Q & A    Archive
Page 143

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

Hey Josh,

One of the advantanges of living next to New York City is being able to find all sorts of cool, odd things that you can't find in other areas. I'm not sure if you've heard of Kim's Video. This place has a LOT of different films, including a few oddball ones:

http://www.kimsvideo.com/index.php

I see the subject of the 99-cent store has been brought up again. I'll top that. In my neighborhood, there's a 49-cent store. I was without a watch for a time-so I went in and bought a digital watch for 49 cents. What's funny is that two of the mode buttons were fake, and two weren't. I had it for a short time until I could buy a real watch-a Timex. I gave the 49-cent one to a friend. And the damn thing still works.

Dear Saul:

LOL for the two phony buttons on the 49-cent watch.  My 99-cent broom that I bought nearly 10 years ago is still functioning perfectly.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

You didn't like Three Kings? ... Yeah, it wasn't anything spectacular. I saw it because I enjoy Clooney, but past that it wasn't too special. And, is it just me, or did the scene where it shows the bullet enter Wahlberg (it was Wahlberg right? It's been so long since I've seen it) and then shows all the bile and stuff just not fit with the rest of the movie? To me it was kinda like "Look and somewhat, but not terribly interesting story ... whoa a special effect that was needed."

It's like they were just looking for a way to add special effects.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Yes, I agree.  Also, that blown-out, angled-shutter look annoys me after 10-15 minutes.  Interestingly, perhaps, the lead Arab in "Three Kings" was Cliff Curtis, with whom I worked on Hercules (he was the first centaur, and I shot all of the effects scenes with him).  Cliff is also the evil Arab Bruce is sword fighting with in the film within the film in "The Majestic."

Josh

Name:              Judie Luffsey Fischer
E-mail:             jlfische4@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

I noticed one of the characters shared my family's name.  Just wondered what the background was -- this is a very uncommon name.  Maybe you know someone related.

Thanks,
Judie

Dear Judie:

In what?

Josh

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

Josh,

All the comments you made in your last post about HD vs film are right on the mark and if you set out to do a film, you should be prepared to put all of your energy in to making it the best looking film it can be.

You have always treated your films like your kids and I think that is the right attitude to take. You need to do what is best for the film. That is why I always thought you would make a good parent Josh. Ha!

I have watched a great deal of stuff shot on HD with the new lower end HDV cameras as well as standard DV projects and I can tell you that they "are" different than film and you have to decide what is the look you are trying to acheive? Whenever I see and indie short or feature shot on video, they don't have a look. They always seem very generic visually and it really boils down to the inability of the young DP to light well or achieve a look.

As Josh mentioned before, when shooting with film, you can think of your films look by choosing the film stock and taking it from there. You can't do that with video, and that is one of the reasons why video shorts and features always look visually bland.

Here are a few interesting links about the discussion of the cost of HD vs Super 16mm and a discussion about shooting HD with a set mentality of shooting film. The new HDV cameras are helping with the cost of shooting HD, however, they are also compressed images and still not as good as the high end HD cameras which still cost more to rent than a Super 16mm camera package.

Cheaper is not always better and that goes for a lot of things in life. If you eat cheap food like McDonalds all your life, you will suffer the consequences. You have to be prepared to eat better and not necessarily > cheaper food for your health. I think the same can be said for making a film.

Scott

http://www.cinematography.net/Pages%20DW/HDvsSuper16mm.htm

http://www.hdforindies.com/2005/04/experience-in-field-lessons-learned

Dear Scott:

Super-16 is great if you're going for a 1.85:1 theatrical release and intend to blow your film up to 35mm, otherwise it's absolutely not worth the extra cost over regular 16mm. Once you've transferred the negative to video, you can put in a 1.85:1 letterbox, or a 2.35:1 letterbox if you want, if you kept that composition in mind during shooting, that is. Or you can just go full-frame, which always looks fine. Super-16 is only meaningful if you intend to blow up to 35mm, but if you don't mean to have a film finish, it's a waste of money.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

So, as far as the low quality of movie telling these days that's been covered. After listening the the soundtrack of Casino Royale(1967) I have started to wonder, what would Josh think about the current state of movie music. So, what do you think of todays movie music. Do you think think it is as good as the days of Elmer Bernstein, or John Barry (still living, but not producing much new stuff), I am trying to think of others, but can't, or is the current quality even as good as Joseph LoDuca, who as you well know, has composed some outstanding TV music. Do you think we will ever get another soundtrack like Casino Royale again?

Dear Bob:

I'm not a big fan of John Barry's Bond scores, so I don't think they make a great comparison to anything (he didn't write the Bond theme, BTW). But no, the film composers around today are okay, but they're not of the same quality as Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein, or Jerry Goldsmith, nor are they to the level of the earlier generation of film composers, like Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner or Alfred Newman. Which isn't to say that the composers of today, like Hans Zimmer or Mark Isham, are bad, they're just not particularly inspired, and why should they be? The movies they're scoring suck.

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

A couple of random questions. If by some chance you thought up an idea for a good movie. You know, adult based theme, etc., that would also work well as a children's film, would you consider doing it? You know, shoot it for the adults but let the kids have their fun too ... something like that.

Also, I was just wondering if you and Bruce Campbell disagree very often on films? And if so, could you give an example of a time when you both felt very differently about any certain film.

Also, what's your professional opinion on the Evil Dead movies?

Mo

Dear Mo:

I'd like to believe that most of my films can be enjoyed by both adults and kids. But I have no interest in super heroes in any way, shape or form, or making Harry Potter-type stories, or even "Lord of the Rings"-type fantasy stories. They just don't appeal to me. I don't want to watch them, nor do I want to make them. This may very well keep me out of the mainstream, but them's the breaks. Bruce and I disagree about movies all the time. As an example, he liked "Three Kings" and I didn't. You can't really have an unbiased, professional opinion about films that you've been involved with. When I think about "Evil Dead," I don't think about a scary horror movie, I think about staying up all night in the freezing cold night after night making it.

Josh

Name: Miller
E-mail: ryanpatrickmiller@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I understand you do not think there has been a good movie in 13 years. I think in some cases this is right. But by good do you mean entertaining, or thought provoking or both? Because if your looking for both, many of the movies you mention you like do not necessarily fit in. It seems to me that as a director they try to force you into a genre either serious or shtick. I find many movies worth watching for entertainment even if know there will be no intense mental challenge. On the other hand, some movies try so hard to be intellectual that they completely miss the idea of entertainment. Also as a finishing question, What do you think of the movies put out lately by Raimi, Campbell, Goodman, and speigel? It seems in some of your answers you have a hard time expressing the good and bad sides of movies, maybe you should wait till after your first mug of coffee to comment? *noted sarcasm*I appreciate your work and hope someday more people will too.
-miller

Dear Miller:

More coffee isn't going to get me to find the good in these recent awful movies. Meanwhile, a movie doesn't have to be thought-provoking for me to like it, it simply has to know what story it's telling, where it's going, and what its point is. And I must believe it, whatever it is. As my friend Rick said, "If I can believe it, I can have fun; if I don't believe it, I can't have fun." I personally am not entertained by poorly-written movies, I'm just aggravated and bored. Even formerly good filmmakers can't make a decent movie anymore. It's like our food and water are so polluted that everyone has gone brain-dead. Just look at our government. Would it be possible to put stupider, more corrupt, more dishonest people in office? I don't think so. And the morons that like Bush defend him by saying he's "moral." A man who, if his mouth is moving, is lying, and who breaks the law constantly, with seeming impunity, and most people don't care. I seriously believe that the average American now is as dumb as a box of rocks. And the movies that we produce prove it. Regarding Raimi and Spiegel, I don't care about comic book movies, or slasher films, so what they're doing means nothing to me.

Josh

Name: Timothy Breeding
E-mail: westernwear1@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I have been working in independent films for a long time, I had tried to break out to work in mainstream films that are Union in order to get my S.A.G. card but they won't hire non-union actors so it is basically a catch 22. I have gotten to the point to where I am going to set up my own production company along with other independent actors because there are many actors out there who are non-union can act better than union. I told S.A.G. that just because someone has a card does not mean they can act juding by the films of today. I long for the old system where studios controlled the players, but that is me. Basically my question is after a long winded gripe is how does one obtain the S.A.G. card? I just wanted to spout off
Thank you

Dear Timothy:

You have to be hired by a SAG signatory company, you know that. It's the same for DGA and WGA, too. I know a lot of SAG actors, so it can't be that hard. And if it was too easy, everyone would do it.

Josh

Name: C
E-mail: bruma20@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I read your post about 99 cent s stores...and I have > to say that it is mostly truth...but when you mention about tooth paste form Chile that taste like shit....I have to say I am Chilean and proud to be one. Our products are excellent....so if you bough something for 99 cents ...you should expect to get that ....So please clean your mouth before to imply something about the quality of the products coming from my country. By the way I live in USA....and a lot of things here are like shit.

Dear C:

Hey, fuck you! The toothpaste came from Chile and tasted like shit, those are the facts. You want to put those two disparate facts together to equal I have a problem with the country of Chile, you're simply a Chilean idiot.

Josh

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

"My 13-year-old niece actually said, 'I hate books. I hate reading.' I have no doubt that attitude will take her far. The bottom line is that if you don't read books, you'll never be smart. Period."

One of the reasons this message board is great is because of comments like that. Hope your niece doesn't visit before the next board turnover. Although she doesn't read, so I suppose that's a safe bet. Also, it's kind of interesting that perhaps 20 yrs ago that comment about "going far" would be taken as sarcasm, now it feels like a cold truth.

As far as the Video/Film debate, the issue here is that very few of us have done side by side comparisons so most of us are talking out of our asses. HD is not film, there's no format out there that looks as good as 35mm film right now. So you're a real schmuck if you have the finances to shoot on 35 and then go and shoot on HD (which Rodriguez and others have been doing lately). However, not everyone has the cash for 35mm, so where HD is competing with film is with indies. Don't kid yourself, no one is shooting features independent films on DV, with the exception of docs. DV is a consumer format. Indie features are now either shot on HD cameras which have chips about the same size as 16mm film (ie - depth of field is identical, can use 16mm lenses, etc.) or they do it on 16. HD projected in a theater does not look quite as good as Super16. It does look close though, and on television the differences are basically nill. HD is slightly cheaper than 16 right now for a feature, and is getting cheaper by the year. And I have no problem with this. I'm not attached to one format or another. If in 5 years I'm going to make a movie and in my tests HD theatrically projected looks as good as 16mm theatrically projected, and HD is much cheaper, I will shoot on HD. Will digital formats 20 yrs from now be as good as 35mm? I don't know. The fact that few professional still photogs shoot 35mm anymore suggests this may be the case. But who's to say? Just look at the formats and see the results. There's no reason I feel beholden to film, if something else comes along that looks better (or as good and less expensive) I'll be happy to embrace it. Right now, anyone that says HD is better than film now is ignorant. Anyone that says film is better than HD is only partially right.

Dear Jim:

HD does not look as good as 16mm. And if you telecine off your 16mm negative, you can barely tell the difference between 16mm and 35mm. Digital (HD or DV) and film are just different. They look different, and they're psychologically different. But we keep returning to what's cheaper and easier for the filmmaker, as though that matters. Nobody gives a shit what it took get your movie made, they're only interested in the results. Which all gets back to the artist's intentions, which have seemingly become meaningless, but actually mean everything. If you're not breaking your back, and your bank account, to make your film as beautiful and high-quality as humanly possible, you're not trying hard enough. What makes "Evil Dead" kind of exceptional is that Sam took his 6 week, $150,000 budget, and ran it up to $500,000 and about 20 weeks of shooting. That film was going to be exactly what he wanted it to be, and he didn't give a shit how much it cost or how long it took. That's the kind of attitude you need to succeed, which sadly I've never had. The quality of the film is the entire point, what you went through to get it made means nothing, and adds up to nothing. No one cares. So, if all of your decisions aren't based on "What's best for this movie," as opposed to, "What's cheapest and easiest for me," you'll undoubtedly make one more worthless movie. What people don't want to hear or own up to is that there are literally thousands of low-budget films made every year that get no distribution at all and no one ever sees, or even hears of. Unless your film is exceptional in every possible way, how can you possibly hope to make it through that morass? You can't.

Josh

Name: Franklin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

That's a shame. If you had any ideas for horror movies (good horror movies) you could maybe get a deal with Rob Tapert to go through Ghost House? That'd be pretty cool to see your name on a big budget movie.

Also, I noticed lately it's been taking you longer to get questions answered on here. Does this mean that good news is happening with either you book or "The Horribleness?"

Also, how "thrilled" are you that the superbowl is gonna be in Detroit this year.

Franklin

Dear Franklin:

Shirley, the webmaster's, computer crashed, that's all. [Actually part of my motherboard got fried but the nature of the problem wasn't immediately obvious. -webmaster] The book will be available at some point soon, and the I think the deal for "The Horribleness," at least for the time being, is a dead duck. I don't watch football.

Josh

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

Tim,

Expressing your opinions on this site and saying that you don't care for a movie is one thing; but going on a homophobic-fueled rant and making yourself look dumber in the process is something else entirely.

As for the personal attacks, I've never been big on them, so I'm not going to take up Josh's bandwith by hurling them at you as well. We'll just agree to disagree.

I'll just say that your Brokeback Mountain rant was offensive, crude, and tasteless. If you don't like the film, just say you didn't care for it. We don't need to hear your graphic attempts at gay humor. Your fellow film lovers will respect you a lot more in the morning without them.

...and don't call me Dick.

Richard

Dear Richard:

I think we've covered the sexuality side of that film. I'm just about done with Peter Bogdanvich's new book, "Who the Hell's in it?" made up of his old interviews with movie actors, but filled out by his reminsices about other actors. The interviews are all very good, but his memory pieces are all a bit lame, where he keeps referring to everyone by the first names: Hank Fonda and Jack Ford and Duke Wayne, trying to put forth the idea, I think, that he was legitimately part of their group, which of course he wasn't. He was this weird, movie-geek, hanger-on. Actually, the group that Bogdanovich is really a part of, the directors of the early '70s, Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, is a very interesting one. I'd nominate Peter Bogdanovich as the Biggest Disappointment out of that group, too.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: Nansemondnative

Morning Josh.

The book you have recommended many times here called "The Film Director" holds up to all of your input about it.

Printed in 1971, I was able to get a mint copy of it which wasn't that easy but not impossible either. I think it is incredible to see where it all came from.

There is one still in there of Billy Wilder lying in a grave with an Arri in his hand. My immediate thought was that scene from Evil Dead when Bruce is covering up Betsy (Sam) with dirt and also the scene from Within the Woods when Ellen covers up the camera with a sheet for the picnic. I then guessed you probably turned Sam onto the book. AWESOME reading Josh and one worthy of holding onto as a reference point.

"Have a knowledge of your craft and a passion for your subject"...William Wyler.

Thanks again Josh!

Tim

Dear Tim:

I didn't turn Sam onto it, and I don't know that he's read it. Getting any of these guys to read a book was like twisting their arms. To most people now, books are like Kryptonite. My 13-year-old niece actually said, "I hate books. I hate reading." I have no doubt that attitude will take her far. The bottom line is that if you don't read books, you'll never be smart. Period. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did. It's nice to read something by someone who knows what they're talking about.

Josh

Name: CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

The Genesis is Panavision's new digital HD camera. I'm curious myself about the image it produces (still nowhere near 35mm I'd gather).

I'm a 'film' guy all the way though. Every serious attempt I made at making a film was shot on film (some Super 8, mostly 16mm). Call me crazy, but the dream is still with me to shoot something on 35mm.

Many perceive this as film 'snobbery'. I just counter that it's a preference. Don't hate film because it's expensive and you can't afford it. Believe me, there actually is a hatred (or really resentment) for film out there among the 'new breed' of 'filmmaker'.

Film just looks better and DV (HD or standard) does not look like film. It doesn't look bad, it just doesn't look like film.

I'm always amused by the budgets some of these DV 'filmmaker wannabes' have out there. They claim that if they were to shoot a specific project on 35mm, the budget would be $500,000, but if they were to shoot it on DV, it would be $50,000 (or less). Bullshit. Film and processing does not cost $450,000. Don't kid yourselves.

Looking closer at the budgets they come up with, you notice that they budget things in the 35mm budget that are excluded from the DV budget, but shouldn't be (like lights, crew, etc). All thoughts 'professional' go out the window when DV is considered.

This isn't helping the DV cause any. I think DV already has a 'Super 8' stigma attached to it (if you're not Stephen Soderbergh or Danny Boyle).

A 'film' shooting in DV is not treated with as much respect as a film shooting on 35mm. That's the conclusion I've come to.

Today's DV 'filmmakers' are deluding themselves. They believe DV not only makes it easier to make a film, but that it makes it easier to 'break into Hollywood' too. It is NOT leveling the playing field or 'democratizing' anything. Don't let Sony and Canon fool you.

If these DV advocates suddenly feel that these days it doesn't matter what a movie is shot on, then why is it still important that they make it look like film?

My impression is that many of these young DV 'filmmakers' nowadays actually believe it wasn't possible to shoot a low budget 'independent' film 20-30 years ago, but I always point to guys like you. Those who were passionate and determined found a way to make a film (DV or no DV). It was better that way if you ask me.

Even though I agree that Super 8 is impractical (and almost as expensive as 16mm) these days, it was a way to make 'cheap' independent films back when, proving it was possible to make a film in those days. Honestly, Super 8 film lit right and shot at 24fps with a decent camera looks better than DV.

Robert Rodriguez compares shooting HD with driving a ferrari or something while the film people are driving a Volvo. I find that amusing somewhat because 20 years from now, that HD camera will be obsolete and replaced by much superior HD cameras.

Rodriguez tries to act like he's ahead of everyone else, but he's really behind working with cameras that are already obsolete.

In 20 years, I'm sure he'll look back at the camera he shot Spy Kids 3 with and feel a bit foolish (Spy Kids 3 looks atrocious) whereas I'm confident those shooting with 35mm film cameras won't feel they were foolish for using them.

There's a guy right now with a movie shot on DV playing at Sundance. Moonshine it's called. Made for $10,000. He's quoted as saying in wonderment: 'Even now, there are people who insist on going with film. With the ease of shooting digitally, that just blows my mind.'

I feel it isn't necessarily about 'ease of shooting'. How your film looks is more important I think. Like you said about Lawrence of Arabia (which I've seen in glorious 70mm. Astounding), David Lean had the choice to shoot 16mm or 35mm, but he chose the trouble of shooting with those massive 70mm Panavision Cameras. I'm glad he did.

Cameras using 100 year old technology are still superior to the most state of the art HD digital cameras.

I'd never have any regrets shooting film. Not now. Not in the future. The whole DV/film debate is an interesting one, but I try not to argue or debate the issue too much anymore. Maybe this'll be my last words on it. To each his own.

I'm really not anti-digital video or anything. It should be used. It should evolve and one day will reach film quality, but until then...

Sorry for the long rant.

Dear CD:

If it doesn't matter how your film looks, you shouldn't be a filmmaker. It's a visual medium, and DV looks like pornography. To even believe that there will be HD in 20 years is silly. So far, no digital format has stuck around for more than a few years. All digital formats from 10 years ago are outdated and useless. If you shot your film digitally 10 years ago -- and people were -- you can just throw it out now. I also expect that in 10 years from now everything shot either DV or HD will be outmoded and worthless. Of course, all filmmakers working in a digital format now are simply hoping they get a Hollywood deal and get to shoot 35mm as soon as possible. And as independent and artistic as they may think themselves, given half a chance they'll all go make "Free Willy 4," in 35mm.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Congrats - that's awesome news about book #2.

Just a quick note, in case some of your fans may be interested:

This coming Saturday, 1/28, "Mosquito" is on Sci-Fi at 11 AM EST. And the following week, Spike-TV is running four of the Hercules tv movies, all at 2 AM Eastern on successive nights; "Minotaur" is on Thursday 2/2 (technically early Friday morning.) I reall can't recall this airing anywhere since that one time on TNT years ago.

And then "Alien Apocalypse" is already scheduled to air on Tuesday Feb. 2th at 9 PM EST, book-ended by "Army of Darkness" at 7 and "Screaming Brain" at 11.

And speaking of "Mosquito," I realize that was Gary's film, but you may know this. I assume back in '95, there wasn't cheap cgi. So all those mosquitoes were "practical" models then? How on earth did he manage to pull the effect off, with the wings vibrating at super-fast speed? I'm not saying they were the most believable giant flying insects I've ever seen, but they sure looked like they were right there in the middle of everything terrorizing the cast.

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

I don't know how Gary did those effects. I was there, and I still don't know. I saw the many, many mosquito models they had, but I never saw them do any of the effects. But Gary is terrific FX man, among other things, and he knows his special effects backward and forward. The farm house blowing up at the end is pretty impressive, too, as is the whole motor home attack. I watched it the last time it was on -- thankfully, most of scenes have been editd out of the TV version -- and Gunnar Hansen seemed like he was playing Gary Jones. Gunnar looks like Gary's older brother. Meanwhile, thanks for all the info. Good to hear from you.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I am delighted that you are as appreciative of "Notorious"! I believe you are more familiar with the film than I am. Please excuse my error, it seems the film review link I posted was misleading regarding Peter Lorre (I had guessed perhaps he had a small role). By far one of Hitchcock's best, I agree.

I believe the October 1954 television production of "Casino" made various alterations, for instance James Bond became "card-sharp Jimmy Bond" a CIA agent. Despite that the current film will be set in modern day if I am not mistaken, I still believe it will be certainly enjoyable. Nonetheless, I agree in the value and importance in preserving the original time period.

There stands a statue of Cary Grant in Bristol I believe. Classically similar to the literary Bond, he was actually once expelled from a university for an incident involving the ladies' restroom (the literary Bond, a maid). He has long been one of my favorite performers. If I may ask, what are your favorite of his films (certainly Notorious and North by Northwest), and if among them are the romantic The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday.

By the way for Saul, I believe the late President Kennedy listed From Russia With Love as his tenth favorite novel. However the film did not preserve the original enemy of SMERSH (instead SPECTRE had been devised for the novel Thunderball), which would have been my own preference. Unrelatedly, you share name with the late president's assassin.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Although it's sort of sacreligious regarding Cary Grant, I love "Father Goose," which I saw several times in the theater as kid (and many times on TV since then. He produced the film, too, and it also won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay). I also saw "Charade" as kid and was completely enchanted. Cary Grant is wonderful in "The Philadelphia Story" and "His Girl Friday." I also really like him in: "Blonde Venus," "The Eagle and the Hawk," "Sylvia Scarlett," "Holiday," "Gunga Din," " -- Only Angels Have Wings," "Destination Tokyo," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (another childhood favorite)," "Crisis," "People Will Talk," "Room For One More (another film I loved as a kid, which Grant also produced)," and "Monkey Business."

Josh

Name: Bobby
E-mail: bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

Firt off, thanks for your input on "Texasville"/Bogdonavich. Secondly, I would like to rant for a minute about the death of independently owned video stores. I live in a fairly small town, and recently, my favorite video store has closed. It was an old store, run by a man named Reggie, who had a near-photographic memory for movie titles, and pretty much had a VHS copy of any movie ever released on VHS. Of course, this means he had a lot of crappy movies, but he also had hundreds of gems that you can't really find anywhere anymore, except maybe on Ebay for outrageous prices. In fact, his store was the only place I had ever been able to find a copy of your "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except" and "Lunatics A Love Story" (as a sidenote, he had put a red sticker on the box of that one saying, "Don't Miss!"). Sadly, Reggie has just gone out of business. He had been struggling ever since a big rental chain had moved into town. We would chat, he explained to me how he couldn't keep up with the big chains. For example, he couldn't afford multiple copies of new releases, and therefore couldn't rent out movies for monre than one night...he had to get copies back on the shelf. Not to mention all the deals major chains have with distributors, that the independent stores just cannot make. I don't want to go on and on, and fill up your board here, but the sad truth is that now all that's available for rent in this town is popular movies all made within the last five years. Oh sure, the big chain has the two major trilogies ("The Godfather", "Star Wars)---woo hooh!), and maybe a copy of "Goodfellas", but that's about it for "classic" movies. No copy of "Dr. Strangelove". No "Ben Hur". But plenty of copies of the latest "Teenage Nerd Trying to Get Laid" comedy, and plenty of the Miramax Pseudo-"Independent" Films involving quirky people in quirky situations with "snappy" dialogue and absolutely no discernable connections to actual human behavior or emotion. It makes me a little sad to think that people really just don't care about some of the finest gems hardly available on video.
Thought I'd share.
Support your indepedent video stores or you'll lose them!

Dear Bobby:

That sucks, sorry to hear it. Any store that carried my films must have really had an eclectic selection (with a "Don't Miss!" sticker no less). I guess you'll have to join Netflix, or something like it. They have a pretty good selection, although it's better for newer movies than older ones, but there's a still a fair amount of big, older films.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail:

Josh,

There ya go!

You stated your opinion to me on a personal level, insulted me, and I took it in and am not the slightest bit upset about it.I just look at it as point/counterpoint which you are a master at. I've been watching you do it for years. I figured you enjoyed doing it.

Just like in your interview when you said "Fuck the fans". I just look at it as your personality and nothing is going to change it. You are Josh and that's that.

However, religion is not a consideration in any of my perceptions on the subject matter.

And yes, I know or have at least read, that homsexuality has been here since probably the dawn of man. Look at the Spartan army.Countless other examples out there as well.

I also realize that on that sexual plane that humans probably have no boundaries on either side of the spectrum. To your point, the only boundaries are those that have been instilled religiously or otherwise.

You attack any view that doesn't see eye to eye with yours and dismiss it as being "dumbass" or otherwise not in line and therefore must be wrong. However, I don't mind "dealing" with you on any level and have learned a lot from you.

Well Josh...If I am a dumbass for believing that men and boys should not be together or that men and little girls should not be together or that women and little boys should not be together then I prefer to remain in my dumbass stupified state. Religion has nothing to do with it. It is just wrong, in my perceptions anyway, plain and simple. Spit in my eye if you want to.

It amazes me how all this stemmed from a discussion on Brokeback Mountain. Maybe I was a little too harsh in my wording. However, I saw the damn movie and I feel like I feel and that doesn't make me a bastard.

So...I do apologize to any readers here, as well as you Josh, that were offended by my 2 previous posts on the subject matter.

I do not,however, apologize for my view on things. If something changes my perceptions or I change my own perceptions at somepoint then so be it.

Can we go back to talking about movies, directors and actors now?

Tim

Dear Tim:

Sure.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

So "Unforgiven" was the last great movie to be made, circa 1993. And what was the last great film previous to that? "Goodfellas"? How many great films were made in the 80s... can you count them on two hands?

Dear David:

Probably. Maybe one hand. When was the last time there were too many good movies to just choose five nominees for Best Picture? That used to happen. There were years like, say, 1968, when you had in the same year: "Romeo & Juliet," "Funny Girl," "The Lion in Winter," "Oliver!" "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Producers," "Rosemary's Baby," "Planet of the Apes," "Faces," "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," "The Fixer," "Charly," "Isadora," "The Battle of Algiers," "The Odd Couple," "Hot Millions," "Ice Station Zebra," "War and Peace," "Bullitt," and "The Thomas Crown Affair." Or how about 1972, when you had "The Godfather" against "Cabaret," two films that are so good they had to split the awards--"The Godfather" got Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Screenplay; "Cabaret" got Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. And "Deliverance" was in 1972, as well. As for the great films of the '80s, I don't feel like going back and looking.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have you read about "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"? Although Tommy Lee Jones has very little directing experience, I have read good things about it and look forward to seeing it.

Dear David:

Hope springs eternal.

Josh

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

Josh,

Since I saw a mention of Ian Fleming, I figured I'd bring this up...

Years ago, while I was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, I took a class on detective fiction. One of the books assigned to me was Ian Fleming's "Thunderball."

I read it-and I thought it was THE WORST book I've ever read. In fact, I still believe that today. The book read like a barely-thought out first draft. The characters were dull and one-dimensional. The descriptions were dull. It was a waste of ink and paper. I seem to remember that John F. Kennedy had raved about Fleming's books-which supposedly brought them out of obscurity into the public consciousness. Afterwards came the Bond films.

Based on "Thunderball," I find that hard to believe. Maybe "Thunderball" was Fleming's only dud. Maybe JFK had shitty taste in books. All I know is-I refuse to read any more work by Ian Fleming.

Saul

Dear Saul:

"Thunderball" is the only Ian Fleming Bond book that's based on the film's screenplay, which came first before the book. I enjoyed "Casino Royale" mainly because it has an interesting, kind of realistic feel to it, and it has nice sense of 1953. I was able to envision it as though it were a 1953 film, like "Roman Holiday." I tried to read more early Bond books, but gave it up, they're not for me. Having read JFK's book, "Profiles in Courage," he wasn't much of a writer, so he probably didn't have great taste in books. Presidents often don't. But, as I've already said, regarding the movies, by the time Sean Connery quit and Roger Moore took over in the early 1970s, that series was a ridiculous joke, and was being made strictly for money and no other reason. It's one of the early "franchises" in movies, and just about the only thing that's kept UA in existence, along with another worn-out franchise that went way beyond having any value, the Pink Panther movies. But I'll bring up my credo again, since we have veered away from it -- movies can be art, and can be great, but not when they're made by committees, nor when they're part of franchises, and the only reason they exist is to put asses in seats and generate money. That part of the movie business is not interesting to me. The big movie franchises are garbage, and are meant to be nothing but garbage. Unless you have some artistic person involved in the creation, who seriously believes the film means something, it means nothing. And even that won't necessarily make it good.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hi Josh

Have fun with those wide lenses! For my Arri BL I bought a Zeiss 10mm and a Century 5.7 in one package (for about £500 - a bargain!) You really can't shoot a decent location interior without a wide. I can DEFINITELY see the difference between the Zeiss and the Century. The Zeiss just produces beautiful images. The 5.7 gets me out of some pickles when shooting in very cramped conditions, and is great for that fish-eye effect and I don't have to worry about focus. But it can be a bit soft. It works best in natural light at around an 4 stop. Why is it that a lot of lenses like the F4 mark?!?

Wide angles rule. It's definitely the lens that sets cinema aside from TV.

Lata


Lee

Dear Lee:

I've always favored f 5.6, although I can't say why exactly. When I took over the lighting on "Evil Dead" I made sure that all my exposures were 5.6, just for the sake consistency, and it all looked good. The previous cameraman had been shooting a lot of shots at very low f-stops, like 1.2 and 2 (he said, "An exposure is an exposure"), and all of those shots are grainy, and a bit blown out. What all of these folks who keep pushing digital overlook is that it's nearly impossible to make that shit beautiful, whereas film can look beauitiful with use of one lightbulb.

Josh

Name: Gilbert Smith
E-mail: profelmore@aol.com

Mister Becker,

I've done a couple short films with my roommate recently, and I wanted to know if you could give me your opinion on them.

http://s93996480.onlinehome.us/gil/TheWorstNovelist.mov

http://s93996480.onlinehome.us/gil/MAN.mov

Thanks

Gilbert Smith

Dear Gilbert:

Sorry, no.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

It has been years since I have seen "Night Train to Munich," I will be very eager to view it again. Like yourself I also find it very plausible the influence of the film upon Ian Fleming's creation of James Bond. In some ways a reflection of himself, I have also heard that Bond was the sort of intelligence officer that he idealized being.

Despite the goofiness of "Bringing Up Baby," you may find Cary Grant in 1946's "Notorious" to be more appealing. He plays FBI agent T.R. Devlin, opposite a villain played by Peter Lorre, who was cast as the notorious Le Chiffre in a 1954 televised version of the novel Casino Royale. It will be interesting to realize the current EON productions casting of Le Chiffre, with his hideaway "Les Noctambules".

I am curious thus if you likewise enjoyed Hitchcock's "Notorious", another favorite of mine.

http://www.thehotspotonline.com/moviespot/holly/n/notorious.htm

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Do you serious and for one second think I haven't seen "Notorious"? I've seen "Notorious" in the theater, with gorgeous prints, a half a dozen times, not to mention how many times I've seen it on TV (I have it on tape). I personally think it's Hitchcock's best movie. Peter Lorre isn't in that film, BTW. Claude Rains is the bad guy. I repeat, if they don't set "Casino Royale" in 1953, it's worthless. I saw the TV production of "Casino" with Peter Lorre, and it was awful.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I know that asking two questions is a pain, but this one just came up and I don't want to forget it. Since you were a kid, did you ever get the feeling that people see your films and tell you they are good, but that you're some kind of running joke among them? Is this a common paranoia of filmmakers, or do I worry too much? And lastly (I know the answer to this one already), do you give a damn about those people? Thanks again... I was just wondering... because I'm that kind of paranoid person.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

You are paranoid. It doesn't matter what other people think. Do the best you can, then you know that's as good as you can make it. Back in the days of Super-8, in the distant 1970s, I made a film called "Acting & Reacting," starring Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, which was the only contemporary, realistic film any of us made in Super-8 (or ever), and I was laughed at and ridiculed at the time. Guess what? It remains one of the best and most interesting of all our old Super-8 films, with a helluva lot more lasting value, I think, than most of those films. So, do what you think is best, and don't worry about it.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

Just a thought: with all the talk of film cameras going on, I figured I'd ask something I've been wondering for a while. I have a pretty crappy DV camera with bad zoom and bad focus adjustment. Should I stick with this until I move into more professional endeavors, or should I find spring for a super 8, and projector, and cutter? Keep in mind I have no film experience, but film school starts in July, so I'll get some there.

Also, I've been watching Bryan Singer's podcasts for the making of superman returns. He's using some giant new amazing digital camera called a genisis. I was wondering if you knew anything about that...

Thanks again - as always.
-Rob

P.S. Some guy mentioned Bruce and Ted having Myspaces. Are they real or bull?

Dear Rob:

I know nothing about My Space, or Ted and Bruce's involvement in it. I say no, don't invest in Super-8, it's simply an impractical format. If you have some way of cutting your digital stuff, stick with that for now. DV is pefect to train with. I know nothing about digital cameras, nor do I care.

Josh

Name: Bobby
E-mail: bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I've been on a bit of a Peter Bogdonavich kick lately. I recently watched "The Last Picture Show", after not having seen it since I was 12 or so, and found that it is one of the few movies that is even better than my memory allowed. Same with "Paper Moon", which haunts me (can't find "Nickelodeon" anywhere, the other Bogdonavich/O'Neals film). I guess my question to you, Josh, is, why didn't "Texasville" work? Oh, don't get me wrong. It has its moments. Perhaps it is unfair of me to hold it up to "The Last Picture Show". It seems like it should have worked. Same director, same cast, same source author. Granted, it has a similar air of melancholy, but I think Sonny, the Timothy Bottoms character was shortchanged and perhaps middle-aged woes aren't as cinematically appealing as the loss of innocence? Maybe I should watch it again in ten years when perhaps I'll relate a bit more to the characters? I'm not quite sure. What is your opinion...perhaps you disagree with me entirely. I'm interested to know. Thanks.

Dear Bobby:

Larry McMurtry's book, "Texasville," was absolutely terrible, so why would a good film get made out of it? After about 100 pages I actually threw the book against the wall I disliked it so much. I have no doubt that McMurtry wrote that book strictly and 100% for the money. This was right after he had won a Pulitzer Prize for "Lonesome Dove," his first really hit book, and I have no doubt his publisher said, "If you can crank out a sequel to 'Last Picture Show' right now it'll sell a million copies no matter what it is," and that's what he did. As for the movie, Peter Bogdanovich is an awful hack, and as far as I'm concerned, he's made one good film, "The Last Picture Show," and two okay films: "Targets" and "Paper Moon," and everything else he's made is crap. "Nickelodeon" is hammered shit, and I hate "What's Up, Doc?"

Josh

Name: Franklin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Yo, when you're looking for funding for your films, do you ever ask Rob Tapert for cash? Wow, that sounds bad. I mean, do you approach him first before you go to like Anchor Bay or do you not ask him?

Franklin

Dear Franklin:

I've gotten Rob to cough some money for my films over the years, but he doesn't personally finance movies. He puts deals together where other people finance the movies. But these days he's strictly making horror films with Ghost House, and that holds no interest for me.

Josh

Name: Jason Roth
E-mail: jason@visualnoiz.com

Josh,

If I'd seen Syriana before Good Night and Good Luck, I probably would have passed on other Clooney projects too. I don't want to overhype Good Night and Good Luck, but I thought Clooney did a decent job of directing, and the writing & acting was pretty swell too. Also nice to see a new movie in Glorious Black and White.

Recently caught Elvis Meets Nixon, which I don't think I would have bothered with if you hadn't mentioned it a while back. Great movie, the fact that it's true just makes it funnier.

I'll add a question, as this is a Q & A: I recently saw the restored version of Touch of Evil. Do you think the tweaking made a much of a difference in the film? I have yet to see the old one, but I tend to be suspicious of "director's cuts" assembled nearly 20 years after the director's death.

Best,
Jason

Dear Jason:

The changes did improve "Touch of Evil." Walter Murch was right to get them done, since that's how Welles wanted it. But there are music cues that were written (by a young Henry Mancini) to be source cues, meaning they're supposed to be coming from a radio or a PA system, that were mixed forward as dramatic music, and that's a mistake. Orson Welles had written very specific notes of how he wanted the film mixed, then was ignored, as Hollywood is quite apt to do. And even the best film can get screwed up in post-production. Meanwhile, wasn't "Elvis Meets Nixon" hysterical? It cracked me up. I ran into the director, Allan Arkush, at a DGA meeting and told him how much I liked the film. He seemed honestly surprised that anyone had seen it.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail:

FOR RICHARD...

Don't take it so personal Dick. It's just a movie and one that I would not recommend to another nor would I shell out hard earned money to go see again either. And I did go see it but since you weren't there to put the moves on me you wouldn't know that would you? My wife loved it and I hated it.That is my opinion of it and that is the way it is going to be. That is what I love about this site of Josh's so much. The people who chime in are encouraged to express thier own uncoerced opinion whether it be popular or not or ask just about any question. Josh expresses his opinions and has been doing it since he first started this site. He hasn't gotten an opinion on BM yet. I have and I'm sticking with it.

I suspect you would have lashed out at him or anyone else who bashed a movie that you obviously love so much or challenged your perceptions verses other people's perceptions of homosexuality. And since you got really nasty I also suspect that you will get a copy of the movie when it becomes available and somehow project it into your bathroom for your nightly spanking Johnny sessions.

In a society where an organization affectionately named "The Man-Boy Love Association" can thrive and grow unchecked your arguments and insults mean nothing to me.Two different barstools I know but they are both sitting in the same bar. You aren't the first one to challenge my aggressiveness and you certainly will not be the last.

Oh and Dick on the subject of "artistically bankrupt"...If you cannot honestly look around you at much of the art today whether it be movies,paintings, books or music and see the decline then you have a serious perception problem! Jesus! Just read this site! Go back and read everything here! Reant a movie that was made in 1935 and one that was made in 1996 and compare them Mr. Film Extraordinaire! If it doesn't open your eyes then nothing will.

So Brokeback Mountain may be the answer you have been looking for and it may have set you free.

All it did for me was to solidify that Hollywood is expert at creating perceptions in people's minds.You could ride around on a Hollywood perception, which became your reality, for years before your eyes got opened.

Sorry if you don't like it Dick but I'm not changing my mind or become less "homophobic" simply because you hurled a few insults at me on this website.

Can ya dig it Dick? I knew that ya could!!!

Tim

Dear Tim:

That's all great, but being a homophobe doesn't make you appear any smarter. Homosexuals are 10% of the population, and always have been, from the beginning of human civilization, or earlier. They are as legitimate a part of the population as everybody else, including heterosexuals. The fundamentalist Christian attitude that homosexuality is a choice is one of the most deeply stupid attitudes that presently exists. I will under all circumstances gladly hang around with gay people before I'll hang around with religious people of any stripe or any kind of Republicans. Your Man-Boy example is an idiotic one. Do you seriously believe that there aren't heterosexuals around seducing and having sex with underage kids? I'd offer that there are probably a lot more of those perverts than the Man-Boy members. As the old expression goes, "The abuse of a thing is no argument against the use of it." Just because some gay men like young boys doesn't negate homosexuality anymore than some heterosexuals liking young girls negates heterosexuality. You can stick with your dumbass argument, but if you're going to put it forth here, you must deal with me.

Josh

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

Josh,

Yes, I guess I did give the long answer on cameras.

I think we both covered it rather well.

Thanks for mentioning the Arri S. It is also a great MOS camera. The Beaulieu 16mm cameras are better than their Super 8 cameras.

The Elcair doesn't have any battery problems. You can get one readily made up for it for by a handful of places which you can find online.

The Tobin variable speed motors work great on other cameras, just not the Arri 16 BL. I like the Tobin motors and it gives you the option of better sync than some of the standard motors in the 16mm cameras.

Anyhow, on to my question and a comment.

I notice that you have a difficult time sitting through long films, but you enjoy reading a great deal as do I.

I actually have always enjoyed longer films that did not come under the Hollywood time constraints. Of course, there are quite a few films which were short and I felt they were too long, and quite a few films which were long, but did not even realize that they were as long as they had been because I enjoyed them.

So, my question to you is if you have the patience to read a long novel or non-fiction book, why do you have such a difficult time with a long film?

I have always felt that people have more patience for reading a long book than watching a long film. Do you believe this has been programmed by the Hollywood time constraints of a film and people are used to it, or is it because when people read books they can put them down and go back to them anytime they want to, but before home video, this was not the case with a film?

Maybe a film just demands more concentration that a book mainly watching it in a theater do to the environment and such?

Just curious as to your thoughts on this.

One last comment. You mentioned the the old saying that "Those that cannot do teach." I actually always thought that saying to be very stupid and I can sya that those who can do, do and teach. I have been to a lot of great seminars and workshops with those that "do", and I "do" and teach classes on the side sometimes as well.

I think it is a good thing to do both.

So don't take yourself out of the game just yet.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Adolph Zukor, the man who really introduced feature-length films to the world, did a study and found that human beings have difficulty sitting and paying attention to anything beyond two hours, particularly if they've just consumed a large Coca-cola. That's why movies were either 2 hours or shorter, or if they ran longer than 2 hours, they had an intermission at 2 hours. Beyond that, and more importantly to me, is that in almost every case of an overlong movie, it doesn't need to be that length, and is achieving its length due to poor dramatic structure. I can sit through "The Longest Day" (180 minutes) or "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (161 minutes) or "The Great Escape" (168 minutes) with no problems because they're well-written and need the length to tell their stories. But the second the pace and rhythm of the film don't matter to th director, the film doesn't matter to me. I don't have trouble sitting through long movies, per se, I have trouble sitting through bad movies, and bad long movies are an insult. Meanwhile, a movie certainly doesn't need more concentration than a book -- you can daze off in a movie and not miss anything, whereas the second you daze off while reading, you're not reading anymore, you're just staring. But I have exceptionally little tolerance for that which I think is crap, in movies or in books, and the second I'm convinced that I'm dealing with crap, I bail.

Josh

Name: Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"Brokeback Mountain" is actually 2 hrs and 14 minutes, not three hours. I personally wasn't impressed, it's basically a homosexual film with heterosexual cliches. But people are loving it.

And "Good Night and Good Luck" is a hell of a lot better than "Syriana" (which Clooney didn't direct or write), but seeing how you didn't like "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," I'm not sure what you'd think. Best. Post more old reviews!

Dear Criag:

The NY Times had an article about a week ago about how long movies are these days, compared with how short people's attention spans have gotten ("I've got short little span of attention, and oh, my nights are so long"). Their main examples were "King Kong, "Munich" and "Brokeback Mountain," all of which they said were minimally a half hour too long, although "Kong" was certainly at least an hour too long. I'm sure "Munich" is an hour too long, too. BM may only be a half hour too long, but that's a lot, in my opinion. So, after seeing "Syriana," I came home and watched two old movies, both A- or B+ films, neither particularly high-budget, and both miles ahead of anything they're making now. "The Decks Ran Red" (1958) with James Mason, Dorothy Dandridge, Broderick Crawford and Stuart Whitman, and made by the very interesting team of Andrew and Virginia Stone, who two years later would make their best film, "The Last Voyage." But this is a bizarre true story about two insane crew members onboard a freighter who have the crazy idea to kill the entire crew and claim the ship for salvage, and just start shooting everyone on board. The other film was "The Winning Team" (1952) with Ronald Reagan and Doris Day, the true story of the baseball pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was big news in the late teens and twenties for the St. Louis Cardinals. In the 1926 World Series he pitched against the NY Yankees, who had both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at the time and couldn't be beaten. Alexander is brought in late in the game, the 8th inning, when it was 4-3 with Cards up, but the Yankees had the bases loaded and two outs. Alexander came in and casually struck out the batter, then blowing their loaded bases, then the next inning struck them out one, two, three, and the Cardinals won the series. Very exciting, and I don't even care about baseball. Reagan's good in it, too, and Doris Day was so cute back then. Neither of these films are anywhere near great, they're both well-done, but kind of run-of-the-mill, but so much better than these new movies it's a joke.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

I have read with interest your description of "Night Train to Munich."
However, if I may further it has often been noted that Ian Fleming modelled James Bond with actor Cary Grant in mind. Two among my many favorite performances with Cary Grant include "North by Northwest" and "Bringing Up Baby," the former which you have often praised.

I am eager thus on your thoughts on the following link which details director Howard Hawk's interest in producing a film version of the novel Casino Royale starring Cary Grant as James Bond:

http://www.hmss.com/films/carygrant007/

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Have you seen the film? In 1940 Rex Harrison is every bit as good casting for the part of James Bond as Cary Grant, maybe better. I'm not saying that Ian Fleming ever said anything about "Night Train to Munich," I'm saying it has to have been an influence on him. The story of a suave, dapper, handsome British secret agent, who happens to be one of their best, who in this case goes undercover and infiltrates the Nazi high command to get back an abducted scientist. Carol Reed was probably the biggest director in England at the time (Hitchcock had recently left for America), so there's no way Fleming didn't know about the film, and have no doubt he saw it. Meanwhile, I'm not a fan of "Bringing Up Baby," and oddly, neither was Howard Hawks, for the same reason as me, it's too nutty and too goofy for it's own good: everybody's overplaying it.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I totally agree with your assessments of Syriana, it really was hammered shit. I just love how they portrayed the oil execs like caricatures from a bad cartoon, and Matt Damon is a consistent reminder that the plague of the pretty boys isn't going away any time soon. That is one of the reasons why I plan to avoid Broke Back Mountain. I have never been impressed with Ledger or Gyllenhaal, as they are just parts of Hollywood's stockpile of pretty faces with little acting ability; or charisma for that matter. BTW Josh, I think you have a very valid point of view on the curret state of our society. Have you ever though of writing a script about it? I could see it as either a satire, or a drama centered around the damage that we've done over the past 20 plus years. I recently read Collapse, and I believe that a film about this subject could be extermely relevant.

Dear Scott:

I've certainly thought about it. Finding the proper dramatic vehicle to make the point is the trick. On some level it's what "If I Had a Hammer" is about, too. It all boils down to Ned Beatty's speech in "Network" (which I must poorly paraphrase, with apologies to the memory of Paddy Chayefsky), "There are no countries anymore, there's only IBM, AT&T, Boeing, Lockheed and Halliburton." Meanwhile, back to that piece of crap, "Syriana," it's a truly egregious example of using the ensemble concept to completely cop-out in the writing, not know what you're saying, or where you're going, or why, just keep cutting around to more characters to avoid having to figure anything out. The sub-plots with Jeffery Wright, Matt Damon, the Arab kids, and Chris Cooper are all total bullshit, and completely dramatically unnecessary. The main story with tubby, hairy, one-note George Clooney, is poorly thought out that you never know where he is or what he's doing. For his big plan to be driving up waving a handkerchief is ridiculously idiotic it gives me a pain. "Syriana" is a severely bad movie.

Josh

Name: Nicholas
E-mail: surfs_up_1967@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

What kind of script structure should/does a short film follow? Is it the same 3 act structure? Most shorts that i've seen (animated included) don't seem to contain distinct acts. I've seen the short that you cowrote called "torro, torro, torro" on the Intruder import disc, so i suppose you could use that as an example of short story structure. If this has already been asked, you don't have to reply. btw, I know you directed it a long time ago and you've made other movies but i was absolutely blown away by Running Time. The tension just kept mounting and mounting and mounting! I hadn't experienced a movie like that since the original Psycho (up until she arrives at the hotel) and Night of the Living Dead.

Dear Nicholas:

Thanks. No, I don't believe you have to follow the three-act structure in a short. That's where you can strut your stuff, given you have any stuff to strut. But particularly with a slapstick comedy short, structure's not the issue, being funny is. In a slapstick comedy you set a pace, jokes are coming one a minute, one every 30 seconds, whatever, then you've got to stick to it, because once you've made people laugh, nothing matters but to keep them laughing. But if you're making a dramatic story, then the three-act structure applies, that's if you want it to be a whole story and not just a hunk of one, which you can get away with in a short. There's a lot more freedom with a short film strictly because you're not expecting people sit there for very long. But if you expect people to sit there for in excess of an hour, you need dramatic structure to keep the story moving along.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

About Brokeback Mountain being a probable Oscar winner, so it must be good, have you seen last years winner yet, Million Dollar Baby? I haven't heard much about that one lately. Maybe they were just giving Clint his trophy would hopefully make him just go away and not make another Mystic River.

As far as reviewing a movie you haven't seen before, I guess that's a valid point, however, from what I have read about Brokeback Mountain, you are supposed to feel sorry for these guys... I'm sorry, but I am not going to feel sorry for these guys that society is keeping apart so they have to "settle" for the hottest chicks in town when they marry them. If they were truly isolated from society I could feel sorry for them, but when you have the two dudes played by 100% straight guys who in the movie get the cutest girls in town, I have a problem shedding tears for them. Just my preview.

Dear Bob:

But you don't know what you're talking about, and neither do I, regarding that film. I can comment on it's length without seeing it, though. Why all these lame filmmakers need in excess of 120 minutes to tell their generally weak stories really gets me down. Meanwhile, how do you know that Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger are "100% straight"? I just watched "Kinsey," and if straight is black and gay is white, he found that most people exist in the gray area. Meaning, given half a chance, most people will fuck anything, including animals. I have no issue with the subject matter of "Brokeback Mountain," I have extreme issues with any film that thinks it needs to be longer than "Citizen Kane," which is 118 minutes.

Josh

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

Josh,

There is some consolation for the time peiod in which we live. There are really great histories being written and enough stuff going on in the sciences to keep one interested.

My In-laws bought me a copy of the 1998 BBC production of Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend" and so far it's been quite good. It's a showcse for good British character actors. It was originally a mini-series and runs 351> minutes so I'll have to see how well it holds up.

Congatulations on the second book deal. It's far better to have them come to you than to have to go to them.

I always thought that Ian Fleming was the inspiration for his own characters. He did that sort of thing for British Intelligence, you know. Sean Connery's son (Jason?) did a series of TV movies about "The Secret Life of Ian Fleming", or something like that.

John

Dear John:

I saw it -- there was just one, I believe -- and it was entirely forgettable. But as the old expression goes, "If you're not directly inspired by something, then you're just stealing." Ian Fleming himself wasn't infiltrating the Nazi high command, he was more of paperwork kind of secret agent. "Night Train to Munich" was a big hit in England during WWII, and as I watched it the first time it just hit me, this is where the seed of James Bond came from. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think I'm right. Just by the way, the film was written by the same writers (Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat) who wrote Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" two years before, and both films have two of the same characters in them -- these disgruntled British businessmen who are stuck in Germany when war is declared, and can't believe what a hassle they're being put through getting home. They keep showing their passports saying in a huff, "But we're British, my good man, you can't treat us this way." It's pretty funny.

Josh

Name: Beth
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I was wondering if you ever thought of succumb to the pressure and joining MySpace? Bruce and Ted have done so, and I thought you might too. Just wondering.

Beth

Dear Beth:

Seriously, why would I want to? What do I get out of it? I'm unfamiliar with it. I went to the website, but I'm not sure I get the point.

Josh

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

FROM TIM -

"I have waited my whole life to see a film devoted to a couple of Marlboro men who head up into the mountains, fall head over heels with each other and discover the gooey heights of orgasmic mountain man bunghole love."

"With the dawn of "He Broke My Ass In Mountain" I will have to carefully reconsider my position."

"In my perceptions, it is just another symptom of a society that has become artistically bankrupt.But hey...It's making money!"

"A vaseline dilemma between two cowboys doesn't even come close."

WOW, Tim...congratulations. You win the award for the most unbelievably offensive and homophobic post on this site (or any other regarding Brokeback that I've seen) in quite some time. You definitely strike me as a yardstick of film knowledge and objective criticism. Good job.

And exactly why is this film "artistically bankrupt" because it focuses on two gay men? It's actually a wonderfully moving and well-written story that, from your post, I can tell you never even seen.

Maybe this film isn't for Aunt Edna...and judging from your intelligence level, it isn't for you either. Stick to saying hello "to your little friend."

Richard

Dear Richard:

"Brokeback Mountain's" story is by Pulitzer Prize-winner, Annie Proulx, and the script is by (co-) Larry McMurtry, who is also a Pulitzer-Prize winner. That's pretty good credentials for a script, particularly these days. I really should have seen it instead of "Syriana."

Josh

Name: Jason Roth
E-mail: jason@visualnoiz.com

Hey Josh,

It's nice to find one other person that hates Requiem for a Dream, aka Reefer Madness 2000. I can't believe how many people still rate it so highly. By the end I was laughing at the overkill.

Did you see George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck? It was a pretty good little movie, and a neat look at how a news show was put together in the '50s. Clooney seems to have a fascination with old-time TV broadcasting, based on his first 2 directorial efforts.

Good luck in your directing and publishing endeavors!
Jason

Dear Jason:

I did not see it, and after "Syriana," I don't think I want to. That movie really pissed me off. Bad direction mixed with bad writing, what a winning combination. "Requiem for a Dream" is just a headache posing as a movie.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hi Josh

This is for Mike re: 16mm camera. The Arriflex BL shows up quite a lot on Ebay from about £800 plus. Also the Arri ST (MOS camera) shows up from as little as £200. I bought a BL from a dodgy dealer in the UK. Luckily the camera was fine. However the BL can't be super 16ed; although you can have the 16:9 ratio scribed onto the 4:3 viewfinder and compose 16:9 within 4:3. Less resolution but I've done this on a short and it looks fine. I also believe Raimi composed ED letterbox within 4:3 and took the resolution knock.

If you do go for the BL then you'll also have to buy the prime lens blimp if you want to use any other than the Ageneiux zoom lens, which goes down to 10mm in most cases (sometimes 12mm).

But there's nothing like shooting film. It makes you very disciplined. Whether the tosspots at the various arts foundations actually appreciate your accomplishment is another thing (cos they're busy wanking off with mini DV).

Lee UK

Dear Lee:

Thanks for you input. I don't think it's a wise idea to get an Arri-BL, then screw around with its gate or its motor. We shot both "Evil Dead" and TSNKE with Arri-BLs and Arri-Ss. I did some pickup work on TSNKE with the Scoopic, too, and I can tell the difference between the Zeiss lenses and the Canon zoom, and the Zeiss lenses are far superior. The best reason to get a good camera is to get good lenses, which make a BIG difference. On my next film I intend to forgo a second camera so that I can get extra lenses. For once in my life I want a large selection of prime lenses, particularly wide-angle lenses. I want a 28mm and a 24mm and an 18mm and a 16mm and a 12mm and a 10mm. I think it makes a real difference.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just wanted to give my recommendations on cameras to Mike and Trey as well.

I have shot with many 16mm cameras as well and I own a Beaulieu 16mm which I like quite a bit, but like the Bolex it is an MOS camera and unless you can customize a blimp for it, you can't really shoot sound with it, however, the Beaulieu runs off a battery and is electronic, where as most people who own Bolex's have the hand wind crank versions as the motorized versions are a bit pricey.

Canon Scopics are actually pretty cool cameras with a zoom lens that can't be removed. They are great for handheld work, however, it is difficult to find them with batteries that still work, so you need to find someone that can re-cell them for you, or someone who can make customized batteries.

The battery problem is the same with Beaulieu, but there are far more people who will re-cell Beaulieu 16mm batteries than Scopic and these same people aslo make customized battery packs as well.

The Krasnagorsk 16mm is an interesting small, light and inexpensive camera and it was all the rage in the late 80's and early 90's, but like Josh said, it is an MOS camera. The Russians, however, make very good lenses that give the German lenses the run for their money.

I have used the Eclair NPR 16mm many times on various projects including a documentary and they are very quiet cameras, I find that they are more quiet than the Arri BL's and they have less technical problems, and they need less service than the BL's. The loading of the mags on the Eclairs is a bit tricky though, and you need a bit of practice with a short end to get it down.

The Arri BL is a fine camera and I had a friend who used to own one which we also used for many different projects. The main problem with the BL is that it needs to be serviced quite often to keep it quiet and like most film cameras, the noise from the camera comes out of the front where the lens is and the BL has more of a problem than other cameras with this. I could never figure out why, but it just is.

The camera is self blimped if you use the zoom lens that usually comes with it, however, if you intend to use prime lenses, You need get a front blimp for it or a Barney that goes of the mag and the front of the camera (A barney is a leather cover that is usually shaped like a film magazine). You can also use the old stand-by, a furniture blanket or as my friend and I used to use, his leather jacket.

The same can be done with the Elcair, but as I mentioned, in my experience, the Eclair is a quieter camera, but prime lenses are harder to find for the Elcair as opposed to the BL and you have to be careful with the Eclair when the magazine is not attached as it gets front heavy with the zoom on it which will make the camera fall forward if it is not held down on a Tripod or a dolly etc..

The biggest problem I found with the Arri BL's are the motors which breakdown a lot! My friend purchased his camera with a customized Tobin motor which could do accurate variable speeds and video frame rates. This motor was supposed to be superior to the stock Arri motor, however, we would fry fuses all the time with it and there was no rhyme or reason as to why?

The motor can also be a problem with the Eclair as well.

As Josh also mentioned, the best of the bunch when it comes to 16mm for sound is the Arri SR series which includes the SR, SR II, and the latest SR 3. I have used all three versions on various projects and they are all excellent cameras and the standard versions will accept bayonet mount and Arri mount lenses. Many of the later models were made with PL mounts for the better Zeiss lenses and such.

The magazines load a bit similar to the Eclair NPR, but they are much easier and that means a lot when you are in a pinch.

All 3 of these cameras are excellent for sound and they are extremely quiet. The original SR had some issues which were addressed in the SR II, and the SR 3 is top of the line, but very expensive to buy.

You can sniff around on Ebay and find SR's and SR II's for between $4,000 -$20,000 depending on what comes with the package and how well they have been serviced and taken care of in general.

The last camera that I want to add to the pile which Josh did not mention is the Aaton 16mm. There are several versions including the LTR, XTR and the really cool MOS A-Minima. These cameras have become my favorites over the years and they are excellent cameras for doing sound with the exception of the A-Minima. The XTR is quiet as hell and the LTR is not bad either! The French have made a very solid camera indeed.

The magazines are backloaders similar to the SR's, but they are better balanced if you have to do handheld work. They were really manufactured with the documentary filmmaker in mind and before the advent of the wave of smaller pro-sumer DV and HD cams, they were the camera of choice for docs.

Actually, the recent documentary "March of the Penguins" was shot with several different Aaton models including 16mm and 35mm. They performed with little problems in the extreme weather conditions.

The nice thing about the Aaton LTR 7 is that you cand find one on Ebay usually with a zoom lens for about $3000 - $5,000 and it makes a good first feature 16mm camera.

I know this is a long post, but I will wrap it up by saying that you should consider renting instead of buying for doing a short film, and the reason I say this is that if you buy a camera, you will need accessories that do not normally come with a camera that you buy on Ebay not limited to but including; prime lenses, mattebox, filters, tripod, a nice fluid head and a host of other things.

The price of buying the initial camera may look great, but when you add all these other things it can be very expensive and that is why it is more reasonable to rent if you will be doing sound and want a good camera for a short.

Anyhow, I hope this helps and sorry Josh for going into such detail, but I thought it was necessary and I hope it is helpful to all.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I gave the short answer, you gave the long one. But you've used more of these cameras than I have. I've never used an Eclair or an Aaton. I shot with the Scoopic a number of times, and it is a cool camera, but you can't change lenses, it's not suitable for sound, and the batteries are no longer available, so I think those things rule it out. If the Eclair has the same battery issues, then I don't think it's a practical choice, either. It would be terrific to own an Arri-SR, but to get one that's any good at all has got to be at least 10 grand, and like you said, that would be an SR1, and that's not the one you want. An SR II or III is going to be a lot of money. Sam had a Super-8 Beaulieu, which looked great, but was totally undependable. I never had any motor problems, other than noise, with the BLs, so maybe replacing the motor is what screwed that camera up. Why put a variable-speed motor into a camera that's not designed for it? I always switched to the Arri-S for anything slow or fast. The Arri-S, BTW, is a small, variable-speed MOS camera, with an electric motor, that takes the same lenses as the BL or the SR. The Arri-S will also run backward. But it's no good for sound.

Josh

Name: sara
E-mail: sara_aparna@yahoo.com

hi,

im 16 and i want to be a director but i don`t know how?we have only 2 or 3 good woman director in our contry.i want to know how can i be a good director?
thanks
sara

Dear sara:

Start watching as many movies as you possibly can, preferably the older better ones; and read as much as you can, so you understand the elements of a story. Develop taste. Good luck. What country are you in?

Josh

Name: Bobby
E-mail: bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

No need to respond to this -- -just wanted to say thank you for your helpful advice. I think it is truly rare and terrific for an honest-to-God film professional to give so much of your time in answering all our questions. Good luck with all your future projects and keep fighting the good fight.

Dear Bobby:

Thanks. It's mainly due to how early I wake up. Most of these questions are answered before the sun has risen, which is just starting to occur right now. But I find answering these questions is a good way to get my brain started, being forced to seriously consider something whatever it is. So I thank all of you for sending in thousands of interesting, and thoughtful, and stupid, and crazy questions over all these years. Keep up the good work.

Josh

Name: joe
E-mail:

Hey josh,

"I have said to my wife 'why do I bother anymore?'. Showbusiness has changed so much. When I started all the technicians wore a suit and shirt and a tie," he said.

"That's trivial. But the differences are it's now not a question of being good at your job. The people who make the decisions and give you the part or put up the money for the production are very amateurish.

"People don't so much make movies as make deals. They see a piece you've done and they cut your best scene, saying 'oh, it's too long'.

This is what Christopher Lee said in a recent interview. I think he is mostly on point here. A few actors come to mind who are chosen for the face rather than the talent. Colin Farell, Keanu Reeves, Ashton Kutcher to name but a few.

Whats sad is that most people dont see a difference in the downard trend of quality of films-writing, directing, acting, producing-so there is little hope for change.

If a film makes money on opening weekend then that writer, that director, is automatically considered talented, knowledable when that could be far from the truth. But then youre stuck with these dolts. A colin farell film makes money because teenage girls swoon over him and so were stuck with him in every major leading man role that comes along. Where are the Brandos, the pacinos, the Oliviers of today?

Is it too much to ask for?

Dear joe:

Apparently, yes, it is too much to ask for. Art represents the society that created it. Right now our art is all about money. The art itself is shallow, derivative, unoriginal, very poorly crafted, and severely and deeply unintelligent. And that's what our society is, too. We have been taken over by the corporate and military industrial complexes. Americans are under the delusion that if it's good for Time-Warner it's good for the country so it's good for me. Wrong. Big corporations don't give a shit about you, your enviornment, your country, or the world you live in. It is no longer possible for a Hollywood studio to make a good movie anymore, the corporate system will not allow it.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

I've been doing a lot of shooting on miniDV and now have a good solid grasp of what it takes to block out, light, and shoot a scene. Lately I've been interested in shooting a short film on actual film, 16mm to be exact - not sure if I'll buy or rent the equipment but I'm leaning towards buying.

Plenty of brands out there, but three that seem to turn up most frequently in my searches are Arri (obviously!), Bolex, and Eclair. I'm also wondering about Krasnogorsk, but I'm not sure how well they'd do for shooting dialogue. What makes and models would you recomend, and what sorts of things should a buyer or renter be wary of?

Thanks in advance, and keep up the great work!

Aus,
Mike

Dear Mike:

Two similar questions in a row. I think that's the perfect use of DV is to train on before going to film. Well, as I just said, if you're making a real movie then rent a good camera. But if you're going to make short films in your spare time, perhaps leading to a feature, and you're going to buy a camera that you want to be able to shoot sound scenes with, you really must go with an Arri or an Eclair, which I've never used, and are more common in Europe. Arriflex has dominated the top-end market in the U.S. since the 1950s, and if you look there are probably a lot of them around not being used. We shot both "Evil Dead" and TSNKE with Arri-BLs, and they're a fine camera, and quiet, too, if they're in repair. The Arri-SRs are newer, cooler, and more expensive. As a note: the BL has the old-fashioned, load-from-the-top, "Mickey Mouse" magazine; the SR has the load-from-the-back, single mag (that's sort of like an 8-track tape inside, with reels going in opposite directions. The Krasnagorsk is sort of like the old Canon Scoopic, and it's not really good enough for sound work.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Was the Young Guns II statement made to all users...or towards the one who suggested that you watch it? If it was directed towards me, I just wanted to let you know it wasn't I who recommended the film to you. I, like you, have never seen that particular movie.

On to my question. Would you suggest buying a 16mm camer or just renting one? It seems much cheaper to purchase one on ebay or from a company getting rid of their cameras than it would be to rent one from a rental company. Is it worth investing in one?

Dear Trey:

It depends on what you're doing. It's still not cheap to get a good, sound 16mm camera. It's cheap to get 16mm MOS camera, like a Bolex, which I own. But you can't really shoot a sound movie with a Bolex. If you intend to really shoot a movie you need to have a camera you can absolutely depend on. When I made "Running Time" I didn't buy a camera, I rented a brand-new, top-end, 16mm Arri-SR3 (if I recall correctly), and it was a terrific camera, and very well-balanced for the Steadi-Cam. But if I've gone to the trouble of writing a script, rasing money, getting Bruce Campbell and whole cast, locations, pyrotechnicians, fire marshals, etc. I'm not going to screw it all up with a crappy camera.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

"I still have money coming in from the DVD sales of TSNKE and RT, as well as this book, and I have another book finished that the publisher wants to publish soon."

Another book? Details, man!

Dear David:

It's a collection of the essays posted on this website -- which will all come down once the publication process begins -- although I've been diligently rewriting and expanding them. It's called "Rushes" and the various "Making of . . ." essays form the structure, with other filmmaking essays interspersed. This was the publisher's idea, so I guess he must want it. That's unless my first book won't sell.

Josh

Name: Amadeus
E-mail:

<<The idea, which doesn't always work out, is to make enough with each film to carry you over to the next one. It's also a very good idea to have some alternate revenue streams. >>

I take it you cook your own meals as opposed to eating out all the time. You like to cook? I think its just as stress relieving as a good movie.

Dear Amadeus:

Is that a dig? If it is, it's a subtle one. I actually do cook most of my own meals, although I'm not much of a cook. But I have my standard meals -- pasta, chicken, verious kinds sandwiches, eggs -- and I stick with them.

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail:

Josh,

I just read something to the effect of "good films like BrokeBack Mountain".

Yes...

It's true...

I have waited my whole life to see a film devoted to a couple of Marlboro men who head up into the mountains, fall head over heels with each other and discover the gooey heights of orgasmic mountain man bunghole love.

It just makes you want to give Aunt Edna a ring on the telephone and tell her to get ready because we are going to the CinemaCafe to see the movie of the year!

I used to make this joke that I wanted to be buried with my ass poking up out of the dirt so I could give back somehow by providing people with a place to park their bike. Just wedge the front tire in between the cheeks and your in business.

With the dawn of "He Broke My Ass In Mountain" I will have to carefully reconsider my position.

I'm sure a lot of folks reading might get torqued off at that but I'm sorry it's true.

In my perceptions, it is just another symptom of a society that has become artistically bankrupt.But hey...It's making money!

I have just watched "Scarface" again after having not seen it in years in addition to "Raging Bull".

To me these films are real art.Art on a level I am sure I will never reach.

A vaseline dilemma between two cowboys doesn't even come close.

Just my opinion.

Tim

Dear Tim:

No one has said a bad word about it yet, other than it's too long, which is sufficient reason for me to not see it at the theater. Even my dad said it was good and recommended it. But, then again, I heard and read good things about "Syriana," and it's really hammered-shit.

Josh

Name: Topher Rhives
E-mail: d_ziggy_w@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Thanks for the advice. I've been working at the script for going on three years. As the writer, I think it's a decent script, and the people who have read it have given positive feedback on it. I'm may be just be stubborn due to the time I've invested in this, you know. In either case, I'm going to take your advice, and film a short first. To get my bearings at directing. My next question is, assuming that the script is solid, where should I go to gather backing and due to my limited budget, what are essential crews and such that I should look into having?

Dear Topher:

Regarding the short or the feature? You really just need to buy and read my book. It'll be out very soon, I swear. Copies are flying hot off the presses as we speak. And read the essays on the site here.

Josh

Name: joe
E-mail:

"I will repeat my contention that I don't believe a great film has been made in 13 years."

I see what you're saying. There is truth in that if you hold films up to the standard of say a Godfather, a Ben Hur, the Billy Wilder films and such. But there are exceptions.

I think Requiem for a Dream is a great film. If the point of film making is to give the audience and emotional experience while making a meaningful statement-which I think it is-than requiem succeeds. Not only is it shocking and emotionally provocative but Aronfosky makes a worthy point that addiction has many faces. Being addicted to cocaine and television is really the same problem with a different mask.

And watching the acting in that film, which by the way had like a 5 million dollar budget, its impossible to say Aronfosky cant direct actors and visually stunning material.

joe

Dear joe:

I can't express in mere words how much I hated "Requiem for a Dream." It's a headache and nothing more. I have never felt so bad for an actor -- not the character -- as I did for Ellen Burstyn having to be put through that misery. The film wins for the biggest camera jerk-off movie of all-time, and that's saying something. To just say, "People get addicted to things, so look out," isn't saying anything. It's a bad, bad, bad movie, and one of the worst disappointments between a first and second film for a director, ever. And so far I've never had 5 million dollars to make a film. In fact, all of my movies together didn't cost 5 million. That's a lot of money. And if we can't use "The Godfather" or Billy Wilder's films as the standard, what are we going to use? "Titanic," I suppose, because it made the most money, and it also won the most Oscars (in a tie with "Ben-Hur"), so I guess it's now the standard of quality. Whereas it used to be "Gone With the Wind" and "Ben-Hur." But for me it always will be.

Josh

Name: Bobby
E-mail: bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Hello Mr. Becker,

I don't want to bother you again after having asked you a question so recently, but you seem to have a great wealth of knowledge about the film industry, and are obviously willing to share it with us rubes. I'm a director/writer/actor, although I do not make a real living at any of these endeavors. I have read your essay, "Writing and Selling A Screenplay", as well as your essays on structure. I am a regular joe from small town Maine. I have no connections to speak of, but I have a drawer full of screenplays, plays, shorts and full-length. I have been making movies my whole life, since I was a kid. Here's the question: How do you sell a screenplay with zero connections? Is it possible? Sure, there are websites now, like scriptblaster.com, that supposedly sends out your synopsis and what-not to "thousands of production companies and agents", but I don't know if I trust that. I mean, I know step one is to have written a solid script, and I know I have. I believe in it and am proud of it. I just don't know where to go from here. They don't teach you the practical business stuff at college. Do I need an agent? How do you get one if no one has bought your work? Sorry for all the questions. Hope you have a great day.

P.S. In the "Lunatics" screenplay, would you say the climax is when he leaves his apartment, or does the turning point come when she leaves him by himself?

Dear Bobby:

I'm not sure whose jargon we're using. The end of Act II is when he says, "I've got to go get her back," then begins wrapping himself in foil, and finally leaves his apartment. The "climax," I'd say is when Hank steps up through the fog in the alley and says, "Leave her alone," and confronts and fights the gang member. Meanwhile, I'd say from where you are you need to find an agent. If you can convince an agent that your script is as good as you think it is, then they'll try to sell it for you, because they supposedly have the connections you don't have. So you need to get a list of all the agencies in L.A. and begin bugging the crap out of them with query letters. It may not get you anywhere, but at least you'll be doing something more constructive than sitting in Maine being befuddled. Who knows, you might even connect with a rational agent, although "rational agent" might be an oxymoron. Good luck.

Josh

Name: rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

Thanks for your input on DGA. I'm going to have some major descisions to make. Anyway, I'm currently cutting class and reading your Need for Structure essays on my vice principal's computer. I was wondering how you can spot the three act structure in ensamble type films like love actually or 13 conversations about the same thing. Thanks again.

Dear rob:

There's a very good chance that it's not there. I saw "Love Actually" and though almost all of it went through my head like smoke through a net, I don't recall there being any structure. It's just a bunch of scenes strung together with a lot of different characters. I just this moment returned from seeing "Syriana," which is exactly the same thing, and what that ulimately equals is shit. "Syriana" was also directed by a retard with no directorial ability at all, so that made it even more difficult. It was truly a piece of crap, as are most big ensemble films with no lead character, which all generally end up as a complete dramatic cop-out. The idea that George Clooney just won an award for that miserable, one-note performance is really shocking.

Josh

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

"Are you trying to tell me that it's "top tier" as far as all movies go, or just of light romantic comedies of the past 15 years? If it's the latter, I agree with you; if it's the former, you're nuts. Regarding my taste, which does change over the course of time (although, admittedly, not much), maybe I do have bad taste. Maybe everything I think is good is really bad, and vice versa. Who knows? But this is how I see it, as flawed or myopic as that may be."

Josh,

Thanks for the sincere and well thought out response. I could have just as easily gotten a "screw you", I suppose.

Fair enough. I respect you enough to realize that your tastes are what they are, and no talkbacker on a website is going to change that. It is fun to banter though.

Regarding Four Weddings...Yes, I think it's top tier in regards to light romantic comedies, certainly not all films. I wouldn't even put it in the top 1000 of all films. I reserve those slots for films like Lawrence of Arabia, All the King's Men, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, etc.

Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on The Usual Suspects? I think it's a fun, twisty script. Also what about A Simple Plan from Sam? I also thought that was a great film with good performances.

Richard

Dear Richard:

Honestly, I don't really care about either of those movies. "The Usual Suspects" is too twisty and turny, while simultaneously being obvious, and I never cared about any of the characters. Stories that are all plot bore me. Meanwhile, I never believed a minute of "A Simple Plan," nor did I believe for one second that he'd kill his brother. And why if Bill Paxton has a college degree is he filling grain sacks? It was "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" without Act I, as if you began with them finding the gold. Well, without Act I the story means nothing.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

Thank you kindly for granting your extensive expertise and experience. I presume you enjoy the directing of independent films greater than television despite the financial loss. If you could please bestow, in your preference which of your projects have been most fulfilling and satisfactory on television and independent film.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Seriously, if I get to shoot something, I'm fulfilled. On my own movies it's my script and my vision and I'm the boss, so that's better, but getting to direct anything is a thrill, even if it's TV, it's not my script, and I'm not the boss. The film of mine so far that's worked out the best all the way around I'd say was "Running Time," because it was unique, a challenge to make, cheap, got good reviews, got shown, and I'm proud of it.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I'm having trouble finding this online. What excactly does DGA garuntee you? In anearlier response you mentioned that it helps out directors fresh to the business. Why is that? Thanks again.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

It can be helpful if you want to go in that direction, possibly work your way through DGA, or you don't mind being involved with them. Over the course of time I have come to resent any infringements on me at all, and I was finding the DGA an infringement on my ability to work on low-budget movies. It made perfect sense when dealing with a big studio, as I was with Universal during the eight years I worked on Herc and Xena. But below a certain budget the films drop off the DGA's radar, and they're not interested in those films. Well, that's a lot of the films being made these days, and I wasn't going to be stopped by my trade union from working on the films I actually had a chance to get. So I went financial core, which means I'm still a dues-paying DGA member, but I can now work on any film I'd like and they can't say anything about it. Oh, I can no longer vote in DGA elections or for the DGA awards. But I'm free. Nevertheless, if you want to work your way up from 2nd, 2nd assistant director to 2nd AD, to 1st AD, to production manager, then maybe even to being a director or a producer, the DGA is the place to go.

Josh

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

"Being a good director is based primarily on having discriminating taste, of knowing what's good and what's bad, and why."

Josh,

No offense, but I think that counts you out then. I know it seems I'm just being rude for rude's sake, but I'm really not. I'm a fan of yours. I've seen your films, read your scripts, essays, and reviews on this site. I think you are a bright, intelligent guy with a good sense of what a film NEEDS to have.

The problem is, I think you have a severe problem in recognizing the films that DO have these qualities. I can't even begin to name the films on this site that you've bashed that don't deserve it. I swear you're just determined to hate anything after 1990.

I'm generalizing, of course, but saying that Four Weddings and a Funeral is "too cute for it's own good?" What the hell does that mean?? That's a sharp script with good writing. As far as that genre goes, it's top tier. And dismissing good films like Brokeback Mountain out of hand, without seeing them, does NOT speak to your strengths.

If you want to be discriminating, you first have to get out there and see the films, so that you can have proper backup for your arguments.

A fan as always,

Richard

Dear Richard:

Look, "Brokeback Mountain" may very well be great, and I'm sure I'll end up seeing it eventually, too. But I personally have an issue with long movies. Everybody else seems to think that it's a forgivable, insignificant flaw, and I think it's insurmountable. But once again, BM may be terrific and deserving of its length. It sure looks like it's the film to beat this year at the Oscars. As for "Four Weddings," which I saw at the theater when it came out, and thought it was cute and kind of charming, I watched it again about a year ago and found it cloying, and too cute for it's own good, so I turned it off. Are you trying to tell me that it's "top tier" as far as all movies go, or just of light romantic comedies of the past 15 years? If it's the latter, I agree with you; if it's the former, you're nuts. Regarding my taste, which does change over the course of time (although, admittedly, not much), maybe I do have bad taste. Maybe everything I think is good is really bad, and vice versa. Who knows? But this is how I see it, as flawed or myopic as that may be.

Josh

Name: Topher Rhives
E-mail: d_ziggy_w@yahoo.com

Alloz, Josh

I've just completed my first feature length script, and plan to produce and direct it within the year. It'd be my first feature, and I'm aware the odds are stacked against me, given my age, I'm 17, and that this is my first feature. Any suggestions for an aspiring director? Thank you for you time.

Dear Topher:

My immediate response is that you might not want to shoot your first script. It took me five feature scripts before I wrote my first decent one. I'm not saying it will take you five scripts to figure things out, but it might. I would venture that almost nobody's first script is worth shooting. My suggestion to you is to make a brilliant short, on film. Make something beautiful, as opposed to just getting something made.

Josh

Name: pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Don't know how closely you follow the Criterion Collection releases, but was curious what you think of their selections. For the most part the titles they release are fairly artsy and obscure, although they do feature many of Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and others' works. There are, however, in my view, two especially egregious entries: "Armageddon" and "The Rock". Yuck. What do you think?

Dear pete:

I don't follow them at all. But those are certainly both seriously shitty movies that don't seem like they should be included in that selection. I just watched "Winchester '73" again, and that's a good movie. I real change of pace for Jimmy Stewart, and nice snappy direction. Oh, and a very young Shelley Winters, who just died. She was great. She's absolutely horrifying in "A Patch of Blue," for which she got one of her two Oscars. I wanted to hit her over th head with a paddle myself in "A Place in the Sun." And she was always a wonderfully wacky guest on Johnny Carson, too. Goodbye, Shelley.

Josh

Name: Cameron
E-mail: Camcam@yahoo.com

Josh,

I want to point out the 1937 John Cromwell film, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' starring Ronald Coleman as the true precursor to the James Bond series. Additionally, the films of Ronald Coleman are films that need to be re-visted. He was a shining star and has been completely overlooked in film history. Please see 'If I Were King' 'Random Harvest' and of course, 'Lost Horizon' if you haven't already.

A question for you:

If you were unable to secure financing for any of your films...ever again...would you be okay with that? And this is more personal but I'm curious...if you were unable to make another film, would you be fiscally stable for the rest of your life based on your previous movies?

Sincerely,

Cameron Ludwig

Dear Cameron:

No, I certainly wouldn't be financially stable. Of course, nothing says I ever will get financing again, so that's an ever-present possibility. But if I couldn't direct movies anymore, I'd simply concentrate more seriously on my writing, and potentially selling scripts, as well as writing more books. I might go back into TV directing, too. Beyond that, I suppose I would look into teaching -- those who cannot do, teach (and those who cannot teach, teach gym). Regarding Ronald Coleman, I agree with you, he was great star, and pretty much forgotten now. I always felt that Cary Grant based his persona on Coleman, to some extent. I found "If I Were King" to be a big let-down, considering it was written by Preston Sturges. I love "Random Harvest." I actually wrote an updated story based on it. "Lost Horizon" starts off okay, but just dribbles on endlessly. It was a renowned bomb in it's day, and I think rightly so. I entirely disagree about "The Prisoner of Zenda" being a forerunner to James Bond, it's simply one more variation on "The Prince and the Pauper" or any of those twin stories. But "Night Train to Munich" is about a suave British secret agent infiltrating the Nazi high command, and young Rex Harrison seems like who Ian Fleming was writing about. Meanwhile, I just watched the 1922 silent version of "Zenda," and it was pretty good. Lewis Stone (Judge Hardy) had the two leads, and the bad guy (Prince Hentzau?), was played by the very young Ramon Navarro, who became a star because of it. The Coleman version is better, and has sound, but is very similar.

Josh

Name: Sarah
E-mail: sarahcc@hotmail.com

Hi Josh. I'm a really big fan of your work, and I check your Q&A a ton. I just had a few personal questions though, if you don't mind me asking.

1. There's not a really good picture of you in your archives. I was just wondering if you had any really clear pictures (and current if you have any) that you could put for us to see.

2. In the pictures of you with Lucy Lawless, you both looked like you were having a lot of fun. It also looked kinda like how a couple looks when they're together. Did you two ever date?

3. The picture with you and Kevin Smith. Did you attend his funeral when he died? Also, what was your reaction when you'd heard he'd died? Were you two close?

4. I know you've never been married, but have you ever been engaged? Or have you ever proposed at least? Also, how many girlfriends have you had, and what's the weirdest break-up or hook-up you've ever had?

I hope my questions aren't too personal, I'm just really curious :)

Mrs. Sarah McDonald

Dear Sarah:

Will you smile a while for me, Sarah? The last photos that were taken of me were in Bulgaria, and I thought those were posted. No, Lucy and I never dated. She was either married to her first husband, or dating or engaged to her second the entire time I've known her. We did have quite a bit of fun working together, though. I daresay that the comedy episodes we made together, with Ted and Renee, were the most fun anyone had on that show. No, I didn't attend Kevin Smith's funeral, it's a long, expensive flight down to New Zealand. I only worked with him on the one episode, both his and my last on the show. We got along very well, and I had met him a number of times previous to that, but we only worked together for a few days -- he wasn't there for the whole week. When I heard he'd died I was extremely shocked. He was so vital and upbeat and funny, not to mention in such great shape, you just don't expect such things. I have never been engaged, nor have I ever asked a woman to marry me. I do have a girlfriend, who was formerly my girlfriend 23 years ago (we actually had a little fling ten years before that when we were kids up at camp). I've only had about ten serious girlfriends in my life, although I've been on hundreds of dates. I'll try to find a clear photo of me.

Josh

Name: Franklin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Yo. I was just wondering, what do you do in between films to make some money to pay off all your bills? Or do you just use proceeds from some of the films you've worked on to pay off the bills?

I'm curious! :D

Franklin

Dear Franklin:

The idea, which doesn't always work out, is to make enough with each film to carry you over to the next one. It's also a very good idea to have some alternate revenue streams. I still have money coming in from the DVD sales of TSNKE and RT, as well as this book, and I have another book finished that the publisher wants to publish soon. Plus I still have residuals coming in from my TV work. But if you're smart, and you can pull it off, the idea is charge enough for making each movie so you don't need to worry thereafter.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

I never flat refused to read books. I have a list of books I need to read, and I'm slowly working my way down the list. Sadly, I'm a bit of a slow reader, so by the time I finish a book, usually two or three more have been added to my list. It's a slow process for me. That's why I prefer film. Right now I'm reading The Dark Tower Part III: Wastelands by Stephen King so that'll take me a little bit to get through, then I'm on to whatever I decide upon next.

The reason I liked "Lost in Translation" is because I felt I slightly understood the characters. While I don't share any of their personal problems, I do know what it's like to be lonely and I felt for them because of that ... that may be a shitty reason to like a film, but that's the major reason I like it. The other reason is because it made me laugh. If a film can make me laugh, it's pretty safe to say I'll like it. It's for this reason that I like the "Evil Dead" flicks or "Lunatics: A Love Story." They both make me laugh.

With "Star Wars" I like the idea of a good man being seduced by evil because he wants to do good. The main story of "Star Wars" is about Anakin Skywalker wanting to be become the best Jedi possible so that he can basically save the world. He falls in love and gets married, something forbidden by the Jedi, and then has visions of his wife dying. In order to save her from death, he basically makes a deal with the devil (Darth Sidius) and because of that, she ends up dying anyway. Then of course the original trilogy follows Luke Skywalker trying to redeem his father and eventually Anakin turns back to the lightside of the force to save his son, again, out of love.

That's why I like "Star Wars." You could strip away all the special effects and I'd still like it. I like the idea of a good man becoming evil only to redeem himself in the end.

I hope that clears up why I like both "Star Wars" and "Lost In Translation" more than just my usual "I like it" response. Sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out how to word things properly, so I often times resort to simple answers.

Now, what's this about me never making a good film? I admit I haven't made a good film yet (though still feel free to check out the short on my website), but that doesn't mean I don't know a good film when I see it. You and I have agreed on films before. We both liked "Sense and Sensibility" and "The Ice Storm" and I like a lot of the films you have listed on your favorite films list.

Here's the way I kinda see our tastes. If you like something, I probably like it too (there are exceptions I'm sure), but I also like a lot of other films.

I'm sure, whenever I finally get to makin' movies, for every one of my films that you like (assuming you like any film I ever make), you'll probably despise about 4 others. But 1 out of 5 odds wouldn't be that bad with you, actually.

Also, believe it or not, despite all the dissagreements we have, I do take note of the advice you give, and I have read most of your essays, and I plan on reading your book whenever it gets around to coming out. I do look up to you, and I believe that you know what you're talking about when it comes to making a film and structure, etc. I plan on applying all of your bits of wisdom to my scripts. After that, well, we'll see about that when we get there.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I don't agree with you, but I do admire your guts at sticking your neck out. You might want to try reading something a bit more challenging than Stephen King, a writer who has been running on empty for years. Maybe you should try reading some of Larry McMurtry's early books, which are very good, and mostly short, such as "Horseman, Pass By" (made into the great film, "Hud") or "The Last Picture Show" (also made into a great film) or "Lonesome Dove" (which is 1,000-pages, but it's terrific, it won the Pulitzer Prize, and was made into a great mini-series). Try challenging yourself a bit. The smarter you can get, the better your films will be.

Josh

Name: joe
E-mail:

"I liked Lost In Translation. I think the fact that it was going nowhere is the whole point of the film."

Not to pick on you dude, but sorry that's not a point. I find it pretensious--or maybe just ignorant--to say that, I'm going to make a statement by NOT making a statement. That's for rich kids who go to art school and don't understand what drama is. Its conflict and resolution. Dilemma and decision.

Take her fathers film the Godfather part one. Will a man choose loyalty to his family or his own personal happiness? The answer to that question makes a point, it resolves an emotional dilemma we all can relate to. One of the best closing shots in film history shows micheal corleone closing the door of the "business" room on diane keaton. He has chosen, a resoltuion, with no dialogue by the way.

If you want to say nothing in a film, dont bother making one--there you go you just said nothing.

By the way Josh, if aronofsky, nolan and fincher are shit who is making better films today? Please tell me I like to watch good films too.

joe

Dear joe:

Having no point, or just being boring, are not legitimate things to do with art, and certainly not by anyone who thinks they know what they're doing. Any idiot can make a pointless, boring film, the whole trick is prove you're not an idiot. Meanwhile, I don't think anyone is making legitimately good movies these days. I will repeat my contention that I don't believe a great film has been made in 13 years. I think most people have forgotten what a great film is, or what seeing a great film was like. I didn't say that Aronofsky, Nolan and Fincher were shit, I just don't think any of them is exceptional in any way, nor do I believe that any of them has anything to say.

Josh

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

Hello Josh!

It's been a while since I last wrote in as I haven't had anything of interest to say, but I now have a few quick questions. First of all, I hope to begin shooting my first feature film by sometime early next year and I am taking your advice and shooting it on 16mm film. How hard is it to learn to operate the camera? I understand I will probably have a manual to guide me, but still, will I be able to teach myself how to work it or do I need to find someone who already knows how to operate a 16mm camera?

Secondly, will your book be available to buy at online stores such as Amazon or though beckerfilms.com? Or will it only be available at local and chain bookstores?

Finally, any updates on any of your upcoming film projects?

Thank you, have a nice day!

ps-I finally picked up "A Talent for Trouble" over Christmas break and I am reading it now. I'll write back in once I finish it for discussion.

Dear Trey:

I nearly watched "Young Guns II." I put it into my TiVo, then there it was, but it was a pan & scan version, with commercials, on AMC, so I deleted it. I'll wait to see it properly. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to operate a 16mm camera. You could use an assistant, though, to load magazines, schlepp crap, and pull focus for you when needed. Remember the Three Fs -- frame rate, focus, f-stop -- and you'll be fine. And get a decent light meter, and become familiar with it. As for where my book will be available, we'll both have to see. It will be available through Beckerfilms, but it should also be on Amazon, and at a quality bookstore near you. Regarding my project "The Horribleness," I ought to know something very soon. Good luck with your film.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greene_chs@hotmail.com

Josh,

Yes, Bang Bang concerns a school shooting, but the film is a bit more complex than that; in fact, in the film students are putting on a production of the play. The story's really about how the lead parallels the main character of the play. It's pretty good, and does have a nice simple story. As for Showtime being independent, I agree it was a bad choir of words. The production company behind the film brought the script to Showtime and the channel bankrolled it.

-bg

Dear Brett:

Right, so it was made by Showtime, a subsidiary of Viacom. All scripts and projects are brought to them by some production company. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I made it ten minutes and bailed. I watched about a half hour of "Paper Clips," a recent documentary about a school in some backward part of the country where the kids collect six million paper clips to represent the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Very quickly the whole thing is about paper clips, where do you get them, how do you store them, how do you keep them straight? Like, who gives a shit? This was intercut with a bunch of redneck crackers congratulating themselves on what a terrific learning experience they've concocted. Oh yeah, and that shitty school shooting movie by Gus Van Sant, "Elephant." I'm sick of kids, schools, kid's entertainment, kid's video games, anything having to do with, or relating to, kids. Christ almighty, how did I end up in this idiotic, childish time-period? This isn't aimed at you, Brett, it's just a general rant.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Is your soon-to-be-published book on filmmaking going to include the series of "Need for Structure" essays you have posted on the site? I thought those were excellent, and would purchase the book just to have a copy of my own.

Dear David:

It contains most of that information, but rewritten. I didn't get into the expressionist, surrealist side of things, which seemed too subtle for what I was trying to do with that book. Now we'll get to see how well this publisher distributes their product.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greene_chs@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

I trust that you'll watch a film when it crosses your path on TV or backed up on TiVo, but for the rest of the readers of the website, I point them to a film called "Bang Bang You're Dead." Adapted from a play of the same name, 'Bang Bang' was well structured, powerful, disturbing and realistic. About violence in high schools, this film doesn't shirk on any of the hard questions and offers answers few could refute. At 90 minutes, it's intense and makes a clear, well-thought point without being cloying. Josh, you always say one of the key elements of a film is whether or not it knows what it wants to say. This film does. And to carry on a point made earlier in the week, it was released by Showtime, proof positive that independents are still releasing some good films. Somehow they slip through the cracks alongside mainstream fluff. I'm really glad I caught this film.

Dear Brett:

How on earth is Showtime independent? It's a division of the giant conglomerate, Viacom. Is "Bang Bang You're Dead" that thing about kids in high school putting on a show about a school shooting, or something? Just knowing what you're saying isn't the whole game, either. You still have to have a story to tell.

Josh

Name: joe
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"I'm not going to get into the "Memento" discussion again, but even I would have been happier seeing that win, which was at least trying something, over "Lost in Translation," which is just drek."

Sorry, Josh, didn't know there was a memento discussion. Of course I think Nolan is one of the top new writer/directors working today along with Aronofsky, and Fincher -- these guys don't make nearly enough films.

Any one's opinion I value about film couldn't even sit through lost in translation, let alone nominate for any sort of award. In fact, I think the film is the height of pretensious, anti-structural film writing that you see screenwriters who are too avant-garde to adhere to any sort of "formulaic structure", thats been working for two thousand years by the way.

Lets face it: if I submitted that script to Francis Coppola, he would've kept it in his master commode for use as spare, last resort ass whiping purposes.

Dear joe:

If Francis Coppola wasn't her dad, Sophia would be working at Target selling sporting goods. She clearly has no talent for writing, and damn little for film direction. I liked "Pi," otherwise you can have Nolan, Aronofsky and Fincher. Those jerk-offs aren't good enough to shine the shoes of a real director like John Sturges or Franklin Schaffner, and those guys were just plain old professionals, not exceptional.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

I liked Lost In Translation. I think the fact that it was going nowhere is the whole point of the film. They're two lost souls in a country they aren't that familiar with just trying to get by. One character is a depressed wife who's husband is more interested in his work than her and Bill Murray is basically a washed up actor who's stuck doing commericials in another country.

They're basically just two sad people who are trying to keep each other company. It's not much of a plot, but I found the movie to be funny in a quirky kinda way. It helps to be slightly depressed when you watch the film.

Also, that damn "You wanna suck my titties" song get's stuck in my head so damn easily.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

I say this with all sincerity, until you develop some taste, of which you clearly have none, you will never make a good movie. Being a good director is based primarily on having discriminating taste, of knowing what's good and what's bad, and why. If you can't recognize bad writing when you see it, how the hell will know what script to shoot? Or which draft? Or which writer to hire? Or which actors to cast? You won't. Just saying, "I liked it," means nothing, which is what you said about Lucas's horrid writing on those "Star Wars" films. When I suggest that you read some books, an idea you flatly reject, it's to get you to see the difference between good and bad writing, which you obviously can't tell apart.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

Please excuse my ambiguity, I intended on the differences between cinema and an hour-long television series.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

First of all, if you're shooting anything for TV you don't really have the suspense and nervous anticipation of will anyone like it, pay to see it, or buy it? If you're shooting a TV show, that means it will absolutely be shown no matter how it turns out because there's a time-slot waiting for it. Most one-hour shows are shot in 6-8 days, and the really big ones get 10-12 days. I've never had more than 7 days to shoot a 44-minute episode, which is what an hour is without commercials. That's shooting about 7 pages a day, which is generally what I've done on my independent movies, too. Oh, yeah, when I direct TV I get paid well, and when I direct indie movies I not only don't get paid, it's costing me money, but nobody gets to tell me what to do, either.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

It does seem that the premise of James Bond is outdated. Although the cold war is over, there is this new Middle Eastern threat. Do you think this can substitute for the Cold War? The idea of a suave sophisitcated agent made sense when the rivals were relatively equal superpowers, even while SPECTRE was third party altogether, but that was really just a gimmick or proxy for the Russians. Does Al-Qaeda really substitute for the Cold War?

Dear Bob:

Not as far as I'm concerned. I think James Bond is as outdated as Charlie Chan. Here's a crazy idea, how about somebody comes up with something new. Even Harry Saltzamn, co-producer of the original Bond series, grew weary of them within a few years, which is why he made films like "The Ipcress File," as a believable antidote to Bond. As far as I'm concerned the Bond series was as dead as a doornail by 1980, and we've been getting the ressurection of the corpse every few years since then. I think there's as much interest left in that series as there is in the "Rocky" series, which is none. In case you (or anyone else) is interested, I'm convinced that Ian Fleming got the idea for James Bond from Carol Reed's film, "Night Train to Munich" (1940), that stars young Rex Harrison as the suave, British secret agent. Check it out.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I asked this question a while back in a different form. I asked about your opinion of Eli Roth and his two feature films. If I recall correctly, I you said that you hadn't seen Cabin Fever (his only film having been released at the time). Since that time, Hostel has been released (which I am surprised to say that nobody on this site has mentioned). Hostel is a very wide release with tons of press, so I'm sure you're aware of it. I personally find Roth's style to rotate between intence sickness and dark comedy (shows similarities to the first Evil Dead, and not by accident). Many people hated the film, but despite its disturbing and realistic violence, I found it to be a light and entertaining film. Do you have any desire to see Hostel, or Cabin Fever? (Not that you need more suggestions, but if you haven't I assume you give at least on of them a try)

Another quicky... Have you seen/ What do you think of Richard Curtis (as a producer and director). Love Actually is a favorite of mine, as is Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Thanks again. Your opinion is always useful (Having discussions like these with "normal" people proves how stupid the masses can be).

-Rob

P.S. Do you know if AA is going to be on SciFI again any time soon. I can't find coppies of any of your films within a 30 mile radius... really depressing...

Dear Rob:

Though not surprising. I have no interest in Mr. Roth's films. "Cabin Fever" looked like nothing more than a stupid rip-off of ED, and "Hostel" sounds horrible. I thought "Love Actually" was worthless, hyper-sentimental nonsense, and Hugh Grant as the PM was truly ridiculous casting. It really seemed like a whipped-off, assigned, rush-job script to follow up on "About a Boy," which wasn't great, either, but was much better than "Love Actually." "Four Weddings" was okay, but too cute for it's own good.

Josh

Name: mark sawicki
E-mail: biztoon@yahoo.com

Dear Josh

I went to your site today and noticed that Hammer was no longer available. I have hopes that it is because you may have found a distributor but I thought I'd write and get the low down. I tried searching to see if you answered this before but didn't find anything. I was also going to ask your permission to use a still from your title sequence to use as an illustration for a book I've been asked to write on visual effects. I wanted to write a little something on title placement and I figure if I used the "Mr. Buckley" frame it helps me and also gives Hammer a little additional recognition that it deserves. I'm waiting for your book to come to my local bookstore. I looked at the cover again and I have to admit it's a great picture. I think I got lucky. All good things
Mark

Dear Mark:

Yes, it's a terrific photo. All of your photos were good. Please, be my guest about using a still from the "Hammer" titles. No, I haven't found a distribution deal, I've simply stopped selling it myself, which was a hassle. The book is supposed to be starting to make its way out in the next couple of weeks. The publisher also decided to do a hardcover run, which they weren't going to do originally. Nice hearing from you, and wishing you all the best. I'll be interested to read your book on FX.

Josh

Name: Sujewa Ekanayake
E-mail: wilddiner@aol.com

Hey Josh,

Nice Sideways review. I saw the movie, did not think it deserved all the insane hype it got. It's well made but nothing exceptional, and it is really a fake indie - just another low budget Hollywood flick (which is fine, except they sell it as something else - a real indie). Anyway, here's my blog Filmmaking for the Poor, re: DIY low budget filmmaking:
http://filmmakingforthepoor.blogspot.com/
And here's my web site for my new film Date Number One (& other work):
http://www.wilddiner.com/

Looks like you are very productive, looking forward to checking out some of yer flicks at some point.

Sujewa
*******

Dear Sujewa:

You have a nice dream, of making low-budget features and self-distributing. I've tried it myself and found that it doesn't work, or at least it didn't for me. And with both my self-distributed films, "Lunatics: A Love Story" and "Running Time," I got terrific reviews in the L.A. newspapers and also had ads in the L.A. papers. I also have an issue with shooting DV, which I still think looks very inferior to film. Part of the whole downfall of indie films is that young filmmakers think what's easiest and cheapest for them, like shooting DV, matters at all to the rest of us. I personally demand, no matter what the budget, that the film look good, and getting that to happen with DV is extremely difficult to impossible. Still, I like your attitude, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

Josh

Name: joe
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

The fact that lost in translation-a film psuedo-bohemian college kids love and real film fans are baffled by-won best original screenplay and chris nolans Memento didn't a couple years back is the most outrageous thing the academy has ever done in my eyes. Bar none.

Saw a trailer for a film called Flight 93, which is about the plane that was shot down-ahem, crashed over pennsylvania on 9/11. No doubt a story of immense bravery on the part of the men and women on board. But does anyone want to see a movie about this? I don't. I fear we are going to get an influx of 9/11 films now that its off the worry-radar of the american public.

Oliver Stones "The Towers" or some such bloated, pointless mess.

Dear joe:

I'm not going to get into the "Memento" discussion again, but even I would have been happier seeing that win, which was at least trying something, over "Lost in Translation," which is just drek.

I clearly remember thinking in 1979, "Terrorists are such generically boring bad guys, can't anyone think up a better villian?" And look where we are now.

Josh

Name: menaka
E-mail: mj705@soton.ac.uk

Dear Josh:

just want to say that i find your views really interesting and challenging, and i wish more people would share their thoughts as freely as you.

Dear menaka:

Thanks. I hope they have some value. I seriously don't think that most people, particularly the young, are aware of what pawns and drones they've been made into by the the giant corporations. They still flock to see hammered bullshit like James Bond movies, which have been entirely outdated for at least 20 years, and are the visual equivilant of McDonald's hamburgers, which have no nutritional value, and are made from the cheapest worst beef in the world, cows fed growth hormones and shredded cardboard. The same goes for "Star Wars" movies. These films are piles of steaming dogshit enclosed in shiny wrapping paper with ribbons on them. I think I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one than sit through a 3 hour and 7 minute version of "King Kong," or a 2 hour and 44 minute Steven Spielberg film.

Josh

Name: Brady Rice
E-mail: brice@bryce.com

Dear Josh:

Recently a correspondent and yourself wondered aloud about the success of the film "Lost in Translation." Here's my hypothesis: it offers something for everyone.

* For middle-aged guys it offers the fantasy of being away from dreary home life and having a beautiful near-teenager obsessed with their wit and wisdom.

* For the younger set, it offers the fantasy of being free to wander about in a foreign land without the responsibility of working for a living, frolicking arm-in-arm with a charming movie star who has no one else around and thus has become their best friend.

It's basically semi-sophisticated escapism for those who would like to be celebrities with young lovers or a young person whom movie stars become obsessed with.

Dear Brady:

Thanks for the assessment, and you're probably correct. What I was wondering, though, was how a film with such an absolutely terrible screenplay could be taken seriously by anyone. The film goes nowhere slowly. And Bill Murray, who does nothing, was hailed for giving a great performance. I really think it's a piece of shit.

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What's your opinion of Ron Howard as a filmmaker? I loved "Apollo 13", and "A Beautiful Mind" was decent. Are you/have you seen "Cinderella Man"?

Dear Jeff:

I have not seen "Cinderella Man" yet, although it will be on cable any minute and I'll watch it then. I thought "Apollo 13" was very well-made, and should have won Best Picture that year. I didn't like "A Beautiful Mind," which is a creepy, dishonest film, and both Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connely are severely miscast. I also liked "Splash" and "Parenthood." All the rest of Mr. Howard's films I can live without.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

<<But "The Deer Hunter," which has a great cast and beautiful photography, has a totally shitty, underwritten script, with perhaps the the most needlessly extended, dullest, and longest first scene in any movie ever.>>

Its a good arguement. I find it interesting that at the time I watched it I didn't see anything wrong because I was so used to films like LORD OF THE RINGS and THE OTHERS. I was born February 9, 1983, so by the time I was a teen in the 90s I had CLERKS, FORREST GUMP and TITANIC. Its not my fault they didn't make better films in my time period. Certainly a film like A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS gives you more to think about. Paul Scofield says by by remaining silent, people must automatically by law assume consent. But everyone argues that though they must think that, they all know the only reason he would have to not give an answer is if his was treason. But his answer wasn't treason, it went with the law word for word. Its not his fault the King decided to break the law. Hmm... sounds like George W. Bush.

Dear Q:

I'm not sure how you got from "The Deer Hunter" to "A Man For All Seasons," certainly one has a good script and the other doesn't. Both have good casts and lovely photography, and both won Best Picture. The difference is that "Man" is about something and "Deer Hunter" isn't. I love Robert Shaw's appearance as Henry VIII -- "She is a canker in the body politic, and I will have her out!"

Josh

Name: Chris
E-mail: cbbank@aol.com

Dear Josh:

On the hollywood walk of fame, who was Goodhart that has a star with lassie and rin tin tin. What show was Goodhart from?

Dear Chris:

Goodheart was a dog who starred in a series of silent films, like Rin-Tin-Tin.

Josh

Name: Peter Franks
E-mail: peterfranks@hotmail.com

Mr. Becker,

Please inform me on the creative and practical differences between television and film-making.

Sincerely,

Peter Franks

Dear Peter:

Could you be more specific? Making TV shows is filmmaking.

Josh

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

Josh,

It amazes me how quickly the Cold War has been forgotten. THE story of the 20th century was that WWIII did not happen. The Cold War framed the context of virtually everything that happened, politically or economically, during that forty year period.

My father was in Intelligence from 1962-98 and knew a number of Soviet officers. He says that Soviets and Americans almost universally enjoyed one another's company. I have heard that before. He also says that, despite this, both sides were fully expecting the war which never came, right up to the last day of the USSR. "Shocked" was the term he used to describe the reaction of both sides to the lack of a war.

I mention this for two reasons. First, you predict that any new "Casino" will be removed from its context, and I agree that there is then no point. Second, do you know any Cold War films depicting Soviet and American officers/agents as mutually sympathetic? Even my mother mentioned how enjoyable Soviet officers and their wives were. I can't remember this relationship ever depicted in film. Thanks,

John

Dear John:

How about "The Hunt for Red October" or "The Spy Who Cam in from the Cold" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" or "Russia House." Nevertheless, that's the milieu of all of the Bond books, and once you remove them from their reality they're really about nothing, except stunts and chase scenes. Admittedly, the films had lost their own reality even before Sean Connery left, then got it back with George Lazenby and Diana Rigg in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," then lost it forever with the casting of Roger Moore, then the fall of Communism. Since then it's been nothing more than corporate garbage, a no-brainer franchise.

Josh

Name: Greene
E-mail: greene_chs@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

It always surprises me that the state of 'acceptable' art in America is in the state its in. What's considered good by a generally Conservative, close-minded counry can never really reach potential greatness after all. In terms of intelligence, I completely agree that what people don't understand they label brilliant. Apparently the more abstract, and less cohesive an idea is, the better. Meanwhile a German film called "Sommersturm," which is about love in adolescence makes perfect sense, is emotionally compelling and realistic. Why is this impossible to achieve in US cinema? It's as if studio executives want to create artifice and the MPAA is backing them up through a covert plan. "Sommersturm" contains PG-13 rated material, but because it has gay subject matter I'm sure it would be considered an R contender. We have lost our minds.

Dear Brett:

We've been taken over by the Dark Side, which Bush and Cheney are proud to represent. Foreign films were an important part of the market for a long time, from the end of WWII up through the 1980s. Now they don't account for almost anything. BTW, I believe that "Conservative" means: naive and backward-thinking, and "Republican" or "Right-wing" means: Lying, paranoid crook.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

What is it exactly that you hate about THE DEER HUNTER? That its a 3 Hour movie? That it features Russian Roulette? Or is it like DR ZHIVAGO and you just don't care for the characters? If you have all the Best Pictures on video, do you mean the ones you like or ALL for the sake of all (meaning somewhere in the dark recesses of your video shelf is a copy of THE DEER HUNTER, FORREST GUMP, SCHINDLERS LIST)?

Dear Q:

Yes, I have "The Deer Hunter," "Forrest Gump" and "Schindler's List." I even have "Titanic." But "The Deer Hunter," which has a great cast and beautiful photography, has a totally shitty, underwritten script, with perhaps the the most needlessly extended, dullest, and longest first scene in any movie ever. By the time that wedding was over I was truly ready to scream. 45 minutes long, if I'm not mistaken, with almost no characterization, motivation, or anything else necessary to the beginning of a story. Just that stupid fucking awful wedding. Then we move on to the most cliched Vietnam scenes ever filmed, with the thoroughly idiotic Russian Roulette scenes posing as drama instead of any actual drama or characterization once again. I really, really hate that film. By far the best thing about it is Vilmos Zsigmond's photography.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I have no interest in James Bond either (I'm not a fan, though like you I do enjoy "Goldfinger"), I just knew that you always thought the novel "Casino Royale" would make a good movie. However, I didn't even think that they would change the era, and now that you mention it, I'm certain that they made it contemporary, which is too bad. The 60s version isn't so hot, but at least it has Woody Allen and Orson Welles in top comic form.

Yeah, one probably needs to write to the Academy for the reminder lists, and it would probably cost good money because that would be an awful lot of documents.

A question, from what you know, can you tell me how much cinematographers other than the legends (Zsigmond, Storaro) charge per week? Do even DPs like Chris Doyle charge $25,000 a week? How much did your DPs charge?

And a second question, did Joe LoDuca have an orchestra for his score "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except?" How much do you think the minimum could be for an orchestral score these days?

Thanks.

Dear David:

An old expression in the film business is: "Everybody makes their own deals." Christopher Doyle is a top DP and I'm sure he gets top dollar these days. I don't know what David Worth got for "Alien Apocalypse." Kurt Rauf, who shot my last two indie features, charges me whatever the production will allow, and the more money I have, the more he'll get. He'll shoot my next film, if the money comes through. Yes, Joe had a 65-piece orchestra, with a 5-piece ethnic accompaniment (Asian flutes and drums), for TSNKE. Joe cut me a tremedous deal and I paid 15 grand for that score, 21 years ago. Nobody is getting a full orchestral score for anywhere near that price anymore.

Josh

Name: Eric
E-mail: maarow@yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

You recommend in your FAQ section "The Film Director" by Richard L. Bare. I took your advice and picked up a copy from the library and found it to be immensely useful in many respects, though certainly dated (I assume the fundamentals of filmmaking haven't or shouldn't have changed too much since then). Thanks very much for making this work known to me.

Also, I wanted to ask if you had any explanation for why everybody fell in love with the doorknob "Lost in Translation." I suffered all the way through it, hoping for some deep revelation, or even just a point, but none of these were forthcoming. It looked like some sloppy tourist's home videos of Tokyo mixed with long, drawn-out shots of people staring blankly. It was by far the dullest, most pretentious piece of film I have seen in my entire life. The only thing I can think of is that people have learned to accept that any movie in which nothing happens is automatically great drama. Any thoughts?

Dear Eric:

I totally agree with you. If it's as dull as watching paint dry, then doesn't add up to anything, quick, give it an Oscar. I would nominate "Lost in Translation" as the most egregious example of nepotism in Oscar history. If Sophia Coppola were not Francis Fords's kid, that script would NEVER have been produced, would NEVER have been nominated, let alone having won. That script is truly a piece of hammered shit. Meanwhile, I found Richard Bare's book very helpful, too. He very clearly knows what he's talking about. I read it about 20 years ago, and a lot of it still sticks with me, like the part about faking a train coming into a station -- he had to make a stationary train look like it was pulling into the station, so he tracked the camera one way while tracking a light post the other way, thus giving the impression the train was pulling in. His section on transitions was very helpful, too. Bare directed every single episode of "Green Acres," BTW.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

<<A question, do you know where I can find the Academy Remainder lists? You've said before that your friend Rick had them, and I know you can't find them online. I guess you'd have to know somebody who collected the lists over the years.>>

They's on imdb.com. I just looked up the best pictures. It looks like they started to lower themselves after SCHINDLER'S LIST won because then you have winners like FORREST GUMP and BRAVEHEART. I don't count SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, I like that movie.

here's a starting place since I can't remember how I found it. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Academy_Awards_USA/1975 You can go back and forward through the years under the OTHER INFO on the bottom left. Next Ceremony, Previous Ceremony.

Dear Q:

Those aren't the reminder lists, they're just the list of nominees. The Academy reminder lists are listings of every film that played in L.A. for at least a week, and is generally between 250 and 500 films long. The DGA and SAG both send out the same lists these days, but the AMPAS has been doing it since 1928. Personally, I think the Oscars went into the shitter in 1978 when "The Deer Hunter" won, which was done purely with payola. By 1980 when "Ordinary People" beat out "Raging Bull" (and Redford beat out Scorsese for director), it's all become a joke.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I managed to watch both Raging Bull and Taxi Driver the other day. What great films! Infact I'm pretty sure taxi driver is my new favourite movie. Deniro was awesome.

Plan to see Mean Streets next.

Also how did you become a PA and how old were you when you first got a job as one?

Dear Chris:

Read my essay, "Being a PA," it explains everything.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

A question, do you know where I can find the Academy Remainder lists? You've said before that your friend Rick had them, and I know you can't find them online. I guess you'd have to know somebody who collected the lists over the years.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd pass on that they're making "Casino Royle" based on the novel, which might interest you. I'm not sure how it will turn out though, it depends on the adaptation. I probably won't see it, but Daniel Craig is certainly the best Bond in a while.

If you'd like, post more older reviews, I really enjoyed the first batch (and I'm sure others did too, even though you didn't get any response about it).

And have you watched anything lately?

Dear David:

What do you want bet they don't leave "Casino Royale" in its proper time period, which is 1953? The bottom-line of the James Bond books is that they're a product of the Cold War, and since 1989 there's been no Cold War. Unless you make them period pieces, which I'm sure they won't do, they don't make any sense anymore. I seriously have had no interest in the endless series since Sean Connery left. Regarding the Academy reminder lists, maybe you can write to them and ask for them. I just borrowed them from Rick. I haven't seen anything recently worth mentioning.

Josh

Name: rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

Thanks for answering my question. It made me feel whole lot better. On another note, I've been going crazy looking for a job. For the last few months I have been a self loathing telemarketer (Ooh, it makes me shiver just to think about it). I've tried getting jobs assisting vdeographer with weddings and such - you know, something at least ahlfway related to the film industry. Anyway, I haven't had much luck. I've also been through all the callboards and nothing's there. Do you have any ideas? What did you do for money as a teen?

Dear rob:

I worked in a series of bookstores, as a cab driver, as a production assistant, then later a security guard, then a process server, then I worked in a furniture store. Process server was the best bad job I ever had. I would frequently make between $100-150 a day, and be done by noon. And I enjoyed the phony-balony drama of serving subpoenas, although most of the job was just filing legal documents at courthouses. Dealing with judges and bailiffs is particularly amusing when you're stoned.

Josh

Name: Bobby
E-mail: bobbygnign@yahoo.com

Greetings Mr. Becker,

I just thought I'd ask a quick technical question. What are the advantages of Super 16 as compared to 16? Are there any major differences in terms of lighting, etc.? When blown up to 35mm, which is better? Thanks for yor time. By the way, I have a copy of "Running Time", and I found the commentary very informative, and the movie very well-done. Take care.

Dear Bobby:

Super-16 is probably better for blowing up, but I've never used it. You get more image with Super-16 because it's only perforated on one side and gives you extra space across where the soundtrack would go on a print. But the cameras and lenses are more expensive and harder to come by. I've had perfectly good luck blowing up regular 16mm to 35mm twice. The equipment is much easier to find.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I just finished reading the Evil Dead Journal. I've got to tell you, I was rather unsettled. Not trying to ask something too personal, just noticing a metaphore that could be me, I was wondering how close you and Bruce are currently. I'm also wondering how close everyone was before the production. You knew them all, I assume. It's strange, In Chins, Bruce rarely if ever writes about Sam's disorganization on the set - It's enlightening and dissapointing all at once. I'm glad I read it, though. I also notice that Sam was involved in many productions with you after ED. At what point did you two end your professional or personal relationship? Sorry I asked so many questions. I've just been staring at the computer screen, hoping that a film set is as enjoyable an experience as I hope it is.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

A film set can be the most aggravating place on earth, and often is. Sam and I have not ended our professional and personal relationship. I worked for him regularly for many years. As friends, though, we just drifted apart, which happens to many friendships over the course of time. Particularly when people get married and have kids. But if Sam had something he wanted me to work on, I might very well do it. I'm hoping to cast him in a cameo part in "The Horribleness," if his schedule allows. But since all relationships in the movie business are either about business or sex, it's almost impossible for successful film people to hang around with their less-than-successful old friends, unless they want to have sex with them. Meanwhile, I didn't just know these guys before ED, we all grew up together and had been making films together for years by then. I've known Sam since he was 8 and I was 9. We grew up around the block from each other, and were both at the same bus stop. His older brother, Ivan, was my best friend for years throughout my youth. Bruce and I have known each other since 7th grade, and have been good friends since we were about 18. We're still very good friends, but that's because we both escaped Hollywood (Bruce went first, then I followed).

Josh

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

Josh,

I figured you had seen it because you are so in tune with the golden era of movies.

I brought it up as a conversation point. Ship of Fools was absolutely long at 2 hours and 29 minutes but overall it was a satisifying viewing.

Thak you for the list of his movies. I can see a whole lot of learning because I am really just now going back in time which is a road you have travelled your whole life. You have to be lenient on those of us that do not have your astounding knowledge of film. Seriously Josh, you are like a walking encyclopedia which is a good thing but I suspect many people are probably intimidated in having a conversation with you.

One of your other readers, Bird Jenkins, made mention of a "commie bastard".

This reminded of a recent interview I saw with a Golden Era director by the name of Vincent Sherman.

This guy fell victim to ,I believe, the "Motion Picture Alliance For the Preservation of American Ideals".

They believed he was a communist or had communist ties. He was "gray listed" as opposed to being black listed but both were just as bad.

One of the actors in high esteem in this group was none other than John Wayne. You had to go through John Wayne at some point if you had been blacklisted along with a guy who had the last name of Ward. Adolph Monju (spelling) was even mentioned as being in a position of high power within this group.

The last thing Mr. Sherman mentions in this interview is that this practice is still going on and that the Hollywood machine despises the Independent film makers.

I thought this might possibly be an interesting point to bring up because I think so many people might feel like once they get to Hollywood it's all sunshine and blue skies. From all I can gather so far Hollywood might very well be full of bastard backstabbers.

Any thoughts on this Josh?

Tim

Dear Tim:

One of the old adages of Hollywood is: "There's nothing better than seeing your best friend fail." That's what Hollywood is about. Nobody remains clean and unscathed working in the film business, where getting ahead means ass-kissing. If you intend to move upward, you must start kissing the asses of deeply stupid people, then make them all believe you mean it by lying every time you open your mouth. And once you start to lie all the time to get ahead, your chances of ever making a truthful film disappear. Beside John Wayne and Adolphe Menjou, the other big anti-communist was C. B. DeMille. Meanwhile, I've got Vincent Sherman's autobiography, but I haven't read it yet because he just wasn't that interesting of a director.

Josh

Name: Stacey
E-mail: staci_3088@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

First of all thanks for your help in the past, i've made several shorts films since that i'm quite proud of. Now, i was wondering, do you like the theater? I've just gotten into going to plays, and i know you're a movie buff, but does the art of theater interest you? not necessarily for you to work with, but just to watch?

Dear Stacey:

I've read a lot of plays, but I don't see them very often. I directed a few One-Act plays, way back when, but I didn't care for it.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I was just wondering what your thoughts were on cleche shots in films (like a ringing telephone coming into focus in a closeup, or inside refrigerator point of view). I've just shown my films to family and friends so far, and they always ooh and ahh at that stuff, but I'm not sure if they're impressed with the shot itself, or that its something that they recognise from feature films. Thoughts? Opinion? Thank you as always...

(Did I spell cliche correctly?)

Oh and a quick question number 2, Have you ever thought about writing fiction like a short story or novel?

Thanks, Rob

Dear Rob:

There are several short stories posted on this site, take a look around. I wrote a novel about 23 years ago, but it wasn't terribly well-written and nothing became of it. As for any camera set-up, it's how well you use it, and in what context it's being used. As an example, hand-held camerawork is, for the most part, a complete bore and a cop-out, but the one hand-held shot in "Citizen Kane," where you see Kane in a wheelchair being pushed and the shot is supposedly being snuck by a newsreel photographer through a fence, is brilliant. It's all how you use it.

Josh

Name: DeaconDray
E-mail: dcondray@mail15.com

Hey,

I noticed you keep getting requests for your old short films to be put online. This was just posted a few days ago:

http://tracker.zaerc.com/torrents-details.php?id=4575


The link is from a site that posts old out of print horror movies and other rare items. Most of it's content is piracy so link to it from your site at your own discretion. This particular link is to some of your short films, under the heading: "Early Bruce Campbell-Sam Raimi Shorts" and it includes:

6 Months to Live
Attack of the Helping Hand!
Cleveland Smith - Bounty Hunter
Bruce Campbell TV Commercial
The Blind Waiter
Torro, Torro, Torro!
XYZ Murders (Crimewave) Trailer

I know Cleveland Smith, Blind Waiter, Torro, and possibly Helping Hand areyours. I don't know about the others. They're all bad quality, copied off of bad dubs of bad dubs, but it's a way fans can see them without draining your bandwith, if you don't mind them being up there in the first place.

What you actually download from the site is a 40kb +/- ".torrent" file, which you open with a BitTorrent client like BitComet, which connects you to a network of people hosting the file(s) on their own computers. I figured in the off chance you're okay with them being pirated, you can direct fans over there.

DeaconDray

PS-As soon as I'm able to log back into their comments section, I'll add something to the effect that you directed most of these shorts, and provide a link to your site-if you don't mind.

Dear DeaconDray:

Thanks for the info. I don't care if they show them, or if people go there to see them. Those pirated tapes have been going around for years. I directed and co-wrote "Cleveland Smith," I co-directed and co-wrote "The Blind Waiter" and "Torro, Torro, Torro!" (all with Scott Spiegel). I didn't work on "6 Months to Live" (which was directed by Sam Raimi) or "Attack of the Helping Hand" (directed by Scott Spiegel).

Josh

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

Josh,

I watched a pretty neat older flick the other night callled "Ship of Fools" with Lee Marvin and Vivian Leigh.

I don't know if you have seen it or not because your list loads so slow on my computer that the PDF page always freezes up. I suspect you probably have seen the movie.

I thought it was pretty good. Hard hitting at times as a matter of fact. I do not know much about the Director, Stanley Kramer, though.

I also saw a more recent movie called "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" with Brad Pitt and Jon Voight's daughter.

This movie was OK up until ACT 3 then it just fell apart. It serves as a perfect example of what not to do.

Act 2 ends with the husband and wife squaring off with guns in each others faces. Long story short...Neither one pulls the trigger and they end up screwing all over the house they just destroyed trying to kill each other.

Act 3 is nothing but fill dirt. Just a bunch of action scenes glued together to make it more interesting though they are facing the problem of dealing with their respective spy agencies that want them dead.

Could have been worse though. I suppose all 3 acts could have been fill dirt.

I think I mention that because it is epidemic that so many movies these days have all this filler in them to hold them together...Sort of like a cheap chicken nugget.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Of course I've seen "Ship of Fools." Jesus! Everybody can just assume that if the film was made before 1980, I've probably seen it. Quite frankly, though, "Ship of Fools" is lesser Stanley Kramer -- it's too long, and rather sluggish all the way through. The best moment in the movie is Vivian Leigh drunkenly stumbling back to her room up a long, empty hallway, then suddenly hears a Charleston in her head and begins to dance. Lee Marvin and Michael Dunn are good, too. But I think Stanley Kramer was a terrifically interesting filmmaker, and many of his movies are great. He's one of the few producers who became a director and was good at it. His best films as director are: "Inherit the Wind," "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "Judgement at Nuremburg," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "The Definat Ones." As a producer, his best films are: "So This is New York," "Champion," "Home of the Brave," "The Men," "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Death of a Salesman," "The Sniper," "High Noon," "The Juggler," "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," "The Member of the Wedding," "The Wild One," and "The Caine Mutiny." A pretty good line-up, huh?

Josh

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

Howdy, Josh.

In regards to Janessa's question about Titanic 2... Yes, Janessa. There will be a Titanic 2. "T2: Jack's Back" will follow Bill Paxton's continuing adventures as an undersea explorer. After hearing of the events in Titanic 1, he leads an expedition to raise the sunken and frozen-solid body of Jack Dawson, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Utilizing top of the line cryogenic technology, they are able to thaw Jack and revive him back to life, much like the superhero Captain America. What follows is a bittersweet tale of timeless love, as the still-young Jack realizes his beloved Rose is now a wrinkled centenarian who has suffered from a stroke and has lost control of half her face.

On an unrelated note, I have a question for you, Josh. Have you seen the John Garfield film "Pride of the Marines"? What a movie! It's a character drama, but the one action scene in the movie, where John Garfield is fighting off Japs in a foxhole in the Pacific, is one of the most horrifying battle scenes I've ever seen. It's not that it's bloody, like "Saving Private Ryan", but it's incredibly suspenseful and you really feel like you're in the foxhole with them. John Garfield is pretty much one of the coolest guys ever. I know he had a short career because he died young, but I've also heard he was a commie and that didn't exactly help him get roles. Oh well, commie or no, he's been in two of my favorite films, "Pride of the Marines" and "They Made Me a Criminal". Shine on, you commie bastard.

Your Friend,
Bird

P.S. YOUNG GUNS 2 is now airing on American Movie Classics. Never before has anything felt so right.

Dear Bird:

I've seen "Pride of the Marines" several times. I've brought it up as an example any number of times over the years, but recently in regard to the "Die Hard" discussion, which I guess you missed. The point being, even if you're blind, if you've got a machinegun you can hit anything in front of you, as Al Schmid proved. That's why these movies where people spray automatic weapon fire at the hero, who then outruns it, are so bloody stupid. I love the scene early on at dinner when they hear that Pearl Harbor was bombed and they have no idea where Pearl Harbor is, as most Americans wouldn't at that point. Meanwhile, I re-watched "They Made Me a Criminal" recently and it's a pretty idiotic movie, and possibly the most inappropraite use of the Dead Ends Kids ever -- they're working on a farm? And Claude Rains as the cop seemed like bad casting. Busby Berkley was an interesting choreographer, but not much of a director.

Josh

Name: Mark
E-mail: markedup03@yahoo.ca

Dear Josh:

Well, I am impressed. I did a web search to find out about the structure of a screenplay, and I found your article right away. It tells me exactly what I want to know. In fact, I don't really need to read more analysis, except to reinforce your ideas. I am going to read a few screenplays now and see the ideas in motion. Thanks a lot! By the way, I am bored silly with modern films too. I almost never watch them. I have a great affection for the old movies, even the mediocre ones. Don't you think structure is out the window because we are less literate, maybe much less, and post-modernism decided to rip it up?
Mark the aspiring screenwriter

Dear Mark:

Yes and yes. Meanwhile, you don't need to do a web search, the essays are right here on this site. There's five of them, and you should read them all. And read some of my scripts, too. The big misunderstanding about story structure is those that don't get it think it will inhibit them, whereas in reality, structure equals freedom. Until you've clearly worked out your structure, you can't move to the deeper levels of writing, to subtlety of character and motivation, irony, allegory, etc. With poor story structure you're doing nothing more than struggling to make sense, and frequently failing. I watched an okay movie last night, "Kinsey," which has a terrific cast, lovely photography, but the poor story structure ultimately undermined the film. If your structure is not sound, as it wasn't in "Kinsey," a third to halfway into the film it just drops dead. This is because the structure did not compel me to the conclusion. Without a solid Act I you can't have a good Act II or III. I also watched Oliver Stone's disaster, "Alexander," and that's an example of almost everything being wrong -- the script, the direction, the casting--but by far the worst aspect is the screenplay. There must be about 30 titles throughout the film saying shit like, "Persia, 337 BC" (9:00 AM), then "Nine years ago," then "Ten Years later," then "India, 338 BC," then "Five years later," then "Seven years ago." The film has not one, but two narrators, Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy and Christopher Plummer as Aristotle. It's a true screenwriting disaster.

Josh

Name: Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Recently you mentioned that you were reading Norman Jewison's autobiography. What did you think of the book, and what is your opinion of Jewison's films? I think it is amazing that the man keeps making films at the age of 80. People keep asking him when he'll stop filmmaking; and Jewison is fond of quoting what William Wyler told him: "It ain't over till your legs give out". Thanks in advance for your reply.

Dear Stan:

I like several of Jewison's films a lot, like: "In the Heat of the Night," "The Thrill of it All," "The Cincinnati Kid," "The Russians Are Coming," "Moonstruck." The films of his I don't like, I really don't like, such as: "Jesus Christ Superstar," ". . . And Justice for All," "Gaily, Gaily," "F.I.S.T.," "A Soldier's Story," "Agnes of God," "January Man," and "The Hurricane." All the rest are pretty mediocre, like: "Rollerball" and "Fiddler on the Roof." I didn't like his book because I found it disingenuous. It is not humanly possible to intelligently discuss "The Cincinnati Kid" without bringing up "The Hustler," of which it's a total rip-off. Nor can you seriously discuss "The Russians are Coming" without bringing up "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," which was written by the same guy, William Rose. Jewison never mentions "The Hustler" or "It's a Mad World." He also goes on about Pablo Ferro (whom I've met a few times), and his "groundbreaking" work on "Russians" and "Thomas Crown Affair," whereas everything Ferro did was a pale imitation of Saul Bass. To say that there was something groundbreaking about the split-screen in "Thomas Crown Affair" in 1968, when John Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix," with brilliant split-screen work by Saul Bass, came out in 1966. Jewison goes on about Ferro's animated front title piece for "Russians," and it's just a rip-off of Saul Bass's animated front title for "Mad World" three years earlier. In the genre of movie director autobiographies, Jewison's is a weak entry.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you think that Golden Globe nominations are becoming the Kiss of Death for a movie in the US? Brokeback Mountain got lots of GG nominations, was praised by the critics, and according to those critics is a movie that everyone can relate to. Yet King Kong, which has been less successful than hoped by its creators, is outgrossing it by around 10-1, while BB has been struggling to break out of the art cinema circuit. Narnia is even doing better than Kong and even Geisha is doing better than BB. There seems to be a trend for escapist fare lately. I think that Americans are just so stressed and burned out by daily life, that they want to avoid anything that seems in any way connected to the political world, and just try to find a fun movie which offers the most escapist route available.

Do you plan on reviewing any of the aforementioned films?

Dear Bob:

No. Meanwhile, "There seems to be a trend for escapist fare lately"? Yeah, for about the last 30 years. But seriously, who wants to see a three hour movie about gay cowboys? I certainly don't. I completely don't care what people's sexual orientation is, but that doesn't mean I want to see cowboys getting it on. Cowgirls, on the other hand, is a different story. Also, none of these movies are doing very well. "King Kong" hasn't achieved its own production cost yet, it's dropped out of the number one slot, and it didn't even make the top-ten grossers of the year. Sadly, "Star Wars 6" is the biggest grosser of 2005, and it's the lowest grossing of all six films. And I could truly care less about all of these dumbass awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.

Josh

Name: Janessa
E-mail: nassacheer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

is there going to be a Titanic two?i went on google and it said there would be....one said...the revenge and one said jack is back.....so if you could just tell me if there will be or not and maybe when it is coming out if it is...thanks

P.S.-i am a really big fan of titanic...i have a lot of your books!!

Dear Janessa:

I sure hope there isn't a "Titanic II," but it wouldn't surprise me, either. Have you really got a lot of my books? Which ones?

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I am wondering if your feelings about the Turner Classic Movies channel have changed at all since you wrote that article about it back in 1998, entitled "Turner Classic Movies: A Blessing on My House"? It seems to me there collection has only gotten bigger and better, and continues to impress with all the titles they have the rights to. Wondering what your thoughts are.

Dear David:

TCM's library is very impressive, and probably the largest in the world. It's the MGM library, which, over the course of time, came to include the Warners, Paramount, and RKO libraries, too. They have thousands of titles that aren't in any of the books. I'm constantly watching the beginnings of these very old talkies from 1929-30, with Irene Dunne, Kay Francis, Robert Montgomery, and pretty young Loretta Young. Plus they have all those silent films, which endlessly fascinate me. I watched the 1929 version of "Mysterious Island," with Lionel Barrymore, that was just awful, and about 10% talkie and 90% silent. I'm slowly making my way through the 1922 version of "The Prisoner of Zenda," with Lewis Stone and Ramon Navarro, that's pretty good. It was shocking seeing a number of Ramon Navarro's talkies, and finding out he had a silly voice and thick Mexican accent. Suddenly, he no longer seemed like a big, dashing hero -- like Judah Ben-Hur -- he seemed more like someone's gardener. But I just love old movies, so I love TCM.

Josh

Name: Danielle
E-mail: shw9w1@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

When a character is referred to as being "underwritten," is that the same thing as calling them one-dimensional?

It seems to me most characters in Hollywood movies are "overwritten" in that every single thing they do is explained to the last, dumbed-down detail so that no hint of ambiguity (in terms of inviting the audience to participate by using their imagination) remains.

On the other hand (and to the other extreme), I don't mean to defend the hordes of filmmakers who use the notion of subtlely as a cop out for saying absolutely nothing and making pointless movies with pointless, boring characters. I'm just trying to understand the distinction between the need for complexity in a character and the equally important need for a certain degree of subtlety (or implicitness) in the script.

You mentioned awhile ago that you felt Robert Deniro's character in RONIN was underwritten. I think I get what you mean (and what you mean when you refer to the entire movie as being generic), but would you mind being more specific about what you think was lacking about the character? I'm not disagreeing with you about RONIN, I just think it would make for a convenient example. Thanks.

Dear Danielle:

I'm sorry, but I can't use "Ronin" as an example because it went in one ear and out the other. But part of being underwritten, or one-dimensional, is that the character has one specific motivation, and that's it. However, with a more complex character, like T.E. Lawrence, for example, I think I know why he's doing what he's doing, but soon I realize that I don't know why, that his motivation wasn't what I thought it was, and now there seems to be multiple reasons for his actions and I'm not sure which one is the most important to him. At first you think he's doing it to help the Arabs, but then you think, as others do, that he's doing it for self glory, and finally you're not quite sure why he's doing what he's doing. That's human, so it's complicated. Had they just stuck with the altrustic motivation, that he's there to help the Arabs, that would have been one-dimensional and would become wearisome rather quickly, because we all know that most people don't just act for altruistic reasons. On the one hand, Mother Theresa is helping the sick and the poor; on the other hand, she's inculcating these people with Christianity, and that's more important to her than saving their lives. As altruistic as people would like to make her out to be, that's not nearly the whole picture. You should read my structure essay on characterization.

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

This may be a stupid question, but isn't there someway that you could just change the music on "Stryker's War"? Like some digital removal of that portion of the sound or something.

If you could do that, then you'd be able to put the film on the dvd as an extra.

Also, have you considered doing any DVD copies of "If I Had A Hammer"? You could throw a director's commentary on there or something and call it a package deal. Charge two or three dollars more even for it.

Mo

Dear Mo:

None of that is going to happen. Nobody is going to put any money into changing an old super-8 movie, nor would I want them to. The film is what it is, including the stolen music. I am absolutely not interested in changing the film at this late date. And there's no "throw a director's commentary on there," it's a whole ordeal, and it completely doesn't pay selling copies on the internet, which is why I'm not selling "Hammer" anymore. But thanks for the suggestions.

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hey, I was just wondering if the special features on the new release of Thou Shalt Not Kill ... Except! are the same as the ones on the original DVD release, or if they're new.

Also, what kinda features is Running Time supposed to have?

Mo

Dear Mo:

Is there a new release? When it happens it's supposed to be a two-disk set with "Thou" and RT, but I don't know what extra extras there will be. I've tried to get them to include the super-8 film "Stryker's War" with Bruce and Sam, but they won't touch it due to the stolen music.

Josh

Name: rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Josh,

I was wondering what you thought of dario argento. I've only seen Opera and Phenomina, and they both seemed kind of formula, even if it is his own formula. It seems like he'd make a good super-hero film (but I seem to remember you saying you didn't like superhero films). Thanks.

Dear rob:

Not for me. The only credit of Dario Argento's that interests me at all is his co-screenplay credit on "Once Upon a Time in the West," which is not one of my favorite movies, either.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I saw on IMDB that you sold a script for 60+ thousand bucks to hollywood and it had not been made yet. What was the script about and has there been any efforts to make it as of now?

Dear Mike:

The script is "Cycles," and it's posted here on the site. It was in active development for about two or three years, maybe more, and Phillip Kaufman was attached as director for a while. But then it went into turnaround, and that was the end of it. I'm not sure who owns it now.

Josh

Name: in headlights
E-mail: boxer-boxer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Not a big Spielberg fan (though I do think 'Duel'is a masterpiece of simplicity and 'Jaws' is an excellent popcorn piece). I recently watched 'War of the Worlds' because, I guess, I figured it was just time to, and unlike you--I think--I believe that for all of Spielberg's sub-sub-par efforts ('Private Ryan' for my dime is not just one of the worst WW2 movies ever, but one of the worst war movies PERIOD), his craft and technique is ALWAYS worth watching. I don't fancy myself a critic and don't feel the need to debate my view points when it comes to film, but I guess in the end when I watch a movie all I really want is to know that someone who knows what they're doing is behind the camera. Here I am defending myself already...

'War of the Worlds' sucked, no news there, but one particular scene bothered me more than any: The scene in which Tom Cruise decides it's time to kill Tim Robbins because he's a nut-job. This, to me, was so telling of Spielberg's hesitance to really go all out and make a frightening, harrowing, adult movie. He didn't show it. Can you believe that? The man opted not to show it. He's trying to show how the world has gone to hell, and that morality must be suspended in the name of survival, and he lets the door close right on our face! We've been subjective to Tom Cruise the entire movie and he chooses the characters defining moment to let us lose sight of him?!?!?! Spielberg was either pussying out for the ratings board, whoring himself out to the idiots in the audience who only want good good guys, or making a stylistic statement. Hitchcock made a stylistic statement when he used this technique in 'Frenzy.' Difference is we had already SEEN the necktie murderer murder a woman and so showing us would have been superflouous (God if only subsequent slasher films tried this...) AND the effect of those few familiar muttered words "you're my kind of woman" came off as far more disturbing and evocative than if Hitch had showed us what soon-after went down. Hitch left us with goosepimples and a knot in our stomach. Spielberg just compromised and pissed us off.

Anyway, my point here had nothing to do with WotW, but rather with 'Munich.' I think this is Spielberg's best film since 'Duel,' maybe even his best yet. Here he does not compromise, does not go all sentimental on us, there are no weeping old vets at cemeteries at the end of this story, only a still-shot of an image that WILL haunt you and leave your throat dry. In this film good guys are bad guys and bad guys are good guys, there is no Indiana Jones, there are no Nazis taking pot shots at Jewish women in concentration camps. You do yourself a disservice to write this film off before seeing it. I think it's the work of an artist who has been trying to grow for quite a while now and has FINALLY succeeded. For the record, 'Munich' is not even remotely CLOSE to being a remake of 'Sword of Gideon.' In fact, the whole Olympic massacre takes up no more than twenty minutes total of a three hour movie.

Don't sit this one out, Josh. See it, think about it, and then post another one of those famous reviews of yours we all love to read. Knowing you you'll probably find some reason to hate it. But that's okay. I haven't read one good reason yet.

Thanks. Stay well.

Dear in headlights:

"Munich" sounds so awful to me that you couldn't pay me to see it. What's the point of the story -- killing is bad? Tell me something I don't know. And if you want me to believe that killing terrorists who have murdered an entire Olympic team is the same thing as the terrorist act itself, I'm not buying it for a second. It may well have not been dramatically satisfying to kill the terrorists, since they have to be found, tracked down, then killed, but can you just let them live after what they've done? I'm convinced, without seeing it, that Spielberg has gotten himself into a sticky moral situation he's far too stupid to deal with. I also hear from good sources that it's an ugly-looking movie without any interesting shots. I'll see it when it hits cable.

Josh

Name: Jake Dexter
E-mail: jakedexter@whitemountain.org

Dear Josh:

Weird play man, esspecially becasue my realy name is jake dexter....where;d you come up with that

Dear Jake:

I have no idea what you're talking about.

Josh

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

Josh,

Personally, I think the age we're living in will be remembered as the age of scientific discovery. This is the golden age of almost every branch of science, mostly because technology is allowing observation to finally catch up with theory in most fields.

On the movie front, I just watched "Shower" from Chinese director Yang Zhang and enjoyed it. It has strong main and subsidiary characters well acted, a theme, plot movement and character development, and a solid three-act structure. It also tells a great deal about its setting, modern China. I enjoy that in a film.

It does have an interlude of sorts, which I know the Chinese are fond of, but the interlude does fit into the plot and is fairly brief. Anyway, it has me thinking and makes me want to check out Zhang's other movies.

My best in 2006,

John

Dear John:

Sounds interesting, I'll keep my eyes peeled. I just saw "Lackawana Blues," an HBO movie nominated for a bunch of Emmies, and it was all right. I saw the documentary "The Corporation" on Sundance, and it was legitimately disturbing. There's a serious issue going on there, between the lack of morality in corporations and the conspiracy of the WTO Free Trade movement. And, I also watched "Fort Apache" again, and that went pretty well. The twist ending is a precursor to "Liberty Valance."

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

How you watched the HBO drama "Six Feet Under"? Now that's damn good tv.

Dear Jeff:

I watched one or two episodes near the beginning and didn't get caught up in it. It may very well be good TV, but I didn't see enough of it to know.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you recommend Jonathan Demme's first film, "Caged Heat"? How about "Stranger than Paradise" (I film I learned recently to be out-of-print)?

Oh, and did you like the movie "Devil In a Blue Dress"?

Some random questions I know, but hopefully you will oblige. Thanks for having this cool site.

Dear David:

I haven't seen "Caged Heat," "Devil" bored me and I bailed, and I've seen "Stranger Than Paradise" quite a few times. I think it's a really good example of low-low-budget filmmaking. It may be out of print, but there are many new and used copies available on Amazon.

Josh

Name: Joel
E-mail: gdbuddy03@cs.com

Dear Josh:

Looking for old movie of Gerard Depardaeu I think it was filmed in 70's or 80's. In this movie he becomes separated from his wife at the end and he was doing crazy things like the train scene.
thanks Joel

Dear Joel:

Are you thinking of "Going Places" (1974)? The scene on the train in that film is where Depardieu and Patrick Deware terrorize a pregnant woman, which was pretty disturbing.

Josh

Name: Jason Roth
E-mail: jason@visualnoiz.com

Hey Josh,

Caught Detective Story the other day. Really excellent stuff- I particularly liked Joseph Wiseman (about as far from Dr. No as you can get) as the slimy goon. Kirk Douglas in full-on rage mode was a a sight to behold.

Are you thinking of posting any more of your early shorts on the site? The Blind Waiter was a lot of fun. I'd love to see the original Stryker's War short, although that may be too large a file to post.

Happy New Year!
Jason

Dear Jason:

There just wasn't room on the server of the films. And "Stryker's War" is 45 minutes long. "Detective Story" is a good example of how William Wyler got whichever actors he was working with to be the very best of what they were. He didn't try to get actors to go beyond their range, he got them to fulfill their range. I think it's also the best performance that William Bendix ever gave.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Statement 1: <<Really? We're dealing with a form, not even necessarily an art form, that has been around for just over 100 years, which is diddly-shit in the scheme of history. >>
Statement 2: <<Film is an artform. The most important artform of the past 100 years.>>

Well thank god for statement 2. I must say I felt a little betrayed by statement 1, its not like I ever thought of film as a real artform till I met you. That and I watched IKIRU, FORBIDDEN GAMES, FRIENDLY PERSUASION recently which reaffirmed my faith. I too think people are going overboard when they think their film will be around forever.ow many of these people who think that stop to guess how many really old movies they care about from the 30s? Sure, LITTLE CAESAR and THE WIZARD OF OZ are out on dvd but think of all the forgotten films that didn't make it? Are they remembered? I watched some of Lon Chaney's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the other night and it occured to me that not only is everybody in the film dead, they LOOK dead onscreen, I'm watching a bunch of ghosts trapped in their own instance of time. One day TAXI DRIVER is going to be looked upon that way.

Dear Q:

Or go back ten or twenty years before that. Who remembers any of the films from the teens or the twenties? Who remembers when Florence Lawrence and John Bunny were the biggest movie stars in the world? Who remembers any of the stage stars from the arly 20th century? No one. Tapestry weaving might have been the great artform of the 15th century, but who remembers that now? That we're still listening to Mozart and Beethoven 200 years later is pretty impressive. And just because film is the most important artform of the past hundred years doesn't for one second mean it will be in the next hundred years. Everybody always thinks that the time-period they're in is the most important one, but that doesn't make it so. If we haven't fucked up the planet so extremely that it's uninhabitable for humans in a hundred years, this era will probably be remembered as the "Greed and abuse era," where humans tried as hard as they could to shit in their own nest.

Josh

Name: Andy Decker
E-mail: decker3@aol.com

Dear Josh,

You mentioned that "Tumithak of the Corridors" was one of you favorite stories. Guess what.... "Tumithak of the Corridors" is in print in the form of a trade paperback, containing all FOUR Tumithak short stories, uncluding the fourth, heretofore unpublished final adventure. It is available from North Star Press of St. Cloud, inc. 19485 Estes Rd, Clearwater, MN 55320. $16.95. Or it can be ordered from Barnes and Noble bookstores. (or you can order it from me). 225 action packed pages, all new artwork. This is the first time all four stories have appeared together in any format. If you liked the title story when you were young, you'll love the complete saga.


Corridorily yours,

Andy

Dear Andy:

I didn't even know there were four of them. Only two of the stories are in Isaac Asimov's collection, "Before the Golden Age." Although "Tumithak of the Corridors" was one of my favorite stories as a kid, I must admit to you that I thought the second story was absolutely terrible, and clearly (to my 15-year-old mind) done as a moneymaking endeavor to follow up on the first one. Maybe he got inspired again for the next two stories after that.

Josh

Name: pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Is "Gunga Din" also an error in your favorite films list like "Jurassic Park"?

Dear Pete:

No, I like "Gunga Din," but I don't love it as many people do. It's a fun, silly picture. The idea that they cast Sam Jaffe, a 48-year-old Jewish man, as the Indian waterboy, is still insane to me. George Stevens did a good job of making you believe you're in the Khyber Pass, when in fact you're just outside Los Angeles.

Josh

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

Dear Josh.

I wish to you to you family and friends a happy new year

and of course the same i wish and to shirley, a happy new year

From George, Daniela, and Alexander Pilalidis:

Dear George:

The same to you, and everyone else out there, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Josh & Shirley
@Beckerfilms.com

Name: Matthew
E-mail: matt3832@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

If I ask a SAG actor to do a voice-over for a documentary short, do I have to worry about the SAG nazis forcing me to jump through their signatory hoops? Sorry to pester you with a "business question," but I've had no luck obtaining the info. directly from my local SAG office.

I'm hoping there's a huge difference between docs. and fiction when it comes to all those pain in the ass rules.

Thanks.

Dear Matthew:

Theoretically, yes, if you use a SAG actor you must follow SAG rules. But for a documentary short I wouldn't worry about it. If the actor is willing to do it, then just do it.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh:

When you made films as a kid, were there any that you left unfinished? My friends and I just spent four days working on a film day and night and just abandoned it. I know four days isn't much, but the most I've ever spent on production is two weeks. Thanks again.

Dear Rob:

There were a couple of unfinished films along the way, but for the most part we all finished our films. Read my essay, "Making Short Films."

Josh

Name: Angel
E-mail: aesparz2@depaul.edu

Dear Josh,

In reading the topic of Film vs. DV, of which I'm certain film triumphs in this forum, there is one other aspect that that I find critical. I've met so many people who claim they're a filmakers working on a project and after being explained what it is usuallly the most dull, uninspired premise, I ask, "What stock are you using?" "We're shooting DV." Is the most common response. It then infuriates me. It seems to lack heart. One of the reasons, I respect you and frequent this site is that you put your ass on the line to capture your visions on film. You could have easily committed any of your films to an alternate format, and spared yourself a great expense. But you stuck with film and I'm sure Visa reminds you of this every month. When someon begins shooting on Digital, it just reflects that the makers were happy compromising their product so that it could be done cheaply. Everyone has the same response to this, "You need to make the digital video to gain attention and attract investors to make something on film". This is almost as laughable as getting your demo to the producer and the band will surely skyrocket to fame.

When I see a low-budget/independent feature on film, I admire that someone jepordized what will be the next 10-30 years of their life to capture a vision in the most respected formate possible. Even if the film is shit, I'll applaud anyone who puts their ass on the line to accomplish something. That's one of the reasons I love Orson Welles so much. He borrowed every dime he could to get money to make a film. His film would be poorly received and seen by few (in the event it was finished) and then he'd start acting alongside muppets in hopes of financing a new film. Off-Topic: I was in a relationship with a girl I couldn't stand. I hated her taste, I hater her art, and I hated the way she chewed. I'm sure the fear of lonliness fueled the relationship and one night I had a dream that I watched a black and white film with Orson Welles in drag. He was made a laughing stock and you could tell he was there strictly in hopes of fainacing his next proejct. It was sad to watch and I squirrmed in my sleep. I awoke and realized I was doing whatever I could to not be alone. Instead of doing voice-over work for frozen peas, I was trying to prented I was attracted to a woman who infuriated me with her every manner. I just didn't want to be alone. I ended it shortly afterwards. Do you dream film?

Dear Angel:

For the most part, I don't remember what I dream, which is undoubtedly due to smoking pot. But I do sleep really well. Meanwhile, shooting DV because it's easier and cheaper is just like hand-holding every shot in a movie because it's easier and takes no pre-planning. Yeah, but it also sucks. The issue is never about what is easiest and cheapest for the filmmaker; it's always about what makes a good movie. The main reason that Darren Aronoksy's "Pi" has value is because it has a terrific cinematic look, which he achieved by shooting very slow, black and white, 16mm reversal stock. I've achieved completely different looks for all of my films based on which film stock I chose. I believe that your intentions behind why you're making a film mean everything. If it's all about what's cheapest and easiest, and I'm just doing this to get my next thing, or I just want to be rich and famous, that's all bullshit. Film is an artform. The most important artform of the past 100 years. As Stanislavski said, "Don't see yourself in the art; see the art in yourself." It's not about you being a filmmaker, it's about what can you bring to the form, if anything.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

Shit, if acting like you know about something that you really don't know anything about is what it takes to be a director, then why the fuck am I not famous yet? I talk about shit I don't really know about all the time.

Actually, from what I've seen, George Lucas didn't write the screenplays for some of the Star Wars movies. He came up with the stories, but he didn't always write the screenplay. I like the writing. I don't know why I defend it because there are nine people that hate it, to everyone person who likes it. One of my best friends the other day said "Lucas sucks at writing dialogue." and he followed that up with "have you ever seen one of the Star Wars films?"

I like it. Fuck arguing over it. You're never gonna like the films, so changing your mind is nearly impossible. I guess it just boils down to different strokes for different blokes.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Because, aside from acting like you know everything, you actually have to do something to become famous. I have a quote in my Favorite Quote section (I forget by who) that says, "Fame is the thirst of youth," which I think is true. After a point, fame stops having any meaning. I personally don't need to be famous, nor do I care. I simply want to make my movies, and whatever happens after that, happens. The bottom-line is that the work is the point, and how people respond to it is beside the point because you can't control it. If I'm actually shooting one of my films, I've won. The process is the point.

Josh

Name: Jack
E-mail:

Dear Mr. Becker,

I recently came across your site, and noticed you mention your hatred of sit-coms. I just wanted to make you aware of a group of like-minded individuals. The group Americans For Sit-Com Reparations (AFSR) has filed a class action suit on behalf of the over 215 million victims of the Telecaust,which has devastated our nation for over four generations. We demand apologies and reparations for the the unending horror of "very special episodes" which aren't; the "laugh tracks" which cackle at brain-numbingly humorless "jokes"; the soul-killing viruses known as "spin-offs"; and countless other cruel examples of man's inanity to his fellow man. The Executives, Producers, and Writers must be held accountable for their actions. Interested parties should check out our web-site. Thank-you, and keep fighting the good fight.

Dear Jack:

Well, now there's a truly worthless cause. If you don't like sit-coms, don't watch them. I don't.

Josh

Name: Random Filmmaker
E-mail: snow_angel_chi@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I was wondering if you could help direct, no pun intended, to finding a way to get in contact George Romero. Sadly I am one of those small people who don't know really how to search well for those things. Not to run over the ramdom fan stuff but maybe to get some tips on his style of movies. Me and my friend are your average run of the mill crapy movie makers who seem to do make some of the worst footage funny.

Dear RF:

I don't know how to get to George Romero. He lives in Pittsburg, doesn't he? Try information. But seriously, why would George Romero want to talk to you? I'm sure he's accosted wherever he goes by young horror filmmakers, and there's really nothing he can tell you (nor can I), other than get out there and do your best. I have met him and he is a very nice guy (and tall), so if you get to him he might take pity on you, but I doubt it.

Josh

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

Josh,

Thanks for the boost!

I believe I will fair well in Brazil with my experiences in this business.

Thanks for adding the lighting comment, I did not want to make my post any longer than it was, so I did not get into lighting and HD, but you are absolutley right about it.

Also, just to clarify, I know film hasn't changed in 120 years for the most part, but the reason I chose 30 years as a base is because I was comparing film to professional video formats which have improved dramatically within the past 30 years.

Finally, I was just asked to shoot a short film for someone in a couple of weeks and they want to shoot it on DV 24p. The director said that he " wanted to shoot film" , but " he wanted more control" over what images he was going to acheive and that is why he wants to use video.

I said "Then why do you want to shoot DV? I could shoot film for you and you will get exactly what you want and even have a better quality image, better lighting, and more latitiude when it comes to enchancing things in post if you choose."

He bascially replied 'Well, that is not what they have been telling me at school, everyone tells me that I will have more control if I shoot DV because I can see what I am shooting in a monitor etc.."

The guy is in his last year at SVA here in NYC and this is what is being taught now, and that is the mentality of people coming out of film schools. It is the false concept that DV is an easier road and it is a bad road to go down in my opinion.

I am not sure if I will do the project yet, but it will be interesting. Lighting it will be a pain.

Scott

Dear Scott:

It ought to be interesting how the various filmmaking publications respond to my book (which is very near to being done and coming out), if indeed they do respond, because I'm still pushing film, not digital. Beyond everything else, I think shooting digital adds a deep psychological level of insignificance to the movie. Film just seems more important. Meanwhile, film schools never did teach anyone how to make a movie, they just explain what equipment is available and how to use it.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

I'm not a corporate pawn. If I were, I'd see every damn Tom Hanks movie or Pixar movie that get's cranked out. I see movies that I think look good. Does marketing help decide what I see ... yes. If nothing was marketed, you'd never know anything about any film So to watch the adds and decide from there is not being a corporate pawn. A corporate pawn would go to the movies simply because they saw enough adds. I go only if the adds look good, and generally I'm happy with what I see because I know what I like, but other times the movie blows.

I'm not saying you're completely wrong now. A lot of people are corporate pawns and saw the Star Wars movies for that very reason, but to group all fans of Star Wars as corporate pawns is too big a generalization to make. It's like saying all directors and bossy pricks. Or that all guys like football. There are exceptions to every rule.

Do I think the Star Wars movies are deeper than just being a gimmick to sell toys, not completely. I believe a lot of what keeps Star Wars going is knowing that they'll make more cash from the merchandise than the they will the movie itself. I understand this, but I also know that they do spend time on the story of Star Wars. It's kinda deep, but mostly it's the story of Darth Vadar/Anakin Skywalker and his journey to the dark side. A classic good vs evil kinda story. There are hundreds of films deeper than Star Wars, but I believe there's more levels to it than "Yum! Cash!"

Also, HD looks pretty fuckin' nice. When I watched Star Wars Episode 1, what was that, back when I was 13 or 14 (how ever old I was then), I thought it looked just fine, but I did notice the actors showed up a bit clearer than normal, but then again I've seen films shot on film that look like shit. Like I said, I wish film the best of luck because I like it, but I'll take high quality at a lower price any day.

Still, no matter how many people convert to HD, film will never go away. VHS hasn't gone away yet even though DVD is out now. Books haven't dissappeared because of computers. Film won't be any different.

Now, lastly. I'm getting really tired of you telling me to watch more movies and read more books. God dammit, I basically do nothing but watch movies. I take a break here and there to sleep, go online, read a book, listen to music, etc., but mostly I spend my damn time watching movies or tv shows on dvd. There'd be no room for anything else (including sleep) in my life if I watched any more movies.

Dammit Becker, I like ya, I don't like fighting with you. I like it better when we agree. Why the fuck do we disagree so much? Someday, when I'm established as a filmmaker (give me a year or five), I'd seriously just like to sit down and talk film with you. I think that would result in either very stimulating conversation, or a fist fight, I'm not sure which.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

You're clearly a bright kid, and you remind me of me at that age, meaning I thought I knew everything before I hardly knew anything. But that's how you've got to be to try and scale the high wall of the film biz. Or to be a director. You must think you know what you're talking about, even if you don't. Where we're really coming to loggerheads is your belief that there's any good writing in the "Star Wars" films, which there isn't. As far as I'm concerned, George Lucas utterly revealed himself in his "60 Minutes" interview, when he said that he "hates writing," and that he writes one page at a time, prints it out, takes it over to ILM, and they begin to break it down and work on the effects. What that means is that Lucas's scripts don't even make it to a first draft by the time they're being shot, and it looks like it. This isn't good writing, it's not even bad writing, it's terrible writing, and that to me is unbearable. I don't ever need to see movies written by people who "hate writing." You know what? Fuck anyone who who makes films based on scripts by people who hate writing, because it certainly shows. Now let's drop "Star Wars" as a topic.

Josh

Name: Brian
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"she was a big fan of Robert Altman and "Nashville," > and I didn't like it"

Is it in your favorite films list by mistake then?

And a question: what was the last older film you saw for the first time that you loved or thought was great? Thanks.

Dear Brian:

That Favorite Film List keeps coming back to bite me on the ass. I don't know how "Nashville" got on that list. That film was one of the major disagreements between myself and my friend, Rick Sandford. My biggest issue with the film is that it's supposed to be about country music's biggest stars, yet no one in the cast can sing very well, and most of the songs kind of stink. Not to mention it's three hours of people talking at the same time. As I recently mentioned, I was very impressed with Budd Boetticher's "Seven Men From Now," which just premiered on TCM and wasn't shown for many years. It's a very solid, entertaining piece of work, although I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was great. It just watched the 1948 French version of "Gigi" that was pretty good (with awful subtitles). I also recently saw King Vidor's "The Citadel" which I thought was good, not great (it was nominated for Best Picture in 1938). I recently saw "All Mine to Give" (1957) with Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell, that was good, too. I recently saw "The Model and the Marriage Broker" (1951) for the first time, and laughed a lot. I'd never seen Robert Wise's "Blood on the Moon" until recently, and it was quite good. None of these were great, but they were all worth seeing.

Josh

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

Josh,

The film/HD debate continues...

I have to quote something that the DP Roy Wagner said to me when we were talking about the differences between film and HD. He has become a good friend and a great mentor to me.

He was one of the first DP's to be successful in shooting the first pilot TV series in HD which was called "Pasadena" directed by Diane Keaton. The series never did very well, but it was shot by Roy entirely on HD and he has subsequently helped design diffusion filters for Schneider strictly for HD cameras.

I think what he said to me is very important and it is something that Jeremy should take to heart. He said "HD is not better than film and film is not better than HD, they are different formats used to achieve different looks" .

I have watched a lot of HD shot programs and projects and I just finished editing a wildlife documentary that was shot with the Sony 950 which is a a higher end HD camera. The footage looked great and HD works well with this kind of subject because of its ability to be intense in detail. This strength is its biggest weakness when it comes to using it for theatrical or dramatic purposes.

Film will always be around and HD will be around for a longtime as well, but this argument is about which is better is exhausting and the whole argument about making HD look better in post doesn't make sense?

I am an editor and I also shoot and if you have to make HD look like film in Post, you don't save any money, so that doesn't make sense to me.

HD needs diffusion to take all of the intense detail out of it and that can be tricky when your dealing with actresses, mainly older actresses. The trick that is used in post to accommodate this problem always leans too heavy and starts to look like a soft glow effect. Using diffusion on the camera is better, but only certain diffusions work well.

Embracing HD is a good idea, but to say that at this stage it is cheaper to shoot than film is not true. In fact, the only cost you are saving is film stock and processing. You lose your loader, but most of time on big projects, you gain an HD tech to calibrate the monitors and make sure the image quality is correct on both camera and monitor. This tech coast twice as much if not more than a loader per day.

Then, If you have to start messing with your HD footage in post to make it look like film, you will be spending even more money. ($250 to $450 per hour depending on what you do to it.).

I have watched TV shows shot on HD as well, and I can tell they are shot on HD, and the highlights and shadows don't hold as well as film. "Crossing Jordan" is about the best looking HD shot TV show and they put a lot of time into that show in post. The blacks usually come out too gray and the highlights are too overexposed with HD.

Lastly, How many tape formats have we gone through in the past 30 years? Try and find a hi-8 deck now to transfer your video you shot in the 90's!

Film has remained relatively the same for the past 30 years in terms an archival medium and it has improved dramatically within that time with regards to the quality of the stock.

You can take a 40 to 60 year old negative or film print and restore it with all the new technology which will make it look fantastic. Can you say the same for any of the video formats within the past 40 years? We don't even know how HD will hold up in say 20 years from now if it remains on video tape even if it is digital.

Shooting on film and mastering to HD tape is a great way to go and that is where HD has helped improve image quality, but to say that HD is better and ultimately cheaper than film is silly and simply a comment coming from an in experienced person.

I saw the Star Wars films taht were shot in HD and they looked like they were shot on video, besides the fact that "The attack of the Clones" was probably one of the worst films I had ever seen, it looked like one digital jerk off to me.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Thank you for your technical expertise. I hope they appreciate it and pay you the big bucks in Brazil for your knowledge. The other aspect that no one is owning up to, which you didn't mention, is that HD is difficult to light and make look good; far more difficult than film. Film is a very forgiving medium, and you can get away with a lot. Some of the best lighting ever achieved in movies was done with one light (David Worth, the DP on "Alien Apocalypse," quoted the great British DP, David Watkin, who said, "One light is a statement; two lights is kind of a statement; three lights is no statement at all"). A perfect example of the quickly changing video formats is that I shot the one documentary I've made on S-VHS, which, like Hi-8, no longer exists. I transferred "Running Time" to D-2, the highest quality digital format in 1997, and that doesn't exist anymore. I'll just bet that in ten years HD doesn't exist anymore, either. Film hasn't remained the same for 30 years, it's remained the same for nearly 120 years--Thomas Edison was the first one to (have designed) and order 35mm film stock from Eastman Kodak in 1889 for the Kinetoscope, and it's the exact same dimensions that we use now, although the emulsion and base have changed formulae. But if when you make your movie you have any illusions of it "being around forever," you must shoot film.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

Oh boy, a disagreement again. You know, I honestly don't give a shit if you like Star Wars or not, but you generalize the fan base. I don't like being called a sucker or corporate pawn for watching Star Wars and liking it. I'm not a corporate pawn, believe, I'm far from it. Before you just up and diss a whole lot of people, you should make sure all your facts are correct. Luckily, I'm forgiving, and will still somehow find myself coming here daily to read the newest posts. I don't insult you (unless I'm insulting the both of us collectivly), so it's fair to ask that you don't insult me (even though I know you weren't insulting me directly).

Also, I disagree with to a point on digital being the next thing. While film will never completely die, I do think digital will become the norm for filming very very soon. I don't mean the the plain old digital video that everybody and their dog has access to, rather I mean HD. HD can look exactly like film, you just have to add that effect in post.

Yes, you can make HD look poor, but if you do things right, it looks just like film. The Star Wars prequel trilogy are all shot in HD and all look great (even if you hate the films, you gotta admit that they at least don't look bad). Sin City looks fucking awesome and it's in HD. The series "Arrested Development" is shot in HD (or I should say, "was" shot in HD) and it looks perfectly fine.

If you bother putting the effort in during post, HD can be just as good as film. I mean, any camera that costs over $100,000 to buy has to be able to look good.

I'm not knocking film though. I love the look of film, and I wish it the best of luck, but if I'm able to come in under budget, under schedule, and make a film that looks good, hell, I'm all about digital.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Except HD doesn't look as good as film. It may at some point, but it doesn't yet, and it's still not even close. If you think it is, you seriously don't have a very discerning eye. And you're clearly such a complete sucker and such a total pawn that you're under the delusion that you're not. You see what they tell you to see, and buy what they tell you to buy, then believe you're free and have made up your own mind. The "Star Wars" movies are junk corporate fodder, big commercials for ancillary products, and if you think they're any deeper than that you seriously need to read a lot more books and see a lot more movies.

Josh

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

Hey man, I watching Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except tonight on my 48 inch screen TV. And I was still in awe of it. Its as cool as I remember watching it the first time I saw it. It was almost like if the A Team went against Charlie Manson. Even down to Jackson saying "I pity the fool..."
It was pretty cool to see the backyards of Michigan as Vietnam. And everyone is still pretty top notch (in fact I love TSNK... better than most stupid Hollywood films of today) Especially to know that this was your first movie. I would have assumed Hollywood Producers would have been banging down your door trying to get you some work. I'll be Net Flixing some stuff done by you, Sheldon, Scott, Gary, and Sam now. Stuff I haven't seen or haven't seen in a while. Do you recommend anything for me to Net Flix (it doesn't have to be something any of you guys did), Can't wait for your next project.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

If you like the album "Dark Side of the Moon," get the Classic Albums episode about it, I watched it five times (including all of the extra stuff). The one of Paul Simon's "Graceland" was also terrific. In fact, the whole series is great, and Netflix has them all. And take out "Black Narcissus," it's a film everybody should see.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Gnu Year. I'm looking forward to whatever you have planned, creatively.

Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend? You also say you've been reading non-fiction. What have you been reading?

Take care.

Saul

Dear Saul:

I'm switching off right now between "Best American Essays 2005" and "Who the Hell's in It?" by Peter Bogdanovich. It's not one of the better "Best American Essay" collections, but there are still a few good ones. Ian Frazier's essay on memory, and how after a point it's impossible to keep some lists of things straight, like: Orson Welles, H.G. Wells, George Orwell and Orson Bean, was very amusing. He mistakenly refers to a dustpan as a spatula, then spends half a page defending why spatula is a better name for the item than a dustpan. Meanwhile, I saw a really good western on TCM called "Seven Men From Now," the first Randolph Scott--Budd Boetticher--Burt Kennedy collaboration that hasn't been shown in about 30 years or something. It's Boetticher's best film that I've seen, and Lee Marvin is just great. It was accompanied by a documentary called "Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That," which was also very good, with a lot of interview footage with him, as well as with Clint Eastwood, Robert Towne, Taylor Hackford and Quentin Tarantino.

Josh

Name: megan
E-mail: thegronk@kern.com.au

Dear Josh:

ive never had an acting lesson never want to take one, you are arrogant cheeky honest and unfortunately ultimately brilliant! now put me in your fucking movies! ;0 xxx

Dear megan:

"You are arrogant cheeky honest and unfortunately ultimately brilliant!" Wow, that's some sentence. I hope you're right.

Josh

Name: Evan
E-mail: ema3924@uncw.edu

Dear Josh:

Regarding "The Moviegoer", I just love the little things about it that make it so funny and insightful. The story at its heart isn't that strong, but some individual passages and sequences are really great. For example, the main character speaks at length about the concept of "certification". He claims that if a person sees a movie that shows their hometown or a street they know, then that place becomes certified for them, by seeing it onscreen it is confirmed for them as being real, it is "Somewhere and not Anywhere." There is also a lot of passages centering on the world of the movies, how they affect how the main character views the world. For him, movies provide the "treasurable moments" that real life never quite seems to deliver. There are a lot of things in the book that remind me of Camus' "The Stranger", as the main character is disconnected from daily life, immersed as he is in the movies.

On a different note, do you put much stock in film criticism and theory? Sometimes the stuff people wite about film is genuinely insightful, but other times it seems like a load of bullshit. Any recommended readings in that subject?

Thanks,
Evan

Dear Evan:

Your description of "The Moviegoer" reminded me of "Slacker," with the guy in the room full of TVs who tells of seeing some incident for real and not liking it because he couldn't rewind and watch it again. Or Chauncey Gardner in "Being There," when he finally leaves his room after years and brings the remote control with him and attempts to turn various people off along the way. Perhaps at some point I'll give "The Moviegoer" another try, but I almost don't read any fiction at all anymore. Regarding film criticism, a vital part of my early life was reading Pauline Kael's reviews. It's not like she and I agreed on everything -- as an example, she was a big fan of Robert Altman and "Nashville," and I didn't like it -- but she was incredibly insightful, and could see more in most movies that was legitimately there than I could. For the most part, however, I think film criticism is worthless, and generally written by people who have no idea what they're talking about, who just came off the sports desk and are slumming as a film critic until they get to some other kind of journalism. There isn't a film critic working that has anything to say that I need to hear.

Josh

Name: Curtis Smith
E-mail: wingnut63@mynewroads.com

Greetings:

I just finished reading your rant and I just had to drop you a line praising your insight. Your conclusions mirror my own. I have used the same rhetoric for many years while convercing with the faithful. As a result, I have reached the inescapable conclusion that I have been wasting my time. Acceptance of any religon renders the mind incapable of critical thought. Logic and reason cannot penetrate such minds. Nevertheless, I salute you for trying. Keep up the good fight.

Yours in spirit, C. Smith

Dear Curtis:

I take it you're referring to my essay, "Religion is Evil." Like the Nazi Youth, religion brainwashes people very young, and then it's almost impossible to ever get them back. Still, a few impressionable youths may stumble across my essay and get something out of it. The older I get the more utterly absurd it seems to me that so many people buy these silly childish fairytales as deep important truths, and that they seriously believe that their "god" wrote their holy book, to the exclusion of the other guy's holy book. Everybody is so frightened about everything that if they don't have a convenient little answer for every question they'll just drop dead out of pure fear. Religion is worse than the opiate of the masses, it's the mental retardation of the masses.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Why are you so entertaining when you're pessimistic? I'm sure it's not intended, but that kind of tone reminds me of the talking horse on Gulliver's Travels. "Oh teach me your wisdom" "Fuck no, you're a Yahoo, you're only good for eating, drinking, shitting, fucking" "I can't be a Yahoo, I can create art. I have science. I have love." "Go back to your mud you fucking Yahoo; Strip him naked!" "But what if I can prove I'm not a Yahoo?" "You can't convince me, fuck off, stay away from my perfect forests. Stay away from my lovely streams. It's too beautiful for you to turn into a shopping mall"

But why, out of all the years of creation, if our lives were so meaningless, if love and family means nothing, if our whole lives are shams to serve others into growing fat, why would we create a novelty, and for a few decades, turn it into such a beautiful art form of expressionistic storytelling (once again, BLACK NARCISSUS, applauds), then return it into a novelty (MR AND MRS BULLSHIT, KING KONG 9.0 OPTIMIZED SE) and kill ourselves. What meaning in life is that?

Dear Q:

Life has no inherent meaning, only what you or I invest it with. I say that movies are meaningful, my dad thinks golf is meaningful, my neighbor thinks having many boats is meaningful. Ultimately, though, none of it means shit. You live, you die, you turn to dust, just like the previous 25 or 30 billion people who lived and died here. If you think your life has any more or less meaning than some kid living in a grass shack in Sumatra, you're kidding yourself. We are the human-shaped bacteria who are presently trashing our planet. When we're gone, other human-shaped bacteria will step up to replace us. I keep hearing filmmakers say shit like, "I may die, but my film will be around forever." Really? We're dealing with a form, not even necessarily an art form, that has been around for just over 100 years, which is diddly-shit in the scheme of history. I wouldn't even be slightly surprised if motion pictures no longer exist in 100 years, or even 50 more years. I repeat the old adage, "Live today, for tomorrow you die."

Josh

Name: pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Did you like the movie "Better Luck Tomorrow"? I thought it looked damn good considering it was made for about $200,000.

Dear pete:

I saw it and it went in one ear and out the other. I do recall not minding sitting through it, though.

Josh

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

Josh, just to clarify a point about "Phantom Menace". That film was in fact shot on 35mm. Apparently they even had to reshoot a number of scenes because the tunisia footage was ruined due to sand in the gate. Lucas has said in numerous interviews that Star Wars 5 (Clones) is the first SW film shot in HD. And it looks it, even though half the frame is CG anyway. The people footage definitely looks cheaper than that in Phantom Menace.

And I agree, it's kind of perplexing to me that Star Wars is seen as such an important film treasure. I remember seeing the first one and thinking it had good special effects and an OK story, but it pretty much left my mind afterward. I know filmmakers that say they got into moviemaking because of Star Wars and that just seems very pathetic to me. Although I don't hate the films, they just seem so insignificant to me that I can't understand why they were and are a topic of cinematic discussion. What am I missing?

Dear Jim:

What your missing is that the majority of the movie-going population is as stupid as a box of rocks, and if there are enough commercials and press for anything they'll all go see it. The five uninspired sequels to "Star Wars" are a money-making, toy-and game-selling franchise, all meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which they clearly did. Taking the "Star Wars" series seriously is like trying to take the Tarzan series seriously, and quite frankly, I'm more interested in Tarzan. And all of the filmmakers who were inspired to go into filmmaking due to SW are all making garbage.

Josh

Name: rob
E-mail: habejr@mac.com

Dear Josh,

I recently attended a lecture (which turned out to be a silly book signing) with one of the exec producers of the Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. The guy was in his mid thirties, and seemed politically correct and intensely coached in all his answers. I was the only one there who asked any real film questions and all I got were BS answers that led back to his new book. So, my questions: Have you ever been forced to act like that to benefit a production? and also, What exactly is the difference between an executive producer and a producer. I asked and he said "The contract." Then he told us about his book some more.

Also, a little mini question: I know you hated the new War of the Worlds (I'm with you)and I'm not sure if you saw or what you though about Munich, but what do think about Spielberg's ability as a director in general. Thanks for answering all the questions. You are really one of the most helpful sources I've come to find in this industry (you know, direct, minus the BS - unlike the narnia guy)

Thanks again, Rob

Dear rob:

I've never done a press tour for anything, so no one really gives a crap what I think. I have been on a few panels at film festivals, and I've always tried to answer any question put to me as honestly as I can. Regarding Spielberg, I think he has his head up his ass, and I have no doubt that "Munich," a remake of a TV movie ("The Sword of Gideon") is a confused mess. He used to set up shots well, but he doesn't even do that anymore. I think his career was over after "E.T."

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What's the coolest video/dvd rental store you've been to (excluding anything online like netflix, etc)? Where was it? There's a local one here in Tucson, AZ called Casa Video that has about 40,000 titles, including a wall of just about every Best Picture Oscar-nominees. I have a feeling you'd love it, not to mention your late friend Rick.

Dear Jeff:

It does sound good. Rick wouldn't have cared less since he didn't watch movies on TV, only at the theater (only in their proper formats). I don't really go into video stores.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Happy Holidays,

Just finished my seasonal breaking and entering at a couple of houses (I stole the cookies!) and can't wait for this kid to wake up in front of the tree (I moved her). I just thought about this, when you're a jewish kid and you get presents for eight days, which days are the best?

More movie related, I'm not quite sure I got that ending to OUT OF THE PAST. As Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer are driving in the car, they run into the police. Jane says its a trap and shoots Mitchum. Mitchum's real girlfriend then asks the deaf man if He was leaving with the girl and the guys nods yes. Did Mitchum set her up? If not, how did the police know to be there or did I miss something? Really, I thought Jane Greer was going to pull a Mildred Pierce and call the cops on Mitchum for Kirk Douglas's death. Aw well, good movie.

Dear Q:

I never got eight presents over eight days on Hannuka. We'd each get one check on the first day, and that was that. I've always hated this season. Perhaps because it's so gentile with all this talk of Jesus and mangers and shit, but more because it's so crassly commercial. It really seems like the creepiest time of the year. Meanwhile, I don't remember how "Out of the Past" ends other than the great line (which I stole for "Lunatics"), where Jane Greer says to Mitchum, "You don't know me, you don't know anything about me," and he says, "Baby, I don't care."

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Wow, you must really hate me now. I'm sorry about that. You should still probably see the last two Star Wars movies ... just to be fair to the series, because who knows, you might not completely hate Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith ... though I might be wrong and you may hate them the most. Not that you have any obligation to be fair to the series, but still ... oh well.

So, do you have any plans for the Holidays? I know you don't believe in a god or anything, but do you still celebrate Christmas or Chanukaha or Kwanza? You know, do the whole "here's a present, thanks for your present" kinda thing?

Mo the Cheery Elf.

Dear Mo:

I don't hate you, don't be silly. But I won't see those last two "Star Wars" films under penalty of death. I'd rather take a stick and go study the contents of the cat's litter box. My holiday plans are to grit my teeth and get through it.

Josh

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

Josh,

Your serial reactions to the Lucas offerrings mirrored mine exactly; shock that someone who so obviously had cared about the first film could drag so low in its successors. I was, and still am, pissed at Lucas.

I also agree with your assessment of "Vertigo". It should have had every reason to be a classic but was not. The bit where Stewart fails to ask the obvious weighs so heavily on the plot that its ridiculousness is self-compounding. A similarly aggravating plot device is where one lost lover leaves the room by door "A" just as wife enters the same room through door "B", this repeated endlessly. Critics tend to describe such machinations as Shakespearean, which must be code for "obvious and contrived." It annoys me no end.

Finally, I watched "Bend of the River" this afternoon. I saw that first somewhere back in the seventies but did not at the time understand what a professional cast it has. I wonder if you have had experiences where you came back to a film and realized that you should have recognised such and such a player the first time around. Of course, you approach watching film more clinically than I do and you, no doubt, covered many of those sorts of issues in your methodology.

I prefer Stewart in his hardened roles, for the most part, with exceptions like "Philadelphia Story" in which I thought he was perfect. I liked him in a lot of things, but for a guy who could play nice, he could also play fierce.

John

Dear John:

He sure could, and extremely well, too. I think he's great in "Winchester '73." I pretty much like all of those Anthony Mann westerns (and all of his B noir films, too). I've been pretty tuned into all of the Hollywood character actors my whole life, but it's always cool to see someone like Bruce Cabot when he was older and think, "That's the guy from 'King Kong'." Or seeing young Neil Hamilton in "Tarzan in His Mate" in 1934 and thinking, "Hey! That's Commisioner Gordon from 'Batman'." Oddly, I think, when I see a film again that I haven't seen in 20 or 30 years, I almost always have the same reaction that I did the first time. My taste as a kid and a young adult was pretty good, and consistent with who I am now.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have another couple of production questions for you.

Going back to "Running Time", I wanted to ask about the make-up on the actors since you shot on black and white.I'm sure there was probably none during the street scenes. My thinking on that is that it was hot enough out that any make-up would have been sweated off in just a few minutes. What about the interiors though? Anything particular in the shop that was used to make those main faces stand out any better on the black and white?

Last question is on music even though you have stressed in the past to stay away from it unless your really well financed.

What if you just want to use some music in your short that is for no financial gain.

The plan for my short is to just submit it a couple of film festivals and see what happens.

I'm guessing that you are going to tell me that nobody gives a damn whether it's basically a home movie or not. If it goes outside the 4 walls of my hovel and on the festival circuit then I probably ought to be ready to pay the Johnny Cash estate a whole lot of money in order to use that song that fits my short so well.

Your input,as always,is greatly appreciated.

Tim

Dear Tim:

All of the actors applied their own makeup on RT, and they each used whatever they thought was sufficient. But I had no hair or makeup people on that film. Regarding a short film, I'd say do whatever you want.

Josh

Name: DS
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In your 'every movie seen' list, I only see two Godard's listed. "Contempt," which you saw in a theater around 25 years ago, and "Breathless," which you saw on TV about twelve years ago. Did you just bail out of his others?

Meanwhile, I don't see any Antonioni logged either except for "Blow-Up" and "The Passenger." When did you see "Red Desert" and "L' Avventura?"

Dear DS:

I've bailed out on minimally four times as many films as I've sat all the way through. I used to constantly walk out of the theater and smoke cigarettes. Now I just delete them. But I'm very strict about only putting films I've seen all the way through on my list. I went to an Antonioni festival and walked out about halfway through of almost everyone of his films. The same goes for Andre Tarkovsky, and Sergi Eisenstein, too. I walked out of at least half of Fritz Lang's films, as well. Meanwhile, the theater and TV designation on that list stopped having meaning very early into the making of that list. I've seen "Breathless" in the theater since then, but I don't boher going back and marking such things. But if I kept a list of films I've watched at least 30 minutes of, it would be at least 10,000 films long. Now, with TiVo, I bail out on about two or three films a night.

Josh

Name: Evan
E-mail: ema3924@uncw.edu

Dear Josh,

Have you ever read Walker Percy's book "The Moviegoer"?
It's a very unique novel that has a lot to say about watching movies and how they affect how people view the world, especially the main character. It won the national book award, and I remember you saying that you collected those, so I figured you might have read it. If so, what are your thoughts on it?

Have a nice day,
Evan

Dear Evan:

I collect the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. I read about 50 pages of "The Moviegoer" perhaps 20 years ago and didn't get into it. What are your thoughts on it, and what makes it unique?

Josh

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

Josh,

When I went to see the great editor Walter Murch speak in the summer, he said something that was quite funny and a little bit of a dig with regards to his friend George Lucas.

He said that he is happy that "George is retiring the 'Star Wars' franchise and it should have stopped long ago." "He said it is the fault of George as much as it is the fault of the success of the franchise, and George promised me he would go back to the filmmaking style that they wanted to achieve when they all became part of 'American Zoetrope'".

Murch went on to say that "'Star Wars' went beyond its shelf life when it came to telling a story, and it should have never made it past 'The Empire Strikes Back'".

I actually like "The Empire Strikes Back", but I agree that "Return of the Jedi" was one of the worst films I had ever seen as well.

I too went to see "The Phantom Menace" and I was lucky because I saw it for free as I had a VIP pass. That is the film that pissed me off the most with this franchise as it was just a vehicle for effects and I realized Lucas has been telling the same fucking story over and over. I could also tell that it was shot on HD video which for me was difficult to sit through.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I've been listening to this horseshit about how "digital will change filmmaking forever" and "everything will be digitial next year" for at least ten years now, and it's just utter garbage. Digital at its very best looks like pornography. It's going to be a long time before a digital image comes anywhere close to film. The next response is always, "But shooting digital is so much easier." Yeah? So what? What's easier for the filmmaker means nothing! It would have been way easier to shoot "Lawrence of Arabia" in 16mm or 35mm, but they chose 70mm, with those enormous cameras which casued them to have to come up with new dolly systems and everything else. Why? Because it looks great, that's why. It's for the viewer, not for the ease of the filmmaker. The same thing goes for writing now. Coming up with a good story, working out a rational structure, figuring out who the characters are and what are their motivations is a lot more difficult than just writing shit on paper, which is what most scripts are now, and it's done for the same reason as shooting digital -- it's easier. It's much easier to build a little shack than a real house, but when you're done you have to live in a shack. That's where we are in the world of film. Meanwhile, all of the "Star Wars" fans are nothing more than suckers and pawns of the giant corporate machine. They're all buying Pet Rocks and convincing themselves they're diamonds. Let's get this straight: George Lucas is a hack filmmaker, and truly awful screenwriter. Five of those six "Star Wars" films were made for money and nothing else. If you seriously believe those films are art, you have your head way up your ass.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In regards to Truffaut, I agree that 400 Blows is his best film, but I also really liked Day For Night. Normally films about filmmaking rarely succeed, but I really liked what Truffaut did with the material. In regards to Goddard, I always thought he was an overrated pretentious hack. What did you think of Day For Night?

Dear Scott:

I don't think it's all that good. All of the relationships between the cast and crew seemed cliched, hackneyed, and just silly, and aren't very interesting. The filmmaking stuff is interesting, but not very incisive or illuminating. I liked the film a lot better as a kid when it came out. But when I watched it recently it seemed truly second-rate.

Josh

Name: Andres Anton
E-mail: antontondi@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I stumbled over this web page when I was 12 or something, and mostly disagreed with you then (although I found myself coming back to your comments over and over again). After five years learning from Hitchcock, McKee and other figures of the film world, I realize I respect you a whole lot, and could not agree with you more if I tried. 99% of all modern films ARE pieces of fecal matter, to be proper. I am eighteen today, and although I still think "Amores Perros" is a great film (although I recommended it to you a few years back if you remember) and "Family Plot" IS one of Hitchcock's few underrated gems, (as I also commented in the past), you have taken the words out of my mouth in the reviews of modern alleged "masterpieces". Your review of Sideways had me laughing out loud. Today, Hollywood has a pre conceived notion of what a smart and good "art" film is supposed to be. It either has Russel Crowe or Sean Penn on a role where they cannot change their facial expression, and they are about boxers, drunks, minorities or mentally challenged individuals. Oh, and they also win all of the oscars available. Biography films today are worse. Don't get me started with the waste of money "The Aviator" was, because I heard one of my friends say Martin Scorsese's films are MEANT to be boring, and that is the beauty of them. JESUS! No movie is ever meant to be boring. And no biography film was ever meant to be a documentary. I have only seen one good biography film in my lifetime, "Amadeus". And who would have thought? Mozart is not even the protagonist....

Anyway, I now get to my question, and I apologize for the long introduction, I just wanted to let you know that although we may differ on some opinions, I see your point, and I feel something needs to be done quickly. People today don't know what a good movie is. So my question is the following:

I can't help it wonder why Vertigo is such a masterpiece today and was received so poorly in its days. I wonder the same with "Marnie". I believe, with all my admiration to Mr. Hitchcock, that the writers could not handle these screenplays very well. The only example I have of Samuel Taylor is the later "Topaz" which the master himself said was a terrible film. My personal opinion is that Vertigo's huge emotional baggage and suspense would have been better handled if he had omitted the scene where Madeline writes Scotty the letter explaining everything. Without that scene, the climax would have been much more powerful and the audience would have gotten the back story anyway. Most importantly, Taylor and Hitchcock would have maintained a mystery throughout the second portion of the film. I know that curiosity is a great way for a writer to keep the attention of the audience. This is my opinion, but I have learned in my adolescence (which is not over; I am 18 today) that I can accept I had a wrong one if the other side is convincing enough. Could you explain the reason Taylor and Hitchcock decided to write and shoot this scene?

I honestly believe Marnie's screenplay needed a lot more work. Jay Presson Allen made a great number of mistakes in my opinion. I thought the main story to be amazing, but it is extremely hard to keep up with it. I believe more attention should have been put to the antagonist, Lil. Marnie was a very difficult protagonist, and her direction in the film was not clear enough. With a specific aim (even if it were as simple as getting rid of Mark) and a great antagonist to get in the way, the film would have been a delight and we might have gotten how strong this film actually is. I don't know, I just felt Diane Baker's character was a character to exploit. And it was everything but.

Dear Andres:

I'm not a very big fan of "Vertigo," although it certainly has things in it I like. But the central plot premise: that Kim Novack's character fell to her death, but then Jimmy Stewart meets a woman who looks almost exactly like her, but accepts that she's not same the woman seems like nonsense to me. I don't like plots based on the characters not exchanging vital information for no reason. If Jimmy Stewart had simply asked, "Are you the same girl?" the plot would end. Meanwhile, most of the movie is Stewart pulling up in front of a location, sitting in his car and watching her, Stewart pulling up in his car, walking slowly to a front door, knocking, going in, coming out, getting in his car and driving away, then pulling up somewhere else. For the mid- to late-50s period I'll take "Rear Window" or "North By Northwest" instead. "Marnie" is just a dumb script, which Evan Hunter had worked on for quite a while, after writing "The Birds" for Hitchcock, and finally got fired because, as he explains in his book "Hitch and Me," Hitchcock was somewhat out of his mind by that point. Also, there in fact are directors who have tried to be as dull as humanly possible, such as Michelangelo Antonioni, with films like "Red Desert" and "L'Avventura."

Josh

Name: pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

do you include documentaries in the list of movies you've seen?

Dear pete:

Yes, I do.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Did you see "Pi", and if so, what are your thoughts on it? Personally I found it very challenging to sit through. A fascinating, if slightly disturbing, film.

Dear David:

I liked "Pi." I thought it was an interesting story, well-directed and nicely photographed with a terrific look. I liked the twist of the Hassids coming into the story. Sadly, though, Darren Aronofsky seems to have nothing else in him but that one film.

Josh

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

Josh,

I've got three kids and, though they occasionally drive me nuts, on the whole it's been a wonderful ride. I've also been unexpectedly impressed by their friends and schoolmates, and the parents of those kids. Of course, my kids are at a Catholic school and I know that is culturally selective.

You mention people calling SRS if you discipline your kids in public. What amazes me is how ready society is to put kids on drugs. ADHD and related diagnoses are what really worry me. People too often try to "cure" immaturity, which is properly the role of discipline (in it's true, non-punitive sense) and time.

As for marriage, anthropologists seem to agree that humans are designed for serial monogamy. That may be a reflection of our previously short lifespans. Monogamist marriage was an economic union based on an agrarian society, and we're no longer agrearian. I don't find it at all surprising that concepts of marriage have evolved (except here in Kansas where we don't believe in that sort of thing).

On that subject, there is at least one intelligent mind in Pennsylvania, and he's a judge. Actually, I applaud the voters there who booted out the Intelligent Design school board members as soon as they announced the changes to the science curriculum. Now, if only Kansans would follow suit.

Hope springs eternal,
John

Dear John:

The ruling that judge came down with is great, very well-reasoned, and it will hopefully be used as a precedent from here on out. Intelligent Design is nothing more than sham purported by religious zealots trying to undermine one of the basic foundations of our society, the separation of church and state. It needed to be struck down hard, and it was which is terrific.

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

I was just wondering what the scoop was on your book. There are a number of friends for whom I want to buy copies (I was constantly referring people to the online version when it was up). Did the publishing date get moved back from Christmas? Any word on when it will be available? Also, will it be possible to mail copies to you for signing?

And a film related question - What did you think of Alphaville?

Keep up the good work!

Aus,

Mike

Dear Mike:

I await the release of my book just as you do. Clearly, the Christmas release was missed. Hopefully, however, it will be soon. I've seen a great deal of it layed-out and it looks good. And yes you will be able to send the book in for signing if you'd like. As for "Alphaville," I thought it was boring, although I did like the idea of making a science fiction story that's set in the future, but shooting it 100% contemporary and not explaining it. The underlying idea being that the future looks a whole lot like today (or 1965, as the case may be). The only Godard film I'm a fan of is "Breathless," which I really do think was groundbreaking. After that, Godard's whole career is just a search for a lost moment. In some sense I see Truffaut the same way with "The 400 Blows," nothing he ever did afterward was as good.

Josh

Name: sandy
E-mail: sexysandy456@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I actually enjoy unbreakable and i think you are taking it the wrong way. It is not a crappy unbelievable story it is a crafted story, not everything is meant to be real i films, it is a stretched version of the truth if there is any and usually there isnt meant to be a truth just a story where meanings in our lives are shown in a metaphorical type senario to give things meaning. For the camera and editing style this is a style that yes most people will find boring but thats is today what makes films different which is kinda hard now days. Its a different film yes but no ridiculous.

Dear sandy:

No, let me guess. Are you from Uzbekistan? I truly hope you are indeed sexy Sandy because film criticism may not be your calling. But if you liked "Unbreakable," then god bless you.

Josh

Name: Beth
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I got the chance to watch "the Little Foxes" the other day. I enjoyed the movie and the story. Although was thoroughly upset whenever the movie ended directly after the climax of the story. I know that Lillian Hellman is considered to be a great playwright, but that just seems to be shoddy work in my opinion. I did enjoy seeing Betty Davis, I don't think I've actually seen a movie with her in it, so it was nice to watch a professional. A question is it just me, or is it few and far between that there are any good actors out there? I mean there were other good actors in the movies, but a good part of the cast lacked for me. In particular the actress who played Betty Davis' daughter.

I have a question that is off topic of movies, but sort of on topic for what you have been discussing lately. In your reply to Kat you started with the statement of Jeez I thought this was a forum for discussing movies. I ask you why if you felt that her question so inappropriate did you answer it? I noticed, ironically, that it tumble into a thread of people asking you about children and marriage or making their own statements. Surely you had enough foresight to see that such a thing would happen, as it is true whenever you express your opinion in this forum, people make a comment about it.

Cheers,
Beth

Dear Beth:

I just try to keep it on track occasionally, and ostensibly the topic is movies, not Josh Becker. But since I enjoy the whole experience of this forum, I mostly just go with whatever happens. Meanwhile, I don't even know what you're saying regarding "shoddy" workmanship on Ms. Hellman's part since you did not express a complete thought. I think the rest of the cast is uniformly great. The daughter is played by the very young Theresa Wright, whom I love, and who was nominated for an Oscar that part. Herbert Marshall as her husband is perfect, Dan Duryea as her younger brother is also perfect. Nor did you even comment on the direction or photography, which are stunning.

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Robert Rodriguez wanted not to adapt the comic to film, but translate it to film, so it was absolutly crucial that he made it black and white and then put in the color later. Crucial, I say, crucial.

Backing up to Star Wars a bit. I apologize, because I know I said I wouldn't keep discussing this, but since you didn't mind the first Star Wars, why is it exactly that you hate the sequels/prequels? I know you said they're pointless, but why is it you think they are? Granted, the prequel trilogy probably wasn't needed, but Empire and Jedi both seem like they have to be there in order for the first one to make sense.

Or at least they do if you're like and me follow the story or Star Wars religiously. I mean ... ending it with the Death Star blowing up would be a bad ending to a series if you ask me. Especially with the whole Vadar being Luke's father aspect. And not going a little bit more in the Rebel alliance? All of these things seem like they're important parts of the story that if they were all crammed into one movie, it would have sucked.

Anyway, in your opinion, why are they not needed?

Cheery Saint Mo.

Dear Mo:

Apparently, there's no way out of this. The first film entitled "Star Wars" is a complete experience, and is the only film in the series that is a complete, whole thing. All of the other five films are tacked on to keep it going, and going, and going . . . To keep us paying and paying and paying . . . George Lucas was inspired to make the first film, and that's it. The others are nothing more than the corporate machinery running; the building of a franchise. The fact that George Lucas had a scheme to keep the franchise going means nothing to me. I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" the day it opened, and pretty promptly fell asleep. Admittedly, I had been shooting on "Evil Dead" all the night before, but the film was such a monumental let-down -- it was sort of like the first one, only completely lacking the giddy inspiration of the original, now taking itself deathly seriously, and now oddly moving at a grim snail's pace but with three times the editing. It was all a sad, horrible realization, and I remember it very clearly to this day -- about 30 minutes in it finally dawned on me, "Oh, man, this sucks." Meanwhile, cut to me three years later sitting there in the theater on the opening day of "Return of the Jedi," as optimistic and as eager as anyone in the theater, thinking to myself, "Well, 'Empire' wasn't all that good, but maybe Lucas has gotten his shit together since then." I was then presented with what I still consider to be one of the ten worst movie-going experiences of my life. I didn't dislike the film, I HATED IT!! It gave me a headache, then made it progressively worse for the next 131 minutes. I think it is a hateful movie. I would happily sit through "Plan 9 From Outer Space" three times in a row than have to sit through "Jedi" again. 20 years later when Lucas decided to resuscitate the franchise, not for the sake of art, not because he actually had anywhere worthwhile to go with his dreadful soap opera, BUT STRICTLY AND ENTIRELY SO THAT HE AND 20TH CENTURY FOX COULD MAKE MORE MONEY, I was not there with him. I did finally watch the "The Phantom Menace," the 4th film in the series, on DVD and it's truly awful. Worse than I actually anticipated. So I have not seen the next two, numbers 5 and 6. Now, can we stop discussing it?

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Okay, no Star Wars for you, though, if you don't believe me, watch the documentary that comes with the Trilogy DVD. I know they show a shorter version of it on Tv sometimes, so I'm not telling you to buy the dvds (when I know you're not a fan of the series). Or actually, you could probably just rent the bonus disc for a buck and watch the documentary on that.

Ending that topic.

Another thing. Somebody awhile back on here brought up Sin City and the whole b&w footage, with a few things colored throughout the film, and you said something to the effect of it had already been done and therefor wasn't anything special. That's true, it's not really anything special, but Sin City was just a translation of the comic, which was inked like that. Mostly black and white, with a little bit of color thrown in. So don't blame the filmmaker, blame the comic book (which isn't a super hero comic ... you might like it).

Mo Mo Mo, Mo Mo Ma-Mo

P.S. Tatoos can be removed these days ... and techinically so could children, but I wouldn't recommend that.

Dear Mo:

Just because the comic book was inked that way doesn't mean the filmmaker has to make the film look that way. Meanwhile, I don't blame anyone for anything since I haven't seen the movie. And I certainly don't need to watch any documentaries about "Star Wars."

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

<<Live today for tomorrow you die!>>

That's depends on your definition of living. Is it going to foreign cities? I was drug to Germany, England, The British Virgin Islands when I was younger. What's more to see? Rome? Is it getting shitfaced at parties? I'm not a people person so they aren't my cup of tea. Marijuana? I liked it more than cigarettes and alcohol, but there are better things I can spend my money on like BLACK NARCISSUS. Money? Money can be taken away. Big House? I've seen the rich neighborhoods, they look nice but they're overkill. Since you can fit four people in a large one bedroom apartment, a tornado could tear up that entire fucking neighborhood, those people would not be worse off. Sex? been there, done that. My idea of living is seeing as many good movies as possible, which I seem to be pulling off right now. What's your idea of living? Seriously. We all have different goals.

Dear Q:

It's a big world, and traveling can fun. I harbor a dream of having a place in Europe, probably Amsterdam, but spending a lot of time in places like Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome. I like marijuana, cigarettes, sex, and "Black Narcisuss." My idea of living is to keep doing exactly what I want to do, which will hopefully always include making movies.

Josh

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

Josh,

With regards to marriage, I believe that women are more prone of the fear of being alone than men. Like you, I don't mind being alone at all and I need a lot of time for myself, maybe it is because I was the only boy with three sisters? I don't really know?

Fortunately, my wife understands. I think that is rare in a marriage, and of course we have our problems, but any relationship with anyone in life will have problems over time. That is just the nature of human relationships.

As for kids, you are right in many ways about your assessment of kids, however, you are also missing the positive side of them as well. There is a famous Brazilian writer that once said "Being a parent is like suffering in Paradise" and I think that nails having kids pretty much.

My son is past a year old now and I spank him from time to time when he is being difficult. I don't find any problem with that, he is my kid, and my parents spanked us, and my wife and I feel ok with that.

Kids are extremely self-centered at this age and they usually learn things like altruism as they get older through life lessons and such, but every motivation they have is to please themselves and in American society kids are so spoiled they don't learn these lesson anymore.

I also think that the obession with money and material possessions in this country has grown so out of control that kids cling to these things and as you said, they never find independence which is the greatest part of being an adult.

In a sense, small kids are very much like artists, in that they are only out to please themselves, and I think that is why most creative people act like big kids sometimes.

I have known you now for a while and while you never had kids and you feel you are an adult, you also have some adolescent traits as we all do. I don't believe in the inner child thing, but I do believe that if you had a pretty rotten childhood, you tend to not want to repeat those feelings or experiences as an adult (Not that I believe you had a rotten childhood because I don't know) and I believe we carry many things from out childhood to adulthood that never totally leave us.

Personally, I feel that having kids is healthy and as much as it is difficult, it is also a life experience that is pretty cool.

Just my two cents.

Scott

Dear Scott:

It's good you're moving to Brazil. If you continue to spank your child here in America, even if your wife thinks it's okay, and he goes into school one day and says, "My dad hits me," you've broken the law and before you know it social services will be at your door. Then you'll be put on list of "child beaters." That's America right now, and that gives the kids the upper hand. Now all kids can be little informers, and rat their parents out to the SS. This has happened to people I know, and they weren't even spanking their kid, he was just a colicy baby who wouldn't stop crying. But if the neighbors hear your kid crying in the night and call the cops, here comes social services again. Meanwhile, my childhood was fine. My dad hit me with some regularity, and even beat the crap out of me a few times, but I lived through it. The day came, however, when he tried to hit me and I grabbed his hand and said "Enough," and that was the end of him hitting me. This was an important day in my life, one which would never have occurred had he not been allowed to hit me in the first place. That was the moment I became a man, not my Bar Mitzvah.

Josh

Name: Mo
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Hi-oh! Hey, I was just watching a Star Wars documentary the other day, and I know you hate Star Wars something fierce, but I found something interesting.

See, Lucas was doing Star Wars before American Graffitti got released, and once it AG got release and was sucessful, 20th Century Fox said "Hey, maybe we should pay Lucas a little more money since he's a bit of a name now." and when the offered Lucas money, he said he'd rather have the sequel rights.

Now, if he wanted the sequel rights before Star Wars had even made any money, how could he possibly have made Empire and Jedi just for the cash?

Mo Mo Ma-Mo

Dear Mo:

What a dumb little story. There were four years between those films. And do you honestly believe there was ever a Hollywood studio that arbitrarily decided to give a filmmaker more money if they didn't have to? And do you seriously believe that all of the rights issues weren't worked out long before a foot of film was ever exposed? Come on. All of the contracts have to be written, rewritten, rewritten again, and signed before any money is released to shoot with. And hanging onto your sequel and ancillary rights is just good business, and anyone with any power at all is going to do exactly that, whether there's legitimately a sequel there or not. And to say I "hate 'Star Wars' something fierce" is to not understand what I'm saying. I liked the first one fine, I just think the next five were entirely unnecessary, and made strictly for the money, just like all of the "Raiders" sequels; just like all sequels. Meanwhile, I'd prefer not to get into a "Star Wars" discussion yet again.

Josh

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

Josh,

I like road films, but I do agree with you that it is a cop-out on the part of writing and coming up with a story.

I do believe that road films are good vehicles for Cinematographers and maybe that is what some of the redeeming qualities of them are for me even if the stories are already built-in so to speak.

I had a great literature course in college called "Road Narratives" and we not only read novels, but we watched films as well.

I think some road stories are much better as books than if they were made into films. My favorite Road novel is "A Good Day to Die" by Jim Harrison who also happens to be one of my favorite writers and is also originally from Michigan like us. (I think he lives in Arizona now).

Fortunately, this book has never been made into a film and I don't think it could be done that well. The same can't be said now for "On the Road" as Walter Salles, the Brazilian Director who did "The Motorcycle Diaries" is going to make it into a film.

I also like "The Alchemist" by the Brazilian writer Paulo Cohelho. Laurence Fishburne was trying to get the rights to that novel to make it into a film, but Coelho blocked it from happening, so it is limbo right now.

I also liked the novel "life of Pi" by Yan Martel. It is a Road novel, but on the ocean. This book is also going to be made into a film by the french director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Here is list in alphabetical order of some of the Road films I think are decent, but not all of them are what I consider great, however, I enjoyed most of them. I know your not a big fan of Wim Wenders, but he has made quite few road movies that I thought were pretty good.

I know you won't like most of these, so we can discuss the one's you think are worthwhile. I could be forgetting some, so maybe you can remember more.

Adventures of Felix (Drole de Felix) (2000)

Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore(1974)

Alice in the Cities (Alice in den Städten) (1974)

Badlands (1973)

The Blues Brothers (1999)

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)

Bound for Glory (1976)

Detour (1946)

Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Guantanamera (1995)

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

It Happened One Night (1934)

Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit) (1976)

Lost in America (1985)

Midnight Run (1988)

The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de otocicleta) (2004)

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Mystery Train (1989)

Paris, Texas (1984)

PowWow Highway (1989)

The Rain People (1969)

Roadside Prophets (1992)

The Road Warrior (1982)

The Straight Story (1999)

Sugarland Express (1974)

Thelma and Louise (1991)

National Lampoon's Vacation Vacation (1983)

Week End (1967)

Wild at Heart (1990)

The Wild One (1954)

Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dear Scott:

Good list. I don't think "The Wild One" is a road picture. They get to the town right away, and are there for the whole film. The same could be said of "Lost in America," where they're only on the road for a few minutes, between L.A. and Las Vegas. I forgot about "Pow Wow Highway," good choice. That was one of the last movies I saw that just enchanted me. I now realize that I was recently thinking about the little flashback to when they were kids and they're all picking on Filbert because he's fat, and he gets pushed down (by the kid version of A. Martinez, whom Filbert now thinks is his best friend). The little girl feels bad for him and gives him her banana, and that's who they're going to get out of jail. I love the fact that Filbert trades a bag of weed for his car ("My pony"). George Harrison produced that film.

Josh

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

Josh,

A list of good road movies (off the top of my head and in no particular order); "Midnight Run", "It Happened One Night", "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad,Mad World", "Harry and Tonto", "Paper Moon". I don't know if "Bonnie and Clyde" counts as a road picture; it has that aspect, certainly.

I know you didn't care for the Hope/Crosby road pictures but I did think that "Alaska", "Morrocco" and "Zanzibar" were fun. There were a lot of Westerns which used travel in a "road picture" sort of way; "Red River" comes immediately to mind. "The Wizard of Oz" is really a road picture in that traveling-encounters leading the central characters to self-discovery are the central plot device.

John

Dear John:

All good choices. I guess the cattle drive is the western version of a road trip. I can't go with "Bonnie and Clyde" as a road picture because they're not trying to get anywhere, they just keep moving between robberies. I suppose one could also include "The Grapes of Wrath" for a serious version of a road picture.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

<<Regarding marriage, my friend Paul was just telling me about a comic artist who got into trouble by bringing up "the 50 lies you must tell yourself every morning to stay married," which you sort of touched on -- marriage is wonderful, the sex is great, kids are terrific, it's a brilliant way to spend all of my money, I'm very happy, I couldn't be happier, etc.">>

That's not what I said, I said it wasn't THAT bad. You think its happy losing you're job when you have a kid? Kids aren't angels, they're little monsters that need to be disciplined (not abused) or they won't learn shit. We're happy some moments, not 24/7, sometimes we're ready to kill each other and walk out. And I can't vouch that I won't be divorced 20 years from now. (my parents didn't make it) But unless I wind up trapping myself in a job I hate for a house I don't want like the guy who blows his brains out in LA DOLCE VITA, I'm okay right now. Hey, I'm thinking about the years from now when I'm 80 like ON GOLDEN POND... that's on the fifty lies isn't it? That's it, I want to see the 50 list. I don't want to be one of those people who wake up saying that shit.

Dear Q:

Having kids is like getting a tattoo: once you've got it you'd better act like you like it, whether you really do or not, because you're now permanently stuck with it. The comic artist with the list is named Dave Simms, BTW. I don't worry about when I'm 80 because it looks like such a drag I don't care. It seems to me if you're 80 you're pretty much just waiting patiently for each of your bodily systems to give out. And if you're 90 you're basically just in a state of misery on the verge of dying. Very few couples make it into their 80s together; men simply don't live that long. The average lifespan of an American male is 75 years, and 80 for females (77.5 for both). So, on the average, you're not going to make it to a scenario like "On Golden Pond," so why bother yourself with it? Live today for tomorrow you die!

Josh

Name: Gregory G. Stangal
E-mail: trylontheatre@worldnet.att.net

Dear Josh:

As for THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the film played at the Madison Theatre; not the Music Hall. As for Cinerama, the screen had a 146 degree curve, not 160. My favorite theatre was the United Artists. Saw, SOUTH PACIFIC, SLEEPING BEAUTY, MY FAIR LADY, BEN-HUR and DOCTOR DOLITTLE to name a few. What a wonderful theatre that was.

GREG

Dear Gregory:

Yes, you are correct, Cinerama had a 146 degree curve. Are you sure about "Sound of Music" being at the Madison, not the Music Hall? You sound older than me, having seen "South Pacific" and "Ben-Hur" at the theater, so I'll defer to you.

Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

There is a movie coming out called 'The New World' about the founding of the Virginia Colony. Do you think you will see it and maybe review it? I don't know for myself. Colin Farrell plays John Smith, and it seems like he is always picked for these historical characters, like he is some big he-man or something. I really don't care for him. I was watching Ebert and the other guy's review about this movie and they both thought it was some big event, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. Finally, from the clips I saw, the Pochahontas character was very cute, but a bit unbelievable, where she went from speaking no English at all as an adult, to becoming almost fully fluent in a matter of weeks. Me thinks this movie is best avoided.

Dear Bob:

I'd say the chances are slim that I'll see it or review it. I don't need the aggravation. I think Colin Farrell is all right, but he keeps being miscast in just about everything. He does do a great American accent, though.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

<< I can't say that being single is better than being married since I've never been married. Although I must say, that for the most part marriage does look like a drag to me.>>

I'm going on my third year of marriage come January and it's not THAT bad, I was just kidding. It just requires a level of sacrifice and backbone (and you have to try to work your problems out before you go to bed every night). Plus you have kids trying to boss you around, and if you don't stand your ground and take their wailing they'll walk all over you. Then you have to work out sex which you can't ignore but you can't do with a kid in the house. And you both wind up saving each other from yourselves when you flip out. I mean, if that's not your cup of tea, more power to you. But I wouldn't look down on people who take the responsibility.

I got 40 dvds off your list for christmas. By the way, BLACK NARCISSUS is looking extremely beautiful for a film released between THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and DARK PASSAGE. And its amusing to see Jean Simmons play an indian. I like the scene where she's being beaten and the woman's screaming "THIS is for stealing! THIS is for stealing a necklace only worth 2 pieces! THIS is for stealing it in such a half-assed fashion! THIS is for getting caught!" Funny, in ROBOCOP and STAR WARS, you can see the seams when its a matte. In this film, you know its a matte painting but it all just flows together so well you kind of forget that this film was shot in a studio with minatures. I can't recall you really talking about THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, BLACK NARCISSUS, or THE RED SHOES, but maybe I wasn't looking.

Dear Q:

I've brought up "Black Narcissus" many times, and use it and Michael Powell as my main example of expressionist filmmaking in one of my structure essays. I have the Criterion DVD, and though it looks great, it doesn't look half as good as the original nitrate prints. They have one at the LA County Art Museum and pull it out once a year, although it's a big deal because they have to hire a fire marshall to be there anytime they show a nitrate print. Michael Powell's decision to not shoot on location, nor even use any stock shots, is an extreme one that really worked out. The use of mattes and miniatures is brilliant, and it's a very interesting, compelling story. I love Deborah Kerr's speech at the end about, "I can't get the old man off the mountain, I can't stop the wind from blowing, and you can just see too far." Or when the nutty nun puts on her red dress and goes to see the British guy, who spurns her. She says that he loves Deborah Kerr's character, and he hollers back, "I don't love anyone!" Oh, and Sabu is just great. When he and the British guy show up for Chistmas and he's drunk. Kerr throws him out and he rides away on the donkey singing, "Oh, I won't be a nun, I can't be a nun . . ." and Sabu says, "Doesn't he have a wonderful voice." I really love that movie. I like "The Red Shoes" and "Colonel Blimp" very much, too, but not as much as "Black Narcissus." I've got "Night Ambush," another Powell and Pressburger film, on my TiVo, but I haven't watched it yet.

Regarding marriage, my friend Paul was just telling me about a comic artist who got into trouble by bringing up "the 50 lies you must tell yourself every morning to stay married," which you sort of touched on--marriage is wonderful, the sex is great, kids are terrific, it's a brilliant way to spend all of my money, I'm very happy, I couldn't be happier, etc."

Josh

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

Josh,

That is a great story about Freeman and the phone call. I know of Schatzberg's background as a famous "Life" magzine Photographer, He had taken some great images in his day. I never seen "Street Smart", but It sounds great and I will try to see if I can find it and check it out.

I have seen "The Panic in Needle Park", but it has been a long time.

I really like "Scarecrow" and I agree that Pacino's performance is his best possibley ever. The gag with Hackman wearing all his cloths all the time is great!

The striptease scene in the restaurant was really funny.

I remember when I first saw it a longtime ago in college and the fact that the end of the film was shot in Detroit I remember was a big thing to everyone. The scene in Belle Isle where Pacino's character loses it in the fountain is tragic.

I really like the fact that Hackman says he doesn't "love anybody and doesn't need anybody" at the beginning of the film when he and Pacino meet, then by the end of the journey after Pacino's character snaps, he realizes how much he needs Pacino as a friend and vows to take care of him.

I think the phone call that Pacino's character makes to his wife is very difficult to sit through and you feel the breakdown begin.

A great road film.

Scott

Dear Scott:

The building where Renaissance Pictures and I were located in Ferndale, MI had a barbershop in it and we all got our hair cut there. One of the barbers, an older guy named John who was from Canada, had been an extra in "Scarecrow" in the barber college scene, and he mentioned it every single time he cut any of our hair. "Hey, y'know, I was in a picture with Al Pacino that they shot here in Detroit, uh . . . " The you'd add for him, "Scarecrow?" "Hey, yeah, that was it." Then he'd launch into the whole story once again. I'm not the world's biggest fan of road pictures, mainly because it allows most writers to totally cop-out on writing a story, but there have been a few good ones over the course of time. I'd say "Easy Rider" is a good one, and so is "Sullivan's Travels." Any others?

Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: Nansemondnative

Josh,

Happy Holidays as we approach them!

Thank you for your input on film and lighting.

I have another question on that film stock you used on "Running Time".

Going back to when that squib exploded and some blood got on the camera lens.

I noticed that right above the blood spot and right before the blur to the wall there is what resembles a "shooting star".I would place it in the upper right quarter.I know it's not a shooting star but that is what it looks like.There are a few other parts in the movie where you see a similar effect but not many and all in the exterior shots.

Is that kind of thing inherent in B/W 16mm film stock?

In listening to some of the commentary, you make mention of a film that was on the van's windows. Was that possibly a neutral density type film? Something similar to that you might hang over your lights sometimes?

Finally, and I'm sure this might sound stupid, but did you use any lens filters on any of the interior shots at any point in the movie? What about the exteriors?

Thank you for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

No, there was no use of filters. Given the slow film speed we never needed NDs outside. I'm not exactly sure what you're referring regarding the "shooting star." Perhaps it's some dirt on the negative, or a lens flair. One issue with B&W film stock is that it gets very staticy and attracts dust, due to the silver content in the emulsion. When I transfered the film to video the negative had to be taken down and cleaned every hour or two, which is a real drag when you're paying $350 an hour.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Speaking of remakes, which version of Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much do you prefer? I recently watched the remake and enjoyed it. I love the look of the film, and I thought the performances were strong. I also liked the original, but it's been a long time since I've seen it. Do you feel that the remake was needless, or is it one of the exceptions to the rule?

Dear Scott:

They're pretty different movies. If they didn't have same name I'm not sure people would necessarily connect them. I saw the 1956 version as a kid and it blew me away, but I don't think it holds up all that well. There's a lot of running around, and the guy only having a pistol at the end is ludicrous. I think the first version was more amusing.

Josh

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

Josh,

"Scarecrow" finally made it to DVD and I watched it the other night. I haven;t seen that film in over 15 years. As road films go I think it is quite good.

It actually holds up quite well and Vilmos's camera work is excellent as usual.

What do you think about that film?

Scott

Dear Scott:

I also saw "Scarecrow" again not too long ago, and I agree, I think it's a good film. Gene Hackman and Al Pacino are both terrific, and I don't think Pacino has ever given a performance like that one again. It was also partially shot here in Detroit, which was a big deal for us at the time. I love the fact that Hackman wears all of his clothes all the time, which leads beautifully to the ending. The director, Jerry Schatzberg, also did another very good film, "Street Smart," which launched both Morgan Freeman and Kathy Baker's careers, and I think it's Christopher Reeve's best performance, with a really solid script by David Freeman (as a little anecdote, after I had seen "Street Smart" for the second time the week it opened, and was seriously impressed with the script, I opened the phone book, looked up David Freeman, and there he was in West Hollywood, so I called him. The phone rang once and a voice said, "Hello?" I asked, "Is this David Freeman?" The voice sounded very guarded and hesitantly said, "Yes." I asked, "The David Freeman who wrote 'Street Smart'?" Even more hesitantly he answered, "Yes." I said, "I just wanted to say that I'm an aspiring screenwriter, I've seen 'Street Smart' twice this week, and that's a great script." There was a long pause, then Freeman said, "I've been out here in Hollywood for years and this is the first fan phone call or letter I've ever received. Thank you." We ended gabbing for an hour, and he couldn't have been any nicer). Jerry Schatzberg, meanwhile, also did "Panic in Needle Park," Al Pacino's first movie, which is an interesting and grueling little film. Schatzberg was a big-shot Life Magazine photographer in the 1960s.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: basebalzac@hotmail.com

Hi Josh.

I thought of you the other day when I was sitting around, trying to come up with a list of my ten favorite movies. I noticed that a number of them were from 1962. And I put some more thought into it and came up with yet more great titles from the same year.

The amazing year 1962 gave us such films as: Lawrence of Arabia (Lean), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Aldrich), Hatari! (Hawks), The Exterminating Angel (Bunuel), Vivre sa vie (Godard), Jules et Jim (Truffaut), Ride the High Country (Peckinpah), Bachelor Flat (Tashlin), It's Only Money (Tashlin), Birdman of Alcatraz (Frankenheimer), Boccaccio '70 (Fellini, etc.), Merrill's Marauders (Fuller), L'Eclisse (Antonioni), Mamma Roma (Pasolini), Mutiny on the Bounty (Milestone), The Trial (Welles), Lolita (Kubrick), Cape Fear (Thompson), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Ford), Sanjuro (Kurasawa), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Richardson), Elektra (Cacoyannis), An Autumn Afternoon (Ozu), Tears on the Lion's Mane (Shinoda), Ivan's Childhood (Tarkovsky), Harakiri (Kobayashi), Knife in the Water (Polanski), The Miracle Worker (Penn), To Kill a Mockingbird (Mulligan), Long Day's Journey Into Night (Lumet)and Dr. No.

So I ask myself (and I ask you) if there has ever been a better year for movies than 1962. 1939 gets thrown around a lot as "the" year for great films, but what do you think?

Dear John:

It's great to hear from you. What's the matter, Terrence Young is unworthy of mention? And for 1962 you missed "The Longest Day," one of my favorite war films, as well as "A Kind of Loving," one of the best Angry Young Man films, directed by John Schlesinger. John Frankenheimer not only directed "The Birdman of Alcatraz" in 1962, he also did "The Manchurian Candidate" the same year. I heartily agree, 1962 was a great year for movies, and much more interesting and diverse than 1939. I don't know if there has been a better year for movies.

Josh

Name: Kat
E-mail: me_a_carrot@yahoo.com

Hi Josh

I just recently heard that you were unmarried. And excuse me for asking but I was just wondering why you have remained unmarried for a large part of your life? Do you prefer the bachelor life compared to married life? Or have you just not found the right person for you yet? It seems that most films these days fall back on having some sort of romantic storyline as a sideline, even in most sci fi films. Relationships are a large part of being human. I mean isn't that what most people on this earth are looking for? I'd say the best selling films are the romance/romantic comedies. You have yourself have written and directed an "unconventional" romantic comedy. It maybe true that we as a society have been "brainwashed" as to what real love is by the amount of "love at first sight", " meeting the perfect man/woman" type films that have been shoved at us. Even though Love/romance/sex is a big industry in the film world. But the feeling of having someone to care about and someone who cares about you, being that a life partner, wife/husband or just a close friend, is the strongest feeling of all. Would you recommend being single as apposed to being in a relationship? I know that sex and relationships aren't everything, but you must have thought about this subject. And no matter what you say, we all have the same urges, if ya know what I mean?.. Is it that you do prefer staying single rather than the hassles of being committed to someone? You may not even believe in marriage as a concept and that having a life partner is more satisfying. And again excuse me for asking but do you have a girlfriend?

Thankyou Josh

Take Care

Kat

Dear Kat:

Jeez, I thought his forum was about movies. I do have a girlfriend. Her name is Lisa, and we've known each other since she was 14 and I was 15. I can't say that being single is better than being married since I've never been married. Although I must say, that for the most part marriage does look like a drag to me. And, for the most part, I don't like kids. I find most kids to be impolite, grumpy, spoiled, and have no sense of humor. And this generation of kids will be unlike any other previously because you can't hit them, you basically can't say no to them, and they all have cell phones and call their parents every ten minutes, so they'll have no sense of independence. I have no problem about not having had kids. Lisa has three kids, and just the little bit of contact I have with them is perfectly sufficient for me. But I'll confess that I feel like I have an edge on most people because I've spent so much of my life alone that being alone is no issue for me, and I think it's one of the biggest fears for most people.

Josh

Name: Colin Hives
E-mail: colinhives@msn.com

Howdy Josh, regards again from Liverpool.

A quick question about sound. I believe on Running Time you used the trick of getting the actors together to just record their lines so you could get better quality audio. Was there a problem matching this to the film, time wise?

Is it good to foley in the real location?

Cheers
Col

Dear Colin:

Greetings from Detroit, Michigan, USA. Replacing dialog in post is done on every movie, what I did on RT that was a bit unique was that immediately after shooting each scene I had all of the actors crowd around the microphone and run the entire scene again wild, and all of the timing was very close the the performances they'd just given. The point was that the camera isn't always on the person speaking, so none of the wild sound was meant to synch up with the lips. In that first scene with the warden, the second it moves off his face I switched to the wild performance, then as it came back around on his face I switched back to the production track. Foley is always done afterward in a sound studio, and now most types of footsteps have been recorded on CD so you don't need to recreate them anymore (you run the CD through a keyboard, then you play two keys in synch with the footsteps). You still need to create sounds like jingling car keys or change in someone pocket or something, and that's also considered foley and it's also done later.

Josh

Name: Question
E-mail: ernstyanning@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

You said ALIEN was a remake. I thought COOL HAND LUKE was almost a remake of I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (both great) but there are distinct differences. Both are war heroes, but Paul Muni is innocent of a crime any one of us could've been drug into. Paul Newman is guilty of destroying public property, drunkness isn't an excuse. Paul Muni is given 15 years, and has a truly good reason to escape. Paul Newman only has two years so his attempts seem almost crazy (but then again, being put in the hole after his mother died would be emotionally breaking enough). It's hard to decide which one I like more, but I love the Warden in COOL HAND LUKE. Anything you can think of?

I saw THE WESTERNER recently, didn't that just kick THE BIG COUNTRY's ass? They're really good. My only complaint is that they should've put THE END titles right as Gary Cooper is walking out of the theater, cause that's when I wanted to applaud. The next scene with Cooper and Davenport is unnecessary as it doesn't add much and takes away from the impact.

Dear Q:

I completely don't agree with you. "The Westerner," although a damn good western, isn't in the same league as "The Big Country." The only connection between "Cool Hand Luke" and "I am a Fugitive" is the chain gang, otherwise they're entirely different. Whereas with "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" and "Alien," it's pretty much the same story, setting, and ending. One difference is the set-up, in "It!" a previous mission was sent out, everyone was killed except one person, and another ship is coming to get him, whch is the exact beginning of "Aliens."

Josh

Name: Barham - the "diehard" guy
E-mail: reverendweathers@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thanks for answering my initial DIEHARD question - didn't know it would lead to so much debate - sorry.

Anyway, I was wondering what you thought of THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. I know the Man with No Name series is essentially Yojimbo-expanded, but I believe this is beyond that of a great western, and also great as an epic narrative. The score is of course world-famous and terrific (and not the famous opening song either -The Ecstacy of Gold is phenominal, as well as the final showdown piece - both better than the "wah-wah-wah" theme) and Leone's obscure close-ups and quick camera cuts set up the action beautifully. Do you find Leone's methods of storytelling effective? Just Curious. Thanks.

Dear Barham:

No, I don't. Leone's techniques are interesting, but extremely self-conscious. But after "A Fistful of Dollars," which was 100 minutes long, Sergio Leone sucked up into his own mind and began making unnecessarily longer and longer movies. At 180 minutes "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is an hour too long, and it moves at a snail's pace. The same goes for "Once Upon a Time in the West," and even moreso for "Once Upon a Time in America." Personally, I think pace is a crucial part of storytelling, and I deeply resent movies that are way too long for no good reason, as I have no doubt the new "King Kong" is at 180 minutes. Most movies can't sustain a standard 120 minutes, but throw another hour in there and it's death to good storytelling.

Josh

Name: mitchell
E-mail: corzine321@aol.com

Dear Josh:

why did you stop showing worst case scenairo? i really enjoyed watching it.. please e-mail me back.
mitchell

Dear mitchell:

Why did I stop showing "Worst Case Scenario"? I guess you didn't read my little essay. I only worked on the show for a few days. You may be the show's one and only fan.

Josh

Name: Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I think "MASH" from 1970 used the 'F' word before 1971's "The French Connection". You have a great website here, Josh. Keep up the fine work.

Dear Stan:

That's two votes for "M*A*S*H."

Josh

Name: pete chen
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Was wondering why you have a picture from "Jurassic Park" in your fav films list right under "Junior Bonner", but no mention of Jurassic Park. What gives?

Dear Pete:

I didn't put it there, and it shouldn't be there. That Favorite Film list was one of the first things created for this website, when it was still not really mine, and the previous webmaster, who I'm eternally indebted to for creating the site, took liberties and inserted some of his favs with mine. I've been slowly weeding them out for almost nine years.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Just saw a little documentary called "Murderball". Have you seen it? Quadrapalegics playing a full-contact sport. Simply amazing, not to mention inspiring. I seriously cried at the end.

Dear David:

I heard it was good. I'll catch it on cable.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I believe that MASH (1970) was the first movie that said, "fuck". It is said to be an improv (as much of the dialogue was) that was left in. I would think there must be a movie made before the Hayes Code with profanity in it.
Kim

Dear Kim:

The Hays Code didn't come in until 1930, and I can assure you that there were no American movies with swearing previous to that. Joseph Breen took over in 1934 and that's when the code became somewhat strict. That stayed in effect until 1966. Meanwhile, "M*A*S*H" seems like an appropriate first film to say "fuck." It could have been "Midnight Cowboy" the year before, which was rated X, but I don't think anyone says it.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just read through your essay on the making of "Running Time".

I know it must have pissed you off when that squib exploded and some blood got on the camera lens although I didn't read anything about that in your essay.I thought that was one of the coolest parts in the movie.Don't get me wrong.There were may good parts in the movie but I really enjoyed that shoot-out scene.

The reason I'm writing is because you described using 64 speed Black and White film. You did that for a finer grain and sharper image. I'm guessing it was negative film.

Do you feel that I can go with the Kodak 7265 16mm Black and White for a simliar look? Kodak also has the 7266 film and both of these are reversal films.The 7266 is slightly faster.

Except for the exteriors in downtown Norfolk everything else is going to be inside.

That brings me to the final question concerning lighting in your apartment at the end of the movie.

I'm thinking you didn't just use the available light because of your slower film speed.

I've got (4) 250 watt practicals that I can place in different areas if needed.I have some higher wattages to work with but the practicals have always done nicely.

Do you remember what your interior lighting called for or what your set-up was specifically in the apartment scene?

I know some of this is old school to you but any insights would be appreciated as always.

Tim

Dear Tim:

There was a lot of lighting, we never just went with practicals. Kurt Rauf, The DP, had a very difficult time hiding the light stands and instead used a lot of clamps to hold the lights up. There are about a half-dozen lights hidden (we had 500Ks, 750s and 1000s) around my apartment in those scenes in RT. I used the 64 ASA stock for the fine grain and sharp image, but also just to give it an old noir look. Meanwhile, it's not a smart idea to switch from reversal stock to negative stock, because no matter what you do one will be a generation less than the other (you have to make a dupe neg off the reversal stock). Choose one or the other. And why would I be pissed off about blood hitting the lens? I did use that take, didn't I? I too thought it was cool, and it wasn't my camera that got sprayed with blood. And since I thought the squibs weren't big enough on the first take I had the pyro guy give me his biggest squibs on the next take (which he said would be "unrealistic"), and that's what you're seeing.

Josh

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

Josh,

Saw Peter Jackson's KING KONG last night. Loved it! One of the best action films I've seen since RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It had genuine emotion, good story, good character dvelopment, fantastic action sequences, etc.

But...it's a huge popular entertainment from the director of LORD OF THE RINGS, so I'm sure you're primed to bash it. Or is that unfair?

Let the hating begin.

Richard

P.S. A friend and I were having a discussion the other day about people and movies. Our point was that some people go into movies with positive intent. They want to be entertained, enlightened, challenged, etc. and the movie really has to screw up for them to feel they've been ripped off.

Then there are the other types of people who go into movies just waiting to start bashing it. It's like they're playing "Where's Waldo" with every potential screw up, faulty F/X shot, or narrative flaw they can find.

Which type are you?

Dear Richard:

I always hope for the best when a film begins, but I try not to intentionally put myself in a position of torture by seeing to new, big, knuckleheaded Hollywood spectacles I know I'll hate. The last thing on earth I need is to sit through is a three-hour version of "King Kong." There's barely enough story to sustain the original at 103 minutes, but at 180 minutes it sounds like some new rung of Dante's hell. And since I didn't like "Raiders" (which I went into with a completely open mind), that's not much of a comparison or recommendation for me.

Josh

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

Josh,

You regarded "Who's Afriad of Virginia Wolf?" (1966) as the first film to use expletives.

When I read that posting, I just finished watching "Patch of Blue" (1965) with my wife and there are certainly some expletives thrown around in that film, like "nigger" and "whore" to name a few. I know "whore" isn't that bad, but before this film, I recall "tramp" as being the word of choice.

Also, the word "white trash" is thrown around a lot in this film and I am wondering if that was ever used before in another film.? It is not really a harsh expletive, but it is interesting to note.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I love "A Patch of Blue," but those aren't really expletives, they're more politically incorrect terms. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" was the first American film to use expletives like: "Damn," "Goddamn," and "Bitch." I've seen French films from the early 1930s that used "shit" and "piss," as did the Italian films of the '40s and '50s. I don't know which American film was the first one to use "fuck" and "shit." "Shit" is definitely in "Patton" in 1970, and I think "fuck" is in "French Connection" in 1971.

Josh

Name: kevin fentress
E-mail: jorusty2002@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

what do you think of the four of them and how do they fell about it .

Dear kevin:

You must be referring to the Four Marx Brothers, and I've always felt that Zeppo was unnecessary.

Josh

Name: Lee
E-mail: lee.price@musicradio.com

Hi Josh

I saw 'The Sunshine Boys' on TCM this weekend. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It had a story AND it didn't treat me like I was an idiot.

The joy was discovering the backstory, the history, between Walter Mathau and George Burns. The writer left things unsaid; let the audience join the dots. It's the little things, like the fact that Walter can't remember his neice and nephews names, whereas George can remember his grandchilren's. These details add up to tell us that George has a heart; Walter's character couldn't give up showbiz and retire. The realisation that Walter's character is the tragic one is tremendous. A great example of projection. (His nephew says at the end, "This is the first time you haven't treated me like your agent." A great summing up of the film's theme, but not in a drum beating way).

I loved the scene where they finally did the sketch, although I have a hunch this scene has more power on the stage.

Why do film-makers look so far afield for their stories when we've got human relationships all around us? As humans we're constantly fascinated by our species. (What did Capra say... "What people want to see is people.") Who needs sfx?!? And if you are going to do a genre pic with sfx, make sure you ground the story with real characters with real problems - like Alien.

Such a simple thing - have real human interactions, reveal their backstory slowly to an audience - but so very FEW film makers get it.

Over and out.


Lee

Dear Lee:

My one big objection to "The Sunshine Boys" is that Walter Matthau is 30 years younger than George Burns, and there's a world of difference between a 55-year-old and an 80-year-old. My other objection is that their routine is not funny (I can also live without Richard Benjamin). Otherwise, Burns and Matthau are very amusing. I love the whole poking in the chest, spitting in the face issue. Sadly, though, a lot of the Neil Simon stuff isn't holding up over the course of time.

Josh

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

Josh,

The great bit about "It..." was that it plausibly (in a sci-fi sort of way) set up a situation where the monster HAD to be dealt with. Its contribution to "Alien" is, I think, the distinction you're always drawing between inspiration and theft.

On the more general subject of unnecessary sequels, TCM was showing Sinatra all day and I caught "High Society" (I'd seen it before, of course). I love the musical numbers (Crosby/Sinatra/Armstrong) but it's amazing to me , given the cast, how poorly it came out. Kelly was particularly off, doing a poor Hepburn imitation, and Celeste Holm and Crosby were seriously miscast. "The Tender Trap" came on after "Society", and was, I thought, a better effort.

To Scott (if I may); Brasil? Good luck with the move and keep in touch here. Reality TV is the clearest evidence of Hell.

John

Dear John:

"High Society" is, in my opinion, a useless musical remake with none of the charm or wit of the original. Everybody's miscast. "The Tender Trap" was okay, at least that's what I recall from having seen it on TV about 35 years ago. Speaking of Frank Sinatra, I just watched "The Joker is Wild," the story of crooner/comedian Joe E. Lewis who defied the mob and had his throat cut, then made a comeback. Sinatra is stuck delivering long comedy routines that are not funny, and he looks painfully uncomfortable. He only gets to sing at the beginning before his throat is cut, then it's all bad comedy for the remainder. Regarding "It!" I think "Alien" is a remake, but a one of the very rare improvements on the original. "Alien" really does follow the same plot, and basically has the same ending. They even returned to that plot for the beginning of "Aliens," of picking up the one surviving crew member. Apparently, the whole beginning of "Alien" comes from Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires," which I haven't seen. But the folks make the "Alien" films were definitely inspired by those older films, and took the whole thing a lot further, and better. I watched the first half hour of "The Life Aquatic" and it's entirely unwatchable garbage. One more complete waste of Bill Murray.

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

"I have certainly seen ["Gaslight"]. It's okay, but it's kind of a one-joke idea...I personally found it all a bit tedious. The schtick with the gaslight going down when he leaves is a good one."

Would you recommend the original (1940) British version over the American one? Interestingly, I read that MGM wanted the British version prints destroyed, as the remake was made so soon after it, and was rumored to be not as good. Perhaps its just a myth? Hoping you know.

Dear David:

I've never seen the 1940 version, but I'd like to. It's supposed to be quite a bit better.

Josh

Name: Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have you seen Orson Welles' "Mr. Arkadin" (a.k.a. Confidential Report)? I understand there is some controversy regarding the film, as Welles was banned from the editing room by the producer after shooting had been completed.

Dear Jeff:

It's awful. Welles at his befuddled worst.

Josh

Name: Graham Beaumont
E-mail: g.beau25@gps.southfield.com

Hi Josh:

If you died tomorrow, who would come to your funeral and what would you like your service ot be?

Graham

Dear Graham:

Seriously, who gives a shit?

Josh

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

Josh,

I will chime in about "Die Hard". I abosolutely agree with you about this film. In a sense, it is what it is and nothing more than that. In my opinion, Alan Rickman was slumming it and his talents are wasted in that film. (I loved "Sense and Sensibility") To say that his character is a stereotype is an understatement and that character has been done in so many films I would not have enough room to list them here.

I look at "Die Hard" as a b-movie with a huge budget and big names. It is hardly mentionable enough to keep talking about. Mildy entertaining at best or a good flim to start and take a nap to, but not to critique.

Meanwhile, Why are reality shows like "Survivor" so successful? Who the fuck knows? I have done my best to avoid working on them here in NYC and they are everywhere here. The main thing when someone gets on one here is that they say, "yeah, but the money is so good!"

To be honest, that is one of the main reason I prompted my wife to take a transfer to Brasil. I could not imagine my life in this business coming to doing Reality TV. Reality TV exists in Brasil and Europe now, but I know I can avoid it as opposed to living in NYC where I would do it "for the money!"

I will find other ways to be creative visually in Brasil.

Like you Josh, I wanted to be in this business to make films and tell stories, not to follow disfunctional people around with a DV Cam, shoot bad video, and make shit.

I would rather work on a great story and make it look good!

Just my opinion.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I'm with you, man. And I also agree that there's nothing to discuss with "Die Hard." Meanwhile, I just watched "It! The Terror from Beyond Space," and it really is "Alien," though nowhere near as good. But that's a good example of a remake that was worth doing, even though no one refers to "Alien" as a remake. But the first version is so cheap, and the monster is so piss-poor (Ray "Crash" Corrigan" in a bad rubber suit), yet it's a very solid story (by sci fi writer, Jerome Bixby) that a much better film was made from it. I also just saw Sarah Silverman's concert film, "Jesus is Magic," that I thought was pretty damn funny. Then I got home and watched Tina Fey's "Mean Girls," and I thought that was funny, too. Who says women aren't funny?

Josh

Name: David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I just saw a very fine film, and I must share my excitment. The film I refer to is George Cukor's "Gaslight" (1944), a remake of a film of the same name from just four years prior. What a wonderful movie all around: marvelous script, tremednous acting, scoring and directing. I could have sworn that Mr. Alfred Hitchcock had directed it (a fave of mine), it was so very much like many of his films in tecnhinique and style.

I did not see the film on your "favorites" list. How can this be, Mr. Becker? Have you not seen it?

Dear David:

I have certainly seen it. Ingrid Berman won Best Actress for it. It's okay, but it's kind of a one-joke idea. He's driving her nuts, and that's the entire film. Ms. Bergman does a fine job cracking up, but I personally found it all a bit tedious. The schtick with the gaslight going down when he leaves is a good one.

Josh

Name: dustin
E-mail: dustglas@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

evidently there was a film on tcm this weekend that featured dogs dressed as humans with wires holding them up and voices dubbed over their barking. from what i gathered from the guy that saw it, the plot involves a canine couple trying to fix a football game. i tried to find out what it was on tcm's website but couldn't find any info and all my google searches turned up squat.

any ideas?

by the way on a much belated note, alien apocalypse is the best thing to air on the scifi channel in ages. thanks for the excuse to party.

Dear dustin:

Hey, thanks. Although most of Sci Fi's movies are truly unbearable. I've seen a short on TCM a couple of times that's a western with monkeys in cowboy outfits riding dogs like horses that was pretty amusing, but I don't know what film you're referring to.

Josh

Name: Jeremy Milks
E-mail: admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:

Die Hard isn't really the same as Aliens. Aliens is more science fiction, so to compare the two isn't exactly fair.

Bruce Willis is my favorite actor (there are better actors than Bruce Willis, but he's my favorite ... if that makes sense), so that might add to my liking of Die Hard a bit.

I think the thing I like the best about it is the characters. Yeah, McClaine is damn near invincible, and that's a flaw of almost all action movies, but I like the smart ass remarks he makes (oddly, this is one of the reasons I like you as well). Also, even though Alan Rickman is playing a cookie cutter baddie, I still like him. It's like, he's slightly psychotic, but he's a reasonable man and if he weren't trying to kill you, you could probably get along with him.

I don't know. I'm also a fan of the one liner. In this case, "yippie ky-aye mother fucker." I hope I spelled that right ... or close enough to right.

Jeremy Milks

Dear Jeremy:

Seriously, I think we've beaten the "Die Hard" horse to death.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

The Six Degrees game is pretty fun, especially if you're, say, bored while on a long cross-country car trip, or drinking a lot of beer in your backyard waiting for a grill to warm up or something. I've played Six Degrees of Ted Raimi too. You're at most two degrees from Bacon, since you shemped next to Embeth Davidtz in AoD, and she was in "Murder in the First" with him.

I think everyone is pretty much saying the same thing about "Die Hard" - what made it better than a run-of-the-mill action film was all sorts of little character things relating to Bruce Willis - getting his feet cut up, having a personal motivation beyond just "I am the hero of the film," the classic "yippie-ki-yay" line, cursing his head off like a teenager while in the middle of the fight with Alexander Gudunov, etc. Plus the twist of a terrorist strike really just being a heist. I think in retrospect, a lot of the excitement over Alan Rickman's character was simply reaction to an interesting new actor that American audiences weren't familiar with. And the late 80's was the era of Chuck Norris and Schwarzenegger action films, so the fact that "Die Hard" was halfway enjoyable and had some funny bits sort of makes us remember it as being more special than it really was.

And I think your double-spacing correspondent is actually a 'Mite, infiltrating prior to the upcoming invasion. Sounds like them anyway.

So updates on "The Horribleness" and "Lost in Dino World?" And is "Cascade Effect" gathering dust now, or have you heard from Sci-Fi on that recently?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

I agree with all of that about "Die Hard," but that still doesn't make it a "great" film. To me it's still one of those action movies where six guys can fire Uzis on full automatic at the hero and not hit him, which is just stupid. Fact: humans can't outrun machine-guns. WWII Marine hero, Al Schmidt, held his position on Gaudalcanal all night, killing about 185 Japs, after he was blinded by a grenade, strictly because he had a machine-gun. Reality does matter, unless you're making a fantasy film like "Lord of the Rings." Regarding "The Horribleness," we're still waiting for the contracts to be signed, or not. The possible deal I had for "It's a Lost, Lost World" ("Lost in Dino World" was Lucy Lawless's title) has fallen through, so I'm working on others. "The Cascade Effect" is undoubtedly collecting dust at Sci Fi Channel.

Josh


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