Q & A    Archive
Page 149

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

Dear Josh:         

I'm reading EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS right now. It's funny to know as crazy as Dennis Hopper was, that John Wayne wanted to strangle him on the set of TRUE GRIT whenever an anti-war demonstration broke out. Did you see THE LAST MOVIE in theaters? It's not on dvd and $40 on vhs. It says the film wound up being so bad that one of the candy counter girls nicely asked Dennis Hopper if he was the director, then punched him in the face.

Dear Aaron:

No, I didn't see it in the theater, I saw it on video tape.  I wouldn't punch him in the face, but it is reasonably incoherent.  I love "True Grit," though.  Hopper's death scene is great, with his fingers getting chopped off.  "He never done me wrong, till he killed me."

Josh

Name:              Andy P.
E-mail:             cocheezy@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I've done some artwork for Troma the best couple of years, and if I remember correctly on here a few years ago, you said that they wanted to distribute TSNKE when it first came out.  I was wondering what that experience was like?  Also, I know for a fact that they don't pay the filmmaker for distribution and I was wondering if that was the same in your case.  Thanks alot.

Dear Andy P.:

We couldn't even make a deal with them.  They dragged us along and dragged us along for months, then wouldn't even come close to making any sort of a rational deal, so we moved on.  All Troma did was waste my time.

Josh

Name:              AJ
E-mail:             ajky1111@hotmail.com

dear Josh,

Have you seen the films of director/writer/actor  Alejandro Jodorowsky?If so what do you think of them?Supposedly he was a big underground driector in the 60s and 70s. A friend and I were discussing him today and his two films "El Topo" and "Holy Mountain" today, which after years of waiting, are finally being realeased on video this spring. I am interested in seeing them. I would be even more interested if they were Becker aproved though. I trust your opinions above all others and appreciate your time in reading and answering this.

Dear AJ:

Well, thanks.  Alejandro Jodorowsky's films are not my cup of tea.  I do appreciate that his films aren't really like anyone else's movies, but that doesn't make them good, in my opinion.  "El Topo" does have it's moments, though.  I spent a couple of days hanging out with him at the Chicago Underground Film Festival about ten years ago, and he's a very nice guy who's pretty bitter about where his career went.  He sure knows his movies, though, and sees everything.

Josh

Name:              Allan
E-mail:

Josh,

You don't enjoy smoking. No one does. Over the years of smoking you've developed a belief system about what the cigarette does for you. You tell yourself that smoking relaxes you, helps you handle stress, relieves boredom etc. But if this were genuinely true then smokers would be more relaxed, less stressed and less bored than non-smokers.

These percieved benefits are illusions. If you smoke to relieve boredom, for instance, then why do you also smoke when you aren't bored? And why don't non-smokers, who have the same stresses and strains as smokers, need a 'crutch' to get through life?

Did you enjoy your first cigarette? Doubtful. Most people gag, cough, or puke. You force your body to adjust to the poisonous weed and then you're "enjoying it" is really just your relieving of the withdrawl pangs that your last cigarette caused. It's a cycle...one that you can break but also one that you're incredibly frightened to break. If I were a smoker as long as you've been one, I'd be afraid too...

Don't excuse this deadly disease and addiction as an enjoyable hobby. You're only fooling yourself.

Dear Allan:

No, I do enjoy smoking (I'm smoking right now).  What I don't enjoy are non-smokers who try to push their beliefs on me.  It's a big world full of a lot of people and we all don't have to do what someone else tells us we should or shouldn't do.  You don't want to smoke, then don't.  But if I want to, I will.

Josh

Name:              DREW (Andy P.)
E-mail:             cocheezy@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I don't know if you remember me or not, but it's me DREW, and I used to frequent this board quite alot in the early days of your site.  Just wanted to say thanks for always taking the time to answer my questions, and your "Smoking" essay went over big in my speech class back in the day. Alien Apocalypse was great, as was your commentary, and I can't wait for the TSNKE SE to come out.  Sad to say, I sort of took a 180 degree direction in my career and became a Cartoonist instead of a Filmmaker, and have been doing well in that direction.  Films are still a major escape pod for my mind, and I'll have to keep checking back here to keep up on what your doing.  Anyhow, thanks again.

Take care,

DREW (Andy P.)

www.myspace.com/cocheezy123

Dear DREW:

Welcome back, and I hope you find success in the world of cartooning.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm sorry for the threats you have/may have received on this site (I've found Muslims to be inherently aggressive). I won't try to change your mind on religion, only wanted to say sometimes things can exist that cannot be explained by logic or reason, and that there may be realities our senses and minds simply cannot perceive.

Could I ask what you think of Bryan Singer directing television and would you have confidence in this, given your experience?

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

So far I'm pretty unimpressed with Singer's film work, so I don't see why he'd fair any better on TV with less money and less time.  Meanwhile, to say Muslims are aggressive is like saying Americans are aggressive, meaning it's just a huge overstatement.  There are 1.2 billion Muslims, and I'll just bet that 99% of them aren't any more aggressive than anyone else.  We must all get past the American neo-conservative lie that Muslims are at the heart of the "axis of evil."  American neo-conservatives are every bit as evil as the Islamic Jihad.

Josh

Name:              Jose
E-mail:             flowist@optonline.net

Hello Josh,

Buying a Bolex EBM hope to shoot synch dialog. Hearing it's noisey. Ever use one as such? Brlow budget film maker B/W 16MM film. Blimp it or bleep it?
Jose

Dear Jose:

No, I've never used a Bolex EBM, just the lower, non-motorized, non-synch models.  I must say, however, that if you're going to pay multiple thousands of dollars for this camera, you might want to look into an Arriflex BL, which I have no doubt is a much better, smoother, quieter camera.  The beauty of a Bolex is that A. it's cheap, and B. it has no battery and winds up.  But they are noisy cameras, and they don't have great shutters.  All in all, Arriflexes are much better cameras.

Josh

Name:              Seth Kutner
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

How do you think of the titles of some of your scripts?

For instance, where did "Thou Shall not..." come from? How about Ball Breaker? That's a funny title.

Dear Seth:

The late great overseas sales agent, Irvin Shapiro, retitled "Stryker's War" (my title) to "Thou Shalt Not Kill . . . Except."  Irvin is the one who retitled "Book of the Dead" to "Evil Dead."  As for "Ball Breaker," Scott Spiegel and I came up with that title together.

Josh

Name:              anonymous
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

the poem abote the guy who was fat and skinny and had blue eyes had better not be about mohammad(peace be upon him) because if it is you shall..................

Dear anonymous:

Is that a threat?  Or is it a curse?  Either way, get lost (peace be upon you).

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have to take exception to your general statement that Religion is Evil.  The aspects of religion that you cite as being the cause of the evil, namely, that people tend to think themselves better than others are not necessarily religious in origin, but social.  I would say that religion is evil only in the respects that it causes human beings to coalesce around ideologies that create self-identities to the exclusion of others. If it is shown that religion is a major impetus in that than your hypothesis may have validity. However, I believe that even with the exclusion of religion that people will group themselves into separate groups, and regardless of the provability of any particular religious tenet, that all preserve irreplaceable cultural traditions.

Dear Bob:

If you believe in an ideology that's based on voodoo, like that a specific human was the "son of god" and rose from the dead, or that god parts the sea for you, or that 79 virgins are waiting for you in heaven, then you've already thrown in the towel on logic and reasonableness.  The fact that you're part of a group of similarly self-deluded and confused people doesn't make it any better.  I also think that tradition in and of itself is bullshit.  Tradition is to unquestioningly do what your ancestors did, even if it was stupid.  I personally find depictions of crucifixions offensive, particularly of Jews.  Do you think that Christians give a shit that their tradition of displaying Jesus nailed to cross is offensive to Jews?  Sorry, I don't accept anything your saying.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I was wondering if you planned on posting another volume of old reviews, including some of the ones you regularly refer to that you wrote in the 70s, such as the one for "A Woman Under the Influence?"

Best.

Dear Kritstie:

I could, I'd just have to dig them out and it's cold in there.

Josh

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

<<"The Departed" is third-rate Scorsese.>>
That scene with DiCaprio bitching for a prescription is the worst acting ever. I've just seen too many bad movies lately.

Meanwhile, I loved this little filmmaking gag in LIVING IN OBLIVION. The first 30 minutes are in B&W with the only color being when they are rolling the film. After so much shit goes wrong, Catherine Keener finally gives a good performance, only just as it dawns on us that the footage we're watching is still B&W, the cameraman comes out of the bathroom in the middle of the take. I loved that moment. All those bits when Steve Buscemi had to charm the actors to calm them down were probably shot just for you.

Dear Stroud:

That was indeed a great scene in "Living in Oblivion," and I've brought it up any number of times since the film came out.  The black & white/color switch didn't mean much to me, and whether that was there or not you still completely realize what's going on in that scene because Steve Buscemi just said, "Let's take a break, and just run the lines."  Also, the look on his face as this is all occurring is wonderful.

Josh

Name:              Miss B
E-mail:             babs_cro@yahoo.co.uk

Hello Josh,

Are you at all familliar with the work of European director Emir Kusturica? I'd love to hear your observations on his style and approach.
Many thanks!

Dear Miss B:

I haven't seen any of his films.  I did see "Letters from Iwo Jima," however, and was seriously underwhelmed.  It has a dramatic arc that goes straight down.  In scene one the Japanese realize they're going to lose this battle, then in every single scene they lose it a bit more.  Almost every scene in the movie could be the last scene.  Also, the bleached out photography was plain old ugly, and Clint is sort of a thoughtless, uninspired, run-of-the-mill director.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I read the recent interview with Kevin Sorbo and could I ask from your perspective is the affair thing between Lucy and Rob true? Hadn't she divorced Garth already? Also have you heard of Bryan Singer's new ABC show Football Wives and Lucy getting the lead role, and what do you think of that? Thanks.

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

Seriously, who gives a shit what Kevin thinks?  I know nothing about upcoming TV shows.

Josh

Name:              J.D.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering at what point in your career did you feel like you had become a legitimate director/writer and not just a kid fucking around with his friends?

Dear J.D.:

I'm not sure it's occurred yet.  But the initial time I kind of felt that way was first arriving on the set of "Lunatics" in 1989, and finding a real crew, a 35mm camera, dolly, track, lights, etc.  Then in 1993 when I was forced to join the Director's Guild to keep working on "Hercules."  But it wasn't until the second episode of "Xena" that I directed ("Warrior, Princess, Tramp") where I internally realized, "I know how to do this, and I'm not faking it."

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

It has been awhile, but fortunately, I have been busy as I was flown up to NYC at the beginning of Feb. for two weeks to do some commercial work.

Anyhow, the NYC publisher Taschen has released a great series of books on Directors and genres of films and I picked up the "Film Noir" book put out by them and I loved it. like all Taschen books, this one is heavy on photos and it is no secret to my friends how much I love the "Film Noir" > genre.

First, I was wondering which "Film Noir" films you like the most? Second, I could not agree with you more about "The Departed". At the Golden Globes Scorsese said that he had always wanted to make a "Film Noir" inspired film properly because he enjoyed that genre and it had a big influence on him (as well as his contemporaries), and that he was fortunate to have done that with this film.

Maybe, but I still thought the film was a parody of his better work and "Goodfellas" seems more "Film Noir" inspired than the mediocre film. I still like the original Hong Kong film that the script was based on, "Internal Affairs" better than "The Departed".

Anyhow, I am also finished with the book you recommended to me of Harlan Ellison's shorts stories; "Angry Candy" and I am enjoying his writing and it has inspired many story ideas for me. I hope to make a couple shorts this year in Brazil if all goes well, so this was a great help.

Also, did you ever dig old radio shows like "The Inner Sanctum"? I quite like that one among others. I helped produce and participated in a few radio shows at college and I really had fun doing that. I prefer the visual medium of film, but I liked doing the radio shows because I feel it always left something to the imagination which seems to be something that is absolutely lost now in our culture.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Greetings.  Ola.  I wouldn't term "Goodfellas" or "The Departed" as Film Noir.  The former is a crime drama, the latter a cop drama.  I think Anthony Mann was the king of Film Noir, with "Raw Deal," "Desperate," "Railroaded," "T-Men" and "Border Incident."  Mann also wrote the story for another cool little noir film, "Follow Me Quietly," directed by Richard Fleischer (that has a terrific scare in it).  Or a film like "The Sniper," directed by Edward Dymytrk.  I'm glad you enjoyed "Angry Candy."  When Ellison is on, he's really good.  I was sort of interested in radio dramas as a kid, but I haven't listened to one in years.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             58ldd@concentric.net

Dear Josh:         

It's too bad Kevin Sorbo and Sam Raimi are not bosom buddies. They appear to have so much in common:

http://www.fundrace.org/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=sorbo&fname=kevin&search=Search+by+Name

http://www.fundrace.org/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=raimi&fname=sam&search=Search+by+Name

Meanwhile, the lovely Lucy Lawless chooses a different path:

http://www.fundrace.org/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=lawless&fname=lucy&search=Search+by+Name

Don't you just love how Sorbo denounces XENA for its violence, while personally supporting our idiot president and his fatal deeds? WTF?!

Dear Danielle:

It's certainly difficult to have much respect for, or defend, anyone who supports George Bush.  The Neo-Conservative movement, of which Bush and Cheney are very much a part, is every bit as evil as the Radical Islamic Jihad movement, both of which started in the USA in 1949.  Both movements are extreme reactions to what they both believe are the evils of Liberal Democracy, and both are out for world domination.  Backing George Bush is very similar to backing Osama Bin Laden, or Lex Lothar.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I wanted to pass along some recent spectacular sour grapes from Kevin Sorbo and get your comments:

http://www.filmstew.com/showArticle.aspx?ContentID=15501

This isn't the 1st time he's clumsily offered unkind words for Ren Pics, et al.
The first whiff was back in 2001, just as Xena's last season wrapped:
http://www.xenaville.com/marka_sorbo.html
Then, years later around the time Herc's Season 4 DVD set was released:
http://www.ugo.com/channels/dvd/features/hercules_season4/kevinsorbo.asp

It's not just that he's harboring resentment, but that he's expressing himself like some preteen doofus.
The Herc/Xena fans are just stunned.

Dear Diana:

Pretty bold talk for an actor who's now making $2 million, direct-to-video "Walking Tall" sequels.  But at least Kevin didn't say anything nasty about me.  I did hear along the way that he didn't like me as a director, and since I never did get to direct any episodes of the Hercules show, that could well be true.  For my part I had a perfectly good time working with Kevin on the Herc movies.  Meanwhile, and I could be wrong, but I don't think dissing Sam and Rob in print is the way to get parts in their movies.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

After seeing the profile of Barack Obama on 60 Minutes earlier tonight, I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. This guy shows more class than any politician I've seen in years. I'd much rather he wins the Dem nomination than  Hillary. You have any thoughts?

Dear David:

I'll take Barack Obama over every other politician who voted for the war, like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, not to mention those horrid Republicans like McCain.  But everyone that voted for the war proved beyond a shadow of doubt for me that they cannot be trusted, they don't use their heads, and they'll follow majority right off a cliff if that's the way it's going.  Congress giving up their power to a corrupt lying numbskull like Bush is truly one of the low points of U.S. history.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I watched Elmer Gantry tonight and Burt Lancaster definitely deserved an oscar for his performance.

It seems that your beef with the quality of the movies lies mostly with the directors and writers, but do you think the actors today are of the caliber of Burt Lancaster, or others of his generation?

Dear Bob:

No, I don't think any actors working today are of the caliber of Burt Lancaster, nor are there any male actors now working who have the presence or the manliness of of a Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas or Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck.  I also don't think there are any female actors working who are as good as say, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, or Barbra Stanwyck. This generation doesn't have the writers, the directors, or the actors. This generation is also so utterly brainwashed that they'll watch a sporting event they don't care about, like the Super Bowl, just so they can see the commercials.  Soon, they'll be able to drop the show itself, just show the commercials and people will watch.  As far as I'm concerned, society now is a huge disappointment that gets exactly the shit entertainment they deserve.

Josh

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

"I guess it would be "Point Break," which looked as stupid as any film ever made from the trailer (a surfer cop), but it's so well-made that I've seen it about six times."

I can't tell you how happy that makes me! Of all the films you don't like or loathe that are discussed on this site, I thrilled that one you like is Point Break.

I also think Point Break is a heckuva lot of fun, and I didn't even realize I liked it so much until I had seen it several times like you.

It suddenly just clicked that this was meant to be a silly, fast-paced, fun action film...and it was!

Dear Richard:

Sadly, Ms. Bigelow couldn't follow up on it at all.  She does shoot the action very well in that film, though.  I love the foot chase between and through the houses, which is very similar to a chase I wrote in "Ball Breaker" long, long ago, and if I ever got to make it I'd cover the chase a lot like she did in "Point Break."

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             tlrboulder@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I meant to use the New Wave, er nouvelle vague, (not capitalized in French) as a dividing period, not to imply that it lasted until 1977. And 15 because -- everybody has 10 best lists, and I wanted to see what extra films you might include given the chance.

So, sure, I'll show you mine; they're not in order. Some are simply movies I like - I'm happy to put up a defense for them, but I can concede that they may not be universal masterpieces, or in some cases the director's best film on some grand scale -- just that they're masterpieces for me.

From sound to the new wave

Casablanca
Best Years of Our Lives
Wild Strawberries
Seventh Seal
White Heat
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Citizen Kane
Magnificent Ambersons
Some Like It Hot
The Searchers
The Grapes of Wrath
Sullivan's Travels
Rules of the Game
Rear Window
Sunset Boulevard

From the New Wave, er, nouvelle nague, to 1977, the year Star Wars darkened the world:

The Godfather
The Godfather II
Lawrence of Arabia
8 ½
Taxi Driver
The French Connection
Chinatown
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Wild Bunch
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Breathless
Five Easy Pieces
Harold and Maude
The Graduate
McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Best,
Tim

Dear Tim:

I don't feel like making any lists, nor do I accept this arbitrary cut-off at the New Wave (is that 1959?).  I tried watching "Rules of the Game" again a few months ago and found it utterly unbearable.  I tried watching several other Renoir films, and couldn't get through them, either.  What's the appeal?

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Ugh... I just watched MONDO CANE while eating cake... that's - disgusting. In the meantime I saw THE DEPARTED for my birthday. Yeah, its an hour too long and the ending is a bit ridiculous (bang "what did you think you were Costello's only FBI man? We have to watch out for each other now."), but its Jack Nicholson's best role since A FEW GOOD MEN, and for once, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg don't disgust me (but Denis Leary should've had Markie Mark's role). Christ, Jack Nicholson steals the show everytime he's onscreen. Plus the leading lady was a fresh new face and the music was good. The film was pretty funny. I hope it wins BEST PICTURE so I don't have to buy LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, THE QUEEN, BABEL. I don't mind seeing LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.

Dear Aaron:

I disagree.  I think Jack Nicholson never pulls off the role for a second. He's supposed to be scary, like Joe Peschi in "Goodfellas," and he never comes close.  The best thing Matt Damon's ever been in was "Team America," where it's not really him, just a puppet that only says, "Matt Damon," which was undoubtedly Trey Parker or Matt Stone's voice.   "The Departed" is third-rate Scorsese.

Josh

Name:              Dick Trimble
E-mail:             trimble.richard@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

In your essay on The Need for Structure part 3, I believe you misquoted Barfly. I believe that line is said after he stabs his neighbor.

Neighbor: damn luck, motherfucker.

Chinaski: Yeah, but that counts too.

Dear Dick:

Thanks for the correction.

Josh

Name:              Paul Marshall
E-mail:             tapegod@hotmail.com

Josh,

I am very pleased that new editions of TSNKE and RT are on their way. I have both. Will you be doing new commentaries with BC? or just carry the old ones over? Thanks and keep up the good work.

Dear Paul:

The good folks at Synapse Films want to add as much extra stuff as they can. I believe there will be an entire documentary on a seperate disk with TSNKE, including the 45-minute film, "Stryker's War," starring Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.  Along with RT will be the super-8 film "Holding It," also starring Bruce and Sam.  We'll see what else we come up with between now and the release, which will be for next Christmas, I believe.

Josh

Name:              peter
E-mail:             peter@healthypoolandspa.ca

Dear Josh:         

I couldn't agree more with you! Religion is nothing but superstition for people who are easily lead and emotionally needy.Unfortunately there are many. Just think for a moment: the flood in the bible that killed every living thing on this planet (except the ones on the boat of course), makes god the most prolific mass murderer in history! Not even the most evil men in history managed to wipe out everything. Abortion is another bad joke of the church. Approx. 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. That makes god the greatest abortionist of all! One can only shake their head at so much idiocy in the 21st century!

Dear peter:

Except Noah and the flood is a stolen story from the Babylonian epic "Gilgamesh," and had been mythology for over two thousand years when it was finally included in the bible.  If it has anything to do with reality at all, it probably refers the yearly flooding of Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and there undoubtedly weren't all that many deaths due to it.  Religion is so evil that since the beginning of "civilization" humans having been killing each other within their own religions.  As long as we humans have divisions between us based on mythology and superstition that actually cause us to murder each other, we're probably unworthy of continued existence.

Josh

Name:              Ian
E-mail:             mrtorso@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Nice to see that there are some worthy double-dips on the horizon with your new deal at Synapse. I can't wait for those. Any chance Lunatics will ever see the light of day on DVD?

Dear Ian:

I don't own it, Sony does, so I can't make a deal on it.

Josh

Name:              Peter Strausse
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hey, have you seen the documentary "A Decade Under the Influence"? I read it is similar to the documentary film "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" (which, actually, I heard is a bit long and poorly paced compared to the book).

Dear Peter:

I've seen them both, and I've read the book which was better than either film.  This is a theory that I believed in long before any of these films or books existed, that the last Golden Age of Hollywood (and movies in general) was from 1967 to 1976.  In his book Peter Biskind postulates that it ended in 1980 with "Heaven's Gate, but I completely disagree.  It ended in 1977 with "Star Wars," and 1978 still stands as one of the worst years for movies, up until the '90s, that is, when every year became that bad.

Josh

Name:              dustin
E-mail:             dustglas@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Is there any word yet on when "The Harpies" is going to be airing on SciFi?  I need to have some preplanning for my next Josh Becker SciFi original movie premiere.

Dear dustin:

The word I originally heard was that the film would air in May.  I just got the first complete cut of the film yesterday, and the special effects haven't been started yet, so I'm not sure May is still feasible.  The title now seems to have officially been changed to "Harpy Slayer."

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             tlrboulder@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

You've answered varieties of this question before, but how about slicing it a bit differently, just for fun. So: what would be your 15 favorite movies from the start of the sound era to the New Wave? And then your 15 favorites from the New Wave to 1977?

Dear Tim:

A. Since when has 1977 forward been considered or referred to as the "New Wave"?  The French directors of the late 1950s and early '60s -- Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol -- were the Nouvelle Vague, which means the New Wave.  B. Since when did best lists start being compiled in denominations of 15? Isn't it generally 10?  Meanwhile, as opposed to assigning me the job, what are your nominations?

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

In a screenplay, can the entire 2nd act be a flashback?...or this this a bad idea? Thanks in advance for your reply.

Dear Stan:

It could, but for the most part I don't think it's a good idea.  A story is supposed to be moving forward all the time, and a flashback is going backward.  Act II is the main action of your story, where you confront your issue, but I don't really see how you can do that in a flashback.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I saw a pretty interesting film staring Spencer Tracy and James Stewart tonight called "Malaya". Fun adventure film! Have you seen it yourself?

Dear David:

Yes, and I wasn't all that impressed.  Spencer Tracy was pretty good, but it was a waste of James Stewart.  Honestly, I thought it wasd run-of-the-mill, at best.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Josh,

Thanks for the feedback.

Saw an interesting movie the other night with Humphrey Bogart. It was entitled "Black Legion" with Bogart playing a factory worker named Frank Taylor.

Full of ironic twists and violent images with what I thought was an excellent performance by Bogart.

It was based on events occuring in your home state of Michigan way back when.

Good movie Josh as I suspect you might already know.

Tim

Dear Tim:

 Yes, I've seen it, although not in quite a few years.  It's one of the better early Bogart films, previous to him becoming a star with "High Sierra."  I'd say it goes below "Dead End" and "The Petrified Forest, but above most of the others from that period (1930-40).  Another film of the same ilk is "Storm Warning" with Ginger Rogers, young, cute Doris Day, and Ronald Reagan in one of his best roles.  The KKK in their hooded robes grab Ginger Rogers and is going to burn her on a cross or something, and sheriff Ronald Reagan comes strolling in.  He recognizes every person there by their voice, "Hey, Bob, close the bar early?"  He sees the burning cross and says, "So, you all get together and desecrate the cross, eh?"  This was back in the day when filmmakers still believed that movies could change the world. Now, as I'm informed regularly, "movies are just entertainment."  Yes, they now are.  Dumb, stupid, idiotic entertainment with no substance, but that weren't always.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Quick question. If you are shooting a film near a very busy highway, how would you avoid the inconsistencies in sound caused by different sounding cars driving by when you move from one setup to another?

Dear Trey:

If you haven't got the ability to close the road, as a big movie would, then you make sure to aim the shotgun mike away from the traffic, toward the actor, and get the best sound you can.  Then in post, you either lay more traffic noise over the top of the dialog to even it out, or you simply replace the actor's voices entirely, adding your own traffic track behind them.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             goldmind_2020@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

As an aspiring screenwriter, I read your "Need for Structure" series and a lot of it really hit home. I immediately began searching for a copy of the script for The Bridge On The River Kwai. Unfortunately, my search has proven successful.  Might you be so kind as to name a few other scripts you deem worthy of perusal?

Dear Brandon:

Of course, you can always just watch "Kwai" and see the script performed and photographed for your convenience.  Another script that I admire very much is Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's script for "The Apartment."  Also, David Webb Peoples' script for "The Unforgiven."  Paddy Cheyefsky's scripts for both "Marty" and "Network" are great.  A really terrific adaptation is Danial Taradash's script of "From Here to Eternity," and I highly recommend James Jones' book, too.  Paul Schrader's script for "Taxi Driver" is pretty damn good, as is Robert Benton and David Newman's script for "Bonnie and Clyde."  There's a few.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

If George Bush's proposal to increase the ground forces in Iraq by 21,500 is carried out, do you think that this will basically ensure that the 2008 Presidential election will be won by the Democrats?

Dear Bob:

No.  The public has a very short memory, and this is such an utterly meaningless manuever that no one will remember it in two years.  Plus, I won't put it past the Democrats to choose a candidate that a majority of simpleminded Americans won't vote for, like Hillary or Obama, not that both of them aren't much better choices for president than Bush, the dumbest man in the country, and Cheney, the most evil man in the country.  But I have perfect faith that most Americans are dumber than a box of rocks, and given half a chance will choose someone awful, like that sleazeball, John McCain.

Josh

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

<<I'll let you know.  But didn't you say if it got posted, I'd get a deal? The problem is that Synapse believes, and rightly so, that no one has ever heard of the film, and therefore no one will buy it. They want to know what I intend to do to get the word out, and I have no idea.>>

It's a mystery. I was hoping somebody would spot it, like they did your book but I suppose those are two different markets. At least people are watching it and writing in occasionally. That's right, I said it would help get it to the people who want to watch it. I once went to this screening of AROUND THE FIRE where the writers/producers were telling everyone it was only playing in three cities and we had to get the word of mouth out. They didn't know how to market it. It was about teens (probably 17-18) hanging out at Hippie Groups, and its 1997. It was a little cliched, and for an obscure market, but it had its moments. None the less, it is on video (and DVD) at my local Walgreens. So there's a market for everything.

Here's what I don't get: How does video rental work? I noticed the guy at my favorite austin video rental buys the new releases from Walmart. So I assume that means that the video stores buy one copy (unless its a major new release) and that's all the profit the makers get. But if a chain like Blockbuster Video buys one copy for every store, wouldn't that make the film its money back? They have a LOT of crappy filler on their shelves, and this film is way better. On the other hand, I don't go to Blockbuster for the very same reason, they don't stock films they like (like a local video store would), they stock their shelves with filler and new releases. Don't tell me Synapse Video distributes Frank Hennonlotters BRAIN DAMAGE because they think its a major hit. I kind of like BRAIN DAMAGE, but it has a terrible score and it uses up its one joke by the third act of the movie. For Christ sake, how can Fred Olen Ray make money distributing garbage through Retromedia but IF I HAD A HAMMER not get a release?!

Dear Aaron:

Video rental works exactly the way you think it works.  A video store buys a copy and rents out until it breaks, they don't pay residuals or royalties. As for "Around the Fire," or whatever, right now I can have that same meaningless DVD/video release that probably won't move more than 1,000 copies, and will never make much or any money for the filmmaker, or I can come up with something better.  I do have a 35mm print of the film.  I just have to figure out how to get it into release without spending any money.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:             khw03@hampshire.edu

Dear Josh,

In your essay on "Lifespan of Creativity" you mention that you think Charlie Chaplin was used up after "The Great Dictator".  Now you say pretty much the same thing about Orson Welles after "The Magnificent Ambersons", but still enjoy at least a few of his later films.
What do you think of Chaplin's 1952 film "Limelight"? I like his earlier work that I've seen but have yet to watch that movie.

Thanks,
     Keith

Dear Keith:

It's an old man's movie.  It's not bad, but it's certainly not great, either, and it sort of moves at a snail's pace.  The bit with Buster Keaton is cool.  Quite frankly, I think Chaplin was done before "The Great Dictator," which I also don't think is a great, or even a very good, movie. Chaplin's last inspired masterpiece would have to be "Modern Times."

Josh

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

Josh,

Very excited about the news that the super-8 Stryker's War will finally see the light of day, and also that you're working with Synapse.  Don & Jerry from Synapse are 2 of the coolest, least pretentious guys I've met. I'm glad you're doing business with em, and hope to see Hammer on DVD soon.

I guess I don't have a question, just some excited babbling and well-wishing.

Cheers!
Jason

Dear Jason:

Yes, they do seem like cool, unpretentious guys, and they're located here in Detroit.  I think they'll do a good job, too.

Josh

Name:              Rick N.
E-mail:             n/a

Dear Josh:         

So, when you find new deals to put TSNKE and RT out with new distributors do you make the deals yourself, seeking out the companies you think may be of interest, etc., or does an agent or rep handle that stuff?  If a rep does this, what do you usually have to pay them, or do they work on commission?

Just curious.  Glad to hear somone likes Hammer.

Dear Rick:

No, I have no rep or agent.  I got the rights for the films back from Anchor Bay, who have now become Starz Entertainment, and they suggested that I speak with the fellow that used to run the company, but now works for Rykodisk.  I spoke with him, and he kindly sent me to the folks at Synapse. Since the biggest title they've ever had was "Maniac Cop," with good old Bruce Campbell, they were very pleased to get another BC title.  That's the story.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Josh,

I had this kind of self-observation I guess you would call it today.

I noticed that I can attend an event or hang out with friends and be able to describe everything down to a T afterwards.I also noticed that I get a little hung up when I go to write the very events I can vocalize very accurately.

It seems that a story is nothing more than a written representation of ideas that you would speak in the absense of writing tools.

It also seems that I may have something working against me in my mind in that I may be thinking how I could ever achieve writing at the level say yourself or Stephen King has achieved. So I sometimes sit and stare at the keyboard as if the story is going to type itself.

This results in I guess self-imposed walls that I find hard to climb over at times.

Has this happened with you before? It seems that you should be familiar with this phenomena just from being a good writer. Any suggestions on how to get over these mental obstacles? I mean writing a good story should not be reserved for the "Genuis Only" class. It should be available to anyone who sets their mind to it and who has a basic understanding of what it is they are trying to accomplish.

Hope this doesn't come across as ignorant or whiney. It is a genuine problem.

Thanks for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I just read a wonderful essay enititled "Why I Write" by Alan Shapiro in the new "Best American Essays 2006."  The bottom-line, as he puts it, is that a writer writes because they get off on the process, on the writing itself. And when you get your writing mojo working, like an athlete being "in the zone," time disappears and six hours seems like six minutes.  This is a perfect little example for all of life.  The point is not what you write, or even if it's any good, the point is just doing it.  A tiny little tip that has always worked for me is keeping a daily journal.  Most of my journal, which goes back over 30 years and fills three file drawers, is undoubtedly as dull as paint drying, but I use to warm up.  If you write every single day, then it's not too hard to switch and write something else.

Josh

Name:              Chuck
E-mail:             chuckroitinger@comcast.net

Hey, Josh, what do you think of this year's Oscar nominations?

Dear Chuck:

The Oscar telecast used to be my favorite night of the year.  Throughout my youth and early adulthood, Oscar night was my New Years.  It all had a lot of meaning to me, and I'd make predictions and lists, go to parties, and have numerous discussions about precedents and the meaning of things.  Now I don't care.  I've seen two of the five Best Picture nominees -- "The Departed" and "The Queen" -- and of those two I'd go with "The Queen," which I found seriously underwhelming, painfully insignificant, but well-directed and well-acted, although rather ugly-looking.  "The Departed" is third-rate Scorsese, so maybe he'll finally win.  Since all of the good Broadway musicals got made into movies years ago, they've now moved on to filming the bad Broadway musicals, like "Chicago" and "Dreamgirls," which I have no doubt is utterly awful, particularly if Eddie Murphy is the best thing in it (since he's someone I NEVER have to see again in anything).  Maybe Clint will win again, which would move him up to William Wyler's level of three Best Director Oscars, and just below John Ford with four.

Josh

Name:              Nicholas Smith
E-mail:             therealnickelass@gmail.com

Hey, Josh

Just thought I'd drop you a line because its been a little while(however I'm fresh out of cocaine at the moment). I was wondering what you think of your pal Bruce Campbell hocking "Old Spice" or have you even seen his commercial?

Oh, and what if anything are you working on at the moment because as the old saying goes inquiring minds want to know? Well, at least I do.

Dear Nicolas:

Old Spice is obviously trying to appeal to a hipper, more humorous crowd, and Bruce is just the man for the job.  I hope he makes a ton of money.  I'm seriously trying to get two zany comedy scripts made with Bruce and Ted, potentially with Dark Horse Productions, that just made Bruce's film, "My Name is Bruce."  Movie deals, however, move along like molasses in January. Let's see . . .  The 2nd edition of my book, "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" will be in the bookstores soon, at a reduced price ($14.95 for trade paperback); my second book, "Rushes: Essays on Film and Filmmaking," will be published at some point in the first half of '07; my latest Sci Fi extravaganza will air at some point in '07; I made a new deal for TSNKE and RT to be re-released with new, high-definition transfers, new packaging, and a lot of new extras, like the super-8 "Stryker's War," starring Bruce and Sam on TSNKE, and a super-8 short called "Holding It," with Bruce and Sam with RT.  This same company, Synapse Films, watched "If I Had a Hammer" and "loved it," so we'll see what that means.  That's all the news that's fit to print.

Josh

Name:              CURTIS R. JONES SR.
E-mail:             CRKDJONES@AOL.COM

Dear Josh:             

I Live in a small town in northwest Louisiana called Mansfield about 30 miles south of Shreveport, La I finished High School in 1985 and as I see the kids today compared to the way it was back in 85' the kids don't have any respect for anyone anymore and our school are going to hell in a hand basket the teacher cannot teach, therefore everyone and everything suffers familys, jobs, community, you see without disipline you have nothing, all the lawmakers that trying to banned spankings need to go back to there chidhood and remember that ass whipping they got didn't kill them but made them better people so my question is this, if it was good for them and the rest of the american population why can't it be good for the kids today. because we are living in so violent time and we need to let the parents raise there kids, cause you can't talk to a child like it an grown up because that child has not grown up yet, its like saying you must first learn how to crawl before you can walk. and anybody working in the school system. need to go back to the old days of going thing. if a child is in the class room acting up the teaching needs to have the right to put something on that ass.

Dear CURTIS:

I certainly hope you don't teach English.  You ever hear about the concept of the run-on sentence?  How about capitalization?  Perhaps you need an ass-whipping to get you to pay attention.

Josh

Name:              A.J.
E-mail:             ajky1111@hotmail.com

Josh,

  If I recall correctly Bruce Campbell metioned in his book that he, yourself, and a few others worked for a cab company before getting into film.What was that like?  Was this a good experience as far as meeting interesting people to base characters in your films on?

Dear A.J.:

Yes, Bruce and I both drove taxi cabs for a while in the late '70s.  I actually did it for at least a year longer than Bruce.  We had another friend, John Cameron, who was also driving a cab at the time and was held up at gun point.  John quit, then Bruce became a dispatcher, as well, for a while, which was something I couldn't do -- having the mental dexterity to answer ten phone lines while simultaneously communicating with twenty cabs spread out all over the city.  Then Bruce quit, too, but I kept driving for at least a year more.  Yes, there were some interesting characters, but neither of us ever wrote a script about the experience, although we did discuss it a bit.  One of the other dispatchers was a 300 lb. woman who was too fat for the chair and brought in a folding plastic lawn lounge, as well as a .44 Magnum, and had various different cabs bring her take-out orders of food all night long.  The fellow who owned the cab I drove suggested that I buy a gun (which I didn't do), and explained how to handle shooting someone. "Anyone gives you shit, you turn around and plug 'em, then fire a shot straight up through the roof.  You tell the cops, 'I fired a warning shot, he wouldn't calm down, so I had to shoot 'em'."

Josh

Name:              boydspahr
E-mail:             boydspahr@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

It's time for a remake of FHtE, one that does full justice to the incomparable depiction of brutality in the novel...

Dear boydspahr:

If you mean, "From Here to Eternity," I think you're nuts.  A. All remakes suck, B. It's already been remade once, for TV, and that sucked, C. The 1953 version is absolutely brilliant, has just as much violence as it needs, and cannot possibly be improved on (who would you get for Pruitt?  That wimp, Tom Cruise?  And for Maggio, that little weasel, Matt Damon?  And there isn't one actor alive that could replace Burt Lancaster).  If you enjoy brutality so much, go see some shit like "Saw III," or hang out at your local butcher shop.

Josh

Name:              Christian Watts
E-mail:             cwatts@hypd.com

Hello Josh,

Im doing my first feature, with the cheech & Chong style because I am using non actors due to limited money. My question is sound. Should I be using a condesor studio mic to mic my actors or a cheap shotgun, also I have been told masterful sound can make the difference in film. Whats your opinion. Thanks, ps would you ever consider allowing an mega indie filmmaker to shoot one of your scripts?

Dear Christian:

I'd say use a shotgun mike on a boom, with a boom operator trying to get the mike as focused on the speaking actor as possible, just like a real movie. I personally am not crazy about wireless lavolier mikes, attached to the actors, because they pick up too much fabric noise from the costumes.  But the less sound you have to replace in post, the cheaper it will be, not to mention that production sound is just better, it's real, and it's in sync. As for shooting one of my scripts, you'd have to pay money first, which it sounds like you don't have.

Josh

Name:              Sammy Jr.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I know you ain't a fan, but I was wondering if there's anything you did like about the Spidey films? Even if it's just like "the colors were pretty"

Dear Sammy Jr.:

I like that my childhood buddy, Sam, made a lot of money and can put all of his kids through college.

Josh

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

Josh,

I just rented "The Formula" last night which stars George C. Scott. It also has Marlon Brando and John Geilgud in it. I don't remember ever seeing this film and it looks like it was originally made for TV.

The principal actors have strong performances, but some of the other actors performances are shall I say "hokey" as well as some of the writing. Also the lighting looks like made for TV lighting, however, I found the premise for the story kind of interesting and you can see we are having the same problems now with greedy oil companies including a President whose main interest is protecting his and his colleague's oil money.

The film was made in 1980 and there was an interesting scene where George C. Scott's character, he is a Los Angeles Police Detective who has to go to Germany to follow the evidence of a murder and he is checking into a hotel with the help of a Berlin Police detective who is also an old friend. The Berlin Police detective says "America is still lucky that it so far away from all this terrorism which we see here in Europe on a yearly basis."

There are also some other good lines about American big business oil etc...

I was curious if you had ever seen this film and what you thought about the idea of the film? I think it would be an interesting film to remake now if I was into remaking films.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Oddly, I never saw it, even though it was a big A-movie with George C. Scott and Marlon Brando.  Probably because it got such bad reviews, and was pretty much reviled in its day.  Friends of mine were doing snotty, insulting imiatations of Brando from that film for years -- "Have a Milk Dud?"

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I found this on youtube...interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrTguO7dhyo

I hadn't seen that before. It's a lot better than the one on the dvd in my opinion. What do you think?

Dear Chris:

Yeah, it's a real trailer.  It's the one thing Creative Light, the foreign sales agency I was working with, ever did for me, other than stealing my money and overcharging me for everything.  But, alas, they went out of business, so what goes around, comes around.  Payback is a motherfucker. But it is a good trailer, it only ended up costing me about $30,000, as well as all my film and tape elements they never returned.  Assholes.

Josh

Name:              Jason Roth
E-mail:             scootermcgurk@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

Just noticed that TCM is airing Billy Wilder's elusive Ace In the Hole later this month.  I'm quite excited to finally see it.  Every review I've read of it hails it as a masterpiece.  My question: do you know why this film has remained so difficult to see over the years?
Best,
Jason Roth

Dear Jason:

I've seen it on TV a couple of times over the years, and at the theater. Perhaps the problem is that the film did so poorly on its initial release that it was retitled as "The Big Carnival" and re-released, then flopped again.  I like the film a lot, and think it's incredibly cynical, but I don't think it's a great a movie.  You get a sense of where it's all going in about 30-40 minutes, and that's exactly where it's going.  Still, very much worth seeing.  Second-rate Billy Wilder is better than anything around now.

Josh

Name:              j john
E-mail:             jjohn99@rediffmail.com

Dear Josh:         

is the film being made , just curious ...

Dear j john:

What film?  Why would think I would know what you're talking about?

Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Hello again Josh

Yes, I've just read that list again. I see what you're getting at, and indeed, nearly all of the franchises are tired, although (I'm almost ashamed to admit that) a couple still interest me. (In all fairness, I think your old friend Sam has done a good job with the Spider-Man films - but they're just popcorn entertainment, no more, no less.)

I respect your opinion about Borat. I can't deny that I had a fun night out at the time, though. Maybe the fact I enjoyed it as much as I did speaks more of a) today's standards, b) how few films I actually saw in the cinema last year.

I actually don't believe that things are getting better. Far from it. I just had a small hope after reading that article I sent you, that with audiences supposedly starting to catch on, the executives would also do so. But that doesn't seem to be the case. I can enjoy any kind of film, it's just there should be a mix between art, pure entertainment and documentaries etc. As a critic rightly pointed out five years ago, it's (nearly) all about pure entertainment - and mostly failed pure entertainment, catered to teenage boys.

Even the critically-praised films of today don't hit the target. I got a few out on DVD last year and I didn't think any of them were brilliant. Good Night, and Good Luck. ended up using Edward R. Murrow as a blatant liberal mouthpiece. Jarhead - great photography, great editing (by Walter Murch), but an overlong, self-conscious story with unclear morals and an abrupt ending. (When it came to the so-called story, director Sam Mendes tried to have it both ways and shot himself in the foot.) The Proposition was praised by many, but I found it a bore. The 40-Year Old Virgin? OK, it had its moments, but there wasn't enough material in it for a feature-length film.

On a better note... the rise of documentaries (like Michael Moore's films, March Of The Penguins, Super Size Me and An Inconvenient Truth) is a good thing. And more classic films will get a deserved DVD release, hopefully. I'm always grateful for the Christmas TV schedules too - I was able to catch It's A Wonderful Life, Gone With The Wind, Jaws and West Side Story on the box again, among others.

Possibly the best film moment for me, last year, was when I watched the Monty Python films in their entirety for the first time. I now love all three, my favourite being The Life Of Brian (the sort of film that would never get made today, incidentally). Although, can you explain to me why you prefer The Meaning Of Life to The Holy Grail? Both are good, but I always find myself quoting the latter more.

Yes, I admit there are many gaps in my cinematic knowledge, so to speak. But then again, I'm not a filmmaker, just someone who enjoys watching films.

Si

Dear Si:

Different strokes for different folks.  I thought "Meaning of Life" was funnier, although more sporadic, than "Holy Grail."  But I quote MOL more. My buddy Rick wasn't a filmmaker, and he knew a lot more about movies than me, so being a filmmaker has nothing to do with it.  Meanwhile, Hollywood executives are merely representations of everybody else in the U.S.  They're no smarter, nor are they any more stupid.  And they're certainly doing the best they can, under the circumstances, it's just that they're doing a terrible job.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Amusingly, somebody named Andy Bean has a film entry at this year's Tromadance entitled IF I HAD A HAMMER. I have no comment other than I typed up most your ultimate list and am saddened to find at age 24, I've only seen 1005 movies off this list (not counting all the shit films I've seen that you obviously bailed out on and didn't list). Regarding Hate Mail, I've never seen you insult someone who didn't deserve it.

Dear Aaron:

Look, I'm trying to be helpful, in my own limited, knuckleheaded fashion.  I really would love movies to get better, and that's why I have this Q&A, and that's why I wrote my filmmaking book.  As opposed to just bitching, I'm doing my little bit to try and influence thinking back in the proper direction.  But the resistance to the basic (and seemingly forgotten) storytelling concepts is kind of amazing, and I can't attribute it to anything other than sheer laziness.  It's not easy to write a good script, and apparently no one is willing to put in the time anymore.  I know if I'm watching a film based on a bad script within two minutes, and guess what? That's all of them these days.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You wrote sometime recently how you think the only genre in which good films are still consistently being made is the documentary genre. I couldn't agree with you more. With that said, here's the website and synopsis for a film I am very interested to see. I thought you might be as well.

http://www.thebridge-themovie.com/new/index.html

Synopsis: "THE BRIDGE is a riveting and controversial documentary exploration of the mythic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the most popular suicide destination in the world, and those drawn by its call. Director Eric Steel and his crew filmed the bridge during daylight hours from two separate locations for all of 2004, recording most of the two dozen deaths in that year (and preventing several others). They also taped interviews with friends, survivors, families and witnesses, who recount in sorrowful detail stories of struggles with depression, substance abuse and mental illness. The film, fueled by stunning cinematography, raises provocative questions about suicide, mental illness and civic responsibility, as well as issues of art and ethics, and the filmmaker's relationship to his fraught and complicated material."

Dear David:

Yes, it does sound interesting.  Plus, it has the morbid, voyeuristic aspect of having two dozen suicides on camera, which must be some sort of record.

Josh

Name:              Jason
E-mail:             archway2821@concentric.net

"... "Point Break" ... it's so well-made that I've seen it about six times."

Wow. I could be wrong, but that may be the first time I've heard you applaud the efforts of a female director. I'm not picking a fight, just observing. It's unfortunate that even with the emergence of so many new directors who are not white males (meaning, we're now hearing from groups of people who were previously invisible in mainstream culture), the overall quality of filmmaking from EVERYONE is as poor as ever.

Dear Jason:

Seriously, there haven't been very many female directors.  I wish I could say that I'm a Kathryn Bigelow fan, but I'm not.  She's just one more big disappointment out of Hollywood, just like everybody else.  Leni Riefenstahl did an unparalled job with "Olympia."  Otherwise, all of the female directors that I can think of -- Dorothy Arzner, Ida Lupino, Barbra Striesand, Mira Niar, Penny Marshall -- are all nothing special.  Of course, none of the male directors are particularly special, either.

Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Hello there Josh.

Hope you enjoyed your holidays and had a good New Year.

I just had a thought about the films I saw in 2006 in the cinema, and realised that there really were few, if any, to get excited about.  I've already mentioned the awful Da Vinci Code in an earlier post (actually, awful is an understatement), but then there was The History Boys (not poorly made, just dull) and Mission: Impossible III. I used to - incredibly - find Tom Cruise tolerable, but since Oprah's sofa, Katie Holmes and War Of The Worlds he has just become completely insufferable. Paramount sacking him was one of the best headlines I've heard all year.

The two remote bright spots were Borat and Casino Royale, and even then the latter was overlong. Still, no Bond film has dared to end like that for many years. Snakes On A Plane was fun at the time, but it's all but disappeared from memory. Chances are I wouldn't like it so much if I watched it again.

Couple more things. In that article I forwarded to you, Andrew Sullivan noted that audiences were "catching on""to the dreck in cinemas - and judging by the many open spaces I see in the multiplex (when I go), he's right. When I saw Snakes On A Plane I think there were all of ten people in the cinema. Perhaps this is a sign that the "cultural nadir" will pass? Sullivan also said - rightly - that the best comedy was on TV. Indeed, the funniest shows I watched last year were Extras and Family Guy.

Finally, Welley's letter earlier (on the execs not trying their best) was very incisive, so kudos to him for that. However, in reply to his point earlier about how fully-grown adults can enjoy Superman Returns... I think that was all down to Bryan Singer pushing the nostalgia button. I wonder just how many Superman fans had actually seen those whoosing credits or heard "Can You Read My Mind" in the cinema. The film was little more than a near direct remake of the first Christopher Reeve film, except with better special effects. Not terrible, just - well, pretty pointless and superficial.

Si

Dear Si:

And this all leads you to believe that things are getting better?  Did you read that list of the upcoming films for next summer?  I have been seriously paying attention to the downhill slide, and ultimate demise, of film as an art form now for 30 years.  Every year for 30 years movies have gotten incrementally worse.  I see absolutely no reason to think that the denegration of movies is finished going anywhere but down yet.  As long as people are willing to pay for any remakes or sequels, they're getting exactly what they deserve -- shit.  Meanwhile, "Borat" was a one-joke piece of crap that had no reason being a feature-length film.  It was five-minute skit, and that's all.  And that one one of the highlights of the year?  Oy vey!

Josh

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

Josh,

Do you know what the deal was with not showing the face of the President in movies?  It seems to have been a normal, if not regular, practice through the forties.  I can understand why such a practice would end, but how did it begin?  Any ideas?

Good for Bruce on the Old Spice thing.  Commercials can still be funny and I got a chuckle out of this one. Paychecks are nice, too.

John

Dear John:

I can't say why exactly, other than perhaps it just seemed dumb showing some actor who was clearly not the sitting president.  But of course you did get to see Lincoln's face in "Birth of a Nation" in 1915, and again in Griffith's "Abraham Lincoln" in 1930, then again in "Young Mr. Lincoln" and "Abe Lincoln in Illinois."  You see Alexander Knox as "Wilson."  And Ralph Bellamy as FDR in "Sunrise at Campobello."

Josh

Name:              Jeff Burr
E-mail:             JeffCBurr@AOL.com

Hey Josh...

I felt I had to respond to a post...sorry to butt in.  BUT, there is a huge misconception re Sam Peckinpah (and probably Bob Fosse too) on your site.  I was and am an admirer of Peckinpah's work, and he has been a big influence on me...that tidbit is just in the spirit of full disclosure.  Any lover of film has to understand something about the process...there is a huge and significant difference between shooting a lot of film on a certain project (i.e. a lot of angles/coverage and/or a lot of takes) with a sense of purpose and vision, and just shooting multiple cameras with no real idea of how it will come together in the editing.  As Josh has stated, every director worth his or her salt will have an idea (that may mutate for the better) of how the exposed film is going to link up.  Sam knew how the angles would cut together, and of course there was experimentation on the set, as he was a very instinctive filmmaker.  Sidney Lumet always calls the coverage mosaic tiles, and he knows how to piece the mosaic together..and I think that's as apt an analogy as any other.  But Sam did NOT shoot things he didnt know what he would do with, and until the personal demons got the best of him he was one of our great American pure filmmakers...and has several damn near masterpieces to show for it.  I know some of what I am talking about because I was friends with one of his DP's, the English/Canadian Johnny Coquillon, who shot STRAW DOGS, CROSS OF IRON, PAT GARRETT and OSTERMAN.  He told me how they worked together, and Sam knew WHY he was shooting something and what he was AIMING for.  And that is what Josh is referring to...something specific is always better, as the intent will seep into every frame of the movie one way or another...all to support THE IDEA and THEME.  Sometimes this can't be articulated well on the set, but it is critical that the director strive for the specific.  It helps the actors (the more specific an acting choice you make the more powerful, memorable, etc)  the technicians (if they know what they are shooting for in each set-up they will try to get it)...and maybe, in an extraordinary situation, the producers/executives will get behind it too! (I know, naive of me to think but we can hope) Sorry for the length, but I really want to make it clear that guys like Peckinpah and Fosse dont just happen because they shoot a lot of film from many different angles.  As Sam has said when he was shooting... "we're just mining the ore now..." and he certainly refined the hell out of it when he edited.  But of course it took time to do, and today with post schedules so ridiculously short on major movies, it takes a committed and powerful director to slave over the cut.  There are several good books on Peckinpah, and there is a very good bio of Fosse too.  I love them both and they left too soon and didnt make enough movies, but at least we got what we have!  Thanks for the time Josh...

Jeff Burr

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for the additional voice and clarification of the concept.  I think it's incredibly important, and almost lost information.  The difference is completely evident, I believe, in the difference between "Cabaret" and "Chicago."  Bob Fosse knew how he wanted his scenes covered and edited, whereas the hack, Rob Marshall, who directed "Chicago," covers his scenes with multiple cameras, then figures out how the scene will go together in the editing room, and therefore, every scene has no visual continuity or interest.  I keep watching "Full Metal Jacket" over and over again, not because it's Kubrick's best, but because it's goddamn well-directed.  It's an intense pleasure for me to watch a director who knows what they're doing. When Kubrick gets an angle of something, he means it.  He also knows just where he intends to cut.  That's a good director.

Josh

Name:              Gorgon
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Cross of Iron (in its uncut, unfucked with state) happens to be pretty incredible, and The Getaway is one of the 70's smoothest flicks. The opening credit montage, no doubt pieced together by Spottiswoode in the editing room, is breathtaking. Alfredo Garcia is a masterpiece of despair and personal, soulful expression. Its like Peckinpah's misanthropic, nhilistic coyote cry to the moon. And reconstructed, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has some amazing moments, including the second best death scene in cinema history, when Slim Pickens goes knockin on heaven's door (interestingly enough, the #1 best death scene in cinema history is Slim Pickens riding the bomb). What say you about this? How about the great death scenes in cinema?

Dear Gorgon:

I really must disagree.  Although I am a Warren Oates fan, "Alfredo Garcia" is a tremendous bore.  Nine-tenths of the movie is simply Oates driving around.  Other than Bob Dylan's song, I don't care for "Pat Garrett," which I also found to be severely dull.  "The Getaway" is a good, lightweight movie, and McQueen is great, as always, but it has a mushy middle, as far as I'm concerned, culminating in the slo-mo shooting of a police car. Peckinpah had one great film in him, "The Wild Bunch."

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             mrb894@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Glad to know i am not the only one, you always here storys "oh my parnets never supported me blah blah blah" and I guess in some cases its true. Becouse i know how to "swing a hammer" and things of the like my parents keep pushing construction on me...I dotn want to do construction. its kinda strange my dad who hasnt ever really been around is kinda curious about the idea for me to "make movies" he wants us to shoot a  series of traing videos for the poilce department...im game

What was the most unexpected movie that you enjoyed and why?

Dear Brandon:

I guess it would be "Point Break," which looked as stupid as any film ever made from the trailer (a surfer cop), but it's so well-made that I've seen it about six times.

Josh

Name:              Chris Bruce
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I'm a young guy currently between high school and college who's just trying to make as many films and short projects as possible to test myself and learn this craft and I am finding that the hardest part at this stage is just getting the small groups of people together at the same time.

So my question is, when you were making your short films with your friends would they be shot over a couple of days or over a month? At that early stage were you ever paying anyone for their time?

Also, I'd like to know what you think about digital media and the ease with which people can now pick up a camera and edit something. Do you think learning on these cheap tools is breeding more incompetence than skill?

Thanks for your time.

Dear Chris:

I don't think it make sense to blame the equipment; it's definitely the people's fault.  Incompetence comes from within, not from outside.  You ought to be able to make a great movie in any format, if you put in the time on the script, casting, lighting, etc.  Back when we made our short films no one was ever paid.  I always made my films as fast as possible, so as not to have to wrangle everyone together too often.  We shot "The Blind Waiter" in two nights, and I shot "Holding It" (which may very well be included in the new DVD of "Running Time") in two days.  Sam Raimi, on the other hand, frequently took a lot longer to make his films, and he just dealt with whoever showed up.  But by the time I got to "Stryker's War," which is a 45-minute film, that took eight straight days of shooting.

Josh

Name:              Chuck
E-mail:             chuckroitinger@comcast.net

Dear Josh:         

I came across your website a couple weeks ago after some rube linked to it in an attempt to convince people to send you hate mail (he was not your biggest fan). I found the YouTube link to If I Had a Hammer in the archives and found the movie to be surprisingly well-done. I was definitely not expecting to find such a well-structured, enjoyable film on YouTube. Even though I'm only 19, I thought that the movie was really nostalgic. The musical performances were really great, too.

Anyway, from what little of the archives I've searched through, I have not seen any mention of television. Is there anything on TV worth viewing, in your opinion?

Dear Chuck:

I'm glad you enjoyed the film, and decided not to send any hate mail. TV-wise, I watch "The Daily Show" and Bill Maher's show.  I may tune in for some of the new episodes of "Rome" on HBO, although I didn't think it held up all that well in it's first season.  I think "Frontline" is still the best investigative news show on the air.  I also like "Nova."  That's about it.  I'm boycotting anything with cops, lawyers or doctors.

Josh

Name:              Raoul O'Hara
E-mail:             N/A

Dear Josh:          

In response to the following statement you made concerning director's knowing how their shots will cut together:

'"If you just shoot a bunch of coverage, then dump it on an editor to straighten out, you're a bad director."

-Josh'

I believe that is the exact method used by Sam Peckinpah on the best scenes of his best movies; Bob Fosse also shot shitloads of coverage and sorted it out in the editing. If you have the money, time and superior editing instincts, I think this is an excellent way to make movies. Are you objecting to the technique because it's not feasible on most low-budget productions, or maybe because it has produced so many mediocre films by mediocre directors and editors? Why is it automatically bad to shoot lots of coverage and determine the best editorial sequence later? Aren't you the guy who told me : "The abuse of a thing is no argument against the use of a thing." I'm not trying to be contrary, just curious as to your reasoning.
(Thanks as always for making us THINK about how best to make great films.)

Dear Raoul:

For Sam Peckinpah that method worked exactly once, with "The Wild Bunch," and I think for that film he had his clearest vision of what he wanted of any film he ever made.  For Bob Fosse the method worked exactly once also, with "Cabaret," and I'd just bet that was the one film of his with the least, and most specific, coverage.  As I've said before (and will undoubtedly say again at some point), anything specific is better than anything general.  Part of what made great directors like Hitchcock, Kubrick or Wyler so good was that they knew exactly how they intended to cover a scene.  A good director knows in advance where his cuts are, and designs his shots to make good cuts.  If the director isn't doing that, they've thrown in the towel before they've started.

Josh

Name:              Raoul O'Hara
E-mail:             N/A

O Wise and Powerful Josh-

I happened on an article today concerning Robert Wagner's lawsuit against the Producer's of the two 'Charlie's Angels' feature films. It seems Wagner and then-wife Natalie Wood owned 50% of the "ancillary and subsidiary" rights to the Charlie's Angels T.V. show, but have been denied any maoney from the Movies; the article quoted the judge as saying:

'"For a right to be 'subsidiary' or 'ancillary,' meaning supplementary or subordinate, there must be a primary right to which it relates," Justice Earl Johnson Jr. wrote on behalf of the panel. "The only primary right mentioned in the contract is 'the right to exhibit photoplays of the series.' "Thus, the Wagners were entitled to share in the profits from the exploitation of the movie rights to Charlie's Angels if those rights were exploited by Columbia as ancillary or subsidiary rights of its primary 'right to exhibit photoplays of the series' but not if those rights were acquired by Columbia independently from its right to exhibit photoplays," > Johnson concluded, with justices Norvell Woods Jr. and Laurie Zelon joining.'

  I know you're not a lawyer, but do you have any idea what this gobbledy-gook means? Wouldn't the Movie Rights to a T.V. series be ancillary and/or subsidiary? I'm so confused . . .

Dear Raoul:

There doesn't seem to be a conclusion in that opinion.  Did Columbia acquire the rights independently or not?  It sounds like one more example of the big companies always winning their lawsuits over individuals.  This frequently occurs because the big companies put arbitrartion clauses into their contracts, so that disputes don't go to court, they go before an arbitrartion committee, hired and paid for by the big corporations, who ALWAYS vote in favor of the companies, 100% of the time.  These arbitrartors are all former judges who are now making 100 times what they previously made, and are not about to bite the hand that feeds them.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             mrb8694@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

I agree with you on Sergio Leone's pacing it does suck, and "Fistful of Dollers" (my fav in the set) is very good as for the other two in the set i also agree they are way to long.

I wonder what runs throough ones mind when making a movie and they think it has to be over two hours, I really dont recall a movie that had a stroy that was that good to need that time...or maybe its just me.

When you were younger did you get any rag from your parents about going into film as a proffession...they act like they support you but wish you would do somthing else "to make a living" and treat the idea of film making as a hobby? Or some variation their of?

Dear Brandon:

Yes, always.  My parents never supported the idea of me being in the movie business.  Right from the time I started college they wanted me to get some sort of teaching degree or anything that I could "fall back on."  My feeling always was, if I have something to fall back on, I'll probably fall back on it.  Therefore, I've never given myself a fall-back position, so it's been incumbent upon me to make it in the movies.  It's such an aggravating business that I believe if you have a way, you'll take it.

Josh

Name:              kirk
E-mail:             nivek1767@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

how do you get people to take notice of you im an indipendant actor who canot catch a break

Dear kirk:

You could always set yourself on fire, then jump off a big building. Otherwise, that's your challenge, get noticed.  You and a million other actors.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Yo Momma
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Yur website sucks. Stop sucking so much, cause ur making the internet suck.

Dear Yo:

No, people like you make the internet suck.

Josh

Name:              Jonathan Moody
E-mail:             Jondoe_555@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I couldn't help but laugh at everybody who comes on this Q and A thinking you are Sam Raimi. To answer that guy (Who was probably the same guy under a pseudonymn)  but this is Josh Becker. He didn't make Evil Dead (or Book of The Dead as the last guy thinks its called) Sam Raimi made it. Sam is also the guy responsible for Darkman, Quick and the Dead, The Gift, and Spider-man to name a few. And Sam Raimis much to rich to care if one person in this world didn't like the "old-age zombie" movie he made when he was in his 20s. Tho if you wanna know about Josh read his website. He gives you journals, articles, reviews, treatments, scripts, and updates on his life. And you can find out his involvement with Evil Dead on here as well. So before you become completly rude to someone understand who you are being rude too. You might be surprised. Sorry... I didn't have a question this time. Just a retort to that guy. And hopefully shed some light on here.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

What makes you think this person thought they were addressing Sam?

Josh

Name:              Welley
E-mail:

Josh

Thanks for your assessment. However, I completely disagree that the execs are trying their best. Most Hollywood films I see nowadays are so infantile, they make me violently ill. I can't understand how fully-grown adults can make, much less enjoy, excrement like "Superman Returns" (although the fact that Bryan Singer is a talentless hack might have something to do with it). I think the fact that far too many people are getting college degrees might have something to do with it, since college is apparently now a requirement for happiness and success in the world, even though the vast majority of them are too stupid to deserve degrees. Most of these kids are far less concerned with knowledge than they are with money, and their posh suburban lifestyles do not facilitate interesting life-experience from which to draw from and in turn make good movies. They have a universe of knowledge at their fingertips, yet can't be bothered to read anything but comics. You stated in one of your essays that good art metastasizes from some sort of major tragedy, yet after Sept. 11th, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a neofascist presidental administration, nothing has changed. People these days are so increasingly apathetic, it's nauseating. I'm beginning to think that anything short of completely running out of oil will not shock people out of this morass of intense boredom. Is there an answer?

-Welley

Dear Welley:

I'm telling you, the knuckleheads in Hollywood are doing their very best, they're just as dumb as a box of rocks, and haven't got the slightest clue what's any good.  And when I say "tragedy," I mean something that effects everybody -- like WWII or the Great Depression -- but 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, although certainly tragic, didn't effect most people.  If you didn't turn on your TV, you might not know about any of them.  The same goes for this horrendous Bush presidency, it doesn't directly effect us. Whereas, if suddenly nobody had any money, or everybody from 18-40 was being drafted, or there was no gasoline available (or rubber), then it might make a difference.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             mrb8694@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Ah well in that case I have seen it DC "unedited" and enjoyed it very much it will be optioned at movie night this weekend (the audiance picks the movie I just supply them "Alein Apocolypse" went over mighty well and my freind Jack is trying to get his own copy of "Running Time" he cant have mine) so far I have liked the look of all of your movies for as you say "i am an oldschool director" it shows and its somthing to aspire to in my own work.

do you by chance enjoy any of Sergio Leone's movies I wasnt a big western fan (my grandfather always watched them on saterdays so i never got to watch my cartoons apon my summer vists) till i saw the dollers trilogy and then branced off into some of Sam Peckinpah (ernest borgnine "oooo they have granades!)and various others any recomendations as for a good western (i am trying to brach my veiwing selection)

Dear Brandon:

I really liked "A Fistful of Dollars" when I was a kid, although even at that time I thought "For a Few Dollars More" was too long.  "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" has some terrific shit in it, but it's even longer than the previous film.  The same goes for "Once Upon a Time in the West," which has a great cast, and some cool scenes, but is about 90-minutes too long. I'm not a fan of "Once Upon a Time in America," which I think completely falls apart when it switches from the kids to the adults.  Sergio Leone did know how to set up an interesting shot, and certainly had a visual sense, but his pacing sucked.  Meanwhile, western-wise, I recommend: "The Unforgiven" (1993), "My Darling Clementine," "Stagecoach," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "Winchester '73," "Warlock" (1959), "Seven Men From Now," "True Grit," to name a few.

Josh

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

<<You'd rather discuss shit than a terrific movie?>>

You force me to invoke the name of Fred Olen (screams and drops dead)

Alright, I just watched DRUGSTORE COWBOY. How do you feel about the film's use of color? I'm talking about the makeup, the clothes, the lighting, everything that sort of makes every frame mountable on your wall (like Ridley Scott's THE DUELLISTS). What do you think were Gus Van Sant's inspirations were for that? In TRAINSPOTTING, they tried to make every frame look like it was stolen out of a pop magazine (oh wait, it was) and it worked beautifully.

Also, I tried to watch both GODFATHERS back to back but never got around to PART TWO. I noticed the first film starts out slow, setting characters up (unlike DEER HUNTER), but that ends immediately when it cuts to the movie moguls home. Up to the scene where Michael finds Vito Corleone is alone in the hospital, its an okay 70s flick with memorable bits of dialogue, but it doesn't turn TRULY GREAT to me until Sterling Hayden shows up, which is the turning point when Michael decides to join the family. After the great scene in the restaurant, the photography turns from dark to absolutely gorgeous when Michael goes to Cicily, even the music gets better. Its just truly a film that starts out damn good, turns great, and gets better and better as it goes along. And even though the sequel wasn't set to be made yet, it feels like all the great scenes near the end are setting you up for it: "You don't come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Green LIKE THAT!" "You're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever talk sides against the family again". There was originally no sequel to it, and almost immediately, you're intrigued to see what happens next at the very end. I can't remember the last time I watched that film, maybe it was 2004.

Dear Aaron:

For instance, I love Gus Van Sant's use of extreme close-ups in "Drugstore Cowboy."  I don't know why, but they don't seem pretentious.  I particularly like the extreme close-up of the light bulb, focusing on "100 Watts," but also the knot in James Remar's tie while they're beating him up.  And the beautiful superimpositions floating past the car window when he runs up, cows and cowboy hats, as he feels "the warmage go through his veins."  I've never done heroin, but I get it from that description.  I love when they've done speed and Kelly Lynch tries to touch and freaks him out.

As for "The Godfathers I & II," I've sat through them as a double-feature at the movie theater about eight times.  I completely disagree with you about the beginning of "Godfather I," the very first shot is brilliant.  It's the close-up of the mortician, saying, "I believe in America," which slowly pulls back over Vito's shoulder, and while he's still in silhouette he moves his fingers, giving the order to bring the man a drink.  When Vito says, "You don't want to be my friend.  You don't even call me Godfather," and the man says, "God-a-father, be my friend," and Brando raises an eyebrow, saying, "I could, I couldn't; what's in it for me?" is as good as movie acting has ever gotten.  That wedding opening on "The Godfather" is one of the truly great opening scenes in any movie ever.

Josh

Name:              Welley
E-mail:

Dear Josh:  

Just a quick question, but first, take a gander at this summer's box-office line up:

Michael Bay's Transformers
Spider-Man 3
Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Pirates of the Carribean 3
Shrek 3
Die Hard 4
Bruce Almighty 2: Evan Almighty
Harry Potter 5 or 6 (I lost count)
Oceans Eleven 3: Oceans Thirteen
The Bourne Identity 3
Rush Hour 3
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Remake
Aliens Vs. Predator 2
Nancy Drew: Mystery of the Hideous Yeast Infection

Now, my question to you is: how is it humanly possible that movies keep getting worse and worse every year? It's literally beginning to defy common sense; I mean, last summer was the absolute nadir in cinematic history, bar none, and this summer looks like it's going to top it by a mile-and-a-half. Speaking to someone who's had a bit of experience in the industry, I have to ask if everyone in Hollywood is completely mentally retarded, or involved in a bet just to see how much they can out-do each other in sheer, unbridled stupidity?

Perhaps next summer will bring us McG's "Godfather 4," featuring a hip and happenin' rappin' reanimated zombie Vito Corleone, who has since changed his ways and donned a cape and red jockstrap to do battle with criminally insane homicidal maniacs who get up at five A.M. to put on make-up and frilly costumes.

-Welley

Dear Welley:

One must seriously believe that Hollywood executives actually do make up some part of the U.S. demorgraphic and are actually playing into the contemporary zeitgeist.  They're undoubtedly doing their very best, which just happens to be completely fucking lame, but that's where we are at the moment.  If the majority of the population demanded better movies (and presidents) we'd have them.  As it is, we get shit because that's what most people think is appropriate, so that's what they deserve.

Josh

Name:              Edward Carter
E-mail:             technokid_77@hotmail.com

Hello there mister, you already answered a question a friend of mine asked...but you were a FUCKING ASS ABOUT IT!! The movie wasn't even THAT good for christ sake!! I'm more into the "new-age" zombie flicks. I don't know if he caught you on a bad day or something, but for the most part, you can just suck a big fast one!

Dear Edward:

But you want to prove that you're an even bigger ass than me, is that it? Good work.

Josh

Name:              dustin
E-mail:             dustglas@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

care to lend any insight to this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af1OxkFOK18
my brother caught it on tv and i happened to see it linked on fark.com tonight. did someone write this for bruce?  did you?  did you direct it and keep it on the downlow from us all?  it seems like your sense of humor from what i've gathered over the years.

Dear dustin:

It's a real Old Spice commercial, and Bruce Campbell is the new Old Spice spokesman.  I had nothing to do with it.

Josh

Name:              Jeffrey Arsenault
E-mail:             aftermidnight@earthlink.net

Dear Josh:         

I just finished watching the DVD for THOU SHALT NOT KILL....EXCEPT (which I saw in a theatre in 1987!).  My question is...whatever happened to Robert Rickman?  I thought he was awesome in the film.  I looked him up on imbd and was shocked to found out THOU was his only credit.

Dear Jeffrey:

As far as I know, Robert is personal trainer.  He certainly couldn't have been in any better shape.  But I haven't seen or heard from him in many years.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             Mrb8694@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Oh no!!! Would much rather like to talk about a good movie, but I wasnt sure if you were annoyed with me popping in with "DC" every time...but sense I know other wise

You had mentioned an unedited version of the movie.   I will be honest I do not think that is the version I saw (momma picked it up in a wal-mart two pack)off handedly do you recall some of the things that were put back in??

You had mentioned that this was the best movie that Gus Van Sant had done and I know that "Good Will Hunting" was supposedly a good movie but i find the writers very annoying...

As for "DC" I noticed literally in the opening voice over that one of the themes of the movie was Addiction.  I like how he handled that theme without cramming it into our faces like the movie "Requiem for a Dream" did which i have seen on two accounts and really dont like.  I dont see how it is to be classified as an independent movie becouse of the "big name cast"
I aslo had the honor to watch your film "If I Had A Hammer." I enjoyed it very much and I regret not getting a copy when you were still selling them.

somthing that I enjoy about your film making is that it has absolutely no resemblence to a music video (even some of the older directors that used to make "good" movies have begun to do it)  which is a very pleasant relief.  especially in light of the fact that in the past several years most of the "up and coming" directors at one point made music videos. thank you very much for making and wishing people to make good movies again

Dear Brandon:

What I meant about seeing DC unedited is to not watch it broadcast on TV, where they cut the hell out of it.  "Good Will Hunting" was crap, as are all of Van Sant's other movies.  I'm glad you enjoyed "Hammer."  I'm an old-school director, meaning when I get a shot of something it's because I mean it.  I know how my films will cut together before they go into the editing room.  If you just shoot a bunch of coverage, then dump it on an editor to straighten out, you're a bad director.

Josh

Name:              Greg Bogosian
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:         

Shawn Levey. Most mediocre director ever?

Dear Greg:

Never heard of him.  But there's a lot of competition for that position.

Josh

Name:              Bryan VanCampen
E-mail:             bryanvancampen@yahoo.com

Dear Mr Becker:

First of all, I'm a big fan. It's too bad that your entire "Evil Dead" diary couldn't be reprinted in "The Evil Dead Companion." As far as I know, your account it the only one that mentions the things of capricious youth, ie. dope-smoking and drinking.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really liked your screenplay about post-Beatles folk and social change in America. I was born in '63, so that era holds a lot of meaning for me. Anyway, I'm a journalist, writer and musician living in Ithaca, New York. If that script ever gets made, I'd love to help you get it made, especially the music aspects. It always drives me crazy when actors playing musicians are never playing the correct guitar chords, etc.
If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood - ha! - I'd love to talk to you further.
Thanks for taking the time to read this ---
-BVC

Dear Bryan:

"If I Had a Hammer" was produced, and can be seen for free on YouTube.  All of the actors in the film sing their own songs, and play their own instruments, in sync, not in playback.  So if they hit the wrong chord, they're hitting the wrong chord.  For the most part, however, it's a very talented cast, both dramatically and musically.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:             khw03@hampshire.edu

Hi Josh,

I saw "The Conformist" last month and was wondering about your thoughts on it.
It is a very beautifully shot film and I enjoyed the story once I could decipher it.  I did not see a good reason why the story (atleast during the first half) was told non-linearly.
With modern films like "21 Grams" or "The Constant Gardener" I tend to see it as a trendy way for the screenwriter to hide the fact that his/her story is dull.  I imagine that was not the case with Bernardo Bertolucci.

Dear Keith:

No, I think it is the case with Bertolucci and the script for "The Conformist."  I'd say the least impressive aspect of that film is its script.  It's one of the very few films I completely admire based exclusively on the photography, production design, and direction.

Josh

Name:              Kevin Foulks
E-mail:             kevin_foulks@yahoo.com

Hi,

Me and a couple of friends have been curious about The book of the dead. We live in morristown and we have found the site. Can you share more info about the book of the dead that whats already on this site?

Dear Kevin:

The film was retitled "Evil Dead" about 25 years ago, you might want to get with that program.  There's nothing more to discuss.  We made a movie there.

Josh

Name:              Brandon
E-mail:             Mrb8694@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Well I got to watch Drug Store Cowboy, and i do have to say that it was much better than i would haven thought thank you for mentioning it i should have watched it when my mom told me to.

Out of curiostiy what is your opinion of LLoyd Kaufman and the rest of the boys at Troma Studios.

i own several dvd's and used to watch them on a semi regular basis...maybe i just grew up

i understand what he is doing and i understand that hes doing it for dirt cheap, and i know hes doing political racial sexual you name it issues to the extream..... but why does he feel i need to see a chicken up some mans ass mind you it does not offend me in the least (takes a hell of a lot more than that) i dont know maybe its the way he goes about doing it i dont like

just pondering your thoughts about him and his "fight for independent cinema" that is TROMA?

Dear Brandon:

Troma is garbage, as are all of the films they've ever made.  I have no interest in those guys or their films at all.  No thoughts on DC?  You'd rather discuss shit than a terrific movie?

Josh

Name:              Gorgon
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Talk about overlong, overstuffed movies...if you criticize movies like Kong and Pirates, what do you think about GIANT? I suffered through it last night and found it was a GIANT waste of time. It was like a Goddamn tv mini-series in one sitting...it was like The Thornbirds. The performances were the only thing that made it even tolerable.

Dear Gorgon:

I'm with you on this, I've never been a fan of "Giant," even if it is one of James Dean's three films.  And the age makeup is utterly rididculous.  But it's a silly melodrama that just goes on and on.  But that's how all of Edna Ferber's stories are.  The best film version of one her books I'd say is the 1931 version of "Cimarron," which won Best Picture, and is still ridiculous, overlong and lumpy (with even worse age makeup), but has the classic land-rush scene that's truly spectacular.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Happy New Year! And a belated Happy Hanukkah. I was wondering is it true we can watch your film "Running Time" on YouTube? Please let me know I've been itching to check it out and from what I've heard you're quite proud of it.

Alotta

Dear Alotta:

No, you can't watch "Running Time" on YouTube, but you can see my film "If I Had a Hammer."  If you're really interested you can always rent or buy RT.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I may have just dreamed this up, but didn't you once write on here that you used to show old movies on a projector to school children? What age group? What movies did you show them? (TO SIR, WITH LOVE perhaps). You know without my teachers forcing old movies on me, I would've never seen BEN-HUR or MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (I once saw an interesting documentary about Helen Keller in her adult years). I would try and get them to show movies to get out of classwork, only nobody cared to watch THE PRODUCERS and nobody really payed attention to YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. I'm just curious, I'd like to hear about this.

Dear Aaron:

No, I didn't.  I was the AV geek sometimes at school, and would thread and run the 16mm projectors.  When I was living in Oregon in 2002 I (and my neighbor, Marvin Rosenberg) ran a little free, weekly film festival held at the local elementary school, but it was in the evening and it was exclusively attended by adults.  I showed only Oscar-winning Best Pictures, but since we only had the auditorium for 2 hours, I had to choose only the shortest Best Pictures, like: "Marty," "Rocky," "Annie Hall" and "Casablanca."  It was really a good time, too.

Josh

Name:              BRANODN
E-mail:             MRB8694@AOL.COM

Dear Josh:         

Whoah you liked Drugstore Cowboy?

My mom has been wanting me to watch that movie for some time  but i am really not a big Matt Dillon fan...but usually i like the movies that you recomend or enjoy so i guees i will give it a try later tonight when i get off work...

i wish to allso thank you very much, when talking talking to my girlfreind a while back i was trying to explaine the "one gimme" rule...and withought hesitation your example about the telaptheic caveman came to mind...and now she understands. jsut wanted to say thanks
Mrb

Dear BRANODN:

Make sure to watch an unedited version.  I will go so far as to say that I think "Drugstore Cowboy" is a great movie.  It 100% pulls off what it's trying to do.  The entire cast is brilliant -- I think it's Heather Graham's first film, too.  Matt Dillon could not be any better, nor could Kelly Lynch, James Remar, James Le Gros, Max Perlich, or William S. Burroughs, or Gus Van Sant's direction.  All movies about drugs made since 1989 owe something to "Drugstore Cowboy."

Meanwhile, that example of "The One-Gimme Rule" must actually be attributed to Les Mayfield, the man who directed "Encino Man."  My good buddy, Jack Perez, used to work for Les Mayfield, and he told it to Jack, and Jack told it to me.

Josh

Name:              leon
E-mail:             dirtyfacemitchell@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

what is the song nicole kidman dances to in the movie "to die for".

Dear leon:

I only saw the film once and didn't like it, and although I do remember Ms. Kidman's dance, I don't remember the song.  Let me just add that I think Gus Van Sant's career was a really big let-down.  I love "Drugstore Cowboy," I've seen it about ten times, and it really holds up well.  But everything else in Van Sant's career is worthless garbage.

Josh

Name:              Raoul O'Hara
E-mail:             This is about that internet thing?

Dear J.B.-

I just saw the movie "We Are Marshall", an O.K. inspirational tearjerker with a funny lead performance by Matthew McConnaghey (sic?). It's a period film set from 1971 to 1973, which leads to my question: In the film, two characters go to the movies in November 1971 and see "Kelley's Heroes", and there are COMING SOON posters up for "The Wild Bunch" and "Trog".
I believe all three films were released in 1969, but I also think Hollywood used to roll out films more slowly across the country. Is it likely these three films would have been playing a small West Virginia theater a year after their initial release? I know these days studios release thousands of prints at once, but any idea how many prints would be struck for initial release of an average film prior to the "Jaws"/"Star Wars" era?
Boring question, I was just curious,(about the days before the studios had to make all their money on opening weekend, before their filmshit stinks up the theaters.)

Dear Raoul:

First of all, both "Kelly's Heroes" and "Trog" are from 1970, "Wild Bunch" was 1969.  A big release in those days would have been 500-600 prints, opening nationally.  But many big films were opened with even less prints. A big, roadshow film, like "The Sound of Music," might only have ten prints in major cities playing for an entire year before they rolled it out to neighborhood theaters.  Also, films used to regularly come back to the theaters for re-releases.  Anyway, what they're saying was perfectly possible.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Hmmm, I'm not following your "connected" comment.
Sorry if I'd irritated you.
I am in Pennsylvania.  His marine unit mail goes to a Fleet Post Office (FPO) in California and from there the nebulous "Pacific Region" (AP) on it's way to Iraq.
But I believe it required customs due to it being over 16 oz.

Dear Diana:

I meant, I got your email.  You are connected to the world wide web.  That's all.  You've never irritated me, Diana.  I certainly hope that your brother, and all the rest of the American military personnel, are brought home ASAP in '07.  That's my New Year wish.

All the best,

Josh

Name:              Patrick Giraudi
E-mail:             patrick@virtualmix.com

Hi Josh, this is Patrick, re-recording mixer of Xena. I just found your web site and wanted to send you my best for the new year.

Sincerely
Patrick
virtualmix.com

Dear Patrick:

Welcome.  Drop by anytime.  Good to hear from you, and Happy New Year.

Josh

Name:              Loki
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You're right, there's not a bad a scene at all in Godfather II, just none of the scenes, in my opinion are up to par with those of Part I.

I think one of the reasons I like Part I better than Part II is that in Part I, Michael is more reckless. In the diner when he shoots the men who tried to kill his father, he basically forgets all the rules. He shoots them in the wrong places, he doesn't drop the gun. He's a bit careless. In Part II he's more calculating and doesn't really make a mistake. He's almost perfect.

I love both films, and I can even kind of stomach Part III (though it's hard sometimes). I just think Part I is the best of all of them.

Loki

ps- There's is a bit of rise and fall story line in Part III. It's just Michael falls and Andy Garcia has a bit of a rise. That's no excuse for the film though. The film is still pretty bad.

Dear Loki:

But Andy Garcia's character isn't Michael's son.  Anthony has gone on to be a fucking opera singer, and Michael keeps dicking around with priests at the Vatican.  III is a disaster.  The story for "Godfather III" should have been the rise of Anthony and the decline of Michael, in the 1960s (so Al Pacino could have been playing his own age), and the inevitable move into the drug business, which by the mid-60s can't be avoided anymore.  If the Corleone family goes into a business, they must take control of the business, and that means eliminating the heads of as many other drug operations as possible.  Once this has been achieved and Anthony has solidified his power base, Michael can retire or die, and the story's over.  That's what it should have been, in my opinion.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Happy New Year!

So I am hearing that 'The Queen' is a strong possibility to run the Oscars coming up.

I haven't seen it but doesn't it seem like that not so many years ago, 'The Queen' would have been a Masterpiece Theater miniseries, but that Exxon-Mobil being as poor and suffering as it, with whatever it was a measley $10 billion in quarterly profits, is had to pull the plug on its financing of Masterpiece Theater to make ends meet, and so Helen Mirren, being a big name for MT watchers might as well try to take a chance in the big screen with 'The Queen', where it flops because only a minute number of American intellectuals watch Masterpiece Theater in the first place?

Dear Bob:

It is possible to make a motion picture for the theaters about an actual event, that's not stupid and not for kids.  Nor did it seem like a Masterpiece Theater mini-series.  I wasn't crazy about it, but it's a legitimate film by a real director.

Josh

Name:              Loki
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I have nothing against Godfather II, but I think it's nowhere near as good as Part I. I think the lack of Marlon Brando makes Part II less interesting for me, though I do understand why Brando wasn't in it. I also just liked Pacino better in the first one.

I do like the scene with Fredo though, where Michael banishes him from the family basically and later has him whacked. I do enjoy those scenes.

Loki

Dear Loki:

Oh, come on.  There are so many great scenes in "Godfather II."  In fact, there are no bad scenes.  That's filmmaking, my friends.  Study it.

Josh

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

<<I do think that "Godfather II" is as good as one, though.  And I think they both go together to make one exceptionally brilliant film.  I do think that "Godfather II" is the best sequel of all-time.  What's your problem with it?>>

I like the movie, but I disagree that its as good as the first one. The first GODFATHER had (has) a GONE WITH THE WIND quality to it, plus as you wrote me back in 2003, the rise to power is more interesting than power itself (hence ROCKY being better than any of its sequels where he's rich, and the first 2/3rds of SCARFACE being better than that disastrous third act). And the best thing GODFATHER PART TWO has going for it is Robert DeNiro's flashback sequences, all the stuff with Al Pacino in the first half of the movie feels like a retread sequel (of course it gets away with it because it comes off the greatest film ever). Having said that, it great scenes in it, and my favorite quote from any movie "He acts like I'm his son, his successor, but he thinks he's going to live forever and he wants me out." "To you, she's beautiful, to me, there's only my wife and kid" "I didn't ask who killed Moe Green, because this is the business we've chosen"

Regarding King Kong, you knew it was going to be terrible, and yet you watched it anyways. You laugh at these bad movies just like everyone else. But if you didn't uphold to standards, I wouldn't have seen LOST IN AMERICA and STRAIGHT TIME.

Here's to 2007.

Dear Aaron:

I'm as bored as anyone else.  It's not like there's really all that much to do in the world, beside hang out or see movies.  But I didn't run out to the theater and endorse "King Kong," I waited a year until it was in front of my face, when my watching it effects nothing.

The story of the Godfather's is cyclical, and that's part of it's beauty. That's what makes III so bad; it didn't follow the formula.  What you're watching is a rise and a fall.  In "Godfather I" it's the fall of Don Vito, and the rise of Michael.  In "Godfather II" it's the rise of Don Vito, and the undoing of Michael (the spiritual fall).  III should have been the fall from power of Michael, and the rise of his son, Anthony, but alas, it's not. Anyway, even though "Godfather II" doesn't have the pace of I, I love it deeply, and I don't believe that a better movie has been made since 1974.

Meanwhile, I just watched "March of the Penguins" and it was good.  It's a very well-made nature documentary, and baby penguins are really cute. Nicely spoken narration by Morgan Freeman.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Just wanted to let you know my brother in Fallujah got your script toady (it had to go through customs!) and said he'd read it soon, and wrote me a quick something:

"I received a big envelope from you today.  The script looks interesting. I'll try to read it soon, but I've been so busy.

Although most Americans don't know Belleau Wood and GySgt Dan Daly, all Marines do.  This "history lesson" is taught in boot camp and officers' schools.  His utterance to his Marines before charging across the wheat field and into the germans' ("boche") machine guns: "Come on you sons of bitches.  Do you want to live forever!"  -

It has a dual meaning:

1. Do you want to live forever (in glory)?  Answer: YES.
2. Do you want to (just sit their on your ass and) live forever? Answer: NOT IF YOU PUT IT THAT WAY. LET'S GO.

Frankly, I'm not interested in war movies at just this time.  What I've got out here is enough for a good while.  Three more of the battalion Marines killed yesterday in gun battles (sucking chest wounds, even with heavy body armor).

The same day one of my convoys was hit with a VBIED (vehicle borne improvised explosive device) that luckily did not kill a Marine.  I took another convoy out to recover the vehicle and we were attacked by children throwing hand grenades.  Luckily the one that rolled under my vehicle didn't explode. (Please acknowledge that you got this e-mail since connectivity is problematic and I want to know my "thank you" made it to you.)
=======================================================

I'll let you know his opinion of your script, if he gives it.  Maybe he'll pass it around.

Dear Diana:

I got it, you are connected.  Where are you?  Meanwhile, I'm not terribly interested in war movies at the moment, either.  I would be very interested to know what your brother, or anyone else, thinks of the script.

Josh

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

Dear Josh.

I wish to you and to Shirley a nice entry into the New Year,your friend from Greece. George Pilalidis

Dear George:

Thanks, and same to you.

Josh

Dear George,

May good fortune travel with you in 2007 on your intra-continental Odyssey.

Shirley

 

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

Hey, Josh!

I certainly agree with your assessment of Brokeback Mountain.  I think the GLBT community was divided over the movie because of it's pitiful point of view.  Those that embraced it seemed to dismiss the massive faults because "at least it's a movie about us".  However, the leads were terribly unsympathetic and stereotyped.
The claim that it was a "breakthough" movie is absurd because there have already been several "breakthrough" movies for the queer community.  What would really be a "breakthrough" is if there were a mainstream movie that portrays gays without making that the plot.  Gaudi Afternoon does that. BTW, I finally saw Taxi Driver yesterday.   What a fascinating movie. It's funny that it was controversial in its day for its violence.  It certainly wasn't a horror film.  Why would it garner that criticism?
Thanks,
Kim

Dear Kim:

Because back in 1976 when "Taxi Driver" came out, movies weren't nearly as violent for no good reason.  That was probably the most realistically violent film to have come out at that time.  When I first saw the film, the day it opened in Detroit, an old man actually died during the screening.  I don't know if it was because of the film's violence, or that he was just old and ready to die, but nevertheless.  In 1976 I'd say the most violent film I'd ever seen was "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and it's pretty tame by today's standards.  Now horror movies are exclusively about showing innocent kids getting brutally murdered and eviscerated, without any deeper, psychological horror in them.  I would much rather watch "Rosemary's Baby," which has no violence, but is legitimately scary, than any horror film made in the last 20 years.

Josh

Name:              Loki
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Just a quick comment. I saw you say that Godfather 2 is better than 1. I think you're crazy. Part one is a million times better than Part 2. I agree though, Part 3 is a mess.

Dear Loki:

I don't think I said that.  I do think that "Godfather II" is as good as one, though.  And I think they both go together to make one exceptionally brilliant film.  I do think that "Godfather II" is the best sequel of all-time.  What's your problem with it?

Josh

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

<<Peter Jackson obviously does not know the meaning of the word Pace>>

Regarding the new KING KONG, I did edit a version on my computer that was 2 hr 30 min, but it was still too large to burn to a disc properly. However...

1)immediately after the KING KONG title, I cut past the shot of monkeys to the rhino which runs all the way to the man laughing at the vaudeville act (SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD).

2)This immediately cuts to Jack Black in the screening room cutting out that stupid fucking Naomi Watts getting kicked out of the theater scene. Goes up to the scene where Jack Black tells her he's a producer.

3)Immediately after Jack Black sits down and says "Singapore", I cut the scene short and cut to the boat ready to take off which goes all the way through Adrian Brody should've jumped.

4)I then cut to the boat immediately crashing into Skull Island. From there on I cut out any trace of Black Shipmate and the Heart Of Darkness kid talking. They're still there, but they don't do anything. They were just annoying anyways.

5)The movie plays from then on without those two characters improving it. I then do a little re-arranging. After Kong knocks them into the pit, I immediately cut to them fighting off the spiders and giant penis worms which ends on the exciting Actor swinging on a rope with a machine gun que.

6)THEN I cut to the ultra cool Kong vs. the T-Rex scene to top off the pit scene. From there on it still plays without the Heart of Darkness kid, and Black shipmate is already dead remember?

7)The only thing I cut after that is the bit where Jack Black looks up in the theater to Colin Hanks. Its a small edit. And that's my whole version. Actually it might be shorter than 2 hr 30 min now, I was trying to salvage a few boat scenes... silly me.

What'd you think?

Dear Aaron:

I can't express to you how much I don't care.  The film is totally meaningless.

Josh

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

Hi there,

A late merry xmas from me josh!

Funny, i was just listening to the latest audio interview that you did and what you were doing during brokeback mountain i was actually doing during brokeback mountain. I kept making cracks and the crappy things they used to show that we have moved foward in time (moustaches, fake bellies etc.). My mum told me to shut up or get out. In the end i left. I can't believe that won best director. Seen any good movies lately? I made sure i watched "It's a wonderful life" on xmas eve.

Dear Chris:

I saw "The Queen," which was okay, at best.  Helen Mirren is perfect as the queen, and the casting in general was very good.  But I found the story deeply insignificant, since I don't care at all if the British monarchy continues to exist, I never gave a shit about Di, who seemed like little else but a jet-setter hanging out with wealthy Arabs, and Tony Blair, who comes off as a knight in shining armor, proved himself to be nothing but an asshole after that by getting into bed with George Bush.  The big drama is that the royal family won't cut their vacation short and return to London, nor will they fly the flag at Buckingham Palace at half-mast.  Big deal! The the one-two punch in the film was that one out of four Britons feel like the monarchy should be abolished, which horrifies the royals, but I'm with them.  The monarchy is useless.  "The Queen" is a well-made, well-cast, utterly forgettable, completely insignificant film.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Hoping the holiday season finds you wrapped in the arms of the baby Jehosus Krishvishnu Budallah, lighting Kwanzaa candles in your menorah, and that any festive red and green comes from daydreams of Bob Marley smoking a fat one.

But general purpose best wishes for the new year.  You've alluded to several new projects you've been working/collaborating on.  Are these the screenplays you've mentioned before (The Horribleness and the Dino World one) or something new?

Regards,

August

Dear August:

Yes, it's those very scripts you refer to.  In case anybody hasn't realized yet, it's a big, stinking ordeal getting feature films financed.  But I've already got one place that has read one of the scripts ("It's a Lost, Lost World"), likes it very much, and has said they want to do it.  That absolutely doesn't mean they will, or can, but it's better than them hating it.  That's as many details as need to be discussed at this point, otherwise we'll just jinx it.

Happy holidays to one and all.  Ho-Ho-Ho!

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Any thoughts on actor/director Kenneth Branagh?

Dear David:

I can live without Mr. Branagh's interpretations of Shakespeare, but I do think he's good actor.  I enjoyed him very much in two HBO films, "Warm Springs," where Branagh did a great job as FDR; and "Conspiracy," the remake of the German film, "The Wannasee Conference," where he played Richard Heydrich and also did a terrific job.  As a director he doesn't impress me.

Josh

Name:              Gabe
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just got word that "The Other Side of the Wind" will receive a limited theatrical release in June next year, and will subsequently be played on cable.

I know you said you have no hope that it's good, but will you watch it?

Dear Gabe:

Of course, but I still have no hope.  I got to hear a number of stories about the making of it from Peter Jason, who played the president in "Alien Apocalypse," and who worked on "The Other Side of the Wind" for a couple of years.  Due to lack of payment, Peter finally just took Welles's Cadillac and never gave it back.

Josh

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

Dear Josh

Hey man it was a pleasure having you on my radio show. If you guys wanna check it out its up at:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/JonathanMoody 

Anyway my question for you Mr.Becker which I forgot to ask is what you doing for Christmas? Any big plans? Okay well have a good Xmas and take care.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

Of course, being Jewish, I don't celebrate Christmas.  As with most holiday seasons, I simply persevere my way through them.  I enjoyed doing the interview with you.  Meanwhile, I just finished watching the '05 "King Kong," which only took me four seperate attempts to get all the way through it.  Now there's a movie that's minimally an hour too long, more like an hour and half.  The finale on the Empire State Building takes a half an hour to play out.  Jack Black is seriously miscast, and Adrien Brody just doesn't need to be there at all.  But the effects are good, and I liked Naomi Watts and Kong, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.  Clearly, Peter Jackson has never heard of the word "pace."

Josh

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

Josh,

Actually, Many Cinematographers that are in the ASC have different Agents, but one of the big agencies for the top Cinematographers is the Gersh Agency, but the ASC is the best place to start.

I know quite a few ASC Cinematographers like Harris Savides ASC, and Roy Wagner ASC, but they are represented by different agents.

Good Luck to you Gabe.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Thank you for the invaluable assistance, as always.  Yes, it's the Gersh Agency, and when you see their list of clients, it seems like all the DPs working, although I'm sure it only seems that way.

Josh

Name:              Gabe
E-mail:

Josh,

Thank you. I was pretty sure going through the ASC was what I needed to do. I'll start a letter soon. Wish me luck!

Speaking of DPs, I briefly got to meet Chris Doyle at a party a few years ago. Chronic smoker and drinker, and a blast! Wish I would've hung out with him longer. Did you see the final Merchant/Ivory film that he shot, with Ralph Fiennes? I liked it, and it's more up your alley than what's been recommended to you lately...and, being Doyle, it looks gorgeous.

Are people here actually recommending "Apocolypto" to you? Do they not read the rest of the posts here? I attended a free press screening, and walked out after an hour, but I'd say you'd bail out after ten minutes. Imgaine the bastard child from a hook-up that involved "Passion of the Christ," a silent jungle movie, and "Lord of the Rings."

Best.

Dear Gabe:

Christopher Doyle is a very talented DP.  Meanwhile, I was trying to be nice about "Apocalypto," but I have no doubt it's hammered shit, just like the the rest of Mel Gibson's movies since 1990.  As both an actor and a filmmaker, Mel can just go away as far as I'm concerned.

Josh

Name:              sondra jordan
E-mail:             sondrajor@comcast.net

Josh:

You are indeed one the bright and insightful ones. Everything you've said makes sense.

I've written a treatment before I've written the actually script...because...well, it just works for me. Can I sell the conept if the story has depth and the treatment is well written?

Dear sondra:

No.  Folks in Hollywood want to see if the script is any good.  If you expect anyone in Hollywood to actually have an imagination, and be able to envision your treatment as a feature film, they can't.  They need everything spelled out for them.  You've got to write the script.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I saw a fairly interesting movie last night called "Klute" starring Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda.

The film itself was nothing more than a whodunit with a very early reveal as to who the villian is. I found Jane's character to be somewhat complex though.Donald played a geek who was simply brought to life by Jane. As a matter of fact...They helped bring each other to life.

What was most interesting to me about the film was the actual camera work and framing.

For example, at the beginning of the movie we see Jane sit down in the dark at her kitchen table. She props her legs up on the table, lights a couple of candles and a doobie and then sits there in the dark with the candles burning and sings a little song. To me, it was a very cool shot.

Another one was later in the movie when we are looking at the villian through his office window. The camera pans back and tilts down to reveal he is in a high rise and the audience gets to follow the shot all the way down to the street. I thought that was a cool shot as well and had to be done from an adjacent high rise. That,to me, is using your environment to your creative advantage.

Just a couple of observations on a kind of cool 70's era movie.Did you ever see it?

Thanks.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Of course I did.  It was shot by the great Gordon Willis, who went on to shoot "The Godfather" films, as well as "Annie Hall" and Manhattan."  Jane Fonda is very good (and won an Oscar), but Sutherland, whom I like a lot, is very one-note in this film.  It's an interesting film, but certainly not a great one.  As for Alan Pakula films, I'll take "All the President's Men," also shot by Gordon Willis.

Josh

Name:              Gabe
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Steer clear from "The Fountain," it's not even as good as "Requiem for a Dream."

One question, if I'm interested in working with a particular cinematographer, and I wish to contact this person about a proposed project, how should I go about it if I don't know their agent? Should I go through the American Society of Cinematographers (which this person is a member of)? You're the man, so I hope you can help me out with this.

Thank you in advance.

Best.

Dear Gabe:

Go through the ASC, absolutely.  They'll give you the name of the DP's agent, and many of them work through the same agency that specializes in DPs, with whom I've been in contact, but whose name I cannot remember.  But the ASC will know.  They're right in Hollywood, on Franklin Ave., if I'm not mistaken.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Here is an amusing review of Mel Gibson's http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Cinema/Content?oid=90339 "Apocalypto" for anyone interested. It might just make you chuckle, Josh.

Also, Stephen Frears has a new film called "The Queen". I am a fan of some of his films, so I'm excited for it. Have you seen the previews?

Dear Jeff:

Look, maybe "Apocolypto" is really good, it's possible.  I conceded that before, but I just seriously fucking doubt it.  To spare myself the grief and heartache of having to be the lone naysayer, I don't bother with these films until they're on cable.  For instance, I just watched "Brokeback Mountain," which people took pretty damn seriously when it came out, and it won Oscars for direction and script.  Well, it's a ridiculous piece of shit. Nicely photographed, but still just stupid as all hell.  And with each preceding scene as they age, now Jake Gyllenhaal has a fake crooked mustache, oh now Heath Leadger has a crooked wig, oh now it's a phony pot-belly.  And this goes on for over two hours.  With lines like, "I just can't quit you."  It was like a heartfelt plea for the downtrodden bi-sexuals. Don't you feel their pain?  It's not easy being married, having kids, and wanting to fuck cowboys.  Don't you see?

Josh

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

Howdy Josh.

I've found myself in somewhat of a pickle, and I just thought I'd share my quandary with a fellow filmmaker. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

I'm directing a self-financed independent film with a budget of under 100 grand, and I brought a producer on board who seemed to have a long list of legitimate (albeit low-budget) credits under his belt. He agreed to work on my picture for $5000 and 6 points on the back end. He produced his own deal memo, which I was unsure about signing, as I wanted to present it to a lawyer and get his blessing first.

While shopping around for a lawyer I could afford, it became apparent that this producer was absolute rubbish, a complete mush. Everything he had his filthy hands in seemed to turn into "hammered shit", as you like to say. He bumbled through negotiations with talent agents, basically getting eaten alive in the process. He also told us he filled out some crucial paperwork for SAG (the Ultra Low Budget Agreement), but we later found out he hadn't even contacted SAG, and was just lying about it for some reason. After two weeks of this kind of incompetence, JJ and I decided to  part ways with this producer.

Upon hearing that we were firing him, he became angry. He said we "used" him for his contacts (which never seemed to pan out), and threatened to sic his attorney on us. I never signed his deal memo, but he states we had a verbal contract and are therefore obligated to pay him money.

I was prepared to pay him a pro-rated amount for the two weeks he worked, in spite of my belief that I had no legal obligation whatsoever to do so, as no contract was ever signed. He didn't think the pro-rated money was enough anyway. Now, I'm afraid to send him any money at all, because if he does try to pursue some type of lawsuit, I fear any exchange of monies will only strengthen his case, as weak as it may be.

While I know verbal commitments aren't worthless, I also believe he should have to keep up his end of the verbal commitment. He promised us he was a "mover and a shaker", a man who "wouldn't let the grass grow underneath his feet", but he turned out to be a tactless and incompetent boob.

Should I send this man any money, or should I tell him to kiss my ass right up to the red?

I know you don't always like to answer my emails, and this is a long one, but I could really use your advice, Josh.

"I gots to know"

Your friend,
Bird

Dear Bird:

I say, tell him to go fuck himself.  The old expression is, "Verbal contracts aren't worth the paper they're written on."  Suing anybody under any circumstances is expensive, and if they don't seem like they have any money, meaning they're not "collectable," no one will even bother with litigation.  So just get rid of the guy, move on, and don't worry about it. Good luck.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

Being a well-travelled guy, are we (america) really still no. 1 in the world? The greatest country on Earth? The home of the free and land of the brave?

I read an article recently which listed America not even in the top twenty, sometimes fifty in certain categories like healthcare and literacy and education in general.

I mean, in the past america has had enormous success. We gave the world great things, like flight, the lightbulb, the telephone. But now the country is run by a guy who doubts evolution and millions of people who agree with him.

Are the great scientifiic strides we made in the past going to come from todays youth who are learning these religious delusions from their equally delusional parents? These are the same kids who cant touch their toes, probably cant even see them, and who couldn't point out Germany on a map if you gave them an X-box for free. Thats right our kids are fat and stupid and lazy.

So the question is are we on a lightrail to the 22nd second century here or drugged up/drunk behind the wheel of a  72 lincoln listening to pat robertson on our way to an "all you can eat" in south florida?

Dear joe:

You're just regurgitating a Bill Maher rant.  Yeah, so?

Josh

Name:              chris
E-mail:             csr947@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

Where was the wall for the 1976 king kong built at? and what happened to that?

Dear chris:

Who knows, who cares?  Possibly at Cinecetta Studios in Rome.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Any plans to see Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain"? It's running time is only 96 minutes, so you can't let that be your excuse not to see it.

Dear David:

A. I've already heard from a few sources that it's not very good, the script is incredibly weak, and you don't give a shit about the characters or the love story, so it sounds miserable, and B. I saw "Requiem for a Dream," and it was so fucking awful that I'm still pissed-off.

Josh

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

Josh,

Hey man its been a while since I wrote to you. Just seeing how you're doing and when your next movie is planning to get started. I've been very busy doing an online radio show supporting independent filmmakers called, "The Independent Corner".  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/JonathanMoody  We've talked about your films now and then and some of the advice you have heard or have come up with I like to pass along now and then. So I thank you for that.

This is a long shot but if you ever wanna come on the show someday send me an email. And this goes for any filmmaker that checks these q and As. If your working on a project or finished one shoot me an email. Sorry if this seemed like spam in a way but I just wanted you and everyone else to know and try to get some more listeners.

Good luck on your projects and hope things are going great for ya.

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I'm interested, let me know what you've got in mind.

Josh

Name:              Allison
E-mail:             soonerviolinist@yahoo.com

Josh,

This isn't a question or anything of the sort; rather, it's a belated condolence regarding Stevie.  I'm new to your site and have been looking around it this morning, and I ran across the story you wrote about him in 1999.  He sounds like a wonderful cat who was very loved, and the pictures of him reflect how much at home he felt with your friend Rick, and then you.

Allison

Dear Allison:

Thank you.  Stevie was a sweet, great, loving cat, and much calmer than the three (sweet) female cats I have now.  Stevie had a pretty tough life, and I was glad I could make his final years easier.

Josh

Name:              justin
E-mail:             jlapietra81@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

If you dont mind me asking what did you script sell for just so I can get a ball park figure of what to look for? Are you going to get any percentage of the proceeds if the movie is a hit? and how did you go about selling and pitching your script?

sincerely,

justin

Dear justin:

I suspect you're referring to my script, "Cycles," which I sold about 12 years ago.  Between the option fees and every thing else it was $68,000.  I will not get any percentage of profits if the film were to become a hit (supposing it got made first), nor can I even be sure that I'll get screen credit, which is ultimately up to the Writer's Guild.  Read my essay, "Selling a Script."

Josh

Name:              Steve
E-mail:             spicoli323@gmail.com

Hi, Josh. 

Long time listener, first time caller. I've looked at your essay on the lifespan of creativity, which has been brought up again in response to a recent question.  What about the flip side of this issue? What is the minimum age for a director to make a great film?  Welles is the most obvious example of a prodigy, with Citizen Kane coming out the year he turned 26.  The only other remotely similar examples I can think of among films I've actually seen aren't in the same league: Truffaut made The 400 Blows at 27, and 24-year-old-Spielberg's Duel wasn't bad.  I haven't seen all that many movies, though, including those of Jean Vigo, who does get mentioned in your essay. What other examples would you point to of a filmmaker making something at the level of, say, The 400 Blows, before age 30?  Related to this, do you think the younger a director starts making good films, the shorter the amount of time he'll be able to maintain it?  Welles's burnout is again paradigmatic; I've only seen two later Truffaut films, neither of which really measure up to his first; about Spielberg I don't think any more need be said.

Dear Steve:

Welcome.  "Spicoli," eh?  "But Mr. Hand . . ."  Anyway, the bottom-line of this issue is, do you get any amount of time at all to be really creative? Whether it's a year or five year or thirty years, do get any window at all? Just having one great film in you, that you subsequently get made, is a lot. I've never made a great film, let alone a whole series of them.  As far the minimum age to make a great film, as you mentioned, Orson Welles was 25 when he made "Kane," and 26 for "The Magnificent Ambersons."  William Wyler made his first hit film, "Hell's Heroes," at 27, and his first really good film, "Counsellor-at-Law," at 30.  Alfred Hitchcock was was 27 when he made his first hit film, "The Lodger."  Francis Coppola was 31 when he won his first Oscar for the screenplay for "Patton," and 33 when he co-wrote and directed "The Godfather."  Peter Bogdanovich was 32 when he made "The Last Picture Show."  Martin Scorsese was 31 when he made "Mean Streets."  So, it seems to me that Orson Welles still holds the record as the youngest director to make a great movie.

Josh

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

hey josh,

how's it going? I just wanted to shoot you a quick question. I got an offer for my first paying gig. It's being shot out of the country. I don't know how to or what to ask the producer beforehand (in terms of salary, transport, vaccinations). Is there a bunch of things that always should be brought up in an event like this? Thanks so much for your help.

Dear rob:

You might want to ask for a contract with all of the terms stated in it. Find out as much as you can, and get as much money up front as you can, if possible.  Do you get per diem?  Are they putting you up in a hotel?  Unless it's really foreign, like India, you probably won't need vaccinations.  Find out everything.  Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

Josh

Name:              You Know Who
E-mail:             coppolas_cocaine@hotmail.com

<<How can a couple of hardcore sex scenes be superfluous?  By having them the film, no matter what it is, is now a hardcore porno film.  And in a hardcore porno film, everything that's not sex is extraneous.>>

Just moved, internet's been down for a week. I recently watched a film off your list (I assume) called MISTRESS (MAITRESSE). While the film itself doesn't contain hardcore sex, it certainly has three minute segments that cross the line into pornography. Scenes that made me cringe and hit the fast forward (woman gets caned in rich manor with her privates clearly showing through her legs, naked gimp on a stretching rack, man gets his johnson tacked to a wooden board). Since arousal of all this is pain, then are not these scenes pornographic. Yet they're kept just short enough to not qualify this as a porn film (It was actually a pretty good film in my opinion, I'm just not sure I want to watch it again). And the point of the movie was that all this sickening shit was having a bad effect on the dominatrix herself.

Also, WARNER BROS had my two clips from SINGIN IN THE RAIN removed from YouTube. I also removed DIRECTED BY WILLIAM WYLER just because its on dvd. But I haven't heard anything about ACE IN THE HOLE and Wyler's THUNDERBOLT. These movies are hard to find, should I take them down, or should I just risk it and see what happens?

Dear YKW:

I didn't mean "Maitresse," the 1976 French film directed by Barbet Schroeder, which I've never seen, but would like to.  I mean "Mistress," 1991, directed by Barry Primus, with Robert Wuhl, Martin Landau and Robert DeNiro, which isn't a great film, but does catch the feeling of trying to make independent movies.  Both Landau and DeNiro are great in it.

Meanwhile, "Thunderbolt" is so old it doesn't matter, but "Ace in the Hole" could still be an issue, it's not that old.

Josh

Name:              Clint
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Apocalypto was a great film.

Anyone who sees it will agree.

Will you agree?

Will you see it?

Dear Clint:

Mel Gibson made a "great" film?  I find that very fuckin' hard to believe. In fact, I think it's impossible, and ridiculous.  "Passion" must rank as one of the really and truly awful movies of all-time, and I'm no fan of "Braveheart."  Still, anything's possible.  Why was it so great?  Did it have snappy Mayan dialog?

Josh

Name:              Gabe
E-mail:

Josh,

How is "Stan Lee's The Harpy" coming along?

And just a head's up: I saw an interview with actor Ryan Gossling, and he said he's very, very interested in working with specific kinds of indie directors, and his description of what he looks for in a script and in a director reeked of you. If you ever have a role you think he might fit, you should try to work with him. Did you see "The Believer?"

Gabe

Dear Gabe:

I did see "The Believer," and I thought Ryan Gosling was very good.  His first big part was as Young Hercules, although I never directed any of those (it only had NZ directors).  As for "Harpies," it's lost somewhere in post production, but they're not keeping me informed.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I 'd like to know your feelings about "Midnight Cowboy". I've only seen the film a couple of times, but it's one of my all-time favorites.

Happy Holidays.

Dear Saul:

I think it's great.  It's a film from the highlight year of movie-making, 1969, when filmmakers still had the ability to get everything right -- the script, the cast, the direction, the score, the photography, everything. It's been so long since any filmmaker got half their shit right, it all seems like a dream.

Josh

Name:              Gordon
E-mail:

Josh,

I have a question. First, check this out:

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews27/a%20the%20innocents/a%20innocents%20bfi%20BFIVD680-0(2).jpg

How was this shot achieved? Is it a dilopter or is it deep-focus? "The Innocents" overflows with audacious shots like that. Freddie Francis is one of the greats.

Dear Gordon:

It's deep-focus, pioneered by the great DP, Gregg Toland, on William Wyler's "The Little Foxes" and Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," both in 1941.  This effect is achieved by using an extreme amount of light, then stopping the exposure all the way down which gives you an infinite amount of depth-of-field or focus.  The split-diopter always leaves a fuzzy line between the foreground focus and the background focus.

Josh

Name:              Roy Johanssen
E-mail:             roydawg@att.net

Dear Josh:         

If you could make exactly the movie you wanted to make, except that it had to have a couple of superfluous hardcore sex scenes inserted in it, would it be worth it to you to make the film?

Dear Roy:

How can a couple of hardcore sex scenes be superfluous?  By having them the film, no matter what it is, is now a hardcore porno film.  And in a hardcore porno film, everything that's not sex is extraneous.

Josh

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

Hi Josh

Re: length of movies. I don't mind Terrence Malick's films being lengthy. (Although I did watch them all at home on DVD with the pause button for pee-breaks!) I loved the languid golden hour montages in Days of Heaven; Brave New World really had time to breathe, especially when John Smith entered the natural world. I think Malick's technique allows the viewer to sense the spiritual his characters are experiencing. And his cutting really advances the relationship between two people, especially in Brave New World; he really shows you those little turning points along the way. And conversely, in The Thin red Line, becasue of its languid nature, the tension is strung out. And isn't war unstructured chaos?

I know art is meant to be life with the boring stuff cut out; and I really appreciate a well told consice story. I just think there's an argument for the kind of cinema that is more akin to the way we experience life, where as a viewer you can let an experience wash over you.

Am I right in thinking Badlands is his shortest film?

So I don't mind Malick taking his time. But Lord of the Stinks? Urhg. I love the writer on this site who said it was one a filmed version of one long walk.

And I wouldn't wany Kistonaquatssi/Powerquatsi (sure I've spelt those incorrectly) cutting down.

Lata


Lee

Dear Lee:

Clearly, I'm an old-fashioned guy.  I got everything "Koyaanisqatsi" had in five minutes, and the rest was pure, painful, meaningless repetition.  As for Terrence Malick, I'll take "Badlands," and all the rest you can have. To me Malick's films are just poorly-written exercises in cinematic jerking-off, with everybody and their brother narrating, but the story is going nowhere.  The narration in "Days of Heaven" is truly awful, and completely undermines that film (although the script is akin to watching paint dry), and "Thin Red Line" is just a confused, poorly-conceived war film about an uninteresting and basically uneventful Army campaign that had already been handled previously by the Marines.  I think Malick should have stayed retired.

Josh

Name:              Mike
E-mail:

Heya Josh,

Just wondering if you saw Transamerica and, if so, what you thought of it.

That's it. Keep up the good work!

Mike

Dear Mike:

Not yet.  The clips really looked ugly.

Josh

Name:              Clint
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I noticed almost half of your screenplays are co-authored by Scott Spiegel. I didn't know who he was so I looked him up and found a man with a sometimes interesting, often times spotty career.

I made the link between you, him, Rami, and Bruce... I guess I'm wondering, why is it that you don't collaborate any more, or do you? It seems the two of you were prolific collaborators for a period of time and then stopped. I'm curious what happened and if there's anything to be learned about collaborating from it.

Dear Clint:

Of the 35 screenplays that I have written (all of which are not posted), if I'm not mistaken 5 were co-written with Scott, as well as the story for another one.  Scott and I collaborated from about 1980 to 1987, from the short film, "The Blind Waiter," through the story for the script, "Ball Breaker."  During that time Scott and I made TSNKE, and Scott and Sam wrote "Evil Dead 2."  Then we went our seperate ways.  What can you say?  It's amazing we lasted that long.  Meanwhile, I collaborated on my last two scripts, "The Horribleness" and "It's a Lost, Lost World," both with my buddy, Paul Harris, with whom I also wrote "Buds" quite a few years ago. He and I are working on another story now.  What's to be learned is if you can make a collaboration work, great; if not, get out.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

"Personally, I don't think there are any decent film critics working anymore, but then, there's no decent movies to review, either, so why bother?"

I disagree with you on the second point. There are many decent movies to review, you just have to avoid anything that came through Hollywood. Have you seen "The Station Agent"? That was a very nice indie feature (budget of about $500,000 per IMDB), with a solid script and very good acting. Nothing mind-blowing, just a simple story with three acts. Another is "Half Nelson", a film seemingly no one has seen. It stars Ryan Gosling as an inner-city teacher with a cocaine addiction. Great performance. "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" was a very decent picture. The mortality theme was terrific; if not for a couple missteps in structure and execution I honestly believe it could have been a very good or even great film.

Among more recent films, I really enjoyed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" with Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. The documentaries "Why We Fight" and "Who Killed the Electric Car?" are also excellent.

Dear David:

I wouldn't term "The Station Agent" a good movie, and I disagree that it has "a solid script."  It was okay, which is the contemporary version of good, meaning it wasn't asbsolutely horrible.  I've already gotten a very long critique of "Three Burials" from a friend who really wanted to like it, but couldn't.  As for the others, I have no doubt when I see them they'll be okay at best, but probably not even that.  Our whole idea of what a good movie is has disintegrated.

Josh

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

Josh,

I'd like your thoughts on the ever-increasing length of movies.  I strongly agree with you that movies today tend to be too long (they're too a lot of things, but long is one).  I assume this is deliberate, but toward what end?  One can safely assume the directors' ego and lack of editing skills, but why would the studios condone it?  I suppose it could be a matter of minute-per-millions spent, belief that the audience believes that more is better or even a need to have at least one scene for every demographic.

Whatever the reasons, it would seem to me that the economic argument against excessive length should trump.  "Casino Royale"('06) is something like 140 minutes long and shows at my local theater three times a day (per house).  At 90-100 minutes they could fit in a fourth showing.  More tickets, more concessions; it seems like a simple equation.

John

Dear John:

When logic was an aspect of filmmaking and distribution, your assessment was exactly correct -- a film that was 90 to 120 minutes could have at least one more screening a day than a 140 minute film.  If your film was going to exceed 120 minutes, then A. it would have an intermission, and B. it would be shown on a roadshow screening at higher ticket prices, thus making up for the loss of a show.  Now, however, trivial horseshit like "Pirates of the Carribean" is 160 minutes long, a film that should not have exceeded 100 minutes under any circumstances.  Had that film ended after 90-100 minutes I would have liked it.  Since it went on for over another hour past 100 minutes, I hated it.  What's the answer for all of this?  My assertion is that everyone in Hollywood has their head up their ass.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Is it just me or did the courtroom that Saddam Hussein was tried in look a lot like the courtroom in The Trial, with Anthony Hopkins, which in turn, looked a lot like it was described in the story.

Dear Bob:

It's you.  Let's face it, most courtrooms look the same, or nearly so. You're having a Kafkaesque experience.

Josh

Name:              Kelly Barrett
E-mail:             barrettk@pace.edu

Dear Josh Becker,

I am glad to learn I can watch some of your films on YouTube. Maybe if you run low on cash you can sue them for copyright infringement, Google has deep pockets. Anyway, I wondered if you watch Masters of Horror on Showtime. I only ask because I am puzzled as to why these experienced directors are producing such crummy shows. It seems like directors should get better over time, like any craft, but they always seem to get worse. Is it just laziness or is it too hard to do the work well as one gets older. I find it very strange.

My best to you,

Kelly

Dear Kelly:

No, I haven't been watching "Masters of Horror," but I'm not the slightest bit surprised they stink.  You should read my essay, "The Lifespan of Creativity," where I explore this very concept.  The bottom-line is, creativity doesn't last, and its lifespan is even shorter with film directors than most other creative people.  As you surmised, it's undoubtedly because directing is such an incredibly difficult job.  But seemingly, once you lose the knack of directing you never get it back. Martin Scorsese, as an example, was on top of his game from "Mean Streets" in 1973 through 1980 with "Raging Bull."  For seven years he had his creative shit completely together, with the one exception of "New York, New York."  He then went into a slump for all of the '80s, and I thought it was all over for him.  Miraculously, he made a comeback with "Goodfellas" in 1990, but he was never able to follow it up.  To expect anything else good out of him now is futile.  But there hasn't been any 40-year directing careers like Ford or Hitchcock or Wyler since those guys.

Josh

Name:              joe
E-mail:

Josh,

Wondering about your thoughts on film critics --  and critics of art in general -- who infuse their reviews with personal opinion.

Briefly, recently I read a review of a favorite author of mine. The critic admitted the writing was really good but that he couldn't like the book and wouldn't recommend it because the characters in the stories were not in line with his worldview of morality and ethics. Now I dont care if he likes the book or not but to say that he cant like it because he finds the characters actions moraly unacceptable to me is a fundamental misunderstanding of reviews and of film/storytelling/fiction in general.

I read reviews of films and books to get a take on the material --  characters, plot, concept -- not to get the critics personal morality preached to me. This really ticked me off for some reason. Am I way off base here?

jc

Dear joe:

That's what you get from a critic, their opinion, which is made up of all their beliefs.  I dislike some films on a moral level, like slasher/torturing-innocent-kids-type horror movies, for instance.  Or "Chicago," where I didn't like the music, the story, the casting, and the direction, but I also didn't like the morally reprehensible characters I was supposed to be behind.  Personally, I don't think there are any decent film critics working anymore, but then, there's no decent movies to review, either, so why bother?  Basically, if you don't like a critic, don't read them.

Josh

Name: RND
E-mail: lunaric@btinternet.com

Dear Josh:

This WOTW review, i agree with everything you said.

I come from Woking UK, the town HG lived and used in this story and im livid that his story hasn't(again) been given the treatment it deserved. The story is a dark bleak violent tale of the collapse of civilisation, and 'Berg and Cruise Control used the story as a family saves the day movie, makes me wanna puke.

Regards

RND

Dear RND:
 
Yes, "War of the Worlds" is a travesty, and an insult to the memory of H. G. Wells.  Spielberg needs to be put in a dinghy without paddles and pushed out to sea.
 
Josh

Name: Sumita Ray
E-mail: mita-ray@hotmail.co.uk

Dear Josh:

This was the most refreshing and uplifting thing I have read for a long time.I totally agree - I have felt like I have been living in a cartoon world - and the cartoon is "the emporers new clothes!" I turn my back on all the bogus crap - Im not giving in to the evil of religion - the evidence of its influence makes me feel sick. I belive that it is the sicknes that will wipe out mankind and so it IS truly EVIL.

Dear Sumita:
 
I'm glad to express the position of at least some small portion of the population who are almost never heard from -- the religion-is-for-idiots sect.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm curious if there is a protocol when somone wishes to turn down their Acadey Award or nomination. Can someone take themselves out of contention by telling the academy that they want no part of it. I'd imagine they would, then I recall Marlon Brando who sent an actress posing as an Indian to decline the award and propegate some tye of social-awareness. So is there a standard method of action for when someone wins an award they don't want. Do they just not show-up or just give a fiery speech before tossing the award to the ground? Have there been many people who have done this?

I know this question seems quite random, but through your essays and writings, you have to be the most informative person with respect to the Academy's history that I have any direct contact with.

Thanks,
Angel

Dear Angel:

You can turn down the nomination, as George C. Scott did twice (once for "The Hustler" in 1961, and once for "Patton" in 1970, although he was nominated before that in 1959 for "Anatomy of a Murder" and didn't turn down the nomination).  Anyway, the Academy ignored him and he won in 1970.  I believe the award ended up at the George S. Patton Museum.  Marlon Brando turned down the award itself in 1972 for "The Godfather" (having accepted the award in 1954 for "On the Waterfront"), by sending up Sasheen Littlefeather to make the announcement.  I think she actually was Native American.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Morning Josh.

Just chiming in.

A reader made mention of some of these Director's making crappy movies and reaping the rewards while you basically seem to struggle.

Thing is though, except for your SCI-FI projects, many of the movies he was probably referring to had studio backing.

Hammer is leaps and bounds above most everything else I have seen in the last 2 years and you did it out of your own pocket.

Now let's say Cameron Diaz or Drew Barrymore had been your lead actress...The film would have cost you 15 million more just to cover the salary of either of those actresses.That kind of coin would require the backing of a studio which would basically render the film an unindependant venture.It probably would have went off the charts though because you had that big name in there, slick advertising etc., though a big name alone cannot save a movie.

For example, I recently saw this "American Haunting" which had Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek in starring roles. In the special features you quite clearly hear Sissy refer to the movie as being a good story.To me it was the worst piece of cinema shit I have seen in some time and the story was changed so much from the alleged original happenings that it seemed completely crazy to sit there and watch it. I enjoyed Donald more in "Johnny Got his Gun" by Dalton Trumbo and Sissy was much more enjoyable in "Coal Miner's Daughter".Were they short on dough? Or did they just want to knock the dust off the old acting boots?

Personally, I find your achievements astounding especially for having taken every hit yourself and that ain't ass kissin Josh.Most folks would probably have jumped off a cliff when faced with some of your adversity.

I got 4000 feet of film in the freezer that the wife hates because it's taking up room that could be used for frozen vegetables and I don't think Drew or Cameron either one has any interest whatsoever in appearing in my flick.

The point is that nothing is easy or even always attainable when you choose this form of expression. It's frustrating and expensive. But you really are like a working class hero to most of the folks that write in here and that does mean something.

No need to post Josh. I know it's long.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

 I occasionally don't post the silly, stupid or insulting Qs, but if they're complimentary, well, I just feel compelled to.  Thanks for the kind thoughts.  The term "independent" has been entirely usurped by the big movie studios, that all have "independent" divisions, like Fine Line or Sony Classics, which simply means they're somewhat lower-budget, and possibly not quite as stupid as the expensive shit.  But if the film has any kind of recognizable actors in it, the chances are very good it's not independent in any way.  Nobody is putting together $5-10 million independently.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I went to the movies last week and saw Bobby. The film is written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The entire Sheen/Estevez family is hardcore liberal (as was the movie - the whole thing seemed aligorically anti-bush). Then I found out that every actor and actress (from Sharron Stone to Lindsay Lohan to Elijah Wood) participated for minimum SAG billing... I guess it's as much a piece of modern propoganda as anything could be.

I know people get all pissy when actors pretend they're in politics and use their fame to push their own views, but as long as I agree with the views, can I really complain?

What do you think about Estevez's strategy (assuming it was intended as propoganda)?

Dear Rob:

The bottom line is whether or not the film's any good, and judging from Mr. Estevez's previous work, I wouldn't count on it.    But I think one should certainly use their work to express their opinions and political stance, if possible.  The strong the viewpoint of art, the better it is.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I wrote to you a long while ago after reading your script "If I Had a Hammer".  I praised it, and you thanked me, but said that you felt the finished movie was better than the script.  I have just watched the movie (in thirteen parts) on youtube, and I must say that I agree with you. While I enjoyed reading the script, the impact of the musical performances proved to be very essential for the point you were making.  I thought the acting was well done for the most part, and, though I really enjoyed "Lunatics" and "Running Time", I would have to say "Hammer" is the best package of all of your films I've seen---I was really impressed with your accomplishment.  People misuse the word "independent" when it comes to films these days---when films with 5 million dollar budgets and a handful of Hollywood stars earning their "actor cred" passes for independent cinema, than the term really means nothing anymore.  "Hammer" is independent cinema, an independent voice, making a movie on a shoestring that still manages to be thoughtful, well-done, with fine production values.  Good for you.
Just a quick afterthought---around the same time I watched "Hammer" I watched a documentary called "The Weather Underground", about the radical Weathermen who stemmed from Students for a Democratic Society.  It made me wonder if your lead character would have joined up with such a group, had she not been on her wa to Italy at the end.  Your picture was a terrific glimpse into those times, when ideals fell, and TV took over.  Good work, my friend.

Dear Bobby:

Thanks so much.  No, I don't think Lorraine had it in her to join the Weather Underground, she's not that committed.  You ought to check out the documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties," which was very good.  I also just rewatched the terrific PBS documentary from the '80s about the civil rights movement, "Eyes on the Prize."  It really gives you a sense of perspective of what was going on with the civil rights movement in the '60s, and how courageous and dangerous it was.

Josh

Name: C.V. Bryce
E-mail: toadswallow@breach.org

Dear Josh:

I've been thinking about your opinions on film, and just came to an observation that may or may not be interesting to you.

Hollywood directors in general seem to think that the state of Hollywood film as a storytelling medium is better than you do. They may agree that there are a lot of bad movies, but I have yet to find anyone else who has as uniformly a negative opinon on the efforts of such darlings as Scorcese, the Coen Bros., Wes Anderson, etc. That said, I've read a lot of interviews with those types who bemoan the fact that so many films are watched (via DVD or VHS) on television screens versus in the movie theater proper. Your own writin gs, however, seem to reflect a lot of movie watching on TV, without complaint about the audiovisual quality being inferior to that of the movie theater experience. Would it be fair, then, to conclude that to you the story itself is much more important than the technical qualities of the presentation of the story, and that one of the problems with the mainstream of film today is that people are too concerned with sensual perfection as opposed to perfection of the story being told? I suppose the reason for this might be that it's easy to create technical perfection by throwing money at equipment and by hiring the most competent crew possible, while storytelling perfection is something that money cannot buy (regardless of Hollywood's reliance on script doctors).

Dear C.V.:
 
I like a high-quality, good-looking production as much as anyone, but none of these movies are worth the time and effort to go to the theater and see them.  When I finally do see them on TV, they're still not worth watching.  But your assessment of me is reasonably accurate -- if the script sucks, I don't care what the production looks like or who's in it, it's a failure.  The script is exactly like the blueprint for a building -- if the design itself is no good, it doesn't matter what materials you use to build it, the design is still no good.
 
Josh

Name:              Raymond
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

First question, and I don't mean to sound like a horses ass, but do you ever angry that there are so many bad filmmakers making movies and getting rich while you (a good filmmaker) have to basically struggle still to get work produced?

Second question, what's your opinion on most of these films directed at a more teenage to college level audience? I'm talking about the Brat Pack movies and now the Kevin Smith movies, and I guess to some extent even these newer Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Will Ferrell movies?

Hope you answer.

Dear Raymond:

Nobody ever said life was fair, and guess what?  It isn't.  But I haven't given up trying.  I've got my two most recent scripts that I like a lot and am seriously attempting to get made, and I've been getting good, positive response, too.  Anything can happen.  Kevin Smith deeply bores me, and Will Farrell isn't funny.  At least Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are both funny on occasion.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Oh ok. That's what I thought, that i had missed out on earlier editions that had bonus content. oh well. Thanks for clearing that up.

Which brings me to a question. What do you think of Bonus Content on dvds? There are people out their that love it and some that hate it. I know Woody Allen isn't a fan of all the "extra stuff" on dvds, therefore his movies don't have bonus features. I myself love it when a movie I really like has things like interviews with cast and crew or commentaries on the dvd.

Also, speaking of woody Allen (well mentioning him...), What do you think of his works? I see a few of his movies are on your favourites list. I love the guy, he has made some really funny movies. my favourites are Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, Love and Death, everything you always wanted to know about sex, Bananas and many others. Was Lunatics inspired in any way by Woody? I saw some things in "bananas" that reminded me of Lunatics like the name Nancy. The way both Nancy's act in both films when the lead guy tells them he's interested in something they're really interested in and the way the lead guys in both movies talk to themselves a bit imagining they're on a date with nancy and it's going well. Just a thought is all.

Thanks.

Dear Chris:

I was a big Woody Allen fan from his start with "Take the Money and Run" up through "Manhattan," at which point he dropped over the edge into heaviosity.  After that I only like "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and I can live without everything else.  As for "Bananas" having an influence on "Lunatics," it's certainly possible, although it was unintentional.  The character of Nancy is absolutely not named after the character in "Bananas," it's based on a real girl I knew who committed suicide and was named Nancy.  As for DVD extras, I personally don't pay much attention to them, but I have no issue with them being there.  I've enjoyed doing all of the commentary tracks I've done for my films (all with Bruce Campbell, so far).

Josh

Name:              Simone Tyler
E-mail:             st@moonbeam.org

Dear Josh:         

For the person who wrote in asking about the Xena boxed set interview disc, the answer to why certain copies have the bonus disc and others don't:  the only copies that have the bonus disc were sold at the retail chain Best Buy.  Best Buy also did this with the Hercules DVDboxed sets, as well as those for certain other TV shows.  It's a promotional thing to encourage people to buy the DVDs from them instead of other stores.

Dear Simone:

Is that the reason?  I still kind of think it was based on incompetence on the part of the distributor, and not getting the extra disc into the set in time.  But your explanation could easily be the right one.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Where does one stand when filming public locations like local streets/houses and road signs with regards to location release forms for distribution on a low budget non union feature?
If I wanted to shoot slow, lazy shots of quiet empty streets and the surounding houses would I have to get individual location release forms signed?

Best Regards
Keith

Dear Keith:

I say no, although a lawyer would undoubtedly say yes.  But lawyers are naturally paranoid people.  On my film TSNKE I didn't get release forms for any locations.  Beyond that, I shot at locations where we weren't able to even get permission to shoot, like the Veterans Hospital, where I started the scene in tight on their logo on the door.  I say, shoot what you want and don't worry about it.  As has been said many times over the years, "It's frequently easier to say I'm sorry later, then to get permission first."

Josh

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