Q & A    Archive
Page 112

Name: dave
E-mail: voxosoxo@lineone.net

Dear Josh:

loved it as i just read Mark Gados account of crowley...the remark wipe the seat had me laughing man some of them were tough in there last seconds on this earth in the death chamber bob elliot shouldnt have been so quick with that goddam switch as people have a right to speak..i beleive when the military executed soldiers here in england the proceedings took up to an hour speeches etc..the verdict readout..
almost like a party canned beer passed around way to go..not that way..great writing all best dave

Dear Dave:

Yeah, there's a definitely a movie there with "Two-Gun" Crowley. One of these days . . .

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: wakko@icon-stl.net

Josh,

I'm sure you've heard this argument about other anime shows, but Cowboy Bebop is definitely not a kid's show. At least, it's not one I'd let *my* kids watch until they were at least thirteen, if I had kids. The premise of the show is that in the future, man leaves the earth behind and is spread out all over the galaxy. And as man spread, so did crime. However, the police have become too corrupt and spread too thin to be effective as enforcers the law. So to compensate, the police and private institutions employ the services of bounty hunters to bring in fugitives. Cowboy Bebop follows the exploits of a group of four of these bounty hunters. If you ever do decide to watch it, it's on Cartoon Network's adult swim. Again, I'm not saying that Bebop is a typical example of anime, I'm just saying that if you want to find anime that even approaches being good, you have to look beyond the ones they show on Kids' WB. And as far as animation being a format for children, you of all people should realize that the first animated cartoons were not created with children in mind as the main audience.

Dear Ben:

No, the very first animated films by Winsor McCay were simply experiments in film technique and drawing, intended for the amazement of young and old. Then, for many years cartoons were short subjects in front of the feature, so they were intended for everyone, as were the first animated features by Walt Disney, then by Max Fleischer. But once TV took hold in the '50s and the old cartoons were packaged as TV shows and shown on Saturday morning, then animation became intended for kids. Animation was what originally piqued my interest in film, but I'll be damned if it interests me at all anymore. I can still watch the old Bugs Bunnys or any of the Warners cartoons, or really any of the cartoons from the 1930s and '40s, and I particularly like the oddball stuff, like Rudolph Ising or any of the Fleischer bros. work, which has astounding animation. Since then, however, animation has gotten simpler and simpler, and far less interesting to me. And most of that anime stuff, to me, looks like crap, with very few actual drawing being made. That "Cowboy Bepop" has adult-oriented scripts is swell, but I just don't care. Sorry.

Josh

Name: George
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

A while back I had noticed that Raiders of the Lost Ark used to be on the films you actively like list. After reading the post where you claimed that you thought it was crap from the get go, I have to wonder if it was listed by mistake, or if you initially liked something about it. Second, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Easy Rider. I saw it for the second time yesterday, and like many things about it. I understand that It was a refelction of late 60s counterculture, but thought it got a tad pretentious at times, especially during the scene with Karen Black in the cemetery. I understand that the charactors were high, which is what Hopper was trying to convey, but it strangely reminded me of certain stylistic choices that pretentious contemporary directors, such as Spike Jonze and Paul Thomas Anderson, use. Perhaps the true difference is that Easy Rider had a theme, and was a reflection of a cultural movement, whereas Anderson and Jonze have nothing to say. What are your thoughts?

Dear George:

My, my, but aren't we the observant one. Quite frankly, I don't know how "Raiders" got on my fav list, but I suspect it was that lousey son of a bitch Gerry who started this website a million years ago. He had undue influence on me early on as the site was being built and several films that I wasn't really crazy about, but which Gerry liked and had found good pictures for, and thus they got on there. One by one over the years I've noticed them and had them removed, hoping no one would ever take me to task for it. Alas, that day has come. Anyway, I like "Easy Rider" a lot. I think it's fun, well-shot, and so clearly of it's time and reveling in it, and of course it has a terrific ending. Also, the wacky editing that nobody else has ever bothered to use again. Jack Nicholson is brilliant, and so is Dennis Hopper. And the scene where they get Nicholson stoned is one of the greatest scenes in a movie ever (Nicholson takes the joint and says, "So, then you say it's okay?" and when they're done Peter Fonda stubs out the roach and says, "We'll smoke it in the morning, it'll give you a whole new perspective on the day.") Really, what more can you ask for from a low-budget movie? I immediately went home and sewed an American flag on the back of my army jacket.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: JEaganfilm@aol.com

Josh,

Speaking of John Boorman, I just read an interesting article of his on an aussie website: www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/08/1073437409701.html
He makes some great points and its a shame that he's finding it so difficult to find work anymore. I haven't seen a whole lot of his movies, just Point Blank and Deliverance, but you would think a guy with his talent would be able to get hired for something. I wonder if some of it has to do with ageism. I know an older screenwriter who wrote a bunch of movies in the 70s and 80s including Philadelphia Experiment who doesn't get hired for movies anymore. I guess since the target audience anymore is 16 year old boys, the studios dont trust an experienced (older) screenwriter to make something the kids will like. I wonder what Hollywood will do if suddenly 16 year old boys find another form of entertainment to replace movies. When you figure that the summer movies are costing upwards of $300 mill or so to make and market, all it would really take is a couple of these to completely bomb and the studios would be out of business. Probably not gonna happen anytime soon, but who knows. I wouldn't be all that disappointed if we had a few less lotrs or batman movies. Apparently this is happening with the tv networks, where the ratings for 18-24 males is down a huge number this season so they're trying to come up with mid-season shows for a different audience. I guess video games are good for something.

Jim

Dear Jim:

That's a good article, and I agree with most everything he's saying except the snide comments about script structure. Although I think Boorman is talented director, I've never much cared for his writing (regarding "Deliverance," which he says he wrote, it was based on a book by James Dickey, who wrote a script that Boorman rewrote, and Dickey got the sole credit). Nevertheless, he sums up the Hollywood system quite well at this juncture, and I too would love to see the whole system collapse under its own stupid weight. And there's probably nowhere on earth where ageism is more rampant than Hollywood. They don't want strong directors or strong writers because the executives are not interested in those folk's opinions. It's their job to do as they're told. Also, with global economics at work, and most films being shot somewhere other than the USA, it's simply cheaper to work with inexperienced, non-union directors, who make less money and are much more willing to be pushed around. This system will ALWAYS produce bad films. Any system that doesn't value experience is a bad, fucked-up system.

Josh

Name: Calvin, again.
E-mail: Breakin.2@Electric.Boogaloo

Josh -

My heart fills with pride. I welcome your constructive tip, made all the more welcome by your refrain from just calling me a "Wordy Bastard." Thanks.

As a show of gratitude, I'll take up this daunting task you've set before me:

I don't care anymore about The Lord of the Rings. At first, what was promised to be a faithful fantasy adaptation seemed interesting, despite the fact that I wasn't able to get past page 120 in the first book without feeling utterly lost. The cast themselves seem able enough to carry the story, given a decent script and director, but that's not the case here. The characters are stiff as a board, and the dialogue borders on community theater melodrama. Peter Jackson has no idea how to handle a story of this magnitude, and hence covers up his ineptitude with constant epic wide shots and "ominous" close-ups on the ring. Trim out all the swooping shots of the landscape and cutaways to the EEEEVIL ring, and you lose a good hour of extraneous crap.

Dear Calvin:

Ditto. Is that an expression anymore? But, hey, I realize that there always has to be a "cool, new thing," whatever it may be. Star Warses or Matrixes or whatever. As Paul Simon says, "Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts." But this stuff now just isn't very good. I mean, I can completely go along with Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," and that's a fantasy, because I'm given Act I, in black & white, with her on the farm, and how she'd like to go over the rainbow somewhere, and how Mrs. Gulch wants to take her dog, and how she runs away and meets the fortune-teller ("Poor girl, I hope she gets home all right"), and by the time the twister comes and she gets knocked on the head, I completely empathize with her when she goes off into fantasy land. In "The Lord of the Rings," a ten-hour adaptation of three novels, they didn't think it was necessary to get me to know or care about their lead characters. Well, I'm sorry, but everything else is bullshit. It's frosting on a cardboard cake, and I'm not buying it even if everybody else is.

Josh

Name: Calvin Gray
E-mail: upon payment

Hark unto thee, Josh,

Salutations once again, from the jerk who suggested that you subject yourself to watching NARC (just to elaborate on how crap it was). Sorry about that.

But on the subject of analyzing films, I've noticed that you and I have the same distaste for the sycophantic movie critics judging our cinema as of late. Hardly any of them put real thought or value in the art of filmmaking, simply passing off movies that they didn't have too much of a problem sitting through with a pithy little quip. And one of the worst goddamn phrases in human history has to be "good, mindless fun."

It's guys like Roger "loves tits" Ebert and his motard cohort Roeper who perpetuate these lowered standards for films, and in turn lowered expectations of people. It's gotten to the point that the only people I trust are Leonard Maltin (who's been MIA from the game, making bumper ads for low-rent movie channels) and you, for the most part. So I've gotten into the habit of writing my own critiques, if only to establish my own firm viewpoints on movies. And I'm just fucking tired of my non-cinemaphile friends hassling me about my opinions on movies.

I've posted a couple of them in a Blog, because I'm too much of an idiot to wangle with HTML. If you're at all interested in reading them, perhaps to compare notes or give me pointers, I'd be much obliged.

I have one for Kill Bill (yes, I hated it):
http://www.livejournal.com/users/skunkparadox/2863.html

And another for The Station Agent:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/skunkparadox/1176.html

Hark back at you, Calvin:

I read the first 17 or so paragraphs of your "Kill Bill" review and bailed. I think you're trying a bit to hard to be witty, and I don't think you need to begin with the history of Quentin Tarantino at this late date, we all know it. You write well, and you've got emotion, so just tell me what you think and why. And since I haven't seen "Kill Bill," or the "The Station Agent," I can't comment on the validity of your opinions. For me anyway, this is a contentious issue -- state in a paragraph what you think of the "Lord of the Rings" movies (as I did a minute ago), and you don't need to give me a bio of Tolkein or Peter Jackson.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

I heard on NPR this evening that just under 9000 Army troops had been evacuated from Iraq for medical treatment of injuries and/or sickness. That is the Army only. The NPR reporter couldn't get figures on the other services, only runarounds from department spokespersons.

I'm just curious, which ending in "Raiders" did you object to; the part where Jones and the woman don't get killed by the specters, being good gentiles, or the one where the Ark gets stored in a giant warehouse which, we are meant to believe, is full of such antiquities and oddities. That part reminded me of the line from "Python and the Holy Grail" where the Frenchmen replies, "We've already got one!"

That series of movies is another example of Spielberg's conception of Nazi's as cardboard cutouts without redeeming qualities. One can imagine the thought process;

Spielberg: "Let's makes the bad guys Nazis!"

End of thought process.

Again, to give him his due, Spielberg did have some good shots in that film. He probably would have made a fine DP, or even cinematographer. But it isn't just the Nazis; Spielberg sees everyone and everything as black and white. Oddly, given that the bad guys are always completely bad in a Spielberg movie, there is never a sense of menace, unless it is in the threat of a sequel. Only in "Jaws" is there a true sense of menace and I agree with you that "Jaws" is not truly a Spielberg film.

Interesting sidenote on that. I watched a "Making of" show on "Jaws" and the mechanical shark was developed in fresh water and basically dissolved in the salt water of the sea. As a result they redid the story boards and only let the audience see the shark at the end, because they could only shoot a very limited amount with the mechanical. In other words, what makes "Jaws" so great ran counter to Spielberg's "vision" of the movie. It turned out so well because of technical difficulties.

It would be a real treat to some day see someone post an insult to you in proper grammar. I kain't haardlee reed sume of thim.

John

Dear John:

If you're making a simple-minded action-serial, why have such a nonsequitur, cynical ending where you're suddenly saying, out of nowhere, that the American government hides all the good things from us? There isn't a second's set-up for that ending, and it therefore sucks the big one. I saw the film with my dad, and we both came out of theater, lit a cigarette, shook our heads and muttered, "Well, that was a piece of crap." Then it became the biggest hit of the year. But then, the biggest hit of the year before was "The Empire Strikes Back," and I though that sucked even worse. And since then it's been one film after another just like them -- meaning stupid and very poorly written. Spielberg uses the same idiotic set-up in both "1941" and "Raiders," which didn't work in either one, as far as I'm concerned. In "1941" a guy (Treat Williams? I forget) keeps saying, "I hate eggs!" then finally ends up being thrown into a big box of eggs. In "Raiders" Indy gets into the plane, and incongruously finds a snake, and says, "I hate snakes!" For a while there, me and my buds regularly ridiculed Spielberg by saying, "I hate snake eggs!" It's all just knuckled-headed writing. Yes, Spielberg does know how to set up a shot, but so what? There's a lot more to filmmaking than finding a nice place for the camera. A DP is a cinematographer, BTW.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: wakko@icon-stl.net

Josh,

I seem to remember you not having a high opinion of Japanese animation in general. Not that I blame you if you don't like Japanese cartoons. I'd say that approximately 95% of the Japanese cartoons that cross over to America are total crap. But keep in mind that not every one of them is a Pokemon knockoff. Have you ever seen Cowboy Bebop? If you can watch an episode of Cowboy Bebop and can honestly say you hate it, then I will never ask you to comment on japanese cartoons ever again.

Dear Ben:

I'm sorry, but I just don't care about animation anymore, and certainly not anime. I loved cartoons as a kid, but I grew up. When I was a child I spake as a child, I thought as a child, but now I'm a man, and I've put away childish things. You like that? I just made it up. Everyone (particularly directors like Spielberg and Lucas) are always talking about their fucking "inner child," well mine grew up, and now I'm more concerned about my outer adult. But I did like "Kimba the White Lion" when I was ten.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I agree; DELIVERANCE is an excellent film. His handling of the rural characters is interesting in that he doesn't lean one way or the other about them politically, no matter what they do. Most filmakers either totally lampoon rural people as hopelessly backward hillbillies, with comedic effect, or just as totally worship them as the salt of the earth, keepers of morals and wisdom the wider world has forgot, etc. Boorman simply puts the camera on them and lets them act as they will (in the case of the story, clannish and hostile to outsiders), which is much more believable.
Another good film that I resaw recently was SCARFACE (the Brian DePalma version). Al Pacino's performance is excellent, and he doesn't speak one complete sentence in Spanish throughout the entire film! Some would criticize the director's choice of casting a non-Hispanic actor to play the Cuban Tony Montana, but Pacino sold it.
Speaking of Pacino, I also watched THE GODFATHER again recently. I still can't believe that Coppola assembled such an all-star cast, and that it all worked (that movie was definitely an actor's film, not a movie star vehicle). I guess sometimes you just get lucky, and it all comes together at the right place and time.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

There's a lot of talent involved there, too. Coppola did pull it off again brilliantly with "Godfather Part II," so it wasn't just luck. Coppola's conception of the whole thing and his empathy with the characters is incredible. The photography, production design, music, costumes, locations, everything is just perfect. And, unlike "Scarface," Pacino is giving a very subdued, believable performance. Mr. Pacino is fun in "Scarface," but it's a ridiculous, way-over-the-top, performance, and I really found the last 45 minutes of that film to be very dull. It's sort of interesting to me that people are taking that film far more seriously now than they did when it came out. It wasn't critically acclaimed, nor was it a very big success. For my money I'll still take Howard Hawks' 1932 version. There's nothing in the remake as good as Boris Karloff being murdered while he's bowling -- he's shot just as he lets go of the ball, he dies, then gets a strike. Nor is there anything as cinematically interesting in the remake as Hawks's opening tracking shot. Nevertheless, DePalma's remake is probably better than any film produced in the last five years, so I see why people are now taking it seriously. But it's still a joke of a movie.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I know you just read John Boorman's autobiography and I am going to get it soon.

I just wanted to say that he is one of my favorite contemporary Directors. With the exception of "Where the Heart is" which we both know was changed by Hollywood from his original idea, I actually enjoy all of his films and even "Beyond Rangoon" had very good moments in it, but the story was too contrived.

"Hope and Glory" is one of my favorite films of all time!

I agree with you and he that Hollywood beat him up badly and I am glad to see that he is making his own films now. even if they are not as great as his earlier ones.

I have to rent "Point Blank" again. Netflix dosen't have it yet. It is not on DVD yet.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I just watched "Point Blank" again and it's a very interesting movie that had a lot of influence on the tough-guy films that followed it, particularly Walter Hill's films. I watched "Hope and Glory" again, too, and I enjoyed it, but I think it's dramatically fucked up. The family spends all of acts I and II being bombed by the Germans in London during WWII, then their house gets blown up at the end of act II, so they go stay with the grandfather who lives in a pretty little house on the Thames River, and the spend all of act III having a swell time swimming, boating, and playing cricket. Well, why the hell didn't they go there in the first place? Why stay in London and be bombed when you have such a lovely, happy place you could go? Would it have been inconvenient for the grandfather? Once they leave London, the film dramatically falls apart. I also just watched his 1998 Irish film, "The General," and it was a severe bore. At least the girls in "Beyond Rangoon" are cute.

Josh

Name: Richard
E-mail: filmfan_1@hotmail.com

Josh,

Fair enough. I can appreciate your point of view on Spielberg, as much as I disagree.

As to my second question, what are your thoughts on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films?

I just don't see how you could find fault with them. They are phenomenal, and the new film mythology of our time.

Richard

Dear Richard:

I think they're as dull as watching paint dry. I think the writing and characterization are just terrible, I didn't give a rat's ass about Elija Wood or Sean Astin, and therefore I didn't care about anything. It has possibly the most convoluted, gobbledy-gook exposition ever in a movie, and I could really care less about this stupid ring. Peter Jackson's staging of dialog scenes is so flat-footed it was painful. I absolutely hated it. And the effects did nothing for me. And at a combined length of ten hours, this may the longest, dullest piece of shit ever produced. These films are a perfect representation of where the art of moveimaking has descended to, which is that they could well have been made by a machine -- scan the books in and it vomits those movies out.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I see that politics has once agin become the topic of discussion. I do have a movie related question/opinion, but I'm curious to know your thoughts on the media's lenientcy toward GW's fuck ups! I was not around during Watergate, so my only point of reference is Clinton's impeachment, which the media jumped on. I guess when it comes to the media, sex is an easier sell than say war profeteering or lies about weapons of mass destruction. This is the first time I have ever seen fear and intimidation turn our society into mindless sheep. It is also the first time I have seen public opinion be easily swayed by some half truth the media reports. The biggest, and most irresponsible lie in recent months is that the economy had the greatest recovery in 20 years due to the lame brained tax cuts. Tell that to the 6 million people who have lost their jobs since 2001,or our grandchildren who will be paying for the increasing defecit. In any event, I don't know who's at fault, the so called "liberal" media deviating from what is really important, or the majority of the populace who take everything at face value, and can't think for themselves. Now that I got that off my chest, I just saw Once Upon a Time in the West last night, and loved every minute of it. It was beautifly shot, well directed, and had a very engageing story. I think it's Leone's best film. What did you think of it?

Dear Scott:

There is no liberal media. All media is controlled by conglomerates, and all of which are run by right-wing conservatives. If the white house says the economy is improving, they report it with no comments. Just like all these stupid polls they're forever flashing on CNN and MSNBC. That Bush's approval rating is over 50%, and that most Americans think the economy is improving. Do you really think they're polling a true cross-section of Americans? I don't think so. But it's not just about who's in the white house, as we saw from Clinton's near-impeachment. The Republicans are mud-slingers. What do you suppose they would have done if a Democrat had fucked up as royally as Bush has? He would have been impeached, that's what. I'm ashamed of the Democrats for not trying get Bush impeached -- lying about the "imminent threat" from Iraq and the utterly bogus WMDs would easily have gotten that asshole booted out of office if someone had just pushed it. Regarding Watergate, the media treated it like it was complete bullshit until it was proven beyong a shadow of a doubt, then they switched sides.

As for "Once Upon a Time in the West," well, maybe it's Leone's best film. That or "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." For me anyway, Leone had kind of snail's pace, his films are almost all 30-60 minutes too long, and there's a lot of standing and posing. He did have style, and the casting in "Once" is terrific, as is the use of wide-screen, but it kind of bored me, as do all of his films.

Josh

Name: Kim
E-mail: mrsdagle@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

So what do you really think of Spielberg? haha, just joshing with ya' I just saw Joe (Peter Boyle) and am wondering what you thought about this movie. Reviews have asserted Joe was the true prototype for Archie Bunker. I liked the story quite a bit but the ending fell apart. The male bonding was very interesting and seemed authentic. It led me to wonder if any "chick flick" has addressed as serious of themes as did Joe or other male bonding movies. (racism, classism, sexism, drug use/abuse all at the same time). Perhaps I haven't seen enough movies, but it seems that all the real, "existential" movies are centered on male relationships. (Zero Kelvin is a great character study)
Kim

Dear Kim:

I haven't seen "Joe" in over 30 years, but I enjoyed it and thought it had things to say. I've always felt that John Avlidsen's career was a major let-down. He did "Joe," then "Rocky," then never made a worthwhile film again, which includes all of those idiotic "Karate Kid" movies. But for the guy that directed "Joe," I always felt he was one of the really big sell-outs. I can't think of any female bonding movie that addresses a lot of big issues. For some reason "The Group" comes to mind, which is about eight female Vassar graduates and what they go through after college, with gorgeous young Candy Bergen. But it's from 1966 and I don't recall it dealing with that many heavy issues.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I read your last post, and your point is also valid. We can't do everything for the Iraqis, or Iraq will end up like Bosnia where, as one Air Force lieutenant-colonel put it in a book, "the Serbs and Bosnians have subcontracted the governing of their country to the UN and the United States." At some point soon, the Iraqis have to be on their own, sink or swim (it is, in fact, moving towards that point even now). The key to making that happen is tempering the tone of life in the country. If the institutions start functioning again, the economy continues to grow, and some sort of homegrown stability is achieved, then the business and professional classes will have the confidence to sponsor the new government, one based on order and some semblance of reason. If those efforts fail, than the imams will rise to power on the backs of the unemployed Shi'i in the cities, and Iraq will go the way of Iran, only with 47% of the Middle East's oil to fund all kinds of havoc on the world. Alot of people say that the war was all about the oil, and in a way they were right. Oil is money, money is power, and who holds the power in the Middle East dictates the safety and stability of the rest of the world. Therein lies the problem. Mass poverty, radical religion, and vast wealth in the wrong malicious hands is a recipe for disaster.
One last thing in passing, and I'll jump off the soapbox; I have nothing but respect for the Kurds. Personally, I think they have more than enough balls to make up for the limpness of their Arab neighbors to the south, and they deserve either autonomy or a lion's share in the new government.

Darryl

P.S. I'm gettin' too political; what do you say we go back to movies?

D.

Dear Darryl:

Yes, let's try to stick to movies, but occasionally the issues of the world just have to intrude. The Kurds want to establish Kurdistan, but I don't think anyone will let them. That will remain a problem, but it's not our problem. Iraq shouldn't be exclusively our problem, either. If GW hadn't done such a tremendous job of alienating America from the whole rest of the world, as well as being so horribly blatant about the rebuilding contracts, which are just war profiteering, this would be an international issue, like the Gulf War. We need to get out of there, repair our relations with the rest of the world, and let the international community take over. That's my opinion. And as Dennis Kucinich said, until we get out of Iraq, which has already cost nearly 500 American lives (and fucked up nearly 3,000 more due to wounds), as well as $200 billion, we can't even discuss domestic issues because there's no money for them.

Anyway, back to movies. I just watched "Deliverance" again, and it's such a terrific, intelligent, strongly-written, well-directed, beautifully shot, tremendously acted film, it amazes me. There isn't a director working that could have handled the film as well as John Boorman did, and there's almost no hand-held camerawork in a situation where everybody now would shoot that film all hand-held.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Watched "Paths of Glory" last night. Amazing. Wonderful. Fantastic. And surprisingly only 87 minutes long, which is short for Kubrick! My favorite actor in the film was Timothy Carey, whom I recognized from "East of Eden" and "The Killing." Great character actor. Haunted eyes. Apparently, he pissed off both Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando while filming with them in "Eden" and "One-Eyed Jacks," respectively. This apparently relegated him to B-movie-Actor status and he is sadly forgotten these days.

Great flick. Another one I'm sure would never be made today.

If I'm not mistaken, I think that previous letter-writer was concerned that you hadn't given Adam West his props as "the first Batman." How dare you? West is a phenomenon! Anyway...

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

I don't know what everyone's problem is, I loved the "Batman" TV show as a kid. I think Adam West made a far better Batman than Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer or George Clooney. I'll take the 1966 Batman movie over Tim Burton's any day of the week because it's actually funny. And yes, "Paths of Glory" is one of the great movies. The tracking shots through the trenches are awesome, the battle scenes are brilliantly filmed, and all of the performances are terrific. I particularly enjoy George Macready. Timothy Carey has the funniest line in the film when the one guy is freaking out, saying that cockroach will know more about his wife and kids the next day than he will. Carey smashes the bug and says, "There, now you've got the edge on it."

Josh

Name: Richard
E-mail: filmfan_1@hotmail.com

Josh,

Okay, you're right. You got me. I'm generalizing a bit. Some of your favorite films aren't worse than ANY of Spielberg's films (I didn't like Hook or 1941 either.)

But films like First Blood and L.A. Story? They sit among your favorites while you trash Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, etc.?

I'm a huge fan of Spielberg's and truly think his work deserves all of the acclaim it has received. Even you have to respect the fact that he has never been pigeon-holed into a genre (much like Tarantino and Scorsese) and continues to push and challenge himself in new and interesting ways. Come on...A.I. and Minority Report were interesting and very fresh films, to say the least.

I'm a fan of your film Running Time and a big fan of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Considering the company you keep and the films you've made, you're obviously a very talented guy.

I just think your harsh approach to 9 out of every 10 films that are released is a bit much. It's almost like you set out to hate the films that are considered the most acclaimed.

I'm almost afraid to ask, but what do you think of the Lord of the Rings films?

Richard

Dear Richard:

We'll just have to agree to disagree. With no exaggeration, "Minority Report" and "A.I." were two of the most difficult movies to sit through that I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through. Dreary and endless. I really and truly hated them both. I'd sit through "1941" again before either of those two. "Catch Me If You Can" is a real lame fuck film, but it was easier to sit through than MR or AI. Spielberg may well be challenging himself with each new film he makes, but he's not challenging me. And certainly "Saving Private Ryann" and "Schindler's List" are interesting subjects, but he handles them like a dunce. As Pauline Kael said, "Spielberg has become a truly dreadful director." I'm one of the few people that has nnever liked "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which I found to be an exceptionally hollow experience, with a totally inappropriate ending. But I do like "Jaws," I'll give him that, although I'm convinced the reason I like it is because it wasn't Spielberg's production.

Josh

Name: Simon
E-mail: simin99t@yahoo.com.au

Dear Josh:

You sir are an idiot. I couldnt put it any better than you yourself have said "We are living in a foolish day and age". I can not agree more when people fail to akowledge anything that happened before 1980. What are you a complete ignorant moron? The first batman movie stared Micheal Keaton? Amazing, let me guess you dont know about the tv shows either do you? How about the comics?

Dear Simon:

Did I ever say that the first Batman movie didn't star Michael Keaton? What the hell are you talking about? If English is actually your first language, then I'd be careful who I'm calling an ignorant moron, because you write like you're in first-grade.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I don't object to Operation Iraqi Freedom or even to soldiers being in Iraq; my main beef is being here so LONG (one-year boots on the ground is too long, especially for the National Guard and the Reserves-six to nine months would have been more reasonable). Since being here, I've met alot of Iraqis who've benefited from ousting Saddam Hussein, and it would be doing them dirty to leave Iraq before a new government is fully in place. The new police force and the army are in their infancy, and a pull-out right now would mean chaos at best. At worst, Iraq would become the next province of the new Iranian empire. I can't speak for every soldier here, but I know that as tired and ready to go home as I am, I want to look back on this time and know that it wasn't in vain, that some good came out of it. Iraq will probably always be dangerous, but if everything's still standing a year from now, I can look at that and be able to live with myself.

Darryl

 

P.S. I've enclosed some more pictures. One is one of tanks patrolling the Abu Gharib Market (one of the shittier, more crime-ridden districts of the city). The second is two of our platoon leaders, the third is a long view of the crossed sabers monument (from 1LT Chiverton's disc; he had a better lenses and got more into frame)and the last two are of two of our guys doing rooftop security, shortly after the al-Khadra Police Station was car-bombed a few months ago).

D.

 

Dear Darryl:

I certainly see your point, but quite frankly I don't think we owe those folks anything. We ousted Saddam for them because they were too lame to do it themselves. OK, that's been done. I seriously believe that the only reason we're not actively bringing in the UN and foreign troops is because we now want to profit off the spoils, or at least let Bush and Cheney's cronies profit off it. I don't give a shit about Haliburton or any of these rebuilding contracts, and I don't think they're worth a single American life. Sadly, I believe that whether we're there for six more months or three more years, when we leave the country will go the way it goes, which, like Afghanistan, even with a new governing council, immediately became the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The bottom line is, if and when the Iraqis ever get one-man-one-vote, they'll get exactly the government they want and deserve, and since they have an overriding majority, that's how it will go. But removing Saddam was definitely a good thing, and he sure as hell ain't coming back. Now let's let them get on with their own destiny, and let's get back to improving our own here in America.

Josh

Name: Jim Plannette
E-mail: Jimz101@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Just one more thing about gaffers, or at least this gaffer. I don't do anything with electricity. My assistant, Best Boy, handles all of that. I collaborate with the Cameraman on the lighting.

Sincerely,

Jim

Dear Jim:

I don't mean to beat this issue into the dirt, and I have no doubt that if I hired you to light my picture you absolutely could do it, and very possibly quite well, too. But a DP doesn't necessarily "collaborate" with a gaffer. Conrad Hall could work with different gaffers and still achieve the Conrad Hall look he was after. Most of the DPs I've worked with over the past 20-odd years weren't really "collaborating" with the gaffer, they were telling the gaffer what they wanted and the gaffer then made it happen. Perhaps I'm harping on this because I have the same issue with DPs. One of the DPs along the way (a very talented guy, too) said to me, "I thought this was a collaboration." I replied, "You're mistaken, you work for me. That doesn't mean you can't make suggestions, but we're not collaborating, you're helping me achieve what I'm after. I'm the director, I'm the captain of the ship, and you are a lieutenant, not my co-captain." If that's the case, the gaffer is the top sergeant to the DP's lieutenant. Would you agree?

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Here's the answer for Diana's questions: David Letterman came to the crossed swords monument on Christmas Eve to shake hands and take autographs (as well as Paul Schaffer and Biff Henderson; I have pictures with them as well). It was simple to go see them, our compound is across the street. The rumor was that he was taping a show in Baghdad, but the visit wasn't part of it, more of a "for the boys" goodwill visit. They handed out Late Show T-Shirts as well as an offer for any soldier there to go to a show taping in New York for free (which I thought was really cool of Dave).
I'm with the 143rd Military Police Company (Combat Support), Connecticut Army National Guard, out of Hartford, CT. The unit wears the state headquarters patch (it's a triangle with grapevines in it; we call it the taco chip), but in the pictures, I'm wearing a 29th Infantry Division patch (a round yin-yang symbol). Why? My previous unit was part of the 29th, and the deployment left my new unit short of the right patches (being common only to the Connecticut Guard, they have to be special ordered), so I figured it was better'n nothing.
As for the black thing clamped on the helmets, that's the mounting bracket for night vision goggles, which can be slipped off the bracket when not in use (good thing, too; those goggles keep pulling your Kevlar down over your eyes). The goggles can be flipped up away from the face or taken off completely.

Hope that answers it,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

We all thank you for your answers, as well as for doing what you're doing so we don't have to. On the presidential debates yesterday from Iowa, I must say that I agree with Dennis Kucinich the most -- the biggest issue, no question, is being in Iraq, and we need to get out ASAP. The very best way to support the troops is to bring them home. Staying in Iraq for a couple of more years is just plainly a bad idea, and we're never going to stop losing soldiers there. And until we get out of Iraq, we have no money to spend at home for health care, social services or anything else. I don't know what you folks in the military think, but that's my opinion. Stay safe.

Josh

Name: Bob D
E-mail: upon request

Dear Josh:

The last e-mail I think I left out Dear Josh:, please accept this as a correction.

Dear Bob D:

That's okay, as you can see it does it automatically, whether you think I'm dear or not.

Josh

Name: Bob D
E-mail: upon request, maybe

Dear Josh:

I just rented the movie Monument Ave. I know it is not a new movie, but it was better than I expected. I would recommend it, but unless you are familiar with blue collar northeast neighborhoods, that are in the process of 'gentrification', I don't know if the viewer would completely get it. Nonetheless, I think the story holds its own and most people should be able to watch it. The 'f' word is predominant, and drug use occurs, otherwise the film is basically inoffensive.

Someone else mentioned that they would like to hear more movie reviews from you. I would agree with this. But that is up to you.

I also agree that Judgment at Nuremburg eclipses Schindler's List for various reasons. I actually have been working out the comparison in my mind and my post it here as a post. I remember discussing this with someone (a Harvard grad.) around 10 years ago when SL first was release and he thought the the idea the JAN was better than SL was absurd. What I think part of what is happening here is that many people have forgotten Nuremburg completely. I don't even think it is on DVD yet. It may have to do with th e fact that it is in B&W. More on this later, if you think it is worthwhile.

Dear Bob D:

Please, expound on the comparison as much as you'd like. Let's face it, most people are unaware of most movies that are 20 years old or older. There's also this ridiculous, contemporary notion that anything new is good and better than anything old. There's also this slobbering idolatry of Steven Spielberg because he's so successful, even though he's clearly a shallow simpleton. As Pauline Kael so aptly put it in the wonderful last book about her that came out not too long ago, "Afterglow," that Spielberg became a "truly dreadful director." I find his films to be deeply stupid and unwatchable. Whereas, my respect for Stanley Kramer continues to rise. He was intelligent, the stories he told were generally powerful, insightful, beautifully cast, and very well-made. And he was a great producer before he became a director, having produced such terrific, low-budget, films as: "Champion," "The Men," "High Noon," The Member of the Wedding," "The Wild One," "The Caine Mutiny," "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," "The Juggler," and many others. The major difference between "Schindler's List" and "Judgement at Nuremburg" is the intelligence behind the story, and the point they're making. Spielberg, being sort of a dunce, chose the story of the one good Nazi. Well, if the one good Nazi got mixed in with all the others and got shoved off a cliff, I could care less. But in "Judgement" the story is much more complicated because it's a trial about the German judges. A judge doesn't make the laws, they only enforce them. If the country they live in starts passing unfair laws, what is their responsibility? That's an interesting issue. The point of SL seems to be that Nazis are monsters, but Schindler was a really good man. If Spielberg hadn't glossed over Schindler's whole early life as a devout Nazi, using Jewish slave labor in his factory, many of whom died along the way, there's no way he could ever make him out to be a good man. Oscar Schindler was an opportunist. When it was good for Schindler to be a Nazi, he was a Nazi; when it seemed like the only way to save his own ass was to save some Jews, he saved some Jews. Schindler did what was best for Schindler, and that is never touched in the film. By saving those Jews, Schindler got off at the Nuremburg trials -- and that's why he did it, not that he didn't come to feel some sympathy for them along the way, but unlike the way Spielberg depicts it, he never cried and blubbered in front of them. That Oscar Schindler is now considered a great man (being lumped in with Marie Curie, Emile Zola, and Louis Pasteur in a recent Academy Award montage), I find offensive. Sorry I rattled on.

Josh

Name: Daniel Natal
E-mail: sonne1066@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Regarding your assumption that Charlie Chaplin was even one iota Jewish in any way, shape or form--- Take the time to read a Chaplin biography. All of his biographers are of one voice when they back up Chaplin's own claim that he had dark hair because of a Gypsy grandmother. Research has proven that he was telling the truth. Research all indicates that he had not one single Jewish relative--religiously Jewish, ethnically Jewish or otherwise. The rumors of his being part-Jewish are wishful thinking on the part of Jews who wanted role-models desperately. Like the occasional [and fallacious] assumption by some that Cary Grant was part Jewish. [The Website www.amiannoying.com has him listed incorrectly as one of Hollywood's "Coolest Jews".] Never mind the fact that he wasn't Jewish. Likewise with Chaplin. The rumors are persistent--even though they are demonstrably without foundation. I direct you for a quick reference to www.jewhoo.com. They have a great write-up on Chaplin.

Dear Daniel:

I took that essay, "Jews in Film," down years ago, where did you read it? I wrote that essay about ten years ago, and since then I have read Charlie Chaplin's autobiography and I realize he was not a Jew, although many people in Hollywood thought so. This may also stem from Chaplin having been so vehemently anti-Hitler so early, earlier than most anyone else in Hollywood. But no, Charlie Chaplin was not Jewish.

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: upon request

Dear Josh:

Whoa! Amazing snapshots from Darryl Mesaros! What unit is that? I can't make out his insignia.

Can I take this opportunity to ask him to give us a summary of David Letterman visiting?
I had heard rumors Letterman did go over, and so I had been tuning in to see if his show was going to air from there or have highlights, but nothing but re-runs for the last week or so. You got to meet him! Pray tell us just every little thing! Was there filming for his show specifically? Did you get to participate in a Top Ten List? hee...

And I've heard that sword entrance to the grand arena (or what is it, exactly?) is actually pretty tacky, and cartoonish, especially in person. (On t.v. it looks commanding...intimidating, which I gather is the intent)

And I've been meaning to find out just what the heck those black metal attachments are on the helmuts of certain military personnel. Sometimes they look hinged, but anyway they appear to perhaps be for attaching night vision, or maybe they clip off to use as digging tools... or to fasten chemical safety apparatus....
I *must* know!

Dear Diana:

Inquiring minds need to know things. Darryl, will you answer this poor girl's questions, please? As I already said to Darryl, that's our problem here in America, just not enough giant hands holding giant swords.

Josh

Name: kevin
E-mail:

happy new year Josh,

I just read your article on your experience with short stories. Sounds like some experience! I was just wondering what your take was on what makes a good short film. I mean if you're going to make a film that's 9 minutes long how do you get the most punch for what's packed? 9 minutes is short, and our objective should be to get the viewer to be involved with the character and in a good film the foundation for that involvement is established in Act I (which in a 2 hour motion picture is a heck lot longer than 9 minutes). Anyways I would like to hear your take on making a strong, touching shortfilm. Any tips and pointers is appreciated. I am going to make a short film soon for my college platform film project soon, and as you have had much experience in the field of filmmaking I'm excited to heap up my own experiences. Cheers!

Dear Kevin:

Of course, what's nice about short films is that they don't necessarily have to be narrative. I've made several shorts that weren't narratives, per se, just a series of gags. But you most certainly can do a narrative story in 9 minutes, and the structure (like the song) remains the same. You'd be working in approximately 3-minute acts, and just like a feature, you need to establish a character that needs something that causes something else, since a story on it's most basic level is: something causes something else. I recall a Hallmark cards commercial from quite a few years ago, when Hallmark would put one long, meaning 3-5 minute, commercial in the middle of their Hall of Fame movies. It's Christmas time somewhere in the east or midwest, with a lot of snow, and a young couple with maybe a 5-year old daughter are preparing for the holidays, and the husband and wife are obviously having some trouble between them. As the father works on different things, like putting up the wreath or hanging the stockings, the little girl keeps trying to help and keeps getting shooed away. That night as the father is going up the stairs he hears his daughter in her room praying before bed, asking God to please let her father pay some attention to her. The father looks utterly stricken, lowers his head, goes into his daughter's room, takes her in his arms and tells her he loves her. The end. A full, powerful, human story in about 3 minutes. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I was just reading the posts, and gather that you didn't think much of David Lynch's DUNE. It was alright to me (certainly better than the TV remake the SCIFI Channel put out a few years ago). Just curious as to what you thought of it.
Speaking of SCIFI Channel remakes, have you seen the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA? I know how you feel about remakes, and normally I would agree. However, there are a few points in the new version that I rather liked.
For instance, Edward James Olmos lent alot more dramatic weight and credibility to the role of Commander Adama than Lorne Greene ever did (I still can't picture Lorne in anything but westerns and WILD KINGDOM).
For a television production, the production values were better in the remake than in the original. This is saying alot, as the $1 million an episode pricetag was the leading reason for the original show only going into one season. It still amazes me that the much-touted crew of STAR WARS, brought in to produce the special effects in the original, always made the space scenes look like props on a soundstage.
Again I don't know if you've seen the recent effort or not. If you did, I would be curious to know what you thought of it.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I thought David Lynch's "Dune" was one of the worst films I've ever seen in my life, and as awful of an adaptation of good book as has ever been done. I couldn't bear the original "Battlestar Galactica," so there's no way on earth I'd ever watch a remake of it.

I'll include some of the photos you sent me so others can see what a swell time you're having in Iraq.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Happy New Year! I'm resolving to watch better films, but that's what I say every year.

I recently watched the BBC series "The Office" (on Netflix) and I thought it was great. I watched all 6 episodes in one sitting and still wanted more. I'll be watching series 2 next week (my friend has it on Region 2 DVD--don't know when it's coming out in the States).

Of course, being such a great show (actually a 12-part miniseries), NBC has decided to make an American version. Be afraid. They did this recently with "Coupling," another great BBC show, and completely ruined it. Why must Americans do these things--remaking foreign films for the US market? Especially when it's already in English? Oh, well.

Have a great New Year.

Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Happy New Year to you, too. Why do they remake these foreign shows and movies? To make more money, what else. An American version of anything, no matter how bad it is, will draw a bigger audience than anything foreign. As William Burroughs said 45 years ago, "Consumer society is about simplifying and degrading the consumer as well as the product." Hollywood has managed to completely degrade and simplify movies, and the audience has become so degraded and simplified that it has just gone along with it. As John Boorman pointed out in his new autobiography, "Adventures of a Suburban Boy," the Hollywood films he made between 1967 and 1989 were pretty much the films he wanted to make -- "Point Blank," "Deliverance," "Excalibur," "The Emerald Forest," "Hope and Glory" -- but once he got to "Where the Heart Is ," he started to get so fucked with by the studios -- this was a drama set in Ireland about a British family that Disney immediately changed to a a goofy comedy about an American family in the U.S. -- that it became impossible for him to deal with the system. Now he just makes little, British pictures.

Josh

Name: Saul Trabal
E-mail: ghost_kingdom@yahoo.com

Happy Gnu Year Josh. ;)

I've got a couple of questions about New Zealand...

What is the cost of living like down there? What did you like the most about staying down there? What did you like the least?

As for books-I'm finishing up Kurt Vonnegut's CAT'S CRADLE. Great book! I recently read Franz Kafka's AMERIKA, which is an unfinished novel. Considering that Kafka never visited America, it's still an interesting view of this country. Orson Welles' version of THE TRAIL is the only film of his I didn't care for. The book just didn't translate well into a movie; it came across as rather stilted. I appreciate the effort, though.

Take care.

Saul

Dear Saul:

Was that the follow-up film to John Wayne's "The Big Trail"? I'm kidding. I'm not a big fan of Welles's "The Trial," either. Apparently, he thought the film was an hilarious comedy. Now, about NZ: one US dollar would buy you two NZ dollars, but some things, like cigarettes, were expensive, which is why so many kiwis roll their own. But since almost everything has to be imported to NZ, many products are expensive. I like the people, who are, for the most part, bright, well-educated, and attractive. The service in many restaurants sucked, however, potentially due to no tipping, so I just tipped everyone. Also, being a thin island in the middle of the ocean, the weather changes constantly, which made shooting exteriors rather difficult. All in all, though, I really liked the place.

Josh

Name: Jim Plannette
E-mail: Jimz101@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I was alerted to your website and discovered I was being discussed by Jim Eagan, who interviewed me at the Maine Photographic Workshops. I'm afraid he should review the interview. I, of course, never said "I lit" anything. I stressed the collaborative aspect of the whole motion picture process, which is what makes it fun. I collaborated with the DP's you mentioned and many others. It certainly wasn't a case of anyone saying put a light here or there. The term, cameraman, is commonly used to refer to the director of photography who has the ultimate responsibility for the look of the movie. He collaborates with the director on the choice of lens and the framing. No one is in absolute charge of his area of expertise. That's what makes it fascinating. When I work with Steven Soderbergh, he is the director of photography and the lighting is the way he wants it. I certainly have ideas and make suggestions, as I do with any director of photography. Steven Soderbergh has a great eye and wonderful ideas.

I hope this clears up some misconceptions about what a gaffer does. We all work a little differently; some have more input than others.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Plannette

Dear Jim:

Yes, Jim, I think we've got this all worked out.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: JEaganfilm@aol.com

Josh,

Hope things are going well in Detroit and on your various projects in development. I just wanted to clarify some things that I mentioned to you a couple months ago about gaffer Jim Plannette, who I did an interview with in the fall. Jim sent me an email recently in which he wanted to clarify the fact that, as you said, he does not "light" the movies that he worked on. As Jim says "The cameraman is the director of photography. He collaborates with the director on the setting up of the shots and collaborates with me on the lighting. I have ideas and he has ideas and in the end the lighting is done. If there is a difference of opinion on the lighting, the cameraman prevails. If there is a difference of opinion on the setting up of the shot, the director prevails." So just in case anyone got the wrong idea out there, there's the clarification. By, the way, I saw a really good documentary recently called The Fog of War by Errol Morris. Its basically just an interview with Bob McNamara intercut with stock footage but it gave me a whole new perspective on the guy and on war in general. Check it out if you get the chance. Happy New Year,

Jim (eagan)

Dear Jim:

Yes, Mr. Plannette wrote to me as well. I didn't mean to impugn the work of the gaffer in any way, they are an utterly crucial part of a movie crew -- there's always a lot of electricity used on my movie shoots, and the gaffer is in charge of that. I've watched these guys do shit like tying into the power box of a building from the 1920s, and let me tell you, that was the very last place I wanted to put my hand. But basically the DP designs the lighting, then speaks to the gaffer in a sort of shorthand code, like the clicking of a Kalahari Bushman, and the gaffer gets the lighting crew to implement it.

Josh

Name: ryan
E-mail: its_the_dude@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Have you seen all the David Lynch films? Have you seen Blue Velvet? What's your oppinion on Pulp Fiction? I like what you say about films, but your oppinions are mostly like saying that you wont appreciate a good statement because it doesn't begin with a capital and end with a period. I wander what you think of Lynch because he may be my highest respected director, yet I don't understand many things he does, but it's the feelings he provokes that make me respect him. I hope you like Pulp Fiction because it may well be the only truely well written film of the last decade, if not among the greatest of all time. Look, I'm a sixteen year old kid who probably doesnt know my balls from my dick, yet I understand movies, their language. I'm going to start an Indipendant Film Club this year in my school, and my goals are to create a full length feature, begin a film festival, perhapse with neighboring schools, use all this to get myself and several friends into college for free, and do it all with NO money. I will do this, and since you are an accomplished indipendant filmmaker I'd like to ask for whatever advise you may have to offer. whatever you have to say is well appreciated. Plus what you think about Lynch. thanks

Dear Ryan:

I like your ideas and your plans, and I think you have just the right approach. Go for it, don't let anyone tell you you can't make a feature, start a film club, whatever it is you want. The dick, BTW, is the tubular item, the balls are the round things below them. Meanwhile, I thought David Lynch was really something when he first started out. "Eraserhead," then "Elephant Man," then "Blue Velvet" (we'll just skip "Dune") were a terrific series of films to put out in a row, and I think they're all three very impressive films. "Blue Velvet" is a very solid film, with a strong script, terrific casting, and simple, tight direction. It's a powerful film. However, almost everything Mr. Lynch has done since then--with the exception of "Straight Story"--just sucks. I believe he totally shot his wad and he no longer has the first clue why his stuff was any good to start with. And I'm sorry to tell you that I don't like "Pulp Fiction," and I don't think it's a particularly good example of screenwriting. The last thirty minutes of that film are really awful. Honestly, did they really need for Harvey Kietel to come in and hose them down? And after QT's little acting bit, where he says "Nigger" seventy-five times for no good reason, I wanted to bitch slap the motherfucker and tell him to stay the fuck out of his films. And his pointless, nonsequitur dialog really gets me down. I don't give a shit about burger royales, TV pilots, or Madonna's new album, and Sam Jackson's final speech is complete gobbledy-gook. As my friend Rob summed it up as we left the theater, "Man, that was a real butt-burner." And I have no doubt that PF is miles ahead of "Kill Bill," which I wouldn't see with a gun against my head. Anyway, I wish you all the best with your plans.

Josh

Name: Chris Cooley
E-mail: Fellini812@hotmail.com

Hi, just saw "Running Time" on IFC this evening, and I just wanted to tell you that I thought it was really great. I knew nothing more than that Bruce was in it. Anyway, I thought it was really well executed, and alot better than Rope. Anyway, Keep up the good work, and welcome to Oregon

Chris ~ pdx or.

Dear Chris:

I don't live in Oregon anymore, I moved back to Michigan. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Amusingly, I think, TV Guide reviewed the film and said, "An ex-con plans to rob a prison-laundry business in this familiar drama." I guess they didn't notice that it was in real-time because they certainly wouldn't review "Rope" and not mention it. This occured in a few of the print reviews, too. How one could watch that film and not notice is an amazement to me, particularly for a film reviewer.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail:

Josh,

In comment to the title card that appears near the end of "Hammer." This is one of my favorite moments and it certainly doesn't take me out of the film. In fact, I'd say it drew me into the reality of the film as a piece of history. The three or so times I've seen the film with buddies someone has always made a comment during that moment, something like "Well, I'll be," or "Hell, that sure was a big deal."

If anyone ever winds up repping "Hammer," for you they'll probably require two things. An updated copyright and a shorter running time. In fact, I'd absolutely bet on both of these points. While I do feel that with ten minutes removed "Hammer," would be a better film, I most definately wouldn't want to see the blurb removed from the end...The dope smoking could be trimmed and the distribution of the flyers in the Purple Onion could simply be cut all together. Other things like this that seem to go on too long. Just food for thought. I think at 107 minutes, "If I Had A Hammer," would be improved beyond the good film it already is.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I suppose both of those scenes could be trimmed, or cut in the case of distributing the flyers. I was accused by a few folks that the film was "self-indulgent," and perhaps it is, but it's my independent film, why shouldn't it be self-indulgent, I asks ya? Nobody levels that criticism at foreign films, or boring, 3 1/2 hour special effects films. Most pictures that come out of Hollywood now run 2 1/2 hours and no one says anything. "Hammer" isn't quite 2 hours, and unlike most of those other films, is actually going somewhere.

Josh

Name: Daniel
E-mail: danielzeb2003@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I did a course in copyrighting once upon a time and I remember learning that if a song was more than 50 years old, it was in the public domain. If I was to use songs from say the 1920s, would I need to pay for the rights???

Dear Daniel:

They've recently extended the term of copyright in the USA, from 57 years to 100 years, I believe, but it's not retroactive. Therefore, anything that went into the public domain remains there. That would be almost any song from 1945 back, but there are exceptions. Part of the reason for the extension was so that Disney could keep Mickey Mouse under copyright, and Mickey's from the late 1920s. Lawyers get a yearly supplement of everything that's gone into the public domain in the past year.

Josh

Name: Jeff Quest
E-mail:

Josh,

Hey, I just watched your latest movie "If I had a Hammer" and I really enjoyed it. I thought the music choices were great and by far the highlight of the film and you found some really talented people to pull it off. One thing you really showed was that if it's a good music performance you don't need to fade between 3 cameras or fifty cuts. A good performance just draws you in on it's own.
My only quibble would be the text you put up about the beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show. I was curious on why you chose to put that up there at that point. That was actually the only thing that took me out of the film. Which brings me to my next point - the fact that I really enjoyed how your directing was all focused on helping the story rather than shouting "hey look at this cool camera move".
Thanks for the first enjoyable, recent, movie that I've seen in awhile! They're showing the Best of Ed Sullivan on PBS, in honor of Hammer I think I'll check it out. Good luck on your next project!
jeff

Dear Jeff:

You make a very valid point, one that others brought up, too, which is about the title card near the end about The Beatles. It's the only time I step back out of the story and the time period, and it's probably a mistake, but I somehow felt that if I didn't state it flatly no one would realize just how big of a deal The Beatles being on Ed Sullivan was, and there's no way for the characters to know that at that time. The story functions just fine without it, I think, but somehow I still think people need to know. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'm also glad you appreciated how I shot the film, which no one else has ever brought up.

Meanwhile, I finally saw "A Mighty Wind," the other folk music movie of recent days ("Hammer" was shot three years earlier), and you couldn't have a more talented, funnier cast, but they've got no script to work with. It's a 30-minute skit, at best. What was particularly odd to me was that, because the acts in the movie are fake, they felt they had to make the entire folk movement fake without one actual reference. I'm also completely sick of the "mockumentary" form. I feel like this shtick worked once for Christopher Guest, with "Spinal Tap," and has never worked again.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

I'll second Darryl's recommendation of the Sharpe's series. You really need to watch that series, particularly the early episodes, with a military man, preferably enlisted. They howl at it because the dynamics ring so true. "Horatio Hornblower" was of a similar vein and was what "Master and Commander" hoped to be; a study of the men of the period with good men and bad abounding on both sides. I'd love to see you film "Battle" with the backing those productions had. Those were both produced through Granada Television, I think, and they seem to do a splendid job on period action pieces.

Well, I hope you have a great Christmas and a happy and productive new year.

John

Dear John:

Thank you, and you, too. Happy holidays to everyone. Yeah, I'd really love to make "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood" (I think that's what you were referring to). I really don't think it needs to be all that expensive, either. But more than anything else, to me, is its tone, and that's what I think no one seriously deals with anymore in their stories, which is -- why am I watching this? In the case of Belleau Wood you're seeing a spectacular bit of human courage and endurance, that actually mattered in the scheme of the whole war. That's a great story. I just hope that I do it justice.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just downloaded HUMANS IN CHAINS to read later. Also just read your treatment, "Two-Gun Crowley," which was very good, even in treatment form. I would think that one could be made as a TV movie (it sounds like the sort of thing that TNT would air, rather like YOU KNOW MY NAME, but less Western-oriented) if not a cinematic feature.
Concerning MASTER AND COMMANDER, I can understand why they changed the adversary, although good writing could have put the story over even if the antagonist was American. It wasn't necessary to change the period, though; the Napoleonic Wars lasted from 1799 to 1814, and the British were involved from around 1803 onwards. The War of 1812, although caused by specific American grievances, was another theatre of the Napoleonic Wars (some historians have argued that the period marked the first global conflict). That leaves alot of room to play around in.

Darryl

P.S. I recommend reading Bernard Cornwell's novels. They're the best thing going for historical fiction today.
D.

Dear Darryl:

"Two-Gun Crowley," the first case of a juvenile killer wanting to be like the bad guys in the movies. It's a true story, and worthy of its 1930s contemporaries: "Bonnie and Clyde," "Dillinger," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Baby Face Nelson," and "Big Bad Mama" (Ma Barker).

Josh

Name: Jessica S.
E-mail: unarex@myself.com

Hi Josh-

First let me say that I wish you'd write more reviews- they're more fun than Ebert & Roper & I enjoy reading them even if I disagree.
I agreed with your reviews on Frida & Black Hawk Down. Just saw BHD yester & thought it was realistic in terms of setting & fighting but lacked any depth. I thought the parts you critiqed in Frida (your mentioning of those digital effects) were the only real 'original' parts to the film- the rest was just standard no depth biography. I still think Kahlo was a bad painter- very melodramatic & immature. Diego is the better of the two but they could have done the film on just Diego & Rockefeller- that would have been more interesting, but instead they compress too much into 2 hrs. Other bad bio films are The Hours & Sylvia-they suffer from the same flaws as Frida- but the Hours is the worst of the all. In light of your Hitler review & Nazi films, Ever see that Anne Frank story that has Ben Kingsley as Otto Frank? I think it's called Anne Frank Remembered or something. That's one of the few Nazi films that made me feel anything- by the time they are found you grow attached to Anne & her family- it was strange bc the ccamp scenes were hard to watch for a change, as opposed to S.List. Ditto goes for Polanski's Pianist- thought that was by far the best Nazi film I'd seen bc it wasn't drenched in self-pity. Bummer about The Good Girl though- I liked that one. Ta ta.

Dear Jessica:

I didn't see the Ben Kingsley, Anne Frank film. I have seen George Stevens' "The Diary of Anne Frank" many times, and was very moved by it as a kid. As I got older, however, the weird, gentile casting of Millie Perkins and Richard Beymer really threw me off and I've never gotten past it. My favorite Nazi film is undoubtedly "Judgement at Nuremburg." As I get older I appreciate Stanley Kramer more and more. Review-wise, I just watched "Narc," which I can entirely live without. I hit a point in the film where the wigged-out cop Ray Liotta was beating two handcuffed black guys, blood all over them, Liotta screaming "Nigger!" over and over, and I thought to myself, "Why on earth do I want to be sitting here watching this ugly, hateful drivel?" I in fact did finish watching the film, but if I never see another cop story of that nature it will be just fine with me. And, once again, I contend -- Jason Patric is a bore. He's not a bad actor, he's just a bore.

Josh

Name: Jean-Olivier Dinand
E-mail: jodmedia@club-internet.fr

Hi, I am looking for buy DVD "25th hour" movie from Henry Verneuil?? not in sales on the web, How to do?
Thanks for your replay to jodmedia@club-internet.fr . J.O.Dinand, Secretary of the Official Association (loi 1901) "les Amis de Virgil Gheorghiu" http://ifrance.com/virgilg

Dear Jean-Olivier:

So, who do you think I am? Henry Verneuil, whoever that my be, or Spike Lee? Does Josh Becker sound like either of those names?

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

A topic that came up recently on the site was the problem with adapting novels to the screen. One example of a successful transition from novel to screen was the Richard Sharpe series, made for British television and based off the books by Bernard Cornwell. Set during the Napoleonic wars, the movies (it was sort of a miniseries, but made up of feature-length installments) brought the period to life with all the excitement and drama of the novels, and the screenwriters weren't afraid to make a few changes for the sake of the film. I haven't seen MASTER AND COMMANDER yet, but I'd be willing to bet the transition from book to screen was much smoother in the Sharpe series. What do you think?
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I haven't seen these Sharpe things, so I cannot say. Even though I haven't read any of the Patrick O'Brian books, either, I do know that the books are set during the War of 1812, with the British fighting the Americans. The movie version was pushed seven years back to the Napoleonic War so the enemy could be the French. The second you say something like, "Sure, they are great books, but the setting and time period don't matter," you've lost your way.

Josh


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