Q & A    Archive
Page 155

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I was going to comment further in a political vein, but it just depresses me horribly.  We are indeed truly fucked.  It is agony to value honor and to be forced to work for people who don't even know the word.
   On a lighter note, did you ever see the 1973 version of '1984' with Michael Redgrave?  If so, what did you think of it, and how did it compare to the later version with John Hurt?  Just curious to see if it was worth digging up and watching.

                           Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I didn't even know there was a 1973 version.  I've seen the 1956 version with Edmond O'Brien and Michael Redgrave, which is okay.  Could Redgrave be in two versions?  My books don't list a 1973 version.  I must say I find both the 1956 and the 1984 versions gloomy and depressing.  Meanwhile, I just saw a damn good movie I'd never seen before, that I think you, sir, would enjoy -- "The Purple Plain" (1954) with Gregory Peck, about fliers in Burma during WWII.  Aside from the fact that it's actually shot on location, and is absolutely gorgeous, shot in Technicolor by the great Geoffrey Unsworth, it's a good solid story of determination and heroism to an extent that I haven't seen very often.  Peck's as terrific as he ever was, and that's pretty damn terrific.  I saw it on TCM, so I'm sure it'll show again at some point.  Interestingly, at least for me, is that it was edited by Clive Donner, who would later go on to a full-fledged directing career.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'm kind of surprised not to see "Bad Day at Black Rock" on your favorites list. I thought that was a very solid picture from John Sturges.

Dear David:

It is a perfectly solid film, with a great cast, but it's a one joke premise, and once you know the ending you really never have to see it again. I've actually seen it several times over the years and it doesn't hold up for me.  Regarding John Sturges, I'll take "The Great Escape" and "The Magnificent Seven."

Josh

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

Josh,

I wonder if Bush can finagle a presidential pardon for Cheney and Rumsfeld BEFORE they get charged with any crimes.  I would not put it past him.  Or the administration could file a whole series of charges so that Cheney et. al. could receive pardons.  I know that sounds like a conspiracy theory stuff, but...

It seems to me that the Justice Department corruption scandals are where the Bush administration will be most vulnerable to future prosecution. They  don't get as much attention right now but the paper/witness trail will be stronger and the law more clear.

Referencing Abu Ghraib; Retired General Sanchez on Friday on Fresh Air (public radio) said that prisoner abuse was widespread and universally known in DC, even prior to the Iraq invasion (Afghanistan).  He was theater commander during Abu Ghraib and so has incentive for spreading the blame, but his recent book apparently damns Bush and Co. on wide array of topics relating to the war.  I haven't read the book but in his interview he was incredibly harsh on the Bush administration.

Congrats on "Rushes".  I'm about nine books behind on my reading list but "Rushes" will come in at tenth.

John

Dear John:

There's no possible way at this late date to be incredibly harsh enough with Bush & Co.  Listening to John Stewart's interview last night with Douglas Feith, former assistant to Rumsfeld and one of the architect's of the Iraq war, really pissed me off.  Stewart did a brilliant job of not being offensive, but asking the right questions.  Starting with, "Didn't you mislead us into war?" Feith's defense was, "Just because we were wrong, doesn't mean we were deceptive," which both John Stewart and myself didn't buy for a second. It's complete and utter bullshit.  If you say, "I suspect there could be weapons of mass destruction," and there aren't, that's being wrong. Bush, Cheney and Powell, on the other hand, all flatly said, "There *are* weapons of mass destruction."  That's a lie.  That's deception.  They should all be prosecuted for high crimes, but no one's even talking about it, so they'll just slip off into the night.

Josh

Name:              James C
E-mail:             phsyco670@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

i completely agree. religion is evil. it is what causes all problems in this world. it causes most wars in this world. it is a complete waste of time. people should be focusing on their own lives and their families and friends instead of worshipping some god that doesnt exist.

Dear James C:

I suspect that responses like these, which I get regularly, must come from people putting "Religion is Evil" into Google, and since I've been on the web so damn long, my essay is the first thing you get.  You do know that you spelled psycho wrong, right?

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Josh,

Just received Rushes yesterday and read some of the essays, bouncing around a little. Very nice, although some of the pictures inside didn't turn out great.

I didn't realize how huge the debt for Hammer had been. I admire your focus and the fact you just keep slogging on.

Although I'm sure your nerves would give out, I hope you get called for Harpies 2. That essay had me laughing so hard I hurt myself and I'd love to read a sequel.

Good luck with the book!

Dear Jeff:

I haven't even seen the finished book.  That's too bad about the photos. Man, I think I'd shoot myself before doing "Harpies 2."

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

So I take it "Rushes" is being released in paperback only?

Dear David:

It seems so.  The hardcover run of "Complete Guide" was very short, and meant entirely for libraries.  I guess they didn't feel libraries would necessarily be as interested in this book.

Josh

Name:              Papa Pornin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

In IF I HAD A HAMMER, there's a scene where Lorraine is asked if she's doing this for her own self image, clearly the look in her eyes says "yes". Later in the film, she seems more upset that she had to throw out her potato salad than about the five boys in jail. It seems like she never even visited them.

Was this meant to be an attempt at the "Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons"?

Dear PP:

Indeed it is.  The question is: how committed are you, and for what reasons? That's the theme of the movie, so you went right to the heart of it.

Josh

Name:              Re: Beckerspoof
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

<<It's actually kind of amusing, but don't you have something -- anything -- better to do with your time?  Try masturbating or counting the leaves on trees.>>

I suppose I could see SPEED RACER, but it won't be better than masturbating or counting leaves.

Dear Beckerspoof:

No, it was nice of you and I appreciate it.  There was a time, ten years ago when we started this website, when I thought of having the alternate to My Favorite Films, like My Least Favorite Films, and I suppose it would have looked just like that.  Very quickly into making that list, however, I realized that not only would many of my friends' films be on the list, but so would my own.  So I dropped it.  But thanks.

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:             aeschultz333@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

I could be wrong, but I kind of think maybe Beckerspoof meant it as a tribute, as other good spoofs are tributes, but is taking it down soon anyway in case anyone gets it wrong.   I check my film impressions against your favourites list myself all the time.  Call me an idealist but -- OK I am an idealist but -- I find it hard to believe anyone smart enough to come up with as an imitation like this would do it and transmit it from a stupid motive.  As for the spoof list of titles  -- I know you've said you're not that keen for discussions of bad movies instead of good ones, but if you do look at this as a way of expressing concurrence about what's a really silly movie, this is really funny and clever.

Well I'd been planning to ask whether you know about the "Sex and the City" movie that's being released on May 30.  It has all four original main actresses and also Chris Noth.  Remembering what you've said about the TV series, do you think this might be one you'd turn out for?

Alice

Dear Alice:

No, I'm sure you're right about the Beckerspoof list, and I know who did it, and I just think he should be using his time more wisely, that's all. Regarding "Sex and the City," I loved the show, and saw most every episode, so naturally I'm interested.  Let's see what everyone else thinks. Meanwhile, there was an article in the NY Times about the new Indiana Jones movie, and that some early reviews slipped out on AintItCool, one of which said it was the worst Indy movie yet.  I find that very hard to believe, considering how utterly god awful "Temple of Doom" was.  If it's worse than that, there's trouble brewing.  Of course, they can always do what they did with "Spider Man III," which is release it in the whole rest of the world before releasing it here in America.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Evening Josh.

I'm with you on Carpenter. John's scores seemed better than his movies most of the time. I found the score from "The Fog" to be particularly haunting and have it along with many digital source cues from the movie.

I found "Starman" to be among his best as well and I just like watching Karen Allen in most anything. Remember at the opening of the movie, Karen's character is sitting there watching those old Super-8 home movies? You won't find too many Super-8 projectors on the kitchen table these days.What about that redneck..."HEY! What happened to the goddamn deer?"
STARMAN replies..."He went there." and points out to an open area.Right after that he gets decked. What about "KID NAP PED"? Pretty funny shit there Josh.

You and John have that thing in common in that you are both able to work miracles with extremely low budgets. Love him or hate him he is a kindred spirit.

I am presently reading Stephen King's "Storm of the Century". I have already seen the movie and find it better than most movies based on his stories. The book is written in script form and Steve has outlined all the camera movements and everything.

Most scripts I have read do not include camera movements written in. He has even outlined all the props and things of that nature in all caps. I guess you can write a script that way if you have a done deal...A sure thing. The thought crossed my mind that the movie might not have been made if it wasn't close or damn close to what Steve had envisioned for the story. He seems to be able to command a whole lot of creative control.

Any thoughts Josh?

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Stephen King can do whatever he wants, he's Stephen King, but for everyone else it's a mistake to put camera moves into screenplays.  I think it's a mistake to make any reference to film lingo or equipment of any kind.  You don't need to say, "Close-up of Jack smiling."  You can say, "Jack smiles," and my brain will decide what the shot is.  One of the egregious examples of putting camera information into a script was in Harlan Ellison's otherwise excellent teleplay for the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," where he says shit like, "Arriflex shot," which I think he meant "hand-held," but even that shouldn't be there.

Josh

Name:              Papa Pornin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you remember what the date was for the first official theater screening of IF I HAD A HAMMER? What were the most intelligent questions asked at the screening?

Dear PP:

It's never officially been released.  No, I don't remember any questions. Have you got one?

Josh

Name:              Beckerspoof.com
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Your worst nightmare:
http://coppolascocaine.awesomewebspace.com/beckerspoof.html

I'll take it down tommorrow. I love my dreamweaver (evil grin)

Dear Beckerspoof.com:

It's actually kind of amusing, but don't you have something -- anything -- better to do with your time?  Try masturbating or counting the leaves on trees.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   Not having read the memorandum you mentioned, I cannot adequately comment on it.  However, I can say that at battalion level and lower, particularly with the Military Police presence in Baghdad in 2003, the command emphasis was on 'rebuilding' the Iraqi Police Service and the Army.  A specific part of this mission was getting the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army to abide by the Geneva Convention rules and due process and to stop using torture to extract information.   Prisoners that U.S. forces took for crimes against Coalition Forces (planting IEDs, attacking U.S. forces, sabotaging the Iraqi infrastructure, etc) were usually sent to Camp Victory at the airport, and passed outside my view.   Criminal suspects were turned over to the police, and usually ended up at Abu Ghraib Prison or later Camp Cropper after a lengthy stay in a precint holding cell.  Whenever we dealt with prisoners we were required to deal with them decently, sometimes to the point of tying our own hands tactically.  I remember when the word came down that we couldn't put sandbags over prisoners' heads (more effective than a blindfold), which while it makes us look prettier and more humane, also lets that prisoner get a great look at the inside of a U.S. FOB, complete with pace-counted distances for an insurgent mortar when the beaurocracy inevitably releases the prisoner.  As for orders to ignore the Geneva Convention and torture prisoners, I never saw one.

                          Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Donald Rumsfeld didn't send you a copy?  I'm sure it was an oversight.  No, it's true, I'm sorry to tell you.  What's truly horrible is that the CIA had Osama bin Laden pinpointed in the Tora Bora Mountains, called for military reinforcements, and Rumsfeld didn't send them for over a month because he and Cheney didn't want the CIA in charge of the operation, thus letting bin Laden escape.  The fact that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld aren't on trial as traitors, war profiteers, and for sheer incompetence, makes all Americans look like idiots.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Yeah, this incentive thing in Michigan sounds good. I think the infrastructure will return, and it really started to decline a little over ten years ago just before I left to move to NYC.

Victor Duncan closed its Detroit office because it was bought out by Panavision and the Detroit office was one of the slowest of all the Victor Duncans at that time (1995).

I interned there right out of college and I learned a lot about both Arri cameras and Panavision cameras from   a great repair guy they had there, his name was Rick. He was great and he could machine just about anything and new those cameras inside and out.

He used to come in early for me, so we could go over different cameras that I was not familiar with, but had to use on assisting jobs. All those early mornings were invaluable to me, and I have still retained all of that info which in turn also helped me when I started shooting as well.

I think after Victor Duncan closed in 1995, that became the big downward spiral for the infrastructure in Detroit.

You still have Mid-America Cine Support for lighting though, and they are very good. I used to know Doug Wandrei very well when he was still alive, and his daughter Cheryl started running the company after he passed on about 6 or 7 years ago. he always had great crew stories from the Jack Handy days and when he worked on the "Route 66" TV show as well as when he was a combat cameraman in the Korean war..

I hope things do get better in Detroit, because I think it really is a terrific place to shoot barring the weather problems and it's great to have those incentives now. Plus, its my home man!

-Scott

Dear Scott:

There's also Stratton Camera Rental, and Lon Stratton's got most everything. But once Victor-Duncan, Producer's Color, and Allied closed, that seemed like the big nail in the coffin here.  I sure do hope it all comes back, and then maybe even you, too, will return.  It's cheaper than NYC, and most of us speak English here.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'd say "The Graduate" is one of the five or ten greatest films of the sixties. I'll also second your vote for "Carnal Knowledge" - one of the great American films, gloriously vulgar, heartfelt, witty, somber. Along with "Five Easy Pieces," it's also the best place to appreciate Nicholson in all his young, early glory. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is also essential, and I must say I'm moved to tears everytime I watch it. All three are also lensed by brillant DPs(Surtees, Rotunno, Wexler).

For his more recent work, did you catch "Angels in America?" And yes, do give your opinion on "Charlie Wilson's War" when you see it.

I've certainly never loved any of Noyce's films, either (although I liked the remake of "The Quiet American," even a little more than the original, and "Newsfront" is good), but if he's passionate enough about the material and is able to properly nuance the novel into a great screenplay we may have something. And yes, while Paul Bettany has a strange, interesting face, I wouldn't cast him either.

Oh, and "The Making of Harpies" what what I meant when I wrote "Making of Alien Apocalypse," which of course is one of your most entertaining 'making of' stories.

Kristie

Dear Kristie:

I do agree that "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is essential viewing, and one of the greatest play to screen adaptations, with gorgeous black and white photography, and four brilliant performances, and yet I find it harder and harder to watch as the years go by.  Probably because it's all so cruel and vicious.  And yes, I did see "Angels in America," and I didn't like it. It seemed like such a total mish-mosh of ideas that never coalesced into a whole.  What the hell have Ethel Rosenberg and Roy Cohen got to do with each other, other than both being Jewish?  Why was Meryl Streep unconvincingly playing a male rabbi?  It seemed like it was full of in-jokes that I wasn't in on.  With AIDS and angels smeared over the top to give it a patina of seriousness.  Meanwhile, I love at the end of "Carnal Knowledge" when Jack Nicholson is showing Art Garfunkel and Carol Kane his slide show of "Ball Busters on Parade," and saying things like, "Now this fuckin' cunt really busted my balls," then a photo of Candice Bergen comes up, who was Garfunkle's girlfriend, and he quickly changes it.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just ordered "Rushes!" It'll be nice to have your essays in a volume (revised and expanded too, correct?) and I look forward to "The Making of Alien Apocalypse." Hopefully it won't be too long before your memoirs see the light of day.

On the new movie front, "Charlie Wilson's War" by Mike Nichols was a lot better than I was expecting (like you, I'm a first generation Nichols fan, even though he's made some crap). Tom Hanks and Philip Seymor-Hoffman were well-suited to the material, though (predictably) Julia Roberts lays her role a little thick (but she isn't awful). It's good to see Ned Beatty again. And being Nichols, it looks very nice and is peppered with some interesting sexuality. The dialogue exchanges are also entertaining, particularly since there isn't exactly a glut of films these days that really try for snappy, well-written dialogue (and succeed, that is). I'd be interested in your opinion when you catch it.

I also saw a 2008 film, "Elegy," Nichols Meyer's latest adaptation of Philip Roth, starring Ben Kingsley, and that was interesting and intelligent. Might be up your alley.

Speaking of that, word on the street is that Chris Doyle is now attatched as DP for Noyce's film of "American Pastoral," so it'll look gorgeous, and actor Paul Bettany reportedly gave a hell of an audition for Levov, but nobody's been cast yet. I'm waiting for more announcements, though... this project has 'potentially great movie' written all over it so I'm always on the look out around town for news.

Kristie

Dear Kristie:

Yes, the essays in "Rushes" are revised and expanded, as well as the premiere of "The Making of 'Harpies'."  The essay on Xena and Herc got way expanded, and it's about 35 pages long.  I had Rob Tapert vet it, since I thought I might be coming off just a tad insulting, but he was fine with it. I even added more into the "'Evil Dead' Journal" between the journal entries. 

Meanwhile, I'm most certainly a fan of Mike Nichols, although he hasn't done much for me lately.  I do love "The Graduate" and "Carnal Knowledge."  When "Charlie Wilson's War" pops up on HBO I'll definitely watch it.  And though I really loved the book "American Pastoral," and if Chris Doyle shoots it then it will be gorgeous, but Phillip Noyce has never made a movie I even came close to loving, so I have my doubts.  And if they cast a gentile as Levov, I'll be pissed.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:             hoheisele@aol.com

Dear Josh,

"As was stated, though, Michigan presently doesn't have the infrastructure to support spending the entire budget here."

What parts of the infrastructure are missing?

Thanks,

Dear Eric:

25 years ago we used to have three film labs: Producers Color Service, Allied and Filmcraft.  Now we only have one, Filmcraft, that really specializes in 16mm and isn't really prepared to run 35mm anymore.  We once had several beautifully equipped soundtages, Victor-Duncan camera rental (that was a Panavision outlet), Jack Frost lighting rental, movie catering services, walkie-talkie rental, editing services, everything.  Now most of that's gone.  There's still a lot of good crew people here, and if you look hard enough there are some cameras and lights, but not a lot.  Hopefully, it'll all come back now.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I'm not saying you don't have a point, but I do protest using the Abu Ghraib incident as an example.  In context, it was not a matter of deliberate U.S. policy to 'torture' those prisoners.  It was a handful of stupid punk kid privates put in charge of prisoners and having their moronic, sophomoric fun with them.  If there was any culpability, it was with their company commander and battalion commander for not standing up and taking their lumps for piss poor leadership.  I honestly don't believe that anyone above company level knew of the prisoner abuse, but rather than admit that the officers and NCOs failed to discourage this type of behavior, they instead covered their asses and pinned the whole thing on two or three junior enlisted personnel.  Come on, a GED female private from West Virginia the mastermind of a secret torture conspiracy?
   Then of course the hardened Iraqi mafia thugs, carjackers, and carbombers, used to being routinely beaten by the Iraqi police for information, emerge from a U.S. run jail where they received three meals a day, sanitation, and medical attention (things you don't get in an Iraqi-run jail) and complain of 'torture' for being forced to stand naked with dog collars on their necks?  Call me a dumb, brainwashed soldier if you want, but it sounds suspiciously to me like...gee, they were exploiting the incident in the media to get a bigger reparation payout from the U.S. government and possible release from prison.  And of course there's no one in Iraq who might want to play up that incident and use it to embarass the American government for their own political advantage.   I was in Baghdad when this story broke, and it made me groan for two reasons:  first, it was a stupid, heinous, unprofessional thing to do, and second, it was going to give the Army a black eye publically.  Soldiers forget that when you wear the uniform you represent the entire Army as a whole to the public, and whatever you do, the public assumes you were ordered to do it as a matter of deliberate policy.  These losers made the whole Army look guilty.
   As for the 'torture' that Iraqi prisoners 'suffered,' it really added up to little more than stupid fraternity type hazing.  It shouldn't surprise me that a public who complain if they have to wait in line at Dunkin' Donuts would consider standing naked with a dog collar on your neck [something, I might add, that many Americans do quite willingly in their own bedrooms] to be torture.  Come on, we're talking about Iraq, a country where REAL torture (physical beatings, car battery leads attached to your testicles, being whipped in the guts with a chunk of rubber hose, having teeth ripped out, and other means of persuasion) were and are routine police procedure. I'm sorry, but to call what those idiots did at Abu Ghraib 'abuse' or 'hazing' is appropriate, but to call it 'torture' in a country where they have the real thing is grossly inappropriate.

                          Darryl

Dear Darryl:

As always, you make good points.  But the orders for happened at Abu Ghraib came directly from Donald Rumsfeld, who specifically stated that all Geneva Convention codes regarding torture were to be ignored.  "Frontline" did a very thorough report on this a few years ago, and showed the memorandum with that asshole Rumsfeld's signature.  I personally don't give a shit what Iraqis do to other Iraqis, but I do care a lot when it's American soldiers. Until Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, I thought America stood for something good. After eight years of this madness, I think we now stand for torture, humilation and waterboarding.  Terror "suspects" are regularly taken away and tortured, kept in isolation for years with no legal representation. Well, as far as I know, if you're a suspect, then nobody's proven anything and innocent people are being tortured.  But keep disputing me, I enjoy it.

Josh

Name:              Wait wait wait, what?
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

So are you saying that if I could get 50 grand together, from wherever, and then go use it to shoot the movie in Michigan, I would get 40% back, meaning that I'd only really be spending a little over 25 grand for 50 grands worth of production value?

Is that what you're saying, or is there a catch I'm missing?

Dear Wait wait wait, what?:

Yep that's the deal.  Everybody here in Michigan is very excited it about, and it already seems to working and drawing in the productions.  It's really wonderful that they're finally fixing this situation, because Michigan has always been a joke regarding movie production, with no real film office and no incentive program.  Scripts are always being written with Detroit as the setting, then always ended up being shot in Toronto or Houston or L.A. or Chicago or even London, England (that's where Mike Binder shot "The Upside of Anger," that was supposed to take place in the town where I live, Bloomfield Hills.  He actually pulled it off pretty damn well, too).

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I just found your site and I particularly enjoyed the Q and A section, so I thought I'd come up with a question myself.  I recently discovered Jim Jarmusch's films and believe on the merit of GhostDog and Dead Man alone that he is truly one of the under-exposed film making geniuses of our time.  What do you think about him?

Dear Matthew:

Gee, all of his exposures seem just fine to me.  But I jest.  To me Mr Jarmusch is a one-trick pony who completely, utterly, and totally shot his wad with "Stranger Than Paradise."  Everyone one of his films since then has seemed dull, pretentious, and pointless.  I recall very clearly seeing "Down By Law" right when it came out.  As soon as it began cutting to standard coverage, not mention that horrible Benigni person, I lost all respect for him.  I do like the fact that he's shot black and white several times.

Josh

Name:              steven burton
E-mail:             ramapoughnative1@hotmail.com

Hey Josh! 

I was in Sofia the same year in september for a month. You make me laugh! You are "spot on" with your observations and some of them I forgot about. I'll be traveling back this september for another month. I didn't know about Murphy's but I do know where the Dunkin' Donut is located, so i'll check it out. When I go, I stay at the Hilton which is another scary place with the gangsters that hang out at the bar there. Thanks for the laughs!

Steven

Dear steven:

I'm glad you enjoyed my observations, and found them "spot on."  A Bulgarian wrote in not too long ago and told me, at length, how utterly wrong and full of shit I was.  Meanwhile, yes, you must check out J.J. Murphy's.  Have fun.

Josh

Name:              Gary Huff
E-mail:             gwhuff@gmail.com

Josh,

I've always been interested in what directors do between projects. You mentioned a while ago that you were working on your second Sci-Fi Channel movie (Harpies I would assume) and that you needed the money so you were working for 25% less than your previous fee. In the downtime between films, how do you usually go about your day?

Dear Gary:

With great difficulty.  I've written 35 screenplays and three books, the second, "Rushes," has just become available.  So that's kept me sort of busy.  I also keep trying to hustle up new movie deals, although I haven't had much luck lately.  As Thomas Edison once said, "Good things come to he who hustles while he waits," and I've tried to live by that.

Josh

Name:              Anthony Palmer
E-mail:

Josh,

Did "Running Time" play at any film festivals?

Dear Anthony:

Well, let's see if I can remember.  Helsinki, Finalnd; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Phoenix (it won 1st place); NY Underground; Chicago Underground; Orlando, and it got into the Goteborg Festival in Sweden, but I couldn't make it, and that's all can recall right now.  It did not, however, get into any major festivals, which I must say still boggles me.

Josh

Name:              Brian
E-mail:             mackbrockton@aol.com

Dear Josh,

Kind of a random question, but what do you think of the films of John Carpenter? I'm a big fan, and it seems like you guys would have a lot in common, given Hollywood's knack for passing over real talent.

PS. I've been dying to see Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except, but Netflix has it down as a "long wait." Is the commercial dvd really that rare?

-Sincerely,

Bri

Dear Brian:

It shouldn't be such a long wait, but what do I know?  If I ever complete this deal with Synapse Films, who bought the video rights to TSNKE, it ought to be more available.  Sadly, no, I'm not a big John Carpenter fan.  There's no film of his I find exceptional.  For me I guess I'd say "Starman" is his best film, and it's not all that good, although Jeff Bridges is terrific.

Josh

Name:              Pierre
E-mail:             pierreducard2009@yahoo.com

Mr. Becker,

You are a very informed person in many topics. But, most people know what the media tells them, which often isn't true. The CIA and MI6 removed the Shah from power and put in the Ayatollah as part of the "arc of fire" strategy created by Brezinski and Kissinger.

I must ask...what is your animosity toward the idea of God? The Judeo-Christian God is the most loving being, and Christianity has helped many people. Why have you forsaken your Jewish background.

Pierre

Dear Pierre:

The CIA removed the Shah of Iran's father, then reinstated him.  Then reinstated the Shah as well.  The American CIA  screwed around with Iran's government years.  Meanwhile, I have nothing against the Judeo-Christian god, other than I don't believe there is such a thing.  As I've said before, I do believe in coherence and gravity, just not any human conception of "god," which all seem incredibly silly to me.  If I have to choose a human conception of god, I'm going with the Inuit's giant seal.

Josh

Name:              Blake Eckard
E-mail:             bseckard@jagtec.net

Dear Josh:         

Saw Robert Altman's "3 Women" for the first time last night and thought I'd weigh in with it here.  Never a big Altman fan (with the exceptions of "MASH," "The Long Goodbye," and "The Player"), this, I think, is very possibly one of his best.  Today I can't think of anything wrong with it, and yet, it's so bizarre, so much of it's own thing, I don't really know why any of it works at all.  His signature long shots (long lenses), zooms, and overlapping dialogue, which so often put me off, were an absolute perfect match for this story.  And I never knew Shelley Duvall could be so brilliant (although she's pretty damn impressive in Kubrick's "The Shining").  I found her incredibly moving here, and very funny in a truthful, pitiful way.  She won the best actress award at Cannes as a result, and this is one case where they got it right.  And I just love when Sissy Spacek pours salt into her beer at the saloon, blows off the foam, chugs the entire mug, wipes her mouth, then belches several times.  (She actually chugged two beers for this.  Immediately after the first one, she threw up onto the stool next to her, but told Altman she could do it again, did it, and that's the take they used...now that's my kind of girl!)

Had Altman not just had several Oscar nominations for "Nashville," I really doubt that anyone would have ever, ever financed a film like this (although Fox distributed several more Altman films right after this, all of them very uncommercial).  Proof that sometimes films do escape.  Likely what can be summed up as a happy accident, but it's a very welcome one.

I did recently see "The Player" for the first time in years, and it holds up exceedingly well.  Any thoughts on this film, or Altman in general? I've always been sort of surprised that he was 45 years old before his wild filmmaking career really began.  More hope for us all.

Dear Blake:

Sorry for the delay in answering.  "3 Women" impressed me, and I agree, it's one of Altman's very best films.  I was acquainted with the artist who painted the very creepy paintings for the film, Bodhi Wind, who has since died.  I saw the film twice when it came out, but not since, and it remains pretty vivid in my brain after all this time.  I also like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller."  Meanwhile, I wish there wasn't a cut in Altman's big opening shot of "The Player," but it is a good film.

Josh

Name:              Edwin Fritzmeier
E-mail:             efritzmeier@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

I have a story about my Father and how his church turned against him for speaking his mind about how blindly people believe in the bible. How you should ask questions and how when it was written people where writing down things the way that they understood them back then, there perception.
Anyways they fired him, now I've hated religion way before this happened but it sure didn't help. I HATE RELIGION !!! The meanest most evil people I have ever met were religious. Let me tell you another story real quick.
I was at a gas station one day in a small town of about 200 real small. So anyways I'm sitten in my friends truck, on the door of the store theres a sign that's advertising a computer for sale. There are two kids playing outside when this old lady pulls up gets out and heads for the door, when one of the kids asks her " hey what does that sign say? and she says "somebody is looking for a computer" A blatant fucking lie, then in the same breath turns too another lady sitting in her car and says " Oh hello Doris are you going to church tonight?" now what the fuck is that shit? I mean come on your gona lie and talk about going to church in the same sentence. Anyways I could go on and on for days about this kind of stuff, my father was a pastor for forty years just to be screwed by the church.. E.S.F

Dear Edwin:

Thanks for sharing.

Josh

Name:              Barry
E-mail:             bocajay@Hotmail.com

Josh,

I think I have read/seen just about everything (available in public) you have written, directed, whatever.  I appreciate your contributions toward helping artists and, especially, your frankness.

My question is about the movie script market:  does a "new-face" really stand much of a chance to interest anyone in, let alone sell, a script?

Like many wannabes, I think I'm a damn good writer.  I've read a lot of screen plays, even a few good ones, and know I can do as well.  I've written a bunch but, I look at the odds and it seems pretty hopeless.

Is there any reason for a striving writer to even try to sell a movie script?

Dear Barry:

If you've got to do it, then you do it.  Maybe you should follow Eric's advice and write it as a novel first, get it published, then sell the movie rights and demand that you write the script.  It's worked before, it'll probably work again.  That's what Leon Uris did with "Battle Cry."

Josh

Name:              Thomas
E-mail:             devildog4evr@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

The Police officer who Brought out Crowley was a New York city detective named Johnny Broderick

Dear Thomas:

Interesting.  How do you know that?  For everybody else, he's referring to "Two-Gun" Crowley, a famous gangster from the 1930s.  He was a 17-year-old kid who had admittedly seen too many gangster movies.  He went to the electric chair.

Josh

Name:              Brett Greene
E-mail:             brettmgreene@gmail.com

Hi Josh,

Two questions for you today, about our current digital age.

1) Have you considered using the digitized version of If I Had A Hammer for torrent uploads? You could charge for download access. Thereafter, users could stream the film on their computers or burn it to disc, but it would have no overhead cost to you and the film would get some greater exposure.

2) You're obviously well read and have read many books about film, which I think shows a dedication and passion about the subject. What do you think has been the impact of sites like IMDb which can provide a wealth of information but no real effort from its users?

Dear Brett:

In regard to your first question, I don't have either a decent video transfer, nor a decent digitized version of "Hammer."  There's only that exceptionally low-rez version on YouTube.  As to your second question, I think IMDB is an invaluable resource--I use it all the time--but it hasn't got anything to do with reading books.  It's like an extremely fat reference book, and you don't really sit down and read reference books.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:             hoheisele@aol.com

Hi Josh,

Okay, so you have what you think is a good 'high concept' idea for a feature film. You could either write the story as a screenplay or a novel, wouldn't it make more sense to spend your time writing it as a novel?

By writing your story as novel you greatly increase the marketing possibilites, because there are many more publishers than companies that are interested in buying screenplays. And, if you sell the novel, that would only help the possibility of selling the screen rights.

Please let me know if you think that my reasoning here is faulty.

Thanks

Dear Eric:

I think you're exactly right, particularly if you're a good prose writer. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot more writing involved in a novel.  Screenplays have very few words in them, with big margins, and many spaces.  That's why I'm constantly trying to get it across to potential screenwriters that most of screenwriting occurs in your head, in outlines, and in notes, previous to ever sitting down to write the actual script.  If you don't know in advance why every scene is there, and how it moves you forward to your conclusion, you're not doing it right.  But anyway, I'm totally with you -- write it as a novel first and get it published, it will only be worth more later.  It's a fine plan.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

As a fellow Michigan resident, I'm curious to hear what you think of the new tax incentive deal.  I've talked to a few people that went to the Grace & Wild meeting. Most seem fairly enthused about the potential.

Going way back in the Q&A, I have to say thanks for recommending Elvis Meets Nixon on here.  What a great little movie.  I probably wouldn't have seen it without your review.

Looking forward to Rushes!
Best,
Jason Roth

Dear Jason:

The meeting was great, and really got me enthused.  I must figure out a way to take advantage of this incentive.  You get a 40% rebate for all money spent in Michigan, once you've spent a minimum of 50 grand (everybody else is at a million dollar minimum, and the highest rebate is 30%).  They'll also set up a 0% interest loan against the rebate.  It sounds terrific.  As was stated, though, Michigan presently doesn't have the infrastructure to support spending the entire budget here.  That's a bitch because we used to. Unfortunately for me (but good for him), Bruce Campbell is entirely unavailable for over the next year, so I can't attempt to set up either of the last two comedy scripts I've written.  But I'll think of something. Anyway, yeah, "Elvis Meets Nixon," funny movie.  I love when he stops at the donut shop in the bad part of Washington, D.C.  "Gimme a couple of them donuts with the sprinkles on 'em," and the fact that he has a refrigerator full of candy bars in his closet so he has something to eat while he chooses his outfits.

Josh

Name:              angry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

what are you shooting a movie or something? answer some goddamn questions. we miss your jaded, cynical, out-of-touch insights.

Dear angry:

I'm not shooting a movie, but I sure would like to be.  People have to send in the questions for me to answer them, right?  Out-of-touch, eh?  That could be.

Josh

Name:              Dana
E-mail:             danamichelle3972@yahoo.com

Hi Josh... I liked your story.  Very creepy.  How have you been, it's been a while?

Dear Dana:

Which story?

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

Are you still with us? Everything cool?

What's new?

Tim

Dear Tim:

I'm still with you.  I'm going to a meeting tonight at Grace & Wild studios, right near me here, that will be hosted by Mitch Albom, regarding the new 40% rebate from the Michigan Film Commission.  It's very dimmly possible that I, being both a feature film director and a Michigan resident, could come in handy to productions wanting to keep the whole director's fee in state, and therefore rebatable.  Anyway, that's one of the rumours I've heard.  Meanwhile, my editor swore to me to today that "Rushes" will be up and available on Amazon within two weeks.  Everything cool with you?

Josh

Name:              Dawn
E-mail:             dcornwall@stny.rr.com

Josh -

Found your site by typing in "religion is evil".  It's one of my personal favorite mantras and I like to see what it scours from the web.  I love your treatise.  One point of contention - I think you give people too much premeditative credit.  Most are just cows following the herd and would worship shopping malls and video games with the same vigor.  Oh wait - that's the US.  Hmmmmm.  You should make a short about that poor kid in the service who is being harrassed for being an Atheist.  The morons he is dealing with are so programmed that they have tried to define Atheism as if it is its own religion.  Atheism just means you understand enough to realize you will never understand it all, and that you do not need fairy tales to make you feel better.

Dear Dawn:

Apparently, that's how quite a few others have stumbled upon my website.  To me religion becomes more and more absurd every minute I'm alive.  Christians believe that the son of god was Jewish?  Ergo, god is Jewish, right? Meanwhile, Muslims believe that they have the right to kill anyone who isn't Muslim?  Then they get to go straight to heaven?  Jews believe that you need to cover your head all the time, bind yourself with a leather strap, then bounce up and down to show your respect for god.  Mormon's show their respect for god by having multiple wives while having sex with minors. Catholics just like having sex with minors, as long as it's homosexual sex. As Bill Maher so aptly said, "If the pope were the CEO of a chain of day care centers, he'd be in jail."  The Inuit eskimoes believe that god is a giant seal, which makes every bit as much sense as any other religion. Hell, if you're going to be delusional, then have decent delusion.

Josh

Name:              Dustin Buckley
E-mail:             duttyroo08@yahoo.com

Hey Josh what is the best way to copyright a finished work without a headache?

Dear Dustin:

Do you mean a finished script or a finished film?  In either case, go to www.loc.gov/copyright, which is the Library of Congress, download the Form PA (meaning Performing Arts), fill it out, include a copy of your script without any brads or binders, and a check, and there it is.  For a finished film, before you show it anywhere, use the same form and send in a DVD or videotape.  The copyright office considers any paid showing of your film "publication," in which case it must be copyright in its original form, meaning a 35mm or 16mm print, if that's how you shot it.  It's really not much of a headache.

Josh

Name:              Dr Pepper
E-mail:             23flavors@hotmail.com

Josh,

Is MOVIE MOVIE out of copyright yet? I noticed some websites sell DVD-Rs from the 70s and 80s, and this one was very hard to find.

Dear Dr Pepper:

I don't know, but I don't think stuff from the mid-70s in falling into the public domain yet.

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Watch this video by filmmaking "genius" Uwe Boll and tell us what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWqCNmfJ1hY

Always interesting to hear your perspective.

Henry

Dear Henry:

I've already seen it.  Since I've never seen any of Mr. Boll's films I could care less whether he keeps making them or not.

Josh

Name:              Mark Baccay
E-mail:             1@espncentral.com

Dear Josh:         

Hi, after reading your story about selling a screenplay I have a question. Will they read manuscripts, or do I need to convert my story into a screenplay first? Also, how much did they pay you?

Thanks,

-Mark

Dear Mark:

Nobody in Hollywood wants to read manuscripts, short stories, or even treatments.  It must be in screenplay form, just to prove that it can be a screenplay.  There's far too much history of buying the rights to a book or story, then never being able to get a workable script out of it.  I got $68,000 for "Cycles," but that was a long time ago, back when Hollywood still bought a lot of spec scripts.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

    I do recall that WMD was the main reason cited for the need to topple Saddam; my comment was that he was a ready scapegoat, particularly to a shocked and devastated public.  If we had never had any dealings with Saddam Hussein prior to 2001, the invasion would've been a harder sell. However, there was an underlying sentiment in this country that Iraq was unfinished business.  Certainly when I was in basic training in 1996, all the drill sergeants (Gulf War vets all of them) assured us that sooner or later we would fight Iraq again, or as SSG Zamora put it "finish the job."
Paint Saddam as a supporter of terrorists much like the ones who hit the WTC and Pentagon, and you've got all the political support you need to sell a war in Iraq.
   As for the American public, we are despite our faults generally a generous and kind-hearted people.  Scarcely a disaster, man made or natural, occurs on this planet that the American people don't help the victims of with food, medicine, clothes, and money.  Adversity tends to publically unite us, particularly when our leaders give us a clear course of action.  Certain public officials realized that, once the fires were put out in New York and the dead were buried, the American public would want to know what to do next.  They took advantage of this weak moment in the public consciousness to promote their own agenda.  That's why I say that it is not the American people who are evil, but the people who lied to the American people that may be called such.
   Regarding Charlton Heston, I imagine he felt that Khartoum was his greatest stretch as an actor, which is perhaps why he was so fond of the role.  I saw the interview you were talking about, and even have it on tape somewhere. I think that Robert Osbourne does the best interviews in Hollywood; his knowledge of film and respectful, conversational style really get his subjects to open up and be candid.  What do you think?  But anyway, Charlton Heston always seemed to be Charlton Heston in every role he played, but I always enjoyed that about his performances.  Apart from BEN HUR, I rather liked his performance in SOYLENT GREEN; he plays a character significantly younger than he is, his back-and-forth with Edward G. Robinson [who hands in an outstanding final performance] is great, and I particularly liked the fight scene where he kicks Chuck Connors in the balls, which was obviously choreographed but not some ludicrous martial arts extravaganza.

                            Darryl

Dear Darryl:

As a cop will tell you if, say, you pass someone on the right, then explain, "I didn't know that was against the law," "Ignorance of the law is no defense."  As John Mellencamp said (and I paraphrase), "We Americans from small towns want to believe everything we're told on TV."  Well, if what you hear on TV is lying bullshit, but you believe it anyway because you're too lazy to check out the facts, then your ignorance is no defense.  It's not very different from the people who lived in Munich during WWII acting like they had no idea what was going on at Dachau, located at the city limits. The rest of the world never bought the German people's plea of ignorance, and I think many people feel (as I do) that the German people were culpable in the Nazi's murder of 12 million civilians.  Well, the American people are also culpable in the deaths of over a million Iraqi civilians because we so ignorantly clamored for war and revenge after 9/11 that we didn't care on whom we wreaked our vengence.  Our CIA toppled the democratically elected government of Iran in the 1950s under Eisenhower, putting the feared and hated Shah back in power for 26 more years.  You think Iran, or anyone in the middle east, has forgotten that?  Our meddling is what caused the Iranians to happily accept the Ayatollah Khomeini, which is the real beginning of the rise of fundamentalist Islamic power.  Seriously, who killed more people?  The 9/11 terrorists or the U.S. military in our initial "Shock and Awe" bombardment of Baghdad?  And this was after the U.N. weapons inspectors had found no WMDs, and Saddam had finally given them free run of the country.  Even though Abu Grahib has fallen off our short American attention spans, you think anyone in the middle east has forgotten it?  As long as we continue this pretense that Americans are good and everyone else is bad, particularly Muslims, we have absolutely  no perspective on world events.

Meanwhile, I agree with you about Robert Osborne, who does wonderful interviews.  I'll personally take Heston in "Planet of the Apes" or "Omega Man" over "Soylent Green," which seemed like a rather lame, one-joke idea. I liked Heston's story about the great stunt director, Yakima Canutt, who co-directed the chariot race in "Ben-Hur" (with Andrew Marton), saying to him, "Take my word for it, you're gonna win this race."  But when you see Heston in something like "Julius Caesar" or "A Man for All Seasons," then you see how limited he was as an actor.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Good Morning Josh.

The one moment in "The Deer Hunter" that did stick wth me was the scene with Deniro, I think it was Deniro,in a submerged lock-up so to speak. He was imprisoned in a bamboo cage and submerged in water and given barely enough room to stick his lips up through the bars and take a breath of air. Meanwhile, there are rats running around on top of the cage adding to the misery. We had a discussion once about "World Trade Center" and that helpless, trapped, claustrophobic feeling that was conveyed in most of that movie. The water prison reminded me of that same kind of hopeless outlook.

I had a boss one time who had been a Command Sargeant Major in the Army and he did two tours of Vietnam. He would never really say much about operations over there but he did on occasion talk about "Charlie" and the viciousness of the guerilla warfare they employed. I will not expand on what he told me but my thoughts on it tie back to something you once said. You said something to the effect that human monsters were more scary than anything fictional and then you tied in WWII Germany and the atrocities committed by Hitler. You couldn't have stated anything more true and to the point.

Last but not least, I saw a 1922 silent film I think you might enjoy entitled "Shadows" with Lon Chaney and Harrison Ford.

The film provides a very interesting character study and it touched on many things I would never have believed would be present in a 1922 movie.

Lon Chaney's character, Yen Sin, gets beached after a storm at sea. He finds refuge in a small fishing village that is also predominately Christian. Yen finds himself caught up in the intricate web some of the human Christians weave. Yen does convert over to Christianity to save a friend that is being blackmailed. Chaney's performance was very entertaining. I thought Marguerite De La Motte's performance was very good as well. I'm divided on Harrison Ford just as I am with his modern day counterpart. Overall, it was very enjoyable. Certainly not bad for $1.00.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Lon Chaney, Sr. had a fascinating career, and made some truly oddball, interesting, important movies.  For some reason I keep thinking about "He Who Gets Slapped" (1924), one of the early big hits for MGM.  Chaney is a world famous scientist whose best friend steals his great discovery, as well as his wife, then slaps him in front of all the great scientists. Naturally, he gives up science and becomes a circus clown.  His entire act is being slapped by everyone, while the audience roars with laughter.  His clown name is He Who Gets Slapped and people call him He for short.  The second and third leads are Norma Shearer and John Gilbert, who would subsequently go on to be huge stars.  It was directed by the great Swedish director Victor Seastrom, who, 33 years later, would star in Ingmar Bergman's film, "Wild Strawberries."  Not to mention all the weird movies Lon Chaney made with Tod Browning, like "The Unholy Three" (1925) and "West of Zanzibar" (1928).  Chaney's "Hunchback of Notre Dame" is really great, too.

Josh

Name:              RUSSIAN ROULETTE
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You wrote:
" He said, "Have a character put a gun against their head and you've created suspense, but there's nowhere to go with it.""

I suspect that's because the only place you can go with it is to shoot the lead character, which isn't fucking likely, so that kills the suspense right there.

On the other hand, Maestro Rex Harrison DID shoot himself, and it was GLORIOUS! And then he comes back to reality, and can't even load the gun properly.

Dear RR:

Now you're talking about a good movie, "Unfaithfully Yours," and the Russian Roulette in it is for comedy, not suspense.  Mr. DeMartino's example of real suspense, which was always how Alfred Hitchcock used it, was of a woman standing on a cliff about to dive into a beautiful lagoon.  She gets into perfect diving position, rises up on her toes, then decides to put on more suntan lotion, turns around and begins applying the lotion to her leg. Behind her in the lagoon, a big green tentacle comes out of the water, then quickly submerges.  The woman turns back around and proceeds to get back into diving position.  Now we have information that she doesn't have, so we're all thinking, "Don't dive in the water!"  That's suspense. Hitchcock's example was, a guy holding a suitcase goes into a crowded restaurant.  He sits down at a table, puts the suitcase underneath, then stands up and hastily exits the restaurant, leaving his suitcase under the table.  Is it a bomb?  We don't know, but we do know he left the suitcase there and split in hurry.  Now you can cut to all the various people in the place, talking, joking, laughing, and every second the suspense is building, even if it's not a bomb.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I wanted to pass the word that R.J. Stewart has responded with his answers to fan questions:

http://xena.yuku.com/topic/17042/t/RJ-Stewart-answers-our-questions.html?page=1

Just as with Rob's Q&A, I'm amused at our (fans') ability to ask incredibly detailed questions hoping for specific reactions and long involved answers, only to be met occasionally with "Sorry, don't recall."
LOL! *blush*
I guess we've seen these eps 1000 more times than you Powers-That-Be. I asked the "people assume we'd be embarrassed to be fans" and Peter Berg questions; R.J.'s anecdote about showing pride to a collegue in being associated with XWP gave me the warm fuzzies.

Anyway, such a treat you all are receptive to communicating with us. Sounds like we'll be attempting to ask Chris Manheim and Liz Freidman next (Liz seems like a hoot.)

Dear Diana:

I appreciate that Xena has it's fans, I'm just not one of them.  Had I not worked on it I would have never watched it.

Josh

Name:              X
E-mail:             x@xxxrated.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

The current wars and politics is a frequent topic on your forum. I must tell you that both gulf wars were fought for oil. 9-11 was done by remote controlling the planes and there were no hijackers. The government knows where Bin Laden is, he had nothing to do with it. He is in that mountain region between Pakistan and Afghanistan I believe.

There are bigger and darker secrets. Are you interested. As a film director, you can imagine the Apollo moon landings were faked on a film set, can you? What do you think of that.

X

Dear X:

It's this kind of discourse that causes serious discussions of world events and politics to turn to utter nonsense.  It's your privilege to believe whetever you want, but I personally think you're clueless.

Josh

Name:              DEER HUNTER
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You wrote:
"In a way, "Deer Hunter" is the beginning of modern Hollywood movies, in that it had everything -- big budget, great cast, gorgeous cinematography -- and basically no script."
-----------------------
I noticed that the first time I watched it. I had been conditioned by countless viewings of LORD OF THE RINGS and other long movies, so I couldn't see what was wrong with DEER HUNTER.

But if you watch THE GODFATHER, during the opening wedding scene, there is a lot of great dialogue, setups, and storytelling to keep the momentum going.

Meanwhile, I re-checked it. The release date fiasco isn't on the official imdb trivia in any form. I posted it on Chud and this one fan implied it was justified by the movie's "brilliance", even if it wasn't as good as GODFATHER.

Dear DH:

There's an old expression that goes, "That which people don't understand, they admire."  In my case I rarely if ever believe that any movie is over my head.  When a story doesn't make sense to me I know it's because the writers don't know what they're doing, not that I'm not smart enough to understand them.  When you're watching a film with a good script, particularly the second time, you see all of the set-ups going on in Act I, which is the point of Act I.  As you pointed out, "The Godfather" also begins with a wedding, except in the case of "The Godfather," it's loaded with set-ups. The first thing you see is the mortician asking the Godfather for a favor, which we immediately learn he can't turn down on the day of his daughter's wedding.  The mortician returns later when Sonny is killed ("Look how they massacred my boy.  I don't want his mother to see him this way.  Use all your powers").  But you also learn from that scene that Don Corleone has his own sense of justice, and won't kill the men who beat up the mortician's daughter.  We meet Johnny Fontaine, who can't get the part he wants in the movie, and this too comes back with Jack Woltz and the horse's head.  We meet Michael and Kay, and Michael says he's not part of the family business, which is what the whole story is about.  We meet Sonny, who smashes a photographer's camera, then goes upstairs and has sex with one of the guests.  We even see Sonny's wife indicating to other women how big of a penis Sonny has. We meet Tom Hagen, and learn his back story.  We meet Fredo, who's drunk and ineffectual.  Just about everything that's said or done in that first 30 minutes is a set-up for something else coming later. Not so with "The Deer Hunter."  It's just begins with an exceptionally long wedding scene.  What do we learn?  These guys are buddies.  Uh-huh?  And they need 45 minutes to establish that?  Then suddenly we're in Vietnam and the captured soldiers are forced to play Russian Roulette, which very probably never occurred in the long history of that war.  The man who taught me more about screenwriting than anyone else, Inigo DeMartino, Sr., who had written 35 films in the 1940s and 50s in Mexico, just happened to use as his example of "cheap, fake suspense" Russian Roulette.  He said, "Have a character put a gun against their head and you've created suspense, but there's nowhere to go with it."  Then the soldiers come home and have trouble readjusting, and now shooting deer isn't as much fun as it used to be.  Yeah, so?  Therefore, the point of "The Deer Hunter" as I see it is: War makes hunting animals less fun.  And they needed three hours and three minutes to tell us that story?  I don't think there's a legitimately memorable, honest moment in that movie.

Josh

Name:              Hubba Bubba Tubba
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What do you think of Led Zeppelin? I've never heard you talk about them before.

Dear HBT:

I've always been a Led Zeppelin fan.  I bought their first album the week it came out, as well as their second album (both came out in 1969), and both of which I feel are really great records, particularly the first one.  I grew somewhat disenchanted with their third album, but I came back into the fold with IV.  "Houses of the Holy" was their last completely good record, then after that it's sort of hit or miss.  I'd say that Led Zeppelin is vying with Pink Floyd for Most-Overplayed-Rock-Band.  XM actually had a all-Led Zeppelin channel, but they've stopped it.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

    I heard about Charlton Heston's death over the weekend, and wanted to say a few words about him publicly.  I know that you didn't think much of his acting ability, but I admired the many roles he attempted, and the mature aspect he brought to the screen.  He put the MAN in leading man, as opposed to the crop of spoiled whining pretty boy lead actors that we're saddled with today.
   As for his politics, well, you know my stance on gun rights, so to me Mr. Heston was a hero.  It takes a good deal of courage and sand to stand by your principles, do what you believe is right, and all the while be a gentleman about it.
   I know that in eulogies, a man's bad traits are all sanitized and his good deeds inflated, but I believe in this instance that Mr. Heston's merits do outweigh his faults.  I for one will miss him.

                        Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Charlton Heston was part of a whole crop of leading men who were MEN, like: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck.  Heston was a real movie star, and bigger than life.  He did have a tendency to kind of just belt out all of his lines loudly.  I just watched a a very good interview he did with Robert Osborne on TCM, and he said he thought his best performance was in "Khartoum," a performance I think is ridiculous, particularly his phony-baloney English accent.  Of the actors I mentioned, I'd Heston was the worst actor in bunch, but the biggest star.  I still think his best performance was in Wyler's "The Big Country," a perfect blend of actor and role.

Josh

Name:              Ben
E-mail:             sphere6@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I've been writing a lot lately and I keep getting caught up on dialog. Do you have any advice on writing it? Anything to help it move along?

Dear Ben:

You're a bit vague about why you're getting "caught up" on the dialog.  Does that mean you can't get it started, or you can't get it to end?  This is where the concepts of the Theme, the Plot, and the Point come in.  If the scene exists to move the plot along, which is called an expository scene, then make your plot points and keep moving.  However, if you haven't got any big plot points to make, then it's incredibly helpful to have a theme, and that's what the scene should be about.  A theme, BTW, is generally one word, like Duty or Trust.  If indeed you actually have a point to make regarding your theme, then you can investigate it in the dialog, without necessarily coming flat out and stating it.  And a lot of dialog works on a question and answer basis.  If this hasn't answered your question, then trying asking it again with more details.  Good luck.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

In response to a couple of recent topics, according to the IMDB, Deer Hunter was released in LA only on Dec. 8, 1978, and then nationally on Feb. 23, 1979. Which might mean one theatre in NYC and one in Chicago. And then wide release probably after it won the Oscar.  Although I seem to recall seeing it in Nashville before it actually won, but that's a long time and many brain cells ago.

The musical Robert Shaw, according to Wikipedia, was a Grammy-winning conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, who did various things with NBC in the early years.

OK, now my question relates to something you once mentioned about your directing days down in  NZ.  I recall you said that some guest directors had more success than others, and it didn't seem entirely logical to have a constantly revolving slate of directors, some of whom had never worked on the show before.  I have noticed that the ABC series Lost sometimes uses guest directors... but about 2/3 of the episodes have been directed by the same two guys, who both were given Exec. Producer status.  Both had been "regular" directors who had worked with the show's creators on previous shows, so presumably that was part of the deal from day one.  Is this something that is becoming more common in tv nowadays?  And do you think that's a good move to ensure continuity, as well as allowing a director to not only have creative input, but actually get screen credit (and presumably compensation) for it?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

Always good to hear from you.  The Oscar nominations were announced on Feb. 20, 1979, for the 1978 awards, and then they did the limited platform release, with one print in some major cities, and then they went wide with the release after the Oscars in April.  So, you ended up with a film that basically swept the Oscars (five, including Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor) that almost nobody had seen.  I'd already seen it on an early sneak preview in Detroit, and was aghast that this ruse was being foisted on everyone, and that they were all buying it.  My only respite at the time was saying, "You just wait until Michael Cimino's next movie, then we'll see if the guy's got any talent."  His follow-up, of course, was "Heaven's Gate," one of the biggest bomb stinkers of all time, that nearly single-handedly sunk United Artists.  And that was the good part of his career.  I still do have a fondness for his first film, though, "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot."

Meanwhile, having directors on staff on a TV show and giving them executive producer credits isn't new.  ER was doing that back in the mid-90s.  The argument can be made that switching directors all the time keeps your show fresh; but on the other hand, as the production designer said on Xena regarding new directors all the time, "We're constantly reinventing the wheel."

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I never agreed with the million Iraqi death toll, it not being based on definite counts but rather vague estimates.  That being said, I don't know if you can call America's stance in this evil.  Our leaders presented us with evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement with terrorist activity, and people were still smarting and in shock over 9/11.  Here was a culprit who was a legitimate bad guy and whom, despite being militarily humiliated in the 1991 Gulf War, many felt had not been dealt with thoroughly enough. Girded by that fact, the memory of our swift victory in '91 [without the memory of the six-month military buildup it took to accomplish that 100 hour victory], and the promise that Iraq would be swiftly liberated and on the way to democracy, we invaded.  By the time the war fever had been tempered and people first began to question the administration's assertions, we were already knee deep in the quagmire that was the inevitable power vacuum in Iraq after toppling Saddam, and the administration had made only the most cursory and feeble plans for this eventuality.  Evil?  I would call it tragic.

                          Darryl

Dear Darryl:

That just shows a good-hearted, trusting fellow you are.  If you'll recall, we didn't attack Iraq to bring down Saddam, we attacked because we suspected that Iraq had WMDs, even though the experts on the ground, Hans Blix and the U.N. weapons inspectors, had not found one tiny shred of evidence.  Colin Powell's speech before the U.N. Security Council, which got us into the war, was possibly the most embarrassing, ridiculous moment in U.S. history. Powell showed drawings of mobile weapon labs, then fuzzy satellite photos of a truck and a pile of sandbags, which we were assured beyond any doubt were weapons labs.  When no WMDs were found, THEN the mission became kill Saddam, and once he was captured, it then changed to exporting democracy.  Now we're just in a quagmire, an eventuality I've been predicting from the outset. The bottom-line still remains that the Neo-Cons put the Iraq invasion plans on the table the night of 9/11, knowing full well that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, which is entirely about securing their oil for our purposes, as well as having a base near Iran, since we'd just been kicked out of Saudi Arabia.  Bush and co. never had an exit strategy because they never intend to leave Iraq!  If indeed our purpose in Iraq is securing their oil and building military bases, not WMDs, then the entire invasion was disingenous, our being there is based on a lie, and all the deaths this has caused have been for nefarious purposes, and thus evil.

Josh

Name:              RE: DEER HUNTER
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

you wrote:
"I wrote that article sixteen years ago, so you'll forgive me if I don't remember my sources anymore.  However, that whole shenanigans with Allan Carr and the one week release were all pretty well known at the time of the film's release and subsequent Oscar wins in 1978."

I don't doubt it, I'm trying to get it on the legitimate imdb trivia section. I did find two other reviews that mention it, although they say it like it's a good thing.

I read Allan Carr never worked in Hollywood again because he fucked up the 61st Annual Academy Awards and got sued by Walt Disney. Alls well that ends well.

Dear Deer:

It certainly was a good thing for the film, Michael Cimino, and Universal Pictures, it's just the rest of us that had to suffer.  In a way, "Deer Hunter" is the beginning of modern Hollywood movies, in that it had everything -- big budget, great cast, gorgeous cinematography -- and basically no script.  By the time the wedding at the opening of the film was over, 45 minutes in, I was ready to stop watching movies forever.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

    I don't disagree with the idea of helping people or meeting struggling citizens halfway, but the past century has shown that our government beaurocracy is NOT the organization to successfully do so.  An office holder who helps pass a bill, that blooms into a social program, that doesn't in fact help as it was intended but does waste billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours of effort, IS in fact making things worse. Ending the Iraq debacle will certainly make things better, but if it's followed up by yet more wasteful domestic spending, that's effort and treasure still lost.
   As for me, I would have to say that in all of this I'm center-right.  I emphatically do not agree with the oppressive attitudes and warmongering of the religious zealots on the far right, but nor do I care for the left creating committees and agencies for every problem under the sun, with the citizens of this country footing the bill.  I also feel that the progressivists would and have thrown away certain cultural traits that I value:  the concept of self-discipline, individual responsibility for one's own actions, and civic and national pride.  Some public and private ethics wouldn't hurt, either.
    I'm sorry for getting off on a political tangent on what's supposed to be a movie site, but you took a definite position and deserve a definite and thought-out response.  It seems that our aims and sentiments are the same; we simply disagree on how to get there.

                             Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Hey, I challenged you, and you responded, now I respond back.  It's all good for me.  Meanwhile, I agree with the conservative concept of smaller government, it's just too bad the conservatives never follow up on the idea. Instead, Bush has increased the size of our government by adding the third largest government agency, Homeland Security, which is just a bloated, intrusive joke.  The big problem with the right is they talk a lot of talk, but they never mean it.  They talk about straightening out the economy, then sink us in debt with a lie of a war that did not need to be fought for any reason.  Sadly, the right's intense paranoia overrides all of their other ideas.  But if the government is going to be expanded, and it probably will, I'll take any social program, no matter how foolish or poorly conceived, to anymore military build up or anymore wars.  In my opinion there's very little difference between the far right Neo-Cons and the Islamic Jihad, both of which are an assault on liberal Democracy, and both are equally wrong-headed.  The difference -- and Americans don't want to hear shit like this -- is that the American Neo-Cons always achieve a much higher body count than the Islamic fundamentalists.   The terrorists kill 3,000 people on 9/11, so we attack Iraq and are now responsible for over a million deaths!  So, who's more evil, us or them?

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hey Josh you ever see an old Delmer Daves western called "The Hanging Tree"? I don't think it's very well known but it probably deserves to be. I wasn't much of a fan of Gary Cooper's before this but he gives a really interesting performance (for a particularly interesting character). He is amazingly kind and patient at turns but then distant and hostile at others. Good film!

Dear David:

I haven't seen that movie since I was a kid, and I barely remember it, although I immediately remembered George C. Scott in it.  As it happens, it's Scott's first film.  I'd like to see it again.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

You are right on time with your observations concerning Close Encounters.

I had not seen the original version in so long that I remember asking my wife if she remembered seeing the ship in the desert. She hadn't of course because the scene wasn't in there.

The ship was actually a huge model shot through a forced perspective to create that illusion. A beautiful fit!

The next version of the movie had the ship in the desert and the press conference had been deleted. The press conference featured the old man describing his encounter with Bigfoot. Apparently, Bigfoot had a foot "37 inches long" from heel to toe. Also, you can see all the Angenieux 12-120 zoom lenses on all of the old film cameras that the newsmen had to record the conference. Very cool I thought when comparing that to what is used today.

Garr's performance as the sexy drama queen wife was quite good but I was ready for her to go when she did. I tended to side with Roy throughout the whole thing. I felt she wasn't trying hard enough to understand Roy's experience and in the long run he was better off without her anyway.

One scene that still gets a big laugh is after Roy's encounter he comes home and wakes everybody up to go see the aliens..."It's better than Goofy Golf! C'mon wake up!" The little girl fighting sleep with her butt in the air,the boys hanging off their bunk beds, the trashed rooms and that nosey ass neighbor lady of theirs! Great scene!

What about at the dinner table with the little girl..."I hate these potatoes. There's a dead fly in my potatoes." Hilarious.

You know that when we see the Mother Ship for the first time we are actually seeing city lights shot at night superimposed on the base of the ship coming down. I cannot remember which city but possibly Bakersfield, California.

I could go on and on about this movie but another thing I always found interesting about it were some of the night shots. For example, there are a couple shots where we hear the engine of a propeller plane in the distance and we can actually see small plane lights flashing up in the night sky. Nice touch I thought. The night shadow of one of the alien ships flying over the road and the field was another nice touch.

Finally, I agree with you on Roy's entrance to the ship. We see Roy approaching a state of hyperventilation along with the ensuing light show. I think Spielberg himself acknowledged somewhere he should have left what the inside of the ship looked like to each viewer's imagination.  I agree Stevie boy!

Ok Josh. My term paper on Close Encounters is finshed.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I also like the scene when Dreyfuss is caught and Francois Truffaut and Bob Balaban arrive.  Dreyfuss says, "I want to speak to the man in charge." Balaban says, "I assure you that Monsieur Lacombe is of the highest authority," and Dreyfuss says, "He's not even American."  Then they show him the paintings and drawings of Devil's Tower and ask if he's seen anything like that, and he says, dismissively, "Yeah, I've got one in my living room."

Josh

Name:              DEER HUNTER
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

On your "What do the Oscars really mean?" essay, you mention a story about THE DEER HUNTER only being released for one week on one screen to qualify for the Academy Awards, then not being released until it won them so that the studio advertising had something to sell it with.

Out of curiosity, what were your sources on this?

Dear DH:

I wrote that article sixteen years ago, so you'll forgive me if I don't remember my sources anymore.  However, that whole shenanigans with Allan Carr and the one week release were all pretty well known at the time of the film's release and subsequent Oscar wins in 1978.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I was feeling bitter when I wrote that last post, and I should've been more clear that I was referring to my specific academic experience, not national politics.  By 'leftist,' I meant the progressive educational policies of American schools that have become entrenched in the last thirty years:  the feel-good mentality of holding back the smart kids so that the slower or lazier kids won't feel bad about not performing as well; the constant dumbing-down of academic achievement tests so that more students pass and the schools can boast better test scores; and specific to history (my major) the changing of the course curriculum to no longer require students to memorize specific dates or events, but rather to comment on general 'movements' and 'trends' in human history.  I hold these policies to blame for the erosion of learning in American public schools, and the appalling spectacle of high school students graduating with diplomas that they cannot read.
   As for community college, much of what you say is true.  However, I still found that going to Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut, at night was more rewarding than attending the University of Connecticut up in Storrs.  While some of the professors were losers, many were reputable professors moonlighting from other universities.  The ones I spoke with said they did it not for extra money, but because the community college students were more mature and goal-oriented and often worked harder than students at the big schools.

I hope I clarified my statement.

                            Darryl

Dear Darryl:

You seem to have a "leftist" bug up your butt.  Look at the Republican created program No Child Left Behind, where their brilliant concept is to penalize teachers if kids don't get good grades, so to save themselves from perscution the teachers now give everybody a good grade.  Anyway, our public education system isn't all that great, and in the last 20 years we've had more Republicans than Democrats in power.  So, what does that mean?  I'd say it's a problem that's bigger and deeper than you can blame on either party.

Josh

Name:              Jim Beaver
E-mail:             jumblejim@prodigy.net

Dear Josh:         

The Robert Shaw who has a record on his star is not the actor/playwright, but a musician.

Dear Jim:

I assumed as much.  Any idea who the musical Robert Shaw was?

Josh

Name:              Carol Golembiewski
E-mail:             redcarol57@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

I'm currently working on a screenplay called "Two From the Cubist Mist".  It's a sci-fi type film that revolves around the art work in the near future.

My question is this.  If my work should get optioned and resold, is there anyway to structure the contract so that I'd still be able to have the Screenplay Writers Guild acknowledge my work and let me in.

I'm thinking that with the Guild having fought for writers to get a percentage of DVD sales, it would be a total rip if they wouldn't acknowledge my contribution should my script be developed and produced.  I know it's a long shot, but I'm wondering about that.

Thanks in advance,

Carol Golembiewski

Dear Carol:

First of all, it depends on with whom you make a deal, and are they signatory to the WGA?  If it's a non-signatory company, as most low-budget film companies are, then no WGA rules apply, and the sale will have no effect in getting into the guild.  If you make a deal with a WGA signatory company, then you use WGA contracts, and the WGA will decide who gets what credit.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   Your reply to my academic post gave me some food for thought in terms of politics, which I felt was better reserved for a separate post.   I'm not denying the egregious and glaring faults of the Republican party in terms of this war:  they're facts and thus undeniable.  I served in Iraq and still don't believe that we should've invaded. The intelligence on WMD was hazy at best, trumped up bullshit at worst. Also, democracy is not for everyone, and the Iraqis in my experience are far too corrupt, violent, and plain old ignorant to make a go of it in this generation. Change is happening, but at a rate much slower than expected.  For it to have any lasting permanence, we would have to sit out a tectonic cultural change and the passing of at least two generations of Iraqis.  That seems to be more effort than most Americans are willing to invest, particularly in a country that doesn't seem to want to pick itself up [we spend a trillion dollars to rebuild Iraq, and the Iraqi government is sitting on almost $300 billion dollars of surplus oil revenue.  You'd think if they were serious about getting their shit together and getting us out of their country, they'd start footing the bill for some of their own problems].
   But the left also has it's faults.  Whatever good intention for which they were conceived doesn't balance out the cost of the Democrat's poorly designed social engineering programs over the years:  welfare in all its varieties (which has created a whole government dependent subclass), social security (mismanaged and overdrawn to the point where I must still pay into it, but most likely will never see a Social Security check when I retire), affirmative action (government sponsored race quotas), and finally the entire concept of beaurocracy being the solution for every social ill.  Not to mention that Democrats are also capable of escalating an unpopular war [anyone remember Lyndon Johnson?].
    The current candidates for President reflect these party problems. McCain is an authoritarian, and actually wants to increase the U.S. presence in Iraq.  Hillary and Obama want to pull out and focus more on economic issues, one by using tax dollars to bail out U.S. mortgage firms while forgiving mortgage payers their debts [and some people thought Reaganomics didn't make any sense], while the other wants to cure world poverty by giving a big chunk of the U.S. GDP to developing nations and signing multiple free trade agreements (say goodbye to the last of your industrial base, America). As I see it, arguing over which one of these clowns would make a better President is like arguing over which venereal disease you'd like to have:  gonorrhea, syphilis, or genital warts.  All of them are going to be uncomfortable, get in the way, and make your life worse.  Sorry for the long post, Josh.

                           Darryl

P.S.  Whatever the candidates say about pulling out of Iraq quickly, they are either ignorant or lying if they're talking about speedy troop withdrawals.  To accomplish a complete stand down and withdrawal of all U.S. forces and assets in Iraq (to include millions of tons of heavy equipment which must be funneled through limited Iraqi and Kuwaiti port facilities onto ships) would take at least a year of unceasing effort. Like it or not, a withdrawal will take time.

Dear Darryl:

No, none of the candidates will make my life worse, not compared to George Bush and Dick Cheney.  Life can only improve.  Will it be easy to pull out of Iraq?  Certainly not, but we should still do it ASAP.  Let's get the process started.  Particularly now that we're in the middle of the Shiite's internal conflicts.  And I completely don't buy Colin Powell's you-broke-it-you-bought-it theory.  We removed their fascist dictator, now let's go home.  Regarding mismanaged social programs, which I'm not arguing with you about, but should we not have these things?  Shouldn't we be helping the poorest, the oldest and the sickest in our society?  Hammurabi's First law is, "The strong shall not take advantage of the weak," and furthermore, the strong must look after the weak.  That's what makes a society a civilization, as opposed to being barbarians and cannibals.  Way back when Bill Clinton was president and there was a surplus of money, nobody was predicting the collapse of social security.  But we will never get our economy straightened out while we're spending a million dollars a second fighting a war in Iraq.  Meanwhile, the reason I'm on the left is because I'm convinced that everything on the right is wrong.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh.

On the subject of the atom bomb I find it extrememly interesting that H.G. Wells was talking about them 30 years prior to the Gadget test in 1945.

Little Boy , which was about the length of two dining tables put end to end and about 2 feet or so in circumference,destroyed an entire city. Tens of thousands were literally turned to ashes in an instant. If you watch the Bikini footage in slow motion you can quickly ascertain that by the time you see the flash it's all over. Everything destroyed in the mile range. That is 21 kilos. Our world governments have multi-megaton bombs. The flash you see in those megaton tests produce fireballs 3 miles wide by the time you blink your eyes. That is some truly sobering shit Josh. When you factor in some of the dipshits that control the keys to the missiles it is even more terrifying.

I think you have recommended the book before but if not I would throw in "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White as excellent educational material on writing. Strunk also stresses brevity Josh. Also, though it is somewhat dated, I would say that "The Liar's Club" by Mary Karr is a good read. I had never heard of the book until about 2 weeks ago. Interesting human relations study.

I have not seen any good movies for a while except for the original version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The version has Roy running around at one point throwing bushes and fencing through the kitchen window which I felt exemplified his hysteria concerning Devil's Tower. I bought the 30 year ultimate edition which has all three versions of the movie. Overall, I feel if they would just combine the absolute best elements of all three into one and call it "The Best" version that would be cool. I may be wrong on that and I guess it wouldn't be good merchandising.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

No, it sounds like a great idea, and yet another reason to re-release it. But the fact that they left out the ship in the desert on the original cut still astounds me every time I see it.  It's such a terrific, all-encompassed, brief, expensive little scene.  And I certainly don't need to go inside the ship at the end.  I'm with you, I didn't mind any of Roy's going nuts scenes, stealing chicken wire, etc., because it all pays off so well when he's on the phone and we see Devil's Tower on the TV, lining up perfectly with his sculpture, and he doesn't see it.  You want to scream out, "For god's sake look at the TV!"

Josh

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

Josh,

A friend of mine commented that the Democrat party is fucked. Why? Because the front runners are "a girl and a boy."

I laughed out loud at the audacity of that comment-but I think he has a point.

I've been following the back and forth argument about Obama, Clinton and McCain. And, as someone said on one board I visited, "Boy the Democrats love to eat their young."

See, this is why I can't buy into political parties, because of the bullshit running around. Also, people by and large are just not very bright. And we've got some real dumb-asses in America. The race card, and yeah-the sex card have been tossed around, as well as a bunch of other horseshit. McCain, better than Bush? Maybe not as dumb, but not necessarily much better.

Get ready for another Republican dynasty. The writing's on the wall, I think. I hope I'm wrong, but I have a nasty tendency to be right about things I don't want to be right about.

 

Dear Saul:

Well, I certainly hope you're wrong.  McCain is better than Bush, but so is Joseph Stalin.  John McCain is old and represents war, and that's what I think will do him in.  Not to mention that all of our financial difficulties of the moment were caused by Republicans.  As long as we keep fighting in Iraq our economy will never straighten out.  On "Frontline" this week was "Bush's War," a history of the Iraq War from 9/11 until now.  One interesting fact was that the first U.S. troops into Afghanistan were CIA, and they located Osama bin Laden and had him basically cornered in the Tora Bora Mountains.  If the CIA had gotten reinforced by the army at that point there would have been a good chance of killing or capturing bin Laden. However, Donald Rumsfeld was so intent on being in charge, and not letting the CIA be in charge, that he waited a month to send in the troops, and then it was too late.  So, due to in-fighting and power struggles these dumb asshole right-wing hawks aren't even good warriors.  Then we sent our troops to Iraq, and 4,000 U.S. soldiers lives, and a million Iraqi lives later, we'll still there accomplishing nothing.  Bullshit on the you-broke-it-you-bought it philosophy, just bring our troops home now.

Josh

Name:              Wikipedia
E-mail:            

Dear Josh:         

Um... Josh? Who's the imposter in the photo?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_Becker

Dear Wikipedia:

I don't know.  Someone ought to replace it.

Josh

(Part 2): I joined Wikipedia, corrected the credits, had them remove the false photo, which they did within ten minutes of my request, then I submitted a new photo.

Josh

Name:              Brett Greene
E-mail:             brettmgreene@gmail.com

Hi Josh,

After reading the thread about Juno, and the positive comments made about the film, I thought I should chime in by pointing people to the link below which critically dissects Juno as an immature and misdirected bit of film. I happen to agree with what's said, but if others don't it's still a really lucid argument. I don't recommend reading it if the viewer likes a spoiler-free experience, but I do think it's great to read a few days after seeing Juno. Enjoy!

http://www.stanhasissues.com/archives/2008/02/easy_to_hate_ju.html

Dear Brett:

Wow, it now sounds awful.  I must say it was only the vaguest of hopes that it would actually be any good.  It smells like another "Little Miss Sunshine," that everybody jumped up and down about, but really isn't all that good.  Meanwhile, part III of "John Adams" will be on tonight.  It's a beautiful, $100 million production with a great cast and great script, and it's all shot hand-held with long lenses that make it look like we're taking the perspective of Barney the drunk who's always about to pass out.  It's the POV of the drunk in the Continental Congress.  And it keeps settling into cockeyed hand-held Dutch angles for absolutely no reason.  That Tom Hanks and the 27 other producers, as well as all of the HBO execs (for whom I have respect) thought that this was an appropriate, "modern" visual approach, is both sad and pathetic, and a big enough mistake to nearly make me not want to watch it anymore, although I will.  To believe that bouncy hand-held camerawork at this late date is anything other than annoying puts you in a place where you must also believe that rap music is new, sit-coms are witty, and sequels and remakes are clever.  Anyway, Paul Giamatti makes a good John Adams, Laura Linney is an appropriately stoic Abagail, and Tom Wilkinson is perfect as Ben Franklin.  Damn shame about the camerawork.

Josh

Name:              erik douglas
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I saw "Radio Bikini" on your fave films list. Man alive, what a truly frightening documentary that is. I can't believe the way the islanders were treated. I also read that years later the U.S. Government allowed some islanders back to the testing site but that it was all part of an "experiment" to see observe the radiological effects. Those poor, unwitting guinea pigs. And at the end of the film when they show for the first time the Navy serviceman who they'd been interviewing, his hand was swollen beyond belief. Blew me away.

Dear erik:

There's also some other intense shit about the Bikini Atoll bomb tests in "Atomic Cafe," as well as the Italian Shockumentary, "Mondo Cane" (oddly, winner of Best Song for 1963, entitled "More").  In "Mondo Cane" the crew revisits Bikini in 1962, 16 years after the atomic and hydrogen bomb tests, and the fish now live in the trees.  To go fishing you take a stick and knock the fish off the branches.  The turtles now all head inland to breed instead of going out to sea, so they all die.  Maybe it's fixed itself since 1962.  Maybe the fish have come down from the trees and formed a government.

Josh

Name:              Brett Greene
E-mail:             brettmgreene@gmail.com

Josh:

As a note to Henry, Casey Affleck's nomination as a Supporting Actor in what is really a leading role isn't new: Timothy Hutton one the Oscar for his performance in 'Ordinary People,' and he's definitely the lead. The idea, I suppose, is that relative unknowns have a difficult time competing in prestige categories. That's the best example I have - Josh, do you have> others? It matters little anyway since the Oscars have very little relevance to good filmmaking.

Brett

Dear Brett:

Another example is Tatum O'Neal winning Supporting Actress for "Paper Moon," in which she's the lead.  It's like an unwritten rule that if you're under 21 you can't get lead actor nomination.

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"Wasn't Casey Affleck nominated for "Gone Baby Gone"?"

Nope. Just double checked, his Oscar nod was for "The Assassination Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford", though I thought he was really good in "Gone Baby Gone" as well. In fact, I would've nominated him for that instead of "Jesse James", but that's just me...

I just watched Richard ("Donnie Darko") Kelly's second movie "Southland Tales" and I wish I hadn't. It's as terrible as I heard it was. Avoid it like the plague.

Anyway, I'm disappointed that Netflix doesn't carry "Running Time", as I read the script and liked it. But they do carry "Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except" and I look forward to seeing it, as a friend of mine has seen it and really liked it.

Dear Henry:

Don't get your hopes up too high for TSNKE.  It's more of a curiosity at this point than anything else.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I became disenchanted with formal academia many years ago.  Perhaps the experience was different in your day, but in mine college seemed to consist of aging baby-boomer blowhard professors who had gotten into the world of academics simply as a way to avoid Vietnam.  In any subject where hard science didn't stop them, they would love to lay soft-headed leftist nonsense on the students that wasn't in any way connected to the real world, and would flunk you if you didn't parrot their words back to them. The only place where I found intellectual honesty was in community college, mainly because the working people going to school there at night wouldn't tolerate bullshit.
    But I digress...did you say that Bruce has a new film out?  I'll have to check his website.  In the meantime, do you have anything cinematic in the works?  I know you don't like to jinx a project by talking about it too much before the deal goes through, but a hint or two would be awesome..

                             Darryl

Dear Darryl:

With all due respect, dude, that's one long string of generalizations, mixed with a silly conservative screed.  I went to both universities and community college, and even though I got a 4.0 and made the Dean's list in community college, I must say it was loaded with knuckleheads, including many of the teachers, who were clearly not good enough to teach at universities.  As for "soft-headed leftist nonsense," don't ever forget that the right-wingers have gotten us into most of the shit we're presently in.  Attacking Iraq was undoubtedly the single stupidest, most ill-conceived piece of foreign relations this country has ever foisted on the world.  Not to mention that 9/11 would most likely have not occurred if these right-wing neo-conservatives hadn't completely taken their eye off the ball, meaning Osama bin Laden and Al Quaeda, who had been at the top of our enemy list under Clinton, and switched to pretending that Iraq was our main enemy, then lying to us about WMDs.  Leftists, as you call them, may very well be soft-headed and soft-hearted, but rightists are just plain old wrong, with a large dash of evil, and a distinct taste for xenophobia and hegemony.  The sooner we get this goddamn Republicans out of office, the sooner we can begin the healing process.  Movie-wise, not much is happening.

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Josh,

Reading through your old Q&A threads made me want to watch "Lawrence of Arabia" again, so last night I dug out my VHS copy (in widescreen) that I hadn't seen in years... man what an incredible movie. They sure don't make them like that anymore, do they? I've also put "The Bridge on the River Kwai" on my Netflix list as that's one of your favorites that I've never seen.

Meanwhile, since people have been talking about "Jesse James", I thought I'd chime in on it myself. I think that while it has its moments, it ultimately doesn't work. It's WAY overlong, fatally slow moving, and it spends way to much time with secondary characters. Not to mention it goes on for about fifteen minutes after Jesse James is assassinated. I also thought it was odd that Casey Affleck was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (he was quite good) when he played the main character in the film.

Anyway, on to my question, what do you think of the work of David Cronenberg? I find his films interesting (although very strange). I was lucky enough attended a Q&A with him in Cannes three years ago and he struck me as being a very intelligent and articulate guy.

Also, I see that "The Horribleness" has been added to your resume on IMDb. Does that mean that it's a go? If so, congrats and good luck.

Henry

Dear Henry:

David Cronenberg bores me.  I tried watching his version of "The Fly" again, which I recall enjoying when it came out, and I couldn't make it through. People got all excited about "Scanners" at the time, and I found it reasonably dreadful.  Jeremy Irons is very good in "Dead Ringers," but the film itself drops dead long before the end.  Wasn't Casey Affleck nominated for "Gone Baby Gone"?

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I watched that making-of documentary for "Butch Cassidy" that you mentioned recently. It was indeed terrific. I like at the end when Hill is commenting how he really thinks they made a good film and then he trails off saying something like... "and if the audience doesn't respond i'll go fucking crazy".

I got to say I really love George Roy Hill. A total straight shooter. He's one of my top 10 favorite directors, and I'm surprised there's not more discussion of him in film circles.

Dear David:

George Roy Hill made one of my favorite movies, "Slaughterhouse-Five," one the truly great adaptations of book to film, as well as the two huge hits, "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting," but there really isn't much else in his career to pay attention to.  I'd say "The World According to Garp" is an honorable failure, but everything else is pretty worthless. How he ended up directing "Hawaii" I'll never know.  I remember seeing "Thoroughly Modern Millie" when it came out in 1967 when I was nine, and thinking to myself, "What the hell are these people laughing at?  This is a shitty movie."  When I saw the film again 20 years later it was even worse than I'd remembered. I'm still convinced that the only reason it was a hit was because there was so much hold-over love for Julie Andrews from "The Sound of Music" two years earlier.  How he could be one of your top ten directors I find difficult to understand.

Josh

Name:              Lee
E-mail:             leepy

Hi Josh

Following on from my last post re: films drawing you into unsavoury characters' worlds...

... I drew the line at Kevin Bacon in 'The Woodsman'. Didn't see it. Apparently it's a film about a paedophile wrestling with his desires. (Must be getting more conservative in my old age!)

A writer who's passed on once suggested that we like different films depending on our life circumstances. An example. When I was 18 I watched The Graduate with my dad; I enjoyed watching Benjamin Braddock wrestle with his angst ("I've got one word for you. Plastics.") My dad thought the character Hoffman played was, and I quote, "A dick." By the way, the film is VERY similar to the book; I don't know if Webb intended the book to read like a movie, but there are hardly any changes that I can remember.

I don't know; most films seemed to be overstated these days. The Graduate has a story beneath the story - Benjamin fighting against becoming a 'phoney sell out'. (It has a lot in common with Catcher in the Rye, doesn't it?) I mean, The Graduate regards the viewer as being smart, able to empathise with the character's internal dilemmas.

Anyway.

I've got The Duellists on order. I'll get back to ya.


Lee

Dear Lee:

The word at the time was that Buck Henry retyped the book "The Graduate" into screenplay form with no changes, and everybody loved it, so that's what it remained.  You know what?  That counts, too.  It takes a lot of assurance and guts to not change it and to not impose your own personality into it. If you thought the book was good, why fuck it up?

Josh

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

Josh,

I'll have to watch "The Duelist".  It sounds interesting.
In the meantime, I've just watched a film called "The Boys (and Girl) From County Clare".  It is about a family feud centered on a music (Caeli) competition contested between estranged brothers in Ireland.  It stars Colm Meany who I believe is an underrated actor.  Andrea Corr also stars. The film is set in the late-sixties and has some of "The Commitments" vibe going for it, though the emphasis is on resolutioin rather than potential lost as is "Commitments".  I'm not saying that "Clare" should win an Oscar but it is well constructed, mostly well acted, beautifully shot and has a defined story to tell.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, Meany's performance particularly.  The movie runs an aggreeable hundred minutes.  Thanks

John

PS.  Have you ever read any G. K. Chesterton?

Dear John:

No, I haven't read any Chesterton.  Yes, I agree, Colm Meany is good actor, with a very interesting face.

Josh

Name:              IF I HAD A HAMMER
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You hear that Josh, IF I HAD A HAMMER might be available on tv after all someday. I watched it on my father's cell phone one time.
______________________________________________
Coming To Your TV Sets: YouTube

While it may seem like a far cry from high-definition, the standard for
most home theaters, YouTube will soon be available for viewing on TV sets
connected to TiVo digital recorders. TiVo and Google-owned YouTube's
announcement was regarded as a major step in the plodding effort to
converge the TV and the PC. In Wednesday's announcement, Tara Maitra, vice
president and general manager of content services at TiVo, said, "Being
able to make available YouTube videos to the TiVo subscriber base using
one device, one remote and one user interface is another major step in our
commitment to combine all of your television and Web-video viewing options
in one easy-to-use service." The company did not specify when the YouTube
service will become available.

Dear IF:

Oddly, the film has already shown on Spanish TV, even though I never licensed it to anybody in Spain.  Stranger still is that I receive DGA residuals for it.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   Sorry, I had an additional thought.  I want to talk about THE DUELLISTS, but I saw it so long ago that I can't effectively comment on it.  I'll Netflix it and refresh my memory.
   In the meantime, I agree with Lee Price about PSYCHO.  You don't realize until after you've watched the film that you just spent your time rooting for someone to clean up a crime scene and get away with murder. And when Sam Loomis distracts Norman Bates so that the girl can go up and root around in the house, you resent him sweating Norman.  Here's to Alfred Hitchcock, master of the mindfuck!

                            Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Yes, Hitchcock was the master, no doubt about it.  There isn't a filmmaker living who's worthy of licking his boots.  Nor those of Ford, Wyler or Hawks.  As George Carlin said, we've traded in our intelligence and questioning attitudes for gizmos. 

Bruce Campbell and I went to East Lansing Thursday night to see his new film, "My Name is Bruce," which I enjoyed very much.  But as we drove across MSU's campus, which hasn't changed much in 30 years, the only real difference is that EVERYONE is on their damn cell phone.  A university campus was once a place of intellectual discourse; now everybody's in their own little world.  People can get up on the Oscar telecast and state that "Movies are better than ever," but it's simply not true.

Josh

Name:              Alienna
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering why you don't believe in aliens? I'm not saying they exist, but I am saying that scientifically it's not impossible that they might.

I won't believe anything unless proof is placed in front of me, but it seems somewhat logical that there might be more than one planet that can sustain life.

Your thoughts?

Dear Alienna:

If Dr. Isaac Asimov didn't believe in aliens, there's no reason for me to. It's not even an issue of there being or not being aliens, the real issue is that since we know there aren't any aliens nearby in our own galaxy, then on a mathematical basis aliens can't be anywhere near enough in distance or time for us to ever encounter them.  Species don't exist for more than a million years, and the universe is billions of years old.  So to believe that even if there were an alien race that was not too far away to ever get to us, that they should technologically develop at the same rate and time as us so they could then come visit during our short little history is a mathematical impossibility.

Josh

Name:              Danny
E-mail:             Danny@goodoleboys.net

Hi there Mr. Becker.

I checked out the Christiano link as he encouraged everybody to do.

It was gooey just as you said it would be. Not pecan pie gooey but more like King Syrup and old biscuits sticky. Definitely not too oozy but possibly fluidy like a bad blister. Maybe it was a little oozy however like a sort of warm cottage cheese with little lumps of ooze and goo in it. I guess that qualifies it as semi-gooish on some infected oozing level.

If Mr. Christiano has been in the highlights for so long, and opened himself up to scrutiny by coming to this site, then he should understand that not everybody might like his stuff. According to his IMDB link he generously provided he has a broad inconsistent spread of something like 20 years. Kudos. What was provided was still sticky and gooey like one of those hanging fly traps with the sticky oozy paper or maybe one of those old roach motels. They were truly gooey.

He should be used to criticism by now. You take it, good or bad, then move on instead of being a 50 something crybaby about it. My goodness! It's not like somebody took your pudding cup or something!

I watched "The Little Colonel" with Shirley Temple in it today. You know what? The little thing was a tap dancing wunderkind!It was absolutely an incredible little movie! It also stared Lionel Barrymore and Bill Robinson. Awesome!

I don't know if that kind of movie is your cup of tea but you should really check it out if you have never seen it! It is well worth it and excellent entertainment.

Over and Out.

Danny

Dear Danny:

Are you kidding?  I'm a Shirley Temple fan.  I think she was by far the most talented kid actor ever.  By the age of five she could do everything: act, sing, dance, do comedy.  I love the fact that for about six years, between 1934 and 1940, the two biggest stars in the world were Clark Gable and Shirley Temple, with each of them switching off between first and second place.  When 20th Century Pictures merged with Fox Films in 1935, Shirley Temple was by far Fox's biggest asset.  In 1937 she was directed by Fox's biggest director, John Ford, in "Wee Willie Winkie," another very good Shirley Temple picture.  Meanwhile, you certainly seemed to have fun finding synonyms for gooey.

Josh

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

Hi Josh

I agree - good filmmaking enables you to identify with the protagonist. The first time I really became aware of this was when I saw Psycho - I really wanted Norman Bates to clean up that bathroom REAL good!

Haven't seen Ridley's The Duellists. I'll get it on DVD.

Dear Lee:

Yeah, and when he nearly forgets the folded up newspaper with the money in it, it's excruciating.  Or when the car only sinks halfway.  Meanwhile, I'll be very interested to hear your response to "The Duellists."

Josh

Name:              T. Allen
E-mail:             info@ffradvisor.com

Dear Josh:         

QUESTION:  How do you actually know that your premise is viable, before you indulge in the process of crafting your screenplay?

BACKGROUND:  I always enjoy salient comments and essay work on the craft of writing...   which is what I found at your site.  So Josh, what's a person to do when they constantly find that every screenplay they read lacks a relevant story IDEA -let alone decent execution?

So much of what people spend months (or years) writing, starts out with a bad premise that they themselves are clueless about...  It seems to me this is almost like the try-outs for American Idol or community theatre, wherein 99% of the wannabe singers or actors really DON'T REALIZE how bad their abilities are at holding a tune or brainstorming great ideas.

Lucas and Speilberg seem to have blockbusters repeatedly.  Is this because they know every original ideas needs constant reworking?  Or are they hyper aware that refreshing old Hollywood genre films can be profitable? Or did they realize early on that whether adapting great stories from historic myths, or enlisting contemporary authors with best-selling novels, improved the odds of having success?  Or is it just that because they were seen as wunder-directors, they always got the best properties coming across their desks?

Finally, I "don't" get most of the comic-related, alien, monster or shoot-em-up stuff  that is everywhere today, but also don't relate to dark material like "No Country." or "There Will Be Blood".  So what's a guy who likes "The Color Purple, Driving Miss Daisy, It's A Wonderful Life, Gahndi, Room With A View, or On Golden Pond" supposed to do with his kinder and gentler tastes?

Any suggestions for recent films that have uplifting stories, that aren't on Lifetime Network?

Dear T.:

Hey, join the club.  Other than the screenplays for great movies like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "The Great Escape," I've NEVER read a script that I thought was any good.  Most scripts that I've read, and most of the movies I've seen that were made in the past 25 years, are a writing disaster within ten minutes.  All the rest fall apart within the next twenty minutes.  I've done my best for the past decade on this website to promote the concepts of good screenwriting, although I'm not so sure that very many folks have actually picked up on them.  A. Tell me a story that's worth my time, a story I want to hear, B. screenwriting is structure -- you can't write a good screenplay that's not properly structured.  We're in a day and age where everyone wants to reinvent the wheel, and all they come up with are clumsy square items that don't roll.  It's like a guy I know who gave me a pile of "prose poems," that were neither poems nor stories, but two or three paragraph excretions of writing that equaled nothing.  As I said to him, and I say to everyone else, don't try to reinvent the form, try to excel within the form.  If you haven't seen "World Trade Center," check it out.

Josh

Name:              Dave
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

RE: Jewish Atheism. Isn't this a contradiction in terms? Unless of course the 'Jewish' bit is there to indicate the race of the atheist, which does seem superfluous. Would a Christian who happens to be black be referred to as 'Black Christian' (wasn't that a horror film?)

The vague racism from the Christian fellow below reminded me of some of the callers in the film Talk Radio, which is my roundabout way of getting to a question. I believe you've mentioned before how you've liked one or two of Oliver Stone's movies (at most) but can't recall your thoughts on this one. I thought he did a great job with a simple, dialogue-driven script and shows what he used to be capable of before he felt the need to appeal to the MTV generation.

Dear Dave:

Being Jewish is like being an Arab or being black, there's no escape. Meanwhile, I'm not an Athiest; I'm Rationalist -- I don't believe in aliens, the supernatural, or religion.  I do believe in cohesion, though, and can see that something is holding everything together.  The biggest truth we know here on Earth is not god, it's science.  By use of science and mathematics we put a rocket and men on the moon.  That actually happened. Anyway, I felt like "Talk Radio" never got past it's stage origins, and was just too obvious for it's own good.  Halfway through I began to root for someone to kill him.  I also got weary of Stone going in circles around the DJ.  I like more than a couple of Oliver Stone's movies: "Salvador," "Platoon," "JFK" and "World Trade Center," and I respect, but didn't really enjoy, "Born on the Fourth of July."

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

Alright, since I've seen "The Duellists," and love it, I'll dive in. I read the Joseph Conrad novel in school, and was able to see the film projected around the same time, and while I haven't seen it again since (I need to get the DVD) every scene stays with me and I'd also say it's Ridley Scott's greatest and most disciplined film. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are both wonderful, and it's one of the truly great-looking films of the era - the DP, Frank Tidy, surprisingly went onto working mostly for television, which is shocking as the film looks so cinematic.

Meanwhile, clearly "Me & You, Us, Forever" is just one in a long line of drippy and harmless low budget pro-Christian films, but I feel the guy came off as needlessly arrogant when he replied to your response. It's unfortunate that some of the people here seem to disregard the differences between fact and opinion. With that said, I've met the actress in his film, Stacey Aswad, a few times (a very sweet and petite woman), and she appears in a pretty good documentary about film music agent Robert Kraft, titled "Finding Kraftland."

How is your fictional novel about your experiences in LA circa 1976-77 going? I really want to read it! And "Rushes," will it be available soon? And how about some more pieces on this site? I need a Becker fix.

Best,
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

"Rushes" is entirely done and has been sent to the printer.  Review copies will be out in a few weeks, and I believe that the book's official release date is June 1, although it can be ordered earlier online.  Yes, it's a damn shame that Frank Tidy ended up mainly working in TV.  He also shot another absolutely gorgeous film that I like a lot, "The Grey Fox."  But every single shot in "The Duellists" is astounding.  I also love the fact that over the course of the story the uniforms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's military changed, and so they switch the uniforms and tell you so. Meanwhile, I de-fictionalized my story of moving to Hollywood in 1976-77, so it's now a memoir and it's called "Going Hollywood."  I don't know when that will be out.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

    While I was sitting around waiting for your reply I thought up another question.  Did you see Fyodor Bondarchuk's 9TH COMPANY, and if so, what did you think of it?  If you haven't seen it, in brief it's about the last Red Army unit to leave Afghanistan in 1989, one of the first and best of the Russian films dealing with the Soviet experience in that country. When I first saw it (ironically enough, IN Afghanistan), I was impressed with the cinematography and the production design.  While the script sacrificed some historical accuracy for the sake of drama, I thought it worked pretty well overall.
    That raises the question, do you watch alot of foreign language films? I've seen quite a few, largely due to exposure to bootlegs in Middle East and Asia, where they rip off every film no matter what the regional encoding on the DVD.  I even went so far as to buy an all-region DVD player off the internet, one that also plays PAL and SECAM format DVDs on American televisions.  It comes in especially handy when buying the European versions of foreign films that played in America, as the European DVDs often have better or more extensive bonus features than their U.S. counterparts.

Dear Darryl:

No, I haven't seen it.  I would just guess that Fyodor is the son of Sergei Bonderchuck, who directed the Oscar-winning 1968 Russian version of "War and Peace," as well as "Waterloo" with Rod Steiger.  I'm at a point where I watch what's presented to me on HBO, TCM, IFC and Sundance, and that's about it.  I've dragged my weary ass to the movie theater exactly once in the past six months to see the utterly miserable "No Country for Old Men," and that's put me off seeing movies for a while.

Josh

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

Josh,

Hey its been a while. And I haven't checked in for a bit. Hope all is going well with you.

I don't know if this has been asked and its something I've been wondering but are you a fan of Abbott & Costello? I'm thinking of renting a bunch of their flicks from Netflix and "Meets Frankenstein" and "meets the mummy" are on Netflix's instant watching so I'll check them out soon. Would you recommend any of their flicks?

Your fan,
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

"Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein" is undoubtedly their best film, but that's not saying much.  I personally don't find them funny at all.  Lou Costello always seemed like a half-assed Curly, and Bud Abbott always seemed like an ineffectual Moe.  I'll peronally take any Three Stooges short over anything A&C ever did.

Josh

Name:              Dave Christiano
E-mail:             d_christiano@christian-films.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

Thank you for taking a look at my film's website, although I will take issue with your appraisal that it looks "gooey." I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, or what your readers are supposed to take from that. Hopefully, they will click the link and judge for themselves, rather than be dissuaded, sight-unseen, thanks to your premature and unfounded criticism.

I appreciate that you wish me all the luck in the world, as I do for you, but I don't appreciate your condescending tone. Haven't you ever heard of the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Or how about, "Judge not lest ye be judged"?

http://imdb.com/name/nm1107383/

One click glance at my IMDB profile illustrates that I've been in this business a long time, and have had more output even than you, Mr. Becker. I'm not saying that makes me "better" than you, but it does make me more experienced, and I'd appreciate if you offered me an appropriate degree of respect, accordingly.

Further, that the character Michael Blaine-Rozgay portrays is in fact a Christian man is of the utmost importance to the plot. Maybe you didn't notice, but his character name happens to be DAVE...which just happens to be the name of the writer/director, and yours truly. Coincidence? Of course not. This film was perhaps the most important for me of my long career, because it is entirely autobiographical. And I am a Christian man. Does that bother you? It shouldn't. You're a Jewish athiest, or whatever, and if you write your characters as such, power to you, live and let live, I say. That there happens to be a bigger audience for Christian films with a moral center than an audience for Jewish athiest films with a moral center is a matter for a different conversation.

I would appreciate either you retract your "gooey" comment or at least encourage your readers to check the website for themselves so that they can come to their own conclusions.

Take care and God bless,

Dave

Dear Dave:

Nevertheless, it looked like a gooey love story to me.  Perhaps it isn't, but that's how it appeared to me.  You want me to take my assessment back? Okay.  It seemed just gooey enough.  Meanwhile, I enjoy judging books (and movies) by their covers.  As for "Judge not lest ye be judged," that's from that bestselling science fiction book, the bible, right?  As for "Christian films with a moral center," that sounds to me like overly sweet candy with a gooey carmel center.  Ooops, there's gooey again.  So, would you consider Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" a Christian film with a moral center?  To me it was an obscenity, and really seemed like an asexual Christian porno film.  To me as a Jew (I'm not an Athiest, simply a non-believer in the supernatural), watching a Jewish man be beaten for two hours was offensive.  As a Christian, do you care what I feel as a Jew? Because as a Jew, or a non-believer, I don't give a shit about Christian films with moral centers.  Still, I wish you all the best with your movie. Tag, you're it.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   This isn't to say that Vanishingpoint doesn't make a good argument.  If the point that Harrison Ford is a replicant and doesn't realize it is conceded, it all makes sense; it's just a pity that Ridley Scott doesn't make this more clear.  If you take out the unicorn dream sequence, the origami unicorn left by Gaff takes on an entirely different meaning, suggesting that Gaff knows all about Decker shielding Rachel but is willing to let it go.
   Also, in the documentary DANGEROUS DAYS: THE MAKING OF BLADE RUNNER, Scott acknowledges that the little hints about Decker being a replicant were designed to add a little ambiguity to his character and put the audience off balance.  He said in the final analysis, Decker is human, but he didn't want the audience to be too sure.
    Incidentally, I thought Brion James was an underappreciated actor.  The only other things that I saw him in were a horror film called THE HORROR SHOW and an episode of HIGHLANDER the series, but he was very good in both.

                           Darryl

P.S.  I've always enjoyed Harrison Ford's performances and never found them boring.  Except maybe in SABRINA.

Dear Darryl:

Yes, Brion was good, but completely crazy.  He was also snorting massive amounts of cocaine at the time, which may well have lead to his early demise.

Josh

Name:              Vanishingpoint
E-mail:

Josh,

My last message really was too long. Sorry.

I will end my defence with three (mercifully brief) points:

1) Only a Replicant could successfully fight a Replicant. Deckard fights Replicants successfully. Quod erat demonstrandum Deckard is a Replicant. How much clearer could the film make the point?

2) Why doesn't Deckard put up a better fight? Like Rachel (Sean Young) Deckard is a Replicant that believes he/it is human.

3) Why did the Tyrell Corporation make Deckard believe he is human? Why else would a Replicant kill other Replicants for Humans?

I still think the film has major flaws in. I don't expect you to like it.

Perhaps, instead of discussing Blade Runner, we can discuss deceptive or misleading films using as an example a film you do like. The Godfather.

Some say one of the most accomplished aspects of Francis Ford Coppola's script and direction is the way he persuades us (presumed to be decent, law abiding people) to sympathise, empathise and generally support the Corleone family. This is despite the quiet admission they are organised criminals operating protection rackets (violence) and prostitution.

Further we actually WANT Michael to change from a law abiding, good American - serving his country bravely and with honour in the armed services - to become a murderer and criminal boss.

This film goes beyond asking us to support a slightly dubious antihero (such as Eastwood's Dirty Harry) or even a vigilante (such as Bronson's Paul 'Death Wish' Kersey) but instead we support an unreconstructed, unrepentant bunch of gangsters.

Do you agree The Godfather manipulates, misleads and deceives it's audience? Would you agree that many, inherently law abiding people, will watch The Godfather and remain unaware they are rooting for something they actually despise?

VP

Dear Vanishingpoint:

I disagree with you about "The Godfather."  I don't think there's anything deceptive or misleading about the film.  It's simply a brilliant job of getting the audience to empathize with the all-too-human characters, no matter what they believe or do for a living.  That's what screenwriting is supposed to be about -- getting me the audience to care about these characters (which, for me, "Blade Runner" never does).  It's even more impressive when the characters are involved in morally repellent activities, yet we still care.  Why?  Because they're human and we're human.  Paul Schrader manages to do this with Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," and he's a severely fucked-up character.  Just because we empathize with a character doesn't mean we agree with them.

BTW, this was a fun thread.  Thanks.

Josh

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

Josh,

Regarding "Blade Runner", in the book the film was based upon "Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?", Decker is a replicant and it is made evident at the end of the film.

He also dies in the book, and to me that is the logical outcome because he is to be replaced anyhow, and the book is a cynical look at technology and how humans have become so accustomed to it, how they can't control it, and how disposable it is as wellas how actual human contact suffers from it

I agree with you about "Blade Runner". It is an amazing looking film, but leaving open ended like that was a grave error in the script and if you look at the film, everything points to the fact that Decker is himself a replicant, perhaps just a more evolved replicant, but the end of the film is just ridiculous, and if the film's script actually mirrored the book's idea of Decker being a replicant, the film would have been far stronger because that is the only logical conclusion.

I red the book after I saw the film when I was in High School, and most of my friends loved the film, but never read the book. After I read the book, I realized why the open ending bothered me so much, and it really lowered my impression of the film to the point whee when I seen the Director's cut, like you Josh, I felt the story failed terribly.

On thing I must add is that this film was shot by the great Cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth who was suffering from early Parkinson's disease which was the eventual cause of his death in 1996.

I remember reading a really good interview with Ridley Scott and Cronenweth about the making of this film, and there were times when his crew literally had to carry him out to the set while he was shooting "Blade Runner"

I was amazed that he was able to do what he did photographically considering how ill he was at the time and he was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1978, but he did some of his most artful and original work during subsequent years, including "Altered States" and "Cutter's Way" before shooting "Blade Runner".

-Scott

Dear Scott:

Jordan Cronenweth did a brilliant job.  My buddy worked on "Altered States," and when they were about to shoot the scene with the sensory deprivation tank, when everything goes nuts and it turns into a whirlpool, then the pipes on the ceiling flatten, they had the pipes rigged with cables that were ratcheted to the stage walls, everything was all set and they all went to lunch.  My buddy returned from lunch early to find Ken Russell and Jordan Cronenweth up on ladders disconnecting the cables, that he had spent all morning connecting.  He thought to himself, "Isn't that odd, the director and the DP are up on ladders disconnecting the cables."  Then he noticed that the cables were pulling down the stage walls, and only Russell and Cronenweth had seen it.  Meanwhile, I saw a screening of Rutger Hauer's first movie, "Turkish Delight," and he came and spoke after the film because he was in town at the time shooting "Blade Runner."

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:             aeschultz333@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I was wowed by Blade Runner when I saw it near the time of its first release, Rutger Hauer's final speech on the roof still being for me one of the most memorable moments in my personal filmgoing history for the reasons given by VP.  But I'm really glad of all the discussion on this movie, which I've understood poorly (both the plusses and the minusses) at best.

Just a reminder that according to your list you do like Ridley Scott's "The Straight Story."  (Me too.)

Alice

Dear Alice:

Clearly, "Blade Runner" has its fans, I just don't happen to be one of them. Doesn't anyone want to discuss "The Duellists"?  I think it's legitimately a great film.  "The Straight Story," BTW, was directed by David Lynch.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:             hoheisele@aol.com

Hi Josh,

I'm entered in a horror movie pitch contest called "Ghosts in the Machine." The winner will have their pitch produced at a one million dollar budget and shown at the upcoming HORRORFEST. I'd love it if you took a look at my pitch trailer(don't worry, it's only 45 seconds)and poster. I'd appreciate your feedback, both on the pitch and the contest.

Here is the address: http://www.massify.com/pitches/thepiranhapooladdress

Thanks,
Eric

Dear Eric:

Every time I click your link it comes up "Webpage cannot be found," but
otherwise it's excellent.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Concerning 'No Country for Old Men', I have read the book, but have not seen the movie.  Someone, lent me the book, and although I was vaguely aware that it had been made into a movie, the first thing I said when I thumbed through the pages was that this was written like a movie script.  In other words, the clipped dialog and frequent cut aways to narrative reminded me of movie or TV scripts I have seen.

Later, I was reading reviews of how remarkably close the screenplay was to the novel.  Then the Coen Brothers won the Oscar.  I was thinking that the book was deliberatly written to be a movie and that Cormac McCarthy basically set up Coen's Brothers work for them?  Not having read any other of his books, I'm not sure if he writes all his books that way or not.  If so, then maybe I'm off base.  Do you think there is anything to my theory?

As far as the open ending, when I finished the book, the first thing I thought was SEQUEL.  However, most the customer comments and reviews that I have read say the parties will never devalue the original by making a sequel.  With the money involved with the prospect of a successful sequel, I find this hard to believe. Do you think the story may have been left deliberately open ended to create demand for a sequel?  Thanks.

Dear Bob:

You haven't seen the movie and I haven't read the book, so we're in a perfect position to discuss this.  But my buddy Paul, who is a big Cormac McCarthy fan, felt that this book was McCarthy's version of rip-snorting action story, as opposed to some of his other more artsy-fartsy books, and that the Coens decided to make a pretentious, artsy-fartsy movie, without music, where everybody moves slowly.  But worse yet, as Paul explains it to me, the Tommy Lee Jones sheriff character narrates the whole story, telling it as an example of why it's no country for old men anymore.  Without his narration throughout the story there's no reason to keep cutting back to him reading the newspaper, nor is there the slightest reason to end on him telling his dream.  So, even though it won an Oscar for Adaptation, it doesn't seem like it was adapted properly.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I figured you might want to read what Harlan Ellison thought of the writer's strike. Go to the following link & scroll down:

http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-02-21T12%3A24%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=20

And there's this-which I haven't had a chance to see yet, but I'll pass along. I'll be sure to catch it:

"If you make a living as a writer, artist, photographer, filmmaker, musician or graphic designer, go pay a visit to YouTube and plug in the phrase "Pay the Writer." You'll soon be treated to a profanity-laced diatribe by sci-fi guru Harlan Ellison, who taunts Warner Brothers for refusing to pay him to appear in a "Making of Babylon 5" extra feature on a DVD."

Your opinions are appreciated.

Take care.

Saul

Dear Saul:

I saw this, Bruce Campbell sent it to me.  I think Harlan Ellison is great and I've admired him since I was a kid.  But on the other hand, I've made all of the requested appearances for commentary tracks for free, as has Bruce, and he's done it many more times than me.  It puts me in mind of Mick Jagger singing, "Success doesn't matter," in "Shattered."  Oh, really? Well, you can only make that comment if you're successful, which most people aren't.  Still, I love, cherish and agree with Harlan Ellison's neverending anger at injustice.  Fuckin'-A right, they ought to pay the writers.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   My opinion of Ridley Scott stems mainly from THE DUELISTS and ALIEN; I'll have to disagree with you in your consensus of BLADE RUNNER, but I'll definitely agree with your opinion as it applies to Scott's later works like GLADIATOR.  That being said, I'll have to concede your point about the story flaws in BLADE RUNNER, particularly the notion of fighting the physically superior replicants hand to hand.  This is a particularly difficult pill to swallow in the director's cut, where they restored Captain Brian's comment about Brion James' character ["he can lift 400 pound uranium loads all day.  The only way to hurt him is to kill him"]. When Harrison Ford loses his pistol, he should've been dead before the girl could pick it up and kill Brion James and save him. The other problem I have with the new version is the open ended question of whether or not Decker himself is a replicant; it seemed to me to be overly contrived subtext.  Otherwise, BLADE RUNNER was an interesting film.

                             Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Yeah.  That's two against one Vanishingpoint.  Look, "Blade Runner" is a gorgeous movie: I love the design, the music, the photography, but the script didn't do it for me in either cut of the film.  And, as you say, Darryl, if Deckard really is a replicant, then it's just a silly contrivance that still doesn't make sense.  Meanwhile, I met the late Brion James several times when he worked on Sam's film "Crimewave."  Wow, was he a wacky guy!  He personally busted up the bar at the Ramada Inn, where the production office was located, a couple of times.  He's actually one of the funniest things in "Crimewave," along with Bruce's bit.

Josh

Name:              Vanishingpoint
E-mail:

Josh,

I've said all this before but since someone else has raised the subject I'll weigh in again. Hope you read what I say as a valid opinion and, at worst, agree to disagree rather than dismiss it out of hand.

Blade Runner:

Replicants - as explained in the film - are capable of being optimised but this is at the discretion of their designer. Not all Replicants are built strong. Not all are built for combat. Not all have enhanced intellect.

The film suggests a Replicant is only an optimised human being. A trained and experienced Blade Runner (Ford) could be a reasonable match for a Replicant like Hauer's. He should be weaker in purely physical terms but he is not necessarily unable to hold his own in a fight. Strength versus technique and all that.

Replicants are built with a limited life span of just a few years. All of the rogue Replicants are nearing the end of their life. Although designed to function at optimum until the end of their lives is it really so unlikely they would show reduced ability in their last few days and hours? Anyway, in the end Deckard doesn't defeat Hauer's Roy Batty. Batty is winning the fight and has Deckard at his mercy but then Batty simply dies as his allotted lifespan has passed.

Hauer's impassioned speech during that final fight ('I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.') is part of the (ironic) message in the film the (non-human) Replicants are the most poetic, humane, lovers of life - the most human. They love their own life certainly but perhaps all life? Perhaps the Replicants simply don't enjoy killing others? Not even Blade Runners sent to 'retire' (kill) them?

But all this is irrelevant. Because.

SPOILER ALERT

Director Scott has in interview stated as simple fact. Deckard (Ford) is a Replicant himself. Because of this there is absolutely no inherent physical or other mismatch between Deckard and the other Replicants. Criticise the film for not making this clear enough although some of us enjoy a film that requires us to think for ourselves a bit. ("Take that you ignorant simpleton halfwit, Josh!" Only joking.) But don't condemn the film for a fundamental flaw in the internal logic which doesn't exist.

Also allow for studio interference in the first released version which the director was never happy with. Blade Runner was one of the first modern films to be re-released as an altered Dirctor's Cut some years after the original.

There are several clues to Deckard being a Replicant contained in the film. Consider the following as the more obvious:

1) All Replicants in the film (including the owl) have eyes that briefly glow gold. Deckard's eyes only glow slightly while he is out of focus - no use making it too obvious.

2) Deckard's room is full of photographs and we are told Replicants are attracted to photographs and treasure them.

3) Deckard dreams of a unicorn and later Gaff leaves an origami unicorn. This suggests Deckard's dreams are simple implants like the green and orange spider dream of Sean Young's character - the other plicant who believes she is human.

END SPOILERS

So do I expect you to like Blade Runner the film? No. It remains your choice but if your biggest issue is the ability of Deckard to fight Replicants then why not try watching again on the basis - as explained above - it is not unreasonable Deckard could.

I think the film is intelligent and well presented provoking thought on slavery, humanity and has a message of hope and love set against treachery and betrayal. There is so little intelligent science fiction around. I think Blade Runner is intelligent and bloody attractively designed to boot. You think Ford is bored, I think he is world weary. Each to their own.

But I also think the first Porky's film is a worthy comedy which amid the admittedly (and deliberately) puerile humour takes the time to condemn racism and domestic violence.

Sorry this was so long. I simply never seem able to do 'short'.

VP

(PS

In how many of your beloved Western films have you seen extended fistfights including the classic 'wooden chairs broken over people's backs'? Is that realistic? How many times have people fired a revolver (from the hip) at distances of a hundred metres or more to pin point accuracy? Is that realistic? You rate Robin Hood! Do you really believe a bow and arrow is THAT accurate?

A little suspension of disbelief is usually required in fictional drama.)

Dear Vanishingpoint:

Okay, all right.  But if the director has to explain it afterward, then he didn't make his point clearly.  I certainly never thought Deckard was a replicant, but if he is, then why doesn't he put up a better fight?  To me the whole goddamn movie was Deckard wandering aimlessly around cool sets, with spacey Vangelis music, intermingled with long fights with replicants. As far as intelligent, and compelling, science fiction movies go, I'll totally take "Alien" (or "Aliens," for that matter) over "Blade Runner." Meanwhile, either Harrison Ford is "world weary" in all of his movies, or he's just a plain old bore.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:

Hi Josh.

I'm writing in response to a question posed by Kelly, the Canadian. She (or he?) may wish to check out the opportunities available at the very well-respected Canadian Film Centre. And, of course, there's always the Sundance Institute, which has a screenwriting and directing program open to anyone who submits a treatment and proposal which pleases the judges. The second option is a longshot, but so is wanting to become a filmmaker.  Good luck!

http://www.cfccreates.com
http://www2.sundance.org/

I also suggest you purchase The Complete Guide to Low-budget Feature Filmmaking by Josh Becker.

Dear Danielle:

LOL.  Nice plug at the end there, thanks.

Josh

Name:              Dave Christiano
E-mail:             d_christiano@christian-films.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

I was directed to your site by a close friend, and star of my most recent film, "Me and You, Us, Forever," Ms. Stacey J. Aswad, who is a longtime admirer of yours. Our film (which recently opened in 83 cities and 34 states--Michigan being one of them!!) has been very well received all around the world, and I have posted a link to its website for both you and your devoted readers to peruse--maybe it'll whet your appetite for a good, old fashion character drama!!

Good news is, we come out on dvd SOON. So anyone who wants can sign up for our news letter and receive any updates!!

http://www.meyouusforever.com/

Thank you for your willingness to watch!!

And Mr. Becker, keep fighting the good fight!! There are other filmmakers out there like yourself who want nothing more than to give the audience the quality pictures they deserve.

Take care and God bless,

Dave
http://www.christianfilms.com/

Dear Dave:

It looks like pretty gooey stuff, but I wish you all the luck in the world. Does it matter that he's a 47-year-old "Christian" man?  Is that part of the plot?

Josh

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

Hi Josh

I agree with you about Ridley Scott putting story secondary to visuals. However, Deckard not getting beaten up is consistent with the film's logic. It's consistent with the director's cut of the movie (and presumably the version he intended to be released initially); Deckard is also a replicant. He's being used by society just as the replicants he hunts have been; he's been brainwashed - given a false past - and sent to hunt. (Just look at the phony Victorian photo's on his piano in one of the early scenes to see the past he clings to is a confection).

Bladerunner does it for me - both the first version with the voice over and the more obtuse directors version; I'd probably go for the second version (with the unicorn scene) if I had to pick. The film deals with some central issues - identity, why are we here... It's Ridley's best film, on a par with Alien, in my view. And I love Hauer's performance on the rooftop; the killer letting his nemesis live, cos he realises he loves his life, any life, right at the end.

Lee

Dear Lee:

I think "The Duellists" is Ridley Scott's best film by a mile, then "Alien," then "Bladerunner," then all the rest.

Josh

Name:              Frank D'Amico
E-mail:             azzurriusa@netscape.net

Dear Josh:         

Very well said...religion is more of a curse than anything else. I wish people could see life without the vails of religion, mankind would advance in leaps and bounds.

Dear Frank:

Sadly, I don't think human civilization is advancing.  We may well be going backward.  There was once a time when an Athiest could be elected President of the U.S., like Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, but no longer.  Every politician must now end every speech with "god bless America," which I personally find very annoying.

Josh

Name:              Kelly Hunter
E-mail:             creativedesigner26@shaw.ca

Hi Josh,

I'm researching how to get into contact with the people involved in the biopic of Freddie Mercury, primarily the screenwriter and director. I have a couple of questions. One is that I would like to become a director and I have the skills needed, but besides skills, what else do I need to work on feature films or to get noticed to work in the states? I live in Calgary, Canada and want to figure out how to meet more people in the states so that I can further my career in the film industry. I'm not asking you for a job but I would like advice on how to get myself noticed, even if I live in Canada.
Question two, I feel very passionate about Freddie's story and I have alot of knowledge on the subject. I have contacted the production office in NY but I need someone to take notice of me. I would love to collaborate on this story and become involved.
I have skills on set and in post production.
I hope your feedback is positive because I've heard enough negativity and that's not really needed.

Thanks

Dear Kelly:

I wish you all the best.  If there was some magical way to be noticed, you can bet I'd do it.  The only real way to get noticed by the folks in Hollywood is to make something successful.  Just having the skills isn't enough.  Make a brilliant short film, then go through the necessary steps to get it nominated for an Oscar.  There always seems to be films from Canada nominated in the short subject categories, dramatic and documentary. There's one possibility.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Darryl Mesaros
E-mail:             simonferrer102@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

   I've been away for awhile [nothing much to say, so away I stay], and thought I'd see how you're doing.  That being said, I have a few things to say/ask, so this might spill over into more than one post.
      Anyway, on to my main question.  I recently plunked down $20-something dollars of my hard-earned cash for the collector's set of Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER.  I figure I got my money's worth in sheer volume of product, since all four major versions of the film were included in the set, along with the usual bonus features.
    Now, I'm not sure if you're a fan of BLADE RUNNER, but I enjoyed it a great deal.  Mr. Scott is a perfectionist, and his productions are always superbly crafted.  In deference to his vision, I watched his 'final cut' 2002 director's version first (I never saw the film before in any version prior to this).
   It was interesting, if at times perhaps a trifle too subtle.  Perhaps just a bit more of the backstory could have been made plain to set up the future setting better.
   Then I watched the 1982 international theatrical cut, the one with Harrison's Ford's voiceover narration and the add-on ending intact.  There were some moments where the V.O. interrupted the story (like in the climatic scene with Rutger Hauer), but for the most part, I thought it helped the film more consistantly adhere to the 'film noir in the future' style and theme.  Without it, I felt that the film was more confused stylistically, and with the heavily stylized settings, played like live action anime.
   So anyway, here are the questions.  Which, if any version of this film do you prefer?  Also, how do you feel about the studio's creative interferance with the film?  I would go on to state that, as painful as it is to the director, not all creative changes from the producers/studio are bad.  While the changes made to the theatrical release were not the director's vision, they work artistically, at least for me [except for the ending; that was pure Hollywood nonsense].  Sorry for the long post, but I couldn't figure out how to phrase it any shorter.

Dear Darryl:

Good to hear from you.  I saw the original theatrical release, as well as the "Director's Cut," and I must admit that I don't like either one, and never have.  You may consider Ridley Scott a "perfectionist," but I think he hasn't got a clue how to develop a script, and all of his films since just prove it more and more.  My biggest issue with the film is that Decker should have been killed a half a dozen times, every time he fought a replicant.  Since replicants have ten times the strength of a human (or something like that), you can't fight them hand to hand, they'd just tear your head off.  Meanwhile, Decker spends the whole movie fighting replicants hand-to-hand, first Brion James, then Darryl Hannah (where he really, really should be dead), then Rutger Hauer.  Meanwhile, I think Harrison Ford is a bloody bore.  Yes, the film has lovely production design, photography, and a cool score, but I think the script is crap.

Josh

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

Josh:

Continuing on the same lines and David and Scott, I'd like to point you to "Gone Baby Gone" when it passes your way on cable or otherwise. Though it's standard fare (based on a book by Denis Lehane, who wrote 'Mystic River') it is competently co-written and directed by Ben Affleck. It has at least two things going for it: the film does not try to make-up every character on screen the way some do, producing 'movie ugly' and it presents realistic dialogue which flows naturally from the action on screen. Added to that, Gone Baby Gone really has a handle on irony and the ethical dilemma of, 'what if you could do something that is legally right but just morally wrong?'

As for Juno, I'll wait for your viewing to see how you liked or disliked the film.

Dear Brett:

Okay, "Baby Baby Gone."  But I must say that all of these recommended movies seem incredibly trivial.  I'm not saying that they're not all right, but "Juno" looks like and After School Special, "Michael Clayton" looks like an HBO movie, ""Atonement" looks like a BBC mini-series.  Since "Mystic River" was such an absolute nothing, I can't get excited about "Gone Baby Gone." Maybe it's okay, but so what?  What happened to art that changes your life?

Just musing.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

Thank you for the clarification on Robert Boyle. You are right. I do recall now him thanking "Hitch". I found his acceptance totally fascinating. What a resume!

I want to sound off on Diablo Cody before it plays out. I'm with you on that. I could care a less if she pole danced unitl 3 in the morning and then did private parties after that. Seriously, who cares ? Nobody except the clowns in charge of digging up potentially damaging information on people and presenting it in the worst possible light. I'm sure it's an effort to discredit and put her in the category of a one hit wonder so to speak. As Scott stated she may very well not ever write anything again with the impact of "Juno" but at least she has her spot in history.

Since I used to date dancers all the time I can say for sure that many of them keep little books that they write down poetry and other assorted creative writings in. I have no problem with a dancer at all.

Do you enjoy Alan Arkin's performances? I just watched another semi-oldie caled "GlenGarry Glen Ross" with Arkin,Lemmon and Pacino among others. The pep talk from Baldwin at the beginning still kicks ass to this day. I found the film a very interesting study as to just what extreme desperation can cause a person to do. The wife didn't like it much because of all the cussing but she ,on the flip side, did enjoy the cussing in "Little Miss Sunshine" which also featured Arkin. She can tolerate comedic cussing but dramtic cussing doesn't sit well with her. Go figure.

I still have problems figuring brevity into the equation when I write in Josh.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Alan Arkin is brilliant.  When he dies in "Little Miss Sunshine" that movie dies.  And I've seen "Glengarry Glen Ross" quite a few times (I own it). Everybody in that movie is terrific, and it's absolutely Alec Baldwin's best film.  I love the photography as well.  But the cast could not be better.

Josh

Name:              Kevin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Yikes. I found the right copy of MISTRESS. Robert Wuhl is, well, you. That's freaky. Tell me all the stories of people trying to fuck with your screenplays. The ones you ran like hell from. I must know, this movie was hilarious.

Dear Kevin:

I liked it, although I've never had to use investor's mistresses as actors. I thought DeNiro was particularly funny.  Regarding my scripts, no one wants to touch them with ten-foot poles, let alone steal them of fuck them up.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

This is in regards to "Juno". I saw it and I liked it and I know you pretty well, and I would have to say that it would definitely be a film that you would give a chance.

You are absolutely right about the story as it is "a perfectly rational story that's trying to avoid the standard cliches."

I thought it as one of the best films I saw last year, and I agree, what does it matter what Diablo Cody did before she started writing. Everyone goes through a period of finding themselves and their place by realizing their strengths and weaknesses, and not everybody reaches those things in conventional ways and life changes, so what?

Maybe this is the only script she will ever get right, but the fact is that it is a good script and it is a good film and worth seeing.

The fact that she wrote such a good script from coming out of know where proves that it can be done and when I compare this film to "No Country for Old Men" it also proves that the Coen Brothers haven't improved at all, nor will they ever.

I give her a big thumbs up for this script and Jason Reitman for solid direction in "Juno". I hope she can continue the momentum.

-Scott

Dear Scott:

Always good to hear from you.  Hey, writing a script and getting it made is a helluva feat for anyone.  Getting it made well is almost a miracle at this point.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I liked "Juno" a lot. Ellen Page was hilarious and fun, although I definitely don't think she deserved a Best Actress nomination. She even said herself on the Barbara Walters Special that she didn't deserve it (and I don't think that was just modesty on her part).

Saw two good foreign films recently: "Persepolis" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Persepolis was excellent. It had great voice work, a nice story, and some particularly interesting animated style. Diving Bell was also good. Much of the film is shot from first-person perspective of Jean-Dominique Bauby (the man suffering from "locked-in" syndrome -- only his left eye is not paralyzed). It's rather uncomfortable at parts and quite claustrophobic, but it makes you think.

Pardon my rambling, I'm getting quite tired.

Dear David:

No, thank you for the thoughtful recommendations.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

In response to one of your previous statements which M. Knight movie did you enjoy?

It had to have been "Signs" or "The Sixth Sense" with the latter being the best to me. I may be wrong on both counts. I would go so far as to say that anything in between or after those two I just mentioned are straight crap. His shit has gotten too off key and too predictable.

I definitely enjoyed the twistiness and irony in "Sixth Sense". Willis's and Osmont's performances complemented each other perfectly. It was a mind screw right from the start. If you are in fact referring to "Sense" I would have to borrow a phrase from you and say that Knight "blew his wad" with that one. Everything else is pretty much a courtesy wipe with a cold wet rag.

On the subject of the Oscars I would have to say that the only thing I really enjoyed was that guy who has been in the business for 70 years. My apologies. I do not recall his name. He is 98 years old though. He was walked out by Nicole Kidman and another woman.

Everything about him seemed so genuine and his words were all about thanks and being grateful.

Concerning the Coens...Maybe they won just for being the Coens because the movie sucked a big one.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Yes, I meant "Sixth Sense."  I didn't think "Signs" was very good.  The 98-year-old production designer was Robert Boyle, who thanked Alfred Hitchcock, Don Siegel and Norman Jewison.  There were a few moments when it seemed like he'd lost his train of thought, but he hadn't.  Time must flow differently when you're nearly 100.  Robert Boyle designed "Shadow of a Doubt," "North by Northwest," the 1962 "Cape Fear," "The Birds," one of my faves, "The Thrill of it All," "In Cold Blood," "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Shootist," and that's just a few.  Wow!  I thought the funniest best moment of the Oscars was when "Once" won Best Song, and the Irish guy gave a truly heartfelt thank you, then Jon Stewart said, "That guy is so arrogant," then brought his writing partner back out to let her speak.  Otherwise, I think Jon Stewart did a very good job, particularly for only having a week to prepare.

Josh

Name:               Steven Millan
E-mail:              stevmillan@gmail.com

Hi Josh,

Now that the Oscars have come and gone,I'm curious upon what you think of Diablo Cody,the stripper-turned-blogger-turned-Oscar winning scriptwriter of "Juno"(a film that I figure isn't very high on your list of movies),for she's been getting a lot of press for her writing(such as her rotating semi-column in Entertainement Weekly)and she has come very quickly for someone who is a newbie to the scriptwriting world and has already won an Oscar for her first produced screenplay(yet I don't find any of her writing neither inspiring nor impressive).

Dear Steven:

I haven't seen "Juno," but it looks like a perfectly rational story that's trying to avoid the standard cliches.  Who cares what she used to do.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I saw "Newsfront" years ago, and it stuck with me pretty well, too, and "The Quiet American" was certainly rather good. I imagine they'll be casting the lead for "American Pastoral" once pre-production is a go, and I have no idea who they'll go with. Is there an actor you can think of who would suit the role of Swede Levov fairly well?

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the books "Goodbye, Columbus" and "The Human Stain" and I liked both films, too. I also saw an Alfred Hitchcock Presents that was based on a Roth story, "The Contest for Aaron Gold," starring Sydney Pollack. "Sabbath's Theatre" would make a wonderful, disturbing film, perhaps.

And just to change the subject ever so slightly, I saw on your "Reading Books" page a recommendation for "Boys and Girls Together," by William Goldman. I read it when I was thirteen or fourteen, having found an old used copy in a neighborhood bookstore, and it blew me the fuck away...I thought it was amazing, Goldman's best work in any medium. Did you read it around the time it was published?

Best,
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

I can't imagine who would play Swede, a tall, handsome, muscular, intelligent, blond, Jewish guy whom we see go from high school to his 60s. Also, I finally saw the original, 1958 version of "The Quiet American," with Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave, and it's exactly the same movie as the remake, almost shot for shot.  Meanwhile, I read "Boys and Girls Together" in 1977 when I was 18, which has be ten years after it was published.  I thought it was really good, and I was impressed how it all tied up.  I liked all of Goldman's early books, up until he morphed into an ersatz Ira Levin, with "Magic" and "Marathon Man."

Josh

Name:              Kevin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

MICHAEL CLAYTON deserved Best Picture.

George Clooney is an in-house fixer/"janitor" for this law firm, ironically because his he can't fix his own life and it has him trapped there.

Tom Wilkinson is the attorney defending the company on a big case, and he flips out for skipping his medication and strips naked in the street going on mad rants, then runs away.

The only personal that knows anything about how to deal with psychological problems like this situation is the man who just flipped out.

Dear Kevin:

No matter what it was, it had to be better than "No Country for Old Men."

Josh

Name:              deb
E-mail:             clovwing@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

This is for you. UNBREAKABLE is a film I'd never watch, but I just now watched it. I think it was written/made to remind people who are like BW's character of who they are. Thanks.

Dear deb:

What?  Security guards?  Meanwhile, did M. Night Shamaylan have only one movie in him or what?  He's one more big disappointment.

Josh

Name:              KEVIN TYERS
E-mail:             croyland@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

MGMS UA  HOURLY TV SERIES 1963 OUTER LIMITS WERE MADE AT WHICH FILM STUDIOS, WAS IT AT MELROSE PLACE OR SOME OTHER LOCATION IN HOLLYWOOD.ATV NETWORK AIRED THE SERIES.WHERE ARE MGMS OTHER FILM STUDIOS.

Dear Kevin:

MGM's main studio in 1963 was the lot in Culver City, the old Triangle lot once owned by D.W. Griffith, Thomas Ince and Mack Sennett, that's now Sony Pictures.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What's with the judgment of "There Will Be Blood" without having seen it? Why do you think it's so bad? You're so sure it's hammered shit, I suppose there's no way you can watch it now and not think otherwise. Keep an open mind, dude.

Dear Jeff:

I don't really have to keep an open mind if I don't want to.  Having seen Mr. Anderson's other films, and being severely unimpressed, I have no reason to expect better with this film.  Not to mention that everyone I know who's seen it didn't like it,  felt it that it was depressingly unfocused, confusing, and way too long.

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:             aeschultz333@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Well, tonight's the Oscars, and as of yesterday all I'd seen of the Best Picture noms was "Michael Clayton," so I went and saw "There Will Be Blood" last night.  Oh my word.  It's not that this doesn't have its strong features. It certainly does, and yet overall, such a haphazard assembly of overpoweringly forceful, deeply inexplicable, balkingly inaccessible elements I never did see.  From what I've made out at second hand of the book the movie's based on, this may be a perfectly readable, solid story with important themes, but somehow the movie just doesn't deliver.  Daniel Day Lewis was indeed very good as far as that goes, as were the visuals and many dramatic effects.

I'm realizing I haven't really seen all that many of Daniel Day Lewis's films.  My most recent try was "Gangs of New York" and I lasted less than half an hour, even though if there's one guy also to be liked and respected it's Leo di Caprio.  But a Day Lewis movie that I did just love back in 1992 when I saw it new on the big screen was "The Last of the Mohicans."  It was very favourably reviewed, and I remember everything about it as being great -- the story, the visuals, the music, the action, the acting, the characterizations and their refusal to stereotype.  I thought it was mythic, I thought it was spiritual. Did you not care for this?  It's not on your list.

If planning to turn up for the Oscars, enjoy!

Cheers,

Alice

Dear Alice:

Well, the winner was that piece of crap, "No Country for Old Men, the story of a guy with a bad haircut chasing a guy with a mustache for 140 minutes, that leads to no ending at all.  It does fit in perfectly with other recent winners, like: "The Departed," "Crash" and "Chicago," in that they're all really second-rate films.  But that's where we are now, and I find it deeply disappointing.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh.

I love torturing my wife with these old horror movies I like to watch at times and tonight was no exception.

I made her sit through the first "A Nightmare on Elm Street" with me. She hated it of course and I found reasons to remember why I liked it so much as cheesey as it appears now. At the time I guess this villian type was unheard of and he (Wes) kind of broke the rules in some areas.

I have just a couple of forum type questions for you relating to this.

The first being that you had wrote some outlines I guess for the franchise. What is the story behind that?

The second question is if you know why Sam was given special thanks in the credits at the  end of the movie? He was mentioned along with a couple of others. Was it because of that "Hills" poster in the "Evil Dead" or did Sam contribute in some other way to "Nightmare"?

As Always...

Thank You for your time.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I guess Sam's special thanks credit is for putting that poster in ED. Meanwhile, I forget now how I ended up writing those stories from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" TV show, but they didn't use any of them.

Josh

Name:              Jay Mendota
E-mail:             jaymendota@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I did see "Elvis Meets Nixon."  And it was great.  The scene in the  record store was amazing.  Elvis meets a former fan who is now a hippie.  They both try and explain themselves (or more their displeasure with each other).  That scene stayed with me a long time.  I gotta find the DVD, thanks for the reminder.

Dear Jay:

Thank goodness, you're the only other person who's seen it.  I saw the film twice on cable TV in New Zealand, then I've never seen it again.  I love when Elvis gets to Washington, D.C. and stops for donuts in a bad part of town.  "Give me some them with the sprinkles on 'em."  And every time he goes anywhere he immediately orders a glass of water and starts taking pills, and all of his pockets are filled with pill bottles.  And he's always got three or four pistols on him.  And he has a refridgerator in his huge closet so he can eat frozen candy bars while choosing his outfits.  When Elvis meets Nixon he starts to rant about The Beatles, and how they came here with their funny hair and their accents and took away his crown.  Nixon says, "Funny accents?  The Kennedys have funny accents." Good stuff.  I ran into the director, Allan Arkush, at a DGA meeting and told him I loved "Elvis Meets Nixon," and he seemed truly amazed that anyone had seen it.

Josh

Name:              Puzz
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Where did you hear about another Star Wars movie? I've searched the net and found nothing.

Dear Puzz:

It's that ridiculous looking thing called "Clone Wars."  I found it with no problem.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I heard some interesting news today. Philip Noyce ("The Quiet American") is scheduled to start casting for the film adaptation of Philip Roth's "American Pastoral," which is to be filmed later this year. Apparently, Noyce has been overseeing the script and planning the production for the past three or four years. It was a brilliant, emotional, intelligent, fierce novel, one of the greatest in the past fifteen years, and it will be very, very interesting to see how the film version turns out.

And related, Nicolas Meyer, who did a very good job adapting "The Human Stain," has adapted Philip Roth's "Elegy" for director Isabel Coixet, which is finished and will be released later this year (it premiered at Sundance this month to rave reviews). It stars Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson.

Anyway, these are two promising projects I thought you'd be interested in hearing about. And just because we're on the subject of Roth, do you have a favorite work of his? I've read about seven of his books, and enjoyed all of them, but I guess I'd have to go with "American Pastoral." The power of Roth's imagination is just staggering.

Kristie.

Dear Kristie:

I agree with you that "American Pastoral" is the best Philip Roth book that I've read, although I still haven't read most of his books.  I also really liked "Operation Shylock," "Sabbath's Theater" and "The Ghost Writer." Philip Noyce is probably a good choice for director, too.  One of his first films, that seemingly no one has heard of, "Newsfront," really stuck with me over the past 15 or so years.  I wonder who they'll cast in the lead?

Josh

Name:              Blake Eckard
E-mail:             bseckard@jagtec.net

Hi, Josh.

I liked "There Will Be Blood," and "Juno," was wonderful.  Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that nothing really came out of Sundance this year that remotely resembled an actual indie film?  That place has become a total joke...I mean that dumb-ass Jack Black comedy "Be Kind Rewind" premiered there.  Am I the only person who thinks this is utterly stupid, if not totally fucking outrageous?

Moving on, a few questions, and a bit random...I've never really known what it means when a script goes into "turnaround."  What is that exactly? I've wondered for years.

Secondly, and it may seem a bit odd, but I'm continually surprised when I hear about how many times writers and directors get fired from films.  It seems to happen to everyone sooner or later; William Goldman was fired after writing the first draft of "Masquerade."  Tobe Hooper was fired off of no less than two films, mid-production, before Spielberg offered "Poltergeist."  Harvey Keitel was canned after two weeks from the lead role that went to Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now," Dick Donner was kicked off "Superman II" and even John Ford was fired off the set of "Mister Roberts," after he and Fonda got into a fight.  I would be interested to know if you or perhaps some of your friends have ever had such an expierence?

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

John Ford quit "Mr. Roberts," after punching Henry Fonda in the mouth. Fonda was considered boxoffice poison at that time, so he'd gone back to Broadway and been in the play "Mr. Roberts," which was a big hit.  Ford was hired right away for the film, being in the Navy and all, and he said he wanted Fonda, but nobody else did, particularly Jack Warner.  Ford puts his foot down, said he'd quit, and got Henry Fonda.  Ford's approach to the material, in an attempt to make it feel less like a play, was to be loose and improvise and Fonda demanded that they stick to the script, so he got punched in the mouth.  Ford walked and Mervyn Leroy replaced him.  In Tobe Hooper's case, I think he's just a shockingly bad director (with the single exception of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and probably deserved to be fired. From what I heard, he froze up early on "Poltergiest," then Spielberg came in and directed most of the film. Anyway, "Turnaround" a studio or a producer decides to get rid of script and sells it, usually after they've invested a lot of money into "development," which usually means ruining the script.  Generally, turnaround is a bottomless black hole from where nothing ever returns.  Meanwhile, Sundance has been a joke for years.  Even Robert Redford is disappointed.

Josh

Name:              Brett Greene
E-mail:             brettmgreene@gmail.com

Hi Josh:

I was sort of struck by this quotation, credited to Stanley Kubrick:

'I haven't come across any recent new ideas in film that strike me as being particularly important and that have to do with form. I think that a preoccupation with originality of form is more or less a fruitless thing. A truly original person with a truly original mind will not be able to function in the old form and will simply do something different. Others had much better think of the form as being some sort of classical tradition and try to work within it.'

What do you think of that?

Dear Brett:

I absolutely agree.  Just like Kubrick himself: he wasn't trying to reinvent the form, he was just an extremely talented craftsman working within the form.  As were Hitchcock, Wyler, Ford or Hawks.  Orson Welles may have changed the form, but only once and never again. And I don't think the form of storytelling in movies has changed much since then, nor has it improved any.  In fact, it's devolved.  Nobody working today is as good a craftsman as those guys.  And since Kubrick made that statement, whenever it was, this obsession with originality has only increased.  Instead of well-made films with good stories, we now get quirkiness pretending to be originality.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Ah - the "evening crazies".  I know it well. I sometimes remark when the lights are out and my head hits the pillow: "Are they moving furniture?!"
I adopted siblings too, and you have to take the really adorable, rewarding stuff (like mutual grooming and cuddling) with the really naughty (tag team mischief).  Mine have a pet door too, but because of the brutal winter, only stay out ~ 5 min. I bet you have this same issue too - don't they often lay on your papers/keyboard/desk when you're writing?  I was typing to you once, and one of them leaned on the Escape key. But it's those times that you must remember DaVinci's observation!  "The smallest feline is a masterpiece."

Say - Fans have garnered another message board interview opportunity, this time with R.J. Stewart.

http://xena.yuku.com/topic/16191?page=1

I'm thinking up my questions as I look at his XWP credits and wanted to know what the difference is between "Story By" and "Teleplay".
Did you ever get a chance to work with him directly on any aspect?  As a producer, did he talk shop with you about any of your eps? Thanks!

Dear Diana:

My girls particularly like to sleep on top of the scanner.  And no, they're not very interested in being out in the cold.  Right now they're all asleep on my bed, and in the closet where they have secret nooks and crannies in which to hide.  Anyway, "Story By" means you conceived the story and wrote a 12-14 page "Beat Sheet" or treatment.  "Teleplay By" is when you write the actual 44-page script.  I encountered R.J. a number of times over the six year run of the show, but I only directed one script he wrote, "Warrior . . . Princess . . . Tramp," which I thought was the best script I ever had on that show.  R.J. was never down in NZ that I knew about, so he had nothing directly to do with production (that was purely the domain of Rob Tapert, Eric Gruendemann and Chloe Smith).  I did get a very nice note from R.J. after WPT showed saying that he liked what I'd done with it, which I thought was very nice.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Oh lordie, no!  That's not what I thought at all.  I seem to recall you expressing disappointment in your appearance due to a late night out and being hung over (something like that).  I may well be misremembering and you'd said "bad flight".
The only odd thing was your Clark Kent moment - apparently you took your glasses on and off during filming.

And yea,that's a downer hearing about the Panzy producers not being prepared for making that.  (Rob really tore into them in no uncertain terms in that fan Q&A, eh?  Good for him.)  Fans that typically buy that stuff *want* to hear about episode minusia, not a collective prattling on about the show's "phenomenon" in the most general of terms.  We know the show was popular and why, we helped make it so, sheesh.  I'd like to hear TPTB go over new territory after all these years, or at least slightly less worn territory.  That's partly why I tried to put a bug in Rob's ear to pass along to LL and ROC that they talk now about working with actors other than each other. At this point though, memories I think have really faded regarding details. On the positive side, con creators are putting together a new (or improved) homage to Kevin Smith and they may get coworkers to comment on camera - so maybe you'll get a call.

Dear Diana:

Yes, I did remove my glasses during the interview.  I didn't even realize that I had them on, then I suddenly took them off.  I don't usually wear them, unless I need to see things, that is.  My three felines are so stir crazy from being cooped up all winter that they chase each other around all night.  Sometimes I consider making fluffy wallets and slippers out of them.

Josh

Name:              Ed Litchfield
E-mail:             casaquetzal@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Wow! I agree with every word. And am simply amazed. Sounds like my mind being dumped onto paper ahhh internet. Thanks

Dear Ed:

Let me guess, you read "Religion is Evil," right?

Josh

Name:              Slightly Puzzled (You can call me Puzz)
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I've noticed lately that you've been saying much nicer things about a lot of new movies (not all of them, but more than usual). Do you think that maybe film is coming back around into being good again, in your opinion? Or do you still think it's just about all crap?

Dear Puzz:

No, I don't think movies are getting any better.  I simply saw a run of small, HBO and BBC movies, that still no what they're about.  HBO is one of the very few places left that consistently makes decent movies with well-written scripts.  But the idea that "No Country for Old Men" is not only nominated for Best Picture, but Best Adapted Screenplay, makes me laugh.  And I'm absolutely certain, without having seen it, that "There Will Be Blood" is hammered shit, with a script unworthy of wiping one's butt with.  And the big news of the week is there's a new Indiana Jones film, with a new Star Wars film coming soon.  Talk about unoriginal.  Both of those series were worn out and worthless by the early 1980s.  And did we just get another Rambo and another Rocky?  Stallone, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas should all be sent to the Retired Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills and locked in; or better still, put into a leaky little boat and pushed out into the ocean.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

It appears from the looks of it that you have lost potential opportunities at times due to politics.

You go do the interview. The production company seemed amateurish and unprofessional. Rob calls. You casually  tell him what has just happened as most anybody on a friendly basis would have. Rob is a power broker with major ties to the series and feels he has been left out of the loop which unfortunately for you he was.

He calls D-P and reads them the riot act effectively putting you in the middle of something you actually didn't need to be in the middle of. You get the call from them and from that moment forward you have been blacklisted. All because of politics. I suppose it's a good thing you guys have been friends for so long.

Shew! That's some harsh reality there Josh. That's my objective take on it. I'm not trying to stir up a bunch of shit. I just find it interesting the way the thing rolled out.

Changing subjects...Remember "The Towering Inferno"?
You know what? It had some definite cheese in it but it actually is better than I remember.The book was better though.

I just watched it again and while I can say that OJ's performance was laughable I did enjoy McQueen's and Dunaway's performances. I also thought the visuals were pretty good for this 70's Irwin Allen destructofest.

I'll definitely be looking out for "My House in Umbria".

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I'd say that "The Towering Inferno" is the best of the disaster movies.  The script is silly as hell, to the extent where the characters don't really have names, just professions, like when Paul Newman and Steve McQueen are in the elevator together and shit like, "When will you architects get it through your head that we can't fight fires above the 7th floor," "Yeah, well when will you firemen realize the people like high-rise buildings," or something like that.  Nevertheless, the film always makes my palms sweat when I watch it.  And I don't even like thinking about Jennifer Jones in the glass elevator.  Hey, don't diss O.J., he went back for the cat.  Terrific fire effects.  Ridiculously, the film was actually nominated for Best Picture (it lost to "Godfather II"), but it won Best Editing, Best Song, and Best Cinematography for two old pro DPs, Fred Koenkamp and Joseph Biroc (Joe Biroc shot many of Robert Aldrich's films, and was fired off his first film, "It's a Wonderful Life."  Biroc also shot the Superman TV series).

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I can't believe I just read you say that "Notes on a Scandal" is "pretty good". I don't remember many details now, but at the time I watched it I was really pissed off. I thought most of it was entirely contrived and disjointn. Cate Blanchett, whom I usually like very much, was not on her game (Judi Dench was good though over-the-top at times).

Seriosuly, I've seen you tear into many, many movies that are far better than "Notes".

Dear Jeff:

I'm sorry you were pissed off, but it all made sense to me.  And I thought it was an interesting way of coming at that story, of a young attractive female teacher having sex with a 15-16 year old boy, which seems to happen regularly these days.  That it's neither the teacher, nor the boy's story, but an older female teacher who has a crush on the young teacher, and knows she's been fooling around with the boy and uses it to control and manuever her into a relationship with her.  To me, that was a believable horror story, and Judi Dench was legitimately scary at points.  And the story knew where it was going and resolved itself.  And not just to be disagreeable, but I thought Cate Blanchett was very good, and much better than her Oscar-winning impersonation of Katherine Hepburn.  The boy was good, too, although I found his Scottish burr indecipherable at times.

Josh

Name:              tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

If a person makes a short film based on a short story they don't have the rights too, can they show it at festivals?  As long as they don't try to sell it?

where can one get the information about purchasing the rights to something? is there a book or website that has a data base of that sort of information?

Dear tom:

Hey, you can do anything you want, but the question is are you infringing on someone's rights enough to make them sue you?  Why would anyone bother paying money to hire an attorney to sue you?  And if your film is brilliant, and smash success, then you can always pay for the rights.  As for getting the information to get the rights, all you have to do is to hire a lawyer and say, "Track down the rights."  But if you don't have enough money for a lawyer, then you certainly don't have enough money for the rights to the story.  Get it?

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

If you hadn't gone into the film business, what profession do you think you would have pursued?

Dear Bob:

I guess I'd probably have been an author and a teacher.  And that's where I could still end up, or that's where I am, sort of.  I'm not teaching, but I almost did.  I've got three books written, one out, and the second just about to go to the printer, probably in the next 2-3 weeks.  Meanwhile, getting movie deals is still as hard as ever.  My deal for "The Horribleness" just dropped dead *again,* and now Bruce is off to make "Burn Notice" for the rest of the year.  C'est la vie.

Josh

Name:              KS
E-mail:

Hey, Josh - I caught your short Cleavland Smith, Bounty Hunter at Youtube. Pretty damn hilarious. Shame it wasn't made into a feature - would have made a great Indiana Jones spoof. Actually - the bit where it most obviously spoofed Raiders (that bit with the boulder) I had to clean the coffee off my screen.

Yay You tube! Actually - there's a question for you - what's your opinion of You tube?

Dear KS:

I think YouTube is great, and I'm just sad that I didn't think it up.  It's been the total distribution for my film "If I Had a Hammer."  Not to mention you can seriously study the early history of movies, from 1888 to 1927 when sound came in, because all of those really old films are in the public domain, and are now all grouped together in one place.  I love watching the Lumiere, Melies and Edison films from the 1890s and early 1900s.  These captured, frozen moments from 115 years ago!  YouTube is wonderful.

Josh

Name:              Eric Hoheisel
E-mail:             hoheisele@aol.com

Hi Josh,

Since you are pretty familiar with the state of Michigan, I wondered if you have any suggestions as to what the state could help draw in more film business. A year or so they passed an incentives package that gives filmmakers a rebate for spending money in the state but it doesn't seem to have worked very well.

Thanks,
Eric

Dear Eric:

Michigan could encourage global warming until the weather here is more like Florida so that there would be more than 4-5 months of decent weather to to shoot in.  Um, let's see . . .  Michigan could just give out it's big pool of film incentive money to the filmmakers themselves and let them make movies.  Otherwise, why would anyone want to shoot here, where it's extremely difficult to schedule exterior shooting?

Josh

Name:              Mike
E-mail:             reverendweathers@hotmail.com

Josh,

Will you be seeing the new Indiana Jones?
Didn't think so.
Thought I'd ask anyway.
Thanks.

Dear Mike:

I can't think of anything duller than the idea of a geriatric Indiana Jones. Oh, wait, maybe another "Star Wars" movie might be even duller.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

While I was on holiday in Paris recently I picked up the Alien Apocalypse DVD you mentioned a while back with Oedipus Rex and The Blind Waiter on it - wow!  I've only ever seen the Super-8 shorts on crappy bootlegs (the copy I've got of Six Months To Live is pretty much unwatchable), so it was a revelation to see The Blind Waiter in particular with a crisp, clear transfer.  Alien Apocalypse was also a lot more fun than I expected it to be given some of the reviews I'd heard.

How are the Synapse releases of TSNKE and Running Time coming along?

And with regards to Assassination Of Jesse James - I loved it (enough to see it twice at the cinema in one weekend, when getting me to see a film once theatrically is something of an achievement noawadays), though I'm not sure it'll be your cup of tea, particularly regarding its extensive use of voiceover.  Keep in mind if you see it that it's much more of a slow, sombre character study than an action-packed Western, more akin to Terrence Malick doing Fuller's I Shot Jesse James.  (The one gunfight in the film takes place between two people in a small bedroom, which kind of gives you the film in a nutshell - sorry if that's a spoiler!)

Dear James:

Yes, we got very good transfers of the super-8 films from a facility called CinePost in Atlanta.  It was a terrific pleasure to actually deal with folks who knew what they were doing.  "Stryker's War" looks even better because it was shot at 24 fps.  Regarding the Synapse releases, nothing is happening. We transfered the super-8s, they commissioned and shot part of a documentary, but we still haven't done the new high-def transfers of the features themselves.  Meanwhile, you're the only person to say a kind word about "Jesse James."  My good buddy Paul, who's a western freak, wasn't impressed.  Different strokes for different folks.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I gotta tell you something man. Based on what you tell us sometimes on here you really get treated like a bastard at a family reunion. I am talking specifically about the Xena interview where you flew in and then flew right back out.

That's some truly heavy shit man! It just seems so cold. I bet it's more common place than most anyone would imagine though.

I've told you this before but I really like the "Grave Error" story of yours. That story would have been a good addition to that "Tales From the Crypt" series on HBO some time back.

Thank you for the Wes Craven movie tip pertaining to "Virgin Spring". Wes is a freak though and I'm sure he has funked up this story some how. I'll try to find the movie though and check it out.

I just got through with "The Big Easy" which I had not seen for at least 15 years prior to today. I still liked it Josh and I still liked watching that smoking hot Ellen Barkin too! I don't know if it was all that great of a story or not but it held something primal for me Josh.

What about you Josh? Seen anything you feel is worth mentioning lately?

Tim

Dear Tim:

For that Xena interview I was the first person up, so I sat there and watched this half-assed little crew set up.  They had a  camera/lighting guy, a producer, and a PA, but no director.  First, they set up two cameras, one aiming at me sitting at the end of a couch, the other aiming at the empty spot on the couch beside me.  I asked, "Who's sitting there?"  I was told, "No one, all of the questions will be asked from off-camera."  I asked, "So, what's the shot of the empty couch for?"  They said, "It's so we have something to cut away to."  I said, "It'll look like I'm being interviewed by the Invisible Man.  You can't cut to an empty couch."  They immediately began to panic, so I said, "Were I the director, I'd have one camera shooting me in a medium shot, and the other shooting me in a close-up, that way you can cut between them and remove anything you want." Which is what they did, for me and everybody else, too.  Anyway, they interviewed me and three or four other directors.  When I got home the next day Rob Tapert called and I told him that I was just in L.A. being interviewed for the Xena DVDs.  Rob knew nothing about any of it, and asked angrily, "Why didn't they contact Lucy?  Or Renee?  Or me?"  So he called these guys up at Davis-Panzer and gave them shit.  The next thing I know these guys called me and said, "How could you do this to us?  How could you tell Rob that we're not ptofessional?  Didn't we treat you well?"  And I was never contacted again for any of the other seasons of DVDs.  Oh well.

Regarding recent movies, I did just see several that were pretty good: "Breach," "My House in Umbria," "Notes on a Scandal" and "Bernard and Doris."  All of them have great casts and a reasonably well-written and well-made.  Nothing earth-shaking in any of them, but all perfectly reasonable films.

Josh

Name:              rickyross
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Don't forget Robert Altman's SECRET HONOR when listing movies with the all-time smallest casts. It features one performer, Phillip Baker Hall, playing Richard Nixon. And it's GREAT.

Dear rickyross:

Cool, and I've never seen it.  Has anyone seen "Elvis Meets Nixon"?  I thought it was great.

Josh

BACK TO Main Archive Page

BACK TO Current Q&A




Click Here To Submit Your Questions or Comments



BECKERFILMS SITE MENU

[ Main ]  [ Film & TV Work ]  [ Screenplays ]  [ Old Stuff ]
[
Reviews ]  [ Articles, Essays & Stories ]  [ Ask the Director ] 
[
Favorite Films ]  [ Scrapbook ]  [ Links (& Afterword) ]  [ Web Team ]