Q & A    Archive
Page 137

Name: David Brine
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I just read your post-Star Wars essay. Excellent. I especially liked the "try harder" emphasis. Reading this reminded me how much I enjoyed reading your essays. I remember, you used to post one almost every month or so, but lately the flow has slowed to a trickle. Here's to many more.

Dear David:

I've written another one, too. I'll post it later. And "try harder" is indeed the point. All these sequels and remakes represent nothing more to me than sheer laziness; that coming up with a new idea is just too damn difficult, so why try? As a writer I could say something about the state of the world, or my life, or politics, or society, but I guess it would just be a lot easier to remake "The Dukes of Hazard" and "Bad News Bears," so let's do that instead. That way, if you completely fuck it up, nobody will ever notice.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

The point of the last post was that this trend may be soon coming to an end, if the box office figures say anything about it.

Darryl

P.S. Where did you get STAR TREK for $78?

Dear Darryl:

From Amazon. Why? Does that seem like a good deal, or did I get ripped-off? It's brand-new, and in a silly plastic case. Unfortunately, regarding Hollywood trends ending, is that every executive who works in Hollywood is as dumb as a box of rocks, has no idea what movies are really about, and only knows how to follow trends, even if they're bad ones. The change isn't going to come from Hollywood, it must come from the independents.

Josh

Name: Raoul
E-mail: Ra0ul01@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Sorry to be a nitpicking stickler for detail. . . but I am. You responded to an earlier post asking about the inspiration for the script "BUDS", by saying getting ripped off on a dope deal in Ann Arbor inspired it. I believe you were thinking of the script "DELIRIOUS", which involves guys getting ripped off at the Hash Bash. "BUDS" is about two pot-head friends fighting over a girl. If I'm not mistaken, the inspiration for "BUDS" was to write a low-budget script which you and your co-writer, Paul Harris, would act in as well. Jay was inspired by Josh, and Pete by Paul. Since you were working at a Dinette store, that inspired Jay's job; and Mr. Harris was a gas station attendant, and that inspired Pete's job. Where you got the stuff about the two friends smoking all that weed, I'll never figure out. My question for the Answer Man: Do you think smoking alot of pot really affects your . . . wait, I had something here. . . no, I forgot what I was gonna say, sorry.

Dear Raoul:

You are of course correct, I was mistakenly thinking of "Delirious," my other pot-head comedy. I can't imagine what goofed up my memory. Why, I can remember everything that . . . what was the question?

Josh

Name: Trey Smith
E-mail: cobra_commander_of_cobra@yahoo.com

Hey Josh!

Bravo on your Dogma 2006 essay. I only hope that there is a Golden Age around the corner and I also hope that one day I will be able to make a film worth watching. My goal in life is to make what is a really good movie and I plan on working as hard as I possibly can to achieve this goal. I'm sorry if I sound like I'm sucking up, but you've really been somewhat of a mentor for me through your essays, movies, and book. Hopefully, with the knowledge I've gained from you and a lot of hard work I will be able to one day be a part the Golden Age. I'm trying to remain optimistic, I know how hard it is to succeed. I know that just because I want to doesn't mean it will happen. I know that I can work my ass off and never make it, but I know I have to try.

I was talking to a few friends once about my goals and I told them, "I want to make or write at least one film in my lifetime that Josh Becker likes."

I know that sounds like ass kissing to the maximum, but it's true. You only like movies that are truly good, so if I someday write/make a movie that you enjoy, I will know that I have achieved my goal.

Anyway, sorry for rambling, that essay just really inspired me to type all of that out to someone that understands what I want.

Now to the question that I came here to ask in the first place. I was getting tired of watching Citizen Kane on the VHS copy I owned and finally bought the Two Disc Special Edition DVD this past weekend. I was wondering what yours thoughts are on the "Battle Over Citizen Kane" documentary. I found it very interesting, especially the portions of the film that pertained to Welles himself.

Later.

Dear Trey:

I don't have the DVD and I haven't seen the documentary, although I'm sure I know everything they're saying. If you ever want to read a very interesting account of the film, check out Pauline Kael's "Raising Kane," which contains perhaps the single longest movie review ever written, plus the entire script. Also, the TV movie "RKO 281" is definitely worth seeing. Meanwhile, I hope you do make a film I like. I hope someone does. I just watched "I, Robot," which wasn't terrible, but it's so obviously made by a large committee that it got more and more painful as it went along, and by three-quarters of the way in I just turned it off. I didn't finish watching it a few days later, but it didn't matter. Dr. Asimov would turn over in his grave if he saw it.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: shippybs@hotmail.com

Good morning to you Josh! Thanks for the new essay, as I was nickin' for a new read from you. Sadly I wish I could agree or even hope that we may be entering a new era of film making. All the reviews and comments I read from movie audiences seems to suggest that most people really do love movies like "Batman Begins" and (even more horrifyingly) "The Wedding Crashers". The part that irks me most about this is that it is mostly my peers that seem to gobble this garbage up. Truly frustrating being lumped in with that group just because I'm only 25. Admitetley I've seen my fair share of crap. I know this now because you inspired me to make my own movies list. My list sits at 791 movies. Not that many I know but not uncultured either. Out of those 791 movies I'd say I've seen maybe 50 movies that could be considered good to excellent. The junk far out weighs the jems.

Anyway this is getting long. I also wanted to say that I just saw Bruce at his Toronto book signing and may I say that "a degree hotter every year" may be a bit of understatement. There were four times as many fans out to see him this time as his last book tour. Glad to see him getting some recognition. I put a question to him (mainly because everyone else was asking stupid shit) that could also be answered by yourself. I think I already know the answer. I asked him whether or not he and yourself would ever consider shooting up here in Hollywood north. I know our english isn't quite as polished as the Bulgarians but we smell real nice. Ha. Anyway I know the decsion on where you shoot on a studio or T.V. project isn't in your hands. But being as as your back in Michigan and not so far from the border you could perhaps make use of the exhange rate when shooting your own independant films. Just a thought. Some one mentioned "Running Time 2" and Bruce in his usual dry scarcastic tone said "Why? Because the first one was so popular?"
I can see how you could be friends with him since childhood, he hasn't changed much I'm sure!

Checked out Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. I'd have to say that it was average. Not particularly funny and the story feels a bit empty. Cary Grant I thought played the part really well though. I still stand by my recomendation that you check out "The Money Pit." It's teeming with irony, and I know how you enjoy irony in a movie. Above all else it does what comedy has to do, it's makes me laugh. It's ten times funnier than Blandings. Don't let Steven Spielberg's name throw you off. He didn't direct it so I think that maybe why it's actually quite a functional three act story.

Okay I've babbled long enough. Enjoy your coffee and have a hit/hoot/toke for me. One of each preferably.

Have a Pleasant and Restful Evening

Ben

Dear Ben:

The problem with shooting in Canada, and the exchange rate isn't all that good anymore, is that to get the tax advantages out of it you must use a predominately Canadian cast and crew, and I won't be forced into using anyone I don't want for a such a silly reason. Rob Tapert is shooting a picture in Regina, Saskatchewan right now and getting those tax breaks, and that's fine for him, but it probably wouldn't work for me. Let's face it, the weather ain't great there. In Bulgaria, on the other hand, the exchange rate is so extreme (Bulgaria isn't in the EU), plus the people there make so little of their nearly valueless currency, it makes a big difference. Still, if I can avoid going back there to shoot I will because it didn't help Bruce's or my movie. It may have allowed the films to get made in the first place, but beyond that it was all hindrance. I'm not crazy about "Mr. Blandings," either.

Josh

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

Josh,

What did you think of the score in "Mrs. Robinson"? I'm a big Simon and Garfunkel fan and thought the music very appropriate for that film. In fact, I'd argue that the music holds up better than does the film itself.

I do agree with you about, for instance, "Raindrops" in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", a scene which was essentially a(n) (anachronistic) video and the weakest scene in the film. Modern montage sequences certainly seem designed to chew film-time and virtually never advance the story. They seem oddly popular in "indie" films which, presumably, should be maximizing story development on their limited budgets.

John

Dear John:

Using almost 40 year old movies as examples isn't appropriate to the discussion, I don't think. However, just like "Lunatics," if you have a song written for your film, that specifically relates to your story -- as "Mrs. Robinson" certainly does -- that's a world of difference from taking any old pop song and putting in the the film. Also, in the case of "The Graduate," Paul Simon composed the film's score based on the song. As an example, there were two pop music montages in the first 45 minutes of "Spider-Man 2," both entirely unnecessary. In most movies now there's at least one meaningless pop music montage, although generally several, and they are always a complete and utter waste of time.

Josh

Name: Reuben E.
E-mail: rsewolf@yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Becker - Josh, I know this movie is from awhile ago - Stryker's War aka Though Shalt Not Kill, Except... - but I just wanted to mention I work with one of the extras in the movie - Girl #2 in the script, young cult girl on IMDB, Ivich Fraser. It would be interesting to get a note from you to show her.
Reuben

Dear Rueben:

I remember Ivitch Fraser. Yes, she's one of the three cult girls that the marines pick up at the liquor store, then stop and have sex with. Hello Ivitch!

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Regarding your essay on Post Star Wars Era: I like your Dogma2006 Idea but I'd disagree with one thing which is the pop music in movies thing. I think if thats what attracts the young audience of today because thats what they hear and like and your doing a teen movie or so then thats what you shoul do. All the bands that I have rights to are local pop groups and its much easier to just put the music from the CD in to the editing software than hiring a guy to score your movie these days. And its not about being lazy its a matter of being able to edit your movie as fast as humanly possible so you can get it out fast before your idea is taken. And the music video in the movie thing... didn't Lunatics have a music video in it? I think if its told in a funny way like you did than it could be alright.

With so many remakes and sequels coming out and being done the theatres are being so cluttered up with trash that it seems now the best market for good independent films is the internet. People are selling movies that they made off their site and people are buying them. A good indie production company can make lots of cash now just by the internet. I'm sure its not a novel idea but I've been noticing it more and more lately. I mean even you have your own pay pal store.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Sorry, but you're confused. People may be making independent films and selling them on the internet but I don't believe that anyone is making "lots of cash." Without advertising, and a theatrical release, films just don't sell very much. Sadly, that's a fact. You can move a couple of hundred units, maybe even a couple of thousand, but it's not enough to pay back for most productions. Your logic about film scores doesn't make sense, either. You don't lose any time having your film scored. A guy like Joe LoDuca, or any decent composer, can score an entire feature film in a week or two. But just dropping songs into a movie, then cutting a needless montage to the song, is a complete waste of time. Every time one these exasperatingly pointless music video montages in a movie begins, I immediately want to leave or change channels. They always slow down the narrative. No, I don't have a music video in any of my movies. I do have a rap band appear in "Lunatics" and beat him up, but that's not a music video, it's one more of his lunatic delusions. All of the lyrics relate directly to the story, and it doesn't begin cutting away to other things just for the hell of it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

No great movies anymore, Josh?

See The Upside of Anger or the upcoming Walk the Line.

Richard

Dear Richard:

I was told the plot of "The Upside of Anger" and I really doubt it's a great movie. Her husband fell in a hole and nobody realizes it? They all think he's gone to Europe? Nobody would have checked? It sounds silly.

Josh

Name: Jerome
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have I got anything interesting to say? You mean like you're stimulating retort to my last post, "What you said is idiotic. That was a dumb comparison." Try responding to what I SAID, not firing back a petty insult. You avoided the point. Are you not sitting here paying taxes that are sending people off into a war you disagree with? Is that not supporting the war? How's that for interesting, BUB?

Dear Jerome:

It's not interesting, nor have you made any point at all. My taxes support a lot of things I disagree with, and I'm allowed to be as righteously indignant as I care to be, here in the land of the free. Your "America: love it or leave it" argument is a lame old cliche. Just because I disagree with our present government's policies doesn't mean in any way that I need or have to leave the country, although if I had enough money I just might. It's too bad you don't like my use of the terms "stupid" and "idiotic," but those are the best descriptions of the argument you're putting forth.

Josh

Name: chris
E-mail: shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I read "Buds" and liked it. I was just wondering what the inspiration was for it and whatever happened to it? The caption just explains when and where you wrote it. Did you try to sell it or anything?

Dear chris:

"Buds" got sent out few times, way back when, but nothing real ever happened with it. The inspiration was the Ann Arbor Hash Bash, which I attended a number of times. In high school I actually did drive to Ann Arbor with a guy to score some weed and got ripped off, so that was the dramatic basis.

Josh

Name: Mallory
E-mail: iheartledzeppelin@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I completely agree about what you said about smoking ciggarettes. I am of legal age to smoke and my parents still treat me like I'm doing something that's taboo, and illegal. I am 18 years old and I was wondering if there are any sites on the internet to help prove that it's a legal right to do so. They blame it on the media and movies.

Dear Makkory:

I suppose you could go to your state's website and see what the laws are. I too heart Led Zeppelin.

Josh

Name: Matt David T.
E-mail: msturnbull@comcast.net

Dear Josh:

I'm guessing you knew I was going to write in about this, but here I am doing it anyways.

"9. Video games are worse than comic books as movie source material. Avoid."

I don't think our sample pool of films based on Video Games (a total of 14 relatively low-budget films from known hacks), as well as the relatively young art of narrativist games is enough to discount them entirely as source material at this point in our history.

I for one feel the next great renaissance of storytelling could be games if film as an artistic medium continues it's 30 years (and counting) death crawl.

I mean, even on Star Trek they don't watch movies or TV anymore, they participate in holodeck style fantasies, which are possibly just a few generations away - and the direct descendant of video games, not movies.

Then again, they don't have money in Star Trek, and aliens are determined almost exclusively by nose-shape, but you never know.

The age of the fully-interactive movie may be nigh.

In the meantime, I'll try to follow your rules as I do love film, and they seem plenty righteous in that regard.

But I'll keep seeing the video game films made. At the very least, it might give me good inspiration for video-game development.

Dear Matt:

That's not to cast any aspersions on video games, I just don't think they're suitable as source material for movies ("Lara Croft" wasn't low-budget). I'm not certain that "Star Trek" is a valid indicator of what the future holds in store. Meanwhile, I did recently spend $78 on a boxed set of the first season of the original "Star Trek." I intend to watch them all again in order.

Josh

Name: Joe Beelart
E-mail: joebeelart@cs.com

Dear Josh:

I agree with all but one.

"Any Which Way But Loose," and the sequel "Any Which Way You Can," are good. Dirt of the earth is in them.

I'm 58 and from the farm with six years in the USMC. I work with machinery.

NNR - no need respond.

Yours,

Joe Beelart
West Linn, Oregon

Ps: young (24) Blake Eckard of NW Missouri has made three films. He put me on to you. He does what you write.

Dear Joe:

Well, both films made a lot of money and were certainly popular when they came out. They seemed about as dumb as movies can get, although, admittedly, I did laugh a few times at Clyde the Orangutan and Ruth Gordon swearing.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

Amen to your Dogma 2006 essay. I though each point you presented has a great deal of validity. Now if only it would catch on. You are right about the state of motion pictures getting progressively worse. What's interesting is that we used to complain about the independent films were just as bad as studio efforts for being utterly pretentious and self-aggrandizing. Because Hollywood has become even more consumed by corporate greed, we don't even get as many shitty pretentious indies any more. Now it is strictly sequels, remakes, adaptations of old TV shows, comic book adaptations, and occasionally an adaptation of a novel or short story. Things have gotten worse, and I don't see things getting better any time soon. We may have less shitty pretentious independents, but what Hollywood has churned out in the last 5 years is almost inexcusable just because the films have been 10 times crappier than the films that were released within the 25 preceding years.

Dear Scott:

Whatever indies may be now, and I don't think indies are doing any better than Hollywood films, they hardly release any of them anymore. Nor do we get many foreign films anymore, either. Things need to change.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

The subject of handguns may be another instance where we'll have to agree to disagree. The same goes for Iraq; we batted that mouse around until it was ragged, and still remain on separate sides of the issue. Moving on, I read your essay on the post-"Star Wars" era, and agree with the tenets of your new philosophy (although I liked Star Wars). It seems that Hollywood follows trends, both presently and in the past, and these trends are based on what sells. In the fifties, war movies and westerns were the main cinema fodder of the time, followed by the beach movies and teen comedies of the early sixties, followed by the adult action movies and period dramas of the late sixties and early seventies, all the way up to the comic book movies and TV show remakes of today. Whenever an idea proves successful at the box office, the studio reaction has always been to milk it for all it's worth with any number of imitations or similar projects, good or bad. Now, it seems as though the current trend is coming to an end, no longer profitable. If someone can insert GOOD ideas into the void, then we'll have a worthwhile cinema.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

But none of the other trends were to the exclusion of just about everything else. When Hollywood was making sword and sandal epics in the fifties, they were also making "On the Waterfront" and "From Here to Eternity" and "Marty." Hollywood has been making sequels and remakes since the silent days, but never to the exclusion of all else. The present state of motion pictures is dreadful.

Josh

Name: Jerome
E-mail:

Listen bub,

There's no need for a sarcastic response like that. I'm not even a Republican...voted for Gore then voted for Kerry. If you support Bush you support the war, but that doesn't mean you should wish someone's kid death...it's fanatical and its as immoral as sending people to Iraq in the first place. You have it in you to say that kind of thing, so you're just as at fault. And secondly, that guy could just fire back and say...you think we're living in a dictatorship, you don't agree with the war, you're soooooooo fucking tormented by your countrymen dying in battle...THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND MOVE THE FUCK OUT OF THE COUNTRY instead of sitting on your fat, lazy ass and paying taxes that send your countrymen out to die. You're supporting their deaths as much as the guy who voted for Bush just by still living here. And so am I...but at least I can own up to you it you hipocritical, self-righteous cook!

Dear Jerome:

No, you listen, bub. My saying if you support the war you ought to send your own kids off to fight it, and die if necessary, is not as immoral as sending people to Iraq in the first place, that's a stupid comparison. Whatever I say is just talk, rhetoric, whereas sending people off to war is the most serious action a government can take. The admonition that I or anyone else ought to "move the fuck out of the country" because we disagree with the present administration is also just idiotic. Have you got anything interesting to say?

Josh

Name: Jerome
E-mail:

"Dear John:

I'm very pleased I can bring you smile. If you have teenaged children, may they be sent to Iraq and killed, that would be pretty fucking amusing, huh?

Josh"

Josh, I don't care what a person's political beliefs and what an obnoxious asshole they are...you have got to be a pretty sick fucking individual to wish that upon somebody. I know you think you meant it figuratively, but there's no excuse for that kind of talk. You just lost my daily site visits and interest in your films...and Josh, I was one of your biggest fans.

Dear Jerome:

Oh, man, what a bummer. And I so enjoyed your visits. Anyone who supports George Bush supports this horrible, illegal, immoral war in Iraq, so if someone is willing to stand up and loudly proclaim their support of Bush, then they are loudly proclaiming their support of the war. If they support the war so much they shouldn't have any problem sending their kids to go fight it. But most of the fucking hypocritical Republicans who support Bush and the war want someone else's kids to fight it. Well, that's an evil attitude, and if my bringing it up offends you then that's just too fucking bad, isn't it? Go hang around on Robert Novak's website, and you can all pat each other on the back for how well the war in Iraq is going, particularly for Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root, who have made hundreds of billions of dollars off this war, which is why we're there. It's a real shame we're not an honorable enough country anymore to have a Truman Committee on war profiteering like we did during WWII.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Here's a direct link to the short film I made with a colleague at work:

http://cynthiaejones.tripod.com/test/PPF_PSA.mpg

(you might want to right-click and 'save as,' since it's 25 MB and plays a bit slowly on Quicktime)

It's not great, but hey! It's experience. The script and the camera work is mine, but the editing was Josh's. My favorite part is near the end. A local bar let us shoot in there, and the late afternoon sun looked really great coming through the window. It's the little things. I mean, it's a film about filling out a form, so I tried to make it entertaining.

I watched "Sullivan's Travels" for the first time a few days ago. I've been sick with strep for a week now, so movies are my solace. Tonight I'm going to watch "The Palm Beach Story" to continue the Preston Sturges kick. Great stuff! I didn't realize he was the first writer/director in Hollywood. It seems the only movies I really love are those who are written and directed by the same person. It's a purity of vision that can result in the most astute version of someone else's reality.

Of course, if a film is fun as well, that's not a crime, as Sturges made clear in "Travels." Sometimes it's good to just have a laugh.

Take care,

C.

Dear Cindy:

You convinced me, I'd get help filling out that form. I think you get across all of the information you cared to, and I was amused watching it. Good work. Let us know what you think of "The Palm Beach Story," which I think is kind of exceptional. My one gripe with "Sullivan's Travels," which I like very much, is that I wished he'd actually used a funny film for the ending, as opposed to an unfunny Disney cartoon. As everyone bursts out laughing, I'm not sure what they're laughing at. I love the titles of Sullivan's previous hit films, "Ants in Your Pants of 1938" and "Hey Hey Hey in the Hayloft."

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: drjws1@msn.com

Dear Josh:

I just wanted to thank you for the great piece on Willianm Wyler. You hit the nail on the head.

Dear John:

There's nobody like William Wyler around anymore, or Hitchcock or Welles or Kubrick.

Josh

Name: John Reemer
E-mail: JR45@aol.com

Josh,

There is something I really love to read about your site. You know what it is? I love to go through and look at all of your bullshit political beliefs. I voted for George W Bush in 00 and AGAIN and 04. I make about half a million a year after taxes, drive a porsche, and have a net worth in the millions...

You see, reading your site makes me feel better about myself as a person and makes me feel better about my political beliefs...So thank!!

Jeb Bush '08!

Dear John:

I'm very pleased I can bring you smile. If you have teenaged children, may they be sent to Iraq and killed, that would be pretty fucking amusing, huh?

Josh

Name: Traci Grant
E-mail: traci@thestarscoop.com

Hi Josh - met you at the Man With a Screaming Brain showing tonight in Royal Oak. Well, I may be the only one but I really liked Alien Apocalypse and here is what I wrote. (I was accused of being you for writing it!)

This movie was great! Bruce Campbell played the role of Ivan perfectly, combining humor with seriousness and making the role his own. Renee O'Connor was fantastic as Kelly and the relationship between the two stars was sweet, funny and totally believable. The movie is fast paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end wondering what will happen. The characters are well developed and each actor takes the part and creates a memorable character. This movie has action, adventure, comedy and wit. It's a must see no matter what you like. It has a bit of everything and there's something for everyone. This was a superb movie!

Thought you might be interested in reading that. Best of luck, I look forward to more work from you in the future. Drop me a line anytime at traci@thestarscoop.com

Best,

Traci Grant

Dear Traci:

Oh, I wouldn't say you were the only one who liked AA, there were a few others. I suppose if I had dressed Bruce up in a leotard and a cape it would have gone over better. I would say that the adjective "superb" in this case is hyperbole. But I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Josh

Name: James
E-mail:

Quick question, Mr. Becker.

Can you briefly define the cuts certain people get of a given script deal...

Agent? Manager? Lawyer? Especially lawyer.

Any info would be appreciated.

Dear James:

Lawyer's don't get cuts of script deals, they get paid by the hour. Agents and managers generally work for 10-15% (each) of everything you make.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Not to nitpick, but in reference to your opinion in "America: Land of the Stupid Cowboys" essay, you ARE advocating taking Americans' guns away from them. Handguns are firearms, and to advocate any confiscatory legislation is a dangerous legal precedent. Crime rates are affected by several factors other than the availability of concealable weapons: culture, economics, etc. Great Britain, for example, has largely banned all firearms (handguns and long arms) from private ownership, and the end result has been more crime, more gun violence, an overwhelmed police department, and a public largely unable to protect themselves. The gun control advocates keep running into a brick wall in the logic of their arguments: additional legislation only affects those who obey the law. Ban all the guns, and you've only succeeded in disarming the law-abiding; criminals will always manage to arm themselves, as the British situation shows. Firearms are notoriously durable, and there are always places in the world where the clandestine manufacture of arms goes on.
I guess my final point is that 50,000 deaths out of a population of over 270,000,000, while tragic, is hardly an epidemic. More people die in traffic accidents or from heart disease. You can't protect everyone from every instance of harm all the time; in any given population, a certain percentage of deaths due to accident, disease, or violence is a given. Seeing as how our percentage is less than 1%, we're not doing too badly. As a gun owner, I can't say that banning handguns would have a positive effect on this figure.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I think you're wrong. And it's not 50,000 deaths, that's shootings, most of which do not result in fatalities. That's kids shooting other kids, but not killing them. Look, Americans have a bug up their ass about their handguns, but I think it's irrational. If you can have a rifle, that fulfills the Bill of Rights in my opinion, but handguns are unnecessary, and needlessly dangerous.

Josh

Name: Tim Pulice
E-mail: tpulice@bordersgroupinc.com

Hi, Josh,

Is Cleveland Smith & the Waders of the Lost Park available anywhere, maybe as a bonus feature on a DVD? I saw it in 1983 when I worked at Booth Cable in Birmingham, Michigan -- we ran it as a segment on a local access program -- and would love another chance to laugh as hard as I did that day. It's just a brilliant production; directing, acting, etc.

Thanks.

Tim Pulice

Dear Tim:

No, it's not available anywhere. I could suggest it to Anchor Bay as a possible extra on the new TSNKE/ Running Time DVD set. I'm glad you enjoyed it, 22 years ago.

Josh

Name: chris again
E-mail: shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

just want to say i agree with you on basically saying that everything out at the moment is not origional...well not too sure if you said that but im sure you did say something along the lines of it. everything out today seems to either be a remake of an old show or movie or like batman which is just another batman movie. i can't wait for your next movie as i'm sure it will be origional. also...have you seen bubba ho-tep?? that seems to be my favourite movie, i was wondering what you thought of it.

Dear Chris:

I liked it, although I thought Act III dropped dead. Bruce made a great Elvis. I have no doubt that folks younger than me, who have experienced nothing but crappy, unimaginative movies their entire lives, think I'm a deluded stick-in-the-mud for thinking that once upon a time movies used to be good, and even occasionally great. Well, they did, I'm not making it up. Movies can be good, and original and imaginative, but not if you begin by making a sequel or a remake, in which case you've failed and given up before you've started. And if I never see another movie based on a comic book, it will be way too soon.

Josh

Name: aicc
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

From aint it cool Bruce interview:

"B.C.: Right, Sci-Fi Channel wanted to do two movies with me back to back. It all started with this film TERMINAL INVASION, which they didn't really care for so they just dumped it on the air [in 2002], but it did well thanks to fine people like your readers. And they were confused, and they were asking themselves, Who was this guy that's drawing viewers? So I got a call soon after asking, What else have you got? And I told them that SCREAMING BRAIN has been rotting on your shelf now for two months why don't you take a look at it? So they took a fresh look at it and suddenly were interested. And because they were going to Bulgaria and wanted two movies, so I called my buddy Josh Becker and said "Good news, bad news, buddy. Good news: we're going to make your movie [ALIEN APOCALYSE]" because I knew he had this script which I thought was a very appropriate Sci-Fi Channel movie. "Bad news is you're going first to Bulgaria." And he cursed me every day, e-mailing me saying you fucker. Do you know what I've had to go through?"


What happened, were you mad at him?

Dear aicc:

He's kidding, I never cursed him. Someone had to go first, I didn't mind that it was me. But as opposed to just coming to Bulgaria and shooting a movie, when I arrived there were only two other people working, the producer and the 1st AD, and the entire production had to be set up from scratch, so going first entailed a bit more hassle. Nevertheless, it all went pretty well.

Josh

Name: Angel
E-mail: angel__esparza@hotmail,com

Dear Josh,

I was reading about Bernard Hopkins' disputing his loss to the Nevada Gaming Commission. It got me thinking about the sport. Being someone who is well versed in it's history and a keen observer of people and the culture of their respective times, what would you place as the faults of modern day professional boxing? You would imagine that if any country were to embrace a sport in which two men square off in a ring with the hopes of going 'toe to toe' with each other for 12-rounds, America would be all over it. Instead it's fallen to the wayside. Bouts are aired on ESPN Pi at 2:00 in the afternoon or Pay-Per-View bouts that are priced in a method that, to paraphrase Smithers thoughts of TicketMaster on 'The Simpsons', ". . .ensures a healthy mix of the rich and the ignorant, sir."

Since this is a film site I'll very quickly ask if you had a chance to see, 'Overnight'? It's a documentary focusing on Troy Duffy the writer/director of 'The Boondock Saints'. He had a short-lived buzz in the film industry, but, his arrogance and the nature of the industry turned on him and he destroyed his career in the process. Lucky for us, cameras were there! I haven't had a chance to Netflix it yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. I know you didn't care for 'The Project Greenlight' idea beacuse it was sad watching someone have their dream and hard work compromised and destroyed. I understand that; it is tragic that the industry works in the manner it does and it's not funny that a person's career was Cimino-ed, but 'Boondock Saints' is one of the most arrogant films I've ever seen. Watching 'Overnight', for me, will be like wathcing an evil Jack Palance die for 82 minutes.

Dear Angel:

In boxing I don't like the aspect of human judges with their own agendas. The electronic scoring system at the Olympics didn't work, but maybe something based on CompuBox might. I also don't like the 12-round championship bouts, I preferred 15-rounds. As for Bernard Hopkins, from what I've heard and read (I didn't see the fight), he didn't even start boxing until the 6th round, he just stayed away. Then he finally turns it on at the very end and expects to get the decision? Well, there's always the rematch. As for popularity, Friday Night Fights is the highest-rated show on ESPN, and the pay-per-view boxing matches are the highest-rated cable TV events, so I guess someone's watching.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for "Overnight."

Josh

Name: anne
E-mail: muffin@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

i dont understand your script!can you pls make it clear!you dont know how to write.

Dear anne:

And you do? You ever hear of capitlization, or spacing? You wouldn't mind stating what script you're talking about, would you?

Josh

Name: JackJ
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

We all do make mistakes Mr. Becker because correction:

Every single weekend of this summer has made less money than last year up UNTIL two weeks ago with Fantastic Four, where it finally beat last year and then continued this past weekend with the combined efforts of Willy Wonka and Wedding Crashers. It's just a matter of putting out movies people want to see.

Dear JackJ:

That's what people want to see? That's really too bad. It'll go back down.

Josh

Name: August
E-mail: joxerfan@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I was discussing directors' "style" (or lack of) the other day, and of course began thinking about your style. Something occurred to me that I'd never realized before: in much of your TV work, including "Apocalypse," there is this tremendously vivid sense of *where* we are. And then I realized that I didn't quite know what I meant, so had to think about it for a second of two.

But when I think about "Apocalypse," I don't first think of Bruce (or even Rosi!) I think of that bright green Bulgarian countryside, that arid rock quarry area, Renee running across that open field with the hunters after her, and the big sawmill compound, which as I said before is unusual for the Sci-Fi Channel, which usually is filled with claustrophobic corridors and caverns and labs.

Likewise, when I think of your last XWP ep, "Soul Possession," even though most of it was set in that convention hall or in various taverns, the first thing that comes to mind is Kevin and Lucy in the middle of the woods, with the cicadas (locusts? crickets?) humming like crazy - about the only time I can recall hearing the natural background noise on that show.

Same with "In Sickness" - I immediately am reminded of all those bad guys being in the middle of a huge field. In "Kindred Spirits," I don't picture all the shadowy interiors, but rather a fairly spacious village with full-sized log buildings, plus that steep cliff leading down to the lake where the girls were bathing, right down to the raindrops that you told us are barely visible in the water. And back before I knew who the hell you were, I remember watching "Fins Femmes and Gems," seeing a looong shot of Lucy and Renee's stunt doubles fighting bad guys next to the lake, and thinking "Wow - they've choreographed a whole fight sequence from start to finish, and are shooting it from way off - you don't see that too much!"

Now I know every director films outdoor shots, but for some reason, it just always seems so vivid in much of your work. So, for the cinematically illiterate like me, what's going on? Do you just try to compose shots with the background scenery in them? Do you make a point to use longer shots in with everything else? Do you try to adapt a scene to the geography at hand, or maybe locate a scene in the middle of some interesting terrain? Or as Roger Daltry says, is it just you smoking Mother Nature?

Anyway, just curious if this is my imagination, or if you sometimes make a point to spiff up the scene with some things pretty much unrelated to the action.

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

It's very simply called long shots, or establishing shots. Several of the editors I've worked with have commented on it, too, that I frequently get the long shot, which many TV and feature directors don't bother doing anymore. There's certainly nothing new or unique about it, but as a viewer I like knowing where I am, so as a director I make sure to get the wide establishing shots. I also like nature and location close-ups, like mossy bark or dripping leaves or pretty flowers, and I just make sure to get them.

Josh

Name: jp@evans.com
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

ok, so u dont like carpenter fine. but wut about the state of horor movies today? u like any of the horror movies that been comin out recently? wut u think about ur friend sam and rob's company...putting out castrated horor like boogeyman? do u like that? wat do u think of darkness fallz, cabin fever, saw, house of 1,000 corpsas?

Dear jp:

The state of horror movies seems to be in exactly the same place as all other movies (except documentaries), which is in the shit-hole. I seriously can't believe that I am living in a time when the best that can be conceived is one more Batman movie, yet another "Star Wars" movie, "The Fantastic 4," "Bewitched," and a remake of "War of the Worlds." As far as I'm concerned they can just film grass growing now and it would be an improvement.

Josh

Name: chris k
E-mail: shenaniganz@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

did you ever think about entering film compettions as a kid? also .....is there or will there ever be a dvd released of lunatics: a love story because i'm dying to see that movie, i read the screenplay and loved it. your work is inspiring...keep it up!

Dear chris k:

There are no plans that I know of for a "Lunatics" DVD release. I had super-8 films in the Ann Arbor Film Festival, but I never won.

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

What are your feelings on Trey Parker and Matt Stone the creators of South Park and their movies "Cannibal: The Musical" "Orgazmo" "BASEketball" "South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut" and "Team America"? Have you seen them at all? Cannibal was great for what was supposed to be a student film and then his second film Orgazmo was hilarious for such a sick and twisted idea. And the fact that it was supposed to be a musical to start with makes me respect it more. If you haven't seen those movies at least give them a try.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I've enjoyed South Park the few times I've seen it, but not enough to care. "BASEketball" was unwatchable. I haven't seen the others.

Josh

Name: Ed Stan
E-mail: erectstan@hotmail.com

Hey, Mr.Beckker

I read a kick ass article in Fangoria about Bruce's Sci-Fi movie, Man with the screamingg brain, and the article talks a little bit about how you and bruce are friends and alieen apocalapyse and how it was the highest rated film ever on sci-fi channel. anyways I just wanted to tell you a question, thats why I am so ludikuss?

later Gator

Dear Ed:

Thanks for the info.

Josh

Name: THOMAS
E-mail: thomasinfong1@yahoo.com

Dear sales

Am a business man i came to your country on a on a business proposal , i will like to order for some of your items but before i proceed i will like to verify if you ship to Nigeria and also if you accept credit card as payment , if so notify me so that i can proceed with the order .

Regards
MR YINKA THOMAS

Dear THOMAS:

I'll exchange video tapes for yellow cake uranium, okay? How much uranium can I get for a VHS tape of "If I Had a Hammer"?

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: Nansemondnative

Josh,

You're right.

I stand corrected.

Steven Spielberg was the Executive Producer for Joe Vs. the Volcano.

Sometimes ya gotta eat a little crap to have your eyes opened.

Had I not sent that in I would have gone on somehow thinking that Spielberg directed it and here's the good part...I've got the damn movie sitting on the shelf with all the other hundreds of them.

Just think...I could have saved myself the trouble of looking like a complete dumbass on the Internet had I just read the cover instead of assuming,like I have for years,that Spielberg directed it.

Now..Ain't that some shit?

Tim

Dear Tim:

We all make mistakes. So, every single weekend of this summer movies have made less money than they did last year. They've always been able to avoid the statistic that less and less people go to the movies simply by raising ticket prices every year, so the gross remains the same or increases, while attendance decreases. But this year attendance has decreased so much that they can't hide it anymore. Are we all getting sick of sequels, remakes and comic book movies, or is everybody just getting so much more apathetic that they're just too lazy to leave their houses?

Josh

Name: Yeatts Lokey
E-mail: dyl@cox.net

Dear Josh:

I am writting in response to your "Land of Stupid Cowboys" essay which offended me off the bat, I am a cattle man from Texas. My friend, cowboys are nothing but a contributing sect of society that provided for Americas aggricultural economy, change the fucking name of the essay, you look like the stupid one. Now for the body of your essay; if you love New Zealand so God damn much how about you move there. The problem isn't handguns and pot, it is education. If you get rid of handguns you don't eliminate the problem, you still have the idiots that used them in a harmfull way walking the street, and why are they idiots, lack of education. Like you mentioned the inner-city, the inner-city in America breeds idiots. These kids, what ever race they may be, see no purpose in bettering there education when they can sale crack one the street for a good amount of money with no income tax on it. You and I know that is a stupid ass way to make ends meat, but guess what, we are educated, and our job requiments don't require a handgun for protection or killing of our competition. Lack of education is why our prisons are full. Infact lack of education is the root of all problems with in America. I can garantee you New Zealand doesn't have that problem simply because they haven't put blacks in the position our government has from the very begining. We can fix this problem with education not banning handguns. As for leagalizing marajuana, great idea, lets leagalize something that makes an already apethetic society more apethetic.

Dear Yeatts:

Pot doesn't make me apathetic, it makes me want to write or read or watch a cool movie. I'm sorry I offended you in my use of the term "Cowboy," I'm obviously making reference to the cowboys of yore, the ones depicted in movies with two six-guns on their belt. I do not mean to cast aspersions on those in the profession of actually wrangling cows. Honestly, how can you argue with the fact that in New Zealand, just as an example, where they have no handguns, they have no shootings? They have rifles, but nobody shoots anybody with those because they're too big and awkward and difficult to sneak into the bar. Why do all of the other civilized countries in the world have 5 shooting incidents a year, sometimes 10. The USA has 50,000 a year. Because there are a million stupid handguns all over the place, that's why! I'm not saying it's an easy problem to correct, nor am I for one second advocating taking American's firearms away from them, but handguns for anyone other than the police or the FBI are stupid.

Josh

Name: Camden Natysin
E-mail: Lonchaney20@msn.com

Dear Josh:

What do you think of John Carpenter as a filmmaker?

Dear Camden:

Carpenter doesn't do anything for me. I don't think he's ever made a very good movie.

Josh

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

"And it's not like I think there are all that many, if any, good white directors anymore. The whole film business stinks: Hollywood, indies, ethnic, Asian, you name it. Film is in a big artistic slump, and pretending that things are good when they're not only prolongs it, in my opinion."

Wow Josh - Did YOU pick the right profession to be in! :) Good to know that you are in a career and surrounded by peers you can really feel good about.

Richard

Dear Richard:

It's like when someone asked Stephen King why he chose to write horror stories, and he replied, "Who chose?" On some level I feel like I was tricked because they made great movies all the time when I was a kid and a teenager, so I was alive to see that it's possible; it's not just a dream I had one warm summer night. Who are the new John Fords, William Wylers, Alfred Hitchcocks? It's time they start making themselves known.

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Can you believe Bernard Hopkins lost?? Some controversy over that last judge's scorecard.

Dear Jeff:

It's about time. Hopkins has been boring me for years. He's 40, it's time to retire.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative

Evening Josh,

I think one time that Spielberg did try to make a movie with some depth and a message.

It was one called Joe Vs. The Volcano. It starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and it came out around 1990.

It was immediately dismissed as ridiculous and admittedly a whole lot of things about that movie were ridiculous.To me,it was a mutant romantic comedy.

However, it did have a message. I remember one thing about it in particular and I think it was when Meg and Tom were floating in the ocean looking at the sky. Meg states something like most everybody is asleep and the few that are awake are always in constant amazement.

Whatever the case, Tom's "brain cloud" got cured.

So was it crazy and ridiculous? Mostly I think.

But I still say that if you look far enough into it or want to look far enough into it there was this one attempt by Spielberg to show some depth and send a message.

It's the only movie of his I can say that about.

I guess it is all about how you perceive it.

Thanks Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Except that John Patrick Shanley wrote and directed that film.

Josh

Name: Dan
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

i was reading your essay about short films. and you wrote that you tried to make a short based on "The question" by jack finney. i am currently trying to make a short film myself. im a fan of jack finney so i thought i would make "the question" into a short. but i can not find the story any where. besides your essay i cant find any info that the story even exists.

are you sure that was the title? do you know where i can find the story?

thanks

Dear Dan:

The story was in a collection called "The Best Science Fiction Short-Short Stories" edited by Isaac Asimov, which was a wonderful book I leant out many years ago and never got back. All of the stories are short-shorts, meaning none of them run longer than two or three pages. In "The Question" two gentlemen are seated in a nice living room and one of them is pouring coffee. The other man, who holds a notebook, a tape recorder and has a camera around his neck, stands and says, "Off to the future" and disappears. He reappears a moment later, disheveled, dirty, clearly having been through some ordeal, still clutching the notebook and the tape recorder, the camera still around his neck. The first man offers him a cup of coffee and asks, "Well?" The second man replies, "Well, I can't remember." Man #1: You can't remember? You've been in the future for what may have been years, and you can't remember?" Man #2: No. Man #1: But what about your notes, the camera, the tape recorder? The notebook is empty, the camera has no film in it, there's no tape in the tape recorder. Man #1 sips his coffee and his face lights up. Man #1: Wait. I do remember one thing. They showed me everything and they told me everything, then they asked if I wanted to remember or not. Man #1: And you chose not to? Man #2: I don't remember. He shrugs and sips his coffee. Man #1 shakes his head in astonishment. Man #1: Incredible!

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative

Josh,

A thunderstorm took out my last attempt at sending mail to your site so hopefully I'll get this one through.

On bad movies...You can learn something from them too. You can learn how not to do something.You can look at it and say to yourself "Ok.This is how you should never do it." Even bad movies sometimes have something interesting and positive to learn from though even if it's something as small as a unique camera angle. For example,I learned from watching "The Giant Gila Monster" just how important the concept of synching up sound is.Sound that is not synched can make a movie viewing miserable.

Main thing I wanted to respond to though was when you replied to George that "Whatever the reason may be, writers are not thinking thier stories through nor have they seemingly any points to make."

That point you bring up is the primary reason that I stated to you some time back that I am constantly editing as I go along.

I might write 10 or so pages and then go back and re-read what I have done to see if it makes any sense and where it might be headed.10 more pages and the process repeats itself.

You might think you are writing a masterpiece at the time but when you go back and check your work you can easily find that you made quite a few mistakes. Time frames and continuity are big elements often blotched.The characters talking way too much are another problem.It's funny how your mind works but going back over what you have done , at least for me, is critical. That way little mistakes that can be fixed are fixed and they don't turn into big problems later on.

When I am writing I try to imagine how people would talk. My thing though is that I am long-winded and my personality infects the story. My writing professor use to say to me..."Tim, you're in the right bar you just crawled up on the wrong barstool." That makes more sense to me now than it ever did 10 years ago.

Being aware of this "poison" that I am unintentionally feeding my story I simply go back and start asking myself questions about what I just wrote."Are these people talking too much?" "Are they making any sense?" "How can I make this dialogue better?" "Where am I going with this idea?"

If you can just ask yourself questions in an effort to try and improve your story the payoff will be better from a gratification standpoint.It is not uncommon at all to be on page 80 of your story and out of nowhere an idea will pop up in your mind that will fit perfectly on page 2 that resulted from a prior question. As long as it doesn't interfere with the rest of the flow of the story it is a no-brainer to go ahead and throw that idea onto page 2.

One last thing on writing a story. Unless you are working with like-minded individuals who share your vision then it is absolutley best to not seek out your "friends" and talk to them about your story or your plans. A very interesting thing happens. You find your friends are now telling you how to write your story. IF you do not listen to thier input they will immediately start crapping on your efforts. Keep in mind that the very people you are seeking qualification from have never even attempted to write anything other than a "pack your things and get out of the house" letter. The point is that once you show initiative people,friends included, will try to sabotage it.

As always, your feedback is appreciated and welcome.

Have a good one Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

If that method works for you, then go for it. I figure out my stories in advance, outline them, write a treatment, then follow that like a blueprint. I think it's imperative to writing a good story that you always know where you're going, that you know why every scene is there, and how it leads to the conclusion, or it shouldn't be there. This way I don't need to go back all the time, I just keep going forward until the end, then I go back over the whole thing.

Josh

Name: Joakim Andersen
E-mail: massepost@gmail.com

Dear Josh:

Have you seen "Batman Begins"? If so, what did you think of it? You mention the batman films in your essay and I was wondering if you still feel that way?

Dear Joakim:

Surprisingly, no, I haven't seen it. The Adam West TV show so completely and utterly fulfilled me, that when it went off in thair in about 1968 I never needed to see another depiction of Batman ever.

Josh

Name: George Pilalidis
E-mail: agamemmnon@msn.com

Dear Josh.

The reason for the bad filmmakers is the technology,because they learn to make movies with computer, and this making of, like action stop, action stop,action stop, this make them to lose the feeling,and this is the reason, and for the bad acting,from the actors,i think to make a good movie today,you have to think it out,again and again and then you can finde out if is going to by a good movie, but for this you mast have strong imagination,and of course experience.hey josh i'm now in München Germany, you 've taken my postcard from Barcelona???George

Dear George:

Your postcard has made it to Shirley in Maine, and she has forwarded it onto me here in Michigan, but I haven't gotten it yet. Whatever the reasons may be, writers are not thinking their way through their stories, nor have they seemingly any points to make. To just say that there's racial tension in the ghetto is to not say anything. It's like Spielberg going to trouble of saying war is hell, or Nazis are bad. Who cares? What happened to artists actually having a specific point of view?

Josh

Name: Rudy Fruity
E-mail:

Hi Joshy.

There hasn't been enough Twilight Zone talk on these boards. What are some of your favorite episodes? I don't mean the standard staples of the series that people are always so quick to claim as the best, "Eye of the Beholder" and "The Living Doll" and whatnot. I mean the REAL gems of the series, like "The Mighty Casey" and "Mr. Bevis" and "Cavender is Coming."
What are some of yours?

Dear Rudy:

I don't know the titles, but the episode that scared me the most as a kid was the one-hour episode with Burgess Meredith and the wax figures of the great killers, which he puts in his basement. I also liked the one with Cliff Robertson and the ventriloquist dummy; the one with the gold bars in the future in the desert; the one with the astronauts who keep disappearing; the one with Kevin McCarthy as a history professor who is really 2,000 years old, to name a few.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Not a question, but a comment re: Speilberg and War Of The Worlds. There was one thing that threw me so out of the movie that I didn't enjoy it one iota... and the thing was... if an electromagnetic pulse wiped out all the power within the area, to the extent that batteries weren't working, how come this one guy is filming the massacare with a digital video?

Dear John:

Because it's a remake and there's a scene in the 1953 version with the great voice-over actor, Paul Frees, on camera speaking into a weird old-looking voice recorder, saying, "This is for future generations . . . if any," that's why. Remakes are crap, get with the program. The point isn't for you to enjoy the film, it's just for you to spend your money. Complaining that a remake isn't good is the height of absurdity. Of course it's not good, it wasn't meant to be.

Josh

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

Josh,

There's an interesting article in this week's "Science News", (a great publication, by the way). The cover article is on the subject of Sleep Paralysis. I don't know if you're aware of the phenomenon, but it is actually not uncommon and is universally cross-cultural, though there are environmental factors. A person wakes from sleep, usually after the initial REM period, and feels an "evil" presence in the room. A demonic character then crawls upon the person, who cannot move, eventually coming to sit upon the chest. The person feels as though he cannot breathe, and as though the evil is engulfing him. The paralysis lasts for a few terrifying seconds, after which the person becomes free to move and the demon disappears. The author suggests that this phenomenon, which is a biochemical reaction to stress, is the basis of all belief in the supernatural (and hence religion). Even after "victims" watch themselves on video tape they are often not convinced that the phenomenon is psychological. Sleep paralysis is considered the source of alien abduction stories as well, though it figures only peripherally in the article.

Anyway, it is an interesting article and touches upon your religion essay in some part. I think the syndrome would make a great horror story; after all, all exerience has internal reality, it's real to the person who experiences it, so there is a sense in which these occurences are "real". They can also be inescapable which makes sleep, literally, a visit from Hell.

A note on the recent subway bombings; macabre though it might seem to mention this, I wish special effects people, and their directors, would look at the footage from the London tunnels; mostly smoke and dust. "Flamboyant" explosions, if you will pardon the expression, will only ever trivialize their impact.

Thanks,

John

Dear John:

That's what happens when you don't smoke enough pot, you sleep poorly. Explosions in movies rarely look any good. The film that jumps to mind with great explosions was Sergei Bondarchuk's "They Died For the Motherland," where I think they were using real artillery shells and it was making the camera shake about a half mile away. But you're always seeing in war films what are supposed to be artillery explosion going off right next to soldiers and they hardly notice, which wouldn't be the case.

Josh

Name: Jon Kenworthy
E-mail: monsterkilledbylaser@yahoo.co.uk

Hi Josh

I've noticed you mention bands such as Yes, ELP etc and wondered what you thought of King Crimson. Personally I like most of their albums up to Discipline (and I have a soft spot for Fripp' solo album Exposure) my favourite album being Larks Tongues in Aspic (which, incidentally, my band covered a song from for a Crimo tribute 7inch single, sorry about the plug.)

War of the Worlds, I'm tempted to go see it as it's one of my favourite books, but deep down I know its going to be a steaming turd. I'll probably stick with air drumming to the Jeff Wayne record and save my pennies for something worthwhile like a bottle of vodka.

Anyway thanks for your time

Jon

Dear Jon:

I love King Crimson's first album, "In the Court of the Crimson King," but that's it. Once Greg Lake left the band I lost interest. I like Fripp's guitar work for Eno and Bowie.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative

Josh,

That quote came from a movie put out during the 80's called "Angel Heart".

It had Robert DeNiro and Mickey Rourke in it along with Lisa Bonet.

Was it the best film ever? Nope.

But it had some really cool shots in it and it was very twisty.I thought it was pretty cool.

The lightning trick with the battery and jumper cables works pretty good too Josh. Once you do a little audio dub it's not bad at all. You just have to remember to keep the washers between the head of the bolt and the locknut lightly greased for ease of operation.Don't forget the safety goggles either.

DISCLAIMER:I am not recommending anybody do that unless they absolutely know what they are doing.Safety is always a prime concern.

Have a good one Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Yes, I saw "Angel heart." Silly, dumb, ridiculous film. DeNiro plays Louis Cypher. Nice photography.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Of the two films, "A Few Good Men" is a better drama, but "Saving Private Ryan" is more technically correct, at least in terms of uniforms, equipment, the chain of command, etc. Both have scenes that would absolutely not fly in reality. No senior Marine officer like Jack Nicholson's character in AFGM would ever say something as crass as what he said to Demi Moore on the subject of female officers ["There's nothing finer than getting a blowjob from someone who outranks you. I guess I'll have to give up that pleasure now, unless they elect one of you girls President..."], certainly not to her face or in her hearing. Neither(like in SPR) would Tom Sizemore threaten to shoot a soldier, even if he was technically within his rights to do so (under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, dereliction of duty under fire is a capitol offense, but I cannot recall one instance where punishment was ever carried out in the field without due process). I think that Steven Spielberg is suffering from George Lucas syndrome, in that he pays too much attention to the fine details and technical aspects while neglecting the basics of storytelling.
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I think Aaron Sorkin was setting something up with Jack Nicholson's character and that little speech, which was clearly and obviously inappropriate, bordering on sexual harrassment. The point being, this guy's got a big mouth, doesn't know when to shut up and thinks he's above the rules, which is the ultimate pay-off of the story, and his undoing or Achilles Heel, if you will. That speech is not there arbitrarily.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I basically agree with you that Stephen Spielberg is overrated as a director. For a long time I have been trying to figure out what is wrong with most of his movies, and I think that mainly that there is a lack of plausibility. Also there is a large dose of cynicism in many of his films.

Duel and Jaws were far-fetched but plausible, so those stand out at his best films. Close Encounters was ok, but the whole premise of this alien encounter using music as communication, well, you knew that even if an encounter ever happened that it wouldn't be like that.

Schindler's List was ok for the biography of the obscure Schindler, but the Ralph Fiennes character was apparently an invention, not based on real person. His character while chilling and interesting did not give us any insight as to how the Nazi regime came about, as Judgment at Nuremberg so expertly did.

Saving Private Ryan, I can't comment on too much because I found the movie unwatchable and only watched about 45 minutes. As you mentioned the surly enlisted men were a little too much to take, and they were contradiction of the sophistication that we see of the actual D-Day veterans, who 'supposedly' loved Pvt. Ryan. Again, consistent with Spielberg, wasn't this movie an fabrication? That the search for Ryan was not based on any real event. To me that makes a pointless movie. At least the Battle of the Bulge, as hokey as it was, tried to structure itself around historical events.

I wonder what Steven Spielberg will come up with next, to make the World stop turning?

Dear Bob:

That's how I see it. I sincerely think the Ralph Fiennes Nazi character in "Schindler's List" is utterly stupid and laughable. It's a 12-year-old's conception of what Nazis were. There were no Nazi commandants at any concentration camps who just sat there shooting people willy-nilly from a balcony. It's ridiculous, idiotic, and a total misunderstanding of Nazis. The second you make them out to be monsters you completely miss what's honestly scary about them, which was that they were human beings, not monsters. "Schindler's List" is a piece of crap. So is "Saving Private Ryan." I'll bet "War of the Worlds" is probably okay because it's simpleminded childish nonsense, which is what Spielberg is good at. Any story with any depth at all is beyond him.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative

Josh,

Man..You sure do take a beating sometimes.

I do not think anyone in this entire world could ever accuse you of being a hypocrite because you certainly stand by what you believe in.Whether anybody reading this wants to believe it or not that is called Integrity.

Were I a dealmaker with unlimited funds and an unbeatable script I would go through hell and high water to get you to see the project through.

Josh you said it on religion.

I think it may have been originally intended to be a positive philosophy collectively but unfortunately it has been twisted and turned around to fit different agendas. That is why there are so many different conceptual religions floating around.

I subscribe to many of the old Native American beliefs myself and there are not 150,000 different perceptions of that. Hey, we were a happy bunch before the 1600's came along if that says anything.

Give 50 people a bible who have never read it before and you will get 50 different interpretations of it when they finish.

Reminds me of a movie I saw once.(wavy flasback)

Josh...For the whole damn ball of wax what movie did the following real world truth come from?

"There is just enough religion in the world to make men hate each other but not enough to make them love one another."

Have a good one Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

There's a perfectly good example, the Native American tribal religions, which predate all of the Judeo-Christian religions by 10,000 years. There is every bit as much truth to be found in the Native American religions as any other, possibly more. But Jesus is the world's savior? Give me a break. Jesus ain't my savior, nor is he the savior of most human beings living on the planet Earth, so where's the truth in saying he is? There isn't any. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have no more basis in reality than the tooth fairy or Peter Pan. Meanwhile, it's good quote, but I don't know where it's from.

Josh

Name: Marc Tamman
E-mail:

Josh:

It was great to have a mid-day post after the morning posts, which is so unusual for you. I think, however, that Jim made a lot of valid points concerning your criticisms of black filmmakers which you seemed to avoid. I'd appreciate (as I'm sure he would, as well as some of your other subscribers) if you took a little more time to respond and/or counter his arguements.

I'd also like to ask your thoughts on the film COLLATERAL--I know you're not a Michael Mann fan (nor am I for that matter) and bet you're not a Tom Cruise nut (even without the whole Prozac bashing debacle), but if you've seen the film, I'd appreciate your feelings principally on the script. If you haven't seen the film, I'd reccommend it strongly.

I laughed out loud when you responded about the filmmaker Boaz Yakin being not only all white, but also Jewish. He's just not a guy that tends to come up in conversation ever, but in the mid nineties he made quite a splash in independent cinema. I don't know what happened to him since in terms of making movies, but I read he moved to Paris. Don't they make movies there too? You say you know him, so maybe you can throw a bone or two my way, I'd be curious.

One more question before I stop (I've never written in before, but man, this is a lot of fun!): Do you and the old Michigan crew ever get together, like for an annual dinner or something? I'm talking about everyone involved with Evil Dead 1 and 2, Thou Shall Not Kill, the super 8's, the Coen brothers, you name it. If not, maybe it's high time...

Thanks for listening, Josh. Though I hate some of your opinions my opinion of you is that you're a good and honest individual.

Dear Marc:

Black, white, Arab, Asian, Latino, it doesn't matter. Motion pictures are in an artistic slump. I don't think there are any legitimately good filmmakers running around right now, and that certainly includes me. But Charles Burnett, Spike Lee and Ivory Kennan Wayans are not terrific examples of good filmmakers. It's not a racial issue, it's the time we're living in. Let's take "Collateral" as an example. It's a far-fetched premise, but a workable idea for a while. However, an hour into that movie it has stretched its thin premise beyond the breaking point. For the last utterly needless thirty minutes it turned into "The Terminator," with Tom Cruise now unstoppable and unkillable, covered in blood and walking through flames. Whatever was okay about the film for an hour completely evaporates in the second long, endless hour. They might have been able to pull it off for 90 minutes, but not for 125 minutes. Tom Cruise is also miscast, and his gray hair is ridiculous. If Michael Mann actually knew what he was doing, or had any taste, he would not have allowed the film to disintegrate into unbelievable nonsense. Why you would recommend that film strongly is entirely beyond me. Regarding Boaz, he moved back to LA from Paris and I believe is now working with Scott Spiegel making low-budget horror films. Once when speaking to him my brain and mouth betrayed me and I said, "Now look here, Bozo . . ." and I didn't mean it. I still feel embarrassed. And finally, no, we Detroit filmmakers do not have any reunions. We all see each other when our paths cross. I saw Sam a few weeks ago when he was in Detroit, and I'll see Bruce when he's here in two weeks to show "Screaming Brain."

Josh

Name: KG
E-mail: kennethg1970@hotmail.com

Josh - have you really looked at the great religions and tried to verify their claims?? Or have you already decided in your prejudice that they are all bullshit... And do you really think that the human race, without religion would not have anything to divide it? How about Captialism?? But you conveniently left that one out? Do you think that doesn't divide people? Ideaologies? Including Marxism? Do they not divide people? Look what they did to Russia. But it didn't last - because people began to realize that there's more to life to economics - much more. They began to see that the freedom which is most preious is religious freedom - because without that man is a pawn to the powerful - like Stalin.

Is division really the worst evil? I think what is worse than that is meaninglessness. All of us will suffer and die eventually - what good is "goodwill toward men" if there is no meaning to your life? Why should I care about the poor - or politics or preserving the Earth, or anything if there is no meaning? Do we define our own meaning? Did we create ourselves? Did we make the sky, figure out how the earth turns, manufacture the eagle, comprehend the movement of waters? Life says out loud - I am beautiful - I was created - I am filled with meaning - look for it - find it. It is filled with meaning that I did not create. But what is it? I believe it is our job to look for this meaning - and that is the realm of religion - there's no getting away from it - and, we all have one - even you. If we do not worhsip to Mystery that created us, we worship something else. But that part of man's heart is always occupied.

We already have natural divisions in nature - nationality, language, culture - do you think these are bad things? Do you not need how they make the world more interesting. The fact is we can be divided in these things and still be truly human and charitable to each other. Man, by himself, eventually kills every noble impulse, every wholesome endeavor. And by himself, he dies...so he always loses...but let's go deeper...is there anything that has happened in history that is in contradiction to this pathetic state of man...yes - there is one proposal that offers true hope for man - AND it is historical fact - that not only happenened 2000 years ago but is still happening today - offering a proposal of true hope for humanity - and that is Christianity. But the only way to verify the truth of this outrageous proposal is to live with this reality in its most lively form - to encounter it...then you can begin to verify the truth of it - you may find out that it is bullshit - but you can't say what it is until you have truly verified it - but using the method that is dictated by the thing you want to verify and what is it? - the continuation of the existence of a man who walked aroung 2000 years ago and said he sas God - and there are people in the world who claim that in their unity they are the Mysterious continuation of that Presence and this Presence has turned the world upside down since then ..and is still doing - despite the human factor - which is faulted and weak. It has changed the world - through this Church the world has become more human - if it wasn't for Christianity there wouldn't be Western Culture as we know it - Charitiable organizations, hospitals, great beauty in art and literature, civil rights, women's rights, , abolition of slavery, the sense of the human person as being with incredible dignity. If you are open, you will see much, much more than you are seeing now. Take a look - there's true joy and hope in this proposal for humanity. Christianity makes the most boldest and outrageous claims out of any of the religions - a man in history claimed to be God Himself - who walked the earth and suffered a shameful death - but then rose from the dead. It's worth looking into...

Dear KG:

Snooze. There's as much chance that Jesus was god as my cat is god. Religion equals fear. End of story. Anyone who takes mythology, which is what all religions are, literally is a fool. There's every bit as much chance that Christianity is true as the religion of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Zoroastrianism, or any of the others, which just means they're all nonsense. Whatever meaning your tiny little life may have, you must bring to it. If you care to use religion as a way out of actually thinking about life and its "mysteries," that's fine, but know you're copping out. Religion is an excuse to not have to personally deal with life's issues, which you're stuck dealing with anyway. At least within the natural differences between people we have come to the understanding that no matter what our race or nationality, we are all equal. Religions all still pretend that this one is the "real" one, and all the others are profane, which is how it must be. If you're going to suspend your disbelief, meaning have "faith," then it naturally can't encompass two mythologies simultaneously. You must choose one over the others, meaning "I'm right and they're wrong." Until we get rid of these silly, old-fashioned, ignorant divisions based exclusively on fear, we will continue to have naked aggression like us attacking Iraq, or terrorists blowing up buildings. Religion is evil.

Josh

Name: Jim K
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Well, just because you didn't cotton to either of the Burnett films you saw doesn't mean he's not a good director. I mean, plenty of people don't like some of your films, but that doesn't disqualify you as a "good director."

While I think Spike Lee hasn't fulfilled his promise fully (though I like Right Thing, 25th Hour, Mo' Better Blues, Crooklyn, Clockers and Malcom X fine, and yes, I know you hate Malcom X,) I think your seriously simplistic reading of Do the Right Thing is a drag.

The Danny Aiello character is treated very sympathetically in the film, and Lee is aware of his character's reverse racism in the scene where Jolie Lee and Aiello flirt. The older characters (Davis and Dee) are horrified by the events at the end, which I think Lee in no way condones but understands. The fact that you don't understand is what he, rightly or wrongly, feels is part of the problem.

I think the moment that Lee throws the can through the window is a fascinating one, if not spelled out -- and while you have basically sound taste and judgement, your affection for overliteral hack Stanley Kramer, who had a good heart and abominable, stiff filmmaking skills that haven't dated well at all,, makes me suspect you're not one for subtlety (and all the ridiculous "let us explain who we are and what we stand for" dialogue at the beginning of "Hammer" is by far the weakest point of your otherwise ambitious and very interesting film). The blacks have been worked up into
> a frenzy after the killing of the Radio guy, and are glowering at the outnumbered and unprotected three white guys (two of which, Aiello and Edson, have been presented extremely sympathetically) and the Lee character, very consciously and deliberately, turns the violence against the pizza place as opposed to the human target, quite possible saving their lives -- you may not agree with this reading, but so what?.

And the putting of the black picture on the wall while the place burns down is a stunning, dark moment; Lee, I surmise, is pointing out the futility of so much black rage which is ultimately self-defeating and nihilistic; great, you got your picture on the wall, except there won't be a wall in the morning and there won't be a pizza place to eat at the next day. Do any of the most sympathetic characters (Dee, Davis, Jolie Lee) support the riot at the end? They're horrified by it.

It puzzles me that you don't feel that Aiello isn't treated sympathetically in even the final scene. I believe Lee is aware that certainly people like you who didn't like the film and people like me who did BOTH feel sympathy towards Aiello and what has happened to him. I think Lee shows incredible responsibility in the film by not ending it at the moment the picture is placed on the wall, which seems like an obvious ending; like the black preachers who whip an audience into a frenzy during a sermon, there is a cooling off period at the end, where the stunned characters assess the damage. Lee's character was a funny, sharp, but self-involved, short-term thinking clown, and he is still that way in the final scene. Aiello is a well-intentioned white guy justifiably proud of his achievements who generally does try to "do the right thing", and in his stunned state, even then tries. If you recall (I know with all the pot smoking you may not!), the many black characters in the place (including Lee) shouted down the black loudmouth demanding the pictures on the wall earlier in the film. He and Radio Raheem are not heroes; but Lee does feel that the police in New York were institutionally racist (although he makes clear one cop is trying to stop the other cop w/ Raheem in the choke hold). If he made Raheem a perfect character, a nice guy, that would have been abominabl, manipulative filmmaking; his point is even an asshole like Raheem shouldn't be killed (and he was exploring events that had happened in New York in the recent past, where an unarmed black man was killed in a chokehold by a cop).

Whether or not you like THING, it's a lot more complicated film and the dopey list of questions you came up with disappoints me, cuz usually you're a lot sharper -- why don't you try answering them -- obviously many of us were willing to grapple with the film, which indeed is more complex than many of Lee's later misfires (SHE HATE ME is incoherent and awful). Just because you suddenly became dumb doesn't mean the film did. THING, whether you like it or not, was ambitious, intelligent, and complex.

So yes, Josh, Spike Lee is a good (if flawed) filmmaker -- just like you. Ozzie Davis was a good filmmaker. Bill Duke (Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover) is a good filmmaker. Charles Burnett is a good filmmaker. Robert Townsend made some embarassing films in his career, but he's made two good ones as well (Five Heartbeats I felt was underrated). Leon Ichaso made Sugar Hill, which was a better film than New Jack City, but somewhat overlooked. Bill Gunn was a good filmmaker...I agree, John Singleton and the Hughes brothers most certainly are not.

You ain't a racist, but your limitations in what your willing to consider "good" (anything that doesn't completley fit your basically conservative formalism is immediately shit) say more about you than they do about cinema. I agree a lot with what you say -- I don't think David Lynch is great, but I don't think he's terrible -- the same things you don't like often frustrate me as well, but the films are largely still interesting.

I mean, in "Running Time," how does the girl not recognize Bruce Campbell in the van when she's been hired by his friend and keeps his jacket in her apartment? But, true, your film does have a three-act structure, so apparently all is right in the world. (Don't get me wrong, "Running Time" is a VERY good movie, but if everyone grabbed hold of flaws in movies and immediately termed the filmmakers bad, you would be a bad filmmaker). You're not. You're a good filmmaker, just like all those black guys I listed! Keep up the good work!

Dear Jim K:

Okay, so everybody's good. Regarding "Do the Right Thing, " it's an exemplification of the old adge, "That which is not understood is admired." It certainly is ambiguous, I'll give it that, and not uninteresting, but it doesn't know what it's saying -- it has no point to make. No, Radio Raheem doesn't deserve to be killed, but he shouldn't be allowed to blast his music in a restaurant, either. What am I to make of all this? Jeez, I don't know. Sorry, but neither does Spike Lee. Ambiguity in and of itself does not make it deep. The Burnett films are just uninteresting filmmaking combined with weak screenwriting. "Anger" is simply a static, filmed play, and not a very good play to begin with, with Danny Glover chewing up the scenery. "The Glass Shield" is a polemic hiding behind a lame story and is truly a bad movie. "Clockers" was an awful adaptation of an interesting book, with some of the worst music scoring ever in a motion picture. "Malcom X" is a $40 million dud that sits there like a ton of bricks and does not do any justice to it's incredibly interesting subject. Shit like "Mo' Better Blues" and "Crooklyn" are so lame their not worth discussing. Look, I won't bend my criteria for contemporary movies ("It was pretty good for a film released this year"), nor will I do it for PC reasons, either. I won't just say there are good black directors because it's the right thing to say. I wish there was a black Stanley Kubrick and a black John Ford, but there aren't. And it's not like I think there are all that many, if any, good white directors anymore. The whole film business stinks: Hollywood, indies, ethnic, Asian, you name it. Film is in a big artistic slump, and pretending that things are good when they're not only prolongs it, in my opinion.

Josh

Name: Walter
E-mail: Waltt2mer@mac.com

Josh,

Loooooove the site. CANNOT get enough!

Where did Francis Ford Coppola go wrong? The Rainmaker is worthy, so is Tucker...but come on! Here's the revolutionary who founded Zoetrope and made The Godfather.

George Lucas was set to direct Apocalypse Now, what do you think that would have been like?

Also, if you could be any director in the history of film...who would you be? And I don't just mean, you make their films, I mean you have to live their lives, day in and day out: wake up in their bed, fuck their wives, raise their kids. William Wyler? Billy Wilder? Spielberg? Who would you be?

Dear Walter:

It's actually titled "John Grisham's The Rainmaker," and it was crap. "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" is crap, too. There's a movie that went very wrong somewhere along the way. The story of Preston Tucker is a tragedy -- he was a man with a better idea who got squashed by the big companies. Lucas and Coppola tried to turn it into a triumphant story of success, which undermined the whole thing. Meanwhile, I think George Lucas has proven he's not a very good director, nowhere near as good as Coppola, so I would have to believe he would have made terrible movie out of "Apocalypse Now." And I don't want to be anyone else but me.

Josh

Name: Libby
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What about f gary gray? He's a helluva director. you seem like you have no culture. what about do the right thing? that's one of the best movies ever. you should not make statments like that, "there are no good black film directors." that just sounds ignorant and rasist. i can think of lots more good ones, like melvin van peebles and keenan ivry waynes. maybe not your kind of films, but they're good, and they send positive messages to society. i also think your wrong about fresh and think the directors probably half black. please respond. also, if you don't like black directors maybe you could at least cite some good black actors you like.

Dear Libby:

I knew someone would jump down my throat. I'm not a rascist, I'm just a film fan. I heartily disagree about "Do the Right Thing," which I'd say is not only not "one of the best movies ever," it's not even a very good movie, and as hard as I've tried I can't figure out what Spike Lee is trying to say. White people shouldn't have businesses in black neighborhoods? If you do have a business in a black neighborhood then you must pander to their whims and put up pictures of people they like, not who you like? Or is it, after the whole riot (which Spike's character starts), Spike demands that Danny Aiello pay him his money, so is the point that white people owe black people money? Spike Lee really seems like a rascist to me. As for Melvin Van Peebles, he never made a good film, nor has Keenan Ivory Wayans. There are many fine black actors, like: Denzel Washington (who did a good job directing "Antwone Fisher"), Halle Berry, Danny Glover, Samuel Jackson, Jamie Fox, Omar Epps, Cuba Gooding, Jr.. But for me to say, after giving it some serious thought, that there are no good black directors, is absolutely not a rascist statement, it's simply a statement of reality. If you think I have to say that there are good black directors when I don't really think there are just because it's PC, that's bullshit. The director of "Fresh," BTW, is Boaz Yakin, whom I've met many times, and he's entirely Caucasian and 100% Jewish.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Well, regarding current black directors, Charles Burnett, who made "To Sleep With Anger" w/ Danny Glover and "The Glass Shield" w/ Ice Cube, is an exceptional director, although he largely works independently with unknown actors, although he has done one or two tv movies for the Disney Channel. He's definitely an individualistic director, which is why he has never really been part of the machine ("Shield" has come closest, and I don't think he's fully happy with the experience.) Carl Franklin, who made "One False Move" and "Devil in the Blue Dress" certainly has skill, although he's made his share of unremarkable programmers.

Dear Jim:

Thanks for the help remembering. I didn't like either of throse films by Charles Burnett. I did kind of like "One False Move," but Carl Franklin certainly didn't follow that up very well. I'm trying to think if there's ever been a good black director, but I don't think so. Sidney Poitier directed several films, but none of them are exceptional in any way. There was Oscar Micheaux, the first black director, who made films from 1919-1948, but few of his films still exist, and the ones I've seen were just awful.

Josh

Name: Duffy
E-mail: g_duffy@bellsouth.net

Josh, Sorry it's Fever Dream not Fever Films. BIG difference apparantly Fever Films is porn! Not exactly what I was going for. So have you heard of Fever Dream LLC? Thanks

Dear Duffy:

Sorry, no.

Josh

Name: Duffy
E-mail: g_duffy@bellsouth.net

Josh I recently recieved an email back from a company called Fever Films in NY, NY saying they are interested in my script. Have you heard of them? Also should I wait until I have my copyright before sending them anything for protection purposes? Is there a way to research a company before sending them your work. I live in fear of someone "stealing" my work and making it as their own. Thanks from a slightly paranoid writer, Duffy

Dear Duffy:

If you've sent it in for copyright, that's sufficient, you don't have to wait for it to come back. Do put a copyright notice © and a c in a circle on the front page. No, I've never heard of them, but that doesn't mean anything, I haven't heard of most production companies. As for research, you might try the internet. There's no point in living in fear of having your work stolen. In 99.99% of the cases the scripts are not only not worth stealing, most are so bad that they can't even be read. To believe that anyone could even recognize a good idea at this point is a huge leap, too big for me. You see I have 20 scripts, as well as a lot of other writing, posted on the internet and nobody's stealing it.

Josh

Name: Eric Rosenthal
E-mail: eric30202002@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

Any tips for finding good people to collaborate with on films (preferably for free or cheap)? Like if you needed a DP or composer and didn't have anyone you knew in mind.
By the way I saw High Noon recently and it was terrific. I'll have to check out more of Fred Zinneman's movies.

Best Wishes,
Eric

Dear Eric:

Filmmaker Magazine has a website with a message board, maybe that would work. If you're in a big city there are undoubtedly folks running around who would like to make movies. Check with universities that have film programs. I got most of my "Running Time" crew from Cal State, Northridge. Also look into local theater groups. Meanwhile, Fred Zinnemann is one of my favorites. I really love "From Here to Eternity," "The Nun's Story" and "Member of the Wedding."

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

Sorry to correct you, but Dale Dye played the company commander in "Platoon" the one who survives the attack on the patrol base. The officer that you're thinking of was the battalion commander in the bunker that gets overrun, and that role was a cameo by Oliver Stone. However, I do agree that Dale Dye is the top military advisor to the movies today; indeed, he pretty much carved out the niche for himself, along with perhaps R. Lee Ermey. He was Marshall's aide in "Saving Private Ryan"(he was sporting gray hair and a 2nd Infantry Division combat patch in that one), Colonel Sink in "Band of Brothers", and General Leonard Wood in "Rough Riders," all of which he was also the senior technical advisor for. He most recently did "Alexander", although I don't recall if he had an onscreen role in that one. His method of getting actors to appear to be realistic soldiers is to put them through a short "boot camp," where they train with the weapons, uniforms, equipment, and tactics appropriate to the army and period that they are portraying, all supervised by Dye's crew of technical advisors acting as drill sergeants. This method is highly effective, and shows up on screen in several subtle ways: the mark of a Dale Dye movie is one where the actors look and act like soldiers, not just actors in costume. The actors don't always care for it (the rumor is that they mutinied on "Saving Private Ryan" about halfway through the training), but the end result is excellent.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

If I ever get to Make "Devil Dogs" I would certainly need someone like him. I just watched "A Few Good Men" again and it has a pretty good sense of the military, I think (having never been in the military), whereas "Saving Private Ryan" did not. Subordinates keep lipping off to officers and they keep walking along ridgelines.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just wanted to remark on the passing of a person who I considered to be a damn fine writer-Ed Mc Bain. The first book I read from him was given to me by a friend, called "The Last Dance." It blew me away. The grittiness of his characters, the way he laid out plot, and his writing style showed me how much I still needed to learn as a writer. I went on to read "Nocturne", and I'm now reading "Romance". "Windows" is waiting in the wings after I finish "Romance."

When I went to read his bio, I was blown away to find out he wrote the screenplay to Hitchcock's "The Birds". I also didn't realize how much of an influence his writing had on cop shows.

He's becoming one of my favorite writers-and one I'm certainly learning a lot from. I recommend that everyone here check out his work.

Saul

Dear Saul:

You mean Evan Hunter, right? I didn't hear that he'd died. He wrote a little book about the writing of "The Birds" called "Me and Hitch" that's pretty amusing. He wrote the book "Last Summer," which was made into a film in 1969, with a very young and gorgeous Barbara Hershey. I was eleven years old and she just bowled me over she was so beautiful. Just a stray memory.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Hi Josh

Recently I watched two flicks, 'Mystic River' and 'The Machinist.' The first troubled me a bit, because although I was interested in the film the whole time, it fell apart quickly after the credits rolled. It's like the three leads had no real motivation for any of their actions and so the theme of guilt didn't string through them, rendering the structure and theme of the movie useless. I did like how it was shot though - Eastwood's got a nice minimalist touch (in fact, one of the things that stands up for me with 'Milion Dollar Baby' is its cinematography.) The other flick, 'The Machinist', staring Christian Bale, was a good pressure cooker thriller which had nice touches of Hitchcock. It had a central theme, also guilt, but used it much more effectively. Bale was right on target and gave a memorable performance. There was a clear structure, clear motivation, effective visuals. Nothing detracted from the story, but I didn't think anything besides Bale's weight loss (63 lbs) would be. After all, he's been quoted as saying 'you should never be bigger than the film you're in.' Recommended.

Dear Brett:

Okay, I'll watch "The Machinist" when it appears in front of me, although from everything I've seen, Christian Bale just doesn't seem very appealing or interesting (which is why I think he needs to pull stunts like the weight-loss). I didn't like anything about "Mystic River," particularly the ugly cinematography by Tom Stern. I also thought it was rather poorly directed, too. At least both Eastwood and Stern did better work on "Baby," but not much.

Josh

Name: Libbby
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

what do u think of black themed films? Boyz N the hood, Menadce 2 society, jungle fevar, fresh.

u like any? what black filmmakers u like?

Dear Libbby:

"Boyz N the Hood" was all right. I didn't care for "Menace 2 Society," "Jungle Fever" or "Fresh" (which was made by a white guy). I don't think there are any good black filmmakers. Spike Lee has been nothing but a big disappointment; Antoine Fuqua hasn't made any good movies, but he seems to shoot pretty well; Ernest Dickerson (Spike Lee's DP) has directed a few things, but nothing special; the Hughes brothers don't impress me; I sort of liked Mario Van Peebles' film "Baaadaasss," but I didn't love it. Am I skipping somebody?

Josh

Name: Erik R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Another boxing question for ya. Why do some boxers have such long-lasting careers? How old is Bernard Hopkins, 41? Wasn't Foreman in his mid-40s when he won his last title? I mean, you'd think that in a sport this brutal, these guys would never be putting on gloves past their late 20s. Yet there's a lot of old guys who dominate; I don't get it.

Dear Erik:

This isn't really a boxing site. Most boxers don't go past 35 or so. Bernard is 40, but he's wily and doesn't get all that often. Foreman had retired, then came back in his mid-40s and KOed Michael Moorer for the championship, but that was a fluke.

Josh

Name: Jeremy
E-mail: michaelvollmann@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

seriously man, you lost me in the third paragraph when you ripped on Kubrick. Get a clue. He worked to break down conventions of boring hollywood conventional story-telling.

Dear Jeremy:

Third paragraph of what?

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

I'm more of a Warner Oland fan, too. It's kind of like the old Shemp vs. Curly debate: you're either on one side or the other.
In another posting, someone mentioned "Saving Private Ryan" and felt that GEN Marshall acted unrealistically in sending out a rescue mission. It is true that GEN Marshall never authorized any such mission, although the events in SPR are loosely based on a real occurrence. The lost soldier in question was named Neland, and he did indeed lose three brothers, although one of them was later found alive in Burma. His mother did receive all three telegrams in one day, but this did not lead to a dramatic rescue mission. As recounted in Stephen Ambrose's book, "Band of Brothers", Neland was simply informed when the airborne units reconsolidated and pulled off the line. The entire scene in the War Department was inconsistant with Marshall's character; he was a very private, almost aloof man who kept his own counsel and didn't justify his decisions to anyone.
Speaking of "Saving Private Ryan," have you ever had occasion to meet Dale Dye, the military technical advisor for the film? He's cut out quite a niche for himself with his company; he's been the military advisor for every recent war movie from SPR to "Alexander," and he's acted in quite a few as well. I initially questioned whether a retired Marine Corps captain and Vietnam veteran was qualified to provide detailed technical advice on military methods and equipment far removed from his own personal experience (i.e. Greek phalanx tactics or WW II Army airborne stuff), but he's seems to get the job done.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Dale Dye has been THE military advisor in Hollywood for a long time now. I think his first exposure was with "Platoon," which he's also in (he plays the commanding officer who gets over-run).

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

On the Krasnogorsk-3...The thing is built like a tank and it has a Meteor screw in manually operated zoom lens though the bayonette lens is available on some models. It also has the diopter eye piece so you can adjust what you are seeing if you don't have your glasses on or whatever the case may be.

It takes 100 foot film rolls.It can film from 8fps to 48fps and does have single frame capability which I have never used on the camera.

It shoots silent. It has no microphone inputs or anything of that nature.Filter thread is 77mm.

It is powered by a heavy duty wind-up spring motor.The advantage to that obviously is that you do not need to run around with a battery pack and can film whenever you want to. The disadvantage is that a full winding lasts roughly 30 seconds and that is at 24fps. You go to 36 or 48 then cut that film time in half. You have 15 or so seconds to film and that basically is just enough time to piss you off real good.A 100 foot film roll is gone in just a couple of minutes. It can be modified to take a motor though if you want to invest that kind of money into this little camera.

The light meter on it,at least on mine,doesn't work that well and requires the use of a battery that is not available anymore.You can get the camera modified to take available batteries for about $30.00.I just use my Sekonic to set the stop.

The end product has usually come out pretty good though not always.I got some cool stuff at Virginia Beach last month.

Overall, it is a very neat camera to shoot little classroom shorts or take on a vacation.I would never attempt to shoot any kind of meaningful film with it.Or you could splice a meaningful shot that you took with your K-3 into your movie that was shot with a full monty but basically the K-3 is not a feature maker.

"Ok CUT" ""Everybody freeze!" "Stand on your marks!" "Let me wind up this freakin camera!" "If you move off your mark you can go ahead and go home for the day!" "Ok everybody ACTION!" Then repeat that whole process in about 30 seconds while reaching for another 100 foot roll of film to load. Not practical and I don't think it can be modified to take a 400 foot magazine either. I may be wrong though.

The important thing is the experience you get with the format.If you are going to learn and go on or get disgusted and quit the K-3 might be a good inexpensive alternative to test the waters so to speak.

I would like to relate that 16mm film is high dollar and it sometimes takes as much moolah to develop a roll of film as it did to buy it.Bottom line is that 16mm is an expensive proposition that can piss you off big time if you are not careful.

Hope this made some kind of sense.

Tim

Dear Tim:

It makes perfect sense. You only get 30-40 seconds on a wind with the Bolex, too, but it's generally enough for most shots. But if you do everything right the footage can look great, much better than most DV cameras.

Josh

Name: Christian Fleming
E-mail: Christianfleming@wi.rr.com

Hi,

I am a 15 year old director who is in the midst of starting a joint production agency. I have done only a couple full length films, but I have numourous credits in shorts and stage. I was wondering what do you think would be the best way to get started. I recently got accepted to go to NYU next summer. Thank you for your help.

Christian

Dear Christian:

You sound like you're doing everything you can do at the moment. Go to NYU, learn what they have to teach, make more films, write as much as you can, watch every movie you can, read as many books as you can. The most important attribute a director has is taste, and you can only develop a sense of taste by learning and knowing as much as humanly possible.

Josh

Name: Steven Payle
E-mail: SPayle@midusa.net

Dear Josh,

I know you deal with more professional equipment, but, did you ever work with Russian 16mm or 35mm cameras. I find models by Kovnas and Kinor on Ebay at prices where it's tempting to purchase just for the sake of a tutorial. If you haven't dealt with these 'Red-Cameras' perhaps your readers might be able to provide some details of their experiences with them.

Thanks for any thought and time you may give this inquiry.

Dear Steven:

I know about the Krasnogorsk, but I've never used one. It looks like a cross between a Bolex and a Canon Scoopic, both of which I've used a lot. I have a Bolex, and it works very well as long as you remember to set all the settings. My buddy Paul worked out the "Three Fs" -- focus, f-stop, frame-rate, and as long as you keep chanting that you're fine.

Josh

Name: Jay Bliznick
E-mail: jay@dinsdalegroup.com

Hey Josh,

Well, I said I would write in and I am. Mainly because I wanted to add a little something to what you said to Benjamin. I know, it isn't about film but as someone who can seriously relate I thought I should say something.

Though I am married and not a 34 year old virgin I can honestly say I got lucky. I am overweight and I am a 100%, clinically diagnosed, certifiable manic-depressive with a side of anxiety disorder. I am currently on a medicine that goes by the smug little name of Abilify. I found that this has been good for me since it has NO side effects other than a little fatigue that can be worked through with a little exercise.

There are a lot of options out there these days and there are a lot of different types of manic-depressive disorders. There are also great breakthroughs in therapy happening including cognitive behavioral therapy which helps you understand why you think the way you do and how to not fall into cycles of thought that lead to anxiety and depression.

Anyway, my point is that movies are great. I love them, as Josh can attest to, but it's a lot more fun to get laid than watch people get laid on the screen.

You're not alone. There are others like you. Talk to a good psychiatrist and find what options are best for you.

Jay

Dear Jay:

Welcome to the discussion and thanks for adding your knowledgable advice. No matter what a knuckle-headed dimwit like Tom Cruise says about anti-depressants, he clearly knows nothing (even if he proclaims from the rooftops that he's "studied psychiatry" and knows what he's talking about. Perhaps Scientology offers psychiatry as a minor, right after pestering pedestrians on streetcorners).

Josh

Name: August
E-mail: joxerfan@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I actually heard a fair number of the old Goon Show recordings - NPR re-ran them in the mid-70's, along with a similar show featuring a young John Cleese called "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again," which certainly showed some early Python qualities. (Silly wordplay like "He hailed me. I picked up a handful of gravel and hailed him back.") But I would assume that just about any young aspiring comedian, including the Python gang, would have been influenced by Sellers, Secombe and Milligan. I agree that much of the humor was/is incomprehensible to Americans, but they probably thought the same about Amos 'n Andy, or Fibber McGee and Molly.

Thanks for posting the link to the NY Times article - I know several of us have mentioned the USA Today article, but I saved it here: http://www.geocities.com/xhlist/USA_Today_article.html if anyone missed it.

And that's just extremely cool about your new publisher finding your book online. It's almost as if you had been wearing a sweater at a drugstore counter. Almost.

What's the latest on "The Horribleness?" I know you said this will be an independently-funded film - but do you have individual people investing, or is there some company behind this?

And any more interest from Sci-Fi on another feature (i.e. "The Cascade Effect?")

And finally, I have a couple more proverbs for the fortune cookie:

Man who claim to be lawyer on internet, but spend time harassing directors about marijuana, need to consult with 300-lb. Samoan attorney for pharmacological advice.

And... man who believe "all my friends think it's incredible" means good script - also think he is good lover, due to acclaim from girlfriend Rosie Palm.

Regards,

August

Dear August:

Always good to hear from you. No word on any movie deals at the moment. "Cascade" is out at SciFi, "The Horribleness" is moving along at a glacial pace (at a film company), I'm writing another script that's coming along slowly, the book is being edited. I'm also compiling another book of my essays for the same publisher. So, shit's happening, but nothing earth-shaking.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative@wmconnect.com

Josh,

On the "Evil Dead"...Just from my perception of it I think that a lot of the appeal of the movie is in it's raw energy and balls to the wall approach.

The viewer is basically getting his or her ass kicked right from the start. In the first few minutes the "force" is bulleting through the woods. The kids almost get wiped out by a truck. Then the bridge gives way a little bit ("It's Murder beams").After that, we approach the cabin and the swing is rocking, or actually hitting against the outside wall, by itself which was also seen in "Within the Woods" but the effect was better in "Evil Dead". It was more liquid and smooth. The swings stops after Scott puts his hand on the keys.Soon after that Ellen gets her hand possessed and clues us in as to what might be getting ready to happen.

I could go on and on but the bottom line is that it never stops hitting you with visuals. You don't get much time to take a breather.Some of the visuals themselves were distorted like a fish-eye effect going on.It all added to the bottom line.

I think when you consider it was put in the can by an extremely young Sam Raimi and company it adds all the more to the appeal.I think most all of the cast and crew was in their early 20's.You were right there with them helping get it all put together.

When I was 20 all I wanted to do was drink beer and chase women.

It follows the structure rules and I also think that the hell everyone had to endure translated over to the screen making it that much more of a high impact in-your-face flick.

I have a few questions about the movie Josh.

What was baby powder used for?

How did you get the swing to slam up against the house like that? I pulled it off with fishing line but you could see the line every time unless I did it at sundown.Plus my line kept breaking.Heavier line is better but more visible.I couldn't see anything like that going on when they first get to the cabin and we see the swing from the front hitting into the outside wall.

Final question is on lightning. I have actually used an arc welder to simulate lightning.You basically put the mask on and touch a rod to steel and the camera will pick it up because the light is so intense.The light is actually too intense and anybody standing in the area has to be looking away from it.Is there a safer low-budget way to simulate erratic lightning?

Thank you for your time Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I don't know what we used baby powder for. The swing was being pulled by fishing line in the longer shots, but it's just being pushed by hand in the shots where it's in the foreground and stops. Although we didn't use this system on "Evil Dead," the way I've seen lightning done on movie sets a few times is too take two 6-foot 2x4s, bolt the two together at the center making a scissors, connect jumper cables to the ends of the 2x4s, connect the other end of the cables to a car battery, and when you close the scissors it causes the red and the black ends to connect and create a flash.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

"I saw some of the show in a documentary about Peter Sellers and was rather surprised at the similarities."

What was the name of the documentary, just so I can keep an eye out for it if they happen to play it in my neck of the woods (highly unlikely but you never know) Thanks :) Speaking of which, did you happen to see "The Life and Death Of Peter Sellers"? If so, what did ya think of it?

Dear John:

I found the film unbearable and I couldn't sit through it. I can't remember the name of the Sellers bio, maybe it was TV production.

Josh

Name: Benjamin Urgatti
E-mail: urgatti@pantsdown.net

Hey Josh.

You mentioned in a recent post that you've been on Prozac for ten years. As a fairly depressed person with delusions of aesthetic grandiosity, I shoot the following queries in your general direction:

1) Did you have any fears before getting on Prozac that it might affect your creativity or otherwise negatively affect your life? I tend to distrust mind-altering drugs, myself... Come to think of it, that's why I didn't do drugs in college, either -- I was afraid I would ruin my brain. As a result, I finished college without getting laid... I probably should have taken some fucking drugs.

2) What effects have Prozac had on your writing, if any? I guess it's hard to be creative if you're so depressed you can't get motivated to write -- which is pretty much the case with me -- as it's hard to imagine it mattering. Writing is what I want to do but I spend my entire life alone already at this point. Committing to sitting there writing by myself is difficult, as it feels like a masturbatory indulgence. Instead, I spend my time just as alone, but "drug" myself with movies & TV. Ugh.

Sorry for ranting about something of no interest. I just feel stuck in that my intense emotions are what drive me to want to write, but they are currently keeping me from being able to concentrate as well, because when I get sober and think about life as a 34-year-old, 500-lbs virgin living in his parents basement I want to put a gun to my head. (No, I'm not joking about that description of my life... It really is that pathetic. A less funny version of "Confederacy of Dunces.") Oh well. Fuck.

Dear Benjamin:

Since I started on Prozac in 1994 it has been the most creative, productive, money-making part of my life. Nothing bad has come to me from taking Prozac. Would the good things have occurred without the Prozac? Maybe yes, but maybe no. When I began with the drug, right after shooting "Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur," which had gone very poorly (although on time and on budget), I thought my career in TV had both started and ended. I was wrong. I ended up working for six years on Xena after that, as well as making two more indie features, another TV movie, and I've written about ten scripts in that time. I ought to work for Eli Lilly. Meanwhile, don't let them talk you into one of the many anti-depressants that are still under patent, and are therefore MUCH more expensive. If you're paying $3 a pill, that will depress you right there. Prozac has gone generic, is called Fluoxetine, and is cheap. I say, run don't walk to get some. I wish you all the best of luck.

Josh

Name: Adam
E-mail: adamminarovich@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

My name is Adam Minarovich and I have produced a few low budget films that have found distribution. I am curious since you have sold to scripts to studios, if it is best to get a lit agent or shop them directly to studios. I have three scripts I am trying to sell, but am having a tough time figuring out how to do so.
Thanks,
--Adam

Dear Adam:

That's because it's a tough game. I think you need an agent. I personally can't stand agents, but they are a integral part of that system. You can't personally get to anyone who can say yes to you. Any executive you can get a meeting with is too far down the food chain to matter. You need someone who can get to an executive who is high enough up to actually get movies made, and you personally can't get to them. If you want to play in that game, you've got to play by their rules. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Nick
E-mail: nichlas03@sbcglobal.net

<<There will undoubtedly be more, too. It keeps the discussion lively. BTW, did your dad think up your name while he was shaving?>>

What is this, are you joshin' me? ;-)

I was checking out an Alfred Hitchcock dvd collection, like 5 discs of movies, for like $9.99...not bad, not bad. What're your thoughts on "The Lady Vanishes"? And did you ever see the tv series Hitchcock had? I think it still pops up in reruns every now and then.

Have a great day,

Nick

Dear Nick:

I'm so friggin' old I saw many episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Show when it was originally broadcast, and in it's first set of reruns. They were always more ironic and clever than actually scary. As a kid I much preferred The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Meanwhile, "The Lady Vanishes" is a classic, and it's fun. Hitchcock was really just hitting his stride then, right before he went to Hollywood.

Josh

Name: burnbaby
E-mail: burnbaby34@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

i dont understand what all the evil dead hype is. its got some good kills but other then that its no better then any jason or freddy movie. maybe as one of the makers you can comment. i also dont understand why you have all those pictures of alien apocolpse on your site if you dont like it. i also dont understand how you can like billy wilder when he did a movie like the front page and not like lucio fulci when he did a movie like zombie.

Dear burnbaby:

There's obviously a lot you don't understand. Billy Wilder was old when he made "The Front Page." I'll bet you and I both do some dumb shit when we're that old. Let's just hope either of us can do what Mr. Wilder did when he was younger, like "Sunset Blvd" or "The Apartment." Regarding "Evil Dead," it's a very well-directed little movie with a terrifically assured sense of montage. Sam is a much stronger director visually than than Lucio Fulci.

Josh

Name: james
E-mail: jquinn@ucla.edu

Hey Josh, thanks for answering my question. I have another quick couple if that's alright.

*I am collaborating on a script right now and my collaborator keeps saying things like, "How do we make our protagonist more active?" and "This periphery character has an unsatisfying arc, and is therefor incomplete."
I don't know what to do...I just can't think in these abstract, text book ways. Any thoughts? You probably think in these ways, don't you? Or don't you? Or do you agree with me? Maybe you agree with my collaborator, who is also a girl, and so I'm hesitant to always trust what she says even if maybe she's sometimes and often a better writer, but I don't know what I think of female writers for the most part. I mean I usually do, and I don't like them, but I wouldn't want to generalize or stereotype or anything. Any thoughts on women writers?

*My last question, since the first one took so long to ask, is regarding 'Strykers War.'

Dear james:

I've never referred to any of my characters as a protagonist or an antagonist. Everybody gets a name as quickly as possible. I do think about character arcs, though. Meanwhile, I've never written with a woman. Now that I think about it I only know one female writer, Nora Kay Foster, who wrote a bunch of the Xena episodes I did. I like her writing. As a historical note, Francis Marion was the biggest screenwriter in the business in the 1920s and early '30s.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In your experience, are most actors highly intelligent? I have always thought that they are, especially lead actors. On the other hand, as famous and successful as many actors become, many character actors seem to die young, whereas many people in mundane jobs live very long lives. I guess I am wondering what are the qualities that a person must have to be an actor.

Dear Bob:

Highly intelligent? Since actors also happen to be humans, each one is different. But I think being an artist of any kind is not something you choose to do, you simply have to do it. An actor is a person who must act.

Josh

Name: Mike Dorn
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you care for the band "Coldplay"? How about "Dave Matthews Band" (not including there past three albums)? Cheers!

Dear Mike:

Coldplay seems generically okay to me. Dave Matthews is kind of interesting, although I haven't felt the need to buy any of his stuff.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Actually, I'm sure Python's influence was more Spike Milligan than Sellers... anyway, I'm no expert. I just enjoy both.

Thanks so much for the heads up about if it's a Cinemascope print or not.... I want to see It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in it's original presentation and likewise for the other films. Your comments made me remember that the festival, a coupla years ago, screened David Lynch's Blue Velvet. I was damn excited cause it was my only chance to see a classic on the big screen. They played a 4:3 print... which was pretty odd, to say the least. Pissed me off greatly.

Still, they also played some great documentaries - one I remember was about the collaberation between Hitchcock and David O.Selznick, narrated by Gene Hackman. That was great.

Dear John:

I'm no expert on British humor, either, and Spike Milligan was obviously the old man of the sea to all of these guys, but Peter Sellers had his own show very briefly after leaving The Goon Show, and before his movie career took off, so this is the late '50s, and from what I've seen it looks very similar in concept and structure to the Monty Python Show. I saw some of the show in a documentary about Peter Sellers and was rather surprised at the similarities.

Josh

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

Josh, just wondering if you saw the NY Times article on Sci-Fi. Had a paragraph or two about Alien Apocalypse. BTW, any idea on when the DVD for AA is coming out?

Dear Jim:

No, I hadn't seen it, and I read the NY Times every morning, too. Thanks for the heads-up. Here's the link -- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/arts/television/10beal.html?

No, no idea when the "AA" DVD will be out.

Josh

Name: Erik R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

How many questions do you think you've answered on this forum in total? I was looking thru the archived questions and it seems like thousands upon thousands!

Dear Erik:

Yes, many thousands over the past eight years. I can't even estimate.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Well, you did say nothing but shit could come out of remaking Bewitched... but still... I enjoyed the TV show... Anyway, I just have a coupla questions out of curiosity...

1. You're a Monty Python fan... so what do you think of their inspiration, The Goon Show?

2. What's your favorite Pink Floyd song, and why?

3. There is a festival near where I'm living that's showing these films:
Badlands, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Heaven's Gate, Guncrazy, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Mad Max: The Road Warrior, among others. If you could afford to only see one, what would it be, and why? (and no, I'm going to be seeing all of them, plus more. I'm just curious)

Thanks for such a great site. All the best, John.

Dear John:

From what I've seen of The Goon Show, I just don't get it, which is my problem with a lot of British humor. They're all acting goofy and making references to things I don't know about. Apparently, the really direct influence on Monty Python was a very short-lived show that Peter Sellers had after The Goon Show, which only lasted one season. Regarding Pink Floyd, I just won't pick one song as my favorite. I like all of "Dark Side of the Moon," most of "Meddle," most of "Wish You Were Here," about half of "The Wall," half of "Obscured By Clouds," and half of "Animals." As to that film festival, if they have a good, cinemascope print of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," I'm there. But I also really like "The Road Warrior," "Badlands" and the original, 1949, "Gun Crazy," whose title is written out as two words, whereas the remake's title is one word, "Guncrazy."

Josh

Name: Bird Jenkins
E-mail: bird@jjandbird.com

Howdy Josh.

I'm with you on Family Guy. People kept telling me how great it was, and I honestly gave it my best shot, hoping to like it... but no dice. I just don't see what everybody loves about it. I watched the entire first season on DVD and I couldn't get into it. Oh well. Different strokes for different blokes, I reckon. Me? I'm a Young Guns guy. Give me Lou Diamond Phillips playing a mystical Indian and I'm a happy man.

You say you enjoy The Simpsons, are there any other contemporary animated shows you enjoy? What's your take on King of the Hill? I think it's hilarious.

If I remember correctly, you mentioned a long time ago that you watched HBO's Six Feet Under. Do you still watch? I think it's definitely jumped the shark, but that Lauren Ambrose is actually turning hot! She was always kind of chunky when she was younger, but she's really thinned out this season and now I would very much like to tag that ass. What about you, my irascible friend? Would you hit it, yay or nay?

I gots to know.


Your friend,
Bird

Dear Bird:

I never said I watched "Six Feet Under" because I don't. I did watch "Sex & the City." If I'm correct in who you're referring to on the show, she isn't even attractive. "King of the Hill" does nothing for me, either. Did you ever see the Paul Newman/Arthur Penn version of Billy the Kid, "The Left-Handed Gun"? It's not a great film, but it's interesting.

Josh

Name: Charles
E-mail: cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I had the misfortune is come across "Saving Private Ryan" on television the other night. When I saw it initally, in the theater, I thought it was a powerful movie, although I never thought it was a classic. Then I read your review and I finally put my finger on what it was about it that I disliked the most: The lying structure, where Private Ryan flashes back to events he didn't take part in. Since then, I've told several people why I dislike the movie (and I credit you with pointing out the big lie in the movie to me). When I tell people that, about half of them agree with me and say they dislike the movie, too. The other half act as if I insulted their nation, their religion and their parents. I wonder why people become so defensive when you tell them you think a big Hollywood movie is crap?

I think the first 30 minutes of "Ryan" might be the best and most realistic war movie sequence ever. And I think the Omaha Beach sequence shocks and dazzles viewers so much that they overlook the fact that the rest of the movie is a rehash of a million other war movie cliches. I particularly disliked the scene where Gen. Marshall learns about the Ryan boys and justifies his actions to the other officers by reading the letter from Abraham Lincoln. First, I can't believe Marshall would have turned the Normandy invasion into a rescue mission for one man, and I certainly don't believe he would have held a focus group before issuing an order. In my military experience, no officer ever did that.

I'm looking forward to the "Alien Apocalypse" DVD, silly voices or no.

Charles

Dear Charles:

Welcome to my world. My whole life I've been putting up with people getting severely offended when I didn't like a film they did. In my opinion, in 99.99% of the cases it's because they didn't bother to pay attention to the film and are just going along with the status quo. It's just like the proverbial lemmings marching off the edge of a cliff -- if that's what everyone else is doing, I guess that's what I must do, too. Being your own person in this world, and not following every trend and fad, or believing every idiotic concept that's presently being accepted, is a big challenge. It's much easier to assimilate and just go with the flow.

Josh

Name: jd
E-mail: Diddybop@yahoo.com

Josh,

Kind of a related two-fold question--

A) What do you make of the whole TomKat fiasco (tom cruise & katie holmes)? Is this a legitimate relationship or a PR stunt to make Cruise look like the picture of what he thinks a hollywood leading man should look like? I never heard of anyone getting engaged and then calling a news conference shortly thereafter to announce it. But then again, Cruise is a mega-star and there arent too many people in his position either.

B) The anti-depressant remarks. Is he way off base or does he have a point? Id say for the most part he isnt too far off. Americans are way too dependent on mind altering drugs as an excuse for normal feelings of getting down once in a while. Are these drugs any different than pot or vodka to relax the mind and take us away from reality a bit? Should a rambunctious five year take ritalin or should his parents simply seek out a way for him to use that energy at a playground instead?

Dear jd:

Tom Cruise seems like a weird guy. He's been a superstar his entire adult life and I don't think he has much of a clue what normal life is about anymore. He seriously thinks his representatives at CAA "love" him, as opposed to simply enjoying the money he brings in. Also, Cruise is part of truly silly cult, Scientology, where their God was a former, second-rate sci-fi writer, so anything that emanates from Cruise's mouth is highly suspicious, at least to me. Regarding anti-depressants, I take Prozac and have for over ten years now. And I smoke pot. If I got a good buzz from it I'd probably hit myself over the head with a 2x4. I personally don't see why staying in reality is so damned important, I'm much happier in my own fantasy world.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative@wmconnect.com

Thanks Josh.

In your essays you stress how critical it is to remain within the setup,confrontation and resolution guidelines.

You have also said that if you can interchange any of the 3 acts in your story then you are not approaching it correctly because each act has to end with a point of no return.

Josh, do you think it's allright to be able to maybe have a character remember something that happened in a preceeding act that makes it more believable or rational for the audience, and that character,to put it all together in Act 2 or 3?

In this fashion you, as the writer, are not really interchanging anything but that one little clue about how to confront or how to resolve the conflict is made apparent.

Also, concerning the set-up...The set-up can take as long as needed without becoming redundant? The set-up could possibly be broke down into something like a preset-up? It would be OK to devote a few minutes to that teaser preset-up and then move right into the main run of the set-up? My current idea is to have that few minutes of preset-up and then go on to the main part of the set-up without anything from that pre-set-up coming into play until Act 2.I'm looking at it as all one big set-up but broken down almost into set-up and subset-up. The most challenging part for me is that my current preset-up starts about 150 years ago and after that moves right to 1983 for the main part of the set-up.Translating that to a visual format requires period correct language and props but interestingly enough even writing it requires you to research the time periods mentioned to get it right on paper.

Your thoughts please on this.

If this is not a good way to go I can certainly change it again. I edit as I go along. One or two words can make a huge difference in what you are trying to convey. One badly placed idea , no matter how good the idea is, can change the whole meaning of the story. I believe now that you are or should be editing from the very first sentence of any story you ever write.

Thank you for your time Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Teasers are good things, I'm sorry more writers don't do them. If you need to flash back to set something up, then do it. But a teaser is just part of Act One. It's one of those unanswered questions. Act One generally does not exceed 35 pages, but it can if you need to ("Lunatics" has a 45 minute Act One and it's too long). I'd say blast through the whole script first before going back and editing.

Josh

Name: Kevin Daniel Neece
E-mail: 11511 Metric Blvd #923 Austin, TX 78758 (512) 873 - > 2333

<<So Citizen Kane has structure? Whoopdee-friggin-doo. It's also in black and white, maybe we should go back to that dinosaur way of thinking while we're at it.>>

Any way of thinking at all would be good on your part.
RAGING BULL and THE ELEPHANT MAN and RED RIVER are in black in white. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE DUELLISTS, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS are in color. All of them look good and have great stories. Is that the best argument you've got? Have you even seen the movies I listed?

Name some of these unstructured movies.

Have fun making your movie pal. Break a leg. The best of luck to you. I hope your film makes a million dollars and wins 11 Academy Awards followed by your very own orgy with Paris Hilton. And then I hope you sell out faster than Peter Jackson. I hope you have it all. Honestly. I mean, look what good it did for Ben Affleck. William Randolf Hearst couldn't have it any better. In the meantime, Momma's got a squeezebox, daddy doesn't sleep at night, and afterwards I got a date with THE GODFATHER.

Dear Kevin:

I didn't even bother responding to the black & white comment. I really do love black & white, and although I don't believe all movies should be B&W, I wish the choice was still there. You can't believe how anti-B&W distributors still are. I just watched "The Land Unknown," which wasn't all that good, but it was in B&W Cinemascope, which I love.

Josh

Name: Nick
E-mail: nichlas03@sbcglobal.net

Hey Josh,

I saw Nobody's post and had to think to myself, "Gee, he don't know movies too well, do he?" I mean c'mon, apparently he thinks that absolutely everything in a movie was done just so because you wanted them to? Apparently he's never heard of contracts, money, distribution companies, sound people, editors, or the Sci-Fi Channel... A movie is an enormous collaborative effort at best...it's the director's job to try to bring it all together but it's never going to turn out perfectly, there's always more fingers in the pie. Sometimes the fingers are good, sometimes they make the pie taste like crap.

I haven't seen "Alien Apocalypse" and I more than likely won't, it's not my kind of movie, but big deal... You've made plenty of films I am interested in before and I'm sure there'll be more great films in the future. In my opinion, "Running Time" has enough meat on its bones to keep anyone happy. It's still on my DVD shelf and a lot of movies aren't anymore.

Thanks Josh for all the great movies...looking forward to your next project!

- Nick

Dear Nick:

"Nobody" seems like a woman to me, I don't know why. Maybe it was the "Pot is illegal" and discussing it is "uncool" admonition that seemed feminine. There's always been some anti-structure writer wannabe who arrives here every four to six months and tries to take on the concepts of dramatic structure, and me, to defend their own lack of knowledge and ability. There will undoubtedly be more, too. It keeps the discussion lively. BTW, did your dad think up your name while he was shaving?

Josh

Name: fortune cookie
E-mail: elsaa81@gmail.com

Dear Josh:

Show me lawyer who think right to privacy extend to anonymous internet message board posting, and I show you boy who get law degree from gumball machine.

Dear fortune cookie:

Hey, I saw your film with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. And of course your Robert Altman film, with Julianne Moore.

Josh

Name: James
E-mail: jquinn@ucla.edu

Hey Josh, glad that "anonymous" a$$hole is done writing in.

I was curious about your thoughts on the following filmmakers:

John Sturges, Fritz Lang, Brian Depalma, Billy Wilder, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wind Wenders, Oliver Stone, and Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci?

Thanks Josh. Keep up the good work!

Dear James:

They just wrote in again. The only director on that list of whom I can say I'm a true fan is Billy Wilder. John Sturges, Fritz Lang, Brian DePalma and Oliver Stone have all made at least one film I love. I respect Wim Wenders, and have found several have his films interesting and worthwhile. I really don't care at all for Rainer Werner Fassfinder, Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci.

Josh

Name: Josh Pecker
E-mail: josh@peckerfilms.com

Dear Josh:

Josh--This is the last time I'm going to correspond with you. It's not worth it to me to continue, you obviously just don't get it. I started writing to you as a perfectly normal fan with some legitamit questions and concerns and you just got defensive and angry about it and damaged my opinion of you, okay? So I'm sorry. And NO, I will NOT put my real name, so don't CRY ABOUT IT, okay? I happen to be a lawyer and know a thing or two about the law, and so I don't need YOU telling me about it. And I don't need YOU or jerico_idiot talking to me about something you know nothing about. So Citizen Kane has structure? Whoopdee-friggin-doo. It's also in black and white, maybe we should go back to that dinosaur way of thinking while we're at it. It's just not mature to attack something without understanding it first. I can think of a hundred great movies that don't have structure. You said you like "Easy Rider" so you fell right into my trap--that is the least structured film ever, so what have you got to say about that, BECKS? How about your bosom buddy jerrycurl? And how can that be the only Dennis Hopper movie you appreciate? What about "Colors"? There's an example of another truly great film that takes maturity to appreciate and like, which I guess is why you didn't like it, right?

I really do have one final question, then I'll never write in and probably never check this site again, because you've lost my support.

In Alien Apocolse when the aliens spoke they repeated every thing they said. My question:

Did you think you were being clever by doing that?

That's all, Josh. Good luck with your future projects. Hopefully they'll be better than 'Madmen: A Stupid Story' and 'If I Had a Hammer I'd Beat My Brains Out Before Sitting Through This Boring Movie.'

P.S. It was nice to see Peter Jason in a movie again.

Dear Nobody:

You promise it's the last time? One of the most naturally-structured types of stories that you can tell is a road story, because it's following a straight line right down that road. That's the undoing of most road movies, too -- it's so obvious where they're going that it's painful. "Colors" is not a great movie; it's pretty run-of-the-mill, and I would say it's okay at best. As for the alien's voices and the repetition, it's one of my biggest problems with the film. When I left LA there were deep, resonant voices in for the aliens with absolutely no repetition of the lines. When I saw the finished film the voices had been changed, as had a number of other things. Quite frankly, I was horrified, but there was nothing to be done at that point, nor did I have any authority at that point, either.

Josh

Name: David Brine
E-mail:

Josh, if you like "The Simpsons" then you should check out "Family Guy"... outrageous characters, wacky and obscure cultural references, and parody up the whazoo. Great stuff!

Dear David:

It doesn't do anything for me.

Josh

Name: Erik R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I have been reading through the archived q&a here at your site and its obvious you're a boxing fan. Curious, did you see the Castillo-Corrales match? Do you watch all the marquee matches? People I know who are much more knowledgable about boxing than I think the Castillo vs. Corrales fight was one of the best, and most brutal, they've seen in their lifetime.

Dear Erik:

Diego Corrales versus Jose Luis Castillo was a truly great fight. For eleven rounds these two guys stood toe-to-toe slugging each other as hard as is humanly possible. Both men were cut, and Corrales's eye was completely closed. Then Corrales got knocked down twice, and I thought the fight was over. But he got up the second time, backed Castillo against the ropes and let loose with such an intense barrage of punches that the ref stepped in and stopped the fight, and Castillo didn't argue. Corrales, who is much taller and has a longer reach, could have boxed from the outside the whole night and won, but he decided to fight Castillo's fight, and beat him at his own game. It was a terrific fight.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

If you wanna good reason for following the rules, watch Bewitched (and no, this is to the person who made that smart assed comment about breaking the rules) It had no structure, and is a good film? No, it's a fucking mess! I can't believed I payed good money to see that... (although I only saw it cause two movie critics I have respect for were pleasently surprised by it) Seeing that piece of crap made me want to reread your essays (which should be required reading by up and comers) apply the dramatic structure rules and come out with something that's at least better than anything Nora Ephron can come up with.

Dear John:

Nora Ephron did write "When Harry Met Sally . . ." which is a pretty good script, albeit a flat-out homage to "Annie Hall." But seriously, how could anyone make anything other than a piece of shit out of "Bewitched"?

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

The Granada television series of Sherlock Holmes has been off the air for years, ever since the death of Jeremy Brett (the principle actor). The series had the distinction of following the original stories, rather than going off the deep end and pitting Holmes against Nazis, Martians, and the like.

So you like Charlie Chan too, eh? Then the obvious question would be which Chan did you like better, Warner Oland or Sidney Toler? Both did well in the role, despite neither one being Chinese.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Warner Oland, no question. Warner Oland's were the best Charlie Chan films by far, "Charlie Chan at the Olympics" (1937), "Charlie Chan in Egypt" (1935), "Charlie Chan in London" (1934).

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative@wmconnect.com

"Ever here that rules were ment to be broken BECKS?"

It should actually probably be:

"Did you ever HEAR that rules were MEANT to be broken Mr.Becker?"

When you use "here" the way it was used in the opening of this communication it implies a place but what you really want to know is if two ears were actually used to listen to a statement in the past suggesting rule breaking. "Ment" is a word I have never observed being used before in a sentence.It is more like a word fragment. I've seen "mint" though if that is what was meant though I'm not sure it was. Problem with that "ment" thing is that is was missing an "a".The individual has a combined spatial and spelling issue that needs to be dealt with.

"BECKS" is incomplete. It is impersonal and indicates a profound lack of respect and narcissism to an extreme.It lacks substance and is indicative of an angry individual in dire need of therapy.It is a challenge in itself. It is sort of like an "I dare you." It is designed to illicit a response from it's intended target.

On Mary Jane...It grows naturally. It is not a man made substance. Sure.Ways have come along to make it more potent and sweet but the bottom line is that it is a natural phenomenon.Maybe the social conscious of the world should burn one every now and then and chill out a little bit.

This statement comes to mind on that..."It is sometimes better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to open ones mouth and confirm everyones suspicions."

Thank you for your response to my question Mr. Becker. You are right on time again. I misquoted. What you stated was that "No questions are confronted or answered in Act 1." You never said anything at all in a negative context about questions being asked in Act 1.

This makes it clearer about how to approach my story.

Thank you for your input on the music as well.

For what I have in mind I should be able to get a song from most any church hymnal. It must be very specific though and it has to fit the story.

If all else fails I'll plug in the guitar and do some soulful multi-tracking.If the feeling is right I will dub it into the scene.

Thanks again for taking the time to offer feedback Mr. Becker.

Tim

Dear Tim:

The name's Josh. It was Al Gore who, when confronted with having been a pot smoker in college, which he obviously was, replied that pot is stronger now than it used to be. Well, I really must take exception. Pot wasn't grown indoors back then, and there wasn't as much cross-breeding, but there were some severely strong strains of weed back then that I haven't encountered in over 20 years. Panama Red was devastating. The standard high-end weed back then was blonde Columbian, and it was great. There was also a steady supply of Jamaican, which was always terrific weed. I was just in Jamaica around Christmas, and it's the same stuff. I was heartened to learn that we weren't being fooled. Sure, there was a lot of dirt weed around, and there still is. But the good shit was every bit as good, and I have no doubt that a rich kid like Al Gore was getting the better stuff.

Josh

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

Josh,

The Pink Floyd performance was excellent at "Live 8" and fortunately I was listening to the event on the BBC, so even though I did not see them, I heard everything without interruption.

As you can imagine, I disagree with you about punk music and it wasn't trying to create this equality in music, it was a short blast of Teenage angst just like the rock movement in the 50's.

The Sex Pistols were a marketing device by Macolm McClaren and the whole "I hate Pink Floyd" idea was just a big marketing ploy and a joke just to gain attention.

The punk movement in the late 70's and early 80's was just a short moment in time, the Progressive rock bands of the 70's were running out of steam and getting fat, bloated and lazy with the exception of Pink FLoyd, Genesis, and to a certain degree Yes.

ELP was terrible during this period. They released "Love Beach" during this time which was simply aweful.

Actually, There music doesn't really hold up very well over time and as talented as they were (At one time they were one of my favorite groups), I find it very difficult to listen to them now and it sounds very dated to me.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I still listen to ELP, particularly "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the first album. It certainly doesn't sound like anything else. Yes, late ELP is awful, and "Love Beach" is an embarrassment. But I really do love the combination of rock & roll and classical music, a sub-genre one couldn't even consider going into unless one was musically talented. I just listened to the original orchestral version of "Pictures," and the transposing of it to the rock medium is brilliant. I don't know why they didn't keep trying that, and for some reason I always half expected they'd do Stravinky's "The Rite of Spring." But they didn't.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Dear Josh:

Re: 'I'd say "The Simpsons" have ten years of top-notch material, but 1992-1996 was really their peak.'

I'd say that peak come on just into the second season and lasted until Season Four, when after that it became a different animal. I think after that season, the show stopped doing anything really dramatically intriguing with the roles in the family. Maybe, though it's just the writers stopped working on sentimental ideas. However, 'The Substitute' is still a great episode. And the episode where Lisa becomes Little Miss Springfield is just classic. Only a few of the recent episodes, like the Pieman story were very funny.

Dear Brett:

The first season was 1989, so the fourth was 1993. You're saying it's already over at that point? I've been watching exclusively the fifth season lately, because that's what they're showing, and almost every episode is great at that point. I don't think they really had their shit together yet in those first two seasons. Dan Castellanetta hadn't even quite figured Homer's voice yet. There was still the occasional great episode up through 2001, I think. I've been trying to put my finger on the moment it stopped being funny, and it was either, or all of: Phil Hartman dying, 9/11, Barney sobering up, or Flanders' wife dying.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

<<I just wrote a script that threw out structure all together, and all my friends think it's incredible, and I even have some "interest" in it already.>>

Tell this piece of shit to watch CITIZEN KANE and THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE back to back. He'll quickly see the difference. Also, a few years ago, I wrote two of the worst unstructured screenplays ever (one of them on purpose as a joke). Some people liked them because they had a few good smartass jokes in them, a couple wanted to make them on a low/no budget, but they were still TOTAL SHIT. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm taking them both down.

Dear Kevin:

It's much easier to dismiss dramatic structure than to figure it out and use it properly, which is rather difficult. We're in the no-hassle generation, where if something is difficult then it's bad, and that's why contemporary movies suck so bad; it's too big of a hassle to make a good one. I've been encountering this same attitude now for over 20 years, and nothing is improving due to it. Movies just keep getting worse and worse, and no less and less people are going to see them.

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

"What is the theme [of "Insomnia"]? Don't try to solve murders without a full night's sleep? If you shoot your partner, don't hide it? It's an okay film, no more."

The theme is guilt; there's more to it than you're admitting. Dormer's partner thinks about the IA investigation back home. Does he felt guilty about his decision to cooperate (and consquently hurt his partner's lifelong reputation as a brillant cop)? Will Dormer's guilt and uncertainty over killing his partner is recurrent; the insomnia and midnight sun only excacerbate this. Ellie, the local cop played by Hillary Swank, figures out that Dormer covered up his partner's death. She admires Dormer but knowing the truth drives her to confront him. Again, guilt is the driving force. Brody (Robin Williams)... does he have guilt? We never really know. But we're lead to believe he's a psychopath, and that's another examination of guilt, or frightening lack thereof.

You frequently bring up "Bridge on the River Kwai" as a script with great structure and theme; the theme of duty comes up with every significant character. Similarily, every main character in "Insomnia" has to deal with his guilt. Now, I'm not saying "Insomnia" is a better script than "Kwai", but I disagree with you that its just an "okay" film. Its a good film.

Dear Jeff:

I saw both versions, and I thought they were both all right, but nothing special. I don't think the film has a strong theme, nor is it well-examined. Certainly the cop feels guilty about killing his own partner, anyone would. But guilt isn't the issue for the local cop or the killer, so it's definitely not a well-explored theme. Ultimately, it's just one more cop-after-a-killer movie, with an interesting setting, and not much more than that. I'm not saying either version is bad, they're just not exceptional in any way.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: nansemondnative@wmconnect.com

Good Evening Josh.

Question for you as it relates to using music in a film.

In your mind, do you think it is a bad idea to use music in a film that has been used in another film?

You know how powerful a thing an anchor can be right?

I'm talking two different genres of films.

But I wonder if a song was used in a horror movie that was also used in a hit non-horror movie of about 6 years ago would the anchor to that music in the hit film from 6 years ago automatically remind people of the other movie.

The last thing in the world I think that any film-maker would want is for the audience to be reminded of another movie while they are watching his or her movie.

I just felt this music fit so perfect for what I had in mind but then that question popped into my head.

Also on structure...You have indicated that the set-up shouldn't ask or have any questions answered.

What about little teasers? Teasers along the line of foreshadowing maybe. Just enough to keep the audience interested and maybe say or ask something to themselves or the person next to them something like "Damn that was cool...Wonder what it's leading to?" before moving on to the next step in the structuring process.

Generally , I'll have questions like these after I smoke a big fat bowl of Hippy Hay.

Just kidding.No offense to anyone intended. I'm serious about the questions though.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Have a good evening Mr. Becker.

Long live the Doobie Brothers!

Tim

Dear Tim:

"Hippy hay"? I've never heard that before. You're mistaken about Act One, it's ALL about asking questions, but not answering them. Act One should be a big "What if?" A teaser is just a little "What if?" Act One is the set-up to the joke, which is a question -- why did the chicken cross the road? Regarding songs and music from other films, first of all keep in mind that buying the rights to popular songs costs an enormous amount of money, much more than most indie films can afford. Second, if it's very recognizable from another movie, then yes, it's a mistake to use it. A good example is "Cavalleria Rusticana" by Pietro Mascagni, which is the music used on the front titles of "Raging Bull." A few years later Francis Coppola used it again for "Godfather III" and I was offended, and I'll bet Scorsese was, too, and every time it came up I thought about boxing and Jake LaMotta instead of Michael Corleone and mobsters.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@sbcglobal.net

Dear Josh,

It's been awhile since I've posted on this site, but I didn't have anything interesting to contribute. Anyway, I just bought some episodes of the Granada television version of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as Watson (Hardwicke taking over the role for Burke), and was wondering what you thought of the series. I've seen several of the filmed versions of Conan Doyle's stories, and to me at least, Jeremy Brett is the definitive Sherlock Holmes. The production values are good (the British excel at costume dramas, particularly Victorian ones), and the overall series was very good for a television project. If you've seen it, what did you think?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I haven't seen it. I don't really watch TV shows, except for "Frontline," "The American Experience" and "Nova" (all of the shows that the evil Republicans want to stop the funding for). I must admit, though, that I've never really cared for Sherlock Holmes in any form. Given a choice, I'll take Charlie Chan.

Josh

Name: Josh Becker
E-mail: josh@beckerfilms.com

Dear Josh:

Josh...in response to your curt retort I just want to point out that smoking pot (in additon to being amoral) is illegal. That means as far as the law is concerned it's as bad as anything else, like stealing or what have you. So you may just want to consider all the FACTS before you go loud mouthing off about your opinions without thinking things through. Another thing I want to say is that not all scripts have to stay to "Josh Beckers Golden Rules." Here's an example of a script from la-la-Josh Beckerland:

My Day
By Josh Becker

Act 1: Morning. I am bad.

Act 2: Afternoon. I want to be good.

Act 3: Night. I achieved goodness.

The End

And the Academy Award Goes to...

Josh Becker everyone! Yah!

Josh Becker:

"I just want to thank the boring Academy and the boring critics and all my boring fans out there because I was always a good boy in school and at home because I KNOW HOW TO FOLLOW THE RULES."

Ever here that rules were ment to be broken, BECKS? Just chew on that for a little while, okay? Thanks.

Also, out of curiosity, would you like to see my script? Otherwise how will you know that I haven't done the "impossible.?". Its just like when you say you can't judge a movie when you havne't even seen it yet, you know? If you judge my script, you'll just be a hypocrite.

Signed,

anonymous and proud of it

Dear Nobody:

Attacking a sovereign country to change regimes is illegal, lying to congress to get us into the war was illegal, Karl Rove outing Valerie Plame was illegal, so clearly the law doesn't matter much to our government. Gay marriage is presently illegal, a male and a female having sex doggy-style is still illegal in several states, so some laws are just stupid, and shouldn't be followed. Smoking pot is not the same thing as stealing because smoking pot doesn't harm anyone else. It's enforced morality, based on a moral standard I don't agree with. I have certainly thought this through. Whether you agree or not means nothing to me. As for "Josh Becker's Golden Rules," these are not my rules, these are the rules of dramatic structure which have been with us for over 2,000 years. Aristotle first put these rules forth in "Poetics" in the 300s B.C. These are the same rules that Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller William Inge, and all of the great dramatists followed. Do you actually think by dismissing the rules you've come up with something new? You haven't. You're just one more lazy, undisciplined, half-assed, wannabe writer. If you can't work with the rules of drama, you will never be a writer. To reuse a metaphor, if you stand around the gym stomping your foot declaring that you won't lift the weights, you're not a new kind of weight-lifter, you're just not one. It's too bad that the weights are heavy, but lifting them is the whole job, and if you won't do it, get the fuck out of the gym.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Josh

You've mentioned your love and respect for The Simpsons and I'm with you. It's one of--if not my #1--my favorite shows on television and it's got at least 10 years of good material behind it. But I was wondering if you'd been exposed to Dave Chappelle's Show and/or what your thoughts on Bill Hicks are.

Dear Brett:

Sorry, neither one does anything for me. But I can keep re-watching the same Simpsons episodes and get more out of them. Yes, I'd say "The Simpsons" have ten years of top-notch material, but 1992-1996 was really their peak.

Josh

Name: Jonathan Moody
E-mail: jondoe_555@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Have you seen "Down With Love" yet? I think its a briliant homage to all the 60s sex comedies and Renee Zellwegger (or however you spell her name) and Ewan McGreggor did a fabulous job. Even David Hyde Pierce made me laugh in a way that he hasn't since I saw him in "Wet Hot American Summer". There's also another movie coming out called, "The Baxter" thats written and directed by the guy who co-wrote Wet Hot (Michael Showalter). And The Baxter is an homage to the old 40s screwball comedies. I'm excited to see that. Have you heard of that yet?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathna:

You've got to be kidding, that film looks so awful I can't find the words to explain how much I don't want to see it. A parody of Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies? The whole genre is too lightweight and trivial to parody. If I never set eyes on Ms. Zellwegger again it will be too soon.

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"Insomnia" came up recently in your q&a; you thought it was okay, but not good? What's not good about it? Everything was top notch: acting (esp. Al Pacino and Robin Williams), screenplay, structure, theme, score, cinematography. Those scenes early with the plane flying over the glaciar are amazing. I mean, damn Josh, what DOES it take for a film to be "good" in your book?

Dear Jeff:

But it's a one-note idea. The cop is after a killer in a place where the sun never sets, he gets confused and shoots his own partner, the killer sees this and blackmails him. And now it just has to play out. It does not have a great script, structure or theme. What is the theme? Don't try to solve murders without a full night's sleep? If you shoot your partner, don't hide it? It's an okay film, no more.

Josh

Name: David Brine
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

How many Hitchcock films have you seen? In the list below are the ones I've seen. There's at least 10 more that I want to watch; do you see any notable omissions?

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The 39 Steps
The Lady Vanishes
Rebecca
Foreign Correspondent
Suspicion
Saboteur
Shadow of a Doubt
Lifeboat
Spellbound
Notorious
Rope
Strangers on a Train
Dial M for Murder
Rear Window
To Catch a Thief
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Vertigo
North By Northwest
Psycho
Marnie
Frenzy

Dear David:

I've seen 38 of Hitchcock's films. You're missing some of the interesting early films, like "The Lodger," "Blackmail," "Murder" and "Sabotage." I guess "The Paradine Case" is an omission.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What's your favorite Buster Keaton film? "The General" is often considered his masterpiece, but I think "Sherlock, Jr." is his best film.

Dear John:

My favorite is "Our Hospitality."

Josh

Name: Josh Becker
E-mail: josh@beckerfilms.com

Dear Josh:

Josh--pardon my not wanting to actually give my name, I mean, can you blame a guy? Ever here of anonymity? My first of three complaints is that you should be sure to specify that someone DOES'NT HAVE TO PUT THEIR NAME in order to get published on your website. Right to privacy is a fundamental constitutional right, and if you don't publish my letter because of that, you will be a major hypocrite. My second complaint is that you're busy talking about condoning marijuana on this public website. Two words, not cool. Another two words, bad rolemodel. I'm sure many of your readers did not appreciate this, especially considering you make it a BIG TIME point on your FAQ "do not" list is to "do not write in if you're not writing in about directing in general or josh becker's career." You should take your own advice, Josh. When in Rome. My final complaint is that you seem so bold in your belief that something needs to have typical structure for it to be worthwhile. Well guess what, BECKS? I just wrote a script that threw out structure all together, and all my friends think it's incredible, and I even have some "interest" in it already. Maybe you're too disgruntled to care, but I just thought I'd throw that your way, see what you have to say. Okay? I appreciate what you're trying to do with your website and enjoying reading it from time to time, just please, be a little more aware of how your running it from now on--okay? Thanks. Oh, also, what do you think of Dennis Hopper as a filmmaker? Not as an actor though--a filmmaker. Thanks.

Dear Nobody:

I'm not anonymous, why should you be? If you actually have something to say, and believe it, why wouldn't you want to be recognized? Regarding being a role model, I don't give a shit. I'm not a role model. If you want smoke blown up your ass you can go to every other website in the world. If you have an issue with me telling the truth, don't come here. I smoke pot and I like it. If it was up to me everybody would (that way I would not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned). As for your throwing out structure all together, but all of your friends think your script is incredible -- big fucking deal. Sell the script, have it produced, then get back to me. Until then, however, you're just one more wannabe who's too lazy to figure out what you're doing. You think putting the wheels on top of the car is brilliant new development, except the car won't go anywhere. Regarding Dennis Hopper as a director, I like "Easy Rider." Beyond that I don't think he's done anything of any interest.

Josh

Name: Harvey Mole'
E-mail: moleman@timewarner.com

Dear Josh:

I totally agree with your comments regarding Floyd at Live 8 (and the abysmal US coverage of the event). Not only did VH1/MTV/Viacom cut off "Comfortably Numb," but they started their coverage partway into the first song.

What I kept thinking as I watched them play was how much more substance there was to these guys than to the big rock acts of today. The music just felt a lot deeper -- that rambling bassline on "Money" is still cool as shit. I'm not sure I can really back up what I'm talking about, but I just got this sense of immense ability and thought there beyond what I've heard from a rock act for a long time.

Dear Harvey:

I'm with you. I don't think rock & roll has ever gotten any better than that. I think the entire punk movement, with it's rejection of Pink Floyd, is simply based on envy and inability. Punk says that anybody can go into their garage and be musician. But to be Pink Floyd (or ELP or The Moody Blues or The Beatles), you have to be talented first. It's like Kurt Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron," where in the future everyone is equal, but since all humans aren't born equal, steps have to be taken to make everyone equal. If you're a ballet dancer that means you're lighter on your feet than most people, so you must wear sandbags around your waist. If your IQ is higher than normal than you must wear a hearing aid that sends out a high-pitched shriek every few seconds to scatter your thoughts. Punk was trying to say that we're all equal, and life now is trying to kid us that we're all equal, but we're not. Some people are just more talented than others.

Josh

Name: kdn
E-mail: jericho_legends

Dear Josh:

When was the first time you tried Marijuana?

Did you ever get caught with it by the Pigs?

Do you smoke pot while writing or do you try to have a clear head every time you work?

Dear kdn:

Well, let's see . . . (A smoky dissolve). The first time I smoked pot was up at camp in 1970 when I was twelve. I haven't heard anyone use the term "pigs" in a while. Yes, I was busted on a couple of occasions, and I actually spent a day in jail in Utah. I particularly like pot for writing. I think it helps to focus on a story, and also aids in climbing into other character's heads.

Josh

Name: Dean
E-mail: deanj@aol.com

Hey Josh what's going on with your book? Did you sign the contract yet? When will it be out in print? Who is publishing it? Lastly, how did you get a publisher to look at it in the first place? Did Bruce hook you up?

Thanks,
Dean

Dear Dean:

I signed the contract and the book is going through the technical side of being published right now. About a quarter of it has been edited. I don't know when it will be out -- when it's done, I guess. Having basically thrown in the towel on getting it published, I finally just posted it on the site. The publisher then found it on the website. The company is Point Blank Press.

Josh

Name: Anthony Hall
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have you seen "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", and, if so, would you recommend it?

Dear Anthony:

I saw in the theater as a kid and liked it a lot. I've seen it since then and it's not as good as I thought when I was young, but it's fun. It has a terrifically cute monkey in it. I met the star, Paul Mantee, once in LA in a movie line.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

regarding "tricky plot movies", is there any movie, bar the obvious Hitchcock ones that you think do have something than just the plot twist and hold in high regard?

Dear John:

"Psycho" immediately came to mind, but that's one of those obvious Hitchcock films. Most films with tricky plots generally have dull characters, so they're not very good movies. Although I'm not crazy about the movie, "Silence of the Lambs" has a well-conceived and executed plot trick that works great -- when Jodie Foster is on her way to a suspect's house, at the same time Scott Glenn and the FBI guys are on their way to arrest the killer, and you finally realize that the FBI guys have gone to the wrong place and Jodie Foster is about to face the killer alone. "Rosemary's Baby" is a great film, and tricky, too. Ira Levin wrote a few interesting, tricky stories, like "A Kiss Before Dying" and "Deathtrap." William Goldman wrote some tricky stuff for a while, like "Marathon Man" and "Magic," both of which work much better as books than as movies, although I do like the film "Marathon Man," but its trickiness doesn't really work on film. For the most part, however, tricky plots aren't worth it.

Josh

Name: stacey h
E-mail: staci_3088@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I'm working on writing out that film idea i had that you said i should have a go at writing, i find i can do anything during a boring lecture at University!

Anyway, in the mean time i'm streching my directing muscles by making a short film with my brother. I'll be shooting outside on location for the first time and was wondering if you had any simple, easy, or any techniques to help with lighting outside, i would prefer warm lighting on the subject, and to have the background quite dark. But of course there won't be electricty available. The scene is a game of cat and mouse to some extent between the 'goody' and the 'baddy' in a pine forest (well it's really just a clump of pine trees, but the audience doesn't need to know that) Any ideas? Not just with lighting too, though that is my main problem, but any advice you think could be handy would be great!

Dear stacey h:

Other than just using natural light, without electricity your only recourse is to reflect or bounce light back into the scene. You can achieve this with bounce cards and reflector boards, which can be done with white poster boards, as well as poster boards covered with tin foil to make a reflector. There are two kinds of reflector boards, those with a smooth finish, and those with a crinkly finish, meaning you sort of crumpled up the tin foil first before putting it on the board. Since you can't change the color of natural light, you'd have to use a filter on the lens if you want everything orange and warm. Regarding overall advice, I say, get coverage. That means, don't just shoot each scene in a single shot, but get alternate angles, close-ups and inserts, that way you'll have something to cut to in the editing room. Good luck.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

i just made a short film. i put it onto dvd and i would like to send it to a few places. its a very visual short so there was no script. how would i go about putting a copywrite onto it?

thanks

Dear tom:

Go to the Library of Congress website, www.loc.gov/copyright, download form PA, fill it out and send it and a copy of the film in with $30.

Josh

Name: Adam
E-mail: adamh360@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Did you happen to catch any of Pink Floyd's Live 8 performance? What did you think?

Dear Adam:

I watched it twice. I thought they were great, and sounded as good as they ever did. It made me feel like they've pissed away 25 important years on petty nonsense. Now it's time to buckle down, write and record some new music. As a note, just to show what utter crap MTV and VH-1 are, halfway through their final song, "Comfortably Numb," the VJs cut them off and went to a commercial. This was a monumental event in rock & roll, Pink Floyd reuniting, and the rock TV channels couldn't pay attention for the length of four songs. Anyway, I loved it.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greenebrett@spymac.com

Josh

I won't go ranting, but I will say that Batman Begins is pretty good - and compared to a lot of other comic films, it stands head and shoulders above. But that's for another day. I just saw 'The Incredibles' for the first time last week and loved it. Great voicework, terrific animation, an intelligent plot, humour, poise, wonderful editing. Hadn't seen a movie that sharp in ages! What did you think of it?

Dear Brett:

It bored me. I could care less about any superheroes, but particularly a family of superheroes. Also, if you get to a point where the backgrounds are photo-realistic, then why not just shoot them as live-action footage? But I didn't care at all.

Josh

Name: Tobin Wolf
E-mail: Wolfboy@mscp.net

Dear Josh:

A few people have asked u questions about Scott Spegal's movies. Why do u keep avoiding answering the questions? Which of his films have you seen and do u like them? In ur script section it looks like halve your scripts are written with him

Dear Tobin:

No, I co-wrote five scripts with Scott, and I'm presently writing my 33rd script, so that's not quite a 6th with him. Why am I avoiding the questions? He was my good friend for many years, then we split up and went our own ways. I wish him all the best.

Josh


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