Q & A    Archive
Page 156

Name:              JT
E-mail:

Josh,

Any thoughts on non-English language actors? I realize there's a limited list of films one could have seen from almost any given actor, and that it is sometimes difficult to gauge a performance in a language one doesn't understand, but regardless.... someone like Toshiro Mifune, from a list of fairly easily available films, appeared in at least a dozen very good to great films.  Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Fernando Rey come quickly to mind with a number of classics.

Do you follow international cinema, and if so, are you finding quality missing from Hollywood movies these days?

Cheers, --JT.

Dear JT:

I've seen many, many foreign films, and I certainly agree that actors like Toshiro Mifune, Jeanne Moreau and Fernando Rey are exceptional (I can't go with Jean-Pierre Leaud, who seems like a mopey little brat who basically shot his wad at 10 years old in "The 400 Blows").  But I find modern foreign cinema equally as dull as modern American films.

Josh

Name:              Keith Johnson
E-mail:             great.documents@gmail.com

Hello Josh:

Wow - that is an amazing article about the very real perils and dangers of religion, you took the words right out of my mouth! I was a philosophy major in college, and have devoted myself to the study of "truth" all of my life from all angles - science, religion, new age, history, mysticism, etc. etc. and I totally agree with you that religion is 99.9% divisive. Right on. However, to make an analogy, let me say that of 1,000,000 items of "possible truths" I have studied, there is one that has remained with me and that is something the yogis of India call "OM". Of course the Hindus say this is a god, but rather, I like to call OM the "natural and original sound" of the Universe. It gives me immense peace, and there is no reason to necessarily attribute religiosity to it - if you sit in absolute stillness and silence, eventually you will hear the "OM" sound these yogis talk about. So, this is the one item out of perhaps millions of mythological "elements" I have studied, and the only one that I believe actually traverses the shore of science and experience to the shore of mythology and belief. Of all religions, I think the Buddha was the most sincere because ultimately he just wanted to heal human suffering, and nothing more. He in fact even told his disciples NOT to erect a temple and worship him as a god. Unfortunately, it seems his disciples didn't listen to his instructions. Thanks for your candor and honesty in this article - your words are well received.
All The Best,
Keith Johnson
Tech Writer & OM meditator
http://ommeditation.info
http://greatdocuments.net

Dear Keith:

I'm glad you enjoyed the essay.  As you say, there are aspects of both Buddhism and Hinduism that are both admirable and useful, like meditating, or believing that we're all one, or that "god" is the animating force in all living things.  However, they both have their silly, religious sides, too. I've heard many people declare that "Buddhism is not a relgion; it's a philosophy," but with religious hokum added in, like a "knowledge" of what occurs after death, as well as plenty of nonsense about reincarnation.  In Hindu, where the concept of "all is one," and "god is one," they have more idols and statues to the various aspects of their god than all the other relgions put together.  I'll personally never understand how Christians pray to a dead Jew who's brutally nailed to a Roman cross (they're trademark), and somehow come out disliking the Jews, or how Muslims, who inhabit 18 different countries and make up over a sixth of the world's population, and believe that all of the Jewish holy people of yore, like Moses or Abraham, were were really saints, but still somehow feel that the Jews, who make up a mere .01% of the world's population, should neither have a homeland, nor exist at all.  Or the Jews, who feel that if they put on a yarmulka, a talis and tifilin, are in direct contact with god, but somehow can't find it in their deeply religious hearts to treat the Palestinians fairly, let alone as equals.  When all is said and done, I think we'd all be better off without any religions at all.  If you want to even consider a peaceful world, you must listen to John Lennon, who said, "Imagine no religion."

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Happy Birthday! Many happy returns! I hope your business does well; and needless to say I hope you make some more movies soon. The world needs more Josh Becker films. Fans of yours who are also fans of great film will back me up on this.
Regarding "Requiem for a Heavyweight", Wasn't it Julie Harris and not Eva Marie-Saint in the film? Was it Saint in the tv version? On the subject of actors who have made many great films, are there any actresses who qualify? Bette Davis maybe?
Again, have a great birthday. Keep rockin'.
Stan.

Dear Stan:

Of course you're right, it was Julie Harris, not Eve Marie-Saint.  Julie Harris is in two of my favorite movies: "Member of the Wedding" and "East of Eden."  I mentioned Bette Davis on my first response, as well as Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn.  Thanks for the birthday wishes.

Josh

Name:              Chris Crosby
E-mail:            

Mr. Becker:

I just finished reading RUSHES and thought it was quite entertaining and informative.  Looking forward to your next book.

Regarding the chapter on the making of (not) STAN LEE'S HARPIES, I was really surprised to learn that SCI FI Channel shot you down when you approached them with new movie projects after the record-breaking ratings success of ALIEN APOCALYPSE.  Why do you think the network ignores proven, caring, competent director/producers like yourself, but they order new films by the ton from producers that are either incompetent, uncaring, or both incompetent AND uncaring?

Thanks!

Dear Chris:

Sci Fi doesn't want good movies, nor do they want to set any movies up; they want scripts with financing attached, and it doesn't matter what they are. I'm glad you entertained and informed by "Rushes."

Josh

Name:              Vanishingpoint
E-mail:             No thanks

Josh,

Actors? Modern Greats could include Robert de Niro (although if we stick to percentages he has more than a few clunkers amongst his better roles) and Ed Harris is pretty reliable but tends to appear in secondary rather starring roles.

John Wayne was one of your original choices. Was he really a great ACTOR (which could imply versatility and range which I believe he lacks) or just a great, charismatic STAR?

Finally were previous generations of actors better or was it just they appeared in better films?

VP

Dear VP:

I'd say the previous generation of actors were better AND appeared in better films, mostly because there were much better writers and directors then, as well.  I give DeNiro 11 great films, excluding "The Deer Hunter," "Brazil" and "Heat."  Like all other modern actors, though, he hasn't made a decent film in nearly 20 years.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

  I knew you were going to say something to effect that you did concerning THE DARK KNIGHT.  I'm not asking you to forgive the film, just appreciate a performance that was far more worthy than the context from which it sprang.
   That aside, the recent conversation about actors led me to drop my own recommendation into the pile:  Lee Marvin.  By sheer virtue of his work ethic, he ended up in a number of good films in the 40's, 50's and 60's before his own star took off, most notably THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, ATTACK! and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.  I always enjoyed the persona that he brought to the screen, definitely a bit counterculture, but without William Holden's whiny cynicism.  He was even better when he started headlining films.  What do you think?

                          Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I like Lee Marvin very much, but I also like William Holden very much, too. I just watched "The Professionals" again, for about the sixth time, and Marvin is great in it, as is everybody else.  I give Lee Marvin 16 great pictures, which is a lot, although he doesn't star in at least 6 of them. BTW, his first film was in 1951, so no '40s films.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

How's the equipment rental business going? I'm glad to see that you're getting into such a potentially lucrative venture, and that whole budget-rebate thing sounds incredible. South Carolina where I live has had varied film incentives, which change from year to year depending on the mood of the legislature, but there is definitely money to be had, and money to be made. A Jake Gyllenhaal film was shot here this spring, and they were clearly throwing millions and millions of dollars every which way; whenever you saw them filming, there were dozens upon dozens of trucks, most w/ ot-of-state logos and tags, providing every imaginable s ervice for hire. (And not surprisingly, the film kept running out of money, and IATSE kept shutting down production every few weeks.)

So how did you set this up, anyway? Did you have to go out and buy all that equipment first? or are you functioning as a rental middleman? And is this a solo venture or do you have partners?

And in case you read this and or post it by Sunday the 17th, to once again channel Porky Pig, Happy B-b-b-b-b-b-irthday, you b-b-b-b-b-thing from another world you! 50 years old, who'd have thought it? And still not married. You oughtta be ashamed of yourself. Get yourself down to the Stardust Ballroom right away - I hear it's loaded with tomatoes.

Regards,

August

Dear august:
 
Tomatoes.  That's rich.  Regarding equipment rental, I dearly hope to have my doors open for business in the next two weeks.  I'm still waiting on delivery of the walkie talkies (without which it's difficult running a walkie talkie rental), but they're supposed to be in on Tuesday.  I borrowed money and bought all of the equipment, since my company is brand new and has no credit, and neither do I.  I'm the one and only employee.  Thanks so much for the birthday wishes.
 
Josh

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

Dear Josh:

On the great actor list...

There are two big ones I haven't heard yet: Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen. And there'd have to be mention of Meryl Streep (finest American actress working?), Robert DeNiro (4 films for Scorsese + his Oscar for Godfather II, and one could also make a case for "The Deer Hunter," "Brazil," and "Heat"). Al Pacino has seven great films I count with the Godfather films, "Dog Day Afternoon," "Scarface," "Glengarry Glen Ross," and "Heat." Jeff Bridges (an all-time personal favorite), has "The Last Picture Show," "Fat City," and then 35 years of in-between stuff. He's perhaps better known as a wonderful actor than st ar of "great films," although there are several that I love, some directly due to his performance: "Cutter's Way," "Starman," "Texasville," "The Fisher King," and "The Big Lebowski". Robert Redford definitely has more than a few, "All The President's Men" being my pick for his best, and, grudgingly, Dustin Hoffman would have to be mentioned (whom I've never liked in anything beyond "Midnight Cowboy," "Little Big Man," and "Straight Time." He has a grating, back-of-the-throat way of talking that makes me furious. Also, I'm continually annoyed that seemingly everyone loves "Tootsie," which, right along with "Rain Man," I easily consider one of the most overrated films EVER.)

And as far as directors with exception runs...Are you sure John Huston or Alfred Hitchcock wouldn't beat out William Wyler? , but has anyone had a longer string of popular success than Hitch? Spielberg will , but so far can't approach a run from 1934 - 1972 (or, hell 76, his last film). But, I would personally take Huston over them all (I've always liked his tough, manly-man stories). He had an eight year slip between "Night of the Iguana" and "Fat City," but that aside, his career is long and tremendously exceptional (as director/writer/actor). Several of his brilliant screenplays are among the best ever written ("Treasure of the Sierra Madre"), and he was also a highly sought after script doctor, working uncredited on such films as Wyler's "Wuthering Heights" and Welles' "The Stranger." And he was even a damn good actor, forever to be remembered as one of the best heavies in one of the best films of all time ("Chinatown"). As a raw force/talent, I really don't think anyone even approaches him, (except Orson Welles). This is why I'd put him above both Wyler and Hitchcock. Huston's run as a director: "The Maltese Falcon," 1941 - "The Dead," 1988.

Blake

Dear Blake:
 
Regarding Wyler, I'm saying he didn't make anything but very good to great movies from 1936 through 1968, without any stinkers.  I love John Huston, but like you said, he had eight years of stinkers ("Macintosh Man," "Annie," etc.).  I also love Hitchcock, but he had many, many stinkers ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith," "The Trouble With Harry," "Topaz" and "Family Plot," to name just a few).  Meanwhile, with me you can't make a case for "The Deer Hunter," "Brazil" or "Heat" even being good, let alone very good or great ("Brazil" has great production design and photography, but the script is lame, and Jonathan Price isn't a leading man).  Regarding Marlon Brando, after a brilliant start, his career went totally into the toilet for at least a decade, then came back with "The Godfather" and "Last Tango in Paris," but I don't think (and I don't have my film books here at the office) that he made ten great films.  Steve McQueen's film career didn't really start until 1963, and then he died young, so I doubt he even has ten great films.  Jeff Bridges was pretty good for a while, but, once again, I don't consider "Cutter's Way," "Texasville," "The Fisher King" or "The Big Lebowski" as even halfway decent films, let alone good or great.  "Starman" was okay, but definitely not great.  And I agree, I just tried to watch "Tootsie" again, which I thought I liked, but I can't even sit through it anymore (the score is incredibly dated, and pretty much unbearable).
 
Josh

Name:              Si
E-mail:

Hello Josh

Just thought I'd bring up a couple of films. I genuinely think Pixar have outdone themselves with "Wall-E"; if you liked "Finding Nemo", you'll like this. The first half's better than the second, though. Also, did you ever check out "Once"? The handheld way of shooting is irritating, but I did find the story very charming and heartfelt.

Music wise, I recommend Robert Plant's collaboration with Alison Krauss, "Raising Sand". A very likable piece of work. Krauss did some of the songs on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack, which was probably the best thing about that movie. Which reminds me - what do you think, personally, has been the best musical score of the '00s? I'd go for "Amelie".

Si

Dear Si:

I've heard most of "Raising Sand" on XM Fresh Tracks, and it seemed okay.  I haven't seen "Once" yet.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Good Afternoon Josh.

Just a quick reply on that Canon Scoopic 16mm.

There were 3 or 4 different types of that camera and the one that most people had was the one that came with 2 batteries. That was the standard Scoopic then it went into the "M" series and so on.

To answer the battery question...Battery cells are still available at DuAll Camera in New York. They have a web site. Just punch "DuAll Camera" > into the search engine. These batteries aren't cheap but they aren't overly expensive either.

One question for you concerning actors. We will use Bruce Campbell for our example.

Would you classify Bruce as a technical actor or a method actor? Does he perhaps borrow from both schools of thought? Can you readily identify a method actor versus a technical actor and do you have a preference as to which type you like to work with?

I hope this doesn't seem like an ignorant question?

Thanks for your time.

TIm

Dear Tim:

Bruce is not a method actor, so guess that makes him a technical actor.  I think he follows James Cagney's advice, which is, "Learn your lines and hit your marks."  I personally don't care how an actor arrives at their performance, as long as they give one, know their lines, and hit their marks.  Thanks for the info on Canon Scoopics.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I went and saw "The Dark Knight" yesterday, and never minding anything else about the movie, I'm very glad to concur with the observation of others that Heath Ledger really is good in this.  What's more, he's good in the best ways -- totally owns the part, doesn't mistake substance for style, doesn't go over the top, doesn't try to steal the show.  (He kind of ends up stealing it anyway.)  At the time of Ledger's death you said he'd never proven he was a great actor, but that he might have indicated the potential.  I hear you about comic book movies and everything, but if you ever do break your rule and see this, I'd be interested to know if you think he consolidated that promise here.  It isn't a "great" part, just an intense one -- but I thought something about both the artistry and the integrity with which it's delivered says that if Ledger had lived to get great ones, he'd have had the stuff for them.

Respects and regards,
Alice

Dear Alice:

I'll probably attempt to watch it when it pops up on HBO, but I bet I don't make it through.  The last thing on earth I want to see is a serious, somber, violent Batman movie.

Josh

Name:              Mark Hoheisel
E-mail:             markhoheisel@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I got your new book "Rushes" from my brother and enjoyed it enough to end up reading all of your web site essays as well.

Your essays on story structure on this site drove me to try the analysis out on several classic movies and that lead me to a conclusion.

Three act story structure in great movies often seems to be fractal. By that I mean it reoccurs at different scales in the story so that there is a self-similar pattern at the different scales.

In the Godfather (certainly on most peoples ten best of all time) the movie opens with a story being told by a character looking into the camera. That story, about his wanting to be a good American but having his daughter brutally raped and beaten and the perps let off with a suspended sentence while laughing in his face - in itelf follows a three act structure. By the time he concludes, we see he's speaking to Marlon Brando who asks "What do you want me to do?" The whole story and this response now appear to become the first act of a three act structure in the scene. The third act in the scene resolves when Bonasera asks "Be my friend, Godfather?" and Brando finally embraces him. The whole scene then becomes part of the first act of the larger story. Each of these three including even the opening speech all by itelf, is a story about a man ironically pushed by fate to break the rules despite his original intentions. All this structure serves to pull the viewer deeper and deeper into the story without being at all noticable.

Character and theme are beautifully developed through story stucture alone, they're never forced.

I was channel surfing last night and hit the Godfather 3 and it jumped out at me that 3 failed miserably in  this regard. Repeatedly Michael or other characters would lamely just state things that would have elegantly emerged from story in 1 & 2. At one point Pacino is reduced to literally talking to himself out loud to baldly advance the theme. It's about as subtle as Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Same characters, screenwriters, director, many of the same actors, but it just doesn't seem to have the structure.

If you want to try another book your story structure essays and reviews are a great start. I found your illustration with the joke about the man who walks into a bar with an alligator under his arm especially helpful in making the point that this is not brain surgery and can be applied at any scale. Thanks.

Dear Mark:

I'm very glad you enjoyed "Rushes."  You're the first person to comment on it.  No, story structure isn't brain surgery or rocket science, but it's absolutely what makes a story compelling.  Without proper structure, no matter what your story is about, it'll just sit there there like a ton of lead.  Yes, I absolutely agree that "The Godfather" (1972) and Godfather Part II" (1974) are both beautifully written.  However, in the 16 years between Parts II and III, Francis Coppola completely melted down, probably from cocaine, Mario Puzo got very old, and Technicolor stopped processing the old way, thus screwing DP Gordon Willis.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Hopefully, my "great films per actor" will spark some good movie nerd discussion. At first glance I was surprised at the amount of great films Burt Lancaster was in, but looking at his filmography is pretty amazing. After some of the great films he made in the 50's he could have coasted the rest of career and still been a success but he had some great stuff in the 60's too (The Train and Seven days in May really stand out in my mind).

A quick aside, I recently was in Hawaii on Dec. 7th and made my wife watch From here to eternity before we left. Along with going to the Arizona, we went to "Eternity" Beach where they filmed the kiss in the sand. Very cool.

My first thought was Kirk Douglas had to be up there somewhere. What about Jimmy Stewart, I can count 4 or 5 off the top of my head and I haven't seen any of his westerns, where do you see him fall?

Ok, so related question, what was the factor that pushed most of these actors to have such a large number of great films? I know that there were just more great films made before 1980 and these are all great actors, but there were some great actors without that many great films.

Lancaster took control of his own career with a production company, did these actors just have a better nose than most for sniffing out the clunker scripts? More Clout? It seems that there must be something more than star power that led to such a high great movies percentage.

Enjoying the discussion.

Dear Jeff:

Jimmy Stewart should absolutely be on the list, as well as Kirk Douglas, and as per Bruce Campbell's reminder, William Holden, too.  Regarding later great Burt Lancaster films, there's also: "The Professionals," "Go Tell the Spartans" and "Atlantic City."  Lancaster took complete control of his career, and what scripts he'd be in, very early on, like 1954.  He also produced "Marty," Best Picture, Actor, Director and Screenplay for 1955.  On the DVD of "Marty" there's the theatrical trailer that has Burt Lancaster standing there saying, "Hi, this is Burt Lancaster.  I'd like to tell you about my new picture, 'Marty.'  No, I'm not in it, but it stars my good buddy, Ernie Borgnine, and it takes place in the neighborhood where I grew up, the Bronx."  Anyway, counting Kirk Douglas' great films, I'd say there are 13.  Jimmy Stewart has 22.  William Holden, 11 (12 if you count "Born Yesterday," which I don't like).  Jimmy Stewart was another actor who took control of his career, in 1950, with "Winchester '73."  Kirk Douglas did, too.  Anyone have anyone else to add?

Josh

Name: Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I recently watched "Requiem for a Heavyweight", and I thought it was pretty good. Not as good as "Fat City"; but still not bad. I noticed that it was not on your list of favorite films. What didn't you like about it?
Stan.

Dear Stan:
 
Good question.  I've seen the film many times, and I always enjoy it.  Anthony Quinn is in top-form, as are Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Eve Marie-Saint.  I'm a fan of director, Ralph Nelson, too.  But there's something clunky about the whole thing and it's entirely in Rod Serling's writing, and man I admire very much. Maybe because it's a boxing movie with no boxing, or that Quinn's character is a bit too stupid (once again, it's in the writing because that's also how Jack Palance played it first on TV), or the fact that horror of horrors, he ends up as a wrestler, as though it were against his will.  Let's face it, for a tough boxing movie, the best scene is Gleason and Rooney playing cards -- "That's good to know.  Very good to know."  As you say, "Fat City" is much better, and seemingly knows a lot more about what it's saying.
 
Josh

Name:              Patrik
E-mail:

 Dear Josh,

I have a change to buy Canon Scoopic. On your web I have read that you shot with this 16mm camera. I would like to shoot 16:9. Don't you know how it works with Panasonic AG-LA7200g anamorphic adaptor? I'm affraid of lost of picture quality. Have you got any experiences with anamorphic adaptors and Canon Scoopic? Thanks.

Dear Patrik:

I did shoot a couple of short films with a Canon Scoopic.  I thought it was a very good camera, with a nice sharp lens and solid registration, but I never used an anamorphic adaptor.  When I used it, about 28 years ago, 16x9 didn't exist.  If you really want a widescreen aspect ratio, then you ought to shoot with a Super-16 camera, which the Scoopic isn't.  Also, and maybe you know the answer to this, I don't know if you can get batteries for a Scoopic anymore, and 28-year-old batteries are most probably worthless now. However, if you keep the top and bottom of the frame clear, you can always crop it to 16x9 in post.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I read that William Wyler is your favorite director, but what is your favorite film by him? I was planning on watching Ben-Hur after I wrote this, lol.

Also, do you think some people overrate Citizen Kane a little bit? (Even if it is better than most of the films that come out these days)

Sincerely,

Bri

Dear Brian:

I like so many of Wyler's films that it's difficult for me to choose favorites, although "Ben-Hur," which a like a lot, certainly wouldn't be it. I'd probably have to go with "The Best Years of Our Lives," then "Friendly Persuasion," "The Big Country," "Mrs. Miniver," "The Little Foxes" and "Dead End."  My friend who is the manager of The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, a beautiful, old, huge movie theater, was saying last night that of their summer film series, that's been running for three months and has both old and new films included, the biggest draw so far has been William Wyler's "Roman Holiday."  Pretty impressive, huh?

Josh

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

Josh,

For your list of great actors in great films I might nominate Henry Fonda.  I count him conservatively at twenty-three great movies with one Oscar, 3 nominations and a lifetime achievement award.

Seperately, I heard a Pixar exec explaining how animated films did not have the luxury of hand held cameras or of Actor improvisation.  Combined with the vast army of people who would have to adjust to any whimsicle changes, Pixar vets dialogue changes early and doesn't depend on actors improvising the script.  The director has to establish every frame, and every frame must lead to the next.  The Executive felt that Pixar movies were stronger on plot and theme as a result of their own limitations.  I found the thought intriguing.

I'm still reading and enjoying your site every day.  I hope your equipment rental business works well and that you are able to do "Horribleness". There are enough mindless hacks who achieve their dreams we might as well see a thinking person get some success.

John Hunt

Dear John:

When I brought this concept of "Actors with the most great films" up to a few of my friends, the first one said Henry Fonda, and the second said William Holden.  And let's not forget Kirk Douglas, either.  Clearly, my list was anything but complete.  The concept of the question was definitely intrguing.  Lately, I've been discussing this concept of improvising with my buds.  My main suspicion of why so many actors improvise their lines these days is because they're too damn lazy to actually learn their lines properly.  The second reason is that the scripts suck so bad that anything will help.  However, from my point of view as a writer, I'd like my lines delivered as exactly as possible.  When Martin Landau was "Inside the Actor's Studio," James Lipton told him that Woody Allen had said that no other actor that he'd ever worked with had ever delivered his lines so exactly.  Landau replied that he didn't feel that it was his job, or place, to change a writer's lines.  He said that when actors perform Shakespeare or Eugene O'Neil or Ibsen they would never consider changing a line, so why would he do it otherwise?  He said his job as an actor was to take what was given to him and act it as best as he could, not change it.  As a wonderful example, Bruce Campbell always has such respect for the text that he goes over and over the script in advance, then meets with me several days before we start shooting and pitches me his line changes, many of which are terrific and I happily accept them, others I don't go with and he's totally cool about that.  But he never springs shit on me on the set when we're shooting, which is an awful time to have to consider changes and how they might effect the rest of the script.  On "Running Time," the second lead, Jeremy Roberts, improvised on all of his lines a lot -- and he's very good at it -- and Bruce was perfectly fine about going along with it, but what happened because of it is that they both ended up swearing twice as much as was written, and it really annoys me.  The same thing happened on TSNKE. Improvising actors have a tendency to fall back on verbal place holders to give their brains a chance to catch up, so they either swear or say "Ummm" or "Like" or "Ya know" a lot, or they just repeat what they've just said, and it really bugs me.

Josh

Name:              rja
E-mail:             rja@yahho.com

hi josh,

i heard that you once dated renee o'connor if this is true, you were one lucky dude.hot , hot did i say hot lady and a very intelligent one too.so fess up did you date her.

Dear rja:

Sorry to say, no, I didn't.  We just worked together quite a few times.  She really is a wonderful actor, and a very sweet person.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:             (please don't post it)

Hi Josh,

I would love own a copy of the screenplay for "Bridge On The River Kwai". In your filmmaking book you describe as your favorite screenplay. Do you know if it has been published in book form like many "classic" screenplays?

Dear Keith:

I've never seen a copy of the script.  I did just find a transcript of the film on script-o-rama, but those things don't interest me.  I do have a shooting script of "Lawrence of Arabia," which at 267 pages is the longest screenplay I've ever seen.

Josh

Name:              WDC
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Here's a legitimate question: You say today's movies lack irony.

In THE DEPARTED, all that attention was given to find the rat on both sides, then Costello turns out to be an FBI informant himself. Is that not ironic?

In BATMAN BEGINS, Christian Bale is trained for justice in the first half as a ninja, then his justice group turns out to be self righteous terrorists.

In THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, a terrorist group kidnaps Smoking Spokesperson Aaron Eckhart, and puts nicotine patches all over his body till he passes out. He later wakes up from a coma, and the doctor tells him the only reason he lived is because he was such a heavy smoker. Smoking saved his life.

On the other hand, a classic film that comes to mind is FIVE FINGERS. James Mason is selling secrets to the Nazis. It turns out he has access to this information because he's a servant, but they don't know that. The woman he trusts runs off with his money, and then when he makes the final desperate tradeoff, he is later caught in his new home because all of the Nazi money was counterfeit. And the information he delivered was the plans for D-DAY, which the Nazis thought were fake and didn't act on.

So what the big difference?

Dear WDC:

Those are legitimate examples of irony, although in "The Departed" it's not terribly ironic since the rat has to be somebody, and it's handled in a supremely clunky, and reasonably unbelievable, way -- just like the painfully obvious visual metapher of the rat on the balcony at the end. Since I didn't make it to the end of either "Batman Begins" or "Thank You For Smoking," I didn't hold out long enough to see the irony in either film. But in all three cases it seems like irony is being used specifically as a twist ending, as opposed to being built into the narrative from the outset, like for example "The Bridge on the River Kwai," where irony is integral to the story from the beginning -- which colonel has more power?  The one running the prison camp, or the prisoner?  And it turns out to be the prisoner, who then wants to build a "proper" bridge that will last for 500 years.  Who ends up being the hero of the piece?  The slacker.  There's irony all the way through that film, not just at the very end. Nevertheless, an ironic twist ending is better than none at all.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Great story about the Jonathan Ross appearance.  Freaky to think I may have even been watching it back then and don't remember.  I presume you know about Sam's friendship with Ross?  Sam was not only the subject of an episode of Ross' TV programme The Incredibly Strange Film Show (you can find it on YouTube, as ever), but they both acted together in a cheesy UK TV spot for Evil Dead II.

Just as a heads-up following your response about the Synapse DVDs, might not be worth Shirley putting on the page - I asked Don on his Facebook group for Synapse about the status of the DVDs, knowing you were waiting to hear from him, and he said the opposite; that he was waiting to hear from you.  So obviously he's got his wires crossed at some point - in any case, he said he'd be in touch with you, as you live "just a few doors down".

Dear James:

Thank you for inspiring me to give Don a call, which I just this minute did. He said we'll get back on it in September, transfer TSNKE to HD, then finish up the documentary that will go with it (that's all shot and just needs to be edited).  We've already gotten a top-notch transfer of the super-8 "Stryker's War" that will also go with it.  Thanks for the kick in the pants.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I agree, which is why I have such reservations.

As for you sounding presumptuous, maybe, but I don't think so. You saying you are the best screenwriter in the world reminds me of a short conversation I had with a friend of mine that I believe characterizes the modern state of film rather well.

I was watching "If I Had a Hammer" one afternoon when my friend sent me an IM over on my computer. It being Friday and me wanting to hang out later I paused the flick and responded. He asked me what I was up to and I told him I was watching "If I Had a Hammer", directed by Josh Becker. He must have looked you up because he then shot back with the question,"Why are watching something by the guy who directed fucking Alien Apocalypse?"

We then got into a short argument in which I contended that despite the end result, your screenplay for "Alien Apocalypse" was better than all of the big budget studio films out that year. He thought I was insane for defending your film. That a movie shown on the Sci-Fi Channel could never be better than movies being released by Hollywood studios into movie theaters.

My friend is a very bright individual who is well-educated and well read. However, he seems completely incapable of being able to distinguish what really makes a good movie a good movie in the classic sense. These days if one throws in some pseudo-intellectual babble and quick edits, you have a hit film among the so called intellectuals. Add explosions and violence and the masses will eat it up as well.

People are just so willing to accept what is put in front of them and the main problem is, when someone wants to create art, they succumb to what the masses want in the name of being successful. It seems to be a never ending cycle. Very depressing.

Dear Trey:

Thanks for defending me, although I am "the guy who directed [and wrote] fucking 'Alien Apocalypse'."  I do think it's a pretty good screenplay, and Bruce and Renee are wonderful, and Michael Corey Davis and Peter Jason are fine, but the cheesy production itself, and the Bulgarian cast who ended up dubbed, ruins the picture for me, so I do see where your friend is coming from.

Josh

Name:              Lennis Deary
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

What do you think of Dennis Leary as an actor/writer? Do you like him?

Dear Lennis:

He's a pretty good actor, but as a writer/comedian I don't care for him.  As a little note, both Dennis Leary and I were on the British talk show (or chat show, as they say), Tonight With Jonathan Ross at the same time in 1992, along with Jamie Lee Curtis.  I had just written the cover story about the Oscars for Film Threat Magazine, and Jonathan Ross wanted me on the show as an "Academy Award expert."  I was interviewed on the phone by the assistant talent coordinator, then the talent coordinator, then I was informed that I'd made it and I'd be on the show in a few weeks (broadcast from a mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, right before the Oscar telecast).  They called a week later and informed me that they had booked Ringo Starr instead of me.  All right.  Ringo may not have been an Oscar expert, but he was one of The Beatles, whatever that had to do with a show about Oscars.  I put it all out of my mind.  A few weeks later, as my buddy and I were sitting in my bungalow in Hollywood getting stoned, the talent coordinator called and asked if I was still available to do the show?  I said yes.  She said, "We'll be there in a few minutes to pick you up."  I rushed around like a stoned crazy man trying to get ready for a TV appearance in just a few minutes.  Next thing I knew I was in the guest house of this mansion that was being used as the green room with Jamie Lee Curtis.  The American art director, Michelle Poulik, who had been the art director on my film "Lunatics" came in.  She seemed very surprised to see me, and asked, "Are you on the crew?"  I said, "No, I'm a guest on the show."  Michelle looked dumbfounded.  Anyway, it all went by very quickly, although I still have a video tape of it.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Josh,

Hope your new business is going well.

Considering the amount of movies you've seen, I figured this question is up your alley. What actors have the highest great movies percentage in their career? In other words, what actors, if you watched every movie they were in, would have almost all really great films in their career. I'd say they would also have to be in at least 10 films to weed out some flash in the pan actors.

Thanks!

Dear Jeff:

An interesting question that I think should be open to everyone to answer. The director with the highest percentage of great movies is, without question, my favorite, William Wyler.  Without quibbling about what's very good and what's great, Wyler has 22 exceptional films, with a run of nothing but great movies from 1936 to 1959.  The actor with the most Oscars is Katherine Hepburn, with 4 Best Actress Oscars, and 8 more nominations, and I'd say she made 19 great movies.  Jack Nicholson has 2 Best Actor Oscars, and 1 Supporting Actor, and 5 more nominations, and I'd say he's been in 14 great movies, and several other good ones.  Spencer Tracy won 2 Best Actor Oscars (in a row), and had 7 more nominations, with 21 great films.  Bette Davis won 2 Best Actress Oscars, and was in 11 great movies.  Clark Gable won 1 Best Actor Oscar, and was in 18 great movies.  John Wayne won 1 Best Actor Oscar,  and was in 22 great movies.  I'd say Cary Grant was in 22 great pictures, with no Oscars.  Tom Hanks has two Best Actor Oscars, and I'd say he's been 7 great movies, which includes voice-over waork on "Toy Story" 1&2.  Audrey Hepburn won 1 Best Actress Oscar, with 6 great films. Charlton Hestion won 1 Oscar, and had 7 great films.  Gregory Peck, 1 Oscar, and 20 great films.  Clint Eastwood, 0 acting Oscars, 8 great films. Humphrey Bogart, 1 Oscar, 17 great movies.  Burt Lancaster, 1 Oscar, 24 great movies.  Gary Cooper won 2 Oscars and was in 19 great films. Ingrid Bergman won 2 Best Actress Oscars and 1 Supporting Actress, and was in 10 great films.

This has taken over an hour, so I'll stop now.  The winners are: Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.

Josh

Name:              WDC
E-mail:

Quick Comment:

So, I'm looking through these 1971 posters and I come across a Dalton Trumbo film called JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, and it's produced by Bruce Campbell. Weird.

Dear WDC:

Well, I think we can be reasonbly certain it's not the Bruce Campbell we all know and love.  We were both 13 that year.  There's also the car dealer, Bruce Campbell Dodge, here in Detroit.  He got BruceCampbell.com first. Meanwhile, "Johnny Got His Gun" is kind of interesting, but not very good. It's the only thing Dalton Trumbo ever directed.  I did enjoy Donald Sutherland as a strong, beefy Jesus Christ, who actually builds furniture and looks like a man, as opposed to the usual feminine, gay, wispy depiction of him.

Josh

Name:              Bill Reingold
E-mail:             reingold@hominyhills.com

Hey, Josh. 

I just listened to a podcast called "I Love Movies" in which the comedian Bob Odenkirk (of HBO's "Mr. Show") totally rips apart one by one Entertainment Weekly's list of the "New Classic" films.  His acid comments reminded me of you and I think you might find this funny.  Here is a link to the audio (skip forward to the twelve minute mark to get to where they start blasting this list of "New Classic" films):
http://blip.tv/file/get/Ilovemovies-BobOdenkirkAndChrisHardwickGuest244.mp3

Dear Bill:

I enjoyed that, all except for the dissing of "Casablanca" early on, which in my humble opinion is a better movie that any of the ten on the EW "New Classics" list.  And they were ripping into the ten films for many of the same reasons I always have, like the dumbass scene in "Pulp Fiction" with Harvey Keitel coming in as "The Cleaner"and hosing them down.  Or that "Saving Private Ryan" has the great invasion scene at the beginning, then the whole rest of the movie is horseshit. And the fact that an utterly awful piece of crap like "Moulin Rouge" could possibly make the ten-best of anything.  Here's the list:

1. Pulp Fiction
2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
3. Titanic
4. Blue Velvet
5. Toy Story
6. Saving Private Ryan
7. Hannah and Her Sisters
8. Silence of the Lambs
9. Die Hard
10. Moulin Rouge

I'll accept: "Blue Velvet" and "Hannah and Her Sisters."  That's it.  I liked "Toy Story," but if I had choose, I'd take "Finding Nemo" before it.

Josh

Name:              Wine Drinking Critic
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Finished A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. This film might look good to you if you catch it in 10 minute segments, it's got a great looking production, a good cast, and decent songs... but the problem remains: it's a stupid pointless turd of a movie. No really, what a bad fucking screenplay! So you've got Kevin Kline, who plays a detective named Guy Noir... there's no mystery- Pointless!! It took me most the movie to realize it was modern day and not a period piece. You've got Virginia Madsen walking around the set in a daze for almost no reason. She says she's an angel meant to take people to heaven... she doesn't, she just walks around and everyone wonders who she is- Pointless!! You've got Kevin Kline trying to talk Tommy Lee Jones out of shutting the place down. the "Angel" takes him on a bad road where he dies offscreen... and the show is torn down anyways- Pointless!! I bet this film was nominated for a fucking oscar too!

Dear WDC:

I completely agree.  I only made it through about a half hour.  A total waste of time, money and talent.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

For the past four years I've devoted every ounce of myself to studying the craft of filmmaking. I've watched hundreds of movies, read books (fiction, film history, filmmaking guides, etc.), wrote treatments and short screenplays, and directed a few short films. I've wanted to be involved in some aspect of the film industry for most of my 22 years and when I finally decided on wanting to direct, I never looked back.

I've never really been interested in a career in directing for the money either. I've been visiting your website for over five years now and it became clear to me that getting into it for the money would be foolish. However, even had I not learned that from your website, I still wouldn't have been chasing wild fantasies of stardom and the cash that goes along with it. No, I've always had my heart set on making good movies. Movies that had something to say, were well-written, and directed with a sure hand. Whether or not I could make a living out of making pictures hardly ever crossed my mind (though it was, of course, preferable). I just wanted to make something that I could be proud of.

But I've started to doubt. After years of total commitment, of knowing that's what I wanted to do with my life without a doubt, it has begun to creep in. I know that even if I'm talented and put in all the hard work I have in me and more, I still could never see a film through to the end. In the past that thought never really bother me and yet recently, it does. I'm not sure if this is this a part of reaching 22 and seeing your closest friends graduate and heading off into the world towards more secure careers, or if I really do need to start considering other options.

The reason I'm writing you is that I wanted to know if you ever went through such periods of doubt in your life? Is this natural? Or is it a sign that I should hang up my hat?

Thanks.

Dear Trey:

No, it's called growing up.  As Marvin Gaye said, the only things in life that are assured are taxes, death and trouble.  You'll excuse me if I sound presumptuous, but I'm a better screenwriter than anyone in the world right now, and I can't get a job.  All that's made now is shit.  Hopefully, this will change, but it may not in my lifetime.  That's called irony, an aspect of writing that's utterly lacking these days.  What's most horrible to me about all of these fucking awful comic book movies is that they're so fucking obvious.  It doesn't matter how "dark" or "somber" they are, the superhero will not die, because the commercial considerations DEMAND that a sequel be set up.  The commercial considerations are more important than the content.  Nobody could possibly love movies more than me, and I now HATE modern movies.  I don't dislike them, I hate them.  So, that's the world we're stuck in. I wish it was different, but that's what it is.  Live with it or don't.

Josh

Name:              Dan Fosgood
E-mail:             fosgood@happytown.net

Dear Josh:         

Sorry to bother you with this, but you're one of the few people I know who would be similarly dismayed to hear the news that Sam Raimi just announced at San Diego Comic Con that he and Ivan have just started writing another Evil Dead movie.  Ivan is supposedly staying at his house for the period of the collaboration.  When you own your own film company and have the Spider-Man buzz behind you that Sam does, you'd think now would be the time he could stretch himself and do something new rather than retreat to the past.  Oh well.

One other thing:  you describe on your site a period in your youth when you would watch movies every day in the theater.  I used to devour movies as well, but I'm closing in on 40 and now find that I can't be bothered to go see these goddamn comic book movies and even most of the non-super-hero movies out there.  Have you considered that part of your disgust with the current state of movies might be that you simply gained enough experience through that early period of movie watching that movies rarely have anything to add?  I do agree that movies are going downhill but it may be that in addition you are just a more demanding viewer now than you once were?

Dear Dan:

Sam has never cared about anything but being a success, and that's exactly what he is.  He's never had any asperations to making great films, and therefore he's never made any.  Meanwhile, I'm not a more demanding viewer than I was when I was as a kid, it's just that good movies aren't made anymore.  They used to make great and good movies all the time, now they don't.  Now it's all about what kids will go see.  It's all purely commercial, with no consideration of intelligence or art.  As an example, I just watched "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" again for about the 20th time.  There is no, none, zero consideration of making a sequel.  It is a totally complete experience.  The art of a society is a perfect representation of its mindset, and America's mindset right now is bullshit, garbage, crap.  America is a disaster, and has never been in worse shape than it is presently.  I'm ashamed of this country that I love.  We attack countries that have done nothing to us, we torture, we wire-tap, we thoughtlessly destroy our enviornment.  We're not worthy of decent art.

Josh

Name:              Alex Spivey
E-mail:             alexspivey@gmail.com

hey josh

ive got a couple of questions about movie releases. is there still going to be a HD release of running time (i know with the death of hddvd alot of these things got shaken up) and also i heard there was going to be a release of "though shalt not" from Synapse-Films but you got tied up. should we still expect that?

Dear Alex:

Yes, both films will eventually being coming out through Synapse.  Since they already paid me, I have to believe that they'll actually still do this. What I've heard is that Synapse put a lot of money into a couple of films and it's tied up all their spare cash.  We still have to re-transfer both films, and thet will entail me going out to L.A. for about a week to supervise.  Anyway, I assume once they've got their issues straightened out they'll remember me and my films.  The documentary that's supposed to go on both films -- half on one, half on the other -- has been shot, and just needs to be edited.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

    I saw in a post further down this thread that you hadn't seen DOWNFALL yet, and I wanted to recommend it to your attention.  I personally found it fascinating that a German film company could come to grips with both the attraction of Hitler and the defeat of the Nazi state in a film without resorting to two-dimensional stereotypes.  It can't have been easy, but they pulled it off well.
   Having talked about a good film, I'll also delve into a bad one.  I went with some friends tonight to see THE DARK KNIGHT, and surprisingly, wasn't as put off as I thought I would be by it (generally, I share your extremely low opinion of comic book movies).  It's as if the current director took the loose framework of the Batman universe and used it as a basis for a much darker, more disturbing film of his own.
    There are the usual flaws, of course.  They tried to fit too many story points from the saga into one film, and I thought the movie was going to end at least three times before it actually did, there were so many climaxes.  Christian Bale turns in a very thin, emotionless performance as the supposedly agonized and conflicted Bruce Wayne.  Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman both turned in their usual good performances, but there wasn't enough of them.  Add in the usual $60 million dollars worth of digital effects, and you get the general idea.
   The only saving grace of the movie is Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker.  Gone are both the corny version from the original TV series and Jack Nicholson's whimsical, if twisted, variant:  Ledger's Joker is frighteningly and realistically psychotic.  It's an unexpected and noteworthy performance, and you might want to check this film out when it hits Netflix, or at least Ledger's part in it.

                             Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I wouldn't see "The Dark Knight," the 6th Batman movie (7th if you count the feature based on the 60s TV show) if they were giving away money at the theater.  To me, if you have characters running around in colorful unitards, bat suits, or ridiculous Joker make-up, it had better be a comedy, because I can't take that shit seriously for one second.  I think the 60's TV show of "Batman" had exactly the right tone -- slapstick.  A dark, somber Batman movie?  You must be kidding.  And, as A.O. Scott just pointed out in his July 24 article for the NY Times, entitled, "How Many Superheroes Does It Take to Tire a Genre?",
". . .The disappointment [of superhero movies] comes from the way the picture spells out lofty, serious themes and then . . . spells them out again.  What kind of hero do we need?  Where is the line between justice and vengeance?  How much autonomy should we sacrifice in the name of security? Is taking innocent life ever justified?  These are all fascinating, even urgent questions, but stating them, as nearly every character in 'The Dark Knight' does, sooner or later, is not the same as exploring them."
  Or like in "Spider-Man," where it's stated over and over again that "Great power entails great responsibility," then he uses his super powers to deliver pizzas.  The theme is stated and restated, but never explored, or even followed.  As A.O. Scott goes on to say, the good westerns of the 50s and 60s, like: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" or "The Searchers" or "Rio Bravo" or "Ulzana's Raid," stated many of these same themes, but then went on to actually explore them.  All comic book movies have thin, thin writing, then the commercial conventions always kick in and demand an overblown, 30-minute battle with the supervillian at the end, where there's absolutely no chance of the superhero dying because it must lead the way to a sequel.

Josh

Name:              Chris
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was wondering what you thought of the movie Crash?

Dear Chris:

I completely and thoroughly disliked it.  It had scene after scene after scene that I totally didn't believe.  The Arab store owner bad-mouthing the black locksmith so he can hear him; Sandra Bullock bad-mouthing the locksmith so he can hear her; Matt Dillon manhandling Thandie Newton in front of two witnesses; Terrence Howard not stopping for the LAPD, then screaming at them when he finally does stop?  That's what you call a dead man.  Not to mention the chances of having been stopped by policeman Matt Dillon the night before, then it being Matt Dillon again the next day, in a city the size of L.A.?  That's a huge coincidence, which, by the way, is opposite of good drama. Sandra Bullock falling down the stairs, then being helped by her Mexican housekeeper and saying, "You're my best friend." Based on what?  Ludacris stealing a van full of Asian immigrants?  Not Mexicans?  What did they do, sneak across the border into the U.S. from Vietnam?  I think "Crash" is an idiotic, utterly distorted, view of racial tensions.  As a little note, here in Detroit, which has the largest Arab population anywhere outside the Middle East, I have yet to find an unfriendly store owner here, and they own most smaller markets.  The Korean store owners in L.A. were frequently impolite.  It's an allegory for knuckleheads.

Josh

Name:              mr. pc
E-mail:

Josh,

Had an argument recently about storytelling, wanted to see what you thought. The other guy says that all stories, in classical literature and anywhere, are about a protagonist who wants something in a story and the antagonist is there solely to stop him from this goal.

I argued that in most cases, generally, its the opposite. The hero just wants to be left alone, but because the villian does something, hero must act. Lets take Casablanca. I know its one your favorites, mine as well. Here Rick is content to simply run his place and be left alone. Its because Ilsa returns with Victor and Strasser wants Victor arrested that Rick gets involved. Strassers plan is to arrest the resistance leader. This is why the story happens. If Strasser didnt care, then the film would be nothing more than a strained reunion of two star crossed lovers. Obviously i can cite tons more examples. Luke skywalker is a farm boy living a farm boys life until Darth vader sends begins to think something is up on Tatooine.

But this person continues to insist the villian is recative and the hero active, while i argue the opposite.

To me the hero DEVELOPS a goal based on a situation that is created by the villian. Of course i agree with that. But initially its the villian who is active. Where do you stand on this?

Dear mr. pc:

Theoretically, your lead character, the protagonist, needs something desperately, and the antagonist is there to thwart them.  In "Casablanca," when we meet Rick he has given up the fight, mainly because Ilsa dumped him back in Paris.  When Ilsa comes to his club ("Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she comes into mine"), then we flashback to their romance, we see that he once was a committed, caring, loving guy, right up until he got his heart broken, then he gave up.  What's fascinating about "Casablanca" is that initially neither Major Strasser, nor Louis Renault, are the antagonists, it's Victor Laszlo -- he's the one stopping Rick from getting Ilsa back.  Once Rick comes to realize that Laszlo is a better man than him, and Ilsa will be better off with him, then he comes back into the fight to do what's right for Ilsa, the woman he loves.  Then Major Strasser, who's been Laszlo's antagonist from the beginning, becomes Rick's antagonist, too, because he's standing in the way of Ilsa and Laszlo escaping the country, which Rick now knows is the right thing to do.  What's also wonderful and interesting about the film is that you're not quite sure whose side Louis is on until the very end.  The story of "Casablanca" is complex, yet completely works itself out.  Rick kills Major Strasser right in front of Louis, then the policemen arrive and Louis has his great moment, "Major Strasser has been killed.  Round up the usual suspects."  The upshot of this is that Rick is reacting to Strasser, just like Jimmy Stewart is reacting to Liberty Valance -- Stewart would never have gotten a gun were it not for Valance threatening to kill him.  In "Bridge on the River Kwai," Col. Nicholson is reacting to the treatment he and his men are receiving from Col. Saito -- if Saito didn't force him, he would never have built a bridge. However, in "Lawrence of Arabia," you've got the classic Man Against Himself conflict, where Lawrence is both the protagonist and the antagonist.  But in most cases, whether it's Man Against Nature, Man Against Society, or Man Against Himself, Man is reacting to what either nature, society, or he himself is doing to him, therefore I agree with you and not your friend. Sorry for the length of my answer.

Josh

Name:              Joseph L. Snyder
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Well, thanks for letting me now. I'm just happy to have a copy of VHS. It's a great movie, one of many you've made that I loved. Along with Alien Apocalypse, Thou shalt not kill...except, and your work on Xena, Hercules, and Jack of all trades. I'm looking forward to your new movie The Horribleness. If it weren't for film makers like yourself and Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert I would have given up on watching new movies a long time ago. Thanks.

Joseph L. Snyder

Dear Joseph:

No, thank you.  I've got "The Horribleness" out to the British company that made "Hot Fuzz" and Shaun of the Dead," although I haven't heard back yet. Have you watched "If I Had a Hammer" on YouTube?

Josh

Name:              Donkey Montgomery
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was wondering your thoughts on anthology films? Do you believe they're bad structure for a film, or do you believe they should be considered as short films grouped together, and then so long as each short has proper structure they're ok?

I'm very interested in your beliefs! :D

Dear Donkey:

There are several fine anthology films, although not all that many.  But as far as I'm concerned, they have to be taken as a series of shorts strung together.  Oddly, the best ones that I can think of are all British: "Quartet" and "Trio," both collections W. Somerset Maugham short stories (with Maugham himself introducing them), as well as the classic horror film, "Dead of Night."  Most of the American anthology films that come to mind don't really work, like: "O. Henry's Full House" or "Twilight Zone: The Movie."  The problem with an anthology, as opposed to one full-length story, is that you totally lose your narrative momentum every time a story ends and a new one begins, then you basically have to start all over again getting the audience to give a damn about these character and this story.  That's why Hollywood has pretty much always been against them.

Josh

Name:              Justin Hayward (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm03
E-mail:             hayward@ionadfilms.com

Hi Josh,

What is the full story of "If I Had a Hammer" not finding distribution? I've seen it and just on technical merit alone, I would assume it would've at least show up on netflix or something.

I ask because I'm finishing my first feature right now and I'm quite terrified of the road ahead.

Dear Justin:

Love your work with The Moody Blues.  I'd say the main reason "Hammer" did not get any distribution was not having any known actors in it.  The first question from every distributor was, "Who's the star?"  When I replied that it had "A very talented, young cast of unknowns," that's all she wrote.  I'd say the second reason was my subject matter -- a period folk musical -- as opposed to violence, gore, horror and sex.  Some folks have thought the reason was the unsecured rights on a few of the songs, but that wasn't it since nobody ever asked about it.  Most of the songs are in fact in the public domain.  Having Sam Raimi in TSNKE, and Deborah Foreman and Ted Raimi in "Lunatics," and Bruce Campbell in "Running Time" was a major factor in getting those films distributed, more than I actually understood.  Good luck to you.

Josh

Name:              ron
E-mail:             bodymemory@yahoo.com

Hi Josh,

Thanks for answering my question about how you felt about your career. This is a follow-up. I was wondering if you felt any connection to those Robert Redford movies of a few decades ago... films like The Great Waldo Pepper or The Natural. To me those both were about people with great ability who somehow came of age at the wrong time.

Ron

Dear ron:

I was quite fond of "The Great Waldo Pepper" when it came out in 1975, and I saw it several times, even though it was critically panned and completely dropped dead at the boxoffice.  I tried watching it 20 years later on cable and couldn't sit through it.  I didn't like "The Natural," although it was gorgeously photographed by the terrific DP, Caleb Deschanel.  But I found it to be a stiflingly stilted, wooden movie, that was undoubtedly a better book, which I haven't read.  But allegory generally works better prose, and has great difficulty translating the screen.

Josh

Name:              Joseph Lee Snyder
E-mail:             Mega_droogie777@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I have to ask if there is ever a chance that Lunatics : A Love Story will be released on DVD. I thin it's about time, actually it's way past due.

Joseph L. Snyder

Dear Joseph:

No plans that I know of.  Honestly, I don't think Columbia even remembers that they own it.

Josh

Name:              ron
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Question: Looking back, how do you feel about your career as a writer/director? Do you tend to feel happy about what you've accomplished? Or are you more prone to feel like you should have accomplished more by now? Do you like your role as someone who exists (on purpose) on the outskirts of the film industry? Do you ever wish you had greater mainstream success or fame?

Thanks for all your work on the site.

Ron

Dear ron:

No, I'm not satisfied at all with my career.  And yes, some success would be nice.  I certainly don't feel like I've lived up to my potential.  However, it's not just me, it's the entire film industry, which totally changed in the last 30 years.  Basically, I was tricked.  I grew up watching and studying great movies, and Hollywood doesn't make great movies anymore, nor are they even interested in attempting them.  There isn't a single studio executive at this point who wouldn't be FAR happier making the 17th Batman movie instead of the 1st of anything.  In 1977 with the release and enormous success of "Star Wars," Hollywood conciously decided that kids were more important than adults, as did our whole society, too.  It's like a singing voice, if you don't use it you lose it.  Hollywood CAN'T make good movies anymore because it's been so long since they've made one, there's nothing to base it on.  I trained myself in classical storytelling and filmmaking, and that's no longer of any use at all.  In 2001, after eight years of directing idiotic TV shows, and not the slightest interest by any distributor in my at least somewhat intelligent, reasonably original, independent feature, "If I Had a Hammer," I knew it was time to leave.  I haven't yet given up -- I sent out two scripts this week -- but I no longer hold out much hope that anything of mine will ever get made, nor have I the slightest interest in raising money independently anymore.  So, there it is.

Josh

Name:              I have a big penis.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering what your thoughts are on Batman? Not so much the movies that have come out, because I know you don't like them, but more so the idea of him. I know you're not a big comic book fan but you've admitted that they've become a somewhat legit medium for story telling over the years, and aren't all just superhero trash. And also, yes he's a superhero, but I was wondering if you thought differently of him at all because he's not quite like the others: meaning he doesn't possess super powers, which I know you believe super powers make a character uninteresting, and since he doesn't have them, I wonder if maybe you thought he was just a little better than the rest of the lot?

I apologize for run on sentences and any other errors or annoyances are in that jumbled question.

Dear big penis:

I don't give anymore of a shit about Batman than I do about any other superhero.  I liked the TV show when I was nine-years-old, but you know what?  Then I grew up.  Personally, I think Batman's gay and Robin is his live-in lover.  Or is that a love-in liver?  The sooner movies get through the dumb-ass, juvenile, superhero phase, the happier I'll be.  As far as I'm concerned, superheroes are drearier than disco.

Josh

Name:              Raoul
E-mail:             raoulzraoul@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:          

There was some talk lately about "found footage" movies, although the posters were speaking of films shot to look like they were "found"
Have you ever seen 'Forbidden Nitrate'? It was a fake documentary which used "found footage" from actual early 20th century polar expeditions ( I recognized some from Shackleton's Endurance expedition,) intercut with 'talking head' interviews to tell the story of a cursed expedition to the south pole. Since the filmmakers were using existing footage, it's all about the editing and music, which create a very creepy tone.
A scene where a polar bear is spotted and then shot ( although it shouldn't even be at the South Pole,) was very unsettling and sticks with me to this day.
Have you seen or heard of this film? I can't find it listed on IMDB and have never heard any mention of it since seeing it at the Detroit Film Theatre about ten years ago. It was so odd, I've sometimes wondered if I just dreamed it up after watching a real Shackleton documentary.

Dear Raoul:

I've never heard of it, although it reminds me of Peter Jackson's fake documentary, "Lost Silver," I believe it was, purporting that the very first movies were shot in New Zealand.  It also purports that the first manned, heavier-than-air, flight was also in NZ.  It's nonsense, but well-made.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

You mentioned in an earlier post that you didn't get any royalty payments for ALIEN APOCALYPSE, and presumably HARPIES, because they were non-union productions. Are the unions the main reason that filming in Eastern Europe is so cheap? Are the unions a barrier to low budget filmmaking in the US? I did read your 'Low Budget Filmmaking' book, but didn't fully understand the limitations of union filmmaking. I thought there was a passage about if you have one union actor in the cast you have to have all union players, but I could have got it wrong.

Sorry if I'm rambling. The main question is why is Eastern Europe so cheap to film in? Do you think this will change now that the dollar is sinking?

Thanks,
Eric

Dear Eric:

Yes, when you shoot in Eastern Europe you can bypass the American unions; and even though the U.S. dollar is in the crapper, crew members over there charge a lot less than Americans.  Overseas crews aren't as snappy or as motivated as U.S. crews, but they're certainly capable (the New Zealand crews were very good), and they've got everything over there: good cameras, film labs, digital effects companies, post facilities, everything.  But nobody hustles like an American crew.  Perhaps because we have so many capable crew people here, if you don't hustle, you're gone.  If you send a PA to get something on an American crew, they run to get it.  You couldn't get a Bulgarian PA to run if you put a welding torch up their ass.  And yes, one SAG actor means you must have all SAG actors, unless they've gone "financial core," which makes you a non-voting member of the union, but allows you to work non-union.  This is what both Bruce and I did to work in Bulgaria.

Josh

Name:              Danny Derakhshan
E-mail:             vaderdust@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I'm curious if you do anything else besides film to make ends meet? I ask this because I have bills to pay and I have to do odd jobs to stay afloat. Thanks for reading this.

Danny

Dear Danny:

I have started a walkie talkie rental house here in Michigan, Motion Picture Radios of Michigan, and I'm hoping to open my doors for business on Aug. 1, although we'll see.  With the 40% rebate incentive program, many movies are being shot here now.  Clint Eastwood is presently here shooting a film called "Gran Torino."  It's pretty cool, actually.

Josh

Name:              Mark
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

In your review for "Catch Me If You Can" you state:

"Good old Leonard Maltin gave One-Hour Photo three-an-a-half stars (out of four), thus making it as good as The Godfather in his humble opinion.  I wrote to Maltin when he gave Pulp Fiction three-and-a-half stars and asked if he really believed that it was as good as The Godfather?  Maltin wrote me back saying that he doesn't compare one movie to another, he takes each film on its own merits.  I wrote back and said that his was a book of ratings, and the definition of rating is the comparison of one thing to another.  Maltin gave Catch Me If You Can three stars, and everybody I know who saw it liked it."

Well, in reality, Mr. Maltin gave "Catch Me If You Can" three stars. He gave "Pulp Fiction" three and a half stars. And last but not least, he gave "The Godfather" FOUR (out of four stars).

Can you at least get your facts straight?

Dear Mark:

Leonard Maltin finally changed his three-and-half star rating of "The Godfather" to four stars.  Maltin does change his ratings occasionally. Now, do me a favor and fuck off.

Josh

Name:              Matt
E-mail:             vegasstiles@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Hello Mr. Becker, I was reading your review for Hitler: Rise of Evil.  And it made me think of another movie which I believe came out around the same time, "Downfall".  I seem to remember liking it quite a bit, and I was wondering if you had seen it or had any opinions on it. Thanks for your time. All the best, Matt

Dear Matt:

I haven't seen it, but it sounds good and I'd like to see it.  Bruno Ganz seems like he might make a good Hitler.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

i noticed you mentioned one of Mike Binder's films, The Upside of Anger. Did you like it? Also, did you see the Sandler film he did, Reign Over Me?

On another note, I also noticed you didn't like Abbot and Costello, yet you enjoyed the Three Stooges (or at least preferred them).  I hate the Stooges yet enjoy A&C, but absolutely love Laurel & Hardy. You? Thanks.

Mike

Dear Mike:

I didn't care for "Upside of Anger."  Should I fall down a well, I certainly hope somebody looks for me.  After I was gone for a few weeks, having not contacted anyone, I'd like to believe that one of my family members might get curious.  Also, WRIF is a heavy metal rock station and doesn't have sports shows.  I didn't see "Reign Over Me."  No, I'm not much of a Laurel & Hardy fan, either.  I find their stuff slow.  I basically hate Abbott & Costello.  Bud Abbott seemed like a half-assed Moe Howard, and Lou Costello was a third-rate Curly imitator.

Josh

Name:              Jan Jonas
E-mail:             accattone@post.sk

Dear Josh:         

I have read your article and I must say there were some thoughts that disturbed me a bit. Just a small correction at the beginning, impressionist movement did not take place after WWI. I feel slightly confused by your statements. So, generally, you say that any film structure that is not three-act structure could not possibly be a solid art? Have you ever seen Antonioni? Please tell me, what does Il deserto rosso or L´Avventura say apart from describing dysfuncional relationships? And yet, they are one of the most important and inovating movies of that time and maybe cinema ever. On the other hand, I completely agree with you about the reductionism that often leads to creation pseudo art without anything behind it but effort to shock. But American beauty definitely does not deserve to be marked as one of those. Maybe if you had watched it more closely, it wouldn´t have escaped to your attention that the movie wasn´t stating: there is an american dysfunctional family solely. The movie was about the beauty and its various forms and was actually conveying a very deep message.

Dear Jan:

Sorry, but I didn't like "American Beauty," and I assure you that I watched just as closely as you did.  I stated my reasons in the review, so I don't need to state them again, but from a writing standpoint, that movie annoyed the hell out of me.  It doesn't know where it's going, or why, and I don't believe for a second that it has "a very deep message."  If you were able to construe a very deep message, that's fine, but I don't think it's actually there.    And other than "Blow-Up" and "The Passenger," if I had 35mm prints of the rest of Antonioni's films, I'd give them to you.  To me, most of his movies were like watching paint dry.

Josh

Name:              Flake Wagner
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Since you're being a total flake and not responding to new questions (or maybe the Becker well has dried up and you're just not getting them), I'm going to respond to the most recently posted: the one about "found footage."

I bet you haven't seen the films the poster brought up--perhaps 'Blair Witch' excepted. Which means you're passing your judgement on pure faith, you have "faith" in the fact that these movies are all going to be bad because you don't like hand held. I know plenty of people who get motion-sick sitting through these films, and so can understand why they can't watch them.

But it's another thing entirely to rail against how cheap, sloppy, and uninspired they are for telling their story in an interesting and different way. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and if the best way TO tell tell that story (ie 'Blair Witch') is through found-footage, then power to them. Or do you think 'Blair Witch' would have been more effective if told in the vocabulary of the traditional narrative film? Because I, as a fan, seriously have my doubts.

To me the 'found footage' film hearkens back to the days of epistolary novel writing--books like 'Flowers for Algernon,' 'The Color Purple,' and even the original 'Frankenstein.' Or something like Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' in which the entire episode is just a guy relating the story--literally in quotations all the way through! Do you have a problem with these works or this style, because (at least I feel) we're dealing with an equivalent.

If we're talking about the Bourne Identity movies, however, or anything by Paul Greengrass, and the "style" employed by the director is just shaky-cam all the way through, I agree with you, that's sloppy and lazy and an easy way out. There is no real reason that the story must be told that way; the same story can be filmed "traditionally" with tripods and dollys and still be as strong if not stronger (which I suspect they'd be).

A 'found footage' film, however, is a totally different beast. It's a gimmick to tell the story properly, as was the "unbroken shot" gimmick Hitch used in Rope, and you, if I'm not mistaken, later used in Running Time.

Dear Flake:

I'm answering the questions as they come in. [Josh is not the flake, I am. -- webmaster Shirley]   I obviously answered the "found footage" question or you wouldn't be taking exception.  My issue is that shooting everything like a home movie is in no way "interesting and different," and is still just hand-held and shitty-looking.  It reminds me of when my late buddy, Rick, wrote a horror script called "Teenagers Die Screaming," about all of these high school kids dying in various ways, then at the end you come to realize there's absolutely no connection between any of the deaths, the end.  He said, "The point is that there is no point."  I replied, "Whether you arrive at pointlessness on purpose or out of sheer ineptitude, you're still in the same place."  Just because you think you have a reason to make your whole film "found footage," or you're just a totally unimaginative director, you're still in the same place.  You've made a blanket decision for the whole film that gets you off the hook from ever having to figure out the best angle to shoot the scene.  I don't think shooting "Blair Witch" any other way would have made it any better -- it was sort of a cool shtick in its day -- but it's still not a good movie.  I had grave difficulties sitting through it the first time, and I hope to never have to sit through it again.  For me at least, a big part of cinema is juxtaposition, how this shot cuts with that shot.  If it's all henad-held, for whatever reason, you'll never have a good cut under any circumstances, nor will you ever have a well-composed shot, and therefore, you've entirely lost my interest.

Josh

Name:              Alex Spivey
E-mail:             alexspivey@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

ive been slowly buying your movies online and was wondering if you ever considered using a self distribution site like www.createspace.com to sell dvd's of "if i had a hammer". im watching it on youtube, but would like to purchase a copy on dvd.

Dear Alex:

I don't know if you, or anyone else, gives a damn, but I'll explain the situation.  "If I Had a Hammer" is 35mm and 117 minutes, which makes it about 12,000 feet long.  I had a crappy, one-light, video transfer done when the film was completed, back in 2001, that I don't like at all (that's what's on YouTube).  This transfer was done off of a 35mm print, without any color correction.  To get a good-looking transfer done I'd have to go back to either the 35mm camera negative, which doesn't have any color correction in it, so it would take a long time to do, like 3-5 entire days, at about $350 an hour.  Or I could strike an inter-positive (IP) off the negative, which would have all of the color timing in it, but that costs over $1.00 a foot, and, if you'll recall, the film is 12,000 feet long, then I'd still have to do the transfer at $350 an hour, and it would still take probably an entire day to do.   So, now matter how I go at it, I'll need at least $10,000, which I presently don't have.  I could sell DVDs of the crappy transfer, but that costs me nearly $20 each to dupe them off of the Digi-Beta master, so I'd have to sell them for at least $40, and they're just not worth it.  Hey, you asked.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Congrats on the release of Rushes!  Have you had occasion to do any signings, appearances etc. in connection with it?  And any feedback or buzz generated so far?  (I notice Fangoria gave you a nice little blurb.)

In other news, regulars to the site may want to know that your finest moment as an actor, in the Gary Jones film "Mosquito," airs at 3 AM on Sci-Fi this coming Wed. 7/9.  (His latest film "Ghouls" has the 9 PM premiere slot on Saturday.) And "Alien Apocalypse" is back at 11 PM on Thurs. 7/24.

And finally, since you haven't mentioned any projects lately, my guess is you're hard at work on something new.  Any hints?

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

No signings.  I'm just happy they fixed all of the photos and now the book looks pretty good.  Nevertheless, it still has too many typos for a published book, in my humble opinion.  Although, my buddy just showed me today and brand new hardcover book from St. Martin's Press that was missing a page, and had two of the same page.  Meanwhile, thanks for the screening info which is always welcome.

Yes, my new project is Motion Picture Radios of Michigan.  I'm going to rent walkie talkies, cell phones, bullhorns, director's chairs, and director's viewfinders to the multitude of productions that are presently coming through Michigan, now that we have a 40% rebate incentive program here. Actually, since my office will be located in Pontiac, considered a "Core" community, meaning "poor," whoever rents from me will get an extra 2% on the rebate, bring it up to 42%.  Then, once this business is up and running, and I can finally get my grubby paws on Bruce Campbell again, I'll shoot "The Horribleness" here, but that won't be for a while.

Josh

Name:              Blacky McBlackenstien
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Howdy pardner. I was just wondering what your overall thoughts were on the so called blaxploitation movement. Are there any films you like, any you particularly dislike.

I want to know, bro! Don't leave a brotha hangin'!

Dear BM:

It was nice seeing black folk taking control of at least a small portion of the film industry, although it didn't last.  Sadly, I don't think any good movies came out of it (and I will happily be corrected if anyone feels I'm wrong).  However, the music scores for "Shaft" (by Isaac Hayes, Oscar-winner) "Super Fly" (Curtis Mayfield) and "Trouble Man" (Marvin Gaye) are all great.

Josh

Name:              Whatever
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:         

You are an utterly arrogant prick.

Dear Whatever:

So, then you're a fan, right?

Josh

Name:              Ron
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

I must have read your book on feature filmmaking a hundred times. Anyway, here's my question. Your article on Monsterization reminds me of the quote from the movie The Fountainhead--the part when Gary Cooper says, "A building has integrity just like a man... and just as seldom!" What did you think of that movie?

Dear Ron:

I like King Vidor and I like his movie of "The Fountainhead."  I love the concept behind it, that a work of art, or architecture, should have the integrity put there by the single creator of it, and should not be meddled with by a committee.  This is the exact opposite way Hollywood makes movies. Everything in Hollywood is meddled with by a committee, and it doesn't make anything better.

Josh

Name:              Anthony Palmer
E-mail:

Josh:

Do you think that Bruce Campbell will act in more movies while he is on "Burn Notice"?  I know that he is rumored to star in a sequel to "My Name Is Bruce" and that you wrote "The Horribleness" with him in mind to star. That being said, I know that he has not committed to anything since he started acting on "Burn Notice" and that he rejected the "Bubba Ho-Tep" sequel, which was to shoot last fall, supposedly.  I realize that you cannot give me a definitive answer to this question.  I would just like to know your opinion on the matter since you actaully know Bruce.

Dear Anthony:

Well, there's no time for him to do anything but "Burn Notice" while that's shooting; and there's no time to shoot anything else between this season and next season, should there be one.  I tried to get him during that hiatus for "The Horribleness," but he will be touring with the theatrical release of "My Name is Bruce."  If the show doesn't get picked up for a third season, that will be a different situation.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh.

I never noticed this before his death but you and George Carlin are very similar to one another.

I draw that conclusion from the extremely intelligent and theological insights that George provided and that you provide when you need to while mixing a little humor into it.

George was quick to cut through the BS and had no problem pointing out the obvious.

Two different animals I know but still very similar in some respects.

I do not know if you are a Carlin fan or not but "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" is an interesting and humorous read.

Have a good one.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I was and am a George Carlin fan, and his passing upset me.  I've loved his comedy since I was in junior high, and I have no doubt that he had some part in forming my own worldview.  I've repeated his routine from a few HBO specials ago many times, about how ten commandments is just too many, and that there are repitions that can be deleted, like: Thou shall not commit adultery, and Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife, which can be boiled into one commandment: Thou shall be faithful.  He said that Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's belongings is against the American, capitalistic system and should be thrown out entirely.  He continues through all of them, getting rid of most, then ends up with two: Thou shall be faithful, and Thou shall not kill, unless someone else believes in a different invisible man than you do, in which case it's all right to kill them.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Hope all is well for you. I have just made a low budget feature film shot on 16mm & DV and it is nearing completion. I would like to know if you could offer any advice on how and why I should form a production company with which to sell it with. I'm not sure on how the money (if any) would be collected and distributed and where it goes, should any be obtained. For instance how much does the filmmaker keep himself and who decides..? It is probably slightly different here in England, but any advice would be a great help.
Thank you

Refards,
Keith

Dear Keith:

It was a nifty move shooting the film before you formed a company.  I guess if you don't need to raise money, then you don't need to have partners with whom you'd share the potential profits, and therefore you don't need to form a company.  You just keep everything, should there be anything.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Charles B.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

On your site you mentioned how in the late 80's Quentin Tarantino used to hang around your place with Scott Spiegel and talk about their favorite bad movies. Yet in your article in which you went to the set of "Reservoir Dogs" (in the early 90's), you wrote as if you didn't remember him at all, and then you wrote that he claimed he met once you at a screening. Narratively, this is a bit confusing, wouldn't you say?

Dear Charles:

I think in the article I was pretending to have some sort of journalistic perspective, as though I hadn't met him before, which I had.  The only time we ever went anywhere at the same time was after a screening when we all went out to a bar.  He wasn't my buddy, he was Scott's buddy.  I did run into him since then, at the opening day matinee of "The Thin Red Line" in Westwood.  I said hi, and he ignored me.  I interviewed Quentin literally for hours, and taped the whole thing, and I must admit that it saddens me that somewhere along the way I lost the tape.  He said shit like, "The best director working is John McTiernan," and I believe my utterly incredulous response was, "Get the fuck outta here!"  After all those accolades were poured all over him after his first two films, he certainly hasn't shaped up in much, has he?

Josh

Name:              Jamal Phipps (aka Mali F.)
E-mail:             riddim3456@yahoo.com

Josh Becker,

Hi, my name is Jamal Phipps, soon I will go under my screen name and pen name; Mali Fipps. I read about your some unproduced screenplays and treatments. Do you have a MySpace page so I can contact you so we can adapt our ideas to indie and Sci-Fi projects in the future.

Jamal
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dear Jamal (aka Mali F.):

And what is it you bring to this party?  Have you got a lot of money?

Josh

Name:              TJ Hammer Dean
E-mail:             Dripper25@hotmail.com

Yo Josh...

just stopping by to say hiddy ho...

what's your take on " into the wild?"

Your Hammer Dean

Dear TJ:

Good to hear from you.  I haven't seen "Into the Wild" yet.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy
E-mail:             cotts07@aim.com

Dear Josh:         

when you write your screenplays, do you ever use egri's form of premise?

Dear Jeremy:

I do use Lajos Egri's form of a story premise, but I changed it slightly. His is: something leads to something else; mine is: something causes something else.  A good plot is all cause and effect.  Act I is a big set-up that will cause Acts II and III, if it's done properly.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I noticed "The Seventh Cross" on your favorites list and was wondering what you liked about the film? I tried to watch it tonight but couldn't get into it. There was virtually no setup of the story, just the men escaping and being caught one by one. It felt noirish with the narration and style.

Dear David:

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but it seemed exciting and well-handled by the great Fred Zinneman.  For whatever it's worth, it was the first film that Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, who would later marry, made together.  I thought Spencer Tracy was good, as usual.  I may be remembering it better than it really is, but I'm a big fan of Zinneman.

Josh

Name:              patrick mendota
E-mail:             pm@yahoo.com

Yo Josh-

Has this helped you or your MI film maker peers yet?

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikeinthenews/index.php?id=11730

Michigan's new film industry incentives: "Just after the incentives went into effect, about a dozen projects came into play. Then two months ago we were at 20, and as of today I am aware of 32 projects being considered for Michigan," said Moore. "Some of those are being planned for Northern Michigan."

Dear patrick:

It's putting the Michigan crew people to work, which is great.  I'm personally starting a film equipment rental company, since MI is sadly lacking in film infrastructure at the moment.  We've already had five or six features shooting here this summer, with the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Drew Barrymore, Steve Buschemi and Joe Pantoliano.  Clint Eastwood will be here in a few weeks, too.  Personally, I think it's wonderful, and just what MI needs.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

    I shouldn't have forgotten how you feel about sequels.  I watched the fourth Rambo story in an escapist sense and enjoyed it that way.
    FIRST BLOOD was good dramatically, but annoyed me in terms of accurate portrayal of Vietnam veterans.  There was nothing overt about it (everything he does is in accordance with a man with Special Forces training who has had a serious psychotic episode, right up through the scene with him escaping the old mine).
    Where he starts to lose me is when he starts running around with an M60 machine gun (which was normally fired from the prone position, with a two man crew) on a one man rampage.  And that whole spiel from Richard Crenna's character about Rambo's mission being to 'kill. period. and count the bodies" is emphatically NOT what the Special Forces mission was in Vietnam.  The conventional Army was obsessed with body counts and a victory by attrition, whereas SF's main mission was to provide deep small unit reconnaisance and train indigenous troops in guerilla warfare.  While they received the escape and evasion, combatives, and guerilla training that Rambo displays in the film, their role was more of teacher than shadow warrior.
   The entire Rambo character served to strengthen the media stereotype of the crazy Vietnam veteran (a staple of 70s and 80s television and films)that Vietnam vets are still struggling with.  It makes me wonder when the 'crazy Iraq or Afghanistan veteran' stereotype will become mainstream in our media.  What with all the recent hype over PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), half the employers in the country are trying not hire combat vets because they think we're all crazy and might snap; so the stereotype is well on it's way.  Thanks, Rambo!

                                Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Watching an aged Sylvester Stallone reenact the hit roles of his youth seems more pathetic to me than anything else.  I suppose it's possible that a 62-year-old Special Forces guy could be hiding out in the jungle, if highly improbable, but a 62-year-old professional boxer is science fiction.  When George Foreman came back at 44 and beat Micheal Moorer for the Heavyweight Championship, it was precedent setting.  But the worst part is that these are tired old ideas that were painfully worn out by the second and third unnecessary sequels in the early 1980s.  How about a new idea?  Right now a "new idea" is adapting a comic book from the mid-50s.  If I never see another comic book made into a movie it'll be too soon.  And while I'm at it, I'll be just fine if I never see another: sorcerer, wizard, hobbit, munchkin or evil warlord trying to take over the universe.

Josh

Name:              Matt
E-mail:             mshrimp@bigpond.com

hey mate, how are you?

I know this is an older website but I have only just found it now. So I don't even know if you are responding to corespondance from here anymore, lol.

I have to say that the article that I have just read regarding your views on religion in general are honestly some of the most agreeable material that I have found yet. I sincerely concur with your opinions and think that you bring forth some interesting ideas.
In this day and age when religion has too much grip on society I think that you are to be commended for speaking out However I have just one question. From your article I am unclear on weather you are completely anti-religion, or weather you are simply against the popular religious view, as in 'passion of the christ' and mainstream society. I will say no more until I hear from you regarding your views, as my intent is not to offend anyone. Until then, good day.

regards
Matt

Dear Matt:

I'm glad you got something out of my essay.  I do believe in coherence, and I do believe that something far greater than our puny little human conception of things holds it all together.  I don't think it has a damn thing to do with any extant religion.  Humans are so afraid of mystery that they must slap names on things, then make them anthropomorphic, so they're understandable.  Well, perhaps everything isn't understandable.  Ken Kesey put it pretty well when he said there are two kinds of people in the world, and we're all on two different ladders.  One ladder goes straight to the ass of Charlton Heston playing God, and everybody on that ladder is climbing up to kiss his ass.  The other ladder is a crooked, goofy, Dr. Suess-like contraption, with duct tape holding some of the rungs on, and nobody knows where it goes.  Both groups of people on their ladders can see each other, and both groups thinks the other is crazy.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I was wondering if you have any thoughts or opinions on the recent trend in "found footage" films, where the film mimics a documentary of actual events stitched together by the characters using camcorders. You may not have seen many(or any) of the films that use this technique, such as 'Blair Witch Project' 'Cloverfield' 'Diary of the Dead' 'The Poughkeepsie Tapes', but the trend seems to be growing, at least in the horror genre. Do you think it's lazy filmmaking? Do you think it could translate to any genre other than horror?

Thanks,
Eric

Dear Eric:

It's a complete cop-out, and totally lazy.   All handheld coverage is a complete drag as far as I'm concerned.  In minutes I lose all interest in wanting the watch the thing, whatever it is, unless it's actually a documentary.  I absolutely don't need one more fake documentary, or documentary-like, thing.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

   It will be?  Awesome!!  I trust the link to the site for the new Special Edition will be posted on this site once it finally becomes available.   On another subject, I bought the fourth RAMBO movie a few weeks ago (yes, I'll admit it:  I own all the Rambo movies.  Unrealistic.  Yes. Rather insulting to real Vietnam veterans.  Certainly.  But I just love watching Sly blow shit up..), and was wondering, if you've seen it, what you thought of it.
    My two cents:  it was surprisingly good for a fourth installment sequel.  Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed this one, and despite the monosyllabic limitations of the John Rambo character, he brought a little more depth to the material than what one would expect.  The film is unflinchingly graphic and violent, but not purposelessly so; it serves to underline the brutality of the Myanmar military regime (the villains in the film), and the violence of the main character.  All in all, the film is not exactly intellectual, but it isn't just another stupid action movie, either.  Sly must've done something right:  the Myanmar military junta has outlawed sales of the film in Burma, with a ten year prison sentence for possession of the film.

                           Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I hate sequels.  I hated "Rambo II & III," and I have no use for IV.  I did, however, enjoy "First Blood."  But even that fell apart before the end.

Josh

Name:              Lucy
E-mail:             susydusy@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

hahaha, this story is sooo full of shit. Nice try tho

Dear Lucy:

What story?  Fuck, are you annoying.

Josh

Name:              Lucy
E-mail:             susydusy@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

How can a chap with such a small weener be SOOO full of shit? To be frank I am gobsmacked that people take you seriously when by your own admission your life is simply the consequence of smokin too much weed. Save some space in the real world and try an overdose sweetheart.

Dear Lucy:

Who the fuck are you?  How do you know the size of my weener (sp)?  And what has the size of someone's weener (sp) have to do with how full of shit they are?  Maybe you need to smoke some weed so you can start making some sense, and stop being so overwhelmingly gobsmacked.

Josh

Name:              Bob
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Did you see any of the Rome series by HBO.  I found it quite enjoyable, and reasonably historically accurate for historical fiction.

Dear Bob:

I watched all of it, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It had a very good sense of the reality of the times.  I'm sorry it's still not on, but apparently it was a very expensive show.

Josh

Name:              John
E-mail:             warbucks216@yahoo.com

Hi, Mr. Becker,

I was curious if you knew of any avenues to acquire the movie Harpies. I recently saw it on the Sci Fi Channel and I really enjoyed it. If you know any way to get a copy of it, other than setting the tivo next time it comes on, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

Dear John:

Thank goodness it hasn't been released on DVD.  The sooner that film completely disappears, the happier I'll be.  But I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Josh

Name:              John Huston
E-mail:
Dear Josh:

               In reference to the first assistants post, I've had two great assistant directors in my life: Tommy Shaw is one, and the other is Bert Batt. The rest range from good to fair to very bad indeed. Whatever is good about THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, Bert Batt had something to do with it. Bert's ideas were always well thought out, and usually they were good ideas. If you didn't go for what he proposed, he didn't turn petulant, but addressed himself to the next problem. He would sometimes be up two days and three nights running, arranging something complicated like a whole troop movement; not only was he a powerhouse of energy, but he was resourceful to an amazing degree. When it came time to shoot the Khyber Pass scenes, we learned that the tribes in our area would not allow women to be photographed. Undaunted, Bert went to the nearest cities and recruited women from the brothels. We had been warned not to touch any women in public-even a whore was someone to be protected from foreign infidels, and the tribesmen in this place carried knives or weapons of some sort. This sequence involved a large number of people and camels moving though the "Khyber Pass," and we had already experienced great difficulties with the camels, which were agricultural camels broken to the plow but not accustomed to being loaded or ridden. Then, at a turnstile which was supposed to mark the border between Afghanistan and India, one of the women froze and refused to move. The camels were piling up behind her. All entreaties were to no avail. She simply froze and refused to budge. Bert Batt walked up behind her and kicked her right in the ass. He kicked her so hard that even I-standing next to her-felt it. The woman only had to make an outcry and Bert would have been cut into ribbons. Instead, she hung her head as if to say, "Yes, Master," and moved on to join the others.
     The great first assistants are all well known. They are like great top sergeants, often valued more highly than the director. When I find such an assistant, I put all my trust into him, First assistants are basically "company men," and one of their primary responsibilities is to protect the interests of the studio. Some of them carry this to the extremes, basing every decision on immediate monetary savings, regardless of quality. Then there are those, like Tommy Shaw and Bert Batt, who understand that cutting corners doesn't necessarily save money. They have the ability to perceive what a director is after, and the judgment to decide whether it's good enough to warrant added expense. If it is, they are the director's champions.
     A first assistant worth his salt takes over the details, leaving the director free to make creative decisions. The first assistant decides when the company moves; whether or not there should be a second unit working on the preparation of the so-called action shots; whether the action scenes should be shot together or broken up. He is a specialist in such back-up people as stunt men; he knows them by name, and knows who is best for what: falls, horses, rope-climbing, driving, piloting or motorcycling. When it comes to explosives, he picks the powder man. A good first assistant is a first-rate diplomat as well as a disciplinarian. He has the ability to command without offending people. Along with his authority he has a sense of fitness and good taste. He is able to go to the stars' dressing rooms and persuade them to his course of action without toadying to them or seeming too authoritarian. There aren't many like this.

John

Dear John:

Holy shit, the ghost of John Huston is visiting my website.  Give my best to the ghost of Willy Wyler.

Josh

Name:              Kenneth
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What does the job of an Assistant Director entail on a typical low-budget film? Does he or she really end up being the most hated person on set as some have told me?

Best,

Kenneth

Dear Kenneth:

Forgetting "typical low-budget movie," since there isn't one, a 1st Assistant Director runs the set, probably made the schedule, and is ostensibly responsible for following the schedule, although that's truly up to the director.  The 1st AD is regularly checking in with the production manager or producer or both, letting them know what's going on.  The 1st is the one who is constantly calling for "Quiet on the set," and is the one who's making sure the actors have gotten to wardrobe and make-up, and will be out on the set when they're supposed.  I've worked with quite a few asshole 1st ADs, who were truly the most hated person on the set, but I think that's entirely unnecessary.  I've also worked with quite a few nice 1st ADs who were able to do their jobs without being assholes, and without yelling.  Many directors are also hated because they're "screamers," but I don't subscribe to that method at all.  I pretty much made it through six years of Xena without ever raising my voice.  My approach is to simply be more prepared than anyone else on the production, and I always know what I want next.  I don't want anyone on my set screaming at anybody.  I personally hate big-mouth, asshole 1st ADs.

Josh

Name:              Yaara
E-mail:             yaaratalj@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Comments regarding the Unbreakable - If the a movie plot involving a real life superhero sounds so ridiculous to you right from the beginning, do you really think you're fit to critic it? You didn't even try to balance your good and bad arguments, which makes the whole critic a bit pointless

Dear Yaara:

I'd say I'm as fit to review the film as anyone else.  Nor do I have to be fair and balanced (like the entirely unfair and unbalanced Fox news).  I didn't like the film, and I stated why.  What other credentials do I need? Meanwhile, if credentials were actually necessary to reviewing a film -- and they're not -- I'd bet I have better ones than any film critic working.

Josh

Name:              jcrn
E-mail:             jcorn59483@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

I would like to interview you and, as odd as it may seem, I am trying to find out about tv logos, including the one used on Xena at some points. I'm a writer and we sometimes wonder about odd things.

Dear jcrn:

Do we now?  Interview me for what?  Sadly, I know nothing about TV logos, including Xena.

Josh

Name:              Charlie Smith
E-mail:             Incrediblechuck2000@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

After reading several reviews on your site I just can't imagine what movies you would like. I can't imagine you watching any movie without your internal analysis distracting you from the simple pleasure of just sitting back and enjoying the ride. I couldn't find one positive review. No I didnt read all of them because I don't have time to sift through rants. Can you please prove me wrong by proving that your not just a bitter film maker who is lashing out, and point out a few positive reviews on your site. OR do you only post the negative one? How about a review of 'The Gift'

Dear Charlie:

I haven't gotten the "bitter filmmaker who is lashing out" routine in months.  I do have my favorite film list which proves I like something.  But generally, for me to write a review, which I haven't done in a while, it's because I've been moved one way or another and thus inspired to write the review.  The best movie I've seen lately, as I've already mentioned, was "The Purple Plain" (1954) with Gregory Peck.  Next would be "Battle of the Coral Sea" (1959), in widescreen black and white, with Cliff Robertson and young Tom Laughlin.  Both of these were well-written, well-directed, and well-acted.  And "The Purple Plain" is absolutely gorgeous, a truly spectacular-looking film, shot be the great Geoffrey Unsworth.  Honestly, I do wish that great films were still being made so I could positively review them.  But they're not.  "The Gift" went in one ear and out the other.

Josh

Name:              Nick
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Actually, I adore Lovecraft's writing style. The problem with his work, I find, is that he's not much of a storyteller. His stories basically read like newspaper articles, with everything in the past participle, and everyone keeps describing "horrible" things that are never explained. None of it's really scary, either, although the implications of the stories are incredibly nihilistic and grim. However, I don't have a problem with this approach since most of his stories are very short, and still consistently interesting with fascinating ideas (if they were novels, I doubt I could get through them). But, yeah, not nearly as good as Mr. Poe (who was Lovecraft's main inspiration) and definately not as good as Borges.

As for Kwai and Lawrence, isn't that like comparing apples and oranges? I must say, though, Lawrence is definately my favorite (Kwai is better written). It's a marvelous exploration of the disatrous effects being a hero can have on a person's mind, body, and soul, and surely there's some irony in that. And the photography is to die for - the shots of the boy looking out over the desert, where it's just giant blue and yellow rectangles with no sound, and the opening shot of Lawrence's tiny little driveway, which so brilliantly contrasts the enormous open spaces in the rest of the film. I can't agree with your assessment of the finale - to have the audacity to end a film like that, where the hero just becomes a forgotten, hollow shell of a man, just floors me every time.

But I love Kwai too. I also really like "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," and how an insane gambler like John Huston made such an anti-greed film. I loved the look Walter Huston gives Bogart when they're in the tent and says "When are we gonna start dividing it?" What do you think?

Dear Nick:

I think "Treasure of the the Sierra Madre" is a great movie that holds up through an endless amount of viewings.  You get Bogart, Walter Huston, and John Huston all at their very best.  The film is loaded with terrific moments, like Walter Huston doing his dance and saying, "You two are so stupid," or Bogart catching Tim Holt reaching under the rock where his "goods" are hidden.  They don't make pictures like that no more.

Josh

Name:              jc
E-mail:

Josh,

Recently heard that some studios was thinking about doing away with residuals for writers. As a writer myself im torn on this issue. For one the obvious first reaction: this is very bad. I want to be paid when my product sells.

But i cant help but think this is, in a way, fair. If a product is successful and audiences pay again and again to see it then as a writer i should also be paid again and again. If the thing bombs well then...And will this perhaps raise the value of good writers? Or are they still dime a dozen?

Back to the other side. As i said If I work i expect to be paid. Regardless of whether or not my film sells. The studio bought it, its essentially their problem to market it.

Where do you stand on all this?

Dear jc:

It's not up to the studios.  Residuals are procured and paid out by the guilds.  Residuals are based on showings and sales, so if the film doesn't sell or show anywhere, there are no residuals.  Personally, I like residuals, and I'm always very pleased when I get them.  But these last two Sci Fi films I directed were both non-union, and therefore there's no residuals,  That sucks because "Alien Apocalypse" has shown quite a few times, and sold very well on DVD, and I don't get anything.

Josh

Name:              Wendel Hill
E-mail:             wendhill@breadbox.com

mr. bicker:

i was wondering jorsh if you would be interested in coming t o my home for a private film festival to be presented on m y sumptuos THXx theater system which rivals a movie theater.  we have a spare room for the likes of you where you would be appointed well and we have pancakes.  mostly i want to watch star trek related movie but we could watch something you want too if you insist

please come.  i am lonely out here

Dear Wendel:

I would, but I've got to be getting back to the planet Earth now.  Enjoy your pancakes.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

I watched the movie "Last Summer" that was discussed.

Barbara looks exectly like she did in "Boxcar Bertha". The movies were only a couple of years apart. Yes...Barbara certainly had the plump hiney didn't she Josh? That's what I'm talking about. Hell yeah! The woman transcends time Josh.

Seeing John Boy Walton as a young kid, and I do mean kid, was unexpected. I can also tell you for sure that PETA would never let that old "string on a seagull" trick happen today. Shit! I couldn't even imagine the controversy that would bring today. I am assuming this is the movie where the seagull was accidentally killed resulting in the "Barbara Seagull" > personification.

It was a fun movie to watch in most respects and definitely embodied the kinds of experiences most kids experience even today. The Heineken on the beach brought back memories for me but I was never able to get a girl to take off her top with another guy around. The scene in the movie theater where both the boys are feeling her boobs I thought was intriging for some reason.

Richard Thomas's character clearly had issues which manifested on a mostly subtle level the whole movie. The issues came around full circle obviously with the rape of the nerdy girl at the end. Of course, little Susie was apparently a psychopath as well and encouraged the rape as far as I could tell. Let's not forget she murdered the bird due to a peck interpreted by her as the bird turned on her after she saved it. The other kid was your basic home grown pervert.

It was beautifully shot and I am definitely into the beach. That alone was enjoyable enough for me. I thought the final long shot was wonderfully pulled off as well.

I don't know if I am an idiot or not but I'm not sure I got the point of the movie. Was it just a bunch of young fudged up kids attempting to help each other deal with their issues or was there something symbolic and deep hidden in there?

I'm watching it again tonight so I hope to gather a different perspective then. There is every possibility that I missed some things the first time around.

What are your thoughts on the movie Josh?

Finally, if you like the mixture of surf, sand and love then you might check out "Summer of 42". I think you would probably like it. It was released in 1971.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I can't comment on "Last Summer" having not seen it since it came out, nearly 40 years ago.  I also read the book at the time, and I can't remember that, either.  I don't recall there being any deep meaning.  Meanwhile, I've seen "Summer of "42" several times, it was a big, hit movie.  It was directed by Robert Mulligan, who also directed "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I was going through the backlog of Q&As when I caught up to a thread about the relationship between quality, or audience appreciation and money. Obviously, there's a huge divide between what film executives THINK audiences want to see, and what really does strike a cord with them. I was personally surprised to find that "On Golden Pond," was the second highest grossing film of 1981, just behind "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I'm fairly certain that a film about an octogenarian couple wasn't greenlit with the notion it would be a blockbuster hit.

--Brett.

Dear Brett:

Other than the fact that "On Golden Pond" is a pretty good movie, it actually was a very bankable idea in 1981.  Katherine Hepburn had won two of her four Oscars not all that long before, and Jane had won her second Oscar three years earlier, and Henery had never won one so he might very well get it for this (and he did), so it had a lot going for it.  Lovely photgraphy by the great Billy Williams, too.

Josh

Name:              Kenny Mooney
E-mail:             mooneykenny@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Thank-you for being there, there are so few brave people to take on religion. Been trolling the internet and there ain't much hope or bravery out there. I agree with all you say, religion is evil and may more of us attempt to remove this cancer from the planet. One suggestion, the way you say it really distracts from the argument, it makes you look angry , dangerous, and easily dismissed. I love it, but if you really wanna make your point you are gonna have to simply lose the cursing. You have the good points and the bravery, perhaps that goes hand in hand with the vitriolic tone...anyway , just a helpful suggestion. See not all those without a God are evil, some of us take the time to offer a hand to a stranger.

Dear Kenny:

Thanks for the suggestion.  Of course, it is a vitriolic, angry piece, and I rather like the tone.  We've all gotten so timid in the past 20 years, with this notion of political correctness, and that children are more important than adults, which I think is a big load of shit.  You spend a quarter of your life as a kid, and, hopefully, three-quarters as an adult, therefore being an adult is three times as important as being a kid.  Buddha's number one noble truth is: "Life is suffering," and kids need to learn that early or they won't be prepared for adulthood.  Life's a bitch, get used to it. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the essay.

Josh

Name:              Justin Boggan
E-mail:             justinboggan@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

How come Joseph LoDuca didn't score "Harpies" though he did everything from then to 1994 (stopping briefly at one TV show).

And will he score "The Horribleness"?

Thank you for your time,
-Justin-

Dear Justin:

The reason Joe didn't score "Harpies" is because the executive producer, Jeff Franklin, is a tasteless idiot.  It's the very same reason he didn't hire my buddy Gary Jones to do the effects, nor, sadly, to he hire anyone else to them, either.  Joe's score for "Alien Apocalypse" is one the best parts about that movie.  Jeff Franklin's comment about Joe's score for that film was, "It's too light," meaning it didn't run solidly over every single scene.  Well, that's how a good score is written.  If you score every single scene it diminishes the power of the music.  As for "The Horribleness," if I ever get to actually make it, Joe will certainly score it.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Josh,

You are right on time about Barbara Hershey. She was, and still is, one hot woman.

Barbara is your basic cool, down to earth flower child.She was an exhibitionist at heart I think and a child of nature. I have read about the seagull incident and her subsequent name change to Barabra Seagull for a short duration.

I have the August 1972 issue of Playboy that has a small article about "Boxcar Bertha" in it. Barbara and David Carradine were once lovers and maintain that the sex scenes in "Boxcar" were real and not simulated. I believe what they say. I have two press release photos from "Bertha" as well. Sadly, I'll never get to meet her to talk shop and ask her to sign the photos.

Another interesting aspect about that particular issue of Playboy is the Sam Peckinpah interview. Sam - "I don't want another son of a bitch making good movies. I detest every film maker except the innocuous ones. I love Ross Hunter. Ross Hunter is my idol. I'd like to be Ross Hunter." Later on in the interview concerning producers - "I think there has to be one person who's making a picture and that person has to be the director."

Interesting interview Josh. I think you would like reading the whole thing.

Finlly, I just found "Last Summer" at a reasonable price. I'll let you know my thoughs on it after I watch it. Thanks again for giving out the tip.

Tim

Dear Tim:

Mmmmmmm, Barbara Hershey in "Last Summer."  It's three years earlier than the Playboy article.  Her and Michelle Phillips are the ultimate cute hippy girls.  As for Sam Peckinpah, by 1972 he'd already lost his mind.  Having loved "The Wild Bunch" (and I still do), to watch his decline over those years from "Straw Dogs" to "Pat Garrett" to "The Killer Elite" was sad.

Josh

Name:              Ross Tosskov
E-mail:             rtaskov@lycos.com

Dear Josh:         

Typical American, narrow-minded, haughty, completely ignorant to anything cultural or unique in a good way about the places they visit, may be simply because there is no such thing as an American culture (apart from perhaps the American Indians who are near extinction).
. .
No reasons for you man to be proud that you are blind for the world around you.
I just feel sorry about people like you.
Good Luck!
RT

Dear Ross:

You wouldn't be Bulgarian by any chance, would you?  And might you possibly be making reference to my essay, "Bulgarian Impressions"?  I feel sorry for idiots like you who don't make reference to what the hell you're talking about, then expect me or anyone else to know what your comments are in regard to.  Meanwhile, I didn't intend to be insulting with my essay, they were simply my impressions.  I wasn't there for just a few days; I was there for over three months.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Are you as thrilled as I am that Obama finally locked up the Democratic nomination? I also like how he's handling himself with all the pressure to have Clinton on the ticket.

Dear Jeff:

Yes, it pleases me greatly.  Personally, I don't think Hillary should be his VP.  The best suggestion that I've heard is Gen. Wesley Clark, who has all of the military and foreign affairs experience that Obama is lacking, he's far less liberal, he's white, male, old, and he seems like a good person. Sounds like a logical ticket to me.

Josh

Name:              Mumblecore
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I agree that film hasn't become any better with the advent of digital, but I don't fully believe that it's hurt it any either, except maybe more films are being produced at a quicker rate, the majority of which I admit are bad.

I don't believe the lighting difference is always a bad thing. I thought the movie "Tape" was a good movie and it certainly didn't look like film. However, I saw "The Brown Bunny", which is a horrible film, look like it was digital when it was actually shot on film.

I think the overall bottom line is: Is the film good? If the film's good, I personally don't care what it was shot on.

Much more respect sent your way.

Dear Mumblecore:

I don't think digital has hurt anything, I just think it's helped anything. I liked "Tape," in spite of the fact that looked bad, and was poorly directed, too, but more importantly than those things, it had a darn good script, and three terrific actors, so Richard Linklater wasn't able to totally fuck it up.  It does matter to me, though, how a film looks, and just because you shoot on film doesn't mean it'll look good, not by any means.  Some filmmakers have had the ability of making perfectly good 35mm film stock look like shit since the silent era.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

   If you changed the title back to STRYKER'S WAR and repackaged it with a new marketing angle, you might have a new market for it.  Think about it: Marines vs. a terrorist cult.  The concept is relevant to what is going on today, and it wouldn't be the first time that a movie was reissued for a new market climate.  If not that, then a new 'Special Edition' with the original short 'Stryker's War' and maybe a short making of documentary as bonus extras.  Given the minor cult status of TSNKE, this is not an unsaleable concept.  If Sam Raimi and Anchor Bay can come out with yet another "Ultimate" edition of THE EVIL DEAD, then why not you?

                            Darryl

Dear Darryl:

The "Special Edition" is supposed to be coming out at some point in the none too distant future from Synapse Films, with  "Stryker's War" and a documentary, much of which has been shot.  We've signed contracts and they've already paid me, but I haven't heard from them in months.  What's up with that?  They're going to re-release "Running Time," too, with the short "Holding It" on it and a doc.

Josh

Name:              The Wine Drinking Critic
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I'm nearing the end of John Huston's AN OPEN BOOK (last month's book was Ken Burns THE CIVIL WAR), and the last chapters I read concerned FREUD and THE BIBLE. How did you feel about those two films?

I noticed FREUD doesn't seem to be in release according to imdb.com... but I found a bootleg copy online.

I like John Huston's story about THE BIBLE, all the work he put in to get the animals walking into the ark side by side, and nobody cared, because, animals always walk into an ark two by two, it's a known fact.

Your opinion on MUSLIM WORLD may be valid, but I thought it was funny, so it works for me.

Dear WDC:

It's got to be at least 30 years since I saw Freud on TV, and I can barely remember it.  "The Bible" is a terrible movie, but I enjoyed the one sequence where they build the Tower of Babel and Stephen Boyd shoots an arrow at god.  I just wish it had the Three Stooges eye-poke sound effect accompanying it.  I liked "An Open Book" quite a lot.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

For the most part, I've sworn off watching movies. I'm tired of the useless, milk-n-toast shit that passes off for cinema. This past Friday, while at the library, I saw saw a DVD called "Voces Innocentes". Translated in English, this means "Innocent Voices." The plot-in war-torn 1980's El Salvador, Chava, an 11-year old boy, suddenly becomes the "man of the house" in a time when the government's army is forcibly recruiting children for civil war. As his single mother fights to protect her children, their village becomes both playground and battleground. I was intrigued enough by this synopsis to rent the DVD and take it home.

This movie has done what no other film in my life has. It shook me to the core and ripped out my heart. This is the darkest, most devastating film I've ever seen. It crushed me. It nearly brought me to tears-and I'm not a person who is moved easily. It is a ferociously unforgiving, unflinching look at how society can fall apart, sparing absolutely no one-not even the most innocent.

I'll never forget this movie. This movie has reminded me what the awesome power of film can bring, when used to its fullest potential-something that Americans have mostly forgotten. We Americans have gotten too used to milk-n-toast horseshit, and we also don't want to look at anything happening beyond our borders. We've become apathetic to the world around us, not giving a fuck that America isn't the be-all, end all. Instead of focusing just on what's happening within our borders, we need to look at what's happening in the world around us, open our frigging minds and learn about how the human condition plays out elsewhere-including absorbing the bitterest of the lessons that play out on the world stage. Films like this NEED to be out there to remind us of the dark side of homo sapiens and how we can't let that side of us run amok.

SEE THIS FILM. I cannot stress this strongly enough. You've complained about the lack of substance in film. This gem is something you simply can't afford to miss.

Dear Saul:

Helluva good review, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Josh

Name:              Scott Cole
E-mail:             scole9179@juno.com

Hey Josh. I was referred here by your niece Eden. I was a teacher at her school.

She told me you worked on the Evil Dead Series.

I was wondering if you ever saw an Italian/Mexican production called La Tomba by Bruno Mattei. In the movie, they steal a lot of footage from Army of Darkness, some of the Indiana Jones movies, and others.

Since I love movies, I don't like seeing other people rip off of other's work. Just wondering if you or Sam Raimi new about it.

Love your movies. Hope to see more of them.

Scott

Dear Scott:

No, I never saw it or heard of it.  I don't know what Sam knows.  It doesn't really matter to me because they're not my movies.  Thanks for the heads up.

Josh

Name:              Raoul O'Hara
E-mail:             raoulzraoul@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:          

I noticed your mention of the new Michigan Film incentives, and I thought you might be interested in this press release I just read:

Provides a Cash Rebate on Michigan Expenditures of 40%, and 30% for labor and crew. Includes preproduction, production and postproduction costs. For example: Scripts, set design and construction, equipment rental, makeup, special effects, film processing, editing, sound mixing, stage usage, catering, lodging, etc. Preproduction and Postproduction costs include costs relating to the creation of trailers, marketing videos, commercials, duplication of materials created for consumer consumption. $50,000 minimum expenditure is required. 30% Credit for qualified personnel expenditures can not exceed $2 million for any one person. Rebate rises to 42% for expenditures in Core Communities, 103 Communities, urban (Detroit, Southfield, Grand Rapids) lake side (Holland, Grand Haven) and mid state (Grayling, Sturgis) Rebate is in the form of a Refundable Credit. This credit is also assignable to another company. Except for the $2 million per individual salary cap, there is no other cap on this Rebate, and no expiration date (also called a sunset).

It sounds like the rebate on personnel/crew is only 30% and comes in the form of a credit ( tax credit?) So hiring you to direct would only save someone 30%, (and there's that 2 million $ salary cap, so you probably wouldn't get your usual fee.)

I also have two questions for you:
1. Who do you think you are?
2. What gives you the right?

Dear Raoul:

Who let you use a computer?  You're not allowed on the interweb.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

   Indeed, Gregory Peck was an asset to any film he worked in, even the lesser ones.  Speaking of Huston's MOBY DICK, do you happen to know what film stock that was shot on?  I ask because it looks contemporary even now, and not at all like a 1950's film.  Part of it was Huston's authenticity of detail (i.e., no actors wearing Vitalis in the background), but the main part was the cinematography.
     On another note, have you ever considered changing the title of TSNKE back to STRYKER'S WAR?  It just seems to fit the subject better and besides, as much of a fan of TSNKE that I am, THOU SHALT NOT KILL:  EXCEPT is a lame title for an action picture.  Just a thought.

                             Darryl

Dear Darryl:

TSNKE is a 23-year-old movie, why on earth would I start messing around with it now?  I'm not crazy about the title, either, but that's what it is. Regarding what film stock "Moby Dick" was shot on, I can't say, but it was photographed by the great British DP, Oswald Morris, who really did give the film a unique look, probably with filters on the lens and gels on the lights.

Josh

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

Hi Josh

Wondered if I could ask a favour, please? You liked my short film, 'Camping'. Well, another of my shorts, Doodlebug, is currently the second most viewed on the Virgin Media Shorts website. The 12 winners get their short shown in UK cinemas for a year, before the main feature. Could you post this e-mail, togther with this link, please?: My short film DOODLEBUG is the second most viewed in the Virgin Media Shorts competition (ooh, get me!) The 12 winners get their films shown in UK cinemas for a year.

I know most of you have seen it before, but could you PLEASE click on the link:

http://www.virginmediashorts.com/film/1543551325

And then if people like, they can vote and comment.

Thanks Josh. I've got Ridley Scott's Duellists; will make time to view and get back to ya.

Lee

Dear Lee:

No problem.  I hope you win.

Josh

Name:              Mumblecore
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I've posted on here before. I've never once said that film is dead, or that film isn't still a great thing to shoot movies on. I'm all for film. However, I do believe that a movie doesn't have to be shot on film to be good. I think both film and digital can co-exist without bumping the other one off.

My only main argument for why digital should be utilized is that the good stuff can look like film. And overall, digital is cheaper than film (no developing costs, etc.). The cameras are more expensive, but once you've bought one, or rented one, you've taken care of the really expensive part (as far as hardware goes).

It just seems reasonable to me that if you can get the same look for much cheaper, then why spend more money than is needed. Put that money into production design and lighting and really good special effects (if your movie calls for it). Put the money on the screen, not into a developer's pocket.

That's my only argument really. And that's specifically for really good DV.

The cheap DV isn't completely invalid either, but no, it's not of the same quality when it comes down to looks.

Ultimately, it's the script that matters. I don't think there should be a bias against any movie simply by what camera was used.

I hope I've made some sense. I also hope I didn't sound like a prick. That wasn't my intention.

Much respect to you and your work.

Dear Mumblecore:

No, you make perfect sense, although you'll never get the same look with digital as with film.  They're entirely different things that react differently to light.  You can put your digital movie through the Film Look process and it still doesn't look like film.  Be that as it may, I don't believe that the advent of digital filmmaking has improved movies at all. In fact, I think movies are much worse now than they've ever been.  With my first feature, TSNKE, because I was making a movie, on film, I wanted to make something that was spectacular, or what I could pull off as spectacular with no money.  Now, because you have twelve cents and a DV camera, what we get are two people wandering around kvetching, which is anything but spectacular.  I personally don't care what format movies are shot in, but the concept needs to be amazing, not cheap and affordable.

Josh

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

Hi Josh:

Have you heard of a new documentary about Dalton Trumbo, incidentally called "Trumbo" which recalls his career and has snippets of his work recited by actors like Liam Neeson and David Strathairn? It's over at Apple Trailers for your viewing pleasure.

On another note, did you see that the City of Philadelphia is asking its local Boy Scouts of America troop to start paying $200, 000 in rent per year (they currently pay $1 per month) unless they admit openly gay members? I didn't realize it was their policy to be bigots, but then again, as a Canadian, I don't much understand how that exclusivity is a First Amendment right.

--Brett.

Dear Brett:

I did hear about the Boy Scouts thing, but they always seemed like a gay organization to me anyway.  You get to wear cute little shorts, a sash like Miss America, and hang out exclusively with boys.  I have no doubt there's been buggery going on with those boys for a hundred years.  The Dalton Trumbo doc sounds extremely interesting.  Kirk Douglas gave him his first credit in about ten years on "Spartacus," thus ending his being blacklisted. Otto Preminger immediately followed suit with "Exodus," then tried to take credit ending Trumbo being blacklisted.

Josh

Name:              Nick
E-mail:

Hey Josh

Speaking of Harry Potter, I saw the third installment on TV and hadn't the slightest idea what was going on. All I could manage to decipher was that these kids can basically do anything (like, if they need to travel back in time, they can), so they're never in any real danger.

If your nephew is interested in fantasy, however, might I suggest the work of H.P. Lovecraft or Jorge Luis Borges? Those seem like the stories were written specifically for intelligent people, don't involve any wizards or dragons, and the language is goregous. As an aside, I recently read Borges' short stories "The South" and "The Immortals," both of which I thought were just terrific, even though they were only a few pages long. Here's a line from "The Immortals" which stuck with me:

"I have noticed that in spite of religion, the conviction as to one's own immortality is extremely rare. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all profess belief in immmortality, but the veneration paid to the first century of eternal life is proof that they truly believe only in those hundred years, for they destine all the rest throughout eternity to rewarding or punishing what one did when alive."

I did like your book on filmmaking, the section on montage was excellent. I do prefer "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Kwai," though. Definetely looking forward to Rushes (and sorry about getting back to you so late).

Dear Nick:

Were we speaking of Harry Potter?  I actually met Jorge Luis Borges when I was going to U of M.  He was in his eighties, was blind (his eyes were entirely white), and couldn't have been more interesting.  I like his stories quite a lot.  I never got into Lovecraft, whose prose always seemed intentionally antiquated, and somewhat stilted to me.  I felt he was vainly attempting to emulate Poe, whom no one can touch.  I love "Lawrence of Arabia," too, but "Kwai" tighter and more polished.  David Lean had the same issues with "Lawrence" that I do, which is that it becomes somewhat unfocused in it's final hour.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Recently you said, "Don't get your hopes up too high for TSNKE. It's more of a curiosity at this point than anything else." I know I've said this before, but Josh, you really shouldn't sell this film short. It's got a compelling premise, excellent shot composition, crisp editing. The "violence vignettes" are really creative and alot of fun. The actors, though inexperienced, all portray their roles with enthusiasm. I really liked Tim Quill in this film. I'm surprised he didn't go on to have a bigger career as a character actor. I know I'm not alone in my love for this film, because as you said, the film keeps selling and selling; and it's much more entertaining than the drek Hollywood has been pumping out for so many years. I think that TSNKE is the second most underrated film ever made. (the first is HAMMER) Any further word on the Synapse releases? I'm waiting on baited breath.
Take care,
Stan

Dear Stan:

Jeez, thanks a lot.  Honestly.  Apparently, you like TSNKE more than me.  On the radio this weekend they were doing the history of the Rolling Stones, and they called Mick Jagger and asked him what his favorite Rolling Stones song is.  Mick replied, quite sincerely I think, "I don't much like any of them at all."  So, it's a very different position being the creator. Nothing ever comes out the way you imagined it.  Meanwhile, Tim Quill has a pretty good part in Bruce Campbell's new movie, "My Name is Bruce," and he's very funny.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

not a question, but I just read this article about Spike Lee, although, I am not the greatest fan of his films, i think he has brought up two good points in the article and I thought it was cool that he said what he did because I think he is right.

"Speaking about his World War II drama "Miracle at St. Anna," Lee said that, unlike the Coens, he was respectful in the way he portrayed death.

'I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't," Lee said at a news conference Tuesday.

'Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that.'

Speaking about the casting for his tale of four black American soldiers in Tuscany, Lee said that black actors appear in war films too infrequently.

'Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen," he said. "If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that -- that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know.'"

-Scott

Dear Scott:

Were he not such a rascist little prick I might care what he says.  Not to mention I think he's a dull, bullshit filmmaker.  That last piece of crap with Denzel Washington as a cop was utterly useless.  I will give Spike Lee credit for making me feel more frightened in a movie than I've ever been before or since, not from what was in the movie -- "Do the Right Thing" -- but from how it made the predominantely black audience get so agitated during the riot scene that I thought I was going to be killed.  To me, the film did very much the wrong thing.  Plus, I still don't know what the point was, because I don't think he had a point.  I have no doubt his WWII movie will be crap.

Josh

Name:              The Wine Drinking Critic
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you seen these two movies yet?

ASK THE DUST

From Robert Towne. Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek give two damn good performances as a writer who's stuck in a miserable existence, and a waitress who fucks around in the 1930s. Donald Sutherland gives a good side role too as his bum neighbor. Unfortunately, the film lacks a plot, and you keep getting the feeling it's going nowhere despite the performances. Surely enough, after the 1hr 30min mark, act three turns into a pointless disaster, all the movie had to say was: Fucking hot mexican women is good, very good. So good, when you climax you can almost feel people watching you from a dark theater in another dimension. But don't let her smoke marijuana, or she'll develop a really nasty cough and die.



LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD

This isn't actually better or worse than LOST IN AMERICA, which is a good thing. It does end abruptly, and someone in the first act makes fun of this "I saw LOST IN AMERICA" "What'd you think of it?" "I thought the ending was a little tacked on... just a little". Albert Brooks takes a non-paying job to write a 500 page report on making muslims laugh... he only gets four pages before accidentally sending India and Pakistan to nuclear war.

Dear WDC:

I didn't see "Ask the Dust," although I did read the book by John Fante, but I did see "Looking For Comedy in Muslim World," and I thought it was a complete disaster.  Completely misconceived and not funny.  Not to mention he spends far too much time in India, which it's not part of the Muslim world.  I do like "Lost in America," abrupt, tacked-on ending and all.

Josh

Name:              michealmyers
E-mail:             michealmyers99@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Is there any way to get a soundtrack or any of the tracks from Alien Apocalypse?  Loved the movie and would like to get some of the sound tracks if possible.

Dear michaelmyers:

I'm glad you enjoyed the film, and it's score.  There's been talk recently between La La Land Records, Joe LoDuca and myself about releasing all of Joe's scores for my films in a 2- or 3-CD set, but I don't know where the whole deal is, because Joe controls all of the rights to his music (except sync).  You can contact La La Land Records at  info@lalaland-ent.com

Josh

Name:              Retrospective Man
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering if there are any films that you love so much that you wish you'd made them.

Also, are there any movies out there that have become huge hits that are so shockingly similar to your scripts that you kick yourself for not having had the chance to produce your script because you now know that it might have been a huge hit?

Dear RP:

I just don't think that way.  I don't wish that I'd made "Casablanca" or "Lawrence of Arabia," I just want to watch them.  I will admit that when I watch "Citizen Kane" or "The Magnificent Ambersons" I do feel envious of Orson Welles's blatant talent.  The same goes for Stanley Kubrick's films. Something deep in my brain is saying, "I'll never be that good.  Not a chance."

Josh

Name:              Will
E-mail:             wdodson52@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I purchased Rushes the day it came out, and have been enjoying the reading, even having read already the essays posted on the site. What I like about the essay style is that it's not artificially polished. It reads as a person might think or speak, making associative digressions and occasionally just letting an anecdote be an anecdote.

On the downside is something that's never the fault of the author, and is a plague afflicting many small publishers: typos. The author can never find them; he's too close to the writing to see them. And small presses (as I'm sure was the case with Point Blank)usually can't afford full-time copy editors. As a result, there are quite a few little misspellings, or "it's" instead of "its," and so on.

Nevertheless, it's a refreshing, exciting read. In every film course I teach, I recommend students check out your essays on structure and on the experience of actually making films. I think what I'll do next time I get an intro to film criticism course is make one or both of your books required. Get a couple extra sales out of them.

Anyway, congratulations on a great second book. I hope there's more to come.

Dear Will:

Thanks.  I'm glad you enjoyed it.  Sorry about the typos.  After having done quite a nice job on the last book, the publisher did a rather sloppy job on this one.  Meanwhile, I've already written the next book, entitled "Going Hollywood," and hopefully that will come out later this year.

Josh

Name:              Angel
E-mail:             aespar2@depaul.edu

Dear Josh,

I recently saw "Out of the Past." I thought it was Mitchum and Douglas at the top of their games.  And I was impressed by director Jacques Tourneur, that I took to IMDb to see what of his work I might be familiar with.

Sadly, not much. Outside of his Val Lewis productions, and  an episode each of "Bonanza" and "The Twilight Zone," his work is unfamiliar.

His Trivia page notes, "Tourneur loved the story for 'Stars in My Crown' (1950) so much that he agreed to direct the film for scale. Although it's one of his finest and least known films and an American classic, it literally marked the end of his career: after accepting such a low salary, no studio took him seriously any more, and he was left to direct marginal films and television shows for the rest of his life. "

I'm intrigued. Have you ever seen "Stars In My Crown"? If so, is it worth tracking down. Or, are there any other movies by Tourneur you could suggest?

Thanks,
Angel

Dear Angel:

Yes, "Out of the Past" is a terrific film, and everybody in it is great. It's far and away Jacques Tourneur's best film.  I stole the final line of "Lunatics" from it.  Hank says to Nancy, "You have no place to stay, come stay with me."  Nancy says, "But you don't know me, you don't know anything about me."  Hank replies, "Baby, I don't care."  Meanwhile, Jacques Tourneur was the son of the very famous silent director Maurice Tourneur.  And yes, I have seen "Stars in My Crown" many years ago, and it was a very sweet, nice film, with with a rather out-of-character performance by Joel McCrea as a minister, although most of it hasn't stuck with me.  I just recently watched "Curse of the Demon" (1957) again, and it's nicely done, and reasonably effective, although the monster make-up is very silly.  The special effects are by Wally Veevers, who would later do the effects on "2001" with Kubrick and Douglas Trumbull.  I must admit I rather liked Tourneur's Roger Corman film, "Comedy of Terrors" (1963), with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff, although I haven't seen it again in 30 years, and it may well not hold up.  Not to be a snotball, but that's Val Lewton, not Lewis.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Evening Josh.

I was cruising around a flea market a few days and found a VHS copy , in good condition , of "The Last of the Dogmen".

It is a 1995 HBO movie and starred Tom Berenger along with Barbara Hershey. I haven't looked it up yet but I am certain that it was Wilford Brimley doing occasional narration. I think when narration is properly used, as in this case, it does a lot of good for the story.

The movie is about a bounty hunter sent to capture some escaped convicts. Long story short some Cheyenne Indians are discovered living in the mountains. These particular Cheyenne were thought killed off long ago.

Is it the greatest thing ever? No but it is definitely worth a look and I could have spent $3.00 in a far worse manner I suppose. The movie has a low cheese factor.

If anything it will appeal to that aesthetic side of you Josh. The part of you that likes to get the long "beauty shots" will definitely appreciate this flick. The part of you that likes to ask "What if?" will appreciate it too.

Check it out if you haven't already. If you have then be sure and provide your opinions on it.

Tim

Dear Tim:

I haven't seen it.  If you ever get a chance to see "Last Summer" (1969), Barbara Hershey is just gorgeous.  Mmmmmm, Barbara Hershey.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

   I may have just gotten my dates confused; I think the reference to a 1973 version came out of a TV Guide article that I read once.  In any case, the thought of how someone might've interpreted the story on film prior to the 1980's piqued my interest.
    I'll definitely check out 'The Purple Plain.'  I've always enjoyed Gregory Peck's performances, particularly in that period in the mid-fifties into the early sixties when he had one great role after another.  For a favorite Peck role, I'm torn between his portrayal of Ahab in Huston's MOBY DICK, and his title role in THE GUNFIGHTER.  In each film, Peck takes a particular trait (in one case obsession, in the other repentance), and embodies it in the character he plays.  Plenty of people would argue in favor of his portrayal of Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but these two are my personal favorites.  What are your thoughts on this?

                           Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Peck's good in everything.  I watched "Moby Dick" again recently, and it just gets better with time.  John Huston knew what he was doing.  I really like "The Gunfighter," although the director, Henry King, bores the hell out of me.  He won't cut to a close-up unless someone puts a gun to his head.  I like all three films you named.

Josh

Name:              Ben
E-mail:             nefer_seti2001@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I've been trying to say this for years.  But the hardest thing about accepting it, is trying to understand why billions of people in the world think they're doing the right thing.   Religion should be classed as terrorism if you ask me.

Dear Ben:

It's juvenile brainwashing.  You beat this shit into kids from the time they start to think, then they never get over it.  Oh my, god's watching my every move.  Maybe it keeps some people in line, I don't know.  It seems to make everybody else into idiots.  And the Muslims have it worse than anyone.  A soldier in Iraq used a Koran for target practice, and the whole country went nuts.  Every military commander had to apologize, as did George Bush.  Why on earth would we want to be in a place where everyone is so hyper-touchy? Don't let these conservative assholes fool you, getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a mistake.  He understood how to keep the Shiites and the Sunnis apart.  He was a better ruler than Bush.  Only 265 days until Bush goes the fuck away.

Josh

Name:              Jack Alderton
E-mail:             dogstogs@blueyonder.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

Hello, I first heard about you when I found and subsequently bought "The Complete Guide To Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" at Borders Bookshop as I am hoping to become a Writer / Filmmaker and I like the look of your Films (not sure if I want to see Thou Shall Not Kill... Except for a few years though; I'm only 14...) and I have some questions:
1. Have you actually completed and Released "If I Had A Hammer" yet?
2. Where the Hell have the Making Ofs for your Feature Films gone? They were there last time I was on your Website.
3. In reference to your view that all Sequels and Remakes are worth bugger all and a bad idea for a Film, what's your view on:
a. Toy Story 2
b. Shrek 2
c. King Kong (2005)

Dear Jack:

You're only fourteen?  You write very well for that age.  I did actually complete "If I Had a Hammer" in 2001, but never got a release.  It can be seen on YouTube.  All the "Making of" essays came down because they're all in my new book, "Rushes," all spiffed up and expanded.  You forgot to mention the best sequel of all, "Godfather Part II."  There's also "The Road Warrior" and "Aliens."  But you can really count all the good sequels on one hand.  Okay, maybe two.  I saw and liked "Toy Story," but I never saw the sequel, which I've only heard good things about.  I hated "Shrek," so I didn't bother with the sequel.  Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong" was incredibly unnecessary, painfully, painfully long, and both Jack Black and Adrien Brody are awful.  That movie minimally needs the entire first hour cut off.  I'll take the 1933 version any day of the week.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

My parents insist that they rented Bridge Over the River Kwai in recent years and that the ending had been altered from the original 1957 release, which they saw in the theatre at the time. I have not been able to find any evidence to uphold their claim, but they insist it's true (but cannot be bothered to go into specifics). Do you know of any discrepancies between the original print of Kwai and later versions?

thank you,

Steve

Dear Steve:

No, there's no differences.  I've seen the film many, many times, in old Cinemascope prints, on VHS, on DVD, and on TV, and they're all the same.  It starts with a bird flying and ends with a bird flying.  The final line, by the doctor, is, "Madness!"  It's 161 minutes and there's no director's cut, added scenes, or any of that nonsense.  BTW, the movie is "The Bridge *On* the River Kwai," the book is "The Bridge *Over* the River Kwai."

Josh

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

Josh,

I'm betting that this question has been asked before, but I don't see it.

Are there any films that have been made recently and/or filmmakers that you find particularly impressive? I know that you say that you almost never go to the cinema anymore, but I was just curious.

-Bri

Dear Brian:

Honestly, no.  I seriously believe that the art of filmmaking has devolved into bullshit.  Nobody can tell a decent story on film anymore, let alone an intelligent story with, god forbid, irony, a theme, or subtext.  And if I never see anymore hand-held camerawork it'll be too soon.  And this whole "Mumblecore" DV movement is pure crap.

Josh

Name:              Jim
E-mail:             radiotaboo@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Met you years ago after the Stryker project. Was wondering if you had any connection to The Demon Lover, the MI-based horror film with Val Mayerik and Gunnar Hansen, or with any other local projects of that period.

Dear Jim:

Well, yeah, I worked on "Evil Dead."  I also made both "Thou Shalt Not Kill. . . Except" and "Lunatics" in Michigan.  I didn't work on "Demon Lover," although I remember when they were making it, and I subsequently saw the documentary, "Demon Lover Diary," which I enjoyed.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I asked you about John Carpenter awhile back. Like many, one of my favorite films is the original Halloween. What do you think are the film's biggest flaws? I always love hearing your perspective on things.

Sincerely,

Bri

Dear Brian:

I've never been much of a fan of "Halloween."  Even at the time it just seemed like one long cliche, though certainly well-made.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

And it wouldn't matter where I raised the money from, so long as the film was shot in Michigan. And did you say something about if the director is from Michigan you can get more money back?

So like, if I asked my ficticious uncle for 50k, he gave it to me, I traveled to Michigan, hired you as director, and shot the thing, I'd get 40% back and maybe get back something because you live in Michigan?

Is that how it works? If it is, this is sounding too good to be true.

Dear Wwww:

Yes, that's the deal.  As long as you spend the money in Michigan, and sign up with the Michigan Film Office first.  And yes, if you use me as the director you get 40% back.  This may be the best thing I've got going for me.

Josh

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