Questions & Answers

 

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Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               8/30/16

Dear Josh :

"Thank you, sir, thank you. I needed that." Why did you "need" that?

Dear Justin:

Because I tried very hard with that little script, "The Undercard," to achieve something -- investigating the parameters of horror -- and another human being on the planet recognized it. I also tried with my third "Spine Chillers" episode, "Estate Sale," and nobody recognized it. C'est la vie.

Josh

Name:             Will
E-mail:            wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:               8/30/16

Dear Josh :

Oh hell! I was so caught up in my Gene Wilder moment that I forgot about "Bonnie & Clyde," "Young Frankenstein," and "The Producers"! Okay, quite a few big movies. But still, I think the best moment was his tribute to Gilder on the actor's studio.

Dear Will:

And "Blazing Saddles." But the film of his that really got me as a kid, and it may very well not hold up since I haven't seen it since it's initial release in 1970, is "Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx," which I went back and saw several times. I thought it was completely charming, and Wilder completely nailed the Irish brogue (it's an Irish film). Mr. Wilder does win some kind of award for having written, produced, directed and starred in two of the worst movies of all time: "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" and "The World's Greatest Lover," which we all ridiculed for years afterward. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, it's Wilder's scene in "Bonnie and Clyde" that changes the whole tone of that movie. It's all a lark until Wilder says that he's a mortician, then it becomes a tragedy. It was certainly a star-making scene.

Josh

Name:             Joey
E-mail:            joeythemovieman@gmail.com
Date:               8/28/16

Hi Josh :

I just read your three unproduced Spine Chillers, thanks for posting them. I thought the Bryce one was entertaining (picturing Bruce in that role, how could it not be???)...did he read it? Comment on it? It's a shame that it won't ever get made (I'm only assuming that because you said you were done with the series). The deli one was ok, I admit I was holding out for a better twist of some kind. I feel like it would have been your most ambitious Spine Chillers shoot and probably would have been a tough production. Still wish we got to see it. Anyway, lastly, I wanted to comment on your Undercard script, which I thought was just exceptional. I mean, wow, it was a great piece of work, you should really be proud of that, and I very much hope this isn't the end of the line with it. A short story adaptation, maybe? So you can publish it in a lit zine? It reminded me of H emingway, and frankly I'm kind of glad you didn't do it for Spine Chillers, it's honestly too good for that! I would love to hear a little bit more about what inspired this piece, if you might consider another medium for it, or shooting it as a stand-alone, etc. Thanks, and nice work! -Joey-

Dear Joey:

Thank you, sir, thank you. I needed that. I thought that "The Undercard" would be a really good episode, and completely achievable with nothing. You never see a fight, you only hear them. All of the locations are: an office, a locker room, and a stolen exterior of Joe Louis Arena. But beyond that it was an exploration of what exactly horror is? I'd still like to shoot it.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@mail.com
Date:               8/26/16

Dear Josh :

Do you have any plans to put your six un-shot "Spine Chillers" scripts onto your website? I would be interested in reading them.

Dear Keith:

What a wonderful idea. I'm so glad that I thought of it. Here are three of the unproduced "Spine Chillers" scripts. The others still need work. I just saw Bruce yesterday and he's let himself go gray -- grayer than me -- and he looks like Jeff Chandler (for those who know who he is), which would be great for his episode. Alas, he'll have to dye his hair again for the next season of "Ash vs the Evil Dead" and I'm not making "Spine Chillers" anymore.

Josh

Name:             Eric
E-mail:            hoheisele@aol.com
Date:               8/21/16

Dear Josh :

You no longer have script/treatment review services listed on your website. Do you currently have too many clients or are you permanently out of the script consultant business? Thanks, Eric

Dear Eric:

No one was interested so I discontinued it. But from the few scripts that I did read and make notes on, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- could get with what I considered very simple instructions. Apparently, everybody feels that they are "artists" and "rebels" and will not be infringed upon with basic screenwriting concepts; that they, having never written a decent script, will now reinvent the form, which I find the height of absurdity.

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               8/17/16

Dear Josh :

Happy Birthday! Wish you all the health, inspiration, luck and prosperity! Hope that this new year of your life will bring you a lot of good stuff. As it is "Ask the Director", I'm also asking a question, anyway: do you own (or have ever owned) VHS copies of "Battle the Big Tuna" and/or "Hawg Wild in Sturgis"? Yours sincerely, Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

Thank you. Yes, of course, I have copies of both of those films.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               8/16/16

Dear Josh :

What would you say is the difference between what is called a thriller and what is termed suspense or is it just nitpicking, and a good example of each.

Dear Paul:

I don't think it's nitpicking, although I don't know if anyone has ever bothered to differentiate between them, but let's try. It seems to me that a thriller simply has a lot of action, whereas suspense is an emotion created by the drama. As I just mentioned in my previous response, I watched "Zulu" last night and I don't think anyone would term it a thriller, and there's not much action for the first two-thirds, but there's a lot of suspense. We know that 4,000 Zulus are going to attack the one hundred British soldiers, but neither we nor they know when. So, as they build barricades and stack sandbags, the tension keeps increasing. That's suspense in its purest form. Something like the "Bourne" films have a lot of chases and shooting and stuff, but not much or any suspense. As Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, defined suspense, a nervous-looking guy goes into a restaurant holding a briefcase which he sets underneath his table, then orders a cup of coffee. He gets the coffee, takes a few sips, then leaves, but doesn't take the briefcase. Now, what's in the briefcase? Is it just some papers, or is it a bomb? We don't know, but as long as that briefcase sits there, and the fellow gets further and further away without going back for it, that's suspense.

Josh

Name:             August
E-mail:            joxerfan@hotmail.com
Date:               8/16/16

Dear Josh :

Wishing you a very happy birthday, filled with Bulgarian supermodels serving you mooch potato liquor and ganja. I never get a chance to send any good questions for you these days, and half the time the e-mail function doesn't seem to work, but I always read every word you post. Anyway, here's not so much a question, as just an observation that occurred to me while watching "Rio Bravo" recently - Howard Hawks was certainly famous for his fast-paced, overlapping dialogue, but lots of times he went with minimalism instead. That opening sequence - with Dean Martin smacking Wayne, then Claude Akins shooting the guy in the bar and eventually getting arrested by Wayne - plays out for about a minute and a half with no dialogue whatsoever, apart from vague background conversation. Later Ward Bond shows up, and Wayne sends his men to stash their wagons somewhere, and young Colorado simply says "Is that the way you want it, Mr. Wheeler?" One sentence, and he's defined his character - not afraid of Wayne, but not disrespectful either. Just incredibly loyal to his boss on the tiniest of details. Later Wheeler asks Wayne if two men is all he's got. Wayne replies "That's what I got." Four words, and he's defined his character - not denying the odds he's facing, but not scared by them either. Things like that always impress me - and of course, I immediately think of you, since you are someone who always urges viewers to look for things like that. Hoping all is well! Regards, August

Dear August:

Always good to hear from you, and thanks for the birthday wishes. Yes, isn't that great stuff in "Rio Bravo." I love that opening with Dean Martin reaching into the spittoon for the coin -- we know everything we need to know about both Martin and Wayne with no dialog. As a writer, I wrestle with this all the time -- does the audience understand, or do I need to flat-out tell them? I think in most cases the audience does understand and it's simply my insecurity. A perfect example is in "Running Time" when Bruce beats up the junkie, takes his watch and says, "That was Buzz's watch." I believe now that everyone in the audience remembers it was Buzz's watch and it would have been a lot better to not say it. Give the viewer some credit for their intelligence. I just watched "Zulu" last night for about the sixth time, and there's a moment between a soldier and the sergeant that stuck out to me. A hundred British soldiers are being attacked by 4,000 Zulus. The soldier asks in a frightened tone, "Why us?" and the sergeant replies, "We're here." Being completely visual, or at least succinct, seems to be part of the lost art of filmmaking. Anyway, please stop by more often and bring up interesting points. Thanks.

Josh

Name:             Lynn
E-mail:            csappreciation@aol.com
Date:               8/16/16

Dear Josh :

I have a website, www.charlessiebertappreciation.com . I did my weekly search on anything new on Mr. Siebert and your site came up. Am assuming it has to do with his direction on Hercules and Xena - ?

Dear Lynn:

I have absolutely no idea what you're referring to. I know who he is, but I'm reasonably sure I've never met him.

Josh

Name:             Stan Wrightson
E-mail:           
Date:               8/12/16

Dear Josh :

Do you think horror films need comedic scenes? Brian DePalma and Stuart Gordon have both stated that when making horror films, filmmakers should include comedic scenes. Their rationale is that audiences need something to laugh at, and if there are no funny scenes in horror films then the audience will be laughing during serious and/or scary scenes when they shouldn't be laughing. Both DePalma are Gordon are obviously much more learned and experienced than I am, but I don't agree with this theory. I think horror can be totally serious and still be successful without provoking unintended reactions. What do you think?

Dear Stan:

I think it's an issue of dynamics and suspense; you don't want your story to run in an emotional straight line, you want it to go up and down. A great example of this is "Jaws," which, for all intents and purposes, is a monster movie, albeit with a real, believable monster. Spielberg gets the biggest laughs of his whole career in that film -- "He ate the light" -- because they're in the midst of great tension and suspense. And by making people laugh in a suspense situation, you can then scare them even more when the monster appears. So I don't think it's a necessity to have laughs, I just think it's a good idea.

Josh

Name:             Ryan
E-mail:            ryanp.545@gmail.com
Date:               8/10/16

Dear Josh :

I was recommended Running Time a few months ago by Mr. Tom Sullivan, I just watched it and, Wow was it good. Anyway, is there a release date for the blu ray yet? I can't wait!

Dear Ryan:

I'm glad you liked it. Nope, no date yet. I spoke to kind folks at Synapse recently and asked when the release might be, and was told, "What's your hurry?" Indeed.

Josh

Name:             Ross
E-mail:            Xchetdesmondx@yahoo.com
Date:               8/6/16

Dear Josh :

I have a pretty good idea of some of the filmmakers you admire. I'm wondering who your 10 least favorite directors in the history of cinema are?

Dear Ross:

Considering that I haven't heard of at least 90% of the directors out there, and most folks haven't heard of 99.9% of them, what you're really asking, I presume, is who are my least favorite directors of the most famous directors, and I've made that exceedingly clear, too, over the years. I would much rather discuss what's good as opposed to what's bad.

Josh

Name:             Diana Hawkes
E-mail:            upon request
Date:               8/1/16

Dear Josh :

Here's an odd question- I was watching a spaghetti western marathon this weekend, and something interesting (to me, anyway) was happening throughout The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. During close-ups of physically dying and suffering men, flies were crawling around their faces. Most notably when Tuco opens the carriage of dead soldiers and is pilfering their bodies, flies are menacing him and Eli Wallach genuinely swats at them. Later flies are crawling near Clint's mouth as he makes his smart remarks recovering at the monastery. The young dying soldier Clint gives a last smoke to - flies. So I have to wonder if this is a "happy accident" or if it's possible the director managed to get flies intentionally in those scenes. I think it contributes to the theme of impending death the film has, really adds to that one-foot-in-the-grave flavor. I know a trick to get dogs to love on characters is to smear liverwurst or something behind the ears of the actor (Charles Siebert did this with Kevin Smith in Xena and you can catch a bit of the food falling as they pan out). Is it possible to apply a little - whatever - to get flies to be reliably on their mark in film close-ups? Are there such experts as "insect wranglers" in the film industry? What a career that would be.

Dear Diana:

One thing flies love is Karo syrup, the stuff you make fake blood out of. But it seems to me that on a hot day in Spain in the 1960s, if you wanted flies all you had to do was kill an animal, any animal, and wait. I saw "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More" on the original theatrical release in 1967, in a double-bill. I was eleven. When I emerged I felt that I had just seen two of the greatest movies I'd ever seen in my short life. What's wonderful about "A Fistful of Dollars" is that it's 100 minutes long and actually has a pace. By "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" it's 161 minutes, and the restored version is 180 minutes! I love the original Italian title, "Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo."

Josh

Name:             Tommy
E-mail:           
Date:               8/1/16

Dear Josh :

So...is Spinechillers dead? If so, it was a good run. Yours were easily the best!

Dear Tommy:

There's a ninth episode that is 97% done, but my buddy, Paul, seems to want to fuck around with it forever in post. Chris has a script and is making noise like he wants to shoot another one, but we'll see. As for me, though, I'm done. I'm putting all of my focus and effort into making another feature. My plan is to shoot in fall '17. My script is pretty good, but it can be better and it will be by then. I have a half dozen Spine Chiller scripts, but no interest in making them anymore.

I'm glad someone watched them.

Josh

Name:             Colin
E-mail:            bigirish84@aol.com
Date:               7/28/16

Dear Josh :

Just a comment, dude I love Lunatics: A Love Story..okay here's a question, how crazy was Bruce on set as the mad doctor?!

Dear Colin:

Not at all. Bruce was the producer and took everything that was going on very seriously. He does, however, have the ability to change gears at a moment's notice, and when he played the Mad Doctor he played the hell out of it. His ad lib, "I have the red fluid," is a great line. It's also a lot of fun, I think, to watch Bruce give a performance with just his eyes since his face is covered by the mask. The eyeball through the hole in floor is Bruce and he manages to give a performance with just one eye. I daresay that he could, if necessary, give a performance with just one eyebrow, or his ear.

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               7/21/16

Dear Josh :

Not giving Los Lobos writing credit (therefore no writing payment) for a song they wrote, isn't "the breaks," it's theft. Although this seems way off topic for your site, however, I found it funny you're such a champion of Paul Simon's Graceland album and it's full of theft. All that you bag on QT for, it's ok for Simon.

Dear Joe:

I sincerely don't believe that Paul Simon stole that song from Los Lobos, and I don't think he stole anything from the South African musicians, that's the difference. Having watched his whole process on the show "Classic Albums," what he did was not stealing; it was a unique, fascinating process of collaboration. It's sort of like if you hired a cameraman and walked around Paris for a week shooting anything and everything that looked interesting to you, then took the footage home, watched all of it over and over again, then shot a whole feature film and dropped documentary shots into it all over the place, does the documentary cameraman get a co-writer credit? Or co-director? You're not stealing the footage, you paid for it and it's going into your project. Perhaps this is the core of the issue -- there's a world of difference between inspiration, collaboration and theft. Here, I'll give you two examples: 1. Quentin steals the entire plot, point by point, character by character, from beginning to end, from wherever, a TV show, a Hong Kong movies, what have you; 2. In "If I Had a Hammer" I was inspired by the central concept of "The Magnificent Ambersons" regarding a change in time periods, there's being the 1800s to the 1900s, mine being from the pre-rock and roll era to the rock and roll era. If I didn't tell you that I was directly inspired by "Amerberons" you'd never know. The concept of eras changing isn't a story or characters or any kind of plot; it's a concept. Having a bounty hunter handcuffed to a woman accused of murder, blah, blah, blah, point by point5, is theft. Get it?

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               7/21/16

Dear Josh :

Do you ever get depressed? I'm thinking of your piece about "Other Men's Careers." Seems like you've been close but never won. It would get me down. Again, Josh, it's cool that you take the time to answer some of my more probing (nosey?) questions that aren't of the boring (in my opinion) of "Do you think this movie is good?" Speaking of which, what do you think of Errol Morris' movies?

Dear Joe:

I haven't given up yet. What would really get me down is if the folks around me were making really good stuff and wouldn't let me join in. But all there is these days is crap, and I've made a sufficient amount of that. Other than the money, it doesn't mean anything to me at this point to get in there and make another shitty TV show episode or another horrid, asinine SyFy film. I just want to make the movies i want to make at this point, and when I'm ready -- and I'm getting there -- I'll scratch together enough money to make another feature. I've got a script that I'm almost happy with.

I liked "The Fog of War" because Robert Macnamara is a fascinating character, and the whole subject of LBJ and the Vietnam War is interesting, not because Errol Morris does anything with the form of the documentary that I found interesting. I did not like "The Thin Blue Line" and I abhor recreations in docs.

Josh

Name:             Diana Hawkes
E-mail:            upon request
Date:               7/21/16

Dear Josh :

Oh - and I also thought of you when I stumbled on the HBO miniseries (5 episodes) "Mildred Pierce". I was hoping to talk about it too. I love that old film and I also recall fondly you remarking how much you enjoyed Ann Blyth's over the top delivery of "With this money I can get away from you and your pies and your chickens and everything that smells of grease!!!" So I sat down and watched it, waiting to see how they'd re-do that scene, and was slightly disappointed! Have you seen it? They chose to stay on a close up of Kate Winslet (as Mildred), as Evan Rachael Wood (as Veda) says the line, without punching it quite as much. I wanted that no holds barred melodrama! Also disappointing was that they omitted my 2nd favorite line, perfectly executed by Joan Crawford with that sharp raising of her glass to block his kiss, at the business-like engagement arrangement: "SOLD, one Baragon." Why on earth would they 86 that delicious line?! Anyway - some aspects I liked very much with the production; Evan Rachel Wood as Veda is amazing, as is Guy Pierce as Monty Baragon. Not sure how I feel about Winslet as Mildred. She seemed to be laboring with her American accent attempt. Oddly, they added a character- Lucy as her right-hand-man, which I thought was unnecessary, since the character of Ida in the original was enough, and great to watch with the few scenes she gets. Most of my generation knows Eve Arden as the stiff principal in "Grease", but I'm proud that I know her from her earlier roles when she was a young Amazonian "handsome woman" presence. They made serious changes to the storyline, especially the ending - should I talk about it if you haven't seen it yet? Would love to discuss the comparisons more with you and your peeps here who've seen it.

Dear Diana:

I watched about fifteen minutes of the first episode, then, as I so often do, I bailed. I didn't like the tone, nor Winslet as Mildred. Ultimately, I have a love for that movie that I didn't want to sully. It's director Michael Curtiz at the peak of his power, and I think it's a really snappy, well-performed, well-shot film. Eve Arden has all the funny lines. When she's standing on a stool changing a light bulb (or whatever), the fellow gives her the up-and-down and she quips, "Well, leave me something to wear." It's got a brilliant opening, Joan Crawford is at her best (Oscar-winner), Ann Blyth couldn't be snottier, and it really looks good. The movie is fun and the series didn't look like fun. To me the TV version is yet one more unnecessary remake.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               7/20/16

Dear Josh :

"why? Because he watched a bunch of shitty movies and TV shows in the 1970s? Who didn't?" Not me. I wasn't born. Is that why I like Quentin T? ;) Cause I do like his movies.

Dear Justin:

Perhaps. You just don't know all of the shit he's blatantly ripping off, not that I saw that episode of "The Rebel" from 1960 (I was two, but they reran all of those shows a lot) that he ripped off the plot for "Hateful 8;" but the guy is a story thief. In his behalf he's never denied it that I've heard, nor made any apology. But to me it just makes him the perfect representative of the time period -- painfully unoriginal. Unlike Quentin and many others folks I know about my age, I'm not the slightest bit nostalgic about my childhood, nor the 1960s and '70s. Yes, music and movies were good then, but I've seen all of those movies and heard all of those songs and I'm just bored with the whole damn thing. It doesn't amuse me to pull out waxworks from then, like Kurt Russell or David Carradine or Pam Grier, nor am I impressed with Tarantino's taste of what he thought was good from back then, nor am I impressed with his dialogue, plotting, camera placement, choice of music, cutting or anything else he does. If he is the foremost filmmaker of the past 20 years, that's just undeniable proof that movies during the last 20 years stink to high heaven. And this utterly mistaken idea that Quentin is somehow an expert in any way, shape or form of film history appalls me. He's seen the shit he's seen, but he doesn't know his movies -- not the big picture by any means -- and had I not met him and talked with him as many times as I did back there in the late 1980s when he used to hang out at that bungalow where I lived in Hollywood, perhaps I could go along with the false mythology of his expertise. he obviously loves movies, I'll give him that, but he has nothing to say, no point, no real point of view, no visual style. And if he didn't keep making worthless movies that people keep taking seriously for lack of anything else to take seriously, I could forget about him entirely. I hope he sticks to his promise and quickly and happily retires.

Josh

Name:             Joe
E-mail:           
Date:               7/20/16

Dear Josh :

Reading your QT stuff with amusement. I walked out of Reservoir Dogs because I was bored. People I told were shocked. I think I liked Jackie Brown but I don't think I finished it because it was sooo long. Saw one part of one on TV where Leonardo Decapro is making mean faces at black people and I couldn't stand three minutes of it. I think I ended up switching the channel to some infomercial about a ladder and I enjoyed that better. Anyways, you talk big about Paul Simon's album Graceland. Ddin't he get in all kind of hot water with stealing from (South?) African musicians re: that album. I know the band Los Lobos say Simon flat out stole from them. Is this any different?

Dear Joe:

"Graceland" is a brilliant album, and was indeed controversial in its day, but that all blew over. During the apartheid era, Paul Simon decided to go to South Africa and work with native musicians to achieve a sound. He hired and paid many South African musicians to come into a studio there and just record anything and everything they could think of or enjoyed playing. After a couple of weeks and thousands of feet of tape, he came back to the the U.S., culled through all of the material, took bits and pieces from here and there, then wrote songs to go around them with lyrics -- and I think this is the genius part -- that have nothing to do with South Africa. He just wanted the sound, he didn't want to do an album that was a tribute to South Africa in any other way except musically. When the album came out to great acclaim, some South Africans -- not the musicians he hired -- complained that Paul Simon had stolen their sound. Well, he didn't steal anything, he paid everybody; they're all his songs, and all of the musicians, particularly the wonderful vocal band, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, all loved him and were more than happy to tour with him. When apartheid fell, Paul Simon was one of the first musicians to play there, at their invitation, and everybody played along with him. Paul Simon making "Graceland" and getting the South African sound out to the world is considered on some minor level to have helped apartheid fall. He is not considered a thief there; he's a hero. And he certainly gave Los Lobos credit on the song they recorded together, just not a writing credit. Well, them's the breaks.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:           
Date:               7/19/16

Dear Josh :

I am a bit surprised that you even bothered with Hateful 8, as your dislike of Tarantino is well known on the site. Well QT recently announced that he is only going to make 2 more films and then stop. Also since someone mentioned how his films are his own it has been discussed since he came out how many lines, bits of action, even plots are similar to ones found in other films. Since you made a note of "The Revenent" being a remake of "Man in the Wilderness", you might get a kick or not of this expose of H8 and its plot similarity with an episode (Fair Game) of a 1950s western series "The Rebel". http://www.cowboysindians.com/2015/08/quentin-tarantino-rebel-moviemaker/

Dear Paul:

I enjoyed the let's-make-excuses-for-Tarantino's-thievery section -- "Maybe he didn't know he was stealing" -- where the writer spends seven paragraphs accusing him of plagarism, in detail, then say's not accusing him of plagarism. I do think it's possible to steal a tune and not know that you've stolen it, but not an entire story: it's too complicated and there are too many set-ups and pay-offs (the ones I missed by not seeing acts two and three). Ultimately, it means nothing to me that Quentin's a story thief and always has been, it's that he's taken so seriously, entirely let off the hook for his sticky fingers, and constantly being given credit as some sort of film expert -- why? Because he watched a bunch of shitty movies and TV shows in the 1970s? Who didn't?

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               7/17/16

Dear Josh :

I think we touched on this a bit, but since we're talking specifically act 1, can you list some specific characteristics of a stellar act 1 and some specific characteristics of an act 1 you'll turn off before act 2? Thanks

Dear Justin:

That immediately put me in mind of Zhang Yimou's film, "To Live" (1994). This rich young man in China is gambling away all of his family's fortune. It's become a scandal. His wife shows up with his baby as the gambling house, and losing face in front of everyone, begs him to stop. He has her thrown out of the casino and proceeds to lose not only the family fortune, but the ancestral home, too. As the whole family now stands in rags and watches the new tenant take their home, the Communists take over the country and promptly shoot all of the rich people, including the new tenant, but the young man and his family are safe because they're now poor . . . It's a wonderful family saga that takes place over the next 30 years of Chinese history. And it has a clever, ironic act one. Act one is where you take your gauntlet, your glove, and throw it down. The little boy walks out on the stage with a sign that says, "Hamlet is the story of a man who could not make up his mind." OK, that's what it is. What's your story? What story do you intend to tell me over the course of the next two acts? "Lawrence of Arabia" has a great act one, and in many ways is my favorite part of the movie. It begins with the beautiful front title scene, from overhead, of him cleaning his motorcycle, then taking a ride and getting killed. At his funeral his former commanding officer says to a reporter, "Know him? It seems to me that he had some minor post on my staff in Cairo." We cut to Lawrence in a basement room painting in the blue of the water on a map. Anyway, he gets the assignment to find King Faisal somewhere in the vast Arabian desert and "appreciate the situation" for the Arab Bureau. And off he goes. For the next half an hour we're in the desert searching for Faisal in what may the best use of 70mm ever. We're on a quest to get to where the action will occur. By the end of act one, when Faisal says, "What we need is a miracle," and Lawrence figures out, "Aqaba from behind," you are incredibly well set-up for the rest of the movie. That's a good act one.

Josh

Name:             Jeff Burr
E-mail:            JeffCBurr@AOL.com
Date:               7/14/16

Dear Josh :

Hope you are well and things on your new indie movie are moving ahead full steam. Just saw your posting on HATEFUL 8. I got news for you, you didnt SEE Hateful 8. Seeing 35 minutes of a roughly three hour film means nothing. There could be setups both story-wise and stylistically that are ingeniously paid off by the end of the movie. There could be performances by actors that appear two hours in and blow you away, there could be...(you get my point) Now, I am not saying that anything like this happened in HATEFUL 8 (nor am I saying it didnt happen). I just want to make the point that watching the first 35 minutes of a film and bailing and then writing negative things as if you know the whole movie is something an asshole studio junior executive would do, not a committed filmmaker. I acknowledge that you stated you only watched the first 35 minutes and all your comments were about what you saw in that time frame and not the whole movie, but what is the point in doing that? Watch the whole film and then write whatever you want to write. It's like looking at one corner of a painting through your fingers and pronouncing the whole thing worthless. It is the totality of the whole that makes an impact in cinema. The little moments that add up through the course of the film to something greater than the sum of its parts. OK, now I have that off my chest, I actually do have a question. Can you think of another filmmaker of Quentin Tarantino's stature that has kept a steady path ONLY doing his own stuff? That is what I totally respect about him...like his movies, hate his movies, he has never made a film (written yes, but not directed) that wasnt his own. And I consider JACKIE BROWN his own, even if Elmore got the ball rolling by writing RUM PUNCH. The only other people that immediately come to mind are Woody Allen and John Cassavettes.

Dear Jeff:

Of course you're right, one should see the whole thing first before commenting, but since I bail out on 2-5 movies a week -- I record anything that seems like it might be of interest; and I make it through 2-3 movies a week -- I feel that I'm an expert on judging films from just seeing the beginnings. Act one is utterly crucial. You can fake your way through acts two and three, one way or another, but not act one. I'm going to put my foot down and make a flat statement -- if your act one sucks; acts two and three are going to suck, too. Tantalize me if you will with these possible great pay-offs lurking in the unseen sections of "Hateful 8," but I kinda fuckin' doubt it. And if I'm wrong, then I guess I will have just missed some great Tarantino moments. And I could hold my fingers 97% over my eyes and still hate a Jackson Pollack painting.

As for good old QT, yes, his shit's his own. So what? Just because he has a voice, if not an eye, doesn't mean he's worth listening to.

Josh

Name:             Joey
E-mail:           
Date:               7/8/16

Dear Josh :

I've been WAITING for you to finally watch Hateful Eight and I am really bummed you only watched 35 minutes. I was really really hoping you'd stick it out (for the entire 3 hours!!!) just so you could write an amazing takedown essay on how MONUMENTALLY stupid. I mean, say what you want about Tarantino's other films (in my opinion, the first three were great, but the rest were train wrecks), but none, not even the mega-bloated and remarkably stupid Kill Bill saga, even comes CLOSE to being as bad as The Hateful Eight, which really should go down in history as being a SPECIAL kind of shitty. The dude knows how to string together a sentence, knows how to frame a shot, knows how to hire good actors, the best composer, best cinematographer, etc. And yet even with all of that, and a budget to make any movie he wanted, he made a HISTORICALLY bad movie, a Razzie-level monstrosity. I'm telling you...the first 35 minutes were THE BEST PART if you can believe it. You have to see the whole thing to believe it, Josh. Please, please, please, reconsider, watch the whole thing, and write one of your old-fashioned scathing essays. I promise to do my part and link your essay all over the fucking internet just so people can see how retardedly fucking braindead they are for championing QT's Burger King level cinematic cuisine. -Joey-

Dear Joey:

Dude, you couldn't get me to watch the rest of that piece of shit with a gun against my head.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               7/8/16

Dear Josh :

Is there an official cinematographer rule book that says if you don’t shoot 70mm film with X Y and Z, you’ve wasted the format? Because the way you talk, it sounds like that rule book exists. You seem to think there’s one way to make a movie and I don’t, but you’ll state this pure opinion as hard line-in-the-sand fact. I could argue with you ten ways to Sunday why I liked The Hateful Eight. I could bring my projector to your house and give a 2 hour lecture on why I liked the photography, but I won’t because you treat movies like they’re math problems. It’s either 2+2=4 or it’s crap. It’s like telling me my favorite color is a horrible color, or sunny is right and overcast is wrong. It’s not. Sometimes overcast is nice. People have honest emotional reactions to certain movies regardless if YOU like the movie or not. Yes, I thought The Hateful Eight was hysterical. Since Josh Becker declared from on high that the movie is garbage, does that mean I didn’t laugh? Because it wasn't shot according to your specs, was it not pleasing to my eyes? I couldn’t have laughed because according to you its a fact that the movie is not funny and I couldn't have enjoyed the look because its not shot on 70mm according to the Josh Becker rule book. If I did laugh and I did like the look it’s because I’m a moron with horrible taste that is too stupid to know 2+2=4 and now you’ve insulted me personally. See how that works?

Dear Justin:

Pardon me if I offended you. So I can't say that any movie is shit because there might be someone out there somewhere who might like it and have an emotional attachment to it? All standards are gone? Painting of kids with big eyes are every bit as good as Rembrandt because everything is equally as good? The definition of taste is the preference of one thing over another, and the ability to differentiate between good and bad. Without a sense of taste, art is dead, just like it presently is. And Quentin Tarantino is the perfect representation of a complete lack of taste. If all of your inspiration comes from shit, as it does with Quentin, you'll undoubtedly make shit.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               7/8/16

Dear Josh :

Gotta jump in on this one... "Once they've seen a film it becomes a part of them and if you don't like it, you're ostensibly saying you don't like them." No, no, no... When you say you're not a fan of someone's favorite movie, you're speaking to your taste. When you say someone's favorite movie is horse shit, you're speaking to their taste, and you're calling their taste horse shit, which is very different than saying you personally don't share their taste. That's why people are so defensive of your "opinion".

Dear Justin:

What you're referring to is called "Political Correctness," which i find particularly offensive. It's not what you said, it's how you said it. What you're saying is that I should always begin my opinions with, "I think . . ." as opposed to being definitive. I could always end my opinions with, ". . . but I could be wrong." But since there are no rights or wrongs on opinions, why bother? It's prevaricating. "The Revenant" is a long, boring, poorly-written movie. In shorthand it's a piece of shit (with a good bear attack). If you liked "The Revenant" I suppose you could take my statement and be offended -- "But I liked it" -- and if you did it's strictly because of your insecurity at being unable to defend your position -- "I don't know why I liked it, I just liked it." Well, that's your problem, not mine. I'll be happy to tell you why I didn't like it. And for many years movies, like books and plays and music, were discussed with vim and vigor, and things were declared brilliant and garbage all the time. Now a comedian can't tell a dirty joke on a college campus without being termed a racist or a homophobe. I watched the first 35 minutes of "The Hateful Eight" and it is complete, unadulterated shit, and the single biggest waste of Super Panavision 70 ever. Your defense for liking it was, "I saw it in the theater" and "I thought some of the dialogue was funny." Other than saying the word nigger twenty-five times or hitting Jennifer Jason Leigh in the mouth with a pistol two or three times, please name or indicate something funny. You can't because it's not there. Thirty-five minutes of weak dialogue in a stagecoach. Christ, I was ready to scream. But the problem is, liking shit puts one into an indefensible position, and that's what people don't like -- having to defend an indefensible position.

Josh

Name:             Bob
E-mail:           
Date:               7/7/16

Dear Josh :

What is your take on director's commentaries on DVDs? It seems that with the decline of the DVD medium, the commentaries seem to be disappearing from the DVDs that are still being manufactured. I found that the commentaries range from the very good and insightful, discussing specific matters about the scene the viewer is watching, to the ridiculous, discussing personal matters totally unrelated to the movie. And good commentaries don't have to be limited to directors or to motion pictures. On the DVDs for the Combat series, Conlon Carter raised a lot interesting insights, such as how Thousand Oaks where many of the episodes were filmed, was mostly pastureland at the time, and how is suburban sprawl, and about the change over to color for the final season not really being a matter of choice for the 66-67 season. What do you think of DVD commentaries?

Dear Bob:

I don't generally listen to commentary tracks. I enjoyed doing the three that I've done, all with Bruce -- TSNKE, "Running Time" and "Alien Apocalypse" -- and folks have told me over the years that they're good commentaries. But I'd have to really, really like a movie to want to hear about the misery they went through making it. I did just watch all the extras and stuff on the DVD of "Sunset Blvd."

Josh

Name:             Stan Wrightson
E-mail:           
Date:               7/6/16

Dear Josh :

Can we expect any new essays soon? I often wish you would write an essay on opinions - specifically, how people have become dogmatic and tyrannical with their opinions. Not just with issues like politics, etc.; but with movies too. So often when I'm online I'll see comments that essentially say: "I did/did not like this movie and this is not only my opinion it is fact and if you don't agree with me then you're an asshole and you should die." Of course I've noticed that through the years, idiots have come to this website and taken personal shots at you simply because you don't like the films that they like. I would certainly agree that passion for cinema is a good thing, but the extremes some people take it to...I think it's fucking crazy.

Dear Stan:

I've been putting up with this nonsense my whole life. What folks seem to find particularly annoying about me not liking a film is that I always have reasons why I didn't like it, then they have to go into a song and dance about why my reasons don't matter. Of course, they're only defense is, "I liked it," which is bullshit. It is interesting how personally people take movies. Once they've seen a film it becomes a part of them and if you don't like it, you're ostensibly saying you don't like them. People grew so hostile over the years defending bad new movies -- that were just getting worse and worse -- that I stopped seeing new movies. Six months after a film comes out people are a lot cooler about it, but when they're new films are either brilliant and sacrosanct, or complete shit to be ridiculed, depending on what everyone else is saying. Harlan Ellison overstated it (as he will) in the film "Dreams With Sharp Teeth," when he said something along the lines of, "Everyone says, 'I'm allowed to have my opinion.' No you're not. You're allowed to have your informed opinion; nobody's interested in your uninformed opinion."

Josh

Name:             Brian
E-mail:            mackbryan1986@gmail.com
Date:               7/5/16

Dear Josh :

Can you recommend a few Cassavetes films for someone unfamilar with his work?

Dear Bryan:

Sure, but all of Cassavetes' difficult. Do not start with "Shadows," his first indie hit, which I found to be an extremely dull, sloppily made film (which he admitted). He didn't make another indie feature for eight years until "Faces," and that's a really interesting film. Black and white 35mm with five people in the cast, including his wife, Gena Rowlands, and mostly shot in their house. The first film of his that really got me, and may well be his best, is "A Woman Under the Influence," which has a couple of the most excruciating scenes ever put in a movie. I also appreciated "Opening Night" (in which I'm an extra) and "Minnie and Moskowitz," but once again, be warned, they're all hard to sit through.

Josh

Name:             Angel
E-mail:           
Date:               6/28/16

Dear Josh :

The library of congress sought help in identifying the following stills. Curious to see how many you could identify. http://m.imgur.com/a/Mwf83

Dear Angel:

I don't recognize any of them.

Josh

Name:             Rick's Sister
E-mail:            debryan50@verizon.net
Date:               6/20/16

Dear Josh :

Thank you for memorializing Rick and Stevie in your book ~ I love it.

Dear Ricks Sister (Deb):

Rick Sandford is a major character in my book "Going Hollywood," and I hope I captured the essence of him. He was an important influence on me. He's been dead 21 years now. We met on the set of John Cassavetes' film, "Opening Night" in 1977.

Cheers to Rick!

Josh

Name:             Andrew
E-mail:           
Date:               6/19/16

Dear Josh :

Are you still friends with David Goodman? Also what do you think about the controversy over the upcoming Ghostbusters remake?

Dear Andrew:

I haven't seen David in years. What controversy? That it looks like shit? Who'd have ever suspected otherwise? It couldn't be anything but shit at this late date.

Josh

Name:             Robert J.
E-mail:           
Date:               6/14/16

Dear Josh :

Do you subscribe to the theory of the 7 story archetypes? Would all stories really fit into one of these?

Dear Robert:

Here they are:

Overcoming the Monster.
Rags to Riches.
The Quest.
Voyage and Return.
Comedy.
Tragedy.
Rebirth.

This list I've found bafflingly has periods. Hey! Anything that helps. I do try to keep in mind as I'm writing my comedy script, "This is a comedy, try and be funny." If it's a tragedy one might want to keep that in mind. And the rest is the hero's journey. I don't see stories this way. I see a guy and some shit's happening to him. Now what's he going to do?

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/13/16

Dear Josh :

"just because you are going somewhere doesn't mean that I want to go with you."

But that's subjective, right? Not a sign of amateur writing...

Dear Justin:

I don't know that amateur/professional are the differentiation. I suppose it's more of a gut sense as to whether or not you're telling a story that's worth telling; a story that has a point.

Josh

Name:             James
E-mail:            russianattack1@yahoo.com
Date:               6/9/16

Dear Josh :

What do you think is an appropriate reason to be a filmmaker? As in, are there better reasons than others to be a filmmaker as far as a career? I ask because, when I was younger, I thought that I would go into filmmaking because I could make change in the world, or give viewers greater insight in some way or another. I have come to the conclusion that this kind of impact is highly unlikely, regardless of how well I could present it or how successfully it would be received by audiences. With that aside, I suppose entertaining others in an intelligent way, while getting my artistic ideas out, is a valid goal. I guess my overall question is, what's the point? Perhaps it is cynicism, but I just no longer believe that films of any kind have much of a lasting impact. People are going to do stupid shit, more and more stupid shit the more there are of us, and then it will end. Is that depressing or just realistic?

Dear James:

Ah, what's the point? The eternal question. Why do anything? Sooner or later it will all come to dust. Why bother? Because, what else is there to do? If we don't invest what we do with some meaning then it has no meaning; then nothing has meaning. And the only thing that has meaning is what you decide is meaningful. I think making a good movie is a valid thing to do, so I'll keep trying.

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               6/9/16

Dear Josh :

As you know, I'm a director with a background in cinematography, so I probably pay a little closer attention to camera work than most. A question amateur filmmakers often ask is how they can achieve a "film" look. What they're actually asking is how can they make something look professional. Lately I've noticed the first thing that gives away an amateur production is bad compositions. I'm not talking about artful, unbalanced, compositions. Just off-putting ones on something where the camera should likely be more subdued like an independent, talky, dramedy or something like that. It's usually a collection of misplaced pictures or lamps that are too close to the character's head or too bright or too dark for the scene. Sometimes it looks like they didn't properly level the camera (even if they did). Stuff like that. As a writer, what is the first thing you spot in watching a movie that gives away an amateur screenplay? And I’m talking about watching the finished movie, not reading a screenplay with a bunch of bad grammar (like this question :) Thanks.

Dear Justin:

Yes, does it know where it's going? Is it presenting me with a story, meaning it's going somewhere. But just because you are going somewhere doesn't mean that I want to go with you. What story are you telling me? Is it a story worth telling? Or is it, oh, this one again? I have over 100 movies on my DVR of which I've watched 15 minutes and I'm just too lazy to delete, but I'll never watch a minute more. Most movies have a dreary premise, if they have one.

Josh

Name:             Don Jon
E-mail:           
Date:               6/7/16

Dear Josh :

Holy shit. In picking his "top 10 movies of the last decade," that Nikolay guy literally proved your point. Shaun of the Dead? Reign Over Me? The Guest???? Is this guy high? The Guest wasn't even a top 10 great movie that came out that weekend. Hey, here's my top 10 movies of the last decade that prove that cinema is still alive and vibrant: 1. Transformers 2. Transformers 2 3. Transformers 3 4. Transformers 4 5. Transformers 5 6. Spider-Man 7. Spider-Man 2 8. Spider-Man 2 (the second one) 9. Avengers Fight Each Other (because Spider-Man shows up) 10. Spotlight (because I'm sooooo high-brow and intellectual) What an embarrassment. I miss the old Josh that would have told Nikolay to fuck off.

Dear Don:

I have no reason to tell Nikolay to fuck off. He's a nice guy and I asked a question which he answered. At least he gave it an honest try, not that I'd have gone to the trouble. I watched "The Revenant" and, other than the bear attacks, it's a nothing, and not nearly as good as "Man in the Wilderness," that's 50 minutes shorter and just more interesting and not a revenge plot, which makes it kind of special. "Spotlight" is anything but high brow and intellectual -- it's a run-of-the-mill investigative reporter story we've seen a million times, and not in the same league as "All the President's Men." Perhaps I am an old fart, but they don't make very good movies anymore.

Josh

Name:             Chris
E-mail:           
Date:               6/7/16

Dear Josh :

I had the chance to meet Ted Raimi the other day at NZs equivalent to Comic Con in Wellington. I gave him my VHS copy of "Lunatics" to sign and he was pretty surprised and thrilled. He told me to write to you and let you know that I want a Lunatics sequel and that by doing so I might help make it happen. So yes, I want that movie! Another movie about Hank and his struggles would be fantastic and you directing another feature and Ted having another lead role would obviously be awesome. Is this something you've really thought about? Chris

Dear Chris:

I don't want to make "Lunatics 2." I don't like sequels. I'd rather make the script I've just written (and am rewriting), "Who Needs Rhetorical Questions?" I want to make a new movie, not an old one. But I'm glad you liked it and got to meet Ted.

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               6/6/16

Hi Josh :

You have stated in this Q&A that you do not watch televisions shows. Do you consider feature-length movies to be a superior medium to episodic TV programs? I do. I find that most shows, even critically acclaimed and story arc-driven ones such as “Mad Men” tend to tell their stories in a meandering way. That bores me. In a good movie, on the other hand, every scene matters and adds to the overall story being told.

Dear Keith:

The point of a series is familiarity -- that each episode is very much like all the others, and it spares you the effort of getting to know new people. It's the pablum of entertainment; nothing difficult to chew. I'm most of the way through "The Revenant," which looks good and has those great bear attacks, but not much else. Leo certainly groans a lot, but I'd say Eddie Redmayne was better in "The Danish Girl."

Josh

Name:             Nikolay Yeriomin
E-mail:            nikolayyeriomin@gmail.com
Date:               6/5/16

Dear Josh :

Loved previous q&a's with Keith and Tim because it is quite an interesting "food for thoughts". If it is okay, I have a few comments and questions regarding what they were writing, so this message may be a little bit long (I hope that it may be separated if that will be more comfortable for you and/or webmasters). Firstly, regarding Alfred Hitchcock (by the way, my all-time favorite director) - it should be noted that "Hitchock/Truffault", even though it is one of the greatest books on Hitchcock and movie-making in general is quite flawed by one thing in nearly any translation, that thing being the fact that all of the Hitchcock statements were translated in French and then book was again translated in English from that translation, so at times what Hitchcock actually said was somewhat paraphrased and may have affected the sense of a few statements. Secondly, a little thought on Hitchcock's movies - last summer I've discovered that I've actually haven't seen that much of his directorial works, mainly because in cases of one of the favorite directors dying or working rarely I usually postpone some movies in advance, just to have a few if I'll have some specific mood. In case of Hitchcock, though, I understood it was quite pointless, because if counting his TV episodes and some other things he has quite a big filmography. So, I've started a tradition of sorts that I hope to continue this year - to pick five Hitchcock directorial works (from each decade of his career excluding the 70's of which I've seen everything) mostly at random and watch them on and around his birthday. What I've picked in 2015 were "The Pleasure Garden", "Jamaica Inn", "Spellbound", "The Trouble with Harry" and an episode of "Startime" named "Incident at a Corner". I can highly recommend each one of them (though "Spellbound" is probably the better one of them), but "Incident at a Corner" is especially recommended because it is mostly overlooked and forgotten, despite this little gem is actually pretty impressive. Thirdly, while I can understand your and Tim's concern of culture being "rotted", I have some optimism for it and I just believe that we're living in a period of quite a big shift and it's hard to judge the society which is in a constant stress and undergoes a process of certain social and cultural mutations. I'm quite concerned about culture as well because, well - mainstream culture seems less and less appealing to me. Especially since younger people (of which I am, to some unfortunate extent) seem less and less tolerant to more individual and "unconventional" tastes and will try to force you to watch what they like, massively overreacting if you dislike their choice, forgetting that anyone has right to choose what he or she wants to watch. I'm quite tired of people shaming me for my dislike of "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" - while both series are very popular and acclaimed I just can't find anything of strong interest in both of them (not to mention that people fail to notice how much "Game of Thrones" is derivative to works of William Shakespeare) so I don't have a point to watch them. But I hope that such "Age of Overreacting" will eventually pass and we'll have some kind of renaissance. I don't lose that hope because, well, even my dorm roommate (19 years old), who has considerable difficulties to even perceive movies older then 1990 (it seems a common problem for many people of age 16-25, which puzzles me because I'm of the same age gap and yet I can easily watch anything regardless of time period) loved "Lawrence of Arabia" and is amazed by Buster Keaton stunts (despite him being a parkour practitioner he just can't understand how some of them were executed) and another one of the same age is reading a lot and tries quite thoughtfully to compare and balance mainstream, independent and classic art. One of my best friends who is essentially of my age disliked "The Hateful Eight", by the way and while I was okay with that movie I can totally see why and approve both his and yours concerns about it. Fourthly as you've asked for someone to pick ten greatest movies and albums of the past ten years (that should be the period of 2004-2016, I guess?) I might as well try to name at least movies. But I should warn you that I'm casually watching some movies two or three years after the initial release, so I'm quite surely missed at least a few great titles. I'm also subjective, of course and will try to balance those movies which both I've found great and at least some significant amount of people enjoyed a lot as well, trying hard to limit it for one-two movies per year.

My picks are (in chronological order):

1."Shaun of the Dead" (2004) Dir. Edgar Wright (UK);

2."Takeshis'" (2005) Dir. Takeshi Kitano (Japan);

3."A Scanner Darkly" (2006) Dir. Richard Linklater (USA);

4."Reign Over Me" (2007) Dir. Mike Binder (USA);

5."Serce na dloni" (2008) (known in US as "And a Warm Heart" though the translation is "Heart in the Hand") Dir. Krzysztof Zanussi (Poland);

6."Drive" (2011) Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn (USA);

7."FireCrosser" (ToyKhtoProyshovKrizVohon) (2011) Dir. Mykhailo Illienko (Ukraine);

8."L'écume des jours" (2013) (known in US as "Mood Indigo", though the translation is "The Foam of Days") Dir. Michel Gondry (France);

9."The Guest" (2014) Dir. Adam Wingard (USA);

10."Mad Max: Fury Road" (2014) Dir. George Miller, (Australia and USA).

The problem is - great rarely equals life-changing personal favorites - if you'd asked to put a list of ten personal favorites a fewer of those will move from one list to another.

Yours sincerely,Nikolay Yeriomin.

Dear Nikolay:

It's good your hopeful; the young ought to be hopeful. I've only seen four of the films on your list, but the word great would not come to my mind regarding any of them. OK would be more like it.

Josh

Name:             David R.
E-mail:           
Date:               6/5/16

Dear Josh :

Since you liked "Amy" so much, you should check out an earlier documentary by Asif Kapadia called "Senna", about the Formula One race-car driver. Very good.

Dear David:

I'll keeps my eyes open for it. Thanks.

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            timm@indra.com
Date:               6/4/16

Dear Josh :

One last question for now, and sorry if I'm hijacking your Q and A. I enjoyed very much your recommendation, the United States of Amnesia, as well as the other recommendation you made for Louis Malle's Phantom India. What are some of the other documentary films that you have loved?

Dear Tim:

"Amy" is a really good documentary, check it out. One that comes back to mind through the mists of age, that I only saw once, 30 years ago, was "Black and White in Color," which won the Oscar that year. People died making it. "When We Were Kings" about the late, great Muhammed Ali's fight with George Foreman. Almost any of Barbra Kopple's films, like "Wild Man Blues" or the one on "Woodstock." "Monster Road," "Crumb," "Let's Get Lost," about Chet Baker, by Bruce Weber, and I want to see that again. I just watched "Directed by William Wyler" for the 20th time -- I've had two VHS copies, and now a DVD -- and I nominate it for the best episode ever of "American Masters." They interviewed Wyler 3 days before he died, and he's spunky and grinning. Uh . . . "Woodstock" itself. I just watched the "Isle of Wight" documentary and that was a miserable concert, with a great line-up.

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            timm@indra.com
Date:               6/4/16

Dear Josh :

Your last post about the decline of film really hit home. A topic I occasionally talk about with my friends who are more or less the same age as you and me (50s or so), is: Has the entire culture fundamentally rotted? On the one hand, it seems like that's what every old fart wants to believe and repeats. On the other hand, it seems objectively true. Even from a technical point of view. something like a David Lean movie seems light years away intern from anything being produced today. There are the technical elements, but there's also a sensibility – – the sophistication that seems to have completely vanished. Not to mention that few of the people I know read with any kind of hunger or consistency in the way that my parents' generation did. It feels a bit as if it's 400 A.D. and a few of us have some mosaics to reminders of what civilization is really about. Do you think it's just crankiness ? Or a fundamental shift in our society?

Dear Tim:

Yes, I believe that our society has fundamentally rotted. It's not that "Lawrence of Arabia" is out of style; it's that nobody could make it or understand it anymore. I have been decrying this for most of my life -- movies keep getting duller and stupider year after year. And art is the early-warning system of a society. And it's not just movies, it's all the arts. Please listen to the Pulitzer prize winning music for last year, "In For a Penny" by Henry Threadgill, to check if I'm overstating things. But if that's the best music, and "Spotlight" is the best movie, we're doomed. "Spotlight" isn't good enough to be an HBO movie. It's perfectly OK, unlike Mr. Threadgill's music, which is literally nothing more than an orchestra warming up. Just look at our politics. We have become a very stupid, unsophisticated society. And once everybody saw that they too could be constantly connected to the global matrix, unlike science fiction that predicted we'd have chips put in our heads, we all happily carry it around with us, and set it on the table in front of us in case we go anywhere. And now technology isn't even all that interesting. Yeah, I can get a 4k camera, but I can't show it on my TV. Yeah, I can get an iPhone 8, or Windows 10, but none of them are an improvement on the previous model. OK, we're all connected, now what? Yeah, I can get "The Hateful Eight" on my phone right now, but that doesn't make it any less of a piece of shit. If I'm just being a curmudgeonly old fart, somebody please name the ten greatest films (or songs or albums) of the past ten years. The last article I read said that all the movies are bombing right now. Nobody even like the big dumb superhero movies anymore. Seven-year-olds have had enough.

When a buffoon like Donald Trump has a serious chance at becoming president, we're doomed. The next step is "Idiocracy", then we can all wait for the great garbage avalanche of 2055.

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            timm@indra.com
Date:               6/3/16

Hello Josh :

So what's the deal with Vertigo? Iris recently saw some top 10 lists for critics and directors and vertigo is either contesting first place or in first place of their top 10 lists. I love Hitchcock and I revere Orson Welles. But even among Hitchcock's own films, Vertigo would be a few notches down the list. (For example, what about "Shadow of a Doubt" or "Notorious" or even "Psycho"? I like the film, but I don't fundementally understand the reverence for it. What do you think?

Dear Tim:

Yes, what is the deal with "Vertigo"? I wouldn't even put it on my top-ten of Hitchcock films. Let's discuss its merits: it looks great and has one of Bernard Herrmann's best scores (which I listen to frequently), and Kim Novak is at her most attractive, icy prime, and it has a terrific opening, and finale. But it's all that stuff in between that bugs me. It feels like it has more arrivals and departures then I feel like I've ever seen in anything. Jimmy Stewart slowly pulls up at some cool, San Francisco location, gets out of the car, goes to the door, knocks, waits for the door to be answered, has some dialogue, then gets back in his car and drives away. At a point my friend turned to me and asked, "Why doesn't she just tell him she's the same girl?"

From that mid- to late-1950s period I'll take "North by Northwest" and "Rear Window."

Josh

Name:             Keith
E-mail:            alwayslikethis882@gmail.com
Date:               6/2/16

Hi Josh :

I found something online that I think you would enjoy. As I am sure that you are aware, the famous film history book "Hitchcock/Truffaut" was based on a 1962 interview for French radio. That 25-part radio series is now available for free (and legally) on several websites. I found it at: http://www.slashfilm.com/listen-12-hours-franois-truffaut-interviewing-alfred-hitchcock/ Since Truffaut didn’t speak much English and Hitchcock knew very little French, a New Yorker named Helen Scott acted as translator. I found the series very interesting to listen to, in part because Hitch had such an iconic speaking voice.

Dear Keith:

I've read the book twice over the years and enjoyed it both times. I suppose I could listen to the twelve hours of the interview, too, but I feel unmoved to do so. In the course of my life I think I've read every book written about Alfred Hitchcock, and I've seen damn near all of his movies (there are still a few silents I haven't seen), and I think I get him pretty well. I was just trying to rewatch "Strangers On a Train," a movie I've never really liked, and I still don't. I don't give a crap about either of the lead characters. I know if I stick with it long enough there's some nice filmmaking ahead, but I'm not sure it's worth it. My question is: did filmmaking hit some kind of pinnacle with Hitchcock? And Ford and Wyler and those guys? Or did it hit its peak with Coppola and Scorsese in the 1970s? But it hit its peak somewhere in the past and now we're just watching it slide down the hill. I just started writing an essay entitled, "Movies Are Shit," which I'm somewhat uninspired to finish. But I felt that after putting in a mighty effort and seeing about 25 of the 2015 movies I ought to comment. Movies stink. There aren't any great filmmakers out there, and that includes the aged Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola. Hitchcock could make a brilliant scene out of a guy just standing on an empty road waiting for who knows what? Now all we've got is an embarrassment like Quentin Tarantino who, in the greatest waste of Ultra Panavision 70 ever, only knows how to repeat the word nigger over and over again while senselessly smacking a woman in the face with a gun butt every few minutes. Anyway, thanks for the link.

Josh

Name:             Russ
E-mail:           
Date:               5/16/16

Dear Josh :

I've often read reviewers say that the script was rubbish but the actor/actress made the drivel watchable with their talent. I realize there are fine actors out there and some not so fine but is that possible? As a writer your thoughts? How about as a director? Can a director make a script better than it is?

Dear Russ:

I'd like to believe that I made the Xena episodes I directed better than they were. I added jokes and songs, and anything else I thought was amusing or funny. A director brings their sensibility to the show. And it's always great having an actor give a terrific performance. But no matter what you're stuck with the script, and if it stinks than you can probably bet the movie or show will stink, too. As they've been saying forever, "If it ain't on the page it ain't on the stage."

Josh

Name:             Justin Hayward
E-mail:            justinhayw@gmail.com
Date:               5/10/16

Hey Josh :

Lately I've been working on a script I'm really enjoying and when people ask me if I'm working on another movie, I feel like I am, even though it's only the script and not the production. It occurred to me that even though I'm not a writer, I still get tremendous pleasure from writing a movie. I get about the same pleasure from writing a movie as I do from shooting one, or editing, or even sound mixing. All of it feels like "making movies" to me and making movies is what I enjoy. You're an actual writer, so I'm probably asking a rhetorical question, but do you get the same thrill from writing as you do from everything else involved with making a movie? Thanks

Dear Justin:

I'm glad you brought this up. I love writing. I write every day, and I think of it like weightlifting: the more you do it the more comfortable it gets, although it never gets easy. I do think there is a whole school of thought regarding your comment, "it's only the script," where writing the script is the incidental part of filmmaking. It's not incidental, it's the most important part of the process. Without a good script nothing you can do afterward will fix it, no matter how good your lighting, your shot selection, your casting or anything else. But, as I mentioned, it never gets an easier writing a good script. Because I write so much I don't have any problem sitting down and knocking out a 120 page script, but that doesn't mean it will be good. As Irving Thalberg, former head of production at MGM, said long ago, "The most important decision you'll make is your first one -- what story am I telling."

Josh

Name:             Dave G.
E-mail:           
Date:               5/7/16

Dear Josh :

Can't find the Film Threat article you wrote on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Do you have a link to it?

Dear Dave:

It got taken down, but will now go back up. Here's the link.

Josh


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