Questions & Answers

 

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Name:            Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:           nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               12/6/15

Dear Josh:

Yes, it was a slight translation mistake - original Swedish title is "Efter repetitionen" and while I memorized it, it somewhat obscured English title and a version of it was typed. It doesn't helped that in Russian and Ukrainian "rehearsal" is a very similar word to "repetition". By the way - what are you thoughts on rehearsal as a technique in filmmaking? Have you ever practiced extensive rehearsal to have less takes, for example? Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

I have always gotten as much rehearsal time as I could possibly get. I had a whole week on "Lunatics." Rehearsal is terrific. Of course on TV you don't get any other than right there on the spot, but that poses its own challenge. But any more time and thought you can give a scene the better it will be. Spontaneity comes much more easily from comfort with the scene and not getting stuck trying to remember the lines. Actors love rehearsal, and so do I.

Josh

Name:            Jeff Burr
E-mail:           JeffCBurr@AOL.com
Date:               12/3/15

Dear Josh:

Hope you are well and good news that you are in the very early stages of making another independent film! Just wanted to throw in another Burt Lancaster movie for you...which I think has always been totally underrated. THE GYPSY MOTHS from 1969. I got a chance to talk to John Frankenheimer and told him that I thought that film was one of his most interesting. He perked right up and started telling me all about it, and at that point, it wasnt on dvd. Check it out if you havent seen it, but I suspect you have. Give it another chance if it didnt connect with you. Great Elmer Bernstein score, great performances by Hackman, Wilson, Kerr and William Windom. It really is like a William Inge story with action! It ain't perfect, but what is?

Dear Jeff:

Good to hear from you. I put "The Gypsy Moths" on my Netflix list. I saw it on the 9:00 movie in the 70s and didn't like it, but it's been a long time. Well, I've got half a script and maybe enough drive to try again. I will now make my cheapest feature, hopefully in the fall of next year. I like shooting with no money, it's challenging. Let's see if I can do anything with the form. If the point isn't just shooting another movie for the sake of it, but really wanting to make the best movie I can make, given the limitations, I might end up with something. Who knows?

Josh

Name:            Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:           nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               12/3/15

Dear Josh:

Have you seen the later works of Ingmar Bergman, such as "After Repetition" (1984)? Also, have you seen a relatively obscure 1987 movie "The Caller"? It is a very minimalistic thriller with only two actors but it is, in my opinion, very well done and worth checking. Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

I haven't seen either one. You mean "After the Rehearsal." I'm sure it's a translation thing. They both sound interesting.

Josh

Name:             Jakob Bergman
E-mail:            jakob@smalben.se
Date:               11/27/15

Dear Josh:

Nice list of Burt Lancaster movies. I sure have some good ones to look forward to. However, I believe you have also recomended The Swimmer in the past. I just love that movie, and it's one of those I just can't imagine being made today. It is intriguing, brutal and just sucks you in. And Burt Lancaster is great! Any favorite scenes in that film? I love the scene where he thinks the young boy is going to jump into the empty pool, because somehow the movie manages to sell it as a possibility.

Dear Jakob:

Yeah, I forgot "The Swimmer." I do like the whole ending. Enjoy the films.

Josh

Name:             Ryan
E-mail:           
Date:               11/26/15

Dear Josh:

What are some Burt Lancaster films you would recommend?

Dear Ryan:

The Killers
Brute Force
All My Sons
Sorry Wrong Number
Mister 880
Jim Thorpe--All American
Come Back Little Sheba
From Here to Eternity
Apache
Vera Cruz
Gunfight at OK Corral
Sweet Smell of Success
Run Silent, Run Deep
Separate Tables
Elmer Gantry
Judgement at Nuremberg
Birdman of Alcatraz
Seven Days in May
The Train
The Professionals
Airport
Lawman
Valdez is Coming
Ulzana's raid
Go Tell the Spartans
Atlantic City

Josh

Name:             Bryan
E-mail:            mackbryan1986@gmail.com
Date:               11/25/15

Dear Josh:

Who is your favorite actor of all time? Would you consider him/her the greatest? What are your favorite performances by them?

Dear Brian:

I'm not a fan of "favorite" this and "greatest" that. Actors aren't in competition with each other. I have a lot favorite actors and none of them are the greatest.

Josh

Name:             Daniel
E-mail:            nografia@gmail.com
Date:               11/24/15

Dear Josh:

Please follow my list: 1) Look for a DSLR Camera. 2) A few locations, interiors. 3) Common people, the tension is in the dialogue and not in the action. 2016 new Josh Becker feature movie. Greetings from Argentina.

Dear Daniel:

Thank you for the instructions. I already have access to 4K DSLR and equipment, and I have about half a script, entitled, "Who Needs Rhetorical Questions?" I'm attempting to be funny and original and maybe even make a point. It has very few parts and locations. With any luck I'll shoot next fall when the colors here are beautiful and the sky is deep blue. That's my plan.

Josh

Name:             Noel
E-mail:           
Date:               11/23/15

Dear Josh:

"Victoria" (2015) sounds very similar to your film "Running Time". This is supposedly all in one single take though with no cuts.

Dear Noel:

Yes, I read about it when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival a month or two ago. Everybody acted like nobody had ever done the continuous shot gag before. Of course, now, in the age of digital, hiding cuts is extremely easy, and I assure you that it it has digitally hidden cuts all over it. The film is also about 135 minutes long which sounds brutal.

Josh

Name:             DS
E-mail:           
Date:               11/22/15

Dear Josh:

"Grave Error" is a fantastic piece of short horror fiction. Do you remember what your inspiration was for writing it? Except for it being very strong (and as a fan I consider your work to be consistently very strong indeed) it's a little bit different than other work you've written. Also, I asked this above but you may have missed it, but can we look forward to any new (or old but never published) work from you on this site soon? Thank you.

Dear DS:

A friend of mine told me about his youth when he was a loner, would go to the dump and collect junk that he kept under the house. One day he was befriended by a popular kid and for no good reason my friend pushed the popular kid off of a log bridge, where he broke his arm. Regarding anything new (or old), we'll have to see. Presently, I have nothing in mind. But I'm glad you liked that story.

Josh

Name:             K Hollywood
E-mail:            impumag@gmail.com
Date:               11/20/15

Dear Josh:

Mack Sennett studio was NOT IN GLENDALE it was in ''Edendale'' between Hollywood and Glendale. I was born and raised and still live here. I went to King jr high across the street where he had his other studio on Fountain one block east of Sunset... But the studio you wrote about was in**EDENDALE** LOL Niiice P.S. I'm a knowitall too except I'm never ever wrong :P

Dear K:

I've got sad news for you -- Edendale is not a city; it's a neighborhood. The name hasn't even been in use since 1940 when the streetcar stopped going there. As per Wikipedia, "The name Edendale is no longer used as a place name, and is little known today."

Josh

Name:             DS
E-mail:           
Date:               11/19/15

Dear Josh:

Seen any good films lately, new or old? Also, can we look forward to any new essays or reviews from you anytime soon? Thanks and I hope you're doing well.

Dear DS:

I've seen a couple of all right films: "Muscle Shoals," "Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens," "Away From Her," "The Color of Freedom" ("Goodbye Bafana"), "The Tall Target," "Vacation From Marriage," but mostly crap that I turn off within fifteen minutes. I have sat all the way through a few of the shitty movies mainly just wondering why they ever got made, like: "Hereafter" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," both Kathleen Kennedy/Frank Marshall productions (Spielberg's people), which makes me wonder if either of those two have the first clue what a decent script looks like. Has nobody got a decent story to tell anymore? The only big deals at this point are yet another "Star Wars" film (based on a 38-year-old film), another James Bond film (based on a 53-year-old film) and "Ash vs the Evil Dead" (based on a 35-year-old film). Really? We've got more than an entire generation without a damn thing to say. I can do nothing but marvel and lament, and watch old films.

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               11/17/15

Dear Josh:

Why do you think the advances for TSNKE keep getting smaller and smaller?

Dear Joe:

Because that's what happens with all movies. As films age they don't increase in value, they decrease. As my late sales agent, Irvin Shapiro used to say, "Film does not age like wine; film ages like fish."

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               11/16/15

Dear Josh:

Has TSNKE turned a profit? Do you keep track of what you spent and what the totals are after all these years?

Dear Joe:

When you spend $200,000 on a movie of course you keep records. TSNKE finally broke even in 1999 when I made the DVD deal with Anchor Bay. So it took 14 years. It's made a bit more money than that over the years as it keeps getting picked back up, but the advances have gotten less and less. And I never see anything on the back-end.

Josh

Name:             Chris Kilgour
E-mail:            chriskilgour11@gmail.com
Date:               11/14/15

Dear Josh:

Wondering if you ever thought of crowd funding for a low budget feature starring Bruce? You once mentioned a movie like "Warpath" could be I really do hope you make another feature. Any more you could share about the project? I have been watching AVED and for fans of the series and of Bruce it's perfect. Still not quite your cup of tea I don't think but a very funny and action packed half hour. Are there any good series you've at been watching lately? Chris

Dear Chris:

I don't watch series TV, only movies. The feature script I'm writing is a comedy/love story that's meant to be very visual and extremely low-budget. I wouldn't mind shooting it next fall, but we'll see about that.

Josh

Name:             Chris Kilgour
E-mail:            chriskilgour11@gmail.com
Date:               11/11/15

Dear Josh:

Wondering if you ever thought of crowd funding for a low budget feature starring Bruce? You once mentioned a movie like "Warpath" could be shot for something like $200,000 or so. A lot of money, yes, but if Bruce was involved from the get go and not busy with Ash Vs Evil Dead I wonder if a kickstarter could ever work... Also, knowing that you're not a fan of Evil Dead, have you been watching the new show? Cheers, Chris

Dear Chris:

I can't afford Bruce. I'd need a lot more money than that if I was going to get him to star in a film. I am writing a low-budget feature that perhaps I'll shoot next year, and maybe I can get Bruce in for one day, but we'll see. Regarding "Ash vs. Evil Dead," I don't have Starz so I haven't seen it. Have you?

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               11/10/15

Dear Josh:

I've read the majority of your Q&A archives and I don't think you've ever commented on the film "Donnie Darko." What did you think?

Dear Joe:

I didn't like it, and it has gone in one ear and out the other.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               11/1/15

Dear Josh:

Well, I had been reading about other matters which led to something about Lord of the Flies. Then I realized that I had never read the book nor seen the movie. As part of my research, I read comment that it was better to read the book before watching the movie, So I first read the book. Then I got the movie which is part of the Criterion Collection on DVD. So I was listening to some of the commentaries on the DVD and Peter Brook the director, still living btw, said that the best way to keep control of a movie is to keep the budget down. Seems obvious, but I will ask you anyway, if you agree with this. Then he said, it was shot in Black and White because it was cheaper, it was released in 1963 but actually filmed in 1961, but he also thought it added to the imagery, I forget exactly how he put it. But I think this is one movie that may have benefited by being in color, being on a tropical island and all. What do you think? Finally, I checked and saw that this film is one of your favorites. Is it still, and do you think it still holds up?

Dear Bob:

I haven't seen it in a long, long time, but it really frightened me as a kid. I distinctly remember watching it, then thinking afterward that the human condition was more awful then I ever suspected. I agree with Peter Brook that the film benefited from being in black and white because it's as stark and gritty as a story can be and color, particularly on a tropical island, would have made it seem lighter and more upbeat. I still appreciate that at that point in the early sixties you had a choice between color and B&W, which could be compelled by the budget or the subject, or in this case, both. Since I've never had a budget big enough to shoot at any pace but fast, and if I stayed on schedule I wasn't hassled, I can't really make the comparison. But whether I was shooting "Alien Apocalypse" for SyFy in Bulgaria for $1.5 million or "Running Time" for myself in L.A. for $90,000, I felt equally in control. From what I've seen, shooting a gigantic, $100-300 million movie does seem like you've got a lot less control and you've got to answer to many more people, and because the shoot takes so long, there's a lot more time for producers and executives to dissect your work.

Josh

Name:             Jonathan A. Moody
E-mail:            sickflickproductions@gmail.com
Date:               10/30/15

Hey Josh:

I just watched, "Nightcrawler" for the first time. Don't know why it took so long for me to check it out. I really think Jake Gyllenhaal is an amazing actor. I can watch anything Jake is in and even if I'm not in to subject matter or story I still get enthralled by his characters he plays. Have you seen it? And I wanna watch "Southpaw" soon. Since I know you're a boxing fan I'd think you would dig it. Jonathan A. Moody

Dear Jonathan:

I bailed out on "Nightcrawler" somewhere before the 30-minute mark. I didn't care about the set-up of him getting a crummy little video camera and showing up at car accidents, and I didn't buy his performance -- he seemed to me like he was "acting" like a nut. Honestly, I don't think Jake Gyllenhaal's all that great; he either seems befuddled or dazed out. And "Southpaw" doesn't look all that good to me. Oh, he got buff.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:           
Date:               10/25/15

Dear Josh:

You tend to bail out on movies after a certain point when you think they are probably going to be lousy. That makes sense to me after around the 30-40 minute mark, especially if you are watching the film alone. Do you do the same thing when reading books? If so, how far into a book do you usually read before you decide to bail on it?

Dear Keith:

Absolutely. And I'm less tolerant of books than I am of movies because they're a bigger investment of time. If I don't like a writer's style, which to me is apparent in a chapter, I'm gone. And using the same criteria as movies, if I'm not taken with their story set-up in about 10-15 pages, I'm done. As an example, one of my favorite writers is Philip Roth and I've read many of his books. But his last book, "The Humbling," completely didn't interest me in 15 pages and I dropped it. As it turns out, they just made a movie out of it starring Al Pacino, and I watched the whole thing, but the story never improved past the set up, so I felt entirely justified in not finishing the book.

Josh

Name:             Ted
E-mail:           
Date:               10/22/15

Dear Josh:

That "badly acted wife" (care to qualify that?) was nominated for an Academy Award for that performance. And Nebraska is much more than an old man and his son in a car, you'd know this if you actually watched it. Anyway, that was not worth sitting through (and watching movies is hardly strenuous, you just sit and look at a screen for two hours)... but a generic action junker like The Gunman was? Not only was Sean Penn miscast in it, but it completely wasted its fine supporting cast.

Dear Ted:

Ah, a discussion. My main interest in watching "The Gunman" was to see what the director, Pierre Morel, had done since he directed "Taken," which impressed me. I think his ability to direct action, his cutting, as well as his believable tone, set him apart from most contemporary action directors, which isn't such an easy thing to accomplish at this late date. Once again, I liked his work. What compelled me about the script of "The Gunman," which is really just a bit better than a run-of-the-mill action film, was that it made Sean Penn's character morally reprehensible by the end of act one, then how they were going to deal with that, which they did, although, admittedly, not to my satisfaction. Regarding the mother in "Nebraska," I found her performance to be of the hand-waving, somewhat amateurish variety, as though she were perhaps not actually an actor, but a "real" person. In any case, the Academy has always preferred visible performances that are easy to spot. If in fact I was precipitate in bailing out on "Nebraska," please explain why.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               10/22/15

Dear Josh:

One more thing that came to mind and thanks to your as always in depth answer to my last question. A number of posts below someone mentioned a documentary (Lost Soul) that featured Marlon Brando. There is also a recent documentary called "Listen to me Marlon" based on audiotapes he recorded. Finally it strikes me that a potentially great subject for a documentary would be yourself. Maybe just you speaking on al the subjects you are interested in. I even wrote up a list of ideas for it, just for my own amusement. Maybe someone in your inner circle could put it together. Thanks again.

Dear Paul:

You are now the third person to suggest such a thing. I am nowhere near as interesting of a subject as Marlon Brando -- I recently watched the Maysles brothers documentary, "Meet Marlon Brando" (1965), and the guy was truly fascinating. Their film was ostensibly a promo piece of Brando's ill-fated feature, "Morituri" (which was retitled "Code Name: Morituri" and re-released, then dropped dead a second time), but Brando was only interested in talking about the plight of Native Americans, trying to pick up attractive women, and basically goof off in what I found to be a rather charming way -- but anyway, perhaps I've been around enough interesting things and people, and through enough bullshit, to make me worthy of a documentary. A filmmaker who has been frequenting this site for many years, whose work I like, has been discussing the idea with me lately.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               10/19/15

Dear Josh:

Well first of all congratulations on making it to the 5,000 movie mark. Also may I commend you for having such a terrific memory of them in your many replies to the different questions here. My questions are these: What makes you bail out on a movie and what makes you stay till the end ?

Dear Paul:

I actually did pass the 5,000 mark, but nothing unusual happened, so it's on to the next 5,000. What generally makes me bail out on a movie is that I can clearly see that this story isn't going anywhere, or where it's going doesn't interest me. Let's use "Nebraska," on which I recently bailed out, as an example -- on old man (Bruce Dern) in Billings, Montana, believes that he's won a million dollars from a piece of junk mail that he's received from an insurance company in Lincoln, Nebraska, and decides that he must get there to receive his money, so he starts to walk, but the cops stop him. He goes home to his severely uninteresting, badly acted wife, who doesn't know what to do with him. His uninteresting son, who oddly works in a stereo store, of which I don't believe there are any at this point, agrees to drive him there. This took fifteen minutes. Now I just know that I'm stuck with this one-note old man, who hasn't said anything other than he thinks he's won a million dollars, and his son, who hasn't yet said anything of any interest at all, in a car for some unknown amount of time -- possible the whole rest of the movie -- as they talk about something that hasn't been set up at all. Therefore, there is nothing they can say possibly to each other that I care at all about. What might have saved me was that it was shot in wide-screen black and white, which I generally love, but this was washed-out b&w, and that's the worst mistake you can make with b&w, because it looks like it was actually shot in color and (poorly) desaturated, as opposed to intentionally shot in b&w. So I bailed. My life is too short to spend it with those characters.

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:            mackbryan1986@gmail.com
Date:               10/18/15

Dear Josh:

What is your overall opinion of Leonardo Dicaprio as an actor?

Dear Brian:

He and Johnny Depp are certainly the best of the contemporary boyish-breed of stars--far better than Tom Cruise--but I have grave difficulty buying them in grown up parts. Leo looked utterly absurd as J. Edgar Hoover and Howard Hughes. Depp looked ridiculous in the bald wig in the trailers as Whitey Bulger. And how many good movies have either one of them made? I don't mean to be a complete stick-in-the-mud, but I am, neither one of those kids will ever come close to having a career like Burt Lancaster.

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               10/16/15

Dear Josh:

A question I wanted to ask about the number of movies you have seen - how far in terms of age have you traced your memories of watching a movie? I've recently decided that I should at least try to count movies I have seen (which would be a hard task - I used to keep track on the movies and TV episodes I have seen since 2003 more or less, as a part of regular diary, but become tired of it in 2009 so I disposed of habit; considering that diaries are in another city it will took a few years to make the list more or less full) to know the approximate number and it seems that the most distant memories I have of watching some movies are as far as being two years old. Also, have much past the 5,000 movies limit are you know? Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

I began compiling the list on May 21, 1979, when I was twenty years old, and I used the Academy of Motion Pictures yearly reminder lists of everything released during the course of a year, from 1927-28 through 1978, then I used Leonard Maltin's book and Steven Schuer's book to fill in the gaps. The criteria was that I had to have seen the entire movie (I've bailed out on at least as many, if not more, movies as I've entirely seen), and that brought me to 1,434 movies. As of last night with "The Gunman" (2015) I have seen 4,998 movies. I'd have been passed the 5,000 mark this week, but I bailed out on: "Frontera," "Prize Winner, Defiance, Ohio," and "Nebraska."

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               10/15/15

Dear Josh:

Have you seen any movies by Monte Hellman? I've recently stumbled upon "Two-Lane Blacktop" and found it surprisingly interesting, considering that there are hardly any describable events in the movie. P.S. A 4K transfer of "Running Time"! Great news! Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

I've seen every movie of Monte Hellman's, and I've met him on several occasions. At an early screening of his perfectly OK western, "China 9, Liberty 37," my friend Rick asked him, "Why did you use that as your title?" He said, "It's a sign in the movie," which Rick and I both knew, having just seen the movie. "But why is it the title?" Rick persisted, "Don't you think it misrepresents the film?" Monte Hellman got a bit agitated and said, "It's got to the be the title." Rick gave up and we left. I'm not sure that film ever got released, but I still don't see what it had to be called that. Regarding "Two-Lane Blacktop," I haven't seen it since it was released, which is a long time ago, and I didn't like it, but maybe time has been kind to it so I put it on my Netflix list.

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               10/15/15

Dear Josh:

I wonder - what are your thoughts on using of the single-frame inserts in movies? Beyond the urban legends about cigarette commercials spliced into tape, to me it seems to be a very interesting trick, mastered by a few, despite effect provided is rich in diversity - it can subconsciously startle the viewer or exaggerate certain points (like James Cameron used single frames of white to exaggerate unimpressive gunshots in "Aliens"). Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

It's one thing to try to intensify unimpressive gunshots, it's entirely another to attempt to subconsciously "influence" people's opinion. Honestly, I think it has about as much meaning as William Castle's lame attempts at scaring people by putting electric shocks in their seats or having a skeleton fly over their heads on wires. The bottom line remains, tell me a story that matters, that interests me, that makes me laugh or cry or scares me. It's incredibly basic and it doesn't rely on trickery. If you don't have a story to tell, then one-frame cuts, all the special effects in the world, or electric shocks in your seat won't help.

Josh

Name:             Pierce
E-mail:            pwblass@hotmail.com
Date:               10/6/15

Dear Josh:

I want to start out saying that I really appreciate your works especially Running Time and Thou Shalt Not Kill Except. I think Running Time was a masterpiece. The black and white combination with a running camera was genius. I really enjoyed Stryker's War with Bruce Campbell. I believe Bruce is the best of all time. Although I have not seen Lunatics a Love Story yet, I am planning on buying it from you along with your autograph. I was valedictorian of my high school and I still found time to watch your films, and Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's films. Bye, have a nice day.

Dear Pierce:

That's very nice of you, thanks. I appreciate it. In case you're interested the Blu-Ray version of "Running Time" will be out at some point early next year, and I personally can't wait to see what it looks like in a 4K transfer. Yeah, my good buddy, Bruce. Thank goodness he keeps being hot and getting hotter so that my films are still in demand. I just talked to him a couple of days ago and clearly he's got a helluva lot more energy than me -- he works all the time, and when he's not working he bikes and hikes and camps and good God. Anyway, when you get a chance check out "Lunatics" because it's both mine and Bruce's, because he not only plays two parts, he produced it.

Josh

Name:             Steven Millan
E-mail:            stevmedia@aol.com
Date:               10/4/15

Dear Josh:

It's been a while since I've been to your site and I just finished reading your excellent article "Conservatives Hate America",which is so painstakingly true about how they loathe everything that is good for this nation. Is there any chance that you're planning to be doing an article or an essay on the political rise of Donald Trump and his conservative minions(who are clearly backing his campaign),since half of America is already talking about how he could be our next President(Yikes !!) and how he's already eerily saying the things(that border on racism,elitism,uber conservatism,and anti-free thinking) that you discussed in your "Conservatives Hate America" piece. It's interesting to note that it was Jesse Ventura who got Trump into politics to run as an Independent in 2000,but Trump fell deep upon The Dark Side(with Ventura angry about it). I surely would like to hear your views on everything Trump,as well as give him,his minions,and Fox News the big Josh Beck middle finger. Sic 'Em,Josh !!

Dear Steve:

Donald Trump is a buffoon and has absolutely no chance of being elected president. He's a sideshow of a sideshow. I think that nearly everyone I talk to about politics, which isn't many people because it's an idiotic subject at this point, is being incredibly short-sighted. Hillary has the most money and the biggest and best political machine in existence, and she hasn't done anything yet. Why? Because it's too early and the Republicans are doing such a terrific job of ruining their own chances, so why obstruct them? Trump has actually been extremely helpful in getting everybody else to look like the utter fools that they really are. He couldn't do a better job if he was on Hillary's payroll, and maybe he is. I've kind of suspected that from the beginning. It seems to me that before he threw his hat in the ring he made a large contribution to her, and now he's just making sure he was right. The only ammunition the right has against Hillary--Ben Ghazi and the location of her server, which were both nothing to start with--they've already used up. By next spring when it finally matters, those dipshits will all have their pants around their ankles. That's how I see it.

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               10/4/15

Dear Josh:

If i paid you to critique my script/story ideas, would you do it? If so, how much?

Dear Brian:

Send me your email address.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               10/1/15

Dear Josh:

Regarding The Russians Are Coming vs. Jaws, the connection I found was that the novel that Russians was based on was called Off-Islanders (out of print), written by Nathaniel Benchley, the father of Peter Benchley. So I feel pretty confident some elements in the son's story were inspired by the father's, this being reflected in the two sceenplays as well. I see the influence of Mad, Mad World also, especially in the final chaotic scene and the use of the big star ensemble. You are probably right that as a film it is even closer to Mad World than to to Jaws. Russians and Jaws do stand on their own as different stories. So for a question, did you see Nebraska with Bruce Dern and if so do you think it succeeded? I ask this because I am kind of a Bruce Dern fan and it is one of the fewer newer movies I have seen recently.

Dear Bob:

Well, given that Nathaniel Benchley wrote the book for "Russians" and Peter wrote "Jaws," I'd have to believe that there certainly is a connection. They probably had a place or spent summers in Martha's Vineyard. The grandfather, Robert, was a famous man who won an Oscar for a short film, "How to Sleep" in 1935, which was one of many silly short films he made. He was also an actor and a drama critic. Talented family.

Also, Nebraska, haven't seen it yet but it's on my netflix queue.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               9/30/15

Dear Josh:

Have you ever thought of The Russians Are Coming, The Russians are coming, as being a influence on Jaws? I have been pondering this and identifying similarities - the Roy Schneider character and the Brian Keith characters, each as the police chief trying to hold a middle ground while the panic builds. Both chiefs are goaded to do something, by a civilian - the mayor in Jaws, or Carl Reiner in Russians. Both films are ostensibly set on Martha's Vineyard island, both with fictitious names. Gloucester in Russians, Amity in Jaws. Both seem isolated from any assistance from State government let alone Federal, seemingly left to their own devices. Of course, there are differences, Russians is a comedy - not a very funny one and not really a dramedy. Jaws is a drama with some few comedic elements inserted, with a more effective result. But both are stories about cut off island communities under perceived attack - Russians or actual attack - Jaws, although only in an aquatic sense. I googled the internet for any articles or essays that might have analyzed the similarities between the films, or the influence of Russians on Jaws. Finally, when I realized who the authors were for the respective novels, I understood the connection.

Dear Bob:

I see the obvious connections that you've pointed out, but I think the whole concept is a stretch. Which isn't to say that Peter Benchley didn't see "The Russians are Coming;" many people did, including me, it was a big hit. But there's a much bigger connection between it and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," of which it's clearly inspired by, and written by the same screenwriters. What was the connection you found between the authors?

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               9/30/15

Dear Josh:

Just finished watching 'Whiplash'...i find it hard to believe the main character would dump his girlfriend..i mean cmon

Dear Brian:

I completely believed it. I dumped my girlfriend, who really wanted to get married, when I was about to make my first feature, TSNKE. I was 26 at the time. But if you feel that your girlfriend is interfering with your ambitions and in both cases your art, the girl goes. No question.

Josh

Name:             Jonathan A Moody
E-mail:            sickflickproductions@gmail.com
Date:               9/28/15

Dear Josh:

I was re-reading your scripts and I always love your making of essays. Have you ever thought of doing an essay on all of your scripts in one. Like an article about how you come up with the ideas and what happened with each one. Specifically the post writing stuff. Like after you wrote "The President's Brain is Missing" did you try and sell it? Did you get an agent to look at it? Things like that. I always love to hear what happens AFTER a script is done. Having written over 10 feature length screenplays myself and only having one feature under my belt I love to explore that. Thank you and hope all is well! Jonathan A. Moody

Dear Jonathan:

Most folks in Hollywood treat scripts like they're kryptonite or highly toxic waste, and won't read one unless absolutely forced to, and then, in many instances, have no idea how to read a script. Since most of the scripts they've had to read were undoubtedly awful, I sort of can't blame them. That's why they have script readers who are, for the most part, unqualified, and then they boil the scripts down into a page, plus a checklist. The whole system doesn't work, but luckily for them, they're not looking for good scripts anyway, and wouldn't know one if it bit them on the ass. I remember writing "The President's Brain is Missing" (a humorous title for the very few people who remember the movie "The President's Plane is Missing -- oddly written by Rod Serling's brother, Robert), but what happened thereafter is entirely gone now, although I assume that no one read it. Bruce used to read all of my scripts, but not for a long time now. Considering that I wrote that script while Bill Clinton was in office, it was slightly prescient in having a young Republican as president since there hadn't been one yet -- except Teddy Roosevelt 100 years earlier. I rather liked that script. Thanks for reading it.

Josh

Name:             Jeff Burr
E-mail:            JeffCBurr@AOL.com
Date:               9/21/15

Hey Josh:

Hope all is good with you. Just read your essay "Other Men's Careers" and it hit home with laser-like precision. I too have thought those thoughts "from time to time". Even though the dates and names and circumstances may be different, the end result is the same. In 1982, a director that I respected saw a short film of mine, invited me to his house, and gave me some great advice, information, etc. And one of the last things he said to me that night was "Hollywood will be through with you long before you will be through with Hollywood". At the time I didnt really understand it or believe it. But of course I do now. But, I too think about doing a no-budget movie, more often than "from time to time". That is one of the great things about the possibilities of visual storytelling now, the means are right in front of us. We have to keep on doing what we love, and it is a fool's game to compare oneself to other people in the arts. Each of us has a unique perspective on the world, and a different way to tell a story. So we have to get what's in our heads onto some kind of medium, so other people can share our stories, insights, laughter, whatever. That's all you can do. Use the gifts you have, play the cards you've been dealt, rally the troops at hand, and remember "done" always trumps "perfect". How to monetize this is another issue altogether. And, on another subject, somewhat related, I think you were too dismissive of John Guillerman in a recent post. Not that he is one of my favorites or anything, but he made some effective movies, GUNS AT BATASI and THE BLUE MAX among them. Look at the last ten minutes of THE BLUE MAX again. The venerable magazine Film Comment did an article on his work earlier this year, and the last line of it was devastating. (at least to me)

Dear Jeff:

Always a great pleasure to hear from you (and we'll talk soon). If anyone could understand where I was coming from with this essay, you're the one. You and I fought the good fight out in Hollywood and achieved what we achieved. As I've said before, I think "The Stepfather II" is one of the best sequels ever made, and stands right up there with the original. And given how many shitty sequels there have been, meaning 99.9% of them, that's not faint praise. I have repeated your tale of hanging of Sam Peckinpah a number of times. And the fact that Scott Spiegel and I made a serious effort to hire Vincent Price right near the end of his life and failed, but you got him, will always impress me. I did speak to his agent, Paul Kohner, however, who immigrated to America with William Wyler, so I've got that. Meanwhile, you may be the only person on earth who would step up and defend John Guillerman -- you did notice that I slightly gave it up to him for "The Towering Inferno" which I'd call "a guilty pleasure" -- and I do like "The Guns at Batasi," which is one of Dickie Attenborough's best performances (and Mia Farrow's first film), and let's not forget "I Was Monty's Double," which may well be his best film. Anyway, I've got a pretty good first act for this no-budget script, a reasonably clear sense of of what act 2 will be, and an ending, so that's saying something. What are you up to?

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               9/21/15

Dear Josh:

If money were no object, what piece of film memorabilia would you buy?

Dear Joe:

I don't collect movie memorabilia. I don't care about things. If money can buy it, I don't really want it. I have a big pile of old movies posters I picked up cheap in New Zealand, and some of them are really cool, like: "A Clockwork Orange" and "Badlands" and a 1949 poster of "Battleground," but I don't have any movie posters up in my house, just art and photos I really like. I don't even have the posters of my own movies up; they're all framed and out in the garage. Maybe if I had a bigger house.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               9/21/15

Dear Josh:

As I recall, you've stated that you have been a journal (or diary) writer since you were twelve years old. What first inspired you to do this? I began keeping a daily journal when I was in my late teens, recommended as a way to dealing with anxiety.

Dear Keith:

I have a few entries from between 12 and 16, but that's when I began keeping it regularly. I have 40 years of journal entries that now fill an entire four-drawer file cabinet. For a long time it was my warm-up routine to start writing; a way to get the old juices and thoughts flowing before I tried to write something else. After a point though, I just do it for the sake of doing it. I put down recent events, memories, dreams, ideas, anything. I still believe that it's an important exercise for a writer because anything you write keeps the machine lubricated.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:           
Date:               9/21/15

Dear Josh:

Your friend Jane made a very good point. Had the pendulum swung the other way and you were directing a big dumb Marvel movie right now would you be happy? That seems to be the measure of success in Hollywood these days. Kissing the ring of the suits at Disney to direct the big Marvel film. Making a bloated $200 million franchise film basically amounts to creating an extremely expensive disposable lighter. It's function is to keep kids out of trouble on the weekend and help adults with arrested development forget their troubles for two hours. Then it gets tossed in the trash our out of the memory banks. As a filmmaker you would spend all of that time and effort making something you know is shit. Sure you'd live comfortably but there would come a point where you would ask yourself "What am I putting out into the world?" I'm currently producing a reltively high rated television series for a third tier cable network. We're in our third season and it's honestly the worst piece of shit imaginable. I make a decent living but I can't say what I'm doing at this moment is making me happy. Which brings me to my next point. Did Bruce Campbell set out to be a B-movie star? Doubtful. Did Sam Raimi want to be known for the Evil Dead films his entire career regardless of the fact that he has directed and produced scores of studio movies? your guess is as good as mine. Some of your friends have had great financial successes and work steadily that's true, but in their own way it seems as if they have had to roll with the punches as well. I personally think you're a talented filmmaker who deserved a better shake. With that said I'm an eternal optimist and you're not that old. I do hope you make that film and I hope that the process makes you happy. BTW - Wasn't there a time in recent years where a well established production company offered to buy one of your scripts for a decent chunk of change and you turned down the offer? I think it was The Horribleness if I'm not mistaken. I could be wrong about all of this. If that's true, clearly selling out wouldn't have made you happy either.

Dear Scott:

No, Bruce did not set out to be a B-movie star, but I think he's well-satisfied with his success, and most of all that he works so much. I think he just plain old likes to work. Regarding Sam, I think he got exactly what he wanted. Had you asked him what he's greatest goal in life was when he was eighteen, and he was wise enough to be able to say it, he'd have said, "Making a movie out of Spider-Man--and getting rich because of it." At some point in our early 20s I asked Sam who was his favorite director and he unhesitatingly replied, "John Badham," who, as that exact moment, was the hottest director in Hollywood. With nothing against Mr. Badham, I was flabbergasted. I said, "Really? Why?" And Sam said, "He's the most successful director in Hollywood." Please keep in mind that I was the only real movie geek in the bunch, and was deeply obsessed with movies long before any of these other guys. None of them give a damn about movies the way I do; none of them have seen anywhere near as many movies as me; and none them know shit about the history of Hollywood, nor care. The only one who came anywhere near to enjoying watching movies as much as me--and he's a far second--is Rob Tapert.


That feeling you have working on the show your on I also had on all the TV I directed--"I'm making shit and I know it," which is what compelled me to make "Running Time" and "Hammer." I didn't go to Hollywood to direct TV; I went there to make movies, and great ones if possible. After a point, directing TV was killing my soul. I began planning RT when I was on Hercules, before Xena, although I made it during Xena, and "Hammer," too.


Someone here recommended the doc, "Casting By," and I heartily pass it on--it's really good. It's the story of the greatest casting director of them all, Marion Dougherty, who was personally responsible for so many actors' careers it's incredible: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Robert Redford, on and on. But what you also get from the film, as background, is a concise history of the Hollywood film business. During the studio era there were no casting directors; all casting was done internally within the studios based on their contract players, and the point was creating stars, and how attractive they were was their main asset. When Marion Dougherty entered the business in New York in the late 40s-early 50s, she began casting strictly based on talent and attractiveness had nothing to do with it. When she finally quit the business in the 70s, after the corporate take-over of all the studios, it had all gone back to the way it started--the studios would much rather cast a good-looking person with no talent who might become a star. And when talent is no longer the issue the movies themselves must suffer. What's interesting to me too, which the film doesn't touch on, is that when sound came in and none of the silent actors could speak dialog, they raided Broadway and that's how they ended up with that wonderful slew of highly-talented, not necessary attractive actors like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, etc.

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               9/20/15

Dear Josh:

I just read your essay about other men's careers. Wow! I think being around all that and not quite achieving what you've always wanted would fuck with anyone's head. At least you've failed in/around the big time! Most of us just fail in our quiet little bedrooms, you know. I worked (just a crew flunky, nobody special) on a show called "Rake" with Sam Raimi and in an episode Scott Spiegel did an appearance. I don't know man, the guy (Spigel) looked like he had sort of hit the skids. He was nice and we spoke for a moment. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm not. I try not to compare my insides to other people's outsides but it's hard not to. It's driven me to drug addiction and all kinds of problems. I, too, see the finish line up ahead. It doesn't bother me anymore. I understand now when people say "Rest In Peace" when somebodies died what they mean. A favorite line from a Ramones' song: "I don't want to live my life again. No, not again." Sorry this wasn't a question.

Dear Joe:

It's an interesting observation. I added a paragraph to that essay which hasn't been posted that says something like, to most wannabe filmmakers I'm probably considered a success, but to my immediate group I'm considered a failure. But success and failure are all in our own heads. It would certainly be different if I honestly felt like any of the folks around me were making movies that I wish I'd made, but they're not. All of us have always had entirely different goals within the realm of filmmaking. To me the entire point is to make great movies and I don't know anyone, including myself, who's made a great movie. And since I've never judged success in film based on money, that can't be my yardstick now. There's no question that I'd prefer to have more money than I have, but that still wouldn't make me feel like I'd succeeded. Once, when I was really depressed, I was talking to my extremely wise friend Jane--who produced "Running Time" and "If I Had a Hammer"--and I complained that it was too late for me to have a great career. Jane asked, "OK. Name what you consider to be a successful director." I immediately replied, "John Ford." She said, "Was he a happy man?" I said, "No. He was famous for being a downbeat asshole drunk." And she said, "There you go. Success didn't make him happy." I'm writing a script right now that I hope to shoot for damn near nothing at some point soon, when it's done, of course, and my hope is to make a really good film. I haven't given up. But I can't honestly say that any movie I ever make will fulfill me. To the creator, or at least me, the work is never exactly right.

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               9/07/15

Dear Josh:

I read that Paul Schrader is a fan of Robert Bresson. Are you familiar with Bresson's work? If so, do you have any favorites?

Dear Brian:

Paul Schrader wrote a book about Robert Bresson; No, I'm not a fan at all. In fact, I don't like his movies at all; they're as dull as watching paint dry. I've even gone back and reassessed his films and they've gotten no better for me.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:           
Date:               9/07/15

Dear Josh:

I read that NY Times article and it seems as if the gargantuan franchise films are the only films making real money and getting asses in seats. This past January there was an article stating that despite certain films grossing more money (Mostly because they are in more theaters and ticket prices have increased) theater attendance is at the lowest its been in 19 years. It's smaller films that are going the way of the dodo. I hate to say it but eventually I think the feature format will be eclipsed by something else. Not anytime soon mind you but perhaps in the not so far future. It seems to me if a film is not a gargantuan shiny object the core demographic won't see it, and with social media, video games, television, netflix, and the internet in general a lot of 18-34-year-olds certainly have quite a few less expensive options to keep them occupied. Older adults on the other hand don't seem to go to the movies much anymore because not many modern movies are made for them. In any event, if you can come up with a micro-budget film to shoot on weekends I think that's a great idea. I'm doing one now for my own sanity.

Dear Scott:

It's very possible that I'm just caught up in a world of wishful thinking, but I do honestly believe that the feature form, say one-hour to three-hours, is an easy-to-digest format, and whether it's presented in theaters, on TV, tablets or whatever, it will stick around. What I do know is that people like to get lost in stories and have since the beginning of humanity, because if you're lost in a story then you're not thinking about your own problems. Clearly, other things accomplish this same goal, games, conversation, sex, meditation, you name it. The ability to get outside of one's self. I think it's imperative to self preservation, because to constantly dwell on one's own shit can kill you.

Josh

Name:             Jeff Johnson
E-mail:           
Date:               9/07/15

Dear Josh:

Gross movie ticket sales are up, but that statistic is deceiving. It doesn't mean more people are going to the movies. In fact the opposite. The average ticket price is up significantly in recent years as more people attend premium format showing (IMAX, RealD, etc). Those tickets are 30-40% more on average. When you account for this and compare actual number of tickets sold compared to 10 years ago, the overall attendance figure is down quite a bit. People are not going to the movies as much as they used to.

Dear Jeff:

I relent. But people are most definitely going to the movies, and renting them on DVD and VOD, which didn't exist all that long ago and now keeps increasing in volume every year. People like the form. I'm also constantly hearing that young people don't like to read books, which isn't true. They simply prefer them on their iPads, tablets, Kindles and Nooks, not on paper. Amazon, now the largest seller of books in the world, had sales of over $18 billion last year. So, the quality may not be what I expect, but the demand is definitely there.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:           
Date:               9/07/15

Dear Josh:

I read your latest essay and wanted to let you know how cogent and sobering it was. As a working stiff producer/filmmaker I have grappled with a lot of the same thoughts and questions. For what it's worth your films have made a difference. I grew up with Lunatics and Running Time and those films in part have influenced me and other people. I have now been making a living in this God forsaken business for 16 years now. The harsh reality to all of this is our careers are beyond our control and always will be. Even though your films haven't made a dent like some of your peers there are still people like myself who they have in part influenced. Lastly in terms of feature films I truly think the hour and a half to 2 hour feature format is going the way of the dodo.there are so many outlets for content today and millennials have the attention span of a gnat. Theater attendence is way down and movies are too expensive. TV is better than its ever been as well. Times they are a changing.

Dear Brian:

I do appreciate that my films meant something to you, and perhaps to some others. Thanks.

Regarding the your prediction that feature films are going to way of the Dodo, I refer you to an article in today's NY Times --
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/07/business/media/the-crowding-out-effect-of-gargantuan-movies.html?emc=edit_th_20150907&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=34001797&_r=0


-- which states that movie ticket sales are up this summer by 10.4%, equaling $4.48 billion in grosses, and that the summer's grosses amount to 40% of annual ticket sales, so in fact, feature movies are more popular than ever. Also, regarding the length of films and young folks' short attention spans, just look at nonsense like the "Lord of the Rings," "Pirates of the Caribbean" or the "Star Wars" movies, which all seem to run about three hours, and kids watch them over and over again. As for TV shows, I have no comment because I don't watch them. I just watched "Kingdom of Heaven" and though it has terrific production value and scope, it falls flat for a number of reasons that surprise me because it was made by an old-timer, Ridley Scott, who I do think has talent. First of all, to cast a powerful actor and screen presence like Liam Neeson in a part where he dies within the first quarter of the film leaves such a dramatic hole that you can never get past it. Second, Orlando Bloom is OK at best, but beside Neeson (and Jeremy Irons) he doesn't even exist--not to mention he has a ridiculously underwritten part. And third, and most important, the quest of the whole story is for him to find forgiveness for his dead wife because she committed suicide? What a lame motivation that proves to be anything but compelling. If the goal of the whole story doesn't have any real meaning and isn't concrete in some way--like finding "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" for instance--then there's no reason to keep watching it. Why has telling a story become such a mystery I wonder?

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            Nativeblood66
Date:               9/06/15

Dear Josh:

The question I sent you came about because of an ancient tablet known as The Merneptah Stele. This guy feels like since Israel is mentioned on this ancient tablet then obviously the lands the Palestinians are now living on clearly belong to the Jews. Sorry I didn't include that in the original question. Thank you again for your time. Tim

Dear Tim:

It doesn't matter what the place is or was called, and as I pointed out from the Bible, none of the folks who were already living there were referred to as "Palestinians." The point is that there were people already living there who were the forefathers of the Palestinians. Saying that god gave you something is a completely specious argument. Try stealing something from the store, then when you get caught explain to the police that "God said it was OK." And should the police ask that you have god tell them, too, you say, "No, god only talks to me because I'm 'Chosen'," I have no doubt that you won't be prosecuted.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               9/06/15

Dear Josh:

The act of re-recording dialogue in post-production, also called ADR or looping, is one of the most painstaking aspects of making movies, I find. Josh, do you have any suggestions for getting actors to give quality performances while doing ADR? Something about having to re-perform each line to match their original lip movements tends to give their acting a stilted quality that doesn't jibe well with what they did during the actual shooting process.

Dear Keith:

Here's the only magic trick I've ever figured out that worked extremely well for me on my film "Running Time." Because I had so much camera movement and the boom was constantly being forced into ridiculous, uncomfortable, and often not the best positions, what I did was immediately after my final take, I'd get all of the actors to group around the microphone and just run all of the dialog in the scene a few times. Because we had just done it, plus we were on the actual location, it was surprising how well lines fit in afterward. Beyond that, looping is just a bitch. As actors try so hard to match their lip movements they lose the energy of their performances. All you can really do is remind them of that.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               9/04/15

Dear Josh:

I read your comments about A Bridge Too Far not being very good. There was another one - The Bridge at Remagen, I think with Robert Vaughn that was kind of a flop too. Do you think that a problem with WWII movies on the Western Front is that looking back these micro battles over bridges were such foregone conclusions? If they didn't take the bridge, it would only delay the advance for a week or two, until they put a pontoon bridge down. Not to minimize the sacrifices made by the Allies on the Western Front.

Dear Bob:

I think you can make a good film out of damn near anything if you come at it well. But in the cases of both of those films you had reasonably dull directors--Richard Attenborough and John Guillerman, whose claim to fame (which I admit kind of liking) is "The Towering Inferno" (and let's not forget "Shaft in Africa"). There may well have been a terrific irony in "A Bridge Too Far," perhaps in the fact that the Russians got to Berlin before us and taking all of those bridges may not have meant that much, but I don't know. Sadly, neither William Goldman in his screenplay nor Attenborough in his direction found it. I've always felt that there was a danger in telling a story about a losing battle, though. To go through two or more hours of pain and suffering to end in defeat seems like it can't be anything but a drag. I kind of suspect that if D-Day had ended in defeat, "The Longest Day" would be a drag too.

Josh

Name:             Jonathan Moody
E-mail:            sickflickproductions@gmail.com
Date:               8/30/15

Dear Josh:

I saw you mention Brando earlier. I just saw a documentary called "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau". If you haven't seen it, it's an excellent Doc. Fairuza Balk mentioned when she worked with Brando she wanted to discuss their characters when he had some time and he said, "No. My dear you're getting paid. I'm getting paid. The scripts are all terrible. Let's just have fun with this". Which I think is the wrong kind of attitude to have personally but I heard a lot of war stories about Brando. Lost Soul is on Netflix. Another fun doc I saw is "Casting By". Have you seen these? Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I haven't seen either one, but I put them both on my Netflix list.

Josh

Name:             Dylan
E-mail:           
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

What have you been up to lately? Any new projects (films, books) on the horizon or anything you might be able to hint at? Hope you've been well.

Dear Dylan:

I'm just rewriting the books I wrote over the past few years. I may have some interest in one of them, but we'll just have to wait and see about that.

Josh

Name:             Jonathan A. Moody
E-mail:            sickflickproductions@gmail.com
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

Long time no email. I am re-reading "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. I remember you recommended this book before and it's been a while since I read it. I'm reading about "A Bridge Too Far" and noticed it was not on your Favorite Films list. Was just wondering why it was not. I'm watching a bunch of William's films that I haven't seen yet. One of which was believe it or not "Marathon Man" which I liked except for the ending. And not just because Mr. Goldman didn't write that ending but because it wasn't nearly as good as his script which I've read. Anyway I wanted to know what are your favorite William Goldman movies he's written? Also what have you been up to? How's Spine Chillers coming? Thanks and hope you're well, Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Good to hear from you. No, "A Bridge Too Far" isn't on my favorites list. I think it's a plain old bad movie. The allies get to a bridge, it gets blown up; the allies get to a bridge, it gets blown up, etc. It's just one more boring Richard Attenborough movie. Regarding William Goldman, I like: "Harper," "No Way to Treat a Lady (to an extent), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man," "All the President's Men," "The Princess Bride," and "Misery." I also liked a number of his novels, like: "Temple of Gold," "Boys and Girls Together," "Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow," "Soldier in the Rain" (which became a bad movie), "Father's Day," "Marathon Man" and "Magic" (another bad Attenborough movie).

Josh

Name:             McP
E-mail:           
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

What's the worst miscasting you've ever seen in a movie? My vote goes to John Wayne in "The Conqueror".

Dear McP:

That's an enormous list. Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," Marlon Brando in "Teahouse for the August Moon" (any Caucasian cast as an Asian or, most egregiously, James Whitmore as a black man in "Black Like Me") and "Julius Caesar" (Brando can't do Shakespeare to save his life), Robert DeNiro in "Cape Fear," "This Boy's Life," and anything else that called for an accent, Charlton Heston in "Khartoum" and "Julius Caesar" (he couldn't do accents or Shakespeare), Bette Davis as a plain old Italian mother and Ernest Borgnine's wife in "A Catered Affair," Karen Black in "Day of the Locust" as a gorgeous teenager, Barbra Streisand as a teenaged boy in "Yentl," Gwyneth Paltrow as a boy in "Shakespeare in Love," Dustin Hoffman as a woman in "Tootsie"--let's face it, damn near any man as a woman or woman as a man I"ll skip "Some Like it Hot" because it's a joke)--Clark Gable as Rhett Butler from Savannah, although he pulls it off anyway, Anthony Hopkins as "Nixon" and "Hitchcock," Will Smith as "Ali"--good god, this list is endless. Anyone else have any suggestions?

Josh

Name:             August
E-mail:            joxerfan@hotmail.com
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

Just a quick note to wish you a very happy birthday - hoping that your day is filled with visions of dancing Angie Dotchins and Renee O'Connors. I was interested to see that you enjoyed "Birdman." Visually it was certainly done very proficiently, and the acting was definitely top-notch. It would be fascinating to know if the director was familiar with "Running Time" - sadly, I bet he's just familiar with the Janet Jackson video for "When I Think of You," that used that same technique. (Shot Stooges-style on the set of "Big Trouble in Little China.") And there's absolutely a theme about the nature of art and expression, although I fear there's a pretty slender audience demographic who might get the point. But love to hear more of your thoughts about what you liked about it. Like you, I enjoyed it, but wouldn't want to see it again. Regards, August

Dear August:

Always a pleasure to hear from you. It amazes me that for a film that won Best Picture, I haven't met almost anyone who's seen it. Not many movies touch on the concept of aesthetics and what is the meaning of art, which what "Birdman" is all about. Just because you're a big-shot Hollywood movie star who has been in moneymaking blockbusters doesn't mean you know a damn thing about art or what's actually meaningful. And just because you take some Raymond Carver stories, adapt them into a play and perform it on Broadway doesn't mean you know a damn thing about being a theater actor, or, once again, what has any impact or meaning. I certainly don't think it's a great movie, or even necessarily a really good movie, but I do think it knows what it's talking about. And I just have to believe that the director must have seen "Running Time," it's just too similar.

Josh

Name:             Keith Ward
E-mail:            Alwayslikethis@gmail.com
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

Do you identify more as an introvert or an extrovert? You are both a writer and a director, two fields that require very different social stances. Writing involves spending a lot of time alone focusing on a task. Directing is all about interacting with many other people on a fairly constant basis.

Dear Keith:

I'm most definitely an extrovert, and I truly enjoy talking to people. I'll strike up a conversation with most anyone. A lot of writing, particularly screenwriting, is having conversations in your head, and sometimes even out loud by yourself just to hear what they sound like. But directing is most definitely interacting with the actors, and it astounds me (as it did Marlon Brando in his autobiography) that so few directors have anything to say to the actors. Brando felt that most directors would rather talk to the DP or the camera operator. As I've said before, I'm interested in everything an actor has to say about their part, and I'm pretty much not interested in what the DP or the camera operator have to say at all--I just want them to do what I tell them to do.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

1) What other movies can you think of that, like "Whiplash", crescendo then end on a climax, with little dialogue and/or mostly music at the finale ? 2) Also one of my favorite scenes in the film was the quiet one where he breaks up with the girl, because it was done with the camera mainly focused on the reaction of actress Melissa Benoit to Mile Tellers break up speech. What is another scene you like of an actor doing a reaction shot, where the performance is on the face and not in lines of dialogue ? Thanks.

Dear Paul:

Going backward with your questions, two of the great reaction shots (one has dialog) are in "Marty." First, when he calls the girl for a date he met in the movie theater and she turns him down, and the second is at the end when everybody is asking, "What do you want to do tonight?" In both shots Marty closes his eyes and looks pained. Another terrific reaction shot that I've always admired is of Candice Bergen in "Carnal Knowledge," when she's at a table with Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkle, both of whom are doing all of the talking, and she's just laughing--it never cuts to the two guys. Another great reaction shot is of Humphrey Bogart at the end of "The African Queen" when the German officer (Theodore Bikel, who just died) is telling him that he is going to be executed. And let's not forget Marlon Brando in "The Godfather" in the first scene when the mortician is asking for a favor, but has never shown him respect or called him Godfather. He says, "God-a-father, be my friend," and Brando simply lifts an eyebrow, which gets a huge laugh with an audience. Bette Davis has a number of them in "All About Eve." Regarding your first question, nothing comes to mind. Have you got an example?

Josh

Name:             Daniel
E-mail:            nografia@gmail.com
Date:               8/29/15

Dear Josh:

What's going on Josh? your health it's ok? Greetings from Argentina

Dear Daniel:

My health is fine, thank you for asking. I just took a vacation, but now I'm back. Have a movie question?

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               7/28/15

Dear Josh:

Just for the hell of it...did you think Harry did the right thing by torturing Scorpio on the football field?

Dear Brian:

No, but it's a good scene. As I've said, cops shouldn't act like Dirty Harry, but it was a novelty at the time and Clint is perfectly cast. But that was 45 years ago.

Josh

Name:             Will
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               7/24/15

Dear Josh:

I'm glad you're a part of the "Mosquito" Blu ray. Back to Eastwood, you're sure right about the stinkers. "Unforgiven" distills Siegel's storytelling and Leone's visual style perfectly. Nothing else he's done as a director gets near it. What's your take on Leone? I thing "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" are terrific, if a bit too long. I recently saw the unfortunately titled "Duck, You Sucker" for the first time really liked Coburn in it.

Dear Will:

With all due respect, I must disagree with you. Eastwood has none of Leone's visual style; he's entirely in the no-bullshit Siegel mode. Sergio Leone could make a whole opera out of waiting for a train, or a single gunfight, with kooky camera moves and a lot of extreme close-ups. Neither Eastwood nor Siegel ever did anything like that. I enjoy Leone's style and several of his films, but "a bit too long" is an enormous understatement. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" are both an hour too long. After "A Fistful of Dollars," which is 100 minutes long, his editing went more and more to hell, and his films grew needlessly longer and longer. Sitting straight through most of his films now is impossible for me; I have to take numerous breaks. I remember as kid sitting through "The Good . . ." at the theater and thinking, "This film is never going to end."

Josh

Name:             Will
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               7/22/15

Dear Josh:

I'm sure you're already aware, but just in case you're not, Synapse is releasing a 20th Anniversary Blu-ray of "Mosquito." Josh Becker bare ass in high def? Some would say this is what the format was expressly made for. Back to more serious topics, since you bring up Eastwood. A while back I got a set of "35 Years, 35 Films," which compiles his Warner Bros. movies, all of 'em, good, bad, and ugly. I really liked "A Perfect World," which had a weird mix of humor and drama that worked for me. Of course, the real gems are "Unforgiven" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales," both of which are terrific. "Unforgiven" will likely be remembered many years from now as the final Western masterpiece. Any other Eastwood-directed and/or starring films that you dig?

Dear Will:

I just did an interview for the re-release of "Mosquito," which will be on the disc.

I just reviewed Clint's filmography, and man oh man, there are a lot of stinkers there, and very few that I liked. I thought "Changeling" was pretty good, but, other than "Unforgiven" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales," there wasn't much on the long list that I'd recommend. "A Perfect World" was OK, as was "Bird," his Charlie Parker documentary, "Straight No Chaser" (if you like Parker, and I'm not a fan), and "Play Misty For Me." That's about it. I'd never even heard of "Hereafter" until I looked at the list. When everything is said and done, "Unforgiven" is a miracle. I never expected a great film out of him, and I daresay there won't be anymore.

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               7/22/15

Dear Josh:

What did you think of Pauline Kael calling Dirty Harry 'fascist?' I have a hard time believing the police bureaucracy would deal with Scorpio in the same exact way...though maybe im wrong

Dear Brian:

We're not only used to, but bored with, the cop who shoots everybody, but it was extremely novel in 1971. I completely understood where Pauline Kael was coming from, but I really enjoyed the movie and have seen it many times. Kael was already too old and too intellectual for such violent shenanigans, but I wasn't. I was, however, bored with it by the second one, "Magnum Force." But I'm a big fan of Don Siegel and I love his no-nonsense direction. Just BTW, the first scene Clint Eastwood ever directed was the scene in "Dirty Harry" where the guy is going to jump off the building. Siegel got sick and told Clint to just direct it, which he was hesitant to do. If you watch the film again, that scene has more coverage than any other scene in the film--Clint made absolutely sure he didn't screw it up.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               7/22/15

Dear Josh:

I just watched The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. I thought the movie was ahead of its time in terms of the issues it tackled. It reminded me of Night Gallery - American International movies - the An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge short subject - even the Sterile Cuckoo with Lisa Minnelli. Geraldine Page was in a notable Night Gallery episode with some similarities in the way she approaches the roles. I thought the movie was a little odd. There aren't a lot of online reviews about The Beguiled. Do you like the film?

Dear Bob:

It's certainly an offbeat Clint Eastwood/Don Siegel film, particularly coming right after "Dirty Harry." It reminds me a bit of a Night Gallery episode with Rudy Vallee and Robert Morse. I just re-watched for the I don't know how many times, "The Shootist," which was also directed by Don Siegel. It's a great movie and a perfect final film for John Wayne. It doesn't have a wrong moment in it, and the cast is perfect. Siegel, BTW, taught Clint how to direct, then Clint cast him as the bartender in his first directorial effort, "Play Misty For Me."

Josh

Name:             Danielle
E-mail:           
Date:               7/19/15

Dear Josh:

“… whatever the man wants or loves to do, the wife is against and is constantly disappointed and bitching ... I feel like this lonely, solitary voice on a distant hilltop hollering about an issue that, for the most part, no one gives a damn about.” // I’m so fed up with the “nagging wife" cliche, which manages to spoil countless movies with its laziness, immaturity and staleness. As a female viewer who loves movies, it's particularly dispiriting to be constantly confronted with women who are nothing more than bitching or simpering annoyances and just another obstacle with which the male hero must contend. Fortunately, a few people are starting to speak up. Emma Thompson, in a recent interview, remarked, “There was a patch of time when I was in my 30s and just started [being offered] a whole string of roles that basically involved saying to a man, 'Please don't go and do that brave thing. Don't! No, no, no, no, no!' That's a trope, the stock woman who says, 'Don't do the brave thing.' I said no to all of them. I'm so proud." And director Paul Feig, lamenting the current state of comedies, said "All these really funny women I know would pop up in movies, in male-driven movies, and have nothing to do. They weren't allowed to be funny. They were allowed to be mean and shrewish, but not funny." // Actresses often complain about the dearth of "good roles" on offer, but I wish they'd be more specific. I wish more of them would refuse to play the boring wife/girlfriend wet blankets and explain to Hollywood that the roles they desire do not necessarily have to be bigger (i.e. a female protagonist), but simply better.

Dear Danielle:

It's very difficult for almost anyone to turn down paying jobs, particularly in the arts. Besides, it's not up to the actors to create better parts, it's up to the writers, and of course, the producers and the executives who choose what to shoot. I admire Emma Thompson--I just saw her and she was very good in "Saving Mr. Banks"--but she's lucky to have been in a position to be able to turn parts down, and it seems like she disappeared off the screen for a long time due to it. But it's not like male parts are much better. The wife's part in "American Sniper" is miserable, but Bradley Cooper's part ain't much better. Why does he like to shoot Iraqis more than attend to his family? I don't know. To make the world safer? It's not like he says much about it, he just keeps shooting people, then not saying anything at home.

Meanwhile, if you haven't seen "Happy-Go-Lucky," you should. Mike Leigh knows how to write good parts for both men and women, and Sally hawkins is great.

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               7/19/15

Dear Josh:

Just wonder - what is your opinion on FX and Coen Brothers casting Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan in the Season 2 of "Fargo"? While I'm sure that Campbell will be great as usual, I think that was one of the weirdest casting choices in years... Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

I know nothing of FX, but casting Bruce as Ronald Reagan seems inspired to me. Both of them are (or were) tall, broad-chested, square-jawed B-movie stars. In my opinion, when casting a known, famous person, it's better to go with someone who is sort of like them, but can act like them, as opposed to someone who actually looks like them. Bruce doesn't really look like Elvis, but he can do Elvis perfectly--and he's been doing it since we were about fourteen. He always does a line from one of Elvis' very few serious parts, "Flaming Star," where Elvis, as an Indian, says, "I don't want no trouble, mister." I don't recall Bruce's imitation of Reagan, but I'll just bet he can do him--he's a great mimic-- and he'll be funny. A number of the imitations that I do are actually me imitating Bruce imitating, say, Sean Connery. He had everybody on the set of "Running Time" screaming with laughter as he imitated Sean Connery, were he cast as Xena's father--"Xena, come here. Sit on daddy's lap." Anyway, I'd pay a dollar to see Bruce as Reagan.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               7/14/15

Dear Josh:

Reading your essay, "Charleston and the Confederacy", you have some pretty harsh things to say about the old southern culture: "The south the Confederacy did not endure any outrages or humiliations; they took an immoral, illegal position, and they got what they deserved: destruction." I tend to agree with you on this subject. The confederate cause holds no romance for me, although I still enjoy movies like "The General" and "Gone With the Wind". My question for you is, what is your feeling about the Reconstruction movement that took place after the Civil War? Looking back, I think the Norther government should have continued it until they had more fundamentally changed the culture of the Deep South.

Dear Keith:

You can't force a culture to change, it has to change on its own, which the south is clearly still doing. The confederacy didn't lose the Civil War by mistake--they had a much better commanding general for most of the war--but they were fighting for a lost cause, with far less soldiers, weapons and munitions. The tide of history had completely turned against them. The civilized countries of Europe had all outlawed slavery thirty years earlier. Reconstruction was moving along at too rapid of a pace for most southerners, to the extent that President Grant had to send in Federal troops in an attempt to enforce it. Once many black politicians got into office--too many, as far as southern whites were concerned--it all came crashing down. The Jim Crow laws came into effect, and didn't even start to erode until the 1950s. The fact that the civil rights laws didn't come into effect until the 1960s shows how backward this country really is. Still, things are certainly changing, and will continue to change. It seems to take awful events like Charleston and Furgeson to get the idea across, but slowly and surely it does.

Josh

Name:             Pete
E-mail:           
Date:               7/13/15

Dear Josh:

Have you been following the controversy and release of Harper Lee's new novel, "Go Set a Watchman"? Apparently it is set 20 years after "To Kill a Mockingbird", although was written before that novel. Atticus is now older and has turned into a bigot and a racist?!

Dear Pete:

It is interesting how "Watchman" metamorphosed into "Mockingbird." What's always interested me is how any writer could write one book when they were young--like Margaret Mitchell with "Gone With the Wind"--then never write another one. Well, I suspect Ms. Lee, at 89, has no more in her. Writing is a weird occupation.

Josh

Name:             DS
E-mail:           
Date:               7/11/15

Dear Josh:

The discussion of "Whiplash" leads me to a question for you - what are your favorite narrative 'jazz films?' They don't really make them anymore, at least in America, which made "Whiplash" quite refreshing. For the most part, we don't get jazz films or jazz scores in American films these days, and their heyday seemed to the 1940s and 1950s, but what are some of your favorites?

Dear DS:

It's not like there are all that many jazz movies anyway. I like "Young Man With a Horn" with Kirk Douglas as sort of a Bix Beiderbeck character. I'm not crazy about "Paris Blues" with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier, nor John Cassavetes' "Too Late Blues. "St. Louis Blues" starring Nat King Cole as W.C. Handy isn't very good, either, but it does have young Billy Preston playing Handy as a youth. "Jazz On a Summer's Day" is OK, and Anita O'Day is very good, but there's way too many shots of sailboats. Here's a great, though edited, clip of Benny Goodman playing "Sing, Sing, Sing" from the movie "Hollywood Hotel" -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9J5Zt2Obko

Josh

Name:             Fred
E-mail:           
Date:               7/7/15

To Paul,

The director of "Whiplash" shouldn't suffer from a sophomore slump, since "Whiplash" is his second film. His first feature film is titled " Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench", which is "Presented by" Stanley Tucci. I haven't seen it yet, but it is on my Netflix DVD list.

Dear Fred:

That's on my Netflix list too, but I don't think it matters whether it's his first or second or third film. "Whiplash" may as well be his first film because the actual first film got him no notoriety. Damien Chazelle's next film, as listed on IMDB, is "La La Land," about a jazz musician's relationship with an actress (I believe) in L.A., which, if I may be so bold, sounds like a jerk-off story from a young man who just arrived in Hollywood. The first film is also about a jazz musician. He pulled off the jazz musician story once, but I have grave doubts if he can do it again, and I'm a jazz fan. I could be wrong, of course, but we'll see.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:           
Date:               7/6/15

Dear Josh:

I enjoyed Whiplash too and agree that it was the best film of 2014. In addition to it having a solid script I was also impressed by how it was crafted. It was executed in a very mature manner which surprised me because the director is so young. Here's hoping he doesn't endure a sophomore slump. In terms of movies in general I read this great article that lamented the fact that the phrase "What did you expect...Citizen Kane?" is overused as a defense mechanism to excuse bad film making. In other words the bar has been lowered to the point where our culture doesn't have standards anymore. It stated that when someone works on your car or house you demand a more than satisfactory job, yet when you complain that a film has no story, characterization and is just a 2 hour bombardment of CGI you're deemed a snob. I'll send the article as it was a good wake-up call, and as well all know the saying "What did you expect...Citizen Kane?" Really means is "What did you expect...a good movie? "Yes I did." should be everyone's answer and they should be upset about the state of cinema, music, and art because it's all a reflection of our culture.

Dear Scott:

This has all come crashing back on me because now I have all the premium channels and I'm attempting to watch more new movies. As I click through what's showing--and there are an enormous amount of ridiculously undistinguished films being made that go straight to cable, with decent casts and reasonably high budgets--the one sentence blurbs are so similar and uninteresting, mainly about cops, hit men and drug lords, or dysfunctional families, or two high school or college kids hijinks, often involving some asinine supernatural element, that I don't even bother to record them. The ones I do record, nine times out of ten I bail out in 5-10 minutes. What does this all indicate? So I ended up watching Ron Howard's "The Paper" (bad title) from 1994, which was at least watchable, with a very good cast, but didn't have a new or interesting idea anywhere in it. What particularly got me down, as it just did with the utterly run-of-the-mill, "American Sniper," is the painful dreariness of how marriage is constantly depicted--whatever the man wants or loves to do, the wife is against and is constantly disappointed and bitching, "we're not making enough money, you're never home, and what about the kids?" I feel like this lonely, solitary voice on a distant hilltop hollering about an issue that, for the most part, no one gives a damn about.

Josh

Name:             Will
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               7/6/15

Dear Josh:

My oldest girl (13) watches grownup movies with me, but the other two girls (8 and 2 1/2) are a work in progress. My youngest is fascinated by Georges Melies, so I'm trying to work her up to silent Expressionist stuff. The 8-year old just wants talking ponies, though you'll be pleased to know I've gotten her into Xena. As for me, I'd say about 4,094 of the now 4,594 movies I've seen are movies for grownups. No one can say I've wasted my life, if I may paraphrase. I just watched for the fifth or sixth time Andre de Toth's "Day of the Outlaw," with Robert Ryan and Burl Ives. One of my favorite Westerns, stark and beautifully shot.

Dear Will:

I put "Day of the Outlaw" on my Netflix list. There's a film from 1951 called "You Never Can Tell" about a murdered dog who returns to earth as a human, played by Dick Powell, who ends up teaming up with a woman who used to be a horse. I haven't seen it in a long time, but it seemed pretty amusing.

Josh

Name:             Will
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               7/1/15

Dear Josh:

I'll be very interested to read your take on "Into the Abyss." Herzog was criticized by some for leaving out one of the key witnesses (probably purposefully since he never mentions her). But since guilt was never in doubt, I don't think that mattered for what he was going for. You asked me what I thought the best movie of 2014 was, and I can't say. I saw only five movies in the theater, all of them chosen by my wife or kids. So I saw "Grand Budapest Hotel." I don't like Wes Anderson, whose films are beautifully shot but whose stories are incredibly adolescent. I saw "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies," which was awful, and "Big Hero 6" with the kids. "Big Hero 6" was interesting until the end, when it gets trite. I saw "Guardians of the Galaxy," which was stupid. "The Babadook" was all right but kind of fell apart at the end. It's a pretty depressing list. I'll check out "Whiplash" since you recommend it. I think the best movie I saw in 2014 was one I wrote you about, Don Siegel's "The Gun Runners," the third adaptation of "To Have and Have Not," which had a terrific performance by Eddie Albert.

Dear Will:

Clearly, you need to see more adult films. Have you ever considered having your kids see adult films, as opposed to you having to watch kid's films? Or is this idea just verboten? If kids can't have exactly what they want then all hell will break loose? My family went to the movies every week or two when I was young and there was absolutely no question that whatever film we saw was going to be suitable for my parents as well (from early on, I generally got to choose). Of course, I had no interest in kid's films by the time I was eight or nine. I distinctly recall being perhaps eight and sitting all day through "The Longest Day" (yes, it was) and "The Blue Max." This is undoubtedly why films aimed at adults don't make much money any more, and therefore aren't given very good budgets. If adults see them at all it's on cable or video after the kids have gone to bed, or are off playing video games.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/30/15

Dear Josh:

It was kind of you to personally tell Eric Roberts about what was going down, and it was cool that he seemed cool. Do you think he was sabotaged by the producer when he pretty much turned bad on you? Or do you think he was being "fake cordial" when you explained to him the situation and planned to sabotage you regardless? Thanks again for responding to this line of questioning, it's very interesting to me.

Dear Justin:

I believe that he was being "fake cordial" and was in bed with the producer from the beginning. It was a doomed production and I knew it from very early on. The only reason i stuck with it as long as I did is that I wanted another feature credit, but I didn't even get that. On a purely perverse level I would like to see what they ended up with. The DP, Dan, said that they followed my shot list all the way through, and I'd just love to see what was made of it, considering there are many times when I have to read my shot list several times to figure out what I meant.

Josh

Name:             William Grabowski
E-mail:            nightrun7@yahoo.com
Date:               6/30/15

Dear Josh :

Thank you for this incredible website, which I'm very late in discovering. I've made up for that by devouring its contents. I grew up in Cleveland, OH, with The Ghoul, and have made it to 57 years of age. Full-time freelance writer/editor. I've learned more about structure, and screenwriting (I've written 2 movie tie-ins, Castro's Cadillac the one I can mention because not under NDA), by visiting here than I can say. I "get" your take on matters, life and especially the brutal realities of making a so-called living from nothing but writing. Thanks so much.

Dear William:

It's my pleasure. I'm glad you got something out of my ramblings, which, from the outset, nearly 17 years ago (the site began in August, 1998), was my point. Sadly, I don't think the state of motion pictures has improved all that much in the interim. I switched cable companies and I now get all of the premium channels. I've bailed out on more movies in the last month than I have in my whole life. If one has a sense of story structure it's completely evident within 15 minutes if the filmmakers have a story to tell or not. I just watched "Whiplash" for the third time, and though it's not great, it's certainly a good, well-made film, and undoubtedly the best film of 2014. You absolutely know in the very first scene what the film is about--that's how it's done. Telling a story is not a mysterious craft.

Regarding your second question, what do I think of John Carpenter? Not much. He's never made a film I really like, although, for the most part, his films are watchable.

Josh

Name:             Will Dodson
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               6/30/15

Dear Josh :

I saw my 4,593rd movie yesterday, Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss." By coincidence, the Supreme Court ruled that executions could use a drug that potentially causes excruciating pain. Have you seen it? Herzog clearly states he's against the death penalty, but in detailing the murders committed by Jason Burkett and Michael Perry, and interviewing family of the victims, you almost want to kill these guys yourself. At the same time, he interviews Burkett's father (also in jail), a prison chaplain, a retired death row guard who now protests the death penalty--all of whom break down at some point--and it's hard to imagine supporting the death penalty. Personally, I have always been against the death penalty for ethical and economic reasons (e.g. life in prison is cheaper for the taxpayers). Still, I wasn't expecting to be as moved as I was by the film. So a double question: if you've seen the film, what did you think? And what's your position on capital punishment?

Dear Will:

I'm against it, as pretty much all civilized countries are. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt" is murky realm that has proven incorrect on too many occasions. I have not seen Herzog's film, but I will immediately put it on my Netflix list. I think he's one of the last truly exception filmmakers working. If I could actually make it through an entire new movie I ought to break the 5,000 mark very soon. What would you say was the best film of 2014?

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/29/15

Dear Josh :

Regarding this movie "Intent," Any way you saw the final piece? As unreasonable as that is... If you did, (and I'm asking two questions in one) what did you think? Thanks

Dear Justin:

It was never completed, as far as I know. My buddy Dan was the DP, who made it through the whole shoot, and he's never seen it, either, or any part of it. I'm certain that they didn't have anywhere close to what they needed to cut it together, and I have no doubt that what was shot after I left was useless anyway. It was a prime example of what occurs when arrogance meets ignorance. The producers, who had never made a movie, thought they knew better than we--the director, DP, 1st AD, Steadicam operator, etc.--and shut us all down. So fuck them. That was about a million bucks flushed down the crapper.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               6/28/15

Dear Josh :

Regarding the comment about Molassia (which I have never heard of by the way). Perhaps you have heard of Emperor Norton (Joshua Abraham Norton (c. 1817–1818[2] – January 8, 1880) he was a fascinating fellow who declared himself Emperor of America in the 1850s. He walked around in a royal outfit and was embraced by the people of San Francisco.

Dear Paul:

I'd never heard of him until you brought him up. He's just one more crazy person. Anyway, since I wrote that little essay it seems that most everyone has finally embraced the idea of getting rid of the Confederate flag, which is a good thing. And now marriage equality and Obamacare are the laws of the land. Life is improving, and Obama is leaving a fine legacy. And the Republicans have no candidate, so life may well continue to improve.

Josh

Name:             Remo
E-mail:           
Date:               6/26/15

Dear Josh :

Regarding your Confederacy essay, there is, within the state of Nevada, a micro-nation called Molossia, which is its own country. Is that micro-nation illegal in the way the Confederacy was?

Dear Remo:

Kevin Braugh, "President" of Molossia, never seceded from the Union, nor has he and his "republic" ever been recognized by this country, the U.N., or any other country. This has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               6/19/15

Hi Josh :

Have you heard about the US Treasury's plan to remove Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill? I think it is a damn shame and a sign that most Americans are poorly educated about their national history. Hamilton was a great founding father. I am in favor of having a woman like Harriet Tubman added to our paper currency, but I'd rather see Andrew Jackson removed from the $20, as was originally proposed. Here is an article on the subject by Ron Chernow, who wrote a fascinating biography of Hamilton in 2006. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/save-alexander-hamilton-119176.html#.VYMx0_mbzDd

Dear Keith:

I am a big fan of Alexander Hamilton. He and George Washington were the originators of the Democratic party, called Federalists at the time. Thomas Jefferson and his gang were traitors, pushing for states' right over a solid federal government, and, as history has proven, they were wrong. As Mr. Chernow wrote, I'm all for emblazoning the image of an important woman somewhere--although there is certainly a dearth of important women in this country. I had the discussion last night about who that woman should be, and we couldn't decide on anyone. Harriet Taubman, Susan B. Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt certainly have their points, but none of them came anywhere close to achieving what Alexander Hamilton did. That's partially why I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton--I'm extremely interested to see what a woman will do with this country, and I think it's about time. Not to mention that she's far and away the best candidate. Let's wait to see what she does, then let's put her on some currency, but not the $20 bill. Regarding Andrew Jackson, he was more of a war hero than a president. I think he's misrepresented in his relation to the Native Americans, many of whom he considered friends and respected. But the move westward across the Mississippi by the white man was inevitable as we continued to build up on the eastern seaboard, which Jackson tried to explain to the Indians, but to no avail. Nor can you blame the Indians for fighting for the land they lived on. That's simply how history shakes down.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/11/15

Dear Josh :

I never heard about this, "Intent" movie. Just looked it up on IMDB. What do you mean the producers sabotaged the movie? And what was so bad about Eric Roberts? You have a thick skin. No matter what happened I would blame myself and sulk for months. But I tend to be pretty hard on myself.

Dear Justin:

I guess you didn't read "The Making of 'Intent'." while it was up, before the producers of the film had their lawyers threaten me to take it down. Early into Michigan's 40% incentive program in 2009 I was hired by these first-time producers to direct a film one of the producers wrote. It was sort of a lame CSI thing, but I was happy to get the job. Anyway, without going into a million details, it went to hell in a handcar and I walked off the film a week into shooting. First the producer and Eric Roberts took over the direction, then, when Eric left, it was just the producer, who didn't have the slightest clue what he was doing and never got off the phone. I brought in the DP and he stuck it out--many people quit or were fired--and he said it was a shit-storm. One example is that they didn't shoot any of their inserts, then picked them all up at the end in front of a green screen, and I don't think they had plates. Anyway, six years later it has not been released. As my old sales agent used to say, "Film does not age like wine, it ages like fish." I daresay that "Intent" will never come out. C'est la vie.

Josh

Name:             Alien Termite
E-mail:           
Date:               6/08/15

Dear Humanoid Josh :

A random question for you, one that's been put to many film buffs over the years; who do you prefer, Keaton or Chaplin? After viewing several films from each over the past couple of weeks, I must say I'm more in the Chaplin camp myself. I'm particularly a fan of "Modern Times", "City Lights", and "The Great Dictator". I actually found the final speech from "The Great Dictator" quite moving, and pretty ballsy for its day.

Dear Alien:

I prefer Buster Keaton, who has made me laugh harder more times than Chaplin. Keaton's films "The General," "Our Hospitality," and "Steamboat Bill, Jr.," I think, are funnier than anything Chaplin ever made. But I have a great and abiding love for Chaplin, too, and I think he set the stage for the other silent comedians. Sadly, Buster Keaton couldn't cut in sound films, and everything you named of Chaplin's is from the sound era ("City Lights," which is brilliant, is still silent, but has a music score). "The Great Dictator," in my opinion, is way too long. I watched "Limelight" (1952) again not too long ago and enjoyed it in its highly sentimental way, but the best scene by far is the routine between Chaplin and Keaton, who steals the show.

Josh

Name:             Russ
E-mail:           
Date:               6/06/15

Hello Josh :

Interesting comment on Intent and Harpies. I'm not surprised by Roberts since I've seen him in interviews and he does seem to be full of himself for someone who is overshadowed by his sister in the business. Baldwin is another one who is overshadowed by family members. I guess they think by being divas that they can make themselves feel important. Can directors ever get the actors they want or just the producers? Can directors fire an actor and replace him with a more professional one? I thought the director was the boss on set. Or does that have to be specifically written in a director's contract?

Dear Russ:

If it's an independent production I can do whatever I want, but on TV I couldn't fire anyone, nor can any other director. I have a big say in casting and if I've chosen badly (and the producers have OKed them), that's my problem. Not to mention, once you've shot with an actor, if you replace them you'd have to reshoot their footage, which is certainly not happening on a TV show or most independent productions. The bottom line is that most actors are wonderful and are giving you all they've got, which isn't mentioned too often. The problem actors get all the press. Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Kevin Sorbo, Renee O'Connor, and most of the rest show up, are in a good mood, know their lines, are completely cooperative and are total pros, but there's no story there.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/02/15

Dear Josh :

So I've had many professional director jobs that I considered failures. Honestly, I feel 1 out of 4 jobs aren't failures, but that's just me. It's a tough thing to realize every time. And, I know the old cliche, you never learn if you don't fail. Are there any moments as a professional filmmaker that you feel a failure made you a better director?

Dear Justin:

Not really. Early on I made screen direction errors, but I cleaned those up and never did them again. The failure of "Harpies" was not my fault--I had a script with FX on every page and no FX budget, and I had that stupid shit-head Stephen Baldwin, who wouldn't learn his lines or get into costume, and there was nothing I could do about that, either. On that unreleased piece of shit, "Intent," I had the worst amateur producers on earth who sabotaged the entire production right from the beginning, and I had that asshole, Eric Roberts, who was nothing more than obnoxious prick. When left to my own wiles, like on my films, or Hercules or Xena, I always delivered a competent job that cut together nicely and pleased the producers. I feel good about what I've done.

Josh

Name:             Trey
E-mail:            goonersmithy@gmail.com
Date:               5/28/15

Dear Josh :

I just re-watched "Running Time" on DVD and it's easily my favorite of your films. The black and white photography is gorgeous and I love the one shot technique. It's really impressive that, unlike Hitchcock's "Rope", you actually move all around LA instead of being confined to just one apartment. Anyway, my question is who owns the rights for release? Are they still with Anchor Bay? Do you think we'll ever get a blu-ray release? Hope all is well.

Dear Trey:

I'm really glad you like it. I do, too. And I honestly think it was an influence on "Birdman," which nobody has commented on. I own the film and was all set to make a deal with Synapse Films, but there are unpaid bills on the film that they didn't want to deal with and I presently can't. So, alas, it sits. But it's still available on my website, even if it's not Blu-Ray.

Josh

Name:             Alien Termite
E-mail:           
Date:               5/22/15

Dear Humanoid Josh :

Did Chris Dinnan's film make it into Cannes?

Dear Alien:

No, it did not. Not many films do.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:           
Date:               5/15/15

Hi Josh :

Do you think there has ever been a time in Hollywood's history that it was easier to break into the filmmaking business than it is now?

Dear Keith:

Certainly. Back during the silent era I think you could just show up at a studio and ask for a job. They'd start you off sweeping up--as John Wayne did--then you could work your way up. It was always better to know somebody, or be related to somebody in the business. Now, i don't know what the criteria is.

Josh

Name:             TJ
E-mail:            TDriscoll@kw.com
Date:               5/1/15

Hey Josh :

long time no talkie (It your Dean from 'Hammer')...Hope things are well with you? Have some questions about 'Running Time'? How much choreography of the shots did you do prior to the shooting? and what were the major problems you ran into during production?

Dear TJ:

Long time no hear. All of the choreography was worked out in advance. There's no way to get the actors and the camera in the places you want them at the right moments unless you work it out in advance. Unlike my other films which I either storyboarded or made shot lists, for RT I drew overhead diagrams of the floor-plans, where the actors would be as where the camera would be. This was imperative to get the cuts between reels to come out in the right places. It's very similar in "Birdman" except they had the ability to do digital transitions, which I thought they used well. Also, I stayed in real time, whereas they are doing time transitions because their story takes place over a couple of days. I'd love to hear a comparison between RT and "Birdman." Are you still in Alaska?

Josh

Name:             David R.
E-mail:           
Date:               5/1/15

Dear Josh :

Who do you like to win the big boxing match this weekend? I'll take Mayweather.

Dear David:

I predict Mayweather on points. I think he'll dance around and stay away and pop Pacquio now and then, then take it to a decision. This fight should have happened 5-6 years ago.

Josh

Name:             Andrew Harris
E-mail:           
Date:               4/26/15

Dear Josh :

I see you have several historical novels that you have recently published and that you also have experience in movies. Which novel do you believe would make the best motion picture? I am getting started as a film producer and would like to try to get one made. Thank you, Andrew Harris

Dear Andrew:

Write to me personally at josh@beckerfilms and we can discuss it.

Josh

Name:             JF
E-mail:           
Date:               4/25/15

Dear Josh :

Your answer about Birdman's got me curious - what are your favourite movies about making movies? Is it a subgenre you like or don't particularly care for given you've lived in Hollywood and been through the trenches yourself? Obviously there are stone cold classics like Singin' In The Rain or Sunset Boulevard, but what of more recent takes like The Player or David Cronenberg's latest, Map To The Stars? (My own dubious top 5 of the last 25-ish years since no-one asked: Matinee, Ed Wood, The Wizard Of Speed & Time, The Player, Mulholland Drive) Bonus question: should we still hold out hope for a Synapse edition of Running Time, or has that ship sailed? Best wishes, JFSpine Chillers update please?

Dear JF:

What I dislike most about movies-about-movies is that they rarely if ever show the process correctly. Since movies are very much a hurry-up-and-wait process, false drama is constantly used to create tension, like the leading lady won't come out of her dressing room, or the director is pitching a fit. Ultimately, most of filmmaking is in either pre- or post-production, which often takes years. Anyway, a good one in my opinion is "The Bad and the Beautiful."

Josh

Name:             lou
E-mail:           
Date:               4/25/15

Dear Josh :

Spine Chillers update please?

Dear lou:

The first nine episodes are completed and the idea is to stick them all together and see if someone will release them. The final two episodes, "Spoon Dog" and "The Wraith," will remain unseen until then. What happens after that, only God knows. Chris wants to make a feature, Paul and his good buddy Robbie, who starred in "Road Kill," have another script they want to do, and I'm just watching it all shake down.

Josh

Name:             Jeff C.
E-mail:           
Date:               4/22/15

Dear Josh :

You're liked that piece of shit, "Birdman"? I found the characters totally unlikeable, the plot was ridiculous, the constant camera movements was jarring and nauseating.

Dear Jeff:

Then I guess you wouldn't like my film "Running Time" which is it's direct precursor. "Birdman" is about the relevance of art--does it means anything? You can paint a buffalo on a wall, or you can paint the Sistine Chapel. Does one have more meaning than the other? Does being Birdman or Batman have more meaning than doing a four character drama based on Raymond Carver stories? Can he actually fly, or does he just hit the pavement below? These are questions that I think about. What matters? If Ed Norton tries to fuck Naomi Watts right before the scene, is he an asshole or is he a real actor trying to find the moment? I wouldn't argue that "Birdman" got Best Picture because it brought up the most questions. Did Alan Turing invent the Turing Device and have a decisive a profound impact on WWII? Yes. Did the kid in "Whiplash" learn to play the drums? Yes. Did Birdman fly away at the end? I kinda fuckin doubt it.

Josh

Name:             l
E-mail:           
Date:               4/22/15

Dear Josh :

What's your advice about working for free in the hopes of getting exposure down the road or do you think freebies just result in more freebie requests?

Dear I:

You're worth what you charge. If you haven't got much production experience, then it's a good thing to get on a set and see how they run. Regarding writing, I not only wouldn't write a script for free, I wouldn't even read a script for free. As John Gregory Dunne wrote in his book, "Monster," every asshole studio executive thinks that they're a writing, they just don't have time. Anybody who has time to actually be writer must be an asshole. I'll write a three-page treatment if I honestly and truly feel like they will pay me for a 12-page treatment, but that's as far as I will go. Now we need a contract.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               4/19/15

Dear Josh :

I don't know if this question makes a lot of sense, but which film do you think holds up over time better, The Shawshank Redemption or LA Confidential? I like LA Confidential more but I am thinking both about the same.

Dear Bob:

I like them both very much. If I have a gripe it's with "L.A. Confidential" because it became needlessly violent at the end. Both films look great and have a terrific sense of their time period.

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            NativeBlood66
Date:               4/17/15

Good Evening Josh :

It's been a while since I've written. Have you ever noticed at times that the more you attempt to apply rational thought to some situations that occur in life or questions that come up the less sense these situations or questions seem to make? It's like that damn "brain cloud" is working over time or something. In any event I just read your story "The Gospel According to Judas" which you wrote in 1997 and which also somehow has floated beneath my radar all these years. I read that right after I read "The Oppressor Is Always Wrong - Jews vs. Everybody". Both of those writings are awesome Josh. While "Oppressor" is total truth "Judas" smacks of the truth. I've picked apart so many of your writings concerning this that it wouldn't make sense to the average Joe I guess. In "Oppressor" you mentioned "imaginary God" but I've read your responses on other questions where you seem to admit the validity of the existence of a man called Jesus in ancient Israel. Therein came my mind screw which I did entirely to myself. How? Because even though I have gone to great lengths to rid myself of religious indoctrination and dogma seeing the name "Jesus" still rang some supernatural ding-a-ling in my head. That's how powerful it is. You allow for Jesus and his existence but you never said or wrote that his existence was a supernatural one. "Judas" clarifies with a between the lines cup check if you know what I mean. For me personally your writings have been liberating. How did we get here and is there any purpose behind it all? Who the hell knows? Thanks again for the time you devote to your website and your writings. Have a great weekend. Tim

Dear Tim:

Why wouldn't there be a fellow named Jesus of Bethlehem? The Romans were exceptionally adept at keeping records. But I put forth that he was just a man with a theory, and a good one at that. God isn't anything more than the love we display to one another. Pre-Jesus God was a vindictive prick who would make you burn in hell for all of eternity for eating shellfish. Post-Jesus God was love and how kind can we be to one another. Of course, the Romans didn't buy this theory, nor did many Jews, but it's a pretty good theory. Is it true? Well, I personally think it's a better theory, but it's not more than that. If you've read my essay, "Entropy," I think that God is just a closed system and we can either be kind or assholes, it's up to us. Nothing is going anywhere. Let's take on the Muslims, shall we? What's the difference between the Sunni and the Shi'ites? Who is more directely related to Mohmmad? All of us. One group is descended from Mohammed's cousin, the other is directly related to Mohammed--if we care to buy the literature from 1,500 years ago. I think it's all a bunch of nonsense. I think the Inuit eskimoes have a every bit as much right to believe that God is a walrus. I think the Hindus have every bit as much right to believe that God has ten million names. It's all mythology. If you think that killing a cartoonist for depicting Mohammed ought to be killed then you're an infidel that's unworthy of the belt you use to keep your pants up.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               4/16/15

Dear Josh :

This is for your webmaster. What happened to the search button on the site ? Can it be brought back ? It was useful to look up topics.

Dear Paul:

I may have overlooked/forgotten about it and accidentally left it out when I redesigned the front page. The script should still be there and I may be able to find the search button on an older version of the main page. I'll look into it.

Kevin

UPDATE: Search Engine re-added to the front page.

Name:             Brian
E-mail:           
Date:               4/11/15

Dear Josh :

What were some of the last truly great films to come out of Hollywood that you can remember? I last saw Unforgiven (1992) and i think its a little overrated though by no means a bad film; the moral ambiguoity was well written i thought

Dear Brian:

What's ambiguous about it? Little Bill killed his Bill Munny's friend. Now he's going to die because he took on someone tougher than him. "Who owns this shit-hole? "I bought it from Greely." "Good. Now anyone who wants to live better step away from that guy. Anyone who decorates his place with my friend better be willing to die." And he shoots him. "You must be William Munny out of Kansas City. Assassian of women and children." "I've killed women and children. I've killed everything that walks and crawls. And now I'm about to kill you, Little Bill." Does Little Bill not deserve to die? He killed Ned.

Josh

Name:             The Archivist
E-mail:            Echo Chamber
Date:               4/9/15

Dear Josh :

I suspect others will also remind you but here is the complete exchange you made last year:

******************** ******************** Name: Nicholas E-mail: therealnickelass@yahoo.com Date: 11/11/14 Dear Josh : Now that Starz has given the go ahead for a new Evil Dead tv show what are the odds that we will ever see a Josh Becker directed episode... or would you even want to travel down that road again?!? I only ask because you were pretty involved with Hercules and Xena throughout the years they were running. As well as Jack of All Trades. Dear Nicholas: You will NEVER see a an episode of "Evil Dead" directed by me; that is an utterly impossibility. And, quite frankly, I would rather shoot my toe off with a shotgun than get anywhere near anything Evil Dead-like under any circumstances. I'm being interviewed by the BBC in less than an hour (to be broadcast on Nov. 15) and I will certainly tell them so. Josh ******************** ********************

The "I would rather shoot my toe off with a shotgun" implies you would turn down an offer to be involved.

Dear Echo:

You're right. I guess since I knew that I would never be hired I took the offensive. But of course, were they to hire me I would take it, strictly for the money. But that will not occur. I certainly don't sit here and mope about it; nor is it something I particularly desire. C'est la vie. And I don't know if the BBC ever ran that interview, either. I got a sense that they couldn't get anybody else to discuss the film but me, and apparently they didn't much care what I had to say. To me, this ongoing in interest in ED is part of the omnipresent interest in crap, which seems to fuel many people, with Quentin Tarantino at the forefront. I believe that it has dulled everybody's interest and ability in discerning what's good. I've now seen most of the big, Oscar-nominated pictures of 2014 and there isn't a great film in the bunch. I enjoyed: "Whiplash," "The Imitation Game" and "Birdman," but none of them are anywhere near terrific, and none of them made me feel like I needed to see them again. I don't think that I've ever made a really good film, but I certainly have tried. And I believe the aforementioned movies tried, too. Maybe it's just not in in the zeitgeist of the times. I must say, though, that this never-ending discussion of ED is wearisome.

Josh


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