Name: Saul Trabal
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:
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.
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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.
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."
Name: Judie Luffsey Fischer
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Name: Timothy Breeding
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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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?
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
Also, how "thrilled" are you that the superbowl
is gonna be in Detroit this year.
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.
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
...and don't call me Dick.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Congrats - that's awesome news about book #2.
Just a quick note, in case some of your fans may be
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.
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
Name: Peter Franks
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
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
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
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."
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
Thought I'd share.
Support your indepedent video stores or you'll lose
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.
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
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
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
Name: David R.
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?
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.
Name: David R.
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.
Hope springs eternal.
Name: Saul Trabal
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Name: Gilbert Smith
I've done a couple short films with my roommate recently,
and I wanted to know if you could give me your opinion
Name: Peter Franks
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
P.S. Some guy mentioned Bruce and Ted having Myspaces.
Are they real or bull?
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.
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.
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?"
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?
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
Name: Jason Roth
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!!!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
"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!
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.
Name: Peter Franks
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Name: John Hunt
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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."
Name: Jason Roth
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
"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,"
"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?
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.
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!
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.
Name: Trey Smith
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?
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
Name: David R.
"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!
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.
<<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.
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.
I just read something to the effect of "good films
like BrokeBack Mountain".
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
I have just watched "Scarface" again after
having not seen it in years in addition to "Raging
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
Just my opinion.
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.
Name: Topher Rhives
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?
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
"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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"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."
Thanks for the sincere and well thought out response.
I could have just as easily gotten a "screw you",
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,
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.
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
Name: Peter Franks
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Being a good director is based primarily on having
discriminating taste, of knowing what's good and what's
bad, and why."
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
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,
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.
Name: Topher Rhives
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.
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.
Name: pete chen
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?
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.
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
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?
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.
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
Mrs. Sarah McDonald
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.
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
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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
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.
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.
"I liked Lost In Translation. I think the fact
that it was going nowhere is the whole point of the
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.
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.
Name: Trey Smith
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.
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
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.
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.
Name: David R.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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.
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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
Also, that damn "You wanna suck my titties"
song get's stuck in my head so damn easily.
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.
Name: Peter Franks
Dear Mr. Becker,
Please excuse my ambiguity, I intended on the differences
between cinema and an hour-long television series.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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...
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.
Name: mark sawicki
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
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.
Name: Sujewa Ekanayake
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:
And here's my web site for my new film Date Number One
(& other work):
Looks like you are very productive, looking forward
to checking out some of yer flicks at some point.
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
Name: Brady Rice
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.
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.
Name: Jeff Alede
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"?
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.
<<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.
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
On the hollywood walk of fame, who was Goodhart that
has a star with lassie and rin tin tin. What show was
Goodheart was a dog who starred in a
series of silent films, like Rin-Tin-Tin.
Name: Peter Franks
Please inform me on the creative and practical differences
between television and film-making.
Could you be more specific? Making TV
shows is filmmaking.
Name: John Hunt
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,
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
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.
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.
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)?
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
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
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?
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.
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?
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,"
<<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
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.
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?
Read my essay, "Being
a PA," it explains everything.
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
I noticed you keep getting requests for your old short
films to be put online. This was just posted a few days
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.
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.
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).
I watched a pretty neat older flick the other night
callled "Ship of Fools" with Lee Marvin and
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
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
Have a good one.
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?
Name: Bird Jenkins
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.
P.S. YOUNG GUNS 2 is now airing on American Movie Classics.
Never before has anything felt so right.
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.
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
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
Name: Stan Wrightson
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.
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.
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
Do you plan on reviewing any of the aforementioned films?
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:
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!!
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?
Name: David R.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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?
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
Name: in headlights
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.
Name: Jake Dexter
Weird play man, esspecially becasue my realy name is
jake dexter....where;d you come up with that
I have no idea what you're talking about.
Name: John Hunt
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,
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."
Name: Jeff Alede
How you watched the HBO drama "Six Feet Under"?
Now that's damn good tv.
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.
Name: David R.
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
Some random questions I know, but hopefully you will
oblige. Thanks for having this cool site.
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.
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.
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.
Name: Jason Roth
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!
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.
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
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.
Name: Andy Decker
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
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.
Name: pete chen
Is "Gunga Din" also an error in your favorite
films list like "Jurassic Park"?
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.
Name: Pilalidis George
I wish to you to you family and friends a happy new
and of course the same i wish and to shirley, a happy
From George, Daniela, and Alexander Pilalidis:
The same to you, and everyone else out
there, a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Josh & Shirley
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
I'm hoping there's a huge difference between docs. and
fiction when it comes to all those pain in the ass rules.
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.
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.
There were a couple of unfinished films
along the way, but for the most part we all finished
our films. Read my essay, "Making
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?
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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
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
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.
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.
Well, now there's a truly worthless
cause. If you don't like sit-coms, don't watch them.
Name: Random Filmmaker
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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
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.
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.
"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?
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.
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
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.
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
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.
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.
Name: Jonathan Moody
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.
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.
Name: Saul Trabal
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?
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
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
"You are arrogant cheeky honest
and unfortunately ultimately brilliant!" Wow, that's
some sentence. I hope you're right.
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
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
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.
Name: Curtis Smith
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
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.
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?
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."
Name: pete chen
Did you like the movie "Better Luck Tomorrow"?
I thought it looked damn good considering it was made
for about $200,000.
I saw it and it went in one ear and
out the other. I do recall not minding sitting through
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?
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.
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
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."
Name: Jeff Alede
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Name: John Hunt
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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'
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.
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,
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
Name: Andres Anton
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.
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"
Name: pete chen
do you include documentaries in the list of movies
Yes, I do.
Name: David R.
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,
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.
Name: John Hunt
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
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
Hope springs eternal,
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
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
Keep up the good work!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Anyway, in your opinion, why are they not needed?
Cheery Saint 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?
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.
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
<<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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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)
The Blues Brothers (1999)
Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
Bound for Glory (1976)
Grapes of Wrath (1940)
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)
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
Name: John Hunt
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.
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.
<<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,
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
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!
Name: Gregory G. Stangal
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.
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
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.
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.
<< 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.
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
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,
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
"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?
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
Name: Colin Hives
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,
Is it good to foley in the real location?
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.
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.
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."
Name: Barham - the "diehard" guy
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.
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.
why did you stop showing worst case scenairo? i really
enjoyed watching it.. please e-mail me back.
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.
Name: Stan Wrightson
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.
That's two votes for "M*A*S*H."
Name: pete chen
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
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.
Name: David R.
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.
I heard it was good. I'll catch it on
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.
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
I just read through your essay on the making of "Running
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
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
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
I know some of this is old school to you but any insights
would be appreciated as always.
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
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,
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.
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
Which type are you?
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.
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.
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.
Name: kevin fentress
what do you think of the four of them and how do they
fell about it .
You must be referring to the Four Marx
Brothers, and I've always felt that Zeppo was unnecessary.
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
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.
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
Name: John Hunt
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
"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.
Name: David R.
"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
I've never seen the 1940 version, but
I'd like to. It's supposed to be quite a bit better.
Name: Jeff Alede
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.
It's awful. Welles at his befuddled
Name: Graham Beaumont
If you died tomorrow, who would come to your funeral
and what would you like your service ot be?
Seriously, who gives a shit?
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
I would rather work on a great story and make it look
Just my opinion.
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?
Name: David R.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Name: Jeremy Milks
Die Hard isn't really the same as Aliens. Aliens is
more science fiction, so to compare the two isn't exactly
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.
Seriously, I think we've beaten the
"Die Hard" horse to death.
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
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
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.
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