Q & A    Archive
Page 148

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

Hey Josh,

Regarding that picture i gave you the link to (The picture of you from an interview), you said "That's from the extra DVD in the first season box set of Xena". I have the first season of Xena and there is no Extra Disc (unlsess you meant the CD-ROM, which i checked.). I have the first season set that is sold on amazon. Is there another season one set that has interviews and things or did you make a mistake?

Thanks.

Dear Chris:

I hold in my hand the boxed set of season one of Xena, with a banner at the top of the box stating, "Exclusive Bonus DVD, 'What You Didn't Know About Xena,' A 60 minute featurette from the directors of season one."  This is the extra DVD that I'm referring to.  I do realize, however, that it's not in all of the season one boxed sets, due to crazy fucked-up marketing by Davis-Panzer.  The extra DVD doesn't even have it's own slot, it's in a paper envelope and stuck in the pocket, along with a Xena coin trinket. Meanwhile, I'm hardly in the thing.

Josh

Name:              Dab Barney
E-mail:             dabboy@prootney.com

Dear Josh:         

As per the recent question you received about movies that speak of the evils of religion, here are two recent documentaries:

* "Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality" (which is coincidentally about the socio-political theories of another Becker, that is Ernest Becker). This one is out on DVD.  I bought it at Borders.  Highly recommended.

* "Jesus Camp," which I haven't seen yet.  This one is still in theaters as far as I know.  It's about a camp for born-again Christian kids that trains them to hate others as badly as those extremist Muslim schools that train terrorists.

Dear Dab:

Thank you.  I haven't heard of the first film, but I have heard of the second one.  They both sound interesting.

Josh

Name:              JAN WARD
E-mail:             JWARD7405@YAHOO.COM

JOSH,

I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW I ENJOYED VISITING YOUR SITE, VERY INFORMATIVE. HOWEVER, JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW THAT THE 3 ANIMALS YOU HAVE LISTED WITH A STAR ARE LASSIE, RIN TIN TIN AND GOODHEART. I BELIEVE THAT GOODHEART IS SUPPOSED TO BE STRONGHEART.

THANKS!!!

Dear Jan:

Quit yellin'.  You're absolutely correct, it's Strongheart, I don't know what I was thinking.

Josh

Name:              Tony Schwartz
E-mail:             schwartz-associates@comcast.net

Dear Josh:         

Other than The God Movie - Brian Flemming and Dawkins - Root of All Evil are there any available movies that speak of the evils of religion

Dear Tony:

Not that I know of.  Calling religion evil is sort of verboten subject.  Not here, but in most other places.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Are you interested at all in Lynch's new film, "INLAND EMPIRE."  He shot sporadically on DV for over 2 years and now is going to self-distribute (apparently because he didn't receive any offers, or at least good ones after showing at the Venice and New York film festivals). It's apparently his most incomprehensible film yet.  That could either be a really good or bad thing.

At any rate, I'm curious, despite the fact that I can't imagine DV serving well for a director who's 35mm work is so lush.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

It sounds horrible.  No, I'm not looking forward to it, nor any other movie shot in DV.

Josh

Name:              Sara Harmer
E-mail:             pdo@plastecine.net

Dear Josh:         

How does it make you feel that more women would let Martin Scorcese see their nipples than would let you see their nipples?

Pretty bad, right?  HA!  NO NIPPLES FOR YOU!

Dear Sara:

What are you, some kind of idiot?  Ha, ha, ha!

Josh

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

Josh,

With regards to "The Departed" and your comment, I understand the young actors part of your comment, but "new"?

There is nothing new about this film and the fact that it is more or less a remake of a pretty decent film doesn't put it in the category of "new" by any means.

It appears to have all the Scorsese clichés, although, this time they are old hat and don't really give the film any strength and many (such as the annoying unmotivated pop songs) actually weakened the film for me.

So, what's new about it?

Scott

Dear Scott:

It is Martin Scorsese's most recent film, isn't it?  It just came out, didn't it?  That makes it new.  Not good.

Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Josh

Here's a link to an article written by The Sunday Times' American correspondent, Andrew Sullivan, last June:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1705823,00.html

It's well worth reading - I found myself agreeing with a lot of Sullivan's points when I first read it in the paper itself last year, and I still agree with a lot of them today. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it.

Dear Si:

It's an interesting, if not terribly incisive, article.  Yes, modern movies suck, I don't need to be convinced.

Josh

Name:              Steven Millan
E-mail:             stevmedia@aol.com

Josh,

With the recent mid-term elections(which proved to be mightily successful for the Democrats)now finished,the Presidential elections will be coming up(in two years,no less),for since Hillary Clinton,John McCain,and Rudolph Giuliani look to be the main front-runners for President,I was wondering which one of these three do you think will likely become our next President?

Dear Steven:

I don't think those will be all of the choices come 2008.  I think we'll possibly be seeing the likes of John Edwards (who's had the mole on his lip removed, so he's getting ready), and possibly even Al Gore, who I'd vote for in a second.

Josh

Name:              Michael
E-mail:

Hello Josh,

I had a few questions regarding casting. I want a young, reasonably out the door French actor for my independent film, and I'm not sure how these kinds of deals work for foreign actors. I know you'll probably say, "find his agent," but I was hoping you might have some other insights into this kind of endeavor.

However, if you answer is simply "find his agent," do you know where I can search for contacts of the sort? Usually you can't just find this stuff online, unless you know specific people in the business...and since he's from France, there might be other ties. Hope you have some insight.

And...what budgeting software do you recommend?

Thank you in advance.

Best,
Michael

Dear Michael:

Contact one of the production companies for which this actor has made films and see if you can't get a name of an agent, manager or lawyer, then contact them and make an offer.  Good luck.

Josh

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

Josh,

I went to see "The Departed" yesterday which is called "Os Infiltrados" here in Brazil.

I agree with your criticisms of the film and I felt the pacing and the length specifically was a mess. The editing was not very good and I agree the act of throwing popular songs under each scene without any motivation to them was extremely weak and it annoyed the shit out of me throughout the entire film.

The only strength of the film is the premise of the original idea from the Hong film "Internal Affairs" for which this film was based upon, which is the different twists of fate and infiltration or corruption which involves each character and the ending was taken straight from "Internal Affairs".

There were no other original ideas added by Scorsese and I think he is becoming a parody of himself.

I also felt Matt Damon's performance was weak, but Leonardo DiCaprio was strong and seems to get better with every film I see with him.

I never much liked him all that well with the exception of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "The Basketball Diaries" and Mark Wahlberg plays the same character as he always plays which was pretty boring.

The film dragged and it never had to be 152 min. This story could have been easily told in 120 minutes and from an editing standpoint, I found the film to be severely flawed and don?t think the good reviews of this film are justified at all, but people are starving for better films, and why something as mediocre as this can excite peopl e is beyond me?

Scott

Dear Scott:
 
It's new, and it has young stars in it.  That's what its got.
 
Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail: NansemondNative

Good Afternoon Josh.

I know you can't stand superhero movies but the other night one of my kids had borrowed a movie from one of her friends and it was entitled "X Men 3 - The Last Stand" or something to that affect.

It's a Stan Lee production.

The movie was mostly about special effects and admittedly, to me, they were impressive particularly anything having to do with the mutant Jean Grey. This actress was extremely hot by the way...Super sexy!

What struck me the most about this movie was the credits.

The end credits rolled for what seemed like an eternity and then they finally got around to crediting the second unit crew.

They must have had 5 or 600 names on that roster.

The drivers alone equated to the population of Rhode Island.

Is this unlimited budget gone wild? Why on earth would you need so many people to put together a flick like this?

I guess it is hard for me to fathom possibly because I'm not thinking on a large enough scale. The most people I have ever had together was 15.

Just an observation. No need to post.

Thanks for lending an ear.

Tim

Dear Tim:
 
I'd say you have it right, it's a huge budget gone wild.  I'm not sure of the exact number, but they had at least ten 2nd units on "Lord of the Rings."  The A through K units, or whatever.  I've worked with a 2nd unit many times, and I was a second unit director, and I don't understand the need for so many units, although I've never had $150 million shooting budget and a Christmas release staring at me.
 
Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: crazyfelinelady@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I just saw an announcement on the movie review show "Reel Talk" that, next year, Turner Classic Movies will begin showing 6 RKO Radio Classics from the 1930's, not shown on T.V. for over 40 years, that were "uncovered after a long copyright dispute." They include:
-- "Double Harness" with William Powell and Ann Harding
-- "Rafter Romance" with Ginger Rogers
-- "One Man's Journey" with Lionel Barrymore and Joel McCray
-- "Living On Love" with James Dunne
-- "A Man To Remember" with Anne Shirley
-- "Stingaree" (spelling?) with Irene Dunn and Richard Dix

Comments? I wasn't sure what they meant by "uncovered." Able to be aired again, presumably?
Any of these you'd like to tell us about?
I'll look forward to the Ginger Rogers performance, and finding out what the deuce "Stingaree" means.

Dear Diana:
 
TCM has so many of those undistinguished movies from the 1930s, when the studios were cranking out movies like the end of the movie boom was in sight (it was the Great Depression after all), that I have very little doubt these are six more of those undistinguished films.  I try watching them on TCM all the time, when they show Irene Dunne movies all night, or all Ramon Navarro films, and they're generally unwatchable.  But one of them might be good, you never know.
 
Josh

Name: L.A. Guy
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What are you doing in L.A.? I thought you were living in the Detriot area. Are you working on another project in L.A. or are you working on some existing piece of work? Or are you simply just visiting somebody?

I really want to know. <3

Dear L.A.Guy:
 
I've got a meeting with a producer about making movies, I'm visiting family (my sister and cousins live here), and I'm visiting my friends.  So it's both business and pleasure.  But yes, I still live outside Detroit.
 
Josh

Name: Aaron
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What does thematic writing mean to you, and how would you personally define it?

Thanks.

Dear Aaron:
 
Thematic writing means you find a theme -- which I believe ought to be one word, like anger or trust or duty, as examples -- and you impose that idea into as much of the story and as many of the characters as is humanly possible.  For example, the theme of "Running Time" is trust, and that's what every character is confronting -- can you trust them and can they be trusted.  The stronger the theme the more characters in the story it relates to.
 
Josh

Name: Dean
E-mail:

Mr Becker,

I caught "If I had a hammer" on Youtube ( I did buy your book so you should get at least some of my cash this year, i was the schlub whining about distribution not really being covered and Orson Welles in an earlier post ).

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed it ( despite a shaky start ) and it is a crime that it has so far not had any distribution.

I very much like how the film has a very youthful sense about it without using the common techniques to appeal to young people in some insulting manner ( quick cuts, shaky cam ).

I was also impressed with the subtext, or at least my perception of a subtext, that the lead male was ba sically everything good and bad about Rock and Roll and what it would mean to the generations that would grow up with it.

It seemed like you where putting forth the idea that folk music's idealism and conscience was crushed by the ignorance and hedonism of rock and roll....also the key word Apathy, which is the hugest problem here in the U.K at the moment.

"Everyone stands for something, even if they don't realise it". ( poorly quoted )

The characters where all well realised and it is a story that would be very relevant today ( sadly it would need to be shot in a "quirky" manner to appeal to the generation I find myself a part of ).

Easily your best work, the only bad point is the slightly rocky start, which smoothes out about seven minutes in.

You should be proud, I am sure you are, I hope someday to make a film of equal quality.

Sorry I don't have any questions.

Dear Dean:
 
I can handle a compliment, and I thank you.  I also agree the film has a shaky beginning.  You also picked up the subtext as clearly as is possible.  That's exactly what I was saying, that apathy has crept into the world that I believe began with the rise of rock & roll.  Don't be confused, I love rock & roll, and I'm as a much a part of this generation as anyone else.  Nevertheless, I think it's so, and it's the reason that so many things suck now.  Thanks for responding.
 
Josh

Name: Aaron Stroud
E-mail: coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<< the very best way to view it, but it's better than nothing. I invite everyone who's interested in seeing the film to watch on YouTube, then let me know what you think.>>

If you have a decent speed connection you can view it all in one go. Just add them to your YouTube Quicklist (the little + box in the corner of the video picture) in numerical order and click play all. I'm sorry Lisa Records career didn't take off earlier. Although it amused me that Brett Beardslee's father in the film was one of the special optical effects people in THE TERMINATOR and FROM DUS K TILL DAWN.

Dear Aaron:
 
Her father was played by Mark Sawicki, who also shot the photograph that I used for the cover of my book.  I bought five cheap 35mm cameras, and a 100 rolls of film, and gave them out to all the PAs so that I would have a sufficient amount of still photographs of the production (as opposed to hiring a real photographer).  This scheme worked pretty well, and I did end up with many, many photographs, although most of them aren't all that good.  Mark Sawicki showed up on the set several days when he wasn't working, with his own 35mm camera, and all of his pictures is great, and they're mainly the ones I used.  The moral of the story is one person who knows what they're doing is worth five people who don't.
 
Josh

Name: Tim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What was particularly nice about seeing "Sons and Lovers" with a big crowd was to hear the reactions from the kids (late teens, early twenties) after it ended...they all seemed to love it.

"Black Narcissus" is beautiful. The juxtaposition of the colors themselves (blues on whites, reds amid oranges, purples and browns, etc.) is transcendent, but the lighting is particularly awe inspiring. I love the matte shots as well. And the final twenty minutes...my God! I remember first seeing that as a kid, not knowing where the hell the film was taking me and being completely thrilled with the progression. It's too good.

Anyway, I hope "If I Had a Hammer" gets a legit release soon. I'll watch it on YouTube in the next few days, then pass the word along to my friends, all of whom support independent filmmaking. I'll tell you what I think when I see it. It certainly sounds like my cup of tea, so I look forward to it.

Dear Tim:
 
I don't suppose seeing "Hammer" in 13 serialized hunks is the very best way to view it, but it's better than nothing.  I invite everyone who's interested in seeing the film to watch on YouTube, then let me know what you think.
 
One thing I do miss about L.A. (which is where I am right now) is the L.A. County Museum's yearly screening of their nitrate print of "Black Narcissus," which looks astounding, and far better than the DVD or any of the new, safety-film prints in existence.  The depth of the colors in that print makes you feel like you could crawl right into it.  As you said, it's a transcendental experience.
 
Meanwhile, D. H. Lawrence has had some very good films made out of his books: "Sons and Lovers," "Women in Love," and "The Fox," to name a few.
 
Josh

Name: Aaron
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Do you still keep in touch with Lisa Records? The only evidence online of her existence is her role in "If I Had a Hammer," which is a shame, because she was so good.

Dear Aaron:
 
Sadly, no, I lost contact with most everyone in "Hammer."  Lisa married the co-star of "Hammer," Chet Gunhus, so she's no longer Ms. Records, she's Mrs. Gunhus.  I thought she was very good, too, and I'm sorry my film didn't do anything for her career.
 
Josh

Name: Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What's your take on the Congressional elections? Are you surprised at the results? It seems that a lot of the new Democrats in Congress are so called 'New Democrats', which means more conservative than the current leadership of the party. This could impact all sorts of issues, from legislation to confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

Dear Bob:
 
The mid-term election turned out exactly as I hoped they would, with the extra added delight of Donald Rumsfeld resigning.  Goodbye Rummy, you evil piece of shit.  If nothing else the Democrats can now obstruct everything the two remaining members of the triumverate of evil, Bush and Cheney, try to do.  Now we can all relax a little that Bush and Cheney won't bring the world to its apocalyptic end in the next two years.  Perhaps also the Democrats might actually get something constructive done, as opposed to the purely destructive behavior of the Republicans.  For the first time in six years I am proud to be an American.
 
Josh

Name: Tripp
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Did you see "Shogun Assassin" in theatres when it was first released in America? I see it in your favorite films list, and it's always sounded interesting to me.

Dear Tripp:
 
I saw "Shogun Assassin" on it's vey first, press screening in Detroit, and got a free t-shirt and the soundtrack (on vinyl, by Mark Lindsey of Paul Revere and the Raiders)).  I subsequently went back to see the film at the theater three more times, and have seen at revival houses a few times since then.  I also have the DVD.  Needless to say, I like the film.  It has some really terrific filmmaking in it.  It's also the best dubbed movie of all-time.
 
Josh

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

Josh,

"Topsy-Turvy" is a lot of fun and Mike Leigh is one of my favorite directors and he had been wanting to make that film for a long time befroe he made it.

I found "All or Nothing" to be a very good film as well.

I like his films because he does very good stories about regular people and his characters are very believable in my humble opinion.

"Vera Drake" had potential, but it was just an ok film.

I agree with you that "Life is Sweet" is a very good film, but I also liked "Naked" and "Secrets & Lies" as well. I really thought the actor David Thewlis that played Johnny in "Naked" was very good.

Scott

Dear Scott:
 
I agree, although I found "All or Nothing" very difficult to sit through (but I did).  "Naked" wasn't easy, either.  I also liked "Career Girls."  "Vera Drake" was interesting, if not great.  But Mike Leigh always gets terrific performances.
 
Josh

Name: Harry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I have a two part question. First part: Do you believe that a movie can have a flawed structure and still suceed in being a good movie? Second Part: How does one, in your opinion, use music properly in a motion picture. Any examples would also be nice. :)

Thank you so very much.

Dear Harry:
 
Yes, I do believe that you can make a good with bad structure, but it's much more difficult.  An example (although not one of my favorites, but it is for many others) is "Evil Dead 2," which is almost all an Act 2, confronting the problem.  But I think part of why it gets away with it is that it's a sequel, and a prequel to AOD.  For the most part, though, without decent structure it's almost impossible to tell a good story. Regarding music in movies, the best way is to hire a good composer and let them score the film.  That way the music will fit exactly everywhere.  However, when using a song score I think it's imperative that one consider how the song fits the scene -- is it musically appropriate?  Is it from the proper time period?  Does it infringe on the scene?  Just putting your favorite songs on a movie is an error.
 
Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was flipping channels over the weekend and happened on The Great Escape. What a well done movie. I've seen it before and was planning on watching just a couple of minutes but got sucked in for the whole thing.

At the end when they throw up the graphic "This film is dedicated to the fifty" and "The End" -  fade to black, it just hits you in the gut. By not going to end credits it seems to make such a stronger impact and I've noticed that with many movies from that period.

Do you know when movies went from just beginning credits of the major players, to tacking on credits for everyone involved in the production at the end? Did it started with a specific movie or was there a particular reason? Thanks!

Dear Jeff:

They occasionally put credits on the end of films in the 1930s and '40s, like "Citizen Kane" ("A good cast is worth repeating"), but the long crawls of credits at the end didn't come in until the late '60s, early '70s. Meanwhile, I really love "The Great Escape."  There is a film that's fairly long (168 minutes) and is worthy of every second.  One thing I truly admire about the film is that the first scene is a half an hour long.  You meet all of the many characters, and they all either try to escape or start planning their escape.  The film also does a brilliant job differentiating all of the characters.  As a kid it gave me extra respect for Charles Bronson that he was so tough that he lived through both "The Great Escape" and "The Dirty Dozen."

Josh

Name:              Lilly
E-mail:             summer_lunix@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Now I have read your diary-like essay I really laughed out (I am Bulgarian btw) and I am really sorry we havent met in that park as you call it =]. Anyway, wish you all luck

Dear Lilly:

I'm glad as a Bulgarian you didn't find it offensive, just funny, because that's how it was meant.  I wish I had a beer garden like that across from here in Michigan.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I recently arranged a screening of Cardiff's "Sons and Lovers" for some people in the biz and some college students, and everybody was floored. The print was prestine B&W 'Scope and it looked gorgeous, with Freddie Francis' Oscar-winning cinematography. A very good literary adaptation, with a wonderful cast. Very memorable score, too. It's also a film David Lynch loved as a kid that ultimately led to him hiring Freddie to shoot "The Elephant Man" when the question of the DP on that film arose.

Alas, it's not on DVD in the US yet, but Jack seems interested in a commentary. As far as his livliness goes, he joins Morricone and Harryhausen...when you're around these guys they're so energetic you forget how old they are...which I love, and it's great that they're still around.

And yeah, kudos to Scorsese for organizing another epic cinematographer gathering for a concert film. I can't wait to see how it's all edited together.

Dear Tim:

Yeah, "Sons and Lovers" was gorgeous, and a very well-made film all around. But my favorite film of Jack Cardiff's will always remain his 1947 Oscar-winner, "Black Narcissus," which I think is one of all-time most beautifully photographed films.

Josh

Name:              John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What's your opinion of the 70s band Badfinger?

Dear John:

They were a pretty good pop band.  Two of the members committed suicide, which always gives their songs a creepy edge to me.  Their first hit, "If You Want It," written by Paul McCartney, was for the film "The Magic Christian," and I thought it fit the film very well.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I was just looking up stuff on youtube right, and i searched your name just to see if anyone had uploaded any short films of yours or something and guess what...

Someone has uploaded "If I Had A Hammer" on there in about 13 parts. I havn't watched it since i just watched my VHS of it last night so I don't know if all of it is there but still...Just letting you and everyone else here know that it's there.

Dear Chris:

I know, but thanks for telling me.  I didn't put it there, but my feeling was what the hell, let people see if it they want to.  That's why I made it.

Josh

Name:              ismail
E-mail:             xadeolax@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Good job, it feels good to listen to the opinion of someone who says what he believes, as opposed to lying to his own conscience and only saying things because he is afraid of going to hell. Religion is dishonest and hypocritical. If you think about it what religions preaches is impossible. All people thinking the same thing, and agreeing to the same laws: If this ever  happened, people would cease going to hell rendering practicing religion an exercise in futility.

Dear ismail:

It's already an exercise in futility.  Nobody gets out of here alive.  The idea that we go to a place where, if we're good, we all fly around with wings is sillier than Santa Claus.

Josh

Name:              Diana Hawkes
E-mail:             crazyfelinelady@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Holy Guacamole, that *is* puzzling.  I'll send him your link, then. He already has books on Puller.  He even insisted on naming his dog, a Dashound mind you, "Chesty."

Off topic - this just came up today chatting with my Xena friends:  There are various points in many episodes, both in close ups and longer shots where oddly they are apparently on equal footing, when Lucy appears as tall as two of her co stars: Marton Csokas, who played Borias, and Kevin Smith.
Yet in other scenes she appears shorter than both of them. Lucy I think is ~ 5'10", Csokas is 6'2", and Kevin was 6'3".

I suggested it was the result of different directors for the different episodes having the freedom of simply choosing to present them either as with a "Me God, You Mortal" height difference, or conversely- as more or less equal in height to help sell the idea that she was "on his level" power-wise.

Was that ever a consideration when you were filming Soul Possession?

Dear Diana:

Never.  I think it's simply an issue of shooting on uneven ground.  And I don't think Kevin Smith was 6'3" either.  He was more like 6'1".

Josh

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

Josh,

First, on your "Studio" essay, what sources are you distilling from?  I really appreciate early in the essay the motives you present for various companies to relocate to Southern California.

I was wondering if there was a similar set of motives for the various inter-California moves.  You tell us that there was a period of stability for thirty-odd years (if I recall correctly) but not why that period was stable nor why it ultimately fell.  I'd certainly appreciate your thoughts on the trends and historical themes which drove particular studios in or out at particular moments, i.e, what motive made the facts of the later essay inevitable, and what can we now expect based on those trends and themes.  This is not criticism of what you've written, but appreciation of what you might yet write.

I just read Andy Summer's memoir, "One Train Later".  It's a very engrossing read and covers much of the ground that is often covered in this discussion site.  For what it's worth, I would give Summers' book a strong recommendation to anyone interested in the development of Rock and Roll from the fifties through the eighties, the Police in particular.  He has a lot to say about other cultures as well, up to and including our current government.

I watched "Longitude" with Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons.  It was, I believe, three hours long, though not intended for a single sitting.  I thought it well done, the first part especially so.  I've also recently watched "To Serve Them All My Days", set in the same time period, and throughly enjoyed that.

Has anyone ever done "Stalky and Co." by Kipling?  There, again, is a story you could tell particularly well.

Well, thanks again for the essay and do look into Andy Summers' book.  I think you will find the mood of the book rather familiar.

John

Dear John:

Very good suggestions.  That essay isn't done, it's a work-in-progress I've been researching and noodling for about a year, and I just decided to post it.  But the reasons why studios went under would be fascinating, and the reason isn't always known.  I saw "Longitude," and I also read the book.  I liked them both.  It's a totally interesting subject, the development of a clock that can keep nearly perfect time, on a moving boat, whereby you can then calculate longitude.  I keep my eyes peeled for the Andy Summers book.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you seen any of Pedro Almodovar's films? He gets a lot of good press, though I haven't watched any of his movies. At imdb I was reading some of the plot summaries and they sound awfully eccentric and/or just plain weird. But I guess I'd be willing to put up with some weirdness so long as Penelope Cruz takes her clothes off. =)

Dear David:

Yes, I've seen several of Pedro Almodovar's films, and I've liked a few of them, too, like "Talk to Her" and "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."  Yes, his films are eccentric, weird, and very specifically his films, which is something I like about them.   He also has very interesting taste in actors, and of course, he discovered Antonio Banderas.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Not a question, but a discussion starter.

So Martin Scorsese wrapped up a documentary about the Rolling Stones this week that also including performances for Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party. It was shot at the Beacon Theatre in NYC and will be released by Paramount next year.

But I was impressed by the the call sheet of the camera department which had apparently had 17 camera packages.

Bob Richardson was the DP
Camera operators included:
Mitchell Amundsen
Pat Capone
Stuart Dryburgh
David Dunlap
Robert Elswit
Chris Haarhoff
Tony Janelli
Lukasz Jogalla
Emmauel Lubeski
Anastas Michos
Declan Quinn
Andrew Rolands
Gerard Sava
John Toll
Ellen Kuras
Andrew Lesnie

Impressive, but I guess they didn't have a quorum

with 30 camera assistants
8 loaders
16 runners

And that was just the camera department.

Meanwhile, I just thought you also might be interested in that I produced an interview with Jack Cardiff for a documentary this year. Even well into his 90s, Mr. Cardiff is still frequenting Poland, Edinburgh and LA for various film/cinematography based festivals, lectures and such. Very busy shedule. He's also been visual consultant on a few films.

You rule.

Dear Tim:

Scorsese has done exactly the same thing he did on "The Last Waltz," that also had every great DP living working as a camera operator.  Guess what? It worked great the first time, why not do it again?  I hope the Stones were in good form.  You know, not only is Jack Cardiff one of the really great DPs, but he's a pretty good director, too.  I quite like "Dark of the Sun" and "Sons and Lovers."

Josh

Name:              Neuro
E-mail:

"Was there any reason on earth why a trivial little piece of fluff like "Pirates of the Carribean" should be 2 hours and 45 minutes long?"

Good God no, but as you said, even at 90 minutes it would've been a piece of fluff (albeit an enjoyable one), but at 2.5 hours it's unbearable. I must admit I didn't even bother to finish it. I liked Johnny Depp though, who was clearly having a good time in the role.

As for "Topsey Turvey," it's been too long since I last watched it and I didn't remember the exact running time, although I should've checked just to make sure before posting. Anyway, I'd say it's Mike Leigh's best movie, and yes, it's not only a 180º turn from his usual approach but also a complete utilization of all his abilities and talents. Certainly one of the best films ever made about life in the theatre.

Dear Neuro:

I must say that I really and truly like "Life is Sweet," and would have to give that the nod for Mike Leigh's best film, and it's his funniest film, too.  But "Topsy-Turvey" would come second.  In case you're interested, the title is hyphenated.

Josh

Name:              Ben
E-mail:             sphere6@earthlink.net

Dear Josh:         

I just finished reading your journal you wrote while working on the Evil Dead. I was wondering how you guys got the camera attached to the wood for the ram-o-cam, and the other various "cam" shots" other than the ones where it was taped to Raimi's hand? It's been bugging me.

Dear Ben:

You drill a hole through the wood a put a bolt in the hole into the bottom of the camera.

Josh

Name:              Diana Hawkes
E-mail:             upon request

Dear Josh:         

My brother, who is a captain in the Marine Corps (currently serving in Fallujah- Gah!), enjoys reading biographies of noteworthy corps leaders and battles.  He even tried to get me interested in a book of old maps to battle situations as they appeared to commanders at the time.  My eyes glazed over.

What books would you recommend for him about Sgt. Daly?

Dear Diana:

There aren't any books on Sgt. Dan Daly, isn't that ridiculous.  You could send him my script, or a link to it.  There's "Chesty" The Story of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller by Col. Jon. T. Hoffman, USMCR, which didn't thrill me, but he's a fascinating guy, and the most decorated Marine officer (Daly was the most decorated Marine enlisted man).

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Great article on the history of the Movie Studios. It could be the outline for a good book.

There was a PBS History Detectives episode about the location of the first movie studio in LA. Here is the URL to the transcript if you are interested in reading it.

http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/pdf/204_studio.pdf

Dear Bob:

A coffee table picture book or a documentary, or both.

Josh

Name:              Neuro
E-mail:

"and there hasn't been one movie in the past 20 years that's needed the extra length for any reason at all"

Mike Leigh's "Topsy Turvey," which is on your favorite films list, was three hours...wouldn't that be an exception?

Dear Neuro:

A.  "Topsy-Turvey" is 160 minutes, which is 2 hours 40 minutes, not 3 hours, and B.  I'd say it's length is the film's biggest flaw, it didn't need that much time to tell its story.  Nevertheless, I do think it's a good movie. Jim Broadbent is brilliant, as is Timothy Spall.  And what a complete change of pace for Mr. Leigh.

Josh

Name:              Harold Cohn
E-mail:             hc@cohnheadz.com

Josh, you recently wrote regarding films that last longer than 120 minutes:  "there hasn't been one movie in the past 20 years that's needed the extra length for any reason at all."

I don't understand the term "need" in this context.  We're talking about entertainment, right?  As far as "need" goes, we don't really "need" movies, in the harshest sense of the term.  Aren't movies about "want" rather than "need?"  The sexual act doesn't "need" any more than insemination of a womb, but people typically prefer it to be longer than that and involve other time-prolonging acts which lengthen the act of sexual congress beyond that which is "needed."  If someone doesn't want to go to a movie that's longer than 120 minutes, the don't "need" to go. They can go to a shorter movie, and leave the longer movies to us who don't "need" to go to the bathroom as often.  Or they can wait for the DVD and use the pause button.

Dear Harold:

Long, long ago in the olden days, there was this concept in filmmaking known as "pace" and "succinctness."  What that meant was telling your story in a fashion where it kept moving along, and was just as long as it needed to be, and no longer.  This all went away somewhere around the time the 8-track tape went defunct.  Now films just go on and on and on for absolutely no reason, and it's part of why movies as an art form have fallen into such a hole.  Was there any reason on earth why a trivial little piece of fluff like "Pirates of the Carribean" should be 2 hours and 45 minutes long?  Had it ended after 90-100 minutes I'd have liked it.  Had it ended after 2 hours I would have thought it was 20 minutes too long.  But at 2 hours and 45 minutes it's a piece of shit that completely wore out its welcome halfway through.  The length of a film absolutely matters.

Josh

Name:              George R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What is it about long movies that makes you mad? Personally, if a movie was entertaining enough, I'd sit through 4 or more hours of it.

Just askin'.

Dear George:

In 1913 Adolph Zukor introduced the concept of the feature-length film to the American public, with the Italian-made feature films "Quo Vadis," "The Last Days of Pompeii" and "Caberia," he realized that human beings who were drinking liquids could sit comfortably for about 120 minutes, two hours.  If you wanted them to sit longer than that you had to give them a break so they could go empty their bladders.  But more than that, this was about the attention-span of the average person, which was why Shakespeare's and most other full-length plays are also that length, 90 minute to two hours. "Citizen Kane" is 118 minutes, why do you need more than that?  But if you do go longer than that, you'd better have a pretty goddamn good reason, and there hasn't been one movie in the past 20 years that's needed the extra length for any reason at all.  If the two-hour form isn't long enough, then make a mini-series.

Josh

Name:              Steve  Donovan
E-mail:

Hi Josh:

Love your site.

I'm a huge horror fan.  Have you seen any of the films by Mark Savage, whom I believe was one of your posse back in the Evil Dead days?

Dear Steve:

Yes, Mark Savage and I were pretty good friends about 25 years ago when he lived in Michigan.  We've lost touch over the years, but I did see one of his films -- how many has he made?  The one I saw was sort of John Woo-type crime thing.

Josh

Name:              Neuro
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What are a few of the films that you make sure to watch once a year?

Dear Neuro:

For a long time, I suppose, it was "The Wizard of Oz," because it was broadcast on TV.  But I probably watch "The Best Years of Our Lives" once a year, and "Bridge on the River Kwai," and maybe "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Spartacus."  I find myself watching "Full Metal Jacket" a lot lately.

Josh

Name:              John Trehorn
E-mail:             trehorn@johnstown.net

Dear Josh:         

Have you ever been tempted to dress up your sex life with role-playing of some sort, specifically by dressing up as Xena, with your girlfriend dressing as Gabrielle, or vice-versa?  The weirdest and possibly most exciting part is that if Ted were into threesomes you could have the real Joxer in the mix...  I'd definitely buy the video (if it were LoDuca scored, that is).

Dear John:

Nope, no interest.

Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Josh

The other day I stuck on some of my favourite numbers from the film musical of Little Shop Of Horrors. Not brilliant by any means, and I think they copped out a bit in the end, but still a very good show. Did you enjoy it?

I'm not really sure what my favourite film musical would be now. My Fair Lady would be among them, I guess, but I've seen it too many times. I do rate Fiddler On The Roof and Guys and Dolls pretty highly, though. (Especially Fiddler for having more substance than your average musical.) What do you think of all those? Not surprisingly, I was disappointed with the film of Chicago... Rob Marshall wasted a good opportunity to expand the show beyond its stagey origins.

Si

Dear Si:

I wasn't crazy about "Little Shop," although it did have its moments, but the whole 50s, doo-wop approach to the music sort of bored me.  I like the shows "My Fair Lady" and Fiddler on the Roof," but I'm not a big fan of either movie.  In MFL they really should have gone on location to England instead of all those silly sets, and in FOTR, Topol is just too young for the part, and the film is way too long.  As movie musicals go, I like "West Side Story," "The Sound of Music," "An American in Paris," "Gigi," "Singin' in the Rain," "Love Me Tonight," "Cabaret," "Hair," "The Wizard of Oz," "A Star is Born," "Top Hat," "The Gay Divorcee," among others.

Josh

Name:              Batdad
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Where is your book being sold?  Does your publisher have deals with certain bookstores?  Do you recommend the hardcover or paperback?  Are any other books in the pipeline?

Dear Batdad:

As far as I know, my book is supposed to be making it's way into the bookstores.  It's available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders. There's no difference between the paperback and the hardcover other than the binding and the price.  The hardcovers were mainly meant for libraries.  My next book, "Rushes: Essays on Film and Filmmaking," will probably be published early next year.  I've also completed the second draft of a novel, but it seems that it minimally needs a 3rd draft, too.

Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Hello Josh

Long time, no write...

Just a couple of thoughts. Pity that you weren't more taken with Family Guy (otherwise I would've asked you what your favourite scenes were) but in a way I can understand your indifference towards it. For all the really funny moments I believe there are, there's also quite a few dead spots, and the parodies tread a very fine line between being genuinely funny and pandering to those who were born in the early '80's (me included). Examples? The appearances of He-Man and Action Man. Recreating the end of Star Wars. Virtually recreating the beginning of The Naked Gun. etc. etc.

Sometimes, nostalgia can be a bad thing. It won over most critics in the case of Superman Returns (which you'll probably not see anyway, so I hope you don't mind if I drop mild spoilers)... the use of John Williams' theme music, the opening credits from the Christopher Reeve era recreated, Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando reunited (kind of)... undeniably memorable though these moments are, they do have a hint of pandering (there's that word again) about them.

The way I see it, filmmakers (and artists in general) should stop trying to recreate old history and create new history.

What do you make of it all?

Si

Dear Si:

Art reflects society.  Right now our society is pathetic and at the bottom of the shit-heap, and so are the movies, music and everything else.  As Haskell Wexler said, "We're at a cultural nadir."  This too shall pass, hopefully sooner than later.

Josh

Name:              Zapp Rothstein
E-mail:             zr@cabal.net

Dear Josh:         

In a recent post you described the work of Antonioni as "dull and pretentious."  Man, oh man, do you need to see a movie I just watched (the first half of):  "Damnation" by Bela Tarr.  My god, it was like a parody of art films.  The director made almost every shot a pan, and those pans moved at this incredibly slow speed.  For instance, if a guy left the room, the camera would move at about a centimeter a minute after him until it reached the door he left, and then slooowly move back to the other two people he was sitting with, whereopon they would resume their conversation on how "life is suffering and decay."  I broke out laughing several times, such as when the hero's love interest is introduced singing in a nightclub and she's draped over the microphone singing about how life is meaningless and she will never see her lover again and he was no good anyway.  She looked like she needed about twenty Prozacs.  Every line of dialogue in the movie was a Deep Philosophical Statement, and every single line of dialogue or lyric sung by the many musicians in the film were all depressing, and almost every outdoor shot was in the dark and rain on unpaved muddy streets, with stray dogs wandering everywhere.  Holy crap, do I not want to go to Hungary after seeing this film.

Dear Zapp:

My grandmother was Hungarian, and it was clearly a depressing, heavy burden to bear.  You ever listen to Bela Bartok?  And Bela Lugosi wasn't what you'd call a happy character, either.

Josh

Name:              Kara
E-mail:             DrainedBlue12@gmail.com

Dear Josh,

I went back into the question archives quite a bit, but didn't see mention of the film Session 9. I was wondering if you'd seen it & if so, what are your thoughts?

I finally saw it after having it recommended to me numerous times & it has very much given me hope that scary movies can still be made...psychological horror hasn't completely been overruled by cheap scares yet.

Dear Kara:

I started watching it and bailed after about 20 minutes, so I can't really comment other than it didn't pique my interest.

Josh

Name:              Jack
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

How do you feel about parody films? Like the work of Mel Brooks and the Airplane films and Naked Gun movies and that ilk.

While on the subject, what's your opinion of parody songs? Do you enjoy Weird Al's music at all?

Jack in the Box

Dear Jack:

I don't care about parody songs, but I like the first "Airplane!" and "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," the "Police Squad" TV show, as well as several of the "Naked Gun" movies.  But these kinds of movies either work or they don't work, and most don't.  When they do work, though, they're great.  I laughed my ass off at the afore mentioned films.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just watched "Topper" for the first time in a long while (I'm trying to expose my kids to good movies).  Everyone remembers Roland Young, of course, and Cary Grant, but Constance Bennet caught my eye this time around.  I was also struck by the Hoagy Carmichael cameo. He's there, playing the piano with the drunken Kirbys, and he is clearly someone you should know.  He had presence; your eye was drawn to him.  I only realized it was Carmichael when George Kirby staggers off and says, "Thanks, Hoagy".  Charisma is such an intangible yet powerful thing.

You would have done an excellent job directing "Topper" I think; comedy is a forte of yours. I do hope you get to do some of your newer scripts. This world needs far more good honest laughs than it needs good, honest politicians and we're in desperate need of those.  Besides, Lucy needs to be in front of a steady-cam.  Her scenes in "Gallactica" look like they were shot by a three-year old (I speak from on-going experience).

I want to see the new Hellen Mirren film about the Queen. The premise is, at least, interesting.

Best of luck with everything, and may all of your pots come to boil, as it were.

John

Dear John:

Hoagy Carmichael's best film role has to be in William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives."  I always admired that he could hold his own on the screen with Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Theresa Wright.  I always wished "Topper" was a better film than it is, but it's always let me down.  Roland Young was much funnier in the film "One Hour With You" in 1932.  Young is a rich man wearing tights and a Shakspearan outfit, is talking on the phone and says, "I'm all ready for your costume party."  The voice says, "It's not a costume party."  Roland Young hangs up, frowns at his burly butler and says, "Why did you say it was a costume party?"  The burly butler replies, obviously gay, "I just wanted to see you in tights." In 1932.  Meanwhile, thank you for the kind wishes.

Josh

Name:              Peter Strausse
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Here is a link to my list of all-time favorite films:
http://abbatazappa.mailbolt.com/Top100DVDWorld.html

Are there any you disagree with strongly? Any you feel are missing? Let's start a discussion....

Dear Peter:

Your list is interesting, and you definitely qualify as a full-fledged movie geek, but there's a world of stuff I disagree with.  First of all, from my POV you can have all of those Antonioni movies, and the Trakovsky movies, too.  To me they're all variations on the theme of Dull and Pretentious.  I deeply, deeply hated "Requiem for Dream," which would certainly be on my 100 Worst Films Ever, and you have no William Wyler films at all.  How's that for a start?

Josh

Name:              GARY MAZIN
E-mail:             ComicBookWorm@Comcast.net

Dear Josh:          

I'm not looking to learn how to write a script. I already went to school for tha. My problem is trying to get my foot in the door and find an agent and/or Manager to sell my script. Can you help me with this?
                                                    Gary Mazin

Dear GARY:

If you know how to write a script, and you've got good ideas, then you should just start contacting agents and sending out your stuff.  You can buy the Hollywood Creative Directory that lists every agent in the business, or you can go online to hcdonline.com.  Meanwhile, after eight agents and no work, I have no faith in agents, and I've never had a manager.  I personally think one must take a totally proactive approach to getting films made, even if that means making them yourself.  After 20 years or so I could no longer bear leaving my fate in someone else's hands.  As Woody Allen said, "Hollywood isn't dog eat dog; it's dog doesn't call dog back."  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Dan Yuma
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Longtime lurker, first-time poster; we have in common a fondness for the work of Jerry Goldsmith, and someone mentioned seeing "an advance" of his daughter's upcoming biography, but didn't, I think, mention where you can read two chapters of it, with probably more to come until publication:

at his older son Joel Goldsmith's website freeclyde.com. It's really breathtaking stuff; Goldsmith evidently saw that his end was near and so decided to spill the beans about everything, from his opinions of John Williams and Elmer Bernstein, to what it was like to meet Sinatra the first time. I'm sure the finished book will be spectacular.

And now a technical question: I haven't directed an amateur picture in a long time (and that's all I've ever done in directing, dinky little 20-minute things), but I wonder what your policies are about line readings and improvisations. I discovered that with amateur actors at least, sometimes they'd come up with a reading or an alternative, even at the spur of the moment, that felt better than what I'd written; but then I had no network or studio to please, and could let them get by with it. Have you had similar experiences? (I haven't yet seen "Running Time" but that one looks like you'd have had to block and rehearse fairly intensively.)

(I don't mean I was a total pushover; if I wanted a specific effect, you bet I'd do my best to get them to give it to me, but there were surprises I wasn't expecting in the actual actors' delivery. The better ones give you more than you even thought to ask for, though. Having worked with as many as you have, I am just curious to hear your take.)

Dear Dan:

Some actors never deliver the lines as written, others do.  The point is you're trying to make this scene come to life, and however you achieve that is your ability as a director.  Whatever you think is right is right.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I finally saw "Easy Rider" last night after picking up the DVD from Wal-Mart. The film had an extremely powerful affect on me. After the film ended and the credits started to roll I sort of just sat there in complete silence until my DVD shut itself off.

The ending, which thankfully remained unknown to me for all these years, really shocked me. I sort of saw it coming after the death of Nicholson's character George, but it wasn't something I was emotionally prepared for after getting to know these two characters for 90 minutes.

I can't even imagine the impact the film must have had on you after viewing it in '69 on the big screen. I know you've said in an essay or two that you went home and sewed an American Flag on your jacket, but could expand on your immediate feelings after viewing the film a little? Were they similar to my reaction or different?

On a lighter note, as I was watching the film it really made me want to take a long road trip with an awesome classic rock soundtrack playing the entire way. To be free like Fonda and Hopper were throughout Act II of the film. I also understand why you wanted to sew the American flag on your jacket now.

Hope you have a good day.

Dear Trey:

Yes, my reaction was the same as yours, except that I was a highly impressionable 11-year-old and it was 1969.  That movie set the tone for at least the next five or six years of my life, as well as seeing "Woodstock" in 1970.  But beyond and of that, "Easy Rider" is a terrific example of inventive, interesting, low-budget filmmaking.  I love the editing.  And that moment in New Orleans when Fonda flashes on his own death is incredible.  Jack Nicholson still steals the show, and his death scene was truly disturbing.  For me it's kind of a magical film.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just viewed West Side Story again.  It's about my favorite musical, and one of my favorite movies.  I read that Elvis Presley was considered for the Tony character, and that Elvis regretted turning it down. Thank God for that. Do you think it is among the best musicals?

Dear Bob:

It's certainly one of my favorites.  I know the lyrics to every song in the show.  I also think it contains some really terrific filmmaking on the parts of Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise and DP Daniel Fapp.  The entire opening number is brilliant, and each cut is spectacular.  Apparently, it took Jerome Robbins six weeks to shoot that scene.  I've never yet had six weeks to shoot a whole movie.  Meanwhile, I think Elvis would have been too self-conscious for Tony.  One of the things I love most about Elvis is that he looks like he's about to burst out laughing all the time, and that he doesn't take any of this movie nonsense seriously.

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             gnign@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

Watched an amazing print of "Days of Heaven" just the other night---a perk of working part-time in an old arthouse cinema.  It got me thinking about Malick--- people can have any opinion they wish about his work, but I do think most people would have to agree that his films look gorgeous.  Does this come from having a great cinematographer each time out, or is it pretty much to Malick's credit?  I know it must be a collaborative effort to some extent---in your own films, do you ever feel that your cinematographers improve upon your vision, or is it just a matter of getting them in synch with what you want?

Dear Bobby:

I would assume that a visually oriented director like Terrence Malick, like Alfred Hitchcock (or me, if I may include myself into that group), chooses all of the shots, then the DP lights them and makes them happen.  How the film comes out looking is very much based on the collaboration between the director and the DP.  But when you've gone to the trouble of getting one of the greatest DPs around, as Malick did on "Day's of Heaven" with Nestor Almendros, you're looking for what they bring with them, and you're willing to let them do their thing.  I've never worked with an A-list DP, nor have I ever had any time to let a DP play around, so I can only assume.

Josh

Name:              Honda Jesus
E-mail:             peterbilt@romeovoid.com

Hey, Becker!

I was wondering about your opinion of Spielberg's "Duel."  I've heard this touted as one of Spielberg's true masterpieces, unladen with any fantasy or sentimental bullcrap, however I just watched it last night and it wasn't that great.  The scene which really shows the hallmark of Spielberg excessive audience manipulation is the part where Dennis Weaver stops to make a phone call and it just so happens that the only phone booth is in the middle of a bunch of rattlesnake cages at a roadside combination gas station and rattlesnake selling emporium.  The truck smashes into the phonebooth and not only does Weaver have to jump out of the way to avoid getting killed, but then there's killer rattlesnakes all over from the truck smashing open their cages.  This pretty much sent the film squarely into the realm of the absurd.  Perhaps it was intended to be funny -- if so, mission accomplished.  However my sense was that it was supposed to be scary rather than laughable.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Also, the musical score for the film rips off Hitchcock's "Psycho" worse than any DePalma film...
Oy!

Dear Honda:

I guess you'd have to blame the whole rattlesnake scene on Richard Matheson, the writer.  What Steven Spielberg accomplished with "Duel" was to make just about the best TV movie anyone ever had, as well as shooting it in way that was unheard of for a TV movie, meaning with a ton of interesting coverage and very little dialog.  "Duel" is an incredibly well-directed, well-shot TV movie, but it's still a TV movie shot in 18 days.  Next to "Jaws," it's my favorite Spielberg film.

Josh

Name:              John
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

In a nearly empty theater, I saw "Flags of Our Fathers" tonight and I have to say I was greatly disappointed. While isn't a disaster, it is a muddled movie.

Essentially, there are three stories here: 1. A recounting of the battle of Iwo Jima 2. The story of the lives of three of the six soldiers and 3. A look at the inner machinations and politics of WWII. The most fascinating of the stories is the third, which consequently, is the least focused and expanded upon.

The Iwo Jima scenes were quite astonishing. The second story is very good as well, but interspersed with the battle sequences the terrible choice of intermittent voiceover, is told an agonizingly disjointed fashion. It's hardly used in the first 2/3 of the movie and then used almost exclusively to hold up the last 1/3 of the film.

There is a great movie in here about the media, politics and machinery of selling and "winning" a war but Eastwood is oddly didactic here.

The score is great.

How about you? Any comments about this, and have you seen anything lately that's good, or even okay? Thanks.

Dear John:

I'm not surprised.  And I suspect that I won't like it as much as you did. Not that it matters, but the film really dropped dead at the box office. "Grudge 2" opened the weekend before with $22 million, and "Flags," which was nearly tens times as expensive, only did $10 million.  I've seen nothing but nonsense lately, like "Flightplan," "City of Industry" and "U.S. Marshals."  The only reason I sat through these films is that I haven't been sleeping well lately.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

It's been a while since I wrote in, and today, if you please, I have two.

First, I just saw Marie Antoinette. If I recall, you aren't a fan of Sophia C. I didn't like Lost in Translation so I'm right with you. However, this film was a great surprise to me. The cinematogrpahy was exceptional (Lance Acord, who also did Adaptaion and Being John Malcovich). I'm wondering if you plan to see it.

Next question: I was just browsing imdb and I ended up on their worlwide box office records page. I noticed that in the top ten, only two films (Titanic and Jurassic Park) were made prior to 2002. What does one make of this?

Thanks again. I hope to write in more often.

-Rob

Dear Rob:

Welcome back.  No, I don't plan to see this new version of "Marie Antionette."  I did recently see the 1938 version with Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore and a very young Robert Morley, and I enjoyed it. Regarding the all-time top ten, there's a lot more people now in the world paying much higher prices.

Josh

Name:              tinalouise
E-mail:

mr. becker,

what's the deal on using other movies in your movie? say you have a character flipping through the channels on television and its just 5 seconds on each station. do you have to pay for what is used?

also, what about on using other movie posters for props? do you have to pay to use those?

Dear tinalouise:

Is this for a commercial feature film or a home movie?  It depends on your exposure, meaning who is going to see it.  If it's going into general release, with a lot of exposure, you'd pay for the rights of everything.  If no one is going to see it, why pay for anything?

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Are you looking forward to seeing Flags of Our Fathers?

Dear Bob:

No.  Early word is that, just like everything else, it's way too long. Also, I haven't liked anything Clint Eastwood has done in over a decade, so I really have no hope for this film.

Josh

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

Josh,

Ok, now I see why you don't like "The Last Temptation of Christ".

I did not think Jesus was portrayed as "a creepy asshole", I think it portrayed his struggle to accept his fate as a martyr and how it affected him.

Whether you believe he is the son of God or not (I don't), I felt the point of the film was to show how these decisions he was making were affecting him and all his followers and how he suffered with these decisions and his beliefs which all humans do as well.

As far as New York actors in the film, the only New York actor with a main role was Harvey Keitel as Judas, so I am not sure what you mean? Willem Defoe is from Wisconsin. The apostles were played by a mixed bag of actors, some were New York actors and some were not, and then there is David Bowie as Pontius Pilate, and Mary Magdalene was played by Barbara Hershey etc...

I think the film suffers from length, but I was not bothered by most of the performances with the exception of Keitel as Judas.

Anyhow, moving on to my next question...

Do you know what feature films were made about Orson Welles famous radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds". I remember seeing one a long time ago, but I think it was a made for TV movie, however, for the life of me I can't remember the name of it.

I am curious to know if you know how many others were made?

Scott

Dear Scott:

The TV movie was called something like "The Night America Panicked," with Vic Morrow and Paul Shenar as Welles.  That's the only one I know about.

Josh

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

Josh,

You actually never discussed whether you like "The Last Temptation of Christ" before with me, but now I realize your position on it.

I actually feel that the film should be in Scorcese's middle realm as your grading goes. I feel it is a much better film than "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator,", and "Bringing Out the Dead," and I think it is a much better film than "Casino". That film should be put on the bottom barrel of Scorcese's career.

I liked "The Last Temptation of Christ" and I think it is too long, but I felt the performances were strong, and the only other problem I had with it is he tried to make the dialogue too contemporary, but it was the only film that attempted to portray Jesus as he really was which was a man and a real human being. Even though Defoe is not a Jew, I liked his performance.

I also believe the film was true to the book for the most part and I felt the book was decent.

As for 'The Departed" it is just a re-make of a pretty damn good Chinese film; "Mou gaan dou" (Internal Affairs), and for the life of me I can't figure out why Scorcese can't come up with more original material, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you said he is old as I think he lost his mojo with "Goodfellas" as well.

I think he should stick to documentaries as that has become his strength in his later years.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I agree about Scorsese and the documentaries.  I disagree about "Last Temptation," which I thought was a disaster.  The basic concept is -- what if Jesus was a creepy asshole, and I don't think he was.  Also, all those New York actors doing a biblical story seemed completely inappropriate and ridiculous.  "Jesus, you fuckin' mook!"

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<<I have the film out to Rhino Records and films, but I haven't heard a word back.  My questions is, if it's out there on YouTube for free, why would anyone ever go to the trouble of distributing it?  Not that anyone seems even slightly interested, mind you.  What do you think? >>

On one hand, it probably wouldn't help get it distributed, but it just might get it to the right audience (it worked for your book). Your film is a seriously mixed bag. It's a comedy and a musical, but its also a discussion piece (with a bit of allegory, much like THE FOUNTAINHEAD and EMPEROR OF THE NORTH), not to mention a folk movement and beatnik film (with a nice jazz score).

However, to quote Howard Roark: "a man who works for no payment is a slave". Why should a bunch of people get to see it for free, when they had the chance to buy it, but didn't? Best movie I've seen lately is GANDHI, and just an hour ago, TOP HAT.

Dear Aaron:

He's referring to "If I Had a Hammer," by the way.  The question is, should the film, which has not yet been distributed, be posted on YouTube?  And you're right, it did work for my book.  I like the first half of "Gandhi," particularly the stuff in South Africa (with the young Daniel Day Lewis), but the second half seemed to go on forever.  All the Astaire-Rogers films are fun.

Josh

Name:              James
E-mail:

Hi Josh.

When someone describes a movie as having wonderful "texture," are they referring to the layers of meaning (often subtextual) within the story or are they talking about the mise en scène?

Thanks.

P.S. I recently watched a Robert Osbourne TCM interview with ex child star Margaret O'Brien and she revealed that her very first date as a shy, sheltered teen was with none other than Dennis Hopper. Can you imagine those two together? Natalie Wood hooked them up because she was concerned about Margaret's lack of a social life. Not surprisingly, the match did not fare well. Too funny.

Dear James:

"Texture" is a vague word that could mean either of your interpretations, or even the photography.  I don't think I've ever used the word myself regarding any of those issues.  Subtext is a wonderful thing in a story and we don't get to see too much of that anymore.  Nor do we get much allegorical writing anymore, or even thematic writing.  I don't believe that most screenwriters now ever think about these things.  As Haskell Wexler was quoted as saying, we're at a cultural nadir and most movies have been dumbed down as much as possible to hopefully appeal to a larger, worldwide audience who don't pick up on subtleties.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm quite surprised that you didn't condemn "The Departed" outright. I love Scorsese and I've seen each of his recent film's on opening night with that faint hope that "this one might be good." I found "The Departed" wholly deplorable and after the screening I walked across the lobby of the cineplex into another movie just to get the taste out of my mouth. If it wasn't for 'Gimme Shelter' being used at least three times, I would not have even imagined this to be a Scorsese film. The camera movements, shifting the frame rates, and (as you mentioned) the way music is just smeared all over the piece as if it were a cheap rental. It was all off. The greatest departure of all in this film was between Scorsese and his craft.

(Spoilers Herein)

The only reedeming point of this movie, for me, was walking to the train after I left the theatre. I thought about everything I hated in this movie; the absurdity that the gang knows there is a rat among them and nobody suspects the man that, until recently, was a known police officer. Why? Because he had his cast broken and cried. The cellphone being a central plot device (I know it may seem petty, but I hate the way the cell phone is used to propegate any action/situation in movies. It's replaced the hand of god and become an easy-out for writers.). And the closer that Costello (Nicholson) recorded every phone conversation. That was the ulitamte fuck-you to the intelligence of the audience and works to stregthen the one suspension of disbelief per movie theory. I ran these and other things through my head and wondered, had I not found this site and read your essays on structure and lurked on the Q & A boards during my lunchbreak over the past several years, would I have been cheering along with the rest of the audience?  You've truly introduced me (and I'm sure quite a few of your readers) to a more analytical appraoch to viewing film, and not just accepting what's presented, but sending it back; knowing what's good and what's bad.

Thanks,
Angel

Dear Angel:

I absolutely agree with your assessment of the film.  I think I wasn't being completely mean because I haven't been to a movie in months, and this was Martin Scorsese, and for some reason I was trying to show a little respect. But, were I forced to sit through it again, I could easily despise the film. It's lesser Scorsese for sure, down at the bottom with shit like "New York, New York," "Age of Innocence," "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator," "Cape Fear," "Bringing Out the Dead," and "The Last Temptation of Christ."  Up at the top I'd put "Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," and "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore."  Then there's the Scorsese middle realm of "King of Comedy," "The Color of Money," "After Hours," "Kundun," "Casino," "Who's That Knocking at My Door," and "Boxcar Bertha."  When all is said and done, he hasn't made a good film since "Goodfellas" in 1990, 16 years ago, and that was a comeback.  He's old now, so I expect no more comebacks from him.

Josh

Name:              Chris Beeler
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Thank you Mr.Becker for anwering my question about negative films. That really helps me out alot.

Yes I do have one more question but this time it is more about writing.

I have seen a couple of times on here where you say that you didn't care about the character or that you didn't think the character was believable.

So let's say you have a multi-character story you are thinking about and there is a main character along with 3 or 4 others. It seems like a lot to me to write so that all characters are cared about or believable.

Could this story work with only the main character eventually end up being cared about while the others are despised. My idea is really all about the main character anyway. The other 3 characters are supposed to be bad and despised.

I am thinking that as long as you have that one character people can relate to, care about or believe then it might actually turn out OK? Or should there be something in all of the characters that people can relate to or potentially care about?

Do caring and believabilty share the same importance when writing a story or is there any one that is more important that the other?
Thank you again.

Chris Beeler

Dear Chris:

You can care about and believe a bad guy, too, like "Taxi Driver," for example.  But it's very important to get the audience caring and empathizing with your lead character, your protagonist, which then becomes the audience's point of view.  Look, it's good to make every character as deep as possible, but only the lead is absolutely necessary.  Watch "Platoon" and see how Oliver Stone gets you to care about and believe in a lot of a characters like Keith David or Forrest Whittaker), although Charlie Sheen is most definitely the lead.  Anything else?  I'm happy to answer any questions you've got.

Josh

Name:              Jon 'big Running Time fan' Cross
E-mail:             gimmesugar@hotmail.com

Josh,

Do you write and direct films that you would go and see?
Do you write and direct films that you just want to make, for fun etc?
Do you write and direct the films you do, because the money happens to be available (when it is) for those types of films? or is it a combination of all three?
JC

Dear Jon:

My four independent features are for reasons one and two, my three TV movies are for reason three.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

"I'd be even less interested (if that were possible) in a remake of "First Blood," then another useless sequel. Stallone is too old for Rambo or Rocky anymore. These films are nothing more than desperation moves by a panicked former movie star trying to hold onto his shred of fame and fortune."

I agree whole heartedly. Stallone shouldn't play Rambo or Rocky. In fact they don't need any more sequels. But Stallone is apparently working on a bio pic on Poe which could be cool if he doesn't be a dumbass and cast himself. I liked his writing back in the day. When he wrote Rocky and the first Blood but now he's lost it. So maybe Poe won't be so good. Would you be interested if you started hearing good things about it?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

No, because I wouldn't believe them.  Stallone's been dicking around with this Poe biopic for 20 years, and he certainly seems like the wrong guy for the job.  It'll probably end up like his sequel to "Saturday Night Fever," the astoundingly awful "Staying Alive."  I saw a long trailer for "Rocky Balboa" last night (on "Friday Night Fights"), and it looks lame as shit.  I personally think Antonio Tarver is a poor choice for the opponent (Mason Dixon?  What a dumb name): he's a baby-faced light-heavyweight who fights at 175 lbs. and held onto his belt for one fight.  Stallone should've cast Bernard Hopkins, who's also a light-heavyweight, but is scary-looking.  Part of the problem with Stallone and Rocky is that he's supposed to be the heavyweight champ and he's not a heavyweight.  Meanwhile, changing subjects, I saw "The Departed" yesterday.  It's not a half an hour too long, it's an hour too long.  It starts off okay (at best), and within an hour I was utterly weary of the whole thing.  Scorsese no longer has a clue how to use music in a movie, and his excessive technique constantly seems pointless and to no end.  It may be Scorsese's best film in nearly 20 years, but it's still not very good.

Josh

Name:              Chris Beeler
E-mail:

Mr.Becker,

I am starting to experiment with 16mm film and there is something I do not understand about the negative film.

For instance the few rolls I have shot I have played back on my Dad's old 16mm projector in the garage.

I want to try the negative film because there are so many more options as far as speeds and flexibility go.

The question though is after you shoot it then what?

It evidently doesn't play through a projector so how do you get it to a point where you can view it and edit it if need be.

I'm sure to you this is a rather ignorant question but it's all greek to me right now and I need all the help I can get.

Thank you.

Chris

Dear Chris:

As you discovered, you don't show negative film stock on the projector.  You either have the lab that processed the film make a print, known as workprint, or you have a video or digital transfer made off the negative, then watch it on a TV.  It depends on how you intend to edit it.  You try to keep the negative pristine and never run it through a projector, that way you can make more prints or transfers if you need them.  Any other questions?

Josh

Name:              Jaime
E-mail:

Josh,

Have you (or Craig) seen Rusell's The Devils? Sadly it can only be seen on VHS (cropped from 2.35:1) since there is no R1 DVD yet. But it's worth seeing because it's Rusell's take on the abuse of power and many other things.

Let me join the "Altered States" fan club. Great film, and the hallucination visual effects and Dick Smith's make-up kick the crap out of CGI.

Meanwhile, while I agree with you, Josh, on the dialogue delivery, Paddy Chayefsky did disown the film because of this (I believe). I know that it's based on his novel and I have a feeling that he disowned the film because it went over the top in parts because of Ken Russell's flamboyance. But thats part of the reason why I think the film works so well.

The Conrad Rooks film is only worth noting because Sven Nykvist shot it.

Dear Jaime:

I've seen "The Devils" several times, including when it came out.  It's an incredibly creepy, disturbing movie.  I know that Paddy Cheyefsky disowned the film "Altered States," but he was wrong.  Ken Russell finally had Cheyefsky banned from the set.  But those rapid fire line deliveries are part of what make the film so good.  I kind of feel like William Hurt was never better than that, too.

Josh

Name:              Bridgewater
E-mail:             k-i-o-u@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

I am writing to inquire about the "optioning" process. Though I believe all of your scripts are original, you are perhaps familiar with the steps one must take in order to option a book, especially if the author is no longer with us.

Thank you.

Signed,

Tom Bridgewater

Dear Tom:

You have to contact the publisher.  If the author didn't die all that long ago -- like in the last 50 years -- then the rights to the book are probably controlled by their estate.  You should probably get a lawyer to do this for you.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Thomas H
E-mail:             thillgren@hotmail.com

Dear Mr Becker!

When you made Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except, was it sometimes during production that you needed to be creative and make fast decision. And did you learn anything when you shoot that movie.

Dear Thomas:

That was my first feature film and I learned a lot.  Filmmaking is all about fast decisions, and the director must make those on every film.  Read my essay, "The Making of TSNKE.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Treasure Island (1934 -- directed by Victor Fleming) has (finally) been released on dvd. I am a fan of Mr. Fleming's films, particularly "Captain's Courageous", but have not yet seen TI. Do you recommend it?

Dear David:

I liked it as a kid, but I had difficulty with it the last time I tried to watch it.  Wallace Beery is one of, if not the biggest, ham to ever chew the scenery in a motion picture.  Jackie Cooper was a pretty big ham, too.  But Victor Fleming keeps it all moving pretty snappily, so it's not too hard to watch, but I don't think it's all that good.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<<If you can get that to work for you, great.  There are enough unproduced screenplays out there to fill the Grand Canyon, and most of them aren't worth the paper they're written on, let alone being turned into comic books.>>

Actually, I heard that's how they got WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT made. It started out as a screenplay, which NOBODY understood, then the guy had it turned into a novel, which was then adapted back into a film. Weird eh? Since I'm watching all the Best Pictures lately I sat through THE DEER HUNTER (shudder). It occured to me somewhere in the middle of the film that this was actually a better film than Spike Lee's MALCOLM X (which isn't a good thing).

On your What Could've Won, What Should've Won list, you mention a film called THE PATRIOT that you've never seen but swear its better than BROADWAY MELODY (just watched that too). What was it about? Why is it no longer in existence? And is there any footage left from it? It's kind of spooky hearing Hank from BROADWAY MELODY had a role in THE HUNGER.

Dear Aaron:

Hank who?  I have the trailer for "The Patriot," which obviously still exits.  I forget what it's about.  But just like three-quarters of all the other silent films, it no longer exits.  No prints or negative elements have survived.  Yes, I'd agree that "The Deer Hunter" was a better film than "Malcom X," and that both of them are really just expensive pieces of crap. When I saw "Broadway Melody" in L.A. the co-star, Anita Page, was in attendance.

Josh

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

Josh,

I know you really like "The member of the Wedding" both film and book.

We discussed this before, but I also find it fascinating that the film is so well done and it takes place in only one location.

I think the film proves that if you have a great story and good dialogue, you don't need much else to drive a film including multiple locations.

I saw "Reflections in a Golden Eye" many years ago and it is a weird film, but it is one of her novels I haven't read, however, I think I will have to read it now.

The film had a great cast and it was directed by John Huston (As I am sure you know).

The thing I like about McCullers books is that she wrote stories about the outcasts and the underdogs of society and she did it very well as I think she felt she was one herself.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Yes, I agree, I do think she thought of herself as an outcast.  Her collection of stories, "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe," is really about that. It was made into an absolutely terrible film by none other than Simon Callow.  I'm one of the very few humans to have seen the film in a theater.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Watched "Altered States" last night for the first time in around twenty years. I still quite like it, though it's not the truly amazing landmark film it probably should have been; Ken Russell fucked around with Chayefsky's script and had the dialogue mumbled by the actors, but it's still a very interesting film.

It's actually quite surprising that there are very few films about the history of psychedelics; all we get are biopics of musicians. It's the same with all the films of Christ. Siddhartha (1972, Conrad Rooks) is a fascinating film but there hasn't been anything else of note, as far as I know. Anyway, "Altered States" is a unique film in its subject matter and style - great cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth. What do you think?

Dear Craig:

I think "Altered States" is a terrific film.  I also really like Ken Russell's direction, and completely agree with his approach to the lengthy, technical speeches, of having the actors just tear through them.  The editing is great, and the tripping scenes are still as good as anyone's ever done them.  I rewatched "Siddartha" not too long ago, and it's pretty awful.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just read Maltin's review of "Laughter in the Dark" in my copy of his guide and you are right, looks like he hated it.

He is right about the story and all of that does happen to this foolish old man, but I like the story and I thought the book was very good, so I am wondering what happened when it was translated to film?

Maybe that is why it was never released on VHS or DVD?

The New York Times gave a good review of the book calling it "A remarkable achievement, if not a masterpiece."

I also finished the novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter recently and Even though I thought the film s was o.k. and Alan Arkin was very good, I felt the book was far superior and even though I don't like remakes, I think a much better film version could be made now.

I am going to purchase Harlan Ellison's book of short stories that you recommended "Angry Candy" and read that next.

I will never find it here as it is very difficult to find books in English here and my Portuguese is not yet at the level where I can read novels or even short stories without referencing the dictionary constantly.

I will have to buy it online and I will most likely do a big order of some books to make the shipping worth it.

Brazilians are very culture proud just like Americans and they enjoy their language very much and in many ways Brazil is like the U.S. where it is difficult to find things such as books written in other languages and if you do they are expensive.

Scott

Dear Scott:

It was very difficult finding any books in English in Bulgaria.  I liked the book "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" quite a lot, and I agree, it's just an okay movie.  I thought the very young Sondra Locke was good, and Alan Arkin was very good.  I've read all of Carson McCuller's books, and I liked them all.  My favorite is "The Member of the Wedding," and I absolutely love the movie.  The weirdest was "Reflections in a Golden Eye," both book and film.

Josh

Name:              Nate Capp
E-mail:             vlad1377@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

I was reading a recent interview with Terry Gilliam, and he said that he was approached by someone who was willing to turn any unproduced scripts into comic books hoping to generate interest to eventually turn them into movies.  I know how you feel about Gilliam and comic books, but what do you think of this idea???  It seems to me that since they are turning practically all comic books into movies, that you may as well play within the system.  If it did generate interest, you could still make the movie you intended to make.

Dear Nate:

If you can get that to work for you, great.  There are enough unproduced screenplays out there to fill the Grand Canyon, and most of them aren't worth the paper they're written on, let alone being turned into comic books.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What was one of the Updike short stories that you enjoyed? I haven't read any of his short works yet, but I would certainly like to.

I don't know about "Boys & Girls Together," for some reason I've always tried to visualize portions of it in my head, but of course you might be right about it not working as a film. I'd like to see somebody excited about cinema and storytelling approach it one day, but that probably won't happen.

Have you read all of Goldman's "adventures in screenwriting" books? I found those to be excellent.

Dear Craig:

Way back when, I was a William Goldman fan, and I read most of his books. But then, at some point around "Marathon Man" (which I liked), he totally sold out, stopped trying to write anything meaningful, and went strictly for what was commercial, and that's when I lost interest.  Yes, I read both of his filmmaking books, and enjoyed them both.  I'd have to go check on the Updike stories, and I don't feel like it.

Josh

Name:              Johnny Diaz
E-mail:             jd@jdhaus.com

Dear Josh:         

Do you enjoy watching psychotronic/so-bad-it's-good/exploitation/Ed Wood-type films for the camp yuks, or is the whole idea of enjoying a hilariously bad movie spoiled for you by the general state of Hollywood today?

Dear Johnny:

The latter.  I did enjoy that stuff when I was a lot younger and there were good movies coming out all the time to compare the bad movies to.  But now most films are that bad, so what's the difference?

Josh

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

Josh,

I just finished reading "Laughter in the Dark" by Nabokov. A friend of mine gave me his copy of it a while ago and I just found it amongst some of my books that became lost in the shuffle during my move to Brazil.

I liked this story very much and I am curious as to whether you have seen the film? It was directed by Tony Richardson and came out in 1969.

IMDB doesn't list it as being available on any format. I am interested.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Nope, I haven't seen it.  The film was directed by Tony Richardson, who could be very good ("Tom Jones," "Blue Sky"), but could also be very bad. Apparently, "Laughter in the Dark" is one of the very bad ones.  Maltin used words like "excruciating" and "interminable," so if you find it, good luck.

Josh

Name:              Jimmy Traynor
E-mail:             jimmyduketraynor@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

For reviews do you just review  Hollywood films or can and will you watch an indie?

Dear Jimmy:

I generally don't review movies.  I can't think of the last one.  Usually, I just review the films that really piss me off.

Josh

Name:              Cedric Vara
E-mail:             cedric.vara@gmail.com

hey josh,

ran into betsy baker on a film shoot in wisconsin.  she says hi.  loved your essay on BG, tho you didn't mention me once.  what gives man?

Dear Cedric:

Oh, yeah, the last line of the piece was going to be, "And there were these two incredible interns on the shoot who had come all the way from Vassar, which, by the way, is located in Poughkeepsie, New York," but I changed it at the last second.  Should you run into Betsy again (she one of the Ladies of the Evil Dead), please give her my regards.

Josh

Name:              Another Wandering Writer
E-mail:

Hi! I was just wondering if you belive in the theory that all lead characters in scripts are just more ideal versions of the writer?

Tootles!

Dear AWW:

I don't know about "ideal," but I do think that the main characters of a story must contain some part of the writer just to make them human. However, in the book I'm reading now by Philip Roth, Sabbath's Theater," the lead character, Mickey Sabbath, is a short, fat, white-bearded pervert with severe arthritis, and I don't think he could ever be considered an "ideal" version of Philip Roth.  Although, he undoubtedly still contains aspects of Philip Roth's character.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I haven't seen "Rabbit, Run," but I agree with you on "Witches of Eastwick." What was the book of his you couldn't get through?

How about a film of William Goldman's "Boy & Girls Together?" I remember reading that for the first time when I was twelve or so, and couldn't get enough of it. I've always thought it would make an interesting film.

Best.

Dear Craig:

I enoyed "Boys & Girls Together" as well, but that dsoesn't mean it would make a good movie.  I just bought and attempted to read John Updike's "Rabbit, Run" with the idea of reading all four Rabbit books (two of which have won the Pulitzer Prize).  I got through about 30 pages, then tossed it in disgust.  It's painfully overwritten to the point of pretentiousness.  I found it unbearable, and unreadable.  I have enjoyed quite a few of Mr. Updike's short stories and essays, though.

Josh

Name:              Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

If there's one filmmaker alive today that can drag me out of the house and milk my wallet of the twenty bucks it takes for a ticket, popcorn, and soda...then it's Martin  Scorcesse.

Martin dragged me out to see his new film THE DEPARTED yesterday and it didn't dissappoint...not by a long shot! Clever, tightly-plotted script with richly drawn characters, superb acting, motivated and exciting directing, and an irresistable POUNDING rock 'n roll soundtrack.

I do believe we have our first and only great movie of 2006. The film makes no bones about its B movie roots -- in fact, it embraces them --  unlike most genre fare these days which is in denial of its true identity -- MUNICH was a men on a mission movie but tried to be a message movie -- SUPERMAN RETURNS was a comic book movie not a goddamn greek tragedy or christ metaphor...

It was almost subversive to see a filmmaker of Scorcesse's caliber and his A-list cast plunge so fearlessly into unremoarseful, exploitative material but they do it...and they even do it with a collective fuck-you smirk.

I know the movie doesn't need any grass root help from supportive fans, it's backed by a huge marketing campaign and great reviews BUT I think it's worth noting that perhaps we don't quite need another Martin Scorcesse...because the real M.S. is still alive and kicking and doing arguably his best work.

I wish I could say the same for his peers -- Coppola, DePalma, Spielberg, etc.

Dear Bogosian:

Sadly, I don't believe you.

Josh

Name:              Terry Long
E-mail:             tlongbaby@toonerville.com

Dear Josh:         

What's yer opinion of the multi-girlfriend lifestyle of Hugh Hefner?  If you had the choice, would you keep multiple live-in young bimbo girlfriends to bang when you're in your old age?

Dear Terry:

It would certainly be worth a try to see if I liked it.  Maybe I wouldn't, but it sounds like fun finding out.

Josh

Name:              Alotta Fagina
E-mail:             alottafagina@home.com

Dear Josh,

I agree with you, Kirk Douglas is a sharp producer and smart man, and a good actor. I am a Spartacus fan. I guess we have Kirk Douglas to thank for the success of "Paths of Glory!"

If you haven't read David Morrell's book First Blood, which was published in 1972 I believe, I really recommend maybe you can glance at the ending at least. It is a better ending than in the film. I didn't like that Rambo was crying like that. The book is grittier. If they were doing a by the book Rambo remake, would this be a project you would be interested in?

The ending is even more interesting in that though Rambo was raised Catholic he started doubting his faith, but then when he dies he experiences his soul leaving his body and going upwards, and it says "he thought if he kept going like this he might be wrong and see God after all." A beautiful scene. I guess we really don't know until we pass away.

Please let me know whether theoretically the project would interest you. I also think, regardless of our beliefs, there comes a time when we will find out if there is an after-life.

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

I'd be even less interested (if that were possible) in a remake of "First Blood," then another useless sequel.  Stallone is too old for Rambo or Rocky anymore.  These films are nothing more than desperation moves by a panicked former movie star trying to hold onto his shred of fame and fortune.

Josh

Name:              bob Keenan
E-mail:             bobk222@comcast.net

Dear Josh:         

You went to Andover High School didn't you.  You were in my film class.  I'll never forget some of your first 8mm flix. Stuffing your mom into a black plastic garbage bag; ingenious!  I'd knew you go on to amazing levels.  Nice.

Dear bob:

I didn't go to Andover, I went to Groves.  I did make a movie with my mom in it, and she gets killed and stuffed into a bag (with the incredibly silly title, "The Magnificent Severed"), but that was in college, at Oakland Community College.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

"Since the market is geared pretty specifically to kids, why would anyone in Hollywood bother reading actual books?"

I don't know, but I know many, many adults and young adults who would rather watch "Bridge on the River Kwai," "Citizen Kane," "Carnal Knowledge," "Cries and Whispers," or "Annie Hall" FAR before most new Hollywood films, and these same people would go see films based on novels, and read them, too.

What are some of these sci-fi stories you speak of? Surely "I Have No Mouth..." would make an interesting film, if done right.

How about John Updike? Do you think he would adapt well into film? I wonder what studio holds the rights to his work?

Best,
Craig

Dear Craig:

John Updike's books haven't adapted all that well to film, so far.  The two that immediately come to mind are "Rabbit, Run" (1970) and "The Witches of Eastwick," neither of which were very good.  I just tried reading Updike again, and couldn't.  I found his prose to be unbearably overwritten. Meanwhile, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is a short story, and I don't think there's a whole feature film there.  But I'm talking about all of Robert Heinlein's books, most of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, etc.

Josh

Name:              George R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Read the essay, Essay. That really sucks it hard about the title change. Stryker's War is a much better title. While I was cruising through your website I also noticed you wrote some stories for Freddy's Nightmares (which I take it were never produced). What's the deal with them? Did you ever have any meetings with the Freddy's Nightmares people, or are those just stories that kicked around until they fell on your website?

Also, what's you take on the slasher genre in general. Are there any you like? Any you hate?

Dear George:

I met with the Freddy's Nightmares folks a few times, but they never knew what they wanted.  Slasher movies bore me to tears.  I like "Psycho."

Josh

Name:              George R.
E-mail:

Hello Sir. I have a question for you, and only you, should you choose to answer to it. I was wondering if you ever reuse gags or lines or jokes in your movies? Like, if one gag worked particularly well do you ever put it into another script as sort of a call back to your previous work, or once you use something do you forbid yourself from doing it again?

Also. I read a long time ago that Bruce Campbell wanted you to remake Thou Shalt Not Kill ... Except! with him in the lead now that he's old enough. Have you given that any consideration, or do you not want to bother with that. Also, how did the name change from Stryker's War to TSNKE?

Dear George:

Regarding the name change, read the essay "The Making of TSNKE."  Bruce did mention remaking it a couple of times, but that's as far as it ever went.  I don't think I'd direct a remake, though, I'd let Bruce do it.  For a while there in our comedy shorts, we reused a line of dialog a number of times--"Well, I'm glad that's over," then something terrible happens to that person.  I don't generally steal gags from myself, although I have stolen them from others, like Woody Allen or The Three Stooges or Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams.  I was very pleased to steal a gag from "Kentucky Fried Movie" and put it into the Xena episode "In Sickness & in Hell," where Xena says, "The Scythians are tough and ruthless," and Joxer adds, "And their women are rough and toothless."

Josh

Name:              Mark
E-mail:             youthwke@concentric.net

Hi Josh,

I was wondering if you could give me a rough estimate of the salary amount you would offer to a union actor in exchange for a short, animated film voice-over.

The script is less than three pages and the recording session would last no more than a few hours. The actor I wish to approach is not well-known, but I don't expect him to work on something that's so low-budget and so low-profile without adequate compensation (I can't stand filmmakers who expect others to bust their asses without decent pay).

My concern is that, being inexperienced, I will offer the wrong amount --  causing the actor's agent to toss my request into the trash if the number is too meagre. On the other hand, it would be foolish of me to offer way more than is necessary.

Bearing in mind that the film is a labor of love (and not some flashy, empty industry "calling card"), what would you suggest I offer?

Thanks very much.

Dear Mark:

If they're a SAG actor try starting with SAG rates and see where that gets you.  Have you looked into what it means using a SAG actor?  Like you can't mix up SAG and non-SAG actors, and you need to be signatory to SAG to hire union actors.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Ahh, I remember you saying something about taking that line from "Rolling Thunder", but I didn't know you took that much from it.

Anyway, on a completely different note, are you at all interested in "The Departed"? I was thinking about dragging my ass to the theater to check it out because Scorcese is returning to the gangster genre and I was optimistic about how it would turn out. However, I then remembered his last gangster film "Casino" and how big of a disaster it was, now I'm hesitant.

The man hasn't made a good film since "Goodfellas" (though I know you mentioned how excellent his Bob Dylan doc is, I have yet to see it). The chance of him pulling his shit together and making a movie that is a remake good just seems so fucking slim. It actually stings to say that about the man because of his early films, but I doubt this will be any good.

Do you think you'll check it out in the cinma or will you wait for it to hit cable?

Dear Trey:

I no longer believe in Mr. Scorsese, so no, I won't be running out to see it.  Not to mention it's a remake.  I've already heard from a good source that it's easily a half an hour too long, and it just looks like a nothing to me.  Also, neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Matt Damon have the slightest bit of gravitas or screen presence between them.  As they mentioned in the NY Times review, in the Chinese version you had two adults playing those parts, in the American version we get kids.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Hello Josh,

I've been wondering for a while now, but I've never asked you. Surely if original screenplays are sinking, there is plenty of good literary material in existence that should be embraced for cinema....what do you think are some novels that would make good films?

Best,
Craig

Dear Craig:

Since the market is geared pretty specifically to kids, why would anyone in Hollywood bother reading actual books?  Comic books seem to be the preferred medium to adapt from now, and they spare you the trouble of having to read very much since you can just look at the drawings.  What surprises me is how many good science fiction books were never filmed.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Though I'm not sure if they actually ripped off your premise for "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except", the description for the latest pro-wrestler gone movie star shit flick sounds very much like your film:

"John Triton is a heroic Marine who returns home after being discharged--against his will--from the Iraq War. Stateside, he finds himself back in action, when his wife is kidnapped by a murderous gang led by a merciless criminal named Rome. With everything on the line, the Marine will stop at nothing to carry out his toughest and most important mission."

In fact, if you just change a few things:


"Jack Stryker is a heroic Marine who returns home after being discharged--against his will--from the Vietnam War. Stateside, he finds himself back in action, when his girlfriend is kidnapped by a murderous gang led by a merciless cult leader. With everything on the line, the Marine will stop at nothing to carry out his toughest and most important mission."

Oh well, I believe Bruce Campbell said it best, you have always been ahead of your time. You should have just waited 20 years and casted a pro-wrestler as Stryker. =)

Dear Trey:

It was nowhere near an original plot when I did it.  I was flatly ripping off "Rolling Thunder," right down to the line, "Let's go clean 'em up," which Tommy Lee Jones says in "Rolling Thunder," and that was the first time I ever recall seeing him in anything.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Thanks James for sharing the Hank Stone MySpace profile! That thing is sweet. I just read an interview where you said "I recently finished the script for another Bruce Campbell slapstick comedy, called "It's a Lost, Lost World," which will hopefully also have Lucy Lawless, Ted Raimi and Renee O'Conner, and be made for Rob Tapert. "

My Question: WHAT? What's this one about? Please give us the plot. The title sounds cool!

Dear Chris:

My friend, Paul Harris, and I wrote two slapstick comedy scripts in a row last year for Bruce and Ted, "The Horribleness," a horror/slapstick comedy, and "It's a Lost, Lost World," a lost world/land that time forgot/slapstick comedy, which has a great part that we envisioned for Lucy (*Her* That Never Dies).  Rob seemed interested for a little while, but he got busy and we haven't discussed it recently.  But I am actively trying right now to get either or both of these scripts made, which certainly doesn't mean I will. Bruce and Ted are all for it.  I don't know what Lucy thinks about it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Its been a while since I posted here. Hope all is well and hope post is going well. I was in the video store and the manager had heard about a movie that was getting rave reviews called, "Hard Candy". Have u heard of this film? It was a movie about a pedophile who meets a 14 year old girl hes been talking to online in person and she invites herself to his house where she turns the table on him and in turn tortures him. Its pretty well done for a low budget first feature. And I guess Sam had seen it and the writer and director are in pre production for a ghosthouse film. Its worthy of a rental but I'm sure you won't like it as much as some would. Once again good luck on post and I can't wait to see, "Stan Lee'S The Harpies"

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

Josh

Name:              Paul Norris
E-mail:             paulnorrisishere@hotmail.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

well put, reading this article made me smile, you have hit the nail on the head with everything you have written in this article, the only problem people like you and me face with this view is that religious leaders will denounce us as spreaders of evil in their eternal witch hunt against anyone who expreses differing opinions to theirs because their position brings them power and wealth, and they are scared of loosing it, also one point i thought over and over also is if you take a person has been brainwashed into believing, lets say for example, that if they commit a suicide bombing on innocent people, then they will go straight to heaven.Do you think if you could stop time seconds before they detonated their bomb, and presented them with all the facts about their "holy" beliefs they would be willing, or able to change their opinions/beliefs and abort this act? it does trouble me personaly. I see people as victims of their religions and beliefs, it is difficult for one who is brought up in a devout religious family to be able to comprehend anything different than that they have been told and preached to about in some cases many times daily, it must be harrowing for them to even consider questioning these things if everyone they know and love do not.
When things come to a head the world could not possibly unite as one the way it should because many people and societies have such hostility towards other beliefs, or more to the point accepting that their beliefs may not be entirely true, let alone fact, which is a painful fact about the human race, mmmmm, anyway i just felt i had to send an email expressing my appreciation of this article, i would be most interested in meeting people with this out look on life, because so many people are walking on eggshells around dated and quite frankly absured beliefs due to the recent appearance of hysterical political correctness.

Dear Paul:

It seems that my 99-cent store essay is my most popular, followed by "Religion is Evil."   Nobody gives a rat's ass about all that screenplay structure folderol.  What's possibly interesting about being a Jew, and the fact that they make up such a tiny portion of the world's population, is that you frequently find yourself in the company of nothing but gentiles. For instance, on this shoot in Bulgaria I was the only Jew in the cast and crew, which is composed of several hunred people.  Aside from the fact that I'm the least observant Jew ever, there certainly no way I can seriously think that my point of view is correct and absolutely everybody else is wrong, meaning the whole country.  I'm just hoping they don't start a pogrom.

Josh

Name:              Bad Mamma Jamma
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hey. I'm curious. What would you do if you found out you had fathered a child? Would you like, take the flag of "Fatherhood" and do all the dad things, or would you rather stand back and just figure that the kid is better off without you? Or something totally different?

Dear BMJ:

Why?  Do you know something I don't?  Meanwhile, I think I'm too old to have kids anymore.  If I had a kid now, I'd be nearly 60 when they were 10, and nearly 70 when they were 20.  My erstwhile girlfriend, Lisa, has three teenagers, and I get enough of the whole situation just hearing about it from her.

Josh

Name:              Alotta Fagina
E-mail:             alottafagina@home.com

Dear Josh,

I'm very happy you liked First Blood as much, you are right about all the praise and it is my favorite of the series. It is better than the sequels which focused more on action. I heard they actually also filmed a different ending where Rambo commits suicide, and Kirk Douglas who originally was playing Colonel Trautman dropped out because unlike David Morrell's novel the ending did not have Rambo die (Colonel shoots a dying Rambo in the end of the book, a sad and emotional scene). Stallone made the character more sympathetic. In the book Rambo kills hundreds. I did not know that your friend wrote Rambo III! That is wonderful. You have great connections. I laughed about Sheldon's suggestion "Rambo: The Search for Rocky" thanks for letting me know! I was looking at another discussion here and I read that during Rambo III there was actually an Iranian plot to acquire Stallone.

Speaking of which, I echo your fears about a war with a nuclear Iran. Iran had the fifth ranked army in the world during the Shah's days, non-nuclear then. They are bigger with more people and cultural history than Iraq. I think their government bluffs a lot though. I hope it topples on its own before there is a nuclear conflict, that is scary.

Do you speak with Sheldon anymore? If you do please let me know if he had any say on the statement in the Rambo III DVD against the Afghan Islamic resistance slant in the film since 9-11. Also what is your opinion regarding Kirk Douglas not wanting to play Trautman unless it was by the book. I hope these questions are not boring. Thanks.

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

I think Kirk Douglas was right.  The book's ending sounds much better than the movie's ending, which I never liked.  Kirk had a similar situation with Stanley Kubrick on "Paths of Glory."  Kirk read the book, liked it very much, was instrumental in setting up the deal for the film, read the first draft of the script, liked where they were going, then went off to make another movie.  When he arrived in Germany to make the film, Kubrick had entirely rewritten the script so that it barely resembled the book anymore. Kirk said that they would either shoot the earlier draft of the script, or he'd quit, and the financing would go with him.  So Kubrick relented, and the film's a classic.  Kirk Douglas was a very sharp producer, with good taste.

Josh

Name:              A.S.
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I thought you'd be interested in this because of your review.

From IMDB.COM
<<Stanley Kubrick thought his last movie Eyes Wide Shut was a "piece of s**t" that was ruined by interference from its stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, according to actor R. Lee Ermey. Ermey starred in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and remained in contact with the legendary film-maker up until his death in 1999. When the pair spoke shortly after Kubrick had completed work on Eyes Wide Shut, Ermey recalls the legendary director expressing his disappointment with the movie. He says, "Stanley called me about two weeks before he died, as a matter of fact. We had a long conversation about Eyes Wide Shut. He told me it was a piece of s**t and that he was disgusted with it and that the critics were going to have him for lunch. He said Cruise and Kidman had their way with him - exactly the words he used. He was kind of a shy little timid guy. He wasn't real forceful. That's why he didn't appreciate working with big, high-powered actors. They would have their way with him, he would lose control, and his movie would turn to s**t." Kubrick died in Hertfordshire, England of natural causes in March 1999.>>

Dear A.S.:

What a cop-out on Kubrick's part.  Yeah, blame it on the actors.  I guess Tom and Nicole must have brought shitty script with them to England.  If you read Fredric Raphael's book, "Eyes Wide Open," about the writing of EWS (he co-wrote the script), you see that Kubrick NEVER knew what the story was about.  It was based on a musty, dated old book from the 1920s that didn't update, and both Kubrick and Rapheal both knew it during the writing, which took a couple of years.  Stanley Kubrick frequently worked with big stars, like Kirk Douglas (twice), Peter Sellers (twice), George C. Scott, James Mason, Shelley Winters, Jack Nicholson, so I don't buy that "he didn't appreciate working with high-powered stars."  EWS was a disaster from the first second of its conception, and it was Stanley Kubrick's fault.

Josh

Name:              ryan
E-mail:             smokeydread@excite.com

dear josh,

         i'm in barbados working on my first independent film for the big sceen and i was wondering if i should do a short film for my first project or a full feature film,it about a 80 mins
mr.x

Dear ryan:

I'm confused.  If you're in Barbados making your "first independent film for the big sc[r]een," why do you have to choose your first project?  Aren't you already making it?

Josh

Name:              James
E-mail:             jamesflower1984@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

I was Googling "Lunatics" a while ago and found one of your old Q&A's where you talk about being impressed by the cover art of a copy you found in a NZ video shop ages, but that you never found said cover art again. Well, I've no idea if you found it since, but I found a scan online of the German video sleeve, which uses the same art:

http://www.moviedepartement.de/ebay/XXL/vhs_lunatics.jpg

Oh, and for other computer-minded folk out there, someone's come up with a MySpace profile for Hank Stone, along with several other Ted Raimi characters.  (I swear it's not me!)  The URL is
http://www.myspace.com/hankstone206

Hope that's of use to you, carry on the good work.

Best wishes,
James

Dear James:

Thank you so much, that's exactly what I saw there in Gore, New Zealand all those years ago.  It is a much better cover than the American version.  I'm glad I now have it.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Morning Josh.

The 1943 version of the Titanic is Anti-American, Anti-Britain, anti any "capitalist" country that wasn't with the Germans during World War II. To your point though there are blatant shots at Britain as it (RMS Titanic) was a British vessel.

It was one of Germany's first high dollar productions ever and was plagued with many problems not withstanding the murder of one of the Directors by the SS.Part of the movie was shot aboard a real ship named the Cap Arcona which was sunk along with a couple of others by Royal Air Force war planes in 1945.

Allegedly a few shots of this 1943 version made it into the 1953 version " A Night to Remember".

Since I just found this out I haven't had a chance to sit down and compare them side by side yet.I will say there are very sharp similarities apparent especially when the vessel sinks.

I will also say that Senor' Cameron would have had to have seen this 1943 version at some point in his life.

I will admit I hate subtitles but unless you are fluent in German they are there to stay.

I wanted to mention "QuickSand" which , to me, was a pretty good Film Noir movie I saw just last night.

It was interesting to see Mickey Rooney as a young man.Jeanne Cagney played an excellent Jezebel named Vera who was the source of Danny's pain. Oh...and the $20.00 that got the whole thing started. Killer flick I thought!

Black and White does rock Josh.

Tim

Dear Tim:

"A Night to Remember" is 1958.  You're referring to the 1953 film "Titanic," with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb, that won the Oscar for Best Screenplay.   The best of the Titanic films is certainly "A Night to Remember."  Meanwhile, I liked "Quicksand," and all of Mickey Rooney's 1950s, low-budget films, many of which he produced himself.  I recently saw another cool, Mickey Rooney noir film of that period, "Drive a Crooked Road" (1954).  Other goods ones are" "The Big Wheel" (1949), "The Fireball" (1950, with a very young Marilyn Monroe), "The Strip" (1951).

Josh

Name:              Michael
E-mail:             mal@kingston.net

Josh,

At the bottom of your main page you have a link to a agency that is infact a scam.  Please see the following link.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=772770

Not sure if you are aware of this or not but I know you to be a credible source and trust this site.

Dear Michael:

I have no idea what it is.  Shirley, would please make it go away.

Thanks,

Josh

 

Josh,

We don't have a link to them, but it was probably one of the banners that get rotated to us on the Link Exchange network at the bottom of the front page (in exchange for them rotating our banner to other websites).  If scammers are advertising on Link Exchange now, it must be time for us to get rid of it.

Shirley

 

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I'm sure you  are all Titanic'd out as it has been the subject of a few discussions here before.

I found another version though from Germany that was made in 1943.

It is definitely wartime in it's anti American approach but I have to admit it has some pretty good effects for 1943. Big-Time propaganda though as I have already mentioned.

It has two directors credited...Werner Klinger and Herman Selpin.Selpin apparently was arrested and hung for creative differences stemming for different points of view on this film.He really did die for his art.

Have you ever had an occasion to watch this one Josh?

Tim

Dear Tim:

I've never heard of it.  How can it be anti-American?  The Titanic was a British ship.  Sounds interesting, though, and I have no doubt it's better than James Cameron's version.

Josh

Name:              ken Francis
E-mail:             franciskenroy@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Sir how are you doing, My name is ken francis and I'm a writer, to make this short I have a couple screenplays that I've written, and I've recieved very good feed back regarding my work, and honestly sir I'm not looking to get rich,I enjoy writting. I'm just looking to sell my screenplay to get a positive start in life. So if your interested in my work please contact me, I promise you wont be dissapointed.

IN GOD WE TRUST

Dear ken:

IN GOD **YOU** TRUST.  If in fact you truly do trust in god, then maybe he ought to come through for you and get you a meeting with a top movie executive who can greenlight your film.  Since I am a screenwriter, I don't need anyone else's screenplays, I have more than enough of my own.

Josh

Name:                Derek
E-mail:               fineman@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Does it bug you that movies featuring guys eating pee snow cones are successful (Jackass), or are they the ultimate low budget movie made good?

Dear Derek:

If you've figured out how to get noticed, then you've done something, even if it takes eating a pee snow cone.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

How many great films has Roman Polanski made? I'd say three -- "Rosemary's Baby", "Chinatown", and "The Tenant", but that's just me.

Dear David:

I agree, although "Repulsion" comes close, and it was actually more disturbing than "The Tenant" in its day.  I do admire "Knife in the Water," and think it's an impressive,  intelligent, well-made, extremely-low-budget first feature.  I'd say that "Tess" and "Macbeth" are both well-made, honorable failures.  All the rest I can live without.

Josh

Name:              Alotta Fagina
E-mail:             alottafagina@home.com

Dear Josh,

How are you doing? What are your thoughts on the upcoming film Rambo IV? I read it was set to start filming in Thailand this month, and later perhaps Burma. Most critics praise the first film in the series.

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

I've seen "First Blood" quite a few times, and I like it, although I think it dramatically falls apart before the end.  But the first half is terrific. It's also well-directed, beautifully-shot, and has a great Jerry Goldsmith score.  Sitting through "Rambo: First Blood II" still stands out as one of the most miserable moviegoing experiences of my life.  "Rambo III," written by my old friend Sheldon Lettich, since it was released in 1988 has probably become the most ridiculously politically incorrect movie ever made.  It's the story of Rambo and his good buddy, the heroic Osama Bin Laden and his patriots, fighting the Russians.  But as for me personally, I so totally don't need another Rambo or a another Rocky movie I can't express it. Sheldon had the best suggestion when he was writing "Rambo III" (nearly 20 years ago), of why not combine Rambo with Rocky.  The Russians kidnap Rocky and Rambo has to go get him back, thus giving us "Rambo: the Search for Rocky."

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Dear Josh:         

Your comments on Bush are right on.  I think at this point it's safe to say this has been the worst presidency in the history of the United States, especially since the excesses of Nixon were in part redeemed by the legislature stepping up and initiating impeachment proceedings, while our current legislature is more cowed than a pasture full of cattle dung.  Here's a partial list of extraordinary occurrences in the last six years:

* Bush installed in office after losing the popular vote through appealing the legal procedings all the way to the Supreme Court (after losing in the state court), after which he gave high ranking federal jobs to the children of two of the Supreme Court justices who elected him (Scalia and Rhenquist -- Bush's lawyer Ted Olsen being close friends with another one of the justices, Clarence Thomas)

* 9/11:  We lose 3,000 lives and two of the most famous buildings in the US after Bush ignores Bin Laden to focus on Saddam Hussein.  Subsequently we go from having the sympathy of the world to the fear and distrust of the rest of the world in a matter of months.

* We invade two Middle East nations near simultaneously, and are still trying to "win" to this day, killing thousands of civilian women and children and supplying all of the anti-US rhetorical ammo any Muslim extremist could dream of.  To date the bill for this has extended into the billions of dollars, with no end in sight, while our public schools and infrastructure fall apart.

* 2004 - more electoral irregularities, including the installation of computerized voting machines built by a Republican-owned company whose owner wrote a letter promising to deliver Ohio to Bush.

* We lose New Orleans.

* South Dakota outlaws abortion.

* We go from a budget surplus and no debt at the end of Clinton presidency to a bugdet huge deficit.

* Building of offshore concentration camps with and secret CIA prisons with no public oversight.

* "Rendering" of prisoners to third-party nations for torture.

* Presidential refutation of the Geneva Convention.

* President declaring himself able to rewrite any bill put on his desk through invalidating "signing statements" which cannot be vetoed by the legislature.

* Patriot Act, spying on citizen telephone calls, infiltration of activist groups by government spies, spying on library habits, "sneak and peek" visitations into citizen homes without warrant or after-the fact notice, etc., etc., etc.

There's plenty more, but I think the point is essentially made.  These have been the worst years in the history of this country, and yet we continue to sit on our asses watching "American Idol" and "Celebrity Dance Contest."  Jesus fucking Christ.

Dear Zane:

I spent every day from the moment Bush and the supreme court stole the 2000 election until Bush was reelected in 2004 -- irregularities or not, I still think he won that election -- sick to my stomach.  At which point I cleared my head of the whole thing, and went into wait-it-out mode.  But the bottom-line is, as H.L. Mencken said, "A democracy is where the average person gets exactly the government they deserve, good and hard."  Until a clear plurality of Americans cast their votes for a rational, non-evil candidate, we'll keep getting the evil ones.  What that means is that perhaps America has become the evil place that most of the world thinks it is.  I don't give a shit what kind of lip-service anyone pays here, Americans seriously believe that one American life is worth at least 1,000 foreigners any day of the week.  To get us to feel even for 9/11 and the 3,000 deaths, we need to kill at least 300,000 Arabs.  So far we've only managed to kill 150,000 Iraqis, so we're only halfway to our goal.  That's why we have to go to war with Iran, our bloodlust is only half quenched. Besides, we suspect that Iran may have the ability to fight back, and might even have a nuclear weapon, so that way we can get on with this goddamn apocalypse.  That way we can get to the apocalypse now, so to speak.  And if Americans don't want the world to end, I guess they better stop voting for Republicans.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Your essay on Bulgaria was good.  I guess it sounds like what one would expect, somewhat shabby, but not uncivilized either. So you never broke down and tried out those sardines, or whatever they were.

I hope for the next movie with Sci-Fi, you are able to negotiate to stay in good hotel.  Where Sofia is the capital, there must be some decent hotels, at least near the embassies.  There would be English speakers there too.  Unless it's a Bulgarian experience that you are looking for, then the apartment might work.

That is interesting that Bulgarians think that Reagan had nothing to do with the end of Communism.  Of course, for Bulgaria, the end of Communism was that Russia could no longer impose it anymore.  Our belief here is that it was the arms race that Reagan started that the Russians tried to counter led to the bankruptcy of the Soviet Union. At least we have been told that was a big factor.  I would like to hear their take on it behind the former Iron Curtain.

Were the employees at JJ Murphy's from Ireland?

Dear Bob:

No, all the employees at JJ Murphy's were Bulgarians.  I stayed in the Kampinski Hotel for the first few days before they had the apartment for me, but I was much happier once I was in the apartment.  Hotels become a drag very quickly.  Yes, I finally did try the za-za fish, and they're incredibly fishy, like anchovies. Reagan having anything to do with the fall of Communism, other than coincidentally happening to be president when it occurred, is complete nonsense and Republican propaganda.  The USSR went bankrupt when Jimmy Carter was president, and after that it was just a matter of time.  They hadn't been able to stay up with arms race for years by the time Reagan came in, and began to needlessly spend all of our money on worthless weapons systems like Star Wars.

Josh

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

Josh,

You bring up a good a point about Bulgaria getting a lot of film production from the U.S. and elsewhere, and now that I think about it, I realize I forgot to add something to my last post about Bulgaria being accpeted into the European Union.

Well, that will mean that the currency wiil change to the Euro Dollar which means it will not be as cost effective to shoot there anymore since the Euro is stronger than the good ol' U.S. dollar and it has been that way since its inception.

You mention that the dollar was much weaker against the currency of Bulgaria this time around and you did not think the production was saving a lot by shooting there, well it will get much worse when they adopt the Euro Dollar and it surely won't be cheap to shoot there anymore.

When this happens, I wonder where all the cheap production will go to...?

Scott

Dear Scott:

To Turkey or India, somewhere outside the EU.  My buddy Gary Jones shot a movie,"Crocodile II: Death Roll," in Hyderabad, India that was supposed to take place in Orange County, California.  I asked, "How did it come off?" Gary said, "Fine, except for the monkies in the trees."

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Well, the torture bills passed, I see. George Orwell was right, except he was off by 22 years. Franz Kafka's "The Trial" also comes to mind.

I have no problems with guilty folks staying behind bars-but to not be able to even defend yourself against accusations?!

This is truly a new low. Welcome to the United Police States Of America.

Dear Saul:

This has truly become a shameful country in the past six years.  We've completely given up any sense of moral high ground.  Since the forces of evil, meaning George Bush and co., took over we just have to be thankful they haven't managed to blow up the whole world yet bringing us to their cherished biblical apocalypse.  Stupid, evil, awful laws like this can be rescinded once they're out of office.

Josh

Name:              Alice
E-mail:             veni@aol.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

I like your essays, I am reading them a few times a week. I don't know how long ago you posted the essay about Bulgaria, but it reminded me of my friend's explanation of the dour faces of older Europeans:

I think Europeans are trying not be hypocritical and they end up sounding rude. Americans are trying to be polite and some times they sound hypocritical.

Anyway, Keep on truckin'

Alice Moore

Dear Alice:

Let's face it, older Europeans have seen a lot of shit.  In the case of Bulgaria, they always end up on the wrong side of the stick.  They were on the side of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany in WWI, they were on the side of the Germans again in WWII, then they were a satellite Communist country of the U.S.S.R.  Since the fall of Communism in 1989 (having nothing to do with us or Ronald Reagan), this is the first time the Bulgarians have been on their own recognizance in a long time.  It's one thing to sit in America and have all the wars fought on the other side of oceans, it's entirely another thing to keep having wars fought in your own backyard, and to keep ending up on the losing side, too.  But the Bulgarians are very prideful and resiliant, and they'll bounce back. Hell, they've managed to pick up a fair portion of the world's film production.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Just thought I would share with the people that post here this interview that you did.

http://www.whoosh.org/issue75/ibecker2.html

It's kind of like one of those surveys that get sent around on MSN. It was pretty funny.

BTW Josh cool essay about Bulgaria. It was funny. When is "Rushes" coming out???

Also, do you think that one day you could post a picture of the Lunatics poster. The description you gave sounded really cool.

Thanks.

Dear Chris:

Yeah, that is sort of an amusing interview, although I wasn't being terribly talkative.  I'm hoping "Rushes" will be out before Christmas.  BTW, my book "The Complete Guide . . ." will actually be in bookstores in the next month or two.  I guess I'd have to take a picture of the poster, which is presently packed away.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Josh, I enjoyed very much the "Bulgarian Impressions" essay. I would like to echo others' sentiments in that any essay you post is a treat (I've read almost every essay and article on your site). Please post more travel journal stuff, if you have any. Btw, when is "Rushes" coming out?

Dear David:

Thanks.  I'm not sure when "Rushes" will be out, although possibly before the end of the year.  Every essay in it has been extensively rewritten and expanded, so even if you read these essays on the website they're now longer and more detailed.

Josh

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

Josh,

This is in response to David's well meaning but also flawed comments on handguns.

Comparing North Carolina to NYC is a stretch in the least and if you were to actually compare City for City meaning Raleigh/Durham to NYC then it would be at least a fair comparison, however, Raleigh/Durham is much smaller population wise than NYC, so of course there is going to be less crime, but you can't compare a whole state to one giant city, and in fact, NYC has one of the lowest violent crime rates for a city of its size in the entire world.

If you compare it to other cities of its population size, it is very low on the list in terms of violent crime with Tokyo being the lowest.

I lived there for 8 years and I think it is a great thing that there are no gun shops allowed in Manhattan and the outerlying burroughs, and in fact it does work contrary to what you believe David.

Yeah, there is violent crime in NYC, but you know what, it is confined 90% of the time to the poorest neighborhoods in NYC, so you see, there is a much bigger problem there and it has to do with economics, education and other social issues, but limiting the supply of weapons in NYC is something that I feel works on the whole.

David is right, criminals will always find ways to get guns if they need them, but the fact is there are many places in the U.S. that you would least expect there to be such violent crimes and they happen all the time, so I agree with Josh this is something that should be banned over time.

David, I also respect the fact that you have seen a lot of shit being a Police Officer, but I can tell you that places like Rio and São Paulo here in Brazil are examples of extreme violence due to economics and social standing, but the fact is here the violence is confined to the large cities and in the smaller outlying towns and cities the violent cirme rate is quite low, but if you can explain to me why there is so many violent crimes committed in rural areas in the United States then you have a valid discussion.

The most notorious serial killers come from rural America and serial killers are rare in other countries outside of the U.S. and to some greater extent, the U.K..

Scott

Dear Scott:

You're the South American correspondent for Beckerfilms.

Josh

Name:              Mel!na
E-mail:             webmaster@kristinrichardsononline.net

Josh,

I just wanted to say 'thank you' for the beautiful pictures you published on your Stan Lee the Harpies! I can't wait to see more!

Take care!

Mel!na,
Webmaster & Owner,
Kristin Richardson Online,
Based in the Netherlands.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the latest and the greatest on Kristin Richardson please visit:

www.kristinrichardsononline.net

Dear Mel!na:

Is that pronounced with a click, like N!xau, the star of "The Gods Must be Crazy,"?  It was completely and utterly my pleasure to work with Kristin Richardson, who's a doll, and a pro.  Too bad she's married to that Backstreet Boy (who also couldn't have been nicer).

Josh

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

Josh,

I liked your essay on Bulgaria.

Well, you nailed Eastern Europe down, it is pretty much what I felt about it too, although, I found The Chec Republic to be more lively than you describe Bulgaria.

Now they have been voted into the European Union along with Romania, so let's see if the frowns disappear or the people through migration to other European countries. :-)

BTW, here in Brazil, it is absolutely normal to make a fuss over a cute kid when you see them in public and rubbing their head of hair is a normal response. It amazes when I am at a shopping center or a public place with my son how interactive people are with kids here. It's great and you are right, these things are much different in the U.S..

Interaction is the basis for the culture here and I like that part of Brazil.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Thanks.  I can't imagine why being in the European Union would impress the Bulgarians, it seems like nothing else ever has.  It's all been a big disappointment.

Josh

Name:              David Harrell
E-mail:             Clayton91281@earthlink.net

Dear Josh:         

As a 33 year veteran Police Officer I can not see how taking away handguns from honest people is supposed to be making us safer. You have to remember that most criminals will not care that it is illegal to have a handgun, they are criminals after all. Honest people will be without while the criminal keeps his. In North Carolina our violent crime has not gone up with the right to carry a concealed handgun because you must not have ANY violent criminal record to get a permit. D.C. and New York have terrible crime records but the strictest gun laws. I think your belief that handguns are the problem is off base. The problem is inforcing the gun laws we have after the criminals are arrested. Convict them. By the way if you really want to save approximately 1000 lives per year, outlaw bicycles. That is a statistic that can be proven. I am trained and carry a weapon for my safety and yours if you are where I am when it "hits the fan". Everyone is not a Police Officer and Police canot always be in the right place at the right time. Should you not have the right to protect yourself and family if needed or would you prefer to stay locked inside all the time.l  I also enjoy cowboy action shooting. Is that really so bad, it is a sport that is strictly governed for safety. Your thoughts?

Dear David:

I think you make a very rational, and common, point, I just don't accept it. As I said in the essay, in New Zealand no one has handguns (including cops) and no one gets shot.  Period.  99% of all household shootings happen with handguns.  I'm not saying the average person can't have rifles, just not handguns.  Only law enforcement should have handguns.  And if they were banned, slowly but surely they'd all get collected and taken out of the system.  I'm also entirely against any kind of assault weapons, automatic or semi-automatic, which have absolutely no purpose in society other than for the military or SWAT teams.  I'm not for bans on almost anything, but in this case I am.

Josh

Name:              Lisa Coultrup
E-mail:             kentuckystorms@newwavecomm.net

Dear Mr. Becker

It was with some relife that I located your website, it answered almost all my questions. I have one that I hope you feel is valid enough to answer, however I do see how extremely busy you are and will understand if you are not able to.
My question is this: I am NOT a screenplay writer, I am a stay at home mom with children whom I home school. I have been seeking valid work from home opportunites for a few years now. The other day I recieved an email from a person who has a screenplay that I feel really is very good. He asked for someone to help get this screenplay into the public eye and if  picked up, there would be compensation. Do you believe this to be a possiblity? Can someone like myself actually do something like this, or do I need to have movie knowledge and such to even begin this job? I have contacted two Agencies so far and submitted the synopsis, but I am at a loss as to whether this is a project that I can do. Are screenplays ever picked up without some heavywieght movie mogul with friends in high places helping? Again, I appreciate how busy you are, and hope that you understand why I choose to ask you these questions. You seem to have a great understanding of this business, and a willingness to share your experiences.
Thank you
Lisa Coultrup

Dear Lisa:

From my experience, which is highly limited to my point of view, to get a script to someone at a film company who can actually say "yes" is not only the work of an agent, it's the work of a reasonably high-placed agent. Civilians and low-end agents can only get to executives with the ability to say "no," and that's a total waste of time.  I met a guy recently who had been a low- to mid-level executive at Disney for five years.  I said, "You must have said no to a lot of people in five years."  He replied, "I **only** said no to people for five years, day in and day out, and that's why I quit."

Good luck,

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Just finished your "Bulgarian Impressions." I want to tell you that I highly enjoyed it, and will read it again. I know you're a busy man, but it's always a treat when you post a new writing or essay online, and I hope your next one is sooner rather than later.

Best,
Craig

Dear Craig:

Thanks.  I just sort whipped that off between other things while I was in Bulgaria.  I did just finish my new novel, "Hollywood, Alaska," which I'll hopefully get published at some point in the near future.

Josh

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

Josh,

A great quote from a great source, the great DP Haskell Wexler who is now in his 80's.

He comments on the diminished quality of films in these contemporary times. I may have posted this before here, but I thought I would post it again as it seems appropriate. It is long but well put...

"Every film whether it intends to or not, presents some view of how people interact with one another. In contemporary films, that view is often narrowed and reduced to comic book interrelationships. It seems that such films are deemed more commercial than others. I'm not saying that all films are that way, but I don't know anybody in this business - whether they be actors, directors or cinematographers - who isn't aware of the diminished quality of what we do. But we do it anyway, because we get paid to do it. Motion picture artists, from the director on down, try to do what they are assigned to do in the best way they can. But what they are assigned to do is often like a child's paint-by-numbers coloring book. They have to fill in the colors on time and by the rules - otherwise, it's not an acceptable product. In my opinion, we're at cultural ebb worldwide now. I've been living a long time and it's absolutely the lowest point ever.

Most revenue from American films comes from overseas - I think the figure is 65 or 70 percent. So there's a marketing incentive to appeal to the international lowest common denominator. Dramas with intelligent conversations do not translate as easily as 'action film's that depend upon violence and explosions. Violent movies distort the world by dividing the world into good guys and bad guys. That distortion is there because it cuts across national boundaries; it appeals to the frustrations of people who are not getting what they want out of life, and who get a thrill by seeing some bad person or bad thing destroyed.

My advice to young filmmakers entering such a capricious profession amid a 'cultural nadir' is don't just interest yourself with movies, because movies are a dream factory. There's nothing wrong with working in a dream factory, but the dream factory has to relate to the real world. If you're out of touch with the real world, you will convey and perpetuate ideas that are essentially falsehoods."

Scott

Dear Scott:

That's a very bright, intelligent, well-considered opinion by someone who would know.  If you spend all of your time attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator, you very quickly forget how to appeal to anyone else.  After 30 unrelenting years of these lowest common denominator movies the audience has accordingly lowered all of its expectations to accomodate the films.  That's where we are, at the "cultural nadir."

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Sweet! I just ordered a bunch of "Hercules" seasons as my birthday present from my mum. I can't wait to watch it (especially "Minotaur").

Did you almost laugh out loud when Anthony Quinn said some of the things he said to you back then? I was cracking up when I read your essay about directing him. Reading it reminded me of Bela Lagosi in "Ed Wood", how he could go from a sweet guy talking about movies to...Fuck off!!! Just when he blurts out "I'm going to walk right through this stuff and confront the monster face to face" "How are you going to get through all that? It's pretty thick" "I'm not really going to go through it, I'll just come around and you'll do some special effect that makes it look like I'm going right through it. I am Zeus after all, king of the gods. Some sticks aren't going to stop me." I can't believe he didn't remember your name....I mean you were only the director... I understand he had been making similar movies with 4 other directors but still. Great little essay though.

Dear Chris:

I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I have the framed "Barabbas" poster to prove Anthony Quinn didn't know my name.  It may as well say, "To whom it may concern."  Meanwhile, I loved that scene in "Ed Wood," when the guy asks for his autograph, and says he was great as Boris Karloff's sidekick.  Lugosi hollers, "That limey bastard doesn't deserve to smell my shit!"

Josh

Name:              Bogosian
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have seen the end of film -- I have watched it dance around the screen, parading around like a real movie -- I have seen what is, for my money, the single worst movie of the last decade -- one so idiotic, under-cooked, and filled with cliche and caricature that it must NEVER be seen to be believed...take it on faith -- it is...

...Michel Gondry's impossibly flawed 'The Science of Sleep.'

Should be shown right alongside 'Citizen Kane' at film school, exemplifying the other side of the movie cannon -- the way NOT to make a movie.

Yeesh.

Josh, just this once -- go out and splurge for a ticket to witness this abomination on screen...purely so we can watch you rip it apart.

Dear Greg:

If I could drag my weary ass to the movie theater I think I'd see "Hollywoodland," which I hear is pretty good.  But to intentionally see a movie because I hear it's bad is no longer humanly possible for me. Meanwhile, someone along the way recommended that I watch "Serenity," and I indeed did watch about 30 minutes, then gave up because it was utterly unbearable.  It was a Sci Fi Network movie with a higher budget, but not as good of a cast.

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Dear Josh:         

On the subject of why great movies are not being made (your cutoff point being "Unforgiven"), I wouldn't say that people being dumber than in the past is the only possible explanation.

I recently watched the Criterion DVD of the Michael Powell film "Peeping Tom," and in the commentary and documentary tracks for that film, the historical context for the film was given that the British film industry simply could not produce great movies due to lack of financial support for serious movies.  "The Archers" were the only British filmmakers working in England at the time who were trying to do anything other than cliched and insubstatial comedies.  Eventually, the struggle to do so wore even them down and they stopped trying.

Seems like the current situation in Hollywood is pretty much the same thing.  If the only movies Hollywood will financially support are "The Grudge 2" and the latest Adam Sandler suckfest, there isn't much room for great movies.  Meanwhile the only filmmakers who can get the money to do anything semi-interesting have long ago burned out their potential and deteriorated into wankerhood (Steven Soderbergh, Coen Bros., Wes Anderson, Terry Gilliam, Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Jim Jarmusch, Peter Jackson, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian DePalma, Martin Scorcese, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarrantino, Mike Nichols, Sam Raimi, John Carpenter). I guess we're going to have to wait for all these guys to die to get another chance at a crop of interesting filmmakers to give us scraps of semi-interesting stuff on the fringes of the great cinematic wasteland.

Dear Zane:

As much as I like and admire Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, by 1960 they were both old-sticks-in-the-mud.  Britain was going through a particularly interesting phase of filmmaking at that time, referred to as "The Angry Young Man" movement, from 1959-1966, out of which came the talented directors: Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, and Karel Reisz.  For my money, any of those films are more interesting than what Powell and Pressburger were up to at that point.  Also, the 1950s were the highlight of the British studio, Ealing's, comedies, and most of those, like "The Lavender Hill Mob," "The Man in the White Suit," "All at Sea," etc. hold up very well.  I think Mr. Powell was just old and bitter at that point. Meanwhile, your list of over-the-hill directors contains three generations of directors, all getting progressively worse as they get younger.  So why on earth would the next generation after that be anything but worse than the group before?  At least the oldest guys, Woody Allen, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Mike Nichols, all made great movies once upon a time, which no one else on that list can say (I love DePalma's film "Carrie," but it seems like a fluke, and I think his whole career since then has been a waste of time).  I think people are stupider now because their tastes have diminished and they're willing to accept most anything with a decent advertising budget.  If you absolutely know you're going to get at least a big opening weekend out of "Batman 9," then why risk making an unknown commodity that may not even open well?

Josh

Name:              Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

I had a few thoughts regarding the horrific dumbing down of movies in the last years. I kinda wonder if it also isn't due to (a) the plummeting of peoples' attention spans, and (b) the increasingly corporate approach to movie making.

On the first point, I think it's hard to argue that most people under 30 (and more than a few who are over 30) have a harder time focusing their attention these days. In depth print and TV reporting is dying off, being replaced with shorter and shorter news bits on MSNBC and little blurblets on the internet. Video games and the broad application of the fast smash cut music video aesthetic to everything from car commercials to feature films has left many people unable to sit through something like Lawrence of Arabia. Lord of the Rings? Sure - there's plenty of CGI eye candy and sword fights. But who wants to watch a bunch of Arabs and a few British guys talk at each other for hours on end? Text messaging and e-mails are an outgrowth of this too, and reinforce the notion that if it can't be said in a line or of poorly spelled text, it ain't worth thinking about.

As to the second point, it's clear that Hollywood is ruled not by a few influential studio heads, but an army of faceless bean counters and marketroids, all of whom fancy themselves film makers. Every great movie ever made was made because there was one or two strong personalities pushing it to completion. As soon as you start to include focus groups, marketing execs, and accountant types into the mix you can kiss artistic integrity goodbye. Film making stops being about film making and starts being about pushing a product which follows a formula that ensures maximum return on investment. Films are reduced to the level of car stereos, or washing machines - it's all about making a product that marketing research says will sell. Louis B Mayer made money for his company by working with talented film makers to make great movies. Harry Sloan (current CEO of MGM) makes money for his company by pushing films based on films that previously did really well for a few weeks and then sold a bunch of DVDs - sort of like the serpent swallowing its own tail... or eating its own shit, depending on how charitable you feel like being.

This isn't to say the Mayer didn't back some dogs, or squelch some projects which might have been great. But over all I'd wager that he operated more from a standpoint of quality, whereas studio execs today operate from a standpoint of safety, serving the shareholders, maximizing return on investment - ergo appealing to the lowest possible denominator.

Anyway, the net result is market obsessed desk jockeys pushing products to a public with the attention span of a coked up ferret. What do you think you'll get? "Bridge Over the River Kwai" or " The Fast and The Furious 2"?

So enough ranting - just wanted to throw that out there. As always, thanks for doing what you do, and fight the good fight.

Out,

Mike

Dear Mike:

Everybody keeps saying that people's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, yet movies get longer and longer.  Three-hour "Lord of the Rings" movies, and three-hour "Star Wars" movies, and even three-hour "Pirates of the Carribean" movies, for Christ's sake.  That first "Pirates" movie would have been okay at 90 minutes, maybe even 100, but at 180 minutes it's an absolutely unbearable piece of shit.  So, the attention span issue can't be it.  And there are definitely worse executives now, but they're just a representation of public.  I'm telling you, the stupiding of the world is going on.

Josh

Name:              Bogosian
E-mail:

Josh,

I truly respect your opinions on film and on life in general. It's a pleasure to peruse your site each and every day.

I have a serious question that deserves a serious answer.

How can film as an art form be saved? And I don't think the answer is as easy as "telling better stories."

Filmmakers today are so cavalier about filmmaking! They seem content in churing out inferior entertainment lacking any substance. There hasn't been a wholly great film since DAS BOOT in 1981 and look at what Peterson has gone on to make! PERFECT STORM! POSEIDON -- a third-rate remake of a third-rate Irwin Allen movie!!!

ATTN: readers, please don't retort the "no great movies" comment by citing movies like AMERICAN BEAUTY and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and CRASH as great films...ugh, and if I hear another person heap praise on FIGHT CLUB I'll hang myself. They're all deeply flawed films and don't hold candles up to masterpieces like VERTIGO, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE SEARCHERS, 8 1/2, GRAND ILLUSION, TAXI DRIVER, AND RAGING BULL.

What happened along the way?  What did we lose and how can we get it back??!

Any insight you can muster up would be much appreciated.

Best,

Greg Bogosian

Dear Greg:

As an anecdote, I once ran into Jurgen Prochnow at the Best Buy in L.A. and I told him I really liked "Das Boot."  He was very nice and thanked me.  A few days later I ran into Saul Rubinek in the same place, and told him how much I loved "Unforgiven."  He was very nice, too.  Speaking of that, "Unforgiven" is my nominee for "the last great movie made," and that was 1992. So, why have movies specifically, but the arts in general, gone into the shitter?  Once Hollywood decided that movies for kids were more important than movies for adults, they completely stopped understanding how to make movies for adults.  Quite frankly, I think they've stopped understanding how to make movies for kids, either.  But on a larger level, I honestly believe that people are, for the most part, just stupider now than they were 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.   Since I was a kid, the population of the Earth has doubled.  So, shouldn't we now have two Alfred Hitchcocks and two Stanley Kubricks and two William Wylers?  Yet we have none.  It's the only explanation.

Josh

Name:              Audrey
E-mail:             beeleebay@yahoo.fr

Hello!!!!!

Just wanna let you know that you wrote in a wrong way the name of Kristin...it's KRISTIN RICHARDSON!!!! ;)
hehe soory but I am one of her fan! ;)
can't wait to discover this movie with her!!!

Dear Audrey:

Whoops, sorry about that.  Kristin was a complete joy to work with.  She simply couldn't have been nicer, sweeter, or more professional.

Josh

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

Hello Josh,

I just had a thought. I havn't seen you talk before like in an interview or anything. I saw you say something on the AA dvd but not like an interview. So i thought I'd look it up on google, like maybe you did a video interview for a xena dvd.....I had no luck finding one. But I found a picture that looks like a screen capture from an interview......

http://molir.cz/tmp/erc/x10004.jpg

What is this from? And have you done any video interviews before?

Thanks again.

Dear Chris:

That's from the extra DVD in the first season box set of Xena.  They interviewed several directors, and the departments heads.  I'm barely in it. There was an audio interview that was posted on the site, or there was a link or something, I forget.  I've been interviewed quite a few times for print.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             darryl.mesaros@us.army.mil

Dear Josh,

I think that the downward trend in Islamic learning came not so much from an ecumenical decision as from catastrophes, both natural and manmade.  In the 13th century, the Mongols under Hulegu (one of Ghengis' sons) sacked Baghdad and ravaged much of the eastern Islamic empire. After that came a succession of various conquerors, most notable of whom was the half Turk, half Mongol Timur Lang, or Tamerlane.  In between the wars, the bubonic plague and various other illnesses ravaged the Middle East before Genoese sailors inadvertantly brought them to Europe.
   All of these trends tended to dissipate wealth, destroy knowledge in the form of books, maps, and works of art, and kill off the best and the brightest people.  While disease is an equal opportunity killer, the wandering shepherd or remote dirt farmer would have a better chance of escaping the sword than the city dwelling scholar.  This same class of people (poor and uneducated) make a good base for a religion, hence the continued spread of Islam even while Islamic civilization went into decline.    Aggravate this further with the disruption brought by European conquest and colonization in the 19th century, and you have the seeds for the present state of the Islamic world.
    When you think about it, the European world and the Islamic world reversed themselves at about the same time.  Europe came out of a state of economic and intellectual stagnation just as the world of Islam began to go into one.  Sorry for rambling, but these are my thoughts on the matter.

                         Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Oh, yeah, all that stuff.  But there actually was a conscious decision made within the top ends of the religion to back off on pursuing knowledge because it did not increase faith.  Knowledge and faith are opposites.  Knowledge is the desire and quest for more information, faith is believing and not questioning what you're told.  In world history Islam still remains a phenomenon in that in 500 AD there were no Muslims, but by 700AD there were hundreds of millions of them. No other religion has ever caught on so quickly and so profusely.  Then from 700 to 1300, Islam flourished.  But that was a long time ago.  As Prince Feisal and T.E. Lawrence say in "Lawrence of Arabia" (taken from the shooting script by Robert Bolt).

Feisal: But you know, Lieutenant, in the Arab city of Cordova there were two miles of public lighting in the streets - when London was a village!
Lawrence: You were great.
Feisal (dryly): Nine centuries ago.
Lawrence (mildly): Time to be great again my Lord.

Josh

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

Hey there Josh,

I was reading an interview that some site did with you and you said this at some point...
"So there wasn't much irony being a fake Shemp in ED2, or "Army of Darkness" or "Darkman,"

Wait a minute...Darkman?! You were in Darkman? You may have been talking about Ted Raimi but it sounded like you were talking about yourself. If so, where are you in it? You really have given some great performances in the past. Sorry if this question sounds dumb but I love looking out for cameos. I saw Sam in Lunatics. BTW, I was reading "If Chins could kill" > yet again and Bruce mentions you went to the Crimewave set and then soon left for obvious reasons. Did you cameo in it? Spiegle pops up every where in that movie and I'm pretty sure Sam does too, with a cigarette in his mouth! I wonder if he smokes too.

Sorry for the long email but one more question. Have you had any actors who have complained about their character having to smoke?  I see bruce gets right into the cigar in "Running Time".

Thanks.

Dear Chris:

On "If I Had a Hammer," where I made absolutely everybody in the film, except the one 14-year-old character, smoke, I did have a few complaints. One actor substituted all-natural vegetable cigarettes, and they smelled truly vile.  Meanwhile, yes I shemped in both "Crimewave" and in "Darkman." In "Crimewave" I'm dressed as a cop on the street, in "Darkman" I'm in the carnival sequence, crossing behind Liam Neeson as he gets angry and it pushes into his eye, then into his brain (just like "Lunatics," shot that the same time).  I actually did the classic "double-shemp" in "Darkman," where I crossed, got out of frame, put on a coat and a hat, then crossed back the other way.

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Dear Josh:         

On these Sci-Fi movies, do you have input into or decisionmaking ability on the overall visual look of the film?  By which I mean, do you get to choose the aspect ratio of the movie, or does Sci-Fi tell you to shoot it at a specific ratio for TV?  Can you choose, if you want, to shoot the whole film using a certain color filter scheme for emotional effect?  (As in "The Matrix," where the whole movie has a sort of cold, blueish filter tint that was probably added in post-production with After Effects or something.)  Or would SciFi freak out if you made the film look to ideosyncratic?  Would they kick your ass if you decided to film the whole movie in close-up on character faces ala Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc?"  Or are these questions moot because there's so little time to film these movies that there's no time to give the movie a unique look?

Dear Zane:

No, it's a very legitimate question, and a good one.  Depending on how the dailies situation is functioning -- like on "The Harpies," for instance, there weren't any dailies for over half the shoot, then when they began to dribble in near the end, the DVDs wouldn't play -- meaning, is everybody seeing what you're direction right away, or is there some kind of delay, so you can potentially do anything you want?  But the bottom-line is that the director is a subcontractor trying to please several clients, first the network, second the executive producer who hired you.  Do you ever want to work for either of them again?  Will they accept it if you shoot every scene in extremely tight close-ups, with no long shots?  Maybe they will.  One director on Hercules and Xena, T.J. Scott, did crazy shit with the camera all the time and THEY LOVED IT!!  Personally, I thought he frequently went overboard, but the powers-that-be never did, and he was hired for more episodes than me.  So, if you have the guts to go wild, you can.  But are you going wild in a way that sells the scene?  To me that's the whole game. I do camera moves, and what I believe are interesting cuts, as often as I can, but it's always in regard to the dramatic issues of the scene.  I've never been a fan of overall, umbrella directorial decisions, like: it's all hand-held, or everything has a blue look, or every angle is crooked, or whatever.  The point is to come up with what's best for that scene. Regarding the aspect ratio, for both Sci Fi films I chose to shoot 1.85:1, although I suppose I could've gone full-frame.  As it's been going through the post process it's all been in full-frame, which is driving me nuts because that's not how it really looks, but that's how everybody keeps seeing it.

Josh

Name:              Chip
E-mail:             chip@bp06.com

Dear Josh:         

I sell 99¢ cards to store in the NJ/NY area. I read your story and it made my day!
Thankyou,
Chip

Dear Chip:

My pleasure, sir.

Josh

Name:              Tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you ever listen to yourself on a commentary or in an interview or something and just think your voice sounds stupid? I'm not saying you have a stupid voice, just like, whenever I listen to myself on my voice mail or on video or something I think I sound like a retard. I don't sound like a retard to myself, but I obviously hear myself different than others do. Do you feel the same about you?

Dear Tom:

Yes.  I have been told that I have a decent voice and could possibly do voice-over work, but to me my voice sounds like Mickey Mouse.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Thanks for telling us that you updated the "harpies" photos page. Great pics! Is that really the bulgarian version of a donut? Weird...

I see Talkington is in there, a sci-fi favourite isn't he? Is he going to be dubbed in this movie?....or can you not discuss that incase he reads this page.

Dear Chris:

I'm not in charge of post sound, so I can't tell you who will get dubbed, but in this case I don't think Jonas will get dubbed.  There's really only two characters that will be dubbed in this film, unlike the last that had about twenty.  Jonas Talkington, whom I like a lot, is now the head of casting for UFO Studio in Bulgaria.  He did a bit that I thought was terrific.  He's playing a character that's supposed to be huge and very strong.  Well, Jonas is kind of a big guy, and in pretty good shape, too, but he's not really that big.  There's a scene where his character picks up the unconscious Stephen Baldwin from the ground, slings him over his shoulder and trots off with him like his weight is nothing.  Well, Stephen's no little guy, either.  So I warned Jonas a few days before that I wanted him to do this bit of business without a cut or any fakery.  He got on the internet, found out the best way to pick up an unconscious person, called "The fireman's lift," where you pull the person up to their feet, put your shoulder under them and lift them up.  On the day, Jonas did it like it was nothing, which I think looks cool and really proves his character is strong. He also played the part in a very low-key fashion, so I can't imagine why he'd get dubbed this time around.

Josh

Name:              Ron
E-mail:             adrcs@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Would you mind if I put a link to your page on mine? www.adrcs.org ?

Dear Ron:

What is your site about?  What does adrcs stand for?

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Robert Mitchum just was mentioned.  Did you like him in The Longest Day?  I did.  My favorite line of his, was when told everyone to get off their butts.

I know you don't like to discuss TV as much, but how about his performance in The Winds of War.  I thought he was kind of wooden.  However, a lot of critics thought he was good.  I actually read the two books, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and Pug Henry is described as a reserved individual, so I think that Robert Mitchum was trying to portray the character according to the books.

Dear Bob:

"The Winds of War" was a ridiculous bore, and so was Mitchum in it.  Dan Curtis was an incredibly dull director.  To give him his due, I did like the original TV movie, "The Night Stalker," quite a lot.  Getting back to "Winds," I thought it was dumb book, too.  Any earlier Herman Wouk book is much better.

Josh

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

Josh,

You bring up a good point with the versatility of Nykvist's work. Isn`t that the trait of a truly good DP? The problem I have with a lot of stuff I see now is that it is too stylized, but not in any unique way. Everything looks the same in that stylized way or it just looks bland without feeling.

Aven's work definitely had feeling!

"The Tenant" also happens to be one of my favorites as well and I really liked "Starting Over" too. I forgot about that film.

He also shot "Star 80" and you could not even tell that was him doing the photography. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was one of his last films, but still looks great.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Sven Nykvist had the ability, as many DPs don't, to make his images so lush you felt like you could walk into them.  On the other hand, he could be as stark as hell.  He was also able to get exceptionally deep blacks, something I really like.

Josh

Name:              Diana Hawkes
E-mail:             Ya gotta say I'm pretty first...

Hi ya Josh!

Last night I think it was - I caught Stephen Baldwin being interviewed on Joe Scarborough.  It was a very quick interview promoting his new book: The Unusual Suspect- My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith".

Had no idea he was an outspoken Born Again Christian, nor that he'd written (or compiled) 2 Christian-themed efforts before; one a collection of testimonials, one a graphic novel, aimed at youth from the looks of it.

So I'm wondering if he talked about this aspect of his life while you worked with him or not.  I was imagining what your response might be if he'd engaged the topic on set.

Alas - he hadn't time to give a shout-out for Harpies!

Dear Diana:

He never discussed religion with me.  Stephen gave out a number of copies of his new book to cast and crew members, but not to me.  Personally, I think Born Again Christians are frightened and confused by Jews.  I think they're not quite sure what to make of them, nor how to approach or handle the weird connection between Jesus and Jews, like the fact that Jesus was a Jew.  I remember as a little kid of maybe eight years old looking at a particularly brutal-looking crucifix, with an emaciated Jesus sagging there from his nailed palms and feet, and wondering, "So, Christians get down on their knees and pray to a dead Jew?  What's up with that?"  Anyway, that's the vibe I get from Born Agains.  There was a Born Again revival tabernacle not far from where I lived in Oregon, and I'd run into those folks pretty regularly.  When they would proselytize, all I had to say was, "I'm Jewish," and they'd stop.  It's like a trump card.  One guy went on and on, saying over and over, "I admire the Jews so much."  Yeah?  Then why are you a Born Again Christian?  Religion is truly nonsense.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What I meant was that Nykvist started out as a black and white DP, and moved onto color with equal grace and beauty (or in some cases, surpassed his black and white work). But you're right of course, there have been many, many cinematographers who have excelled in both.

Meanwhile, if I had to use one word to describe Nykvist's style, I would say "intimate." For your readers (and you), here are a few glimpses of his work:

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare2/persona/sub-tart-samp.JPG

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReview2/serpentsegg/5.JPG

http://www.phantasmagoria.nl/assets/images/TheTenant7.jpg

And a good interview which gives interesting insight into his techniques:

http://zakka.dk/euroscreenwriters/interviews/sven_nyqvist_on_ingmar_bergman.htm

Best,
Craig

Dear Craig:

If Nykvist had died before ever shooting color film, I don't think he'd be as respected.  He was a fine black and white DP, but he truly excelled at color photography.

Josh

Name:              Richard
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you still talk to Rob Tapert, Ted Raimi, and/or Bruce Campbell?

Dear Richard:

Yes, all of them.  Bruce is one of my best friends.  I just emailed with Rob yesterday.  I haven't heard from Ted in a while, but that's Ted.  He'll call the next time he's in Detroit.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Did you happen to catch the showing of the episode of "The Dick Cavett Show" with Robert Mitchum tonight? Or maybe you saw the original broadcast in the 70's? He really was an interesting guy and his presence is, for lack of a better word, cool. I loved when Cavett said he had heard Mitchum was the most liked guy in Hollywood and Mitchum replied, "That's because I'm absent most of the time."

They don't make actors like Mitchum anymore.

Dear Trey:

No, there's no one like Robert Mitchum anymore.  He was a very fine actor, much better than he ever got credit for.  He did foreign accents like they were nothing: southern in "Cape Fear," Irish in "Ryan's Daughter," Australian in "The Sundowners."  Plus he had great presence, and was legitimately cool.  Hell, he got busted for marijuana possession in 1948! Now that's a hipster.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I am glad to see that someone mentioned Sven Nykvist's passing. I was going to post it here, but I was busy working. Thanks Craig.

He was actually 83. One year, no big deal.

As you may know Josh, he is one of my favorite Cinematographers and I am on the same page with you regarding his color work. He was able to light scenes so naturally and his discipline was to always keep it simple. He truly had an eye for light and color.

The use of reds and natural light in "Cries and Whispers". Beautiful!

His son made a very nice documentary on him back in 2000 called "Light Keeps Me Company" which was done a year after he was forced to retire because of his illness which started to affect his speech.

He lost his other son to suicide many years ago and there is a really touching part in the doc. where he says "The worst thing that can happen to a parent is to lose a child and perhaps this is the most difficult way because you wish you could have helped them, and it remains with you for the rest of your life. You never really get over it completely."

I have had this old photo of him that I have kept either in my bedroom or my office for many years and I am looking at it now

Farewell Sven!

Scott

Dear Scott:

The use of fades to red in "Cries and Whispers" was beautiful.  And it wasn't like Nykvist had a "look" that was his, he changed his look for each film, which I find much more impressive.  Sven Nykvist also did terrific work for other directors beside Bergman, like: "Siddhartha," "Black Moon," "The Tenant" (one of my favorites), "Pretty Baby," "King of the Gypsies," Starting Over," "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (a particularly gorgeous film), and "Crimes and Misdemeanors," among many others.

Josh

Name:              Craig
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

As you might have heard, Sven Nykvist died yesterday, having been bed-ridden for a few years due to aphasia. He was 82.

He was one of the very, very greatest in his profession, and one of the very few black and white cinematographers to work equally as well in color, and his work is beautiful. Any thoughts on the great DP?

Dear Craig:

No, I hadn't heard.  What a drag.  Yes, I absolutely agree, Sven Nykvist was one of the great masters of cinematography.  I personally much prefer his color work.  There have been many cinematographers who worked well in both black and white and color: Gordon Willis, Michael Chapman, Janusz Kaminski, Joseph Ruttenberg, Leon Shamroy, Freddie Francis, Russell Metty, Freddie Young, Haskell Wexler, Conrad Hall, Burnett Guffey, etc.  But Sven Nykvist was still one of true experts of motion picture photography, and luckily he left behind a large, varied, beautiful body of work.  So long, Sven.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<<Haven't visited your site (what seems like) forever, what are you up to?>>

I thought you said you never officially met Danny Elfman? That you were at opposite ends of the same party once.

My apologies for the shaky video (aargh!!), still working on that. I'm curious, when you mentioned FATHER GOOSE, you said it was taboo to like that film. But just about every scene in that film keeps me entertained, so what's not to like about it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0MxKvpSWQw

Dear Aaron:

I haven't officially met Danny Elfman, why do you question that?  I never said that "Father Goose" was "taboo."  I love that film.  It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.  What are you saying?

Josh

Name:              Batdad
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

That's the stinking question, then.  How do you get stink on your movie?  Quentin Tarantino got lots of stink on Reservoir Dogs.  Probably, Harvey Keitel acting and producing helped it.  It was a hit on video.

Blair Witch had no stars, partial B/W 16mm, partial digital handheld, and a stink concept, and it broke the record for percentage return.  It was a hit in the theatre.

How did Kevin Smith's video hit Clerks get distribution without a star or a stink concept?  How much of an advantage does it give an indie to have a bankable or even recognizable star?  How much of an advantage does it give a video release to be preceded by a flop theatrical release?  Are word of mouth and good reviews more lucrative than convincing some studio executive to pay for commercials?

Dear Batdad:

Dude, if I knew how to make a film a hit, don't you think I'd do it?  The stink was on Quentin and "Reservoir Dogs" before it was released.  Word gets out.  The same for "Clerks."  Without some kind of theatrical release, and the accompanying advertising, you probably won't sell very many DVDs.  For the most part, people don't buy or rent films of which they've never heard. In selling a film, nothing works better than positive word-of-mouth.

Josh

Name:              Richard
E-mail:             @aol.com

Josh, how did your Stan Lee/Jeff Franklin venture for the SciFi channel come about? Was this the project you and Bruce were negotiating after your AA deal? Do you have an agent? Or are you still flying solo? Anyway, CONGRATS!

Dear Richard:

I haven't had an agent in about six years.  Apparently, I got this gig because Sci Fi asked for me.  Since this film is sort of an homage to "Army of Darkness," who better to rip off Sam Raimi than I, who actually appeared in AOD.  This was Sci Fi's project.

Josh

Name:              A fan
E-mail:

Josh,

What do you make of this quote by Danny Elfman? In your opinion, has Sam Raimi changed that much?

"I've known Sam [Raimi] for almost 15 years. Spider-Man 2 was my fifth movie with him and all I can say is that the person who was there at the end of Spider-Man 2 was not Sam. I don't know who it was, but it wasn't Sam. It was as close to living out Invasion of the Body Snatchers as I've ever experienced. To see such a profound negative change in a human being was almost enough to make me feel like I didn't want to make films anymore. It was really disheartening and sad to see the way it ended up." -- Danny Elfman, composer

Dear A Fan:

I can't comment because I never speak to Sam anymore.  He is the great Master Cylinder, and I am but a mere mortal.

Josh

Name:              Oingo Boingo
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

Haven't visited your site (what seems like) forever, what are you up to?

Best,
Mr. Boingo (Mystic Knight)

Dear Oingo:

I'm just putting the final touches on a novel; my book of essays, "Rushes," will be coming out in a few months; and I'm just trying to whip up another movie deal.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:        

Dear Josh:         

What did you think of the movie, "The Last Hurrah?"

Dear Bob:

It was okay.  Great cast, but not one of John Ford's best films.

Josh

Name:              B
E-mail:

Hi Josh,
Stan Lee's The Harpies
Could you explain better what this movie is really about?I went to the huge movie site imdb.com,and first of all they are calling it The Harpy.I kid you not.Secondly,they are not saying what the movie is about.So the fans are becoming very curious.
Also,will this movie be in Theaters,cable or direct to dvd?Finally,Is there a way to contact the cast?Thanks Josh.Have a great week.

Dear B:

Basically, it's the story of a museum guard, played by Stephen Baldwin, who gets sucked through a time portal back to 972 AD where an evil wizard (Scott Valentine) is oppressing the people by use of evil harpies, winged female monsters.  The guard, with the help of pretty girl (Kristen Richardsen), and a gang of loyal men, take on the wizrd and the harpies, free the land and end the oppression.  It's a Sci Fi Network original film, and will naturally show on Sci Fi.  Is there any way to contact the cast?  Sure, figure out who is each of their agents, contact them and ask to speak to their clients.

Josh

Name:              Paul Mannings
E-mail:             manningsp@wsu.edu

Dear Josh:         

I was just reading an article that speculated about why people in their teens and twenties go apeshit about writers like Ayn Rand, then grow out of it like a bad phase. Have you experienced being in love with a writer, movie, whatever and realized when you got older that it was crap all along? Does it seem like people are holding onto their immature tastes longer than they used to, say like Star Wars fans.

Dear Paul:

Yes.  Absolutely.  But it's not anything as bright as Ayn Rand, it's these dumbass comic books, and TV shows with cops.  Regarding outgrowing my own earlier tastes, actually, no, I haven't.  I think I had pretty good taste as a kid, and for me at least, it's held up.  If I liked a movie when I was twelve, I probably still like it.

Josh

Name:              Jorge Grisso
E-mail:             yab@jojo.net

Dear Josh:         

I recently read a description of a 1971 movie I have yet to see called "CHROME AND HOT LEATHER," and was struck by the similarity in the synopsis of that film and that of "STRYKER'S WAR." > Since I haven't seen the earlier movie, only yours, I was curious if it had been an actual influence on your film that you were directly referencing/satirizing/paying tribute to, or if it was just a coincidence. The IMDB description of it says it's about "A Green Beret [who] returns home from the Vietnam war to find that a gang of murderous bikers has killed his fiancee.  He calls on several of his Green Beret buddies to come and help him take revenge on the gang."  Apparently one of the main character's Army buddies is played by Marvin Gaye!

Dear Jorge:

No, I never saw it or even heard of it.  I had no idea that Marvin Gaye, of whom I'm a big fan, had ever acted in anything.  I know he did the score for "Trouble Man," the next year in 1972.  His studio in Hollywood was on Hudson Street, a street I lived on for a number of years.  But the big influence on "Thou Shalt Not Kill . . .Except" ("Stryker's War" is the super-8 version) was "Rolling Thunder," which was the first time I ever remember seeing Tommy Lee Jones.  He has the line I appropriated for TSNKE, "Let's go clean 'em up."

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Josh, I'm sorry to say it but I've talked with the other brass at Sci-Fi Network and due to certain recent comments on your website, I'm afraid we're going to have to pass on you as the director for the upcoming Sci-Fi Pictures production, "Stan Lee's The Muslims."

Dear Zane:

And I'd have been the perfect director for the job -- a Jew with utter disdain for all religions.  Boy oh boy are those Muslims touchy.  They're now burning efigies of the Pope in Cairo, and there are demonstrations around the Muslim world against him.  Of course, the Pope has apologized his brains out for having finally made a valid comment about something.  Why are so many Muslims always available for demonstrations?  Don't any of them have jobs?  They can insult the west anytime they'd like, but if anyone here makes a unflattering comment about them -- or god forbid, draws a cartoon -- then they're all up in arms.  If I really had any guts I'd post my comic strip, "The Three Hamids," which is the adventures of Moe Hamid, Larry Hamid and Curly Hamid, and their talking pet camel, Joe.

Josh

Name:              Tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

How does one date somebody off and on for 30 years? Was there a long gap in between romances? When somebody says "on again off again" I always think of high school couples who date for a few months, break up, get back together, break up a few months later, etc.  I just think that'd be kinda interesting if you'd be a few months here and months there for 30 years.

If you've been together off and on for 30 years, why haven't you married her? I would think there'd be some deep connection between people who have dated off and on as long as you have. :)

Dear Tom:

Lisa and I first got together at summer camp in 1973, when I was fifteen and she was fourteen.  We then hooked back up in 1983, in our mid-twenties, and went out for about a year.  She then got married, had three kids, then got divorced, which took up 16 years.  Now we're trying to work it back out. We've gotten together and split up now about three times in the past four years.  I do think there is a deep connection between us.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you ever heard of or seen a trilogy of films directed by Masaki Kobayash entitled "Ningen no joken" (aka, "The Human Condition")? They are incredibly hard to find on dvd, but I have heard great things about his films, and am wondering if you know anything about them. Thanks.

Dear David:

Nope, never heard of it/them.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

What do you think of Trey Parker and Matt Stone? They are the creator of south park and have a made a few movies like "Cannibal: The Musical", "Orgazmo", and "Team America: World police". I think they are both very funny and I think that south park is one of the best shows on TV. I think I remember you mentioning that you saw a couple of episodes of south park and saying that you liked it.

PS. What is your favourite screenplay that you've written that hasn't been produced? Mine so far would probably be either "Buds", "Head shot" or maybe "The happiest guy in town".

Dear Chris:

I couldn't sit through "Orgazmo," and I haven't seen the other films.  The few episodes I've watched of "South Park" were funny.  My scripts are all my babies, and it wouldn't be fitting to choose one over another.  Each script represents some chunk of my life.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             darryl.mesaros@us.army.mil

Dear Josh,

You got my curiosity up, and I watched the video clip of Wafa Sultan. She does indeed make several key points, and it was surprising to hear them come from that quarter.  In the Arab speaking world there are many educated people who lean towards the secular in temperament, but they will never publically admit it.  Obviously, Ms. Sultan breaks the mold.
   However, some of what she said is inaccurate to my point of view, especially regarding her stance that the Jewish people do not protest through violence.  Jewish history from the genocide of the Canaanites up through the recent Lebanese campaign argues against this statement.
   Also, it is not entirely fair or factual to exclude Muslims from the history of modern science.  Al Gibr created the mathematical discipline we call algebra, and ibn Sina (known in the west as Avicenna) wrote a million-word canon on medicine with treatments more advanced than those of Galen (the Roman physician whose work is the basis of western medicine). Thus, Islam is not entirely anathemic to secular learning.
    Otherwise, though, Ms. Sultan is right.  Islam (while not alone in this accusation) is intrusive and not above using violence to promote itself against non-believers.  The fundamentalists want an Islamic paradise based on a more ancient time because they know that they cannot control (or even effectively function in) a modern world.  So they want to level the playing field to their ability to dominate it.  In the end, it's all about power, not God.

                         Darryl
P.S.  I have no doubt that Ms. Sultan has enemies who want to kill her. Hell, in Afghanistan a few months ago (a country that we supposedly have influence in) the government wanted to put a man to death because he had converted from Islam to Christianity.  More and more, I lean towards your view that ALL organized religion is evil.

                           D.

Dear Darryl:

I'm certainly not an scholar on Islamic history, but for a while there, between say 700 AD and 1300 AD, as group Muslims were probably the smartest, most educated people in the world.  Were it not for the Muslims and their great libraries in Toledo and Cordoba, Spain, most of the greatest works of literature in the world -- like all of the Greek plays and the Roman histories, which had all been destroyed in the west because they weren't about Jesus and only monks could read -- would have been lost forever. Between 1100 - 1300 almost all of the great scientists and mathematicians were Muslims.  However, at some point during the 1300s the Muslims had a big ecumenical council among all of the top mullahs, and decided that knowledge interfered with faith, so therefore knowledge was bad and shouldn't be pursued.  Since that time very few great thinkers of any sort have of come out of Islam.  That's how they want it.

Josh

Name:              Batdad
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Are unconventional forms of film distribution profitable?  Will Amazon, Netflix, Ebay, rental stores, or pay-per-web-view carry a film without a major distributor?  Can showing part of a film on youtube entice people to buy the entire film?  Will a pay-per-short-film website sell a feature in pieces?  Does anybody have other interesting ideas for distribution?

Dear Batdad:

That's a lot of questions in short paragraph.  Sadly, the answers are no, no, no and no.  If people haven't heard of the movie, they don't want to see it.  The questions is, how do you entice people into wanting to see your film?  There's a trillion movies out there, way more than you or I have even heard of, so why do we choose to watch what we watch?  I sold my movie "If I Had a Hammer" on this website for 4 years, and I moved about 300 copies. Well, who cares?  300 copies is shit (although I deeply and sincerely thank each and every one of those 300 people).  So you've got to figure out how to get some stink on your movie so that people pay attention.

Josh

Name:              Devon Clemenson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Someone (sorry I forgot the name) earlier mentioned that inexperienced or bad directors seem to get alot of work. Is it possible that studios are basically giving up on worrying about the director since the scripts are crap anyway? So they get a crap director and use a good cinematographer to make it look good. Assuming that cinematographers get paid less.

Dear Devon:

Possibly.  Part of it is definitely that studio executives don't understand what a director does, or how they do it.  A confusing aspect about Hercules and Xena, and most other TV shows, I'd assume, is that they would change directors constantly.  This never made any sense to me, or to any of the department heads, either.  As was said to me many times over the years, it was an issue of reinventing the wheel over and over and over again.  Not to mention at least three-quarters of the directors didn't do what was considered a good job, didn't come in on time or on budget, and were never asked back again.  Then, instead of bringing someone in they absolutely knew could handle the job, they'd bring in yet another unknown, untried director. Plus, there is this weird phenomenon in Hollywood where some people just fail upward.  That's what Sam Raimi was doing for a decade, going from "The Quick and the Dead," an expensive movie that dropped dead, to "For Love of the Game," and even more expensive movie that dropped dead, so then he got to make the $150 million film, "Spider-Man," where he's more than proved his worth.  But what's that about?  It may just be an issue of having the right agent.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have seen the documentary "John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk," and I am glad you brought that up. I watched it late one night some years ago and everything JHC talked about was very interesting and you are right, he needed to be filmed before he died.

I think that should be a required documentary in inner city schools.

As far as people concentrating on the negative aspects of their culture, I don't really know why that is, but I think it is human nature to remember the bad things instead of the good things about events of the past.

Actually, I was reading an old blog on Adrian Belew's site where he discusses the controversy over a song he wrote for a King Crimson album released back in 2000 called "Construktion of Light". The song is called "I Had a Dream". There is a link to download it free on his site, but the link is bad, so you can't hear it. However, the interesting thing he talks about when he was writing the song is specifically what I said about people remembering the negative events of the past over the positive events.

You can read for yourself the trials and tribulations of the song, which was eventually left off the album.

http://www.adrianbelew.net/previousadrianupdates.html#November%2011,%201999

Lastly, with regards to Amy's post I have a little anecdote about her question regarding directors making repeatedly bad films and my experience with the Brazilian film community. Basically, everyone here asks me the same question. Why do Directors that make bad films in the U.S. continue to be able to make films?

I give them the same answer you did to Amy.

They also tell me that because it is not easy to get a film made in Brazil that if you make a real stinker, you most likely will never get to make another film.

There is a very famous documentary filmmaker here in Brasilia who made great documentaries and decided to make a feature film that cost a fortune by Brazilian standards. He made it, and my friend Andre saw it and said it was one of the worst films he had ever seen and most people who saw it agreed. Although, my friend Andre saw the script beforehand and said the script was pretty good, but the translation of the script to the big screen was a disaster.

The Director had a very big ego at the time which was suddenly shrunk down to the point where he had to battle his way back to even doing documentaries again.

This same Director in America woiuld most likely keep getting offers. Maybe we just like to waste more money in the U.S.. Who knows?

Scott

Dear Scott:

Adrian Belew did great guitar work for David Bowie.  For a while there, after the departure of Mick Ronson, Bowie kept switching between Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp, both of whom were in King Crimson, then he moved on to Stevie Ray Vaughn in his first big gig on "Let's Dance."  Ah, trivia! And on Bowie's exceptionally good record "Station to Station," that was Roy Bittan's last studio gig before joining the E Street Band.  On Bowie's "Young Americans," that was the first time I, or anyone else, I think, ever heard of Luther Vandross, who sings backup vocals.  Bowie always had terrific taste in musicians.  And I still think Mick Ronson was one of the big talents of rock and roll.  His version of Richard Rogers' "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" is brilliant.

Josh

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

Josh,

I can't believe the Pope said that? That is interesting...

I agree with you about what Wafa Sultan said and I don't think she is Jewish either, but I do believe it took a lot of guts for her to say what she did and I think with regards to the Islamic religion she is right on mark with how the extreme Muslims are living it.

I have a friend back in NYC that firmly believes the reason black men in America turn to the Muslim religion is so that they can have more control over their women?

He lives near a neighborhood in New Jersey that has a lot of black Muslims and he is always telling me these stories of how he sees these men treating their wives.

His stories are sometimes quite shocking.

He makes a very bold a very bold statement and sees a lot of strange behavior, and I have always been curious why blacks even embrace the Muslim religion? Just like Christianity, it has nothing to do with their African roots and culture. The only thing I can come up with is that it is a control thing to keep the women from having any kind of independence or personal choice.

Scott

Dear Scott:

If you get a chance, watch the documentary "John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk," produced and directed by Wesley Snipes.  Mr. Clark has died since the film was made, but he was this incredibly intelligent African-American professor of history and sociology at Yale or Harvard (I forget which), and he makes the same point about black Muslims -- Islam is not the religion of Africans, nor is Christianity, and in his very learned opinion, neither religion is any good for African-Americans.  Praying to a god of a different color and ethnicity is bad for one's self-esteem.  Clarke also went on to say that he thought African-Americans ought to get over having been slaves.  Many groups have been enslaved over the years (like the Jews), and that's part of your history, but that's not your whole history. The history of Africa, which includes Egypt, is long and proud.  To dwell on one of the bad parts of your heritage is to just be negative.  Anyway, the documentary is entirely Mr. (Dr.?) Clarke sitting in a chair speaking.  He's about 85 years old and his eyes are blind and white, and everything he's saying, which is ridiculously extensive, he just knows.  It was very important to get him on film before he died.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

My guess is that the Sultan woman has been marked for disappearance.

I have never ever heard of anyone from the Middle East speak like that and in fact, it has been a long time coming. However, I cannot help but think that she could possibly be killed for her views as right as they are.

It will be interesting to see if her name comes up in any "Outpoken Opponent of Islam Found Dead in Syrian Street" type headlines.

I saw an interesting movie the other night called "This Rebel Breed" > directed by Richard Bare.

It was actually pretty hardcore to have been shot in the early 60's. There was one scene where this black kid gets painted white and another scene where a guy blatantly gets stabbed with a switch blade.

The movie seemed to send a message though to the tough youths of the time, and that was that violence and racism was pointless and ignorant.

Maybe a modern movie along those lines needs to be made outlining violence in the name of religion as being pointless and ignorant.

Technical question for you Josh.

Is it possible to overexpose so much that every image on the roll of film gets washed out after about the first 30 seconds or so? I mean there is nothing there after about the first 4 shots. It's like looking through a spotlessly clean piece of glass.

Just curious about that because I have never had it happen before.

Thank you for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

"This Rebel Breed" sounds interesting, I'd like to see it.  It's got Rita Moreno before "West Side Story," as well as a very young Dyan Cannon and Al Freeman, Jr.  Richard L. Bare wrote the book "The Director," that I have recommended many times.  As for your overexposed film, I guess you can overexpose enough to get no image at all, if that's what you did.  Could the film have somehow been mistakenly exposed before you loaded it?

Josh

Name:              Amy
E-mail:             hanly@concentric.net

Josh,

Sometimes when I see a movie that is unbelievably bad, I visit the imdb site to see if the director has been given the opportunity to work again. The answer is nearly always the same: yes, the director got to make yet another horrid movie.

Could you please explain why these guys who repeatedly churn out terrible movies (movies that could not possibly have brought in a decent profit) keep finding work? I've seen it not only with huge Hollywood movies (where some young USC grad with a short film under his belt is suddenly at the helm of a summer blockbuster), but in the cable and direct-to-dvd realm as well.

I don't mean to place the blame entirely on the directors, but I'm genuinely perplexed whenever I see someone with a very busy career of complete flops.

Are these people hired because producers simply want a director with experience - regardless of their talent? Or perhaps they just want a director that they know won't give them any trouble -- someone who will stay within the budget and not make artistic demands?

Thanks.

Dear Amy:

Now that really is the big question, isn't it?  If the criteria was experience, then I and the directors I know would be getting hired a whole lot more.  So experience clearly isn't it.  And staying within the schedule and budget is what you get from experienced directors, so it can't be that, either.  I must say that it really puzzles the hell out of me, too.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have some comments about Wafa Sultan's commentary.

First, it was very good and I think most of what she said is right on the mark and very important.

However, I think the main flaw with her opinion is that she says she is non-secular, yet she does a very good job of promoting Jews and most of what she says is accurate, however, you stated that she said "all of the great scientists of the last 100 years have all been Jews." when she actually said "The majority of the great scientists of the last 100 years have been Jews".

I can think of a few who definitely were not Jewish. One of them being Steven Hawking.

I think the other thing that I found odd with what she said was that she was really making an effort to paint Jews as being non-violent. I believe a majority of Jews are non-violent and they certainly are not guilty of being the aggressors most of the time, but they have certainly have had their share of violence in their culture and religion.

One very violent Jew that comes to mind was David Berkowitz the "Son of Sam". Sure, he had mental problems, but he was an example of a Jew being an aggressor, and aggression doesn't have to be in physical forms, there is also imposed mental and economic aggression as well.

Maybe she is really defending Jews because Hamas, where she comes from, was basically set up by Israel? I don't know?

With that said, I very much agreed with the message she was trying get across with regards to the Muslim religion, but I felt if she was truly non-secular in her beliefs, she could have given more examples of non-violent cultures or religions other than just the Jews.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I don't think she's Jewish.  I think she kept using Jews as an example to piss off the mullah, just like saying, "The majority of the great scientists of the last 100 years have been Jews," which is not only ridiculous, it's wrong.  Just a cursory glance at the list of Nobel Prize-winning physicists and chemists shows that the majority of them are not Jewish.  There certainly are quite a few Jews among them, particularly given that Jews don't make up .01% of the world's population, but they're not the majority by any means.  But that's not the point of Ms. Sultan's comments from my perspective, it's speaking some truth about Islam, and saying things that seemingly everybody else on the planet is too afraid to say.  The one-sixth has the other five-sixths cowed, and that's bullshit.  I find it difficult to believe, but I'm in accord with the Pope's recent comments.  Islam is a brutal relgion, and perhaps that's necessary for living in the desert and under extremely harsh conditions, but that doesn't make it any less brutal. Or any more acceptable, either.

Josh

Name:              Tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

This may be a very personal question, and if you don't want to answer it, that's fine by me. I just wanted to know how many women you've been with? Either sexually or relationship wise. Also, have you ever been with any men? And lastly, are you taken at the moment?

Dear Tom:

Let's say I've been with more women than I have fingers and toes, but not by much.  I've never had sex with a man.  I have had two very good friends that were homosexual, and have spent a lot of time amongst gays.  I think I even passed a few times, where my friend's friends just assumed I was gay since I could easily hold my end of the conversation regarding movies.  As my late friend Rick said on occasion, "You know too much about movies and musicals to not be gay."  But alas, that's the case.  I am back together with my on-again, off-again girlfriend, Lisa, whom I've been dating for over 30 years.

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Dear Josh:         

On the Wafa clip...  I'm also secular, but I believe she exaggerates some of her statements.  She said not a single Jew has protested by killing.  I guess she forgot the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin by a fanatical Jew who thought Rabin was evil for working for peace with Muslims.  Or the insane radicalism of the Gaza settler movement.  Or the bombing to death of civilians all over Lebanon because two soldiers were captured a few weeks ago.

I think that the Muslim world, relatively speaking, is just now coming out of a period where it was under the boot of Western Christian colonization that used as one of its explicit tools the repression of local customs and religion and the promotion of Christianity and Western values at the point of a gun.  The Iranian fundamentalist government came directly after a Western Christian-backed despotic regime that tortured and was fiscally corrupt.

I don't like Muslim fundamentalism, but it seems to me that some sort of backlash against the West in the aftermath of Western colonization of the entire globe.

Dear Zane:

I think she was exaggerating, too, but it was still kind of exciting to hear her speak.  One-sixth of the world's population, the Muslims, have commanded the other five-sixths of us that there are certain things we can do and certain things we can't do, like depict Mohammed, for instance, or flush the Koran down the toilet, or say unflattering things about Islam, or someone will come and kill us.  I don't like it.  I'm not telling Muslims, or anyone else, for that matter, what they can or can't do, and I don't appreciate or accept it from them.

Josh

Name:              Sean
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have never read anything that more accurately details exactly how I feel about religon.

Dear Sean:

I'm pleased I could put into words what you were feeling.  Did anyone happen to see the clip of the Syrian woman, Wafa Sultan, on Al Jahzeera?  She was in a debate/interview with a Muslim mullah, and suddenly let this guy have it, saying things that nobody is saying on TV or in print anywhere, let alone Arabic TV.  She said that Islam is the only religion that neither accepts nor tolerates other religions, and all of the great scientists of the last 100 years have all been Jews.  I'm not a fan of any religion, but if any Muslims believe that the souls of the 9/11 terrorists went straight to heaven, they're complicit in the terrorist acts.

Josh

Name:              Bill Conef
E-mail:             na

Josh-

I was wondering if you were into the band Utopia.  I just rented a couple of DVDs (a concert and a video compilation) and I was extremely impressed with their musicianship.  Todd Rundgren is a great guitarist.

Dear Bill:

They're okay, but I was never a fan.  I had a good friend who was a fan, so I heard a lot of it.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you seen a french film called "La Haine"? I think it's one of the best films of the 90s, right up there with "Trainspotting".

Dear David:

A friend gave me the tape, and I simply couldn't sit through it.  I don't remember much other than the truly obnoxious camerawork, and that after 30 minutes I didn't give a damn about any of the three guys.  So I turned it off.

Josh

Name:              Jakob Bergman
E-mail:             jakob@spectareobscura.se

Dear Josh:         

First of all, I would like to thank you for teaching me all about how a good story is structured, and for all the great films I've seen thanks to this board and your list of favorite films.

Anyway, since Robert Aldrich's name came up not long ago, I figured I'd ask a question as well. See, a number of his films will soon be showing in Stockholm, my home town, and perhaps you had some recommendations? The films shown are "Vera Cruz", "Kiss med Deadly", "Hush... hush, Sweet Charlotte", "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", "The Legend of Lylah Clare", "The Emperor of the North Pole", "The Killing of Sister George", "The Grissom Gang", "4 for Texas", "The Dirty Dozen" and "Ulzana's Raid".

The only film I've seen is "Kiss me Deadly", which I sort of liked. It certainly had a lot of good bits, but the whole story about the plutonium bag seems kind of silly today.

Sincerely,
Jakob Bergman - with no relation to Ingmar, by the way

Dear Jakob:

I would recommend: "Vera Cruz," "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", "The Emperor of the North Pole," "The Dirty Dozen" and "Ulzana's Raid."  The least known of these films is "Ulzana's Raid," a film I particularly like. Have a good time and let us know what you think of these films.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:             brotherbaldwin@earthlink.net

Dear Josh:         

Could you please tell me where The Harpy is being filmed?Is Stephen Baldwin the leading actor of this film? Thank you for your time.God bless.
Bob

Dear Bob:

It's actually called "Stan Lee's The Harpies," although I'm pushing for "Stan Lee's Harpy Slayer."  Anyway, we shot it in Sofia, Bulgaria, and indeed, Stephen Baldwin is the lead actor.  It also stars Kristen Richardson and Scott Valentine.

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

That's funny about eharmony because I did the free questionaire as well for the hell of it (damn it was a lot of questions) and I, too, got rejected.

Now based on reading your site here, me and you have similar views regarding religion. I'm convinced it has to do with the 'religous' or 'spiritual' type questions. I was very honest about it and I'm sure you were too.

Being that most of the world believes or follows a religion (or just wants everyone out there to think so), then it makes sense guys like us wouldn't be compatible with most women out there (according to eharmony).

Dear CD:

Since I'm 48 years old and still single, I guess that must be true.  I have since heard that there is some sort of hidden, insidious level of Christianity in eHarmony, and the guy who started it is a born-again evangelical Christian.  Bob Dylan's XM radio show, "Theme Time," was about the bible this week.  Bob said, "Nine out of ten people own a bible; what's with that other guy?"  I've now heard two episodes of Bob's show and I like it.

Josh

Name:              Jay Mendota
E-mail:

Josh-

Regrading Delilo's Underworld:  it is daunting but well worth it.  As soon as I finished it I started reading it again.  Amazing book, it's my favorite.

Dear Jay:

Cool, I'm glad to hear it.  I may read it next, when I'm done with "Sabbath's Theater."

Josh

Name:              Bobby
E-mail:             gnign@hotmail.com

Greetings,

I know this isn't a book club forum, but I read an interview with Philip Roth where he described his writing process to some extent--- he said he usually writes between 100 and 150 pages before he finds the beginning of his novel, the perfect "jumping off" point.  I must say I admire that kind of discipline, to keep rooting around like that, discovering. I find that's where I become daunted as a writer.  Taking the patience and time to allow one's ideas to become cohesive takes courage and dedication. I work at it every day.  I suppose what makes it even more difficult is the fact that I haven't sold anything.  I've received a few kill fees for accepted short stories (in both cases, a more established writer had a story that booted mine out), but that doesn't get your work in print.  I keep at it, though, as best I can.  I can't help but feel a tad envious for figures like Updike who never had to have a "real" job, but seemed to be embraced by the literary world immediately. Here's the question in all of this--- you've been writing for a long time, and, like most writers, have not sold or produced everything you've written.  How do you keep the discipline going?  Do you write every day? There is much to be said about writing for yourself, and I do, but, particularly when I'm working on a script, writing without some sense of an audience is too Pirandellan for me to contemplate.  Do you throw all thoughts about publication/production/money out the window when you're writing a first draft?
Thanks for your time,
Bobby

Dear Bobby:

I seriously do.  I write what I think is good, because I think it's good, then I write it the best I can.  If others agree, as they occasionally do, that's wonderful; if not, I just keep moving along.  Yes, I suppose it would have been terrific to be a bigshot writer straight out of the gate, like John Updike or Philip Roth, but most of us aren't like that.  I just had my first book published when I was 47 years old.  The novel that I'm just putting the final touches on now is a fictionalized account of one year in my life -- half of 1976 and half of 1977 -- and I have no idea what the "market" is for it.  I just wrote it, and it's only taken me 30 years to finally sit down and do it.  But as for most of my 35 screenplays, I just wrote those, too, thinking that they were good stories for movies.  Since five scripts have been produced, and one was sold and remains unproduced, that leaves 29 other unproduced scripts.  And yes, I do write everyday.  Ultimately, the point here is that if you've got write, then you may as well write the stuff you like.

Josh

Name:              Zane Pink
E-mail:             zp@zpproductions.tv

Dear Josh:         

Pursuing the conversation we started earlier about drama's function as education -- showing people how to live, as you put it -- I was wondering if you still (or ever did) agree with the lesson that "Lunatics: A Love Story" seemed to tell, namely that the romantic love of a good woman can redeem the life of an alienated, neurotic outsider and give him a way to cope with life in a crazy society.

It's a lesson I'd like to agree with, but as an alienated, neurotic outsider myself, personal experience has been that women don't often want to deal with cutting through the strangeness of shy,  alienated men.  They want someone who will come after them with self-confidence and aggression, and a shy intense guy like the Ted Raimi character in that movie wouldn't get the time of day.  I guess the Raimi character in that movie came out of his shell by rescuing his babe, and that this act of bravery is what charms the pants off of her.  Perhaps if that's the case I haven't earned it yet, and have to kick the ass of some scummy street toughs in order to convince a gal to love me despite my neurotic outsider status.  At this point, I'm coming up on my 36th birthday and have never been found attractive by any woman.  All I've gotten my entire life has been "just friends" rejection or laughing dismissals.  Otherwise I'm fairly normal, but that single deficiency of character is like a shard of glass worming its way downards into my brain, making me feel about as insane, alienated, and all-around damaged as your character in "Lunatics," even though I leave my apartment, have a good job, and don't cover the walls with tinfoil.

Anyway, do you think the relationship in that movie bears any relation to what occasionally occurs between men and women in reality, or was it more of a dream of what should be true?

Dear Zane:

Well, it was a fantasy.  The circumstances needed to be very specific to get a girl to come to the apartment of an agorophobic, like having nowhere to go, no money, and being chased by a street gang.  Meanwhile, have you tried an internet dating service?  They seem to be working for many, many people these days.  My sister met her second husband that way.  As a tiny, possibly amusing, anecdote, I took the free, 26 question, questionnaire on eHarmony.com, submitted it, and after it thought and calculated for a few moments, it came back with a statement that eHarmony.com doesn't work for one out of six people, and I was one of those people.  They rejected me.

Josh

Name:              Gosling
E-mail:

Dear Mr. Becker:

Thank you very much for your advice. This is a great set-up you have here, and for those of us asking (what we believe to be) relevent, important questions, truly and sincerely appreciate your hard work and efforts.

I decided to not take the writing job unless there was an explicit contract, and upfront pay. I even used your line about illegal immigrants. The response was explosive, the producer livid, threatening to sue me if I then went ahead and wrote the idea "we" developed. In truth, it was my idea, my treatment, the only prompt he gave was: "I'm looking for a script that takes place in the world of airplane dog fighting." I therefor informed him that if he used MY idea, then I would sue him. I hope I made the right call. He responded by telling me I was entirely out of line and that he was going to tarnish my reputation all around town.

What do you think? Did I make the right call? Did I handle it the right way? Will this person actually do such a thing? Will other producers heed his advice? Am I done before I ever got started?

As always, I look forward to hearing your wise words.

Dear Gosling:

You're "entirely out of line" for wanting to be paid for your work? Bullshit.  Anyone who thinks they can get other people to work for free (unless it's a student film) is an asshole, and you can quote me on that, too.  On all four of my independent films, no matter how low the budget, every single person who worked on them was paid.  So, unless he's claiming to be a student, he's the one that's out of line.  And sue you for what? It's ridiculous.

Josh

Name:              Yakuza
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

After one year together, I'm strongly considering dumping my literary manager. He has gotten me into some good rooms and helped me establish good connections at the major studios, but seems unable to get me solid, paying work off my samples and is totally unsupportive of the specs I've completed. He has resisted bringing an agent on board and has essentially been wearing both agent and manager hats.

Like the chap below, it seems as though he tries to pawn me off to companies to do free work, which I haven't stood for. We seem to be at a stalemate.

I fear dumping him because he's been my major outlet, my main access to this industry. On the other hand, I know he's holding me back. How can I hop into another manager's lap at this point? I'm young and have a lot to offer but I don't know how to go about pursuing a new manager...or agent for that matter.

I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Dear Yakuza:

I've never had a manager, just a trainer and a cutman.  But I jest.  I suggest not dumping your manager until you've got someone else.  You could try demanding that the manager help you find an agent, since they've clearly made no sales and could obviously use the help.  If they won't assist you in this, then they're probably worthless anyway.  As for finding an agent, you've got to contact them, submit your stuff, then wait for them to respond, which can take forever.  But that's how it goes.  You might try contacting and submitting to several agents at the same time.  It's an ugly, demeaning process, but writers do succeed in getting agents everyday.  Sadly, I've had eight literary and/or director's agents agents over the years, and not one of them ever got me a job.  Beyond being talented and persistent, one must also be clever to move ahead in this silly business.  You say you've got good connections at the studios, so try exploiting those.  Come up with something incredibly specific to one of those folks and see if you can hook them.  I wish you the best of luck.

Josh

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