my flight). I went anyway. After sleeping in nooks and crannies of the Palais in my tux, I got cast in a Gaumout Studios-run program for student filmmakers. Gaumout provided me with food and housing throughout the festival while I worked with a German, Arab, and French crew. Luckily we were given tickets to the world premiere of “Reservoir Dogs.” I went to the much-coveted screening in the Grand Palais with my German co-actor pal Geza, a true force of nature. There’s a YouTube copy of the movie we made online.
I met Tarantino in the press area of the Palais. I introduced myself and told him his “movie kicked my ass” the night before. He laughed with that big hearty snicker and said, “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” Here was a first-time filmmaker, the same generation and age as me, showing a mind-blowing heist movie in the Grand Palais of the Cannes Film Festival. The energy was electric.
That screening of “Reservoir Dogs” hit me like a combination of “Fists of Fury” mixed up with “The Exorcist.” I felt as though my guts were being torn out of me. It’s interesting to revisit that "brutal" movie and realize how little violence there is on the screen. It’s not what you see; it’s what you imagine.
Police violence is an old theme in the movies, though not Tarantino's. If you watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” you’ll notice that Jim Kelly’s character Williams flashes back to the police brutality he suffered on inner city streets as a black man living in urban America. Williams is glad to be in Hong Kong. “Enter the Dragon” was made in 1973.
In 1970, Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini spoke about the terrible problem created when impoverished young people take jobs as police officers, only to kill those in their community because they are acting as protectors of a corrupt system. The issue is much more deadly now that police departments act on, and engage, the public as militarized Robocops who escalate benign situations into SWAT team tactical maneuvers like something out of a Terminator movie. There’s a profound paradox in the fact that the lower to middle-class men and women who put on police badges to earn their daily bread are being manipulated by the shrinking economy that corporations pay politicians to squeeze through draconian strategies.
Check out “Across 110th Street” for its gritty depiction of an openly racist police chief lording over Harlem like a walking pariah. (Tarantino used the theme song from the movie for his Blaxploitation homage “Jackie Brown.”)
In his exquisite documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” about the significance of LA’s locations in the many films shot there, Thom Andersen discusses the “incremental genocide” of minorities that goes unabated. Andersen points out Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima’s 1975 neorealist drama “Bush Mama,” which shows police attacking black citizens on the streets of South LA with lethal force. About the area’s tormented citizens, Anderson states, these are “people made to feel that they live in an occupied territory.” Not much has changed.
Anderson also references Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep,” a deeply personal film that casts a damning eye on LA’s oppressive daily reality through the eyes of a black family whose father works in a slaughterhouse.
America’s systemic roots in a deadly ideology of colonialist racism has been killing many thousands of minority victims for decades but it is only now, thanks to citizens filming events on their cellphones, that the world is waking up to the scale of atrocities being committed by police officers who may or may not be incompetent, sociopathic, or suicidal. Video has contributed greatly to exposing the type, and scale, of assassinations being committed at an astonishing rate. Still, the crisis is getting worse. It’s significant to note that five-sixths of those people murdered by trigger-happy cops were unarmed. America’s militarized corporatocracy is sending coded mob signals, none of them with an iota of nuance. One of the messages is that police unions are sending is that Americans live in a country occupied by the wealthy, and unless you are one of them, you are not welcome here. Another message is, if you’re not happily siding with every U.S. police officer’s right to kill whomever they want with impunity then you don’t deserve your freedom of speech in the first place. Get in line and salute, asshole, and wipe that dumb look off your face.
This past July, respected veteran editorial cartoonist Ted Rall was unceremoniously fired from his post at The Los Angeles Times after an apparent conspiracy between the LAPD, the city's police union (the LAPPL), and probably the newspaper’s then-publisher/billionaire financier Austin Beutner, worked its intended witchcraft.
A secretly recorded (and almost certainly altered) police audio tape of Rall being arrested back in 2001 for [not] jaywalking in L.A. was illegally passed to the Times, and was leveraged as grounds for termination. The LAPD union website was quick to publish a gloating endorsement of Rall’s firing, which it praised as a potent message to journalists across the nation. (They took it down after the media investigated the story and sided with Rall against the LAPPL and their lackeys, the Times. Certainly, there are those weak-kneed writers, editors, and publishers who will never utter, write, or print a negative comment about this goon squad that makes the Nazis look like a bunch of pussycats. Fear of cops is normal, and even more pronounced under the conditions in which we live.
Less than six weeks after Rall’s unfounded termination Tribune Publishing canned Beutner. In case you don’t know, publishers are very rarely if ever fired. Heads up. While not directly attributed to the fallout from Rall’s firing, after he unequivocally disproved the Times’ false accusation of him misrepresenting his jaywalking story in a blog post containing basic audio forensics his paper ought to have done in the first place, Beutner’s firing will forever be inextricably linked to the Times/LAPD skullduggery.
The cops set out to smear Rall, but it's Rall who came out looking good while the police have egg on their face. Yet they still haven't learned their lesson, as demonstrated by the attacks on Tarantino. But why are they so touchy? It’s ridiculous that the same cop squads that send thousands of their members to Leni Riefenstahl-scale funerals of any of their fallen brothers, are freaking out over QT’s public support for victims (and their families) of police murders at the rally where Tarantino spoke out.
The Guardian reports, “shootings involving Los Angeles police officers have doubled this year” (2015). Maybe the LAPPL should focus on the real problem, not the film directors and cartoonists calling them out on it.
Proving that when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch laid it on thick: “It’s no surprise that someone who makes a living glorifying crime and violence is a cop-hater too. The police officers Quentin Tarantino calls “murderers” aren’t living in one of his depraved big-screen fantasies; they’re risking and sometimes sacrificing their lives to protect communities from real crime and mayhem. New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city to peddle his slanderous cop fiction. It’s time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s films.”
So the filmmaker isn’t a fan of the incremental genocide being committed by cops against blacks. QT certainly isn’t the only American who holds such basic humanitarian views. But it doesn't do any good for good people to remain silent. It’s important that in this dark hour, not only that Tarantino’s fans come out to support him and all that he stands for as a preeminent film artist, but that other likeminded citizens step up to show their support.
Blue privilege rolls on. Blood fills the streets.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGindy announced an “expert’s report” that found “reasonable” the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Rice, armed only with a toy gun, was shot less than two seconds after the officer arrived on the scene.
Two Louisiana State Police officers (Norris Greenhouse and Derrick Stafford) were arrested and indicted on second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges for shooting to death Jeremy Mardis, a six-year-old boy, along with his father as they sat in their pick-up truck after being pulled over for no apparent reason.
Theantimedia.org reported that the Los Angeles police union (LAPPL) took umbrage at the creation of a new award intended “to encourage police officers to find more peaceful resolutions to conflicts.” Can’t have that.
In Chicago, the police scandal involving the public execution of Laquan McDonald shows explicitly how the city’s corrupt chain of power reaches right up to the top. If there’s any justice left, Chicago mayor/former Clintion flack Rahm Emanuel’s career is toast.
The American public is in a state of perpetual fear fuelled constantly by daily police-committed murders of civilians. Smart people avoid cops at all costs. Some people are afraid to leave their homes for fear that they might be pulled over and shot like so many others have been. It feels like wartime anywhere you go, even though we supposedly live in a free country, and not just in the slums anymore. America is being occupied by the same systems we built to protect us. There’s no need to worry about robots turning on humanity; cops already have that territory covered.
Tarantino is releasing “The Hateful 8” as a “Road Show” release similar to the glorious way epic spectacles such as “Gone With the Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia” came out in the days when people got dressed up to go see a movie that came with a program, a musical overture, and an intermission. This nod to cinema tradition provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy a long lost aspect of movie culture thanks to a filmmaker just as committed to his audience as he is to the films he makes. Quentin Tarantino wants nothing more than for people to come together to enjoy the magic illusion of movement that only 24 frames per second of celluloid running though a projector can provide.
Quentin Tarantino’s status as America’s most inventive, impassioned, and consistent filmmaker is justified. Even with its (albeit microscopic) flaws, “The Hateful Eight” is more fun and stimulating than any other movie that came out in 2015.
When you watch “The Hateful 8,” pay heed at how Tarantino leads up to the murders that occur with much discussion related to ingrained racist ideologies that persist in America, and are being actively exposed and supported in nearly every news media outlet in the country, Fox News and CNN especially, as well as from faux lefty outlets like NPR. Each death of a character in “The Hateful 8” arrives with a specific narrative theme attached.
The police unions have dared set foot inside Tarantino’s wheelhouse and inside our revered bastion of social discourse, the cinema. It is your civic duty to buy a ticket to “The Hateful 8.” As you watch the film, think about what makes these characters so hateful, and about the culture that made them that way. The discussion is yours — as long as you keep the cops out of it, they don’t want to hear it, and they can hunt you down and ruin your life.
Je suis Quentin.