Q & A    Archive
Page 158


Name:              August
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         
 
Wondering if you caught the profile on Ernest Borgnine on TCM this week? He really is one of the last of that era of actors, and doesn't look a day over 75.  No great revelations or anything, but it sure was enjoyable listening to him reminisce.  Such a classy guy.
 
Also wondering how the rental business is going?  Is it living up to your expectations?  Does the cold weather make this a slower time, or is the film industry in Michigan booming?  And I'm really curious - how much equipment for a film is rented?  Are even the cameras and mikes and dollies and booms and so forth rented from suppliers, just like you'd rent a U-Haul?  Or are there ever situations where production companies already have all of that equipment?
 
Thanks,
 
August

Dear August:

Good to hear from you, as always.  No, I didn't see the Borgnine show, but I'll look for it.  I'm a fan.  The rental business is going okay.  I've had several rentals, and I expect quite a few more in the upcoming year.  Other than the equipment gets dirty, broken and lost, it's a fine business, and something to hang on to between directing gigs.  Regarding your question, all of the equipment on movies is rented: cameras, lights, microphones, walkie talkies, chairs, everything.  Production companies don't own equipment.  Back in the old days the studios owned most of their own equipment, but that's been over for 40-50 years.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I share your aversion to movies in current release. I was, however, dragged to see Frost/Nixon. The film is a mess, and if anything made one sympathetic to Nixon! (he's a lonely old man who resents the privileged kids who put him down as a youngster....awwww). Anyway, the film is a total failure, and naturally received a best picture nomination.
 
I was surprised, however, by Milk. I was dragged kicking and screaming, because other than Drugstore Cowboy, I just can't stand Gus Van Sant's films. On top of that, I consider Harvey Milk an important figure who shouldn't be trivialized by Hollywood. Yet, as I said, I was surprised. The film is well-structured (a little wrap-around scene of Harvey telling his story to a tape recorder, otherwise chronological order, which, in a biopic of this particular story, has quite the dramatic arc). The performances are restrained and nuanced, and the timing of the story--one hopes--is good. Hope, equality of opportunity, progress vs. intolerance, repression, and violence. Well, the story isn't nuanced, but the acting is.  Sean Penn is quite good, and James Franco, who I hadn't liked before, gave a restrained and compassionate portrayal.
 
The hand-held camera mostly made sense in crowd scenes and political war rooms, especially because (GASP!) in other scenes there were actually sensibly composed shots made with tripods and dollys!
 
I won't go so far as to recommend the film to you, as I know you've made up your mind. But I will say that Milk is pretty good.
Dear Will:

I haven't made up my mind against "Milk," although I agree with you that other than "Drugstore Cowboy," Gus Van Sant's films are worthless.  I did see the documentary on Harvey Milk, "The Times of Harvey Milk," which I thought was very good.  And it would be impossible for me to have any sympathy for Richard Nixon, having lived through his presidency.  I love the fact that Nixon's most memorable quote -- "I am not a crook" -- is a lie. Jimmy Carter was on Jon Stewart's show a few days ago and completely disputed Nixon "opening up China."  He said that Nixon only opened up relations with Taiwan, and it was he and Deng Chow Ping who opened up mainland China.  Jimmy Carter really seems like a terrific person, and I think he's been short-changed by history.  He was a far better president than Reagan.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I saw No Country For Old Men, and I liked it, which surprised me since I'm not a Coen Brothers fan.
 
So that being said, I'm also a fan of If I Had a Hammer (which I watched on YouTube), and I don't see why that one guy has such a big problem with it.
 
It's easily understandable, if you bother to pay attention, and any flaws Hammer has are forgiveable flaws. And I thought the photography was good, even in the low resolution form.
 
So I don't see the logic in his main argument of "you're opinion doesn't matter because you and I disagree on what's good in movies" ... Oh well.

Dear Jeremy:

Well, thanks.  It's been a common theme here for over a decade, if I don't like a film someone else likes, then they rip my a new asshole over my lack of talent.  It's not like "Hammer" is a tremendously deep film, although it does have a theme that it sticks to.  But since it hasn't got any violence, car chases or superheroes, maybe it's difficult to grasp at this point.  To me, "No Country For Old Men" was a story about a guy with a bad haircut chasing a guy with a mustache.  The end.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:       

I finally got "Rushes", read it, and loved it. You're a helluva writer, Josh. On the subject of books, here are my questions:
1) My usual question - What have you been reading lately?
2) Do you have a favorite author?
3) My favorite author is the late Mordecai Richler. He wrote "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" among others. Have you ever read any of his works?
4) John Updike just passed away. Any thoughts on the man and/or his writings?

Stan

Dear Stan:

I'm glad you bought and enjoyed "Rushes."  Any specific comments on any of the essays?  Lately I've been reading a slightly dumbass book called "Conversations With the Great Filmmakers of the Golden Age" by George Stevens, Jr.  It's interviews with all of the usual suspects, like Raoul Walsh and William Wellman, but also James Wong Howe and Mervyn Leroy, and many others.  Sadly, Stevens isn't a great interviewer, and when they get to something interesting he has a tendency to just move on.  George Stevens, Jr. ain't no Peter Bogdanovich.  I don't know that I have a favorite author, although I do keep coming back to Philip Roth and Charles Bukowski.  I started one of Richler's books years ago and didn't finish it.  I did enjoy the movie of "Duddy Kravitz."  I didn't know that John Updike died.  I liked some of his short stories, but I've never been able to finish any of his novels, and I've started quite a few.  I really did want to read his Rabbit series, two of which won Pulitzer prizes, and I just couldn't do it.

Josh

Name:              Alex Spivey
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I caught the wrestler in Atlanta last weekend and thought it was maybe aronofsky's best movie. The movie didnt fall into his normal pitfalls where i get lost or bored. You shouldn't definitely give it a shot. I haven't however seen Slumdog millionaire, but now that it has a wide release ill most likely see it this weekend. I was wondering your thoughts on the film. Ive heard some cool things about the filming process theyve used. Like using Nikkon DSLRs to get video of crowd reactions without them noticing.

Dear Alex:

I really have to stick to my guns and not see the films in current release to avoid getting into arguments.  I've already had a couple of unpleasant moments from not liking "Gran Torino."  People take new movies far too personally.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             rob@breakawayfx.com

Hi Josh,
 
Just bought your book, (you can buy that third car now!) an excellent read, and a great companion piece to Bruce's book and the Evil Dead Companion.

I've just finished working on this fanedit Evil Dead DVD, and would be more than happy to mail you over a free copy?

http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/The-Evil-Dead-Treasures-Collection/post/341760/#post341760

Cheers, Rob.

Dear Rob:

Thanks.  I suspect you're referring to "Rushes."  That sure is a lot of "Evil Dead" stuff you've got there.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:            

Dear Josh:

An amusing connection between you and Robert Aldrich is you both made Allegory films (EMPEROR OF THE NORTH and IF I HAD A HAMMER) where you made the person representing youth the lead, only what you had to say with him was he was annoying, thoughtless, irresponsible, etc, basically what you both thought of youth. Then you couldn't understand why nobody related to him. A saying I've heard is "Satire is a window, not a mirror. A person can see everybody else but themselves in it.

Dear Aaron:
 
That's a fascinating connection, and for me anyway one worth thinking about.  I think the main difference is that I see myself included in Phil Buckley's group, the thoughtless, apathetic, self-serving, rock & rollers, and not among the idealistic, altrustic, socially responsible activists like Lorraine; whereas, I think Robert Aldrich sees himself as an adult, like Lee Marvin, and not among the thoughtless kids like Keith Carradine.  Nevertheless, making the thoughtless, irresponsible character the lead is a risky, and perhaps hopeless, decision.  Nevertheless, since he represented the future, he was the lead.  Meanwhile, I'd say Robert Aldrich made a few allegories, like "Attack!" and "The Big Knife," and possibly even "Apache."
 
Josh

Name:              Justin Hayward
E-mail:

Dear Josh:       
 
Both.
 
Will you read my screenplay?
 
Just kidding.

Dear Justin:

Also, whatever other deficiencies "If I Had a Hammer" may have, I don't think it's unfocused.  Every scene is there to reinforce its theme (commitment, in case you missed it, and I think you did), and both lead characters represent two different sides of that same issue.  Ever character in the club represents the theme, too.  Yes, it is an allegory, where characters represent ideas (a little-used genre these days) and that does make it weird.  It was sort of my attempt at making a period musical Bunuel film, something I felt the world was lacking and desperately needed.  It's possible I might have been wrong.

What's your screenplay about, The Moody Blues?

Josh

Name:              justin hayward
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Sorry dude.
Dear justin:

Are you sorry you had to break the bad news to me that I'm no good at filmmaking, or are you sorry you sound like such a fool?  Either way, I accept your apology.

Josh

Name:              Justin Hayward
E-mail:             Hayward@ionadfilms.com

Dear Josh:

If you were'nt talking all this smack, I wouldn't have to say this, but you're asking for it...
 
Sorry.
 
"Regarding the Oscars, I haven't seen any of the films, so it doesn't mean very much to me.  But the way the Oscars are run these days, I have no doubt that the worst film will be chosen as Best Picture.  Last year, everything else that was nominated was better than "No Country For Old Men," which, in my opinion, was a total dramatic failure"
 
You're embarrassing yourself with these comments when talking to people that have actually seen "If I Had a Hammer".  Truth is, the acting in this movie is terrible from start to finish.  The script is weird and unfocused (although you could argue I didn't understand it). which I didn't.
 
The shooting and editing are very, very amateur.  You cut to CU's when they're absolutely unnecessary and wide shots when they are absolutely unnecessary.  And, the photography is flat as a pancake.  Everything about that movie is weird (in a very bad way) amateur and student-film like. Maybe it works on youtube.
 
For a student film I would congratulate you for the effort (it's too bad you're not fifteen cause then we might be impressed), but for an old so-called-filmmaker, I'm surprised at your total lack of insight (or skill) and amazed at your own self delusion.  YOU ARE NO GOOD AT THIS!!! Keep selling radios.
 
On an even more personal note.
 
This is your third act.  Make it count.  Quit bullshiting and get serious. (If you want to make films, that is...)

Dear Justin:

I don't sell radios, I rent them.  So I take it you liked "No Country For Old Men" and that's why you're tearing down "Hammer."  Or maybe you always wanted to diss "Hammer," but you just didn't feel like it until now. Whatever.  One has nothing to do with the other.  I'll ignore all of the other comments, but "the photography is flat as a pancake"?  I don't know where you saw the film, although probably on YouTube, and I don't think that's the very best place to judge the photography, considering it's an extremely low-resolution copy.  As far as I'm concerned, and yes, it's my movie, but I didn't do the lighting, I think it's quite a good-looking film with a fairly unique look.  I believe that Kurt Rauf, who also shot "Running Time" and "My Name is Bruce," is a talented DP.  If you honestly believe that "No Country For Old Men" is not a dramatic failure, then defend it. Ripping into my films doesn't make your point, nor does it make you seem the slightest bit intelligent.  Sorry.

Josh

Name:              carlos
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

i have every right to come to this website just as i do any other website out there. once again president becker thinks he can tell people where they can and can't go.

i have an idea: why don't you stop whining about things and be proactve and change things??? you might be a happier person for it. and then maybe you could get back to answering peoples questions with respect and integrity instead of this bullshit you've been doing for the last few years. it's 2009, becker. get with the times.

Dear carlos:

My, but aren't we on the offensive.  And this is all over my not making a comment on "Righteous Kill," a film I haven't seen?  Look, I've been doing this for ten and a half years, and people keep coming here and asking questions.  If someone has a question that I can answer, I do my best to answer it.  Sometimes I just say what's on my mind.  So take a chill pill, dude.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: I apologize, I accidentally missed this one a few days ago.-K]

Name:              Two Question Sam
E-mail:

Dear Josh:       
 
Question one, my fine feathered friend, how do you like The Road Warrior so well when you don't like Mel Gibson?
 
Question two, my fine no-longer-feathered friend, what do you think of the Oscar nominations. I'm curious to know.

Dear Two Question Sam:

I thought Mel Gibson was all right back at the very beginning when he was still Australian, but when he became a big Hollywood star and shed his accent, I haven't cared for him.  I also liked "Gallipoli" and "The Year of Living Dangerously."  Regarding the Oscars, I haven't seen any of the films, so it doesn't mean very much to me.  But the way the Oscars are run these days, I have no doubt that the worst film will be chosen as Best Picture.  Last year, everything else that was nominated was better than "No Country For Old Men," which, in my opinion, was a total dramatic failure.

Josh

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

Josh-

I have been following your site for a few months now. I agree with your response. I probably have read the FAQ's but yeah, thanks for taking the time to talk. I don't think I've seen The Road Warrior. Until I come up something else, take care.

-Danny

Dear Danny:

You really do need to see "The Road Warrior," which was called "Mad Max 2" everywhere else in the world.  It's a terrific film, beautifully and inventively shot.  Although you won't get the full effect on video, the film begins with a montage of stock shots that's in 1.33:1, meaning a square image.  When the montage ends the camera pulls out of the supercharger on Max's car and it goes to widescreen.

Josh

Name:              Trey Smith
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'm sure today was as good a day for you as it was for me? Bush is gone and Obama is in. May change come to our nation at last!

Dear Trey:

Change has already come.  After eight truly horrible years of wrong-headed neo-conservative rule, we now have an extremely liberal, very intelligent, African-American as our president.  That's a big change.

Josh

Name:              carlos
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
 
i'm sick of your shit, becker. all you do is bully the people on your board and act like some dictator. dicktator is more like it. some guy brings up a movie like righteous kill and you change the subject and don't even bother to respond. you got a big head and its not cool. who ever asked to hear what you believe about god anyway?

Dear carlos:

Someone forcing you to come here?

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I know I'm twisting the screws a little here (knowing your stand on remakes), but the 1941 John Huston version of THE MALTESE FALCON was the third time that the Daschiell Hammett novel appeared on film.  Prior to that, it appeared in 1931 as THE MALTESE FALCON (with Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels), and again in 1936 as SATAN MET A LADY (with Warren William and Bette Davis).  The big studios routinely recycled plots and material during Hollywood's golden age.
 
That being said, I guess the thing which is objectionable about modern remakes is not so much that they ARE remakes, but that they are usually dull, unimaginative, TERRIBLE remakes.

Dear Darryl:

You're correct, it took three tries to get "The Maltese Falcon" right, although the 1931 version isn't bad.  It's got an extra scene at the end, after Bridget O'Shaunessy has gone to prison and Sam Spade comes and visits her.  He tells her he'll be waiting when she gets out in 20 years, then slips some money to the jailer, saying, "Get her whatever she needs."  It's kind of a nice scene.  I just watched the 1999 version of "The End of the Affair" which is the second film version of Graham Greene's book, and even though I didn't see the first version, I just know the second one is better because Ralph Fiennes is better casting as a Graham Greene-like British novelist than Van Johnson, although Deborah Kerr in the Julianne Moore part is good casting.  And I'd also have to say that the second version of Greene's "The Ugly American" is slightly better than the first version, mainly because Brendan Fraser is better than Audie Murphy, who's actually pretty good, but a shrimp.  Anyway, remakes can be better than the original, particularly remakes of books.  It just doesn't happen very often.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'm still psyched about the Synapse releases. Quick question: When Anchor Bay released TSNKE, you had a shot "flipped" for screen direction continuity. Will the same shot be flipped on the Synapse disc?

Stan

Dear Stan:

You bet it will.  I was so happy to fix that in the last transfer there's no way I'd let it go back to the way it once was.  I don't know why I didn't flip it on film.  And when I do the new RT transfer I'm going to finally remove the camera reflection in the car window.  I can't wait to do that transfer.

Josh

Name:              Zach T.
E-mail:             zach2658@aol.com

Dear Josh:         

i agree with you but religion was first meant to give the weak a sign of hope in the hardships they were facing. So the idea of religion is not meant to be evil its to give hope for something better, but when people started taking religion and twisting it to fit their needs to make them feel superior over others it turned evil quickly. Words are just words untill someone gives them the power to heal or to hurt. So what im trying to say is people in power use it to get what they want, hilter used it to take his fustration out when he didnt get into art school. so i believe people can give anything the power to be evil, but it will always be the people that are the root of all evil.

Dear Zach:

The point of religion is to explain the unexplainable.  It's to give concrete answers for things that don't have concrete answers, like what happens after death, and do our actions have any meaning at all, and do they effect our outcome?  Religion has every bit as much meaning and significance as monkeys stomping their feet and shrieking at the moon.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,
 
Here's an interesting article on the end of VHS tapes:
 
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-vhs-tapes22-2008dec22,0,5852342.story
 
...and at the end of this article, is the following:
 
"With some things, though, even Kugler the great salvager can't find a buyer no matter how low he goes. He took a loss on 50,000 copies of "Yo-Yo Man," a Smothers Brothers instructional video for the stringed toy. ("I'm not sure what I was thinking on that one," Kugler said.) And then there is that stash of VHS tapes that couldn't even earn a spot on the last shipment out of his warehouse: a few thousand copies of "The Man With the Screaming Brain," a 2005 horror movie about a mad scientist, a Bulgarian tycoon, a cab driver and some cranial misadventures. ("That one," Kugler said, "will be buried with us.")"
 
Ouch!! Poor Bruce!!
 
Take care.
 
Saul

Dear Saul:

Yeah, ouch.  When we were shooting "Alien Apocalypse," which immediately preceded "Screaming Brain," Bruce came up to me at one point and said, "You're making the right movie and I'm about to make the wrong movie." Meanwhile, both films are being re-released yet again, this time packaged together as a "Bruce Campbell Two-Pack."  As a little note, the HD transfer of TSNKE will finally occur in the next few weeks.  What's odd to me is that magnetic tape is still the top-end industry standard.  When we do this transfer it will be to a Digi-Beta tape, which is just a butch version of a VHS tape.

Josh

Name:              Trey Smith
E-mail:             vgntrey@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Have you had a chance to watch "Righteous Kill" yet? If not, I wouldn't recommend it. If I was hoping this stinker of a film would make me change my mind about modern movies, those hopes were flushed down the toilet within the first few moments when Robert DeNiro appeared on the screen confessing to a number of crimes. Sadly, it just gets worse, with everything leading up to a predictable twist that the filmmakers try to cover up using a cheap plot device. Really, every scenes exists for the sole purpose of leading up to the twist, they just keep piling crap on until the finale.
 
The dialogue is bad, the acting phoned in, and the whole script is just one big fat mess. My hopes weren't incredibly high for this movie, but with DeNiro and Pacino together again (though I'm not sure where these hopes came from, as their last film together, "Heat", sucked too), I was hoping to at least have a good time. Sadly, the movie was also incredibly boring. I would say more, but I don't want to give away any spoilers.
 
Thankfully, I have "Carnal Knowledge" from Netflix waiting for me at home for tonight. I'm really looking forward to finally seeing it.

Dear Trey:

I love Giuseppe Rotunno's photography in "Carnal Knowledge."  The first time I saw the film, when it was new in the theater, then ending shocked me.  Let us know what you think.

Josh

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

Hi Josh:

Recent talk of 'The Wrestler' prompted me to think of its end-title song of the same name by Bruce Springsteen. It seems a likely nomination for Best Original Song at this year's Academy Awards.
 
What do you think are the best Original Song award winners? Are there any winners undeserving of their acclaim? Maybe a better question is, what should be criteria used for the category?
 
BMG

Dear Brett:

Considering Bruce got the Golden Globe, I don't think it's a big stretch to believe he'll also get the Oscar, to, which would be his second.  The song "The Wrestler" seems particularly unimpressive to me, but then all of Bruce's music has seemed unimpressive to me for many years now.  I once used to think that part of the criteria for winning Best Song was how the song was used in the film, as opposed to just putting it over the titles, but that's never been part of the Academy's view.  I just looked through the entire list of Best Song winners, and they all make perfect sense to me from 1935, when the category was introduced, and "The Continental" from "The Gay Divorcee" won, or 1938 when there were 10 songs nominated and "Thanks For the Memories," Bing Crosby's theme song, won, or 1939 with "Over the Rainbow," or 1940 with "When You Wish Upon a Star" or 1942 with "White Christmas," or 1944, "Swinging on a Star," etc.  My point is, and this keeps going right up through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, is that Best Song generally was the best song, and represented the year very well.  Like "Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera)" for 1957, or "Moon River" for 1961 or "Windmills of Your Mind" in 1968, or "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" in 1969, etc.  But the Best Songs of the last 10-20 years no longer seem like the year's best song, nor do they even seem representative of the year.  Many are non-descript Disney songs, or that dumbass pimp song from "Crash."

Josh

Name:              Will Armstrong
E-mail:             andykaufman2@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,
 
I was wondering if you had seen "Doubt" with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was directed by John Patrick Shanley and adapted from his own play. I haven't enjoyed a new film at the cine in ages but "Doubt" struck a chord and I've gone to see it now three times. The reviews I have read have stated that this movie is about abuse in the Catholic church but what it is really about is doubt, or certainty and the dangers of conviction. This film knows it's theme very well and this is my way of recommending it to you, Josh. Would like to know what you think.
 
All the best,
Will
Dear Will:

I very much want to see it, and if I can get my weary, frozen butt up and moving I'll go see it.  You couldn't get two better actors, that's for sure.

Josh

Name:              Steve Starr
E-mail:             ssschicago@ameritech.net

Dear Josh:         

Hello, What a wonderful and interesting website! Thank you! An acquainatnce asked me if I happened to know  the address of where Fay Wray lived, which was King Vidor's home built in 1920 on Selma Avenue. Would you know the address?

Thank you for your time,       

Yours,
Steve

Dear Steve:

I went to check in King Vidor's autobiography, "A Tree is a Tree," and the book's not there, which I find a tad distressing.  Anyway, the information might be there.  It's a good book, too.  Highly amusing.

Josh

Name:              Tim Timely
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     
   
I didn't like Requiem For A Dream either ... or Pi for that matter. And the Fountain wasn't great. However, The Wrestler might hold a chance because Aronofski (spelling) didn't write it.
 
I couldn't give the slightest shit about wrestling either, but from what I understand, this movie isn't so much about wrestling as it a wrestler dealing with his personal life and trying to get his career back on track, and that can be respected and possibly well shown even when the profession is not particularly stellar.

Dear Tim:

My sister saw it and didn't like it, nor did she think Mickey Rourke was all that good, and sister is prone to like the films she sees.  My Mother, meanwhile, who is also apt to like what she sees, saw "Benjamin Button" and said that even though she kind of enjoyed it, two hours into the film she simply couldn't sit there anymore.  She said the final 45 minutes was nearly impossible to sit through.  A 2 hour and 45 minutes movie based on a short story.  Ridiculous.

Josh

Name:              Tim Timely
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was wondering if you were interested at all in seeing the movie "The Wrestler" ?????

Dear Tim:

No, not really.  Mickey Rourke looks like something went wrong in the transporter room and his molecules got mixed with a gorilla.  And I still don't forgive Darren Aronofsky for completely wasting my time with "Requiem for a Dream."  And let's just add in that I don't give a damn about wrestling, either.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:     

What are your thoughts on "rebooting" movies? Such as the new Star Trek, Batman franchise, Terminator franchise, etc.

Do you think its artistic to do remakes? I can only think of one or two movies where a remake would make sense, otherwise unless I've never heard of the original(Fun with Dick and Jane) I've never been interested in watching a re-imagining of a film.

Last one: What do you think of sequels being made? I can only think of one movie that really outdid the original and that was Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Thanks! By the way, I've read and re-read your articles about writing and enjoy your work.

Dear Danny:

I guess you haven't been visiting the site too long, or read many of the Q&As.  I'm adamantly against remakes and sequels.  To me they are a pure expression of capitalism and nothing else.  Remakes and sequels exist exclusively to make money and have nothing to do with art at all.  And so that I don't have to have the same conversation begin again for hundreth time, yes, there are about three sequels that are good: "Godfather Part II," "The Road Warrior" and "Aliens."  I won't even include "Terminator 2" because I didn't like it, but then, I didn't like the first one, either. But a "franchise" to me is McDonald's: a business with many outlets that sells cheap crap. Movie franchises are the exact same thing; the second it becomes a franchise, the point is to sell you crap.

Josh

Name:              Debbie
E-mail:             dlofton.1@netzero.net

Josh, well put!! Religion as well as the Bible (in my case, the "buy-bull") is all about control and manipulation and encouraging people to become Christian slaves forever! Who would want to serve a "skydaddy" that never existed or read a book that is 2,000 years old?! As the late comedian George Carlin put it so eloquently, "RELIGION IS BULLSHIT"!

Keep up with the great stories. :)
Dear Debbie:

As the late, great George Carlin said as he was whittling down the ten commandments into a more practicle, usable amount of commandments (meaning two), "Thou shalt not kill, unless someone believes in a different invisible man than you, in which case it's okay."

Josh

Name:              Josh Cryer
E-mail:             josh@fakeshemps.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey Josh, quick question, are you going to be involved in "Legend of the Seeker"? Would love to see an episode written and/or directed by you.

Take care,
Josh

Dear Josh:

No, it's all New Zealand directors as far as I know.  It's quite a bit lower budget than Xena or Herc.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Dear Josh: 

As you mentioned, "Cross Creek" was an excellent movie.

It had a lot of character conflict which made it interesting.
 
When Dad (Torn) had to shoot the deer and what it led to just messes me up a little bit every time I watch it. "You want this gun...It's yours( makes move to hand over the weapon while suggesting the earlier pig issue) and then gets shot and killed by the officer for his trouble. It's a real gut wrencher.

I just watched "Touch of Evil" again and I still find myself going back and watching that opening crane shot over and over again. It opens on the device and the viewer might believe it's handheld when the camera quick pans to the alley way. Follow over to the device being thrown in the trunk of the car and then the crane goes airborne and all through the city. I do mean up down and all around leading up to the car exploding. I thought the young woman saying she could hear a ticking in her head was a little over the top but still just extremely effective overall.
 
Real mechanical shots like that is what I wish we could see more of today.
 
Have a good one.
 
Tim

Dear Tim:

The opening shot of "Touch of Evil" very possibly still remains the best single shot in any movie ever.  I also love that the first cut to the exploding car picks it up at the top of the explosion and we just see it come down.  As a little note, what Welles is doing in that first shot is called a rolling crane shot, where you're using the crane as a dolly, so it's not only going up and down, but it's rolling along following the action, and rolling crane shots are particularly difficult to do because camera cranes are huge and don't roll easily.  I did one on "Lunatics" that went so haywire so fast -- the crane ran over one of the AC's feet -- that I was banned from doing any more.  Meanwhile, I just watched "Conrack" again, having not seen it since its release in 1974.  I was somewhat unimpressed at the time, and I still am, but it's a nice, well-made film, also directed by Martin Ritt, who did "Cross Creek."  Ritt was on a run of rural pictures at that point with "Sounder," "Norma Rae," "Cross Creek" and "Conrack," and they're all good films.  Martin Ritt was a no-nonesense director who shot in the simplest, cleanest, most direct fashion, and I appreciate it.  He also got terrific performances out of everybody.  Jon Voight is very good in it.

Josh

Name:              Diana Hawkes
E-mail:             upon request

Dear Josh:         

I wanted to suggest you update your rule page for Submitting Questions to include a request to please mention the work of Josh's you are writing in about.  That might help stem the nebulous comments.  I think we're all curious!

Cloris Leachman tossed the coin at the Rose Bowl, which I was watching for my alma mater Penn State.
 (She was also the Grand Marshall of the parade.)
Seeing her, I got bummed remembering that the chance to see another of your films wasn't in the cards after all, even though she was out before you.
 
I like the current conversation about ladies of the screen back in the day being filmed beautifully, compared to what I like to call the "pixie" pursuit nowadays.  It's really though more the casting to begin with, for me.  I despise the trend toward the Penolope Cruise's and Sienna Miller's. Blah - no presence, I say!

Where's the current day Gene Tierney showing up as Laura?  Where's a knockout Monroe walking across a Niagra Falls road?

I'll never forget throwing a pillow at the TV when the entertainment pundits were gushing at the mouth about Julia Roberts when one of the Ocean's Eleven remakes came out; how she made screen history with her unbelievably sexy walk down the steps in high fashion. I thought it was remarkable for how spectacularly the short sceen [i]failed[/i]; she absolutely walked like a duck, looked vanilla at best, and was supposed to be knocking Brad Pitt's socks off!

Here's someone who actually agrees with me, though takes it too far. -
http://dir.salon.com/story/sex/turn_on/2001/12/06/julia/)
Scarlett O'Hara at Melanie's door in that deep red dress - she ain't.
Dear Diana:

I've never liked Julia Roberts, but now I do because of "Charlie Wilson's War."  She really is perfectly cast in it.  Meanwhile, it's not like there's any shortage of top-notch cinematographers around, it's just that no one wants to shoot women in a glamorous way anymore.  Movies are, for the most part, more realistic now, or they're comic book fantasies, where you could make the women glamorous, I suppose, but they don't.  It seems that comic books are more about the girl next door, like the disheveled-looking Kirsten Dunst in "Spider Man."  Someone like Charlize Theron can look gorgeous, but since she won an Oscar for being ugly she now only takes parts where she's an unattractive, pregnant coal miner.  I did just see a good film with a strong female lead, "Cross Creek," with Mary Steenburgen, although it is 25 years old.  But she was very good, and so was Rip Torn.

Josh

Name:              Anthony
E-mail:

Hello M. Becker,
I think that question was several times asked to you but I have no time too much, if you want, to go through so many pages you understand me ?

2 shorts (Oedipus Rex and The Blind Waiter) are included in DVD "Alien Apocalypse". Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter and Torro Torro Torro will they be included in a DVD soon and if yes which ?
 
Thank you for your time.
Dear Anthony:

No, those shorts aren't included with anything of mine, although "Torro" may be on one of Scott Spiegel's DVDs.  They're both on YouTube, though.

Josh

Name:              James Illingworth
E-mail:             kenshi@illingworths.karoo.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

Whoa man, you have blown my mind, that is one of the most brilliant things i have ever read
 
ever.

Truly an acomplishment, bravo.

Dear James:

Thanks.  Of course, I don't know what it is you read, but I appreciate it.

Josh

Name:              Al in CA
E-mail:             abrown007@socal.rr.com

Dear Josh: 
       
You've put a lot of years in this biz. As you are getting older are you beginning to feel the age discrimination so prevalent in the industry? Not yet? Then are you gearing up for it? Seems it will come, huh?

Dear Al:

My, aren't you the bringer of joy.  It's not like I get hired all that often anyway.  I need to get back on getting my own scripts made.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Thanks for answering my question on documentaries. Call me paranoid, but I thought you were mad at me when you didn't answer right away. Whew! What a relief. A friend ordered "Rushes" for me as a Christmas gift; but it won't get to me until mid January. I guess they're bogged down at Amazon. I look forward to reading it. Anyway, my question: Does your personal history color the way you watch certain films? It does for me. Example: I grew up in an abusive home, so Paul Schrader's film "Affliction" really rings true for me. It's painful to watch, but also cathartic, I think. I don't want to open any of your old wounds; I'm just really interested in your thoughts on this.

Take care,
Stan

Dear Stan:

My personal history colors everything I do and think.  People have been saying to me for years, "Oh, you don't watch movies like the rest of us because you make them," and that may well be true, but I see them like I see them.  And if they work right, I get as caught up in them as anyone else. But if they're not working right, unlike most people, I generally think I know why.  I'm running into this right now with "Gran Torino," which I wasn't overly impressed with.  But it was shot here in Michigan, and it's getting a lot of good press, so how could I not like it?  Well, I don't. It's a revenge movie without the revenge, Clint's giving a one-note performance, I didn't feel like he was properly motivated to start liking his Asian neighbors, and the resolution is silly and didn't work, as far as I was concerned.  Beyond that, Tom Stern's photography is plain-old ugly. Anyway, I've gone astray of your question.  I found "Affliction" fairly grueling to sit through, but worth it.  It didn't open any old wounds for me.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,
 
What are your thoughts on French filmmakers like Godard and Italian filmmakers like Fellini?

Dear Brian:

I'm not a big Godard fan, although I do like "Breathless," and I do believe that it had a big impact on the future of cinema that we're still seeing with extensive hand-held photography and jump-cuts.  But Jean Seberg and Belmondo are both pretty terrific.  I'm not really a big Italian cinema fan, either.  I do like Vittorio DeSica's "The Bicycle Thief" and Visconti's "Ossession" and Fellini's "8 1/2."

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     

Have you liked any recent documentaries? I just watched "An Inconvenient Truth" and it was pretty frightening...(and I think Gore would have made a great president). I thought Michael Moore's "Sicko" was great too. I haven't watched it yet, but I hear good things about "Standard Operating Procedure". This is Errol Morris's documentary on Abu Ghraib. I look forward to your reply.

Thanks in advance,
Stan

Dear Stan:

I saw a very good documentary about Abu Ghraib called "The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib."  Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should all still be indicted for the crimes committed there.  I also saw "A/K/A Tommy Chong," another testament to the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft years, where Tommy takes one for the whole team and does 9 months in federal prison for selling bongs over the internet. This is because Bush and Ashcroft, unable to find Osama bin Laden, instead decide that "drugs support terrorism" so therefore go after the paraphernalia merchants.  Another example of the government turning on part of its own population.  Anyway, Tommy Chong is a terrific, funny, stoic guy, and just deals with it.  And the whole ordeal is covered well in the film. I also saw "The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale" which was pretty damn good.  Chuck Connelly is an artist, a painter, who had a very short moment of fame in the late '60s, then never got it back together, but never stopped painting -- literally thousands of pictures -- and they're good.  But he's this talented, defeated guy, and I empathized a lot.  In the last shot of the movie, Chuck is painting a picture and drinking a tall boy, probably his 10th or 12fth, goes to put a stroke on the canvas, then goes right over onto the floor and passes out.  Impressive.

Josh

Name:              liza
E-mail:             illcrazysick@lycos.com

Dear Josh:         

why do you come off like you think you know everything yet sound so ignorant with how you put it all? i'm an atheist but i still do not think that the worship of false gods is the same as chopping up tutsis with machetes. talk about sensationalizing.

Dear liza:

I guess I'm just an ignorant know-it-all.  The example of Hutus chopping up Tutsis with machetes was a metaphor, since there's no actual difference between Hutus and Tutsis, other than how the Belgians decided to mark their passports.  Just like there's no actual difference between the Sunni Muslims and Shi'a Muslims, yet they're enemies.  Or Protestants fighting with Catholics.  Or Arabs fighting with Jews.  It's the "us and them" philosophy, which I say religion supports and deepens.  As Ambose Bierce defines in his "Devil's Dictionary," "Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based."  That's religion.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Have you seen "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", the documentary on Harlan Ellison? If so, what did you think of it? Unfortunately, I haven't been able to catch it-life's been bitch-slapping me all over the place, and I just haven't had time. I hope it comes out on DVD soon.
 
Take care.
 
Saul

Dear Saul:

I haven't seen it yet, but I will.  I'm sure I'll like it because I'm an Ellison fan, and I always have been.  I fondly recall reading his short story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" in class in junior high school (now called middle school), in this bright, overly-lit, classroom full of 13-year-olds, and being completely and deeply horrified.  I looked around the room at these kids who were all utterly oblivious to the fact that the human condition is a bloody nightmare, and I too felt like I needed to scream, but had no mouth to scream with.  Harlan Ellison reviewed movies for years, in several different publications, and it was always the highlight of the month to read his new, scathing, snotty reviews.  I had the great, great joy of reading Ellison's review of "Darkman" to Sam, Bruce and Rob at their office on Hollywood Blvd. (out of which was made "Darkman," John Woo's first U.S. film, "Hard Target," and "Lunatics: A Love Story").  Needless to say, Mr. Ellison was not overly-impressed with "Darkman" and said so in no uncertain terms.  It was highly amusing.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

A few comments...
 
It's cool to see "Electra Glide in Blue" on your "great looking film list."  That's a really terrific film that I'm always suggesting it to friends.  Definitely served as inspiration to George Miller before making "Mad Max."  Also, Robert Blake was quite an interesting actor before his "Beretta" days..."You know I'm the exact same height as Alan Ladd?"
 
An interesting aside on "The Magnificent Ambersons" (which I've always felt was an even better looking film than "Kane").  Apparently, Welles thought Stanley Cortez was one of the worst cinematographers he had ever worked with and in fact fired him off of the set only to hire him back when he literally broke down in tears and begged his job back.  The camera operator on that film was Russell Metty, who would later shoot Welles' "Touch of Evil" and other important films like Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" and John Huston's "The Misfits."
 
The latter film, BTW, easily stands as my pick for Monroe's best performance (the entire cast is great, really, and the whole film just gets better, and deeper with each viewing.)  Here, I think we're coming as close to seeing the real Marilyn as one can find in her films...and it's a facinating, conflicting, mess of a soul.  By the time we reach the film's conclusion and that intense round-up of the wild horses, it's violent, shocking, and meaningful all at once and has always stuck me in the gut. I've never understood it's reputation as only being so-so.  Thankfully, it's really starting to come back around now...
 
Anyway, here are 10 more beautifully photographed films worth mentioning:
 
Gun Crazy, 1949 (Russell Harlan)
The Searchers, 1956 (Winton C. Hoch)
Vertigo, 1958 (Robert Burks)
Deliverance, 1972 (Vilmos Zsigmond)
Paper Moon, 1973 (Laszlo Kovacks)
The Shining, 1980 (John Alcott)
Rumble Fish, 1983 (Stephen H. Burum)
Blue Velvet, 1986 (Fredrick Elmes)
JFK, 1991 (Robert Richardson)
The Thin Red Line, 1998 (John Toll)
Dear Blake:

I did not know that Russell Metty was the camera operator on "The Magnificewnt Ambersons."  He won an Oscar for "Spartacus," and his work on "Touch of Evil" is pretty damn brilliant.  Very interesting list you've got there.  Man, do I love Vilmos Zsigmond's work on "Deliverance."  I asked him how he got those great tracking shots of the canoes on the water?  He said, "They're zooms."  I said, "They don't look like zooms," and Mr. Zsigmond replied with a grin, "I know."  And "The Shining" just gets better and better.  The Making of documentary on the DVD is terrific, and directed by Kubrick's daughter.  I only wish it were an hour longer.  Jack Nicholson tells a story of early in the shoot Kubrick kept making do it over and over again.  Finally, Nicholson said something like, "I've given you've every performance I've got. What do you want?"  Kubrick said, "How about trying to make it interesting?"  And I was just talking about Robert Richardson's photography in "JFK," and the way he lets areas of the frame, like Lee Harvey Oswald himself, over-expose and blow out.  It's a very cool effect. Meanwhile, the use of long lenses on "Electra Glide in Blue" is breathtaking.  Ah, the late, great Conrad Hall.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:

Hi Josh:
 
I've been trying my hand screenwriting. Would you recommend any books on the craft?

 
Also, what is your opinion of Marilyn Monroe?  Do you think she was ever a good actress; if so, what films do you think contain her best performances?

So far, aside from Monroe being hot, I just haven't been able to understand why so many are obsessed with her.

Dear Keith:

By far the best, and most concise, book on the subject is "The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking" by Josh Becker.  Regarding Marilyn Monroe, I think she's particularly terrific and astoundingly sexy in her early parts: "The Asphalt Jungle," "Monkey Business" and "All About Eve," although her best performance is undoubtedly "Bus Stop," and she's really good in it.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             silverseed72@hotmail.com

Happy new year, Josh.
 
Here are some of my favorites to add to the "good looking" movie list:
 
1.  M
2.  The Killing
3.  2001
4.  Night of the Hunter
5.  Cries and Whispers
6.  Metropolis
7.  King Kong (1933)
8.  Werkmeister Harmonies
9.  The Conformist
10. Nostalghia
 
 
A long time ago, I posted a message on this site about Jules Dassin's RIFIFI. You said you thought it was boring and that you preferred THIEVES HIGHWAY, among others. Well, I finally got around to seeing THIEVES HIGHWAY and you were right -- it's terrific.  It reminded me of the fabulous WAGES OF FEAR. Thanks for the recommendation.

Dear Danielle:

Our lists only cross once, with "The Conformist."  Meanwhile, I'd be happy to add ten more to that list.

1. Gone With the Wind (Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan)
2. The Great Waltz (Joseph Ruttenberg)
3. Cabaret (Geoffrey Unsworth)
4. Electra Glide in Blue (Conrad Hall)
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Conrad Hall)
6. The Grapes of Wrath (Gregg Toland)
7. Dead End (Gregg Toland)
8. The Bad and the Beautiful (Robert Surtees)
9. The Docks of New York (Harold Rossen)
10. Sunrise (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss)

Happy New Year to you and everyone else.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,
 
Its been a long time since I have stopped by on your site. I have been working hard at making my amature work to hopefully move on to bigger things.Its actually kind of funny that I am reading so many comments about "The Dark Knight" on YOUR board. I know how you feel about movies like that, and my most recent work is a parody of the genre. I basically did the concept of what if you had this guy who wants to be this comic book super hero, but every time he makes an attempt at saving the day reality kicks in and it all falls flat? He has no powers,no special skill, and no resources. he cant fly around like Superman, and he doesn't have Bruce Waynes money to build gadgets with. Hes just a guy who works in a soup Kitchen in the ghetto of a city called "Portland" (which is an actual ghetto that I live close to and am filming in).He seems to be the only one willing to stand up for his cummunity.He sees that it could be a good place to live if all the garbage was taken out,but what can he do about it if hes just an average Joe? Eventually he learns the truth of being an actual hero, and what it means to take a stand for something you truly believe in.
 
Anyhow, sorry about rambling on as if any of that would interest you so another year has approached.I just wanted to wish you a happy new year and ask you if you've set any major goals for 2009? Maybe movie wise or with your business?
Dear A.J.:

Good luck to you on your project.  Quite frankly, though, I don't see how you can parody something that's ridiculous to start with.  To me superheroes running around in colorful leotards with make-up smeared all over their faces fighting supervillians to save the universe is like the silliest vaudeville rountine, and everybody really ought to have seltzer bottles and big red noses.  It gets back to Frank Zappa's nostalgia quote.  Because I have absolutely no fond nostalgia for comic books, I have absolutely no tolerance for their modern film versions.  I may as well be watching Cambodian interpretive dancing.  Once again, good luck with your script.

Josh

Name:              Brett Greene
E-mail:

Hi Josh:

What do you think are the 10 best looking films you've seen? Conversely, what are some films you think are supremely 'ugly'? Since aesthetics plays such an important role in a film's success, I thought it a fairly apt question.
 
Best for the holidays,
BMG

Dear Brett:

I've been thinking about the ten best, but not about the worst because I don't care about that.  If I have to put them in order it will slow me down, so . . .

1. Black Narcissus (Jack Cardiff)
2. The Bridge on the River Kwai (Jack Hildyard)
3. Il Conformista (The Conformist) (Vittorio Storaro)
4. The Godfather (Gordon Willis)
5. The Godfather Part II (Gordon Willis)
6. Citizen Kane (Gregg Toland)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (Freddy Young)
8. The Magnificent Ambersons (Stanley Cortez)
9. Apocalypse Now (Vittorio Storaro)
10. Bonnie and Clyde (Burnett Guffey)

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
       
I really like The devil and Miss Jones. I'm a big Jean Arthur fan. I liked how all her characters seemed to have an edge to them that made them more real.
 
 It amazes me how modern DP's and directors have lost the ability to make any woman look beautiful. Jean Arthur was not a knock out in any traditional sense and yet watching her films, just by having the right lighting, angles, etc.. they make her look really good.
 
Now they have a hard time making even drop dead gorgeous women look good.
 
I think the modern drive for reality in film has made even the people making the films forget that everything  about film is artificial.

Dear Jeff:

Yes, Jean Arthur was wonderful, with that husky voice of hers.  She's really good in one of favorite Cecil B. DeMille pictures (and I'm not a big DeMille fan), "The Plainsman."  I just tried watching DeMille's last silent (with two sound scenes), "The Godless Girl," and it was just awful. It's about how Athiest groups were infiltrating high schools attempting to undermine faith and Christian societsy.  Man, was DeMille a pompous ass.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Just to clarify, I didn't mean to imply you had to defend The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge. What I was asking was for you to discuss the films and talk specifically about what you liked. I just wanted your analysis, which you graciously gave, and you convinced me to give both films another try. No defense, just conversation.
 
I recently saw an odd film that I found pretty interesting. Michael Curtiz's "Trouble Along the Way," starring John Wayne, Charles Coburn, and Donna Reed. Wayne is a disgraced football coach raising his daughter alone, after leaving his two-timing wife. Coburn is a priest whose small college is about to be shut down if he doesn't raise $170,000. He tries to hire Wayne to coach their football team and raise money from ticket sales. Wayne accepts because his ex-wife has sent child services (Donna Reed) to try and take away Wayne's daughter.
 
It's a complicated plot, and really addresses shades of gray throughout. Wayne's parenting is both lauded and criticized, he cheats to win but with good reasons, Coburn recognizes sinful behavior can have pure motives, Reed works out her character's childhood traumas, and there's more. For a light comedy-drama, I was surprised out how many heavy issues the film addressed. And as usual, Curtiz's direction is confident and non-intrusive. Have you seen this?

Dear Will:

I saw "Trouble Along the Way" as a kid and vaguely recall it being watchable, but now I'm interested in seeing it again.  That's a good combo: Duke, Curtiz and young Donna Reed.  And I'm a fan of Charles Coburn, too. Has anyone seen "The Devil and Miss Jones" (1941) with Charles Coburn and Jean Arthur?  It's very funny.  Coburn is a millionaire who goes to work as a clerk in his own department store, then gets caught up in the labor movement.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:       

Mike Nichols has my respect too, and I'm certainly willing to admit that there are some great movies that I don't get. Maybe you could talk more specifically about The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge.
 
From the standpoint of story structure, they're both tight three-act scripts (one might argue that Carnal Knowledge has four acts). My problem, I guess, is that I don't care about what happens to the main characters of either film. It doesn't matter to me if I like the main characters (which I don't), but I do need to care.
 
In The Graduate, Ben's behavior is so annoying to me that when he finally goes for the dramatic gesture to get Elaine, I'd rather her walk away without acknowledging him (like Anna in The Third Man).
 
Carnal Knowledge also gets my goat. The misogyny of Jonathan and Sandy aside, I find them both so whiny that what happens to them doesn't matter to me. Are sex, sexuality, and relationships really that confusing? We want sex, we want sex with people in a culture that demands relationships, the people we want sex with are just as messed up as we are, and relationships can be really stifling. And?
 
I guess what I'm saying is that I usually feel like something's missing when I watch these two films.
 
This is no disrespect to Nichols, and I'm planning on seeing all of his other films. But these two--The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge--are some of his most well-regarded, and I can't help but see them as being just hysterical. I'd really like to read your take on them. Thanks!

Dear Will:

I have to defend these two classic films?  Okay.  First of all, both "The Graduate" and "Carnal Knowledge" are bravura combinations of filmmaking, performance and writing.  Several of the transitions in "The Graduate" are as good as any that have ever been done in movies.  And the audacity of the direction in CK, like playing whole scenes on characters with no dialog and having your leads out of frame to me anyway is still breathtaking.  That scene in the bar that's entirely a medium close-up of Candice Bergen who is just laughing at what Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkle are doing off-camera. I haven't watched either film in years and they're both indelibly etched in my mind.  When they came out they were both groundbreaking, and I think remain so.  Anyway, check out "Biloxi Blues" and "Postcards from the Edge."

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

12/27/08:
You didn't list off Luis Bunuel's DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID. It starred Jeanne Moreau and was released in theaters around the same time (within a few days) as John Frankenheimer's THE TRAIN, which featured Moreau as a café owner.

So, this Maid's biggest prospect is getting into bed with the Groundskeeper, who refuses because he wants to marry her. And as it's later revealed, he wants to marry her so they can move to Paris and run a café for French Revolutionaries, that's actually a front so her "future husband" can pimp her out (and she's okay with it).  And there she is, running the café in THE TRAIN.

There's a real degree of nastiness under of this otherwise classy film. The owners of the estate are racist scumbags who laugh about killing wops and kikes in front of their Jewish maid who doesn't understand what wop or kike means (this is played for laughs). You've got this dirty old man with this fetish for making his maids strut around in kinky boots and calling them "Marie". His first time hunting, he shoots a butterfly off a flower ("But I thought you liked butterflies?" "I do, I was hoping I'd miss.")
 
And on top of that, you've got a subplot about a little girl who's raped and murdered off-screen. which also winds up being the punch line for the end of good scene (I can't believe they made that funny). Not a great film, but not a bad film. It says on the Imdb.com that it's his only film shot in Anamorphic Widescreen.
 
 Meanwhile, parts of CARRY ON SPYING genuinely made me laugh. All four British agents are complete over the top twits and that one running gag almost holds the whole film (not that we haven’t seen it before, it was just perfectly done here). At the beginning, one of them knocks to come in and it turns out he was locked in the office safe overnight. Later at the end of the film, they self-destruct enemy headquarters, escape out the secret exit, which turns out to be the office safe, the secret lair was under their headquarters the whole time and the both place explodes.
Dear Aaron:

I've never seen "Diary of a Chambermaid," one of the few Bunuel films I haven't seen.  It's a remake, by the way, of a Jean Renoir film from 1946 that was written by Burgess Meredith, who also co-starred and co-produced, and I haven't seen it, either.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:   
     
I'm in complete agreement with you about Charlie Wilson's War. I thought it was taut, funny, and made points both timely and universal. Yet I was surprised, because though I have always thought of Mike Nichols as talented, I've never liked his movies. Perhaps my age (31) makes me miss the generational relevance of The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge, but I find both of those movies--along with his more recently hailed Closer--tedious, self-consciously over-the-top in their sexual banter, and more than a little too pleased with themselves.
 
I thought his remake of La Cage aux Folles was disasterous, Working Girl and Catch-22 overrated. Granted, I haven't yet seen movies like Regarding Henry, Biloxi Blues, Postcards From the Edge, Primary Colors, and a few others.
 
What is your opinion of Mike Nichols's work overall? I agree that he is competent and can stage a scene, but do you think he consistently makes good movies?

Dear Will:

Mike Nichols may be the best director working.  Although you didn't get "The Graduate" and "Carnal Knowledge," they're still great movies.  I'd say "Biloxi Blues" is the best film made of a Neil Simon play, and there have been a lot of them.  "Postcards From the Edge" was wonderful, with many laughs.  "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is too intense for it's own good, but very successful at what it's doing.  "Closer" stunk, but so what?  He's made his share of crummy films, but he's made some great ones, and some really good ones.  Mike Nichols certainly has my respect.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:   
     
12/26/08:
I survived Antonioni's RED DESERT. Richard Harris is young and speaks another language. A crazy married woman who really isn't all that crazy hits on him in dull ways in this desolate waste land, while he discusses leaving on a boat. Okay, it wasn't unwatchable, but it did seem pretty dull and pointless. Damn art films. Also, you mention RED DESERT in your Film History Syllabus, but it's not marked off on your list. Have you or haven't you?
 
I didn't have high expectations for LORD JIM, a few critics bombed it, saying it sounds like a good film based on the first act, but then it stretches on for two more hours. I slightly disagreed. I felt it only stretched on for one more hour. I somehow identified with his inner conflict, the feeling of never wanting to be remembered, but to keep doing good work with little reward. But I felt the end of this story was when he redeemed himself and stood up to Eli Wallach. For it to keep going for another hour with James Mason's pirate king felt like it was flogging a dead horse, even if James Mason was a good character (and I liked his demise), even if it made a good book. I don't suspect an intermission would've fixed things either.

Dear Aaron:

I've never sat all the way through "Red Desert."  Antonioni gives me a pain. I sort of liked "Lord Jim."  Yes, it's too long, but I liked that it's an action film with subtext.  You also get some of the same themes that appear later in "Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now."

Josh

Name:              Jorace Poag
E-mail:             mephi@lebbidose.net

Dear Josh:     
   
Sorry to add to the Dark Knight tedium, but I just watched it on DVD after avoiding it for a long time.  I've disliked every previous Batman film (Burton, Schumacher, Nolan) but thought I'd give it a shot just to see this amazing Heath Ledger performance everyone has raved about.  Holy crap.  That was not good acting.  That was one of the gimmickiest, hammiest overacting jobs I have ever seen outside of a Jim Carrey comedy.  The character's voice was so corny it would make Weird Al Yankovic recoil in shame, and the lip-licking tongue move Ledger pulled at least five times a scene was something out of the Don Knotts playbook.  A crapfest like this being considered profound and masterful makes me feel like Donald Sutherland surrounded by aliens in the Body Snatchers remake.

Dear Jorace:

I have a distinct feeling that should I ever watch "Dark Knight," I'll be in complete agreement with you.  That's why I don't bother with films like that anymore: I don't care, and I don't want to argue about it.  I watched "Charlie Wilson's War" for the fourth time last night, and I'd have to give it Best Picture 2007.  It's a totally unique film that knows exactly what it's about and where it's going, and it has a point. And three terrific lead performances from Tom Hanks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Julia RobertsNed Beatty is wonderful in his bit, too.  But the key to the whole thing is Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, which is funny and tight and pointed and doesn't have a bad scene in it.  And Mike Nichols can stage a scene better than anyone presently working in movies.  I don't know why I keep thinking about the scene between Julia Roberts (who's Born Again in the story) and Philip Seymour Hoffman at the bar, where she asks, "Are you Catholic?"  He drunkenly slurs, "No, I'm Greek Orthodox."  She says, "Well, that's Christian, too," and he replies, "Imagine my relief."

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:   
     
12/24/08:
I think you'd enjoy BACK DOOR TO HELL. I can't really explain why, it's just a cheapie b-movie war film that seemed well shot, well cast, and featured Jack Nicholson in the third lead. Plus it's only 1HR 10MIN long. This was from Twentieth Century Fox.
 
It says you've seen this one from Columbia, THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, did you see it in the theater? Good cast, engaging story, I like the ending with Sidney Poitier "Answer Me Goddammit!!" then it's nuclear annihilation for all of them. Yes I noticed Donald Sutherland. Martin Balsam says, "Why you Dirty Bastard! You Dirty Bastard. Who the hell are you to tell me how to run my business!" to Richard Widmark. I only mention this because this was in your film history syllabus:
 
<<Also in 1966 Mike Nichol's first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, comes out setting new standards for the use of expletives and what you can now get away with saying, such as: "Goddamn," Son of a bitch," "Bitch," and "Bastard.">>
 
What the big difference between this and Balsam's "You Dirty Bastard" line?

Dear Aaron:

I saw "Backdoor to Hell."  I believe it was an indie that 20th picked up. It seemed okay for a no-budget movie, and it's fun seeing Nicholson so early, in 1964.  He and director Monte Hellman (who I've met several times) actually made two films on that trip to the Philippines, the other being "Flight to Fury," which I haven't seen. "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf" is renowned for setting new standards in expletives, but you seem to have found an earlier example.  I did not see "The Bedford Incident" in the theater, just on TV, but I thought it was pretty good.  Getting back to Monte Hellman for a second.  My friend Rick and I saw a screening of Hellman's film, "China 9, Liberty 37," which we both kind of enjoyed.  After the film Rick went up to Monte Hellman and said, "Don't you think you're going to have some trouble releasing the film with that title?"  Hellman became very firm, "No, no, no.  That's the title, and that's what it has to be.  No other title will do."  Rick and I both shrugged.  I've also run into Monte Hellman at least a half dozen other times.  Very nice guy.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Re: Montage -

I assume Slavko Vorkapich came to Hollywood from Russia?

The russians really knew their 'montage'; in fact they probably invented what I referred to as the "American" sense of the french word, didn't they?

I just watched Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Camera" again and the whole movie is pretty much a montage; no real story or characters, just a time-capsule view of Moscow ( I believe ) and it's people. It amazes me how much I enjoy this film when all it really has going for it is the rhythm of it's incredible editing. Have you seen it?

( Also, only because I love Matheson's book so much, I have to inform 'nick' that "I Am Legend" is indeed available in a comic-book. It was very faithfully adapted by Steve Niles ( "30 Days of Night",) with great B&W art by Elman Brown, who creates some of the densest, fine-line cross-hatching ever seen.)

 Dear Raoul:

"Man With a Camera" is like the blueprint for most student films that came thereafter, except it's kind of inspired since no one had done it before. So, you're saying the Russians created the American form of the French "Montage"?  Huh?  Actually this is a subject I've thought a lot about.  The Russians really started to experiment with editing in the mid- to late-1920s, and there had already been thousands and thousands of movies made around the world.  By 1925 when "Potemkin" came out, D.W. Griffith had been making movies for 20 years and Charlie Chaplin had been making movies for a decade, and they had both experimented with many of the same ideas as the Russians, which is mainly the idea of juxtaposing two or more images to create an idea.  So whether you've got soldiers marching on the Odessa steps, and the mayhem that causes (rolling baby carriages, a kid with a bloody eye, etc.), or you've got a Civil War battle in "Birth of a Nation" in 1915, ten years earlier, or Charlie Chaplin hiding a dog down his pants and going into a restaurant in "The Tramp" (1915), it's all achieving the same thing, Montage.  The Russians took it in a bit more of an oblique, experimental direction, but it doesn't change the concept.  Therefore, the answer is no, I don't think the Russians invented montage, they simply experiemented with it in interesting ways.

Josh

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

Hey Josh...
 
Just cuz you guys were talking about Fincher, I thought I'd chime in. I had a chance to work on Fight Club. Just BG and stand-in. The term mad, eccentric and genius are all befitting. FG was scheduled initially at 113 days of shooting. Which is pretty unheard of in. Then went into reshoots, and then re-re shoots. The first day of shooting was 6/05/98; last day was around 4/14/99. And on set was even crazier. I wound up cutting my arm on a functional drill being used in the scene. We did about 35. Somewhere between take 10 and 1`5, I cut my arm pretty bad on a drill I was using in the scene. They sent in the medic. She wrapped my arm and we shot about 20 takes more. The scene was in the movie for about 7 seconds. it's a master, shot and we see the window blow out when the space monkeys start operation mayhem. It's the computer store front, and we were putting gas into the computers. The irony is i actually have a scar that is a small 'C' from it. The word from SAG was that particular production had more medical and workman's comp claims, than any up to the date of release. Which I think was late '99.
 
Like I said mad, eccentric and genius all come to mind;P
 
Happy Holliday's, Josh.
 
TJ
Dear TJ:

Thanks for the little snapshot.  I don't know what "genius" has to do with any of this, nor any of David Fincher's movies.  Are you a genius if you take 113 days to shoot a crappy movie?  Fincher has never made a good film, let alone a great one, so how is he a genius?  As I've said before, I don't believe that any geniuses work in the film business.

Josh

Name:              nick
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"I Am Legend" was just painful. The first half wasn't completely terrible, but the second half is like the cinematic equivalent of a tonsillectomy without anathesia. Why do you think they felt the need to add lots of gunfire, explosions, and chase-scenes to a film about the LAST MAN ON EARTH? Perhaps it's because they didn't actually read the book since it wasn't avaliable in comic-book form?
 
As for "Zodiac," Kristie nailed it when she said it needed to minimally be an hour shorter. The stuff with Mark Ruffalo and the cops is basically padding, but comprises at least half the film (Gyllenhaal is there, but he doesn't really do anything and is maybe in for only a few scenes). By the 50th time they showed one of those title cards that said something like "Wichita Falls, 5:00 PM, Thursday, December 2nd, 1972," I wanted to scream. It wasn't Fincher's worst film, though; that honor would go to the cinematic barbituate "Panic Room."
 
P.S. the full quote:
"It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice - there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia. Eventually within the next quarter of a century, the nostalgia cycles will be so close together that people will not be able to take a step without being nostalgic for the one they just took. At that point, everything stops."

Dear nick:

That's a great quote.  Thank you, Frank Zappa.  Meanwhile, David Fincher is a weird director, and so far I haven't really liked any of his movies, although I do think he's sort of talented.  He seems to either over-cover the shit out of the scene, like the opening, or he gets the absolute minimum coverage like a TV movie.  He needs to settle down somewhere in the middle. And I absolutely agree with you about all those stupid, "Three months later," titles.  So, Will Smith has now completely fucked up a classic Isaac Asimov book, and a classic Richard Matheson book.  I guess it's now time to fuck with Robert Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke. Oh, I just watched "2001" again, and beyond everything else about it, the film is so incredibly, wonderfully unique.  There's nothing else like it.  And when Kubrick does an effects shot, he holds on it -- here, look at this, behold.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Re: "ZODIAC" - I believe the earlier poster, nick, was wrong on two counts: Gyllenhall's cartoonist shows up fairly early; and the main character is 'Zodiac', although he is a mystery that's never totally solved.
I agree the film is too long, but for me it was the second act, where the years pass by and no killings happen, that dragged.
But I liked "Zodiac" as well as "Assasination of Jesse James . . ." ( yes, I'm a Malick/Tarkovsky fan) but both films made me wonder at the seeming dissapearance of the art of montage ( in the American sense of the word.)
In "Zodiac", I thought showing the passage of years was an important plot point, but why couldn't it have been covered in a two minute montage? I think in the 1980's the endless use of bad montage as an excuse for including pop songs on the soundtrack burned most people out on them ( said montages usually consisting of girls trying on different outfits or athletes training,[ Wikipedia's entry for 'montage' lists "Rocky"'s training scene as it's sole example,{ see Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 'We Need a Montage'}]).
But when I think of 'montage' I immediately go to old studio films like 'Casablanca' or the opening of "The Magnificent Ambersons" where it's a brilliantly used film technique. Sadly, it seems to be a lost art.
Do you have any favorite montage scenes, Josh?

Dear Raoul:

The Zodiak killer is definitely not the lead character of "Zodiak."  The story may all be about him, but he's not who we're following or caught up with.  The lead character represents us.  That's one of the big problems with the script.  The lead switches between Robert Downey, then Mark Ruffalo, then finally Jake Gyllenhaal.  Regarding montages, of course I love the opening of "The Magnificent Ambersons," which is right out of the book, but turned into a movie, how the fashions keep changing.  Another good one, that's more contemporary, but made to look old, is the "going to the matresses" montage in "The Godfather."  The master of the montage was Slavko Vorkapich, who, starting in the early 1930s, was able to condense years of story into mere seconds of screen time.  His trademark was the leaves of the calender blowing or dropping off.  He could take the lead character through years of destitution and drunkeness in 30 seconds (see "What Price Hollywood?" the first version of "A Star is Born").

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I think what "Zodiac" needed was pure and simple nuance. The cast is good, it looks great, it really does nail the feeling of the era, the murder scenes are absolutely horrifying, but it just needed to be minimally an hour shorter. An approach similar to Goldman's "All the President's Men" would've been more welcome, and "Zodiac" had that potential but just didn't quite make it. An interesting attempt, though.
 
As for "Jesse James," it seems to be striving for the tone of a Malick or Tarkovsky film, which works for some, but not for others. I thought it was very good, and I didn't find it all that slow (and it's certainly better than any late Malick or Tarkovsky film), but I can see how one could find it too lingering.

As for Frankenheimer, how about "The Train?" Almost everything that Burt Lancaster does, or experiences in "The Train" seems real, necessary and interesting. Lancaster did all his own stunts in the film, learned to cast driving axel bearings, which we see in the film in a contunous take. Frankenheimer was one of the true masters of the audacious, complicated, continuous scene and this film has many astounding set-pieces. The film is also one of the last great films shot in deep focus black and white (mostly with a 25mm lens) and it is the bold, striking compositions of the intense and vigorous action that elevates the film to an even higher level. Frankenheimer never took the bland, straightforward choices of blocking and positioning the camera in his films - certainly not in the first half of his career and The Train is a veritable textbook in imaginative visual directing.
 
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

Not to mention that "The Train" is deeply ironic, an aspect that I love and that seemingly confuses most Americans (I read a movie review recently, and I can't remember what, that praised a film for its "pleasing lack of irony," as though irony is a bad thing that obfuscates the story).  Apparently, Frankenheimer and Lancaster didn't hit it off on their first film together, "The Young Savages," but Lancaster could see that Frankenheimer was very talented.  When Lancaster was having director trouble on his production of "The Birdman of Alcatraz," he fired the director and brought in John Frankenheimer.  Then Lancaster recommended him to Kirk Douglas for "Seven Days in May."  I'm glad John Frankenheimer had a bit of a renaissance at the end of his career on HBO, and winning an Emmy.  Meanwhile, I agree with you that they're striving for an artsy-fartsy, Malick/Tarkovsky, tone in "Assassination of Jesse James," but I think it's entirely inappropriate for their story.  Also, the extreme excess length unfocuses the story, which is about Bob Ford.  But all those long looks off to nothing undermine the film.

Josh

Name:              Jon Cross
E-mail:             omnoproductions@hotmail.co.uk

Dear Josh:         

What's the story behind "The Horribleness", is that happening now that "Intent" is not? or is it all just internet rumour nonsense? and have you seen "My Name is Bruce?" (I see it tomorrow night in L.A.) were you there for any of the filming? and How does it compare to "Man with a Screaming Brain?"

Thanks for everything, especially "Running Time"

Dear Jon:

The financing fell through on "The Horribleness" twice and now I've got nothing going with it.  Yes, I saw "My Name is Bruce" and laughed my ass off.  It's a real crowd movie, and it's much better than "Screaming Brain."

Josh

Name:              nick
E-mail:

Dear Josh:   
     
Just out of curiosity, why do you keep posting hate-mail from vociferous Batman fans? Seems like a waste of time to me. That people in their 20's and 30's still obsess over this tripe, with a dominatrix superhero, is just pathetic. Frank Zappa wasn't kidding when he said American society will eventually be destroyed by nostalgia.
 
Incidentally, did you catch the new David Fincher film "Zodiac" recently? I find it impossible to believe somebody could have made a film that bad. If you thought "No Country For Old Men" was crappy, wait 'til you get a load of "Zodiac." It basically felt like watching an entire season of "Law and Order" in one sitting. It's supposed to be the biography of the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal, but he doesn't even show up until halfway through the film.

Dear nick:

I did see "Zodiac" and I don't think it's as bad as you're saying, although it's way too long.  Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't show up halfway into the movie, he's there from the beginning.  He doesn't take over the investigation until Act III.  I did find Act III to be somewhat painful, with his wife walking out on him, and all of the cops sick of him.  Ultimately, though, I found it more interesting than "No Country For Old Men."  You want to see a bad movie, watch "I Am Legend."  How anyone could have made such a bad film from such a good book is astounding.  It makes "Omega Man" look like a brilliant film.  It's not as good as "The Last Man on Earth," which was sort of low-budget junk, but at least it got the story right.  Good quote from Zappa.

Josh

Name:              Kevin Neece
E-mail:             winedrinkingcritic@yahoo.com

Mister Boolah/Chowey/Whoever you are:

You completely misunderstand me.
 
I agree with your points you sound like a real movie lover, I would love to hear your opinions on a project I’m doing if you would privately email me. But you have no tact. You know nothing about my tastes in film and that's my fault for giving off that appearance, I just listed SECONDS as an example. I doubt any answer I could have given would’ve been the right one, you'd have found fault and insulted me with any of them. I love ALL type of films and cannot pick a favorite movie, I used to tell people JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG was my favorite by default (I do love it). There are too many good movies out there to choose. I'm only 25 right now. I'm trying to beat Josh's film count by the time I'm 31.

I'm not a good review writer either, the Wine Drinking Critic thing was a joke my friends and family always called critics who diss everything that isn't an art film. I think SHOWING people films is better than writing reviews about them so that's what I do. I track down old movies and get all the people I meet (who's interested) to watch them.
 
Both you and Chowey had interesting points in your different discussions, but without the tact to deliver them politely, why would you expect anyone to take you seriously?
 
I'm not militant about the DARK KNIGHT, but many people were, so god bless ya. There were hundreds of things wrong with those films but I still think they (DK & BB) were better than the previous. Everyone wrote in with their say when it first hit theaters, but I chose to wait on mine.
 
And since you so desperately challenge my wine drinking critic status, then minute I finished posting 1965 I'm going to pick a year, watch through it in order, and post my opinions here. And you can criticize me all you want... without censorship.

Dear Kevin:

Good god, I've ended up in the middle of a Batman dispute on my own website. I knew posting that long "Dark Knight" post of your's would come to no good. I know, let's discuss John Frankenheimer instead.  I saw "Grand Prix" when it opened, in 70mm, and though I don't think it's all that terrific of a movie, I'd still say it's one of the best uses of split-screen (all supervised by the great Saul Bass).  At one point they have a 70mm camera mounted on the driver's side of a race car facing forward, and one on the passenger side facing back, then they take the car up to about 150 mph.  I thought it was thrilling.  The opening shot of black, hearing an engine rev (in 6-track stereo), then having the lens pull out of the exhaust pipe is brilliant.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: the inside joke is it was a private email he didn't think I'd have the guts to post -Kevin]

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:       

Hope you're well. I thought I'd recommend some 2008 releases for you.
 
I saw "Revolutionary Road" tonight and I have to say that it blew me away. I haven't liked a Same Mendes film at all so, but this is a genuinely good movie. Leonardo DiCaprio's performance is fascinating to watch because at times it seems as if he is channeling Gregory Peck in "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" and at others as if he is embodying the tender/violent masculinity that Brando made famous in the 1950s. I'm a tough critic, but that's how I saw it - he's so good in this.
 
What makes the film work is its ability to really show the mental, physical, and social pressures imposed upon the central young couple to conform to the era (1950's) of conspicuous consumption and the happy homemaker, especially in the early scenes. And man, it looks beautiful, probably my favorite work from Roger Deakins ever.
 
If somebody attempts to drag you to this, tag along, you may very well like it.
 
I also really enjoyed Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," which was really delightful, but Leigh's almost always dependable.
 
Oh, and I agree with you completely on "Charlie Wilson's War," and I also very much liked that screenplay.
 
Any further developments in regards to your non-fiction work about your time in Hollywood as a teen?
 
Best,
Kristie
Dear Kristie:

My memoir "Going Hollywood" will be published early next year.  I was just discussing it with the publisher yesterday.  Regarding the great Roger Deakins, I just watched "The Assassination of Jesse james by the Coward Bob Ford," which, as usual by Mr. Deakins, is gorgeously photographed.  It also my be the best movie with the worst editing I've ever seen.  There is definitely a good 120-140 minute movie lurking within the 185 minute mess that's there.  The cast is very good, and Brad Pitt gives an incredibly scary performance that's just perfect for the story.  Casey Affleck is creepy as hell as Bob Ford, and Sam Rockwell and Sam Shepherd (who disappears far too early in the film) are both very good.  The dialog has an authentic ring to it, the story is totally interesting, the photography is stunning.  Given all of that, the movie is edited like a pretentious art film, with long shots of people staring off into nothing, fields of wheat blowing in the breeze, snow slowly floating down, etc., to the point where I was ready to bail in 30 minutes, and I would have had I seen it at the theater.  In a week I cut that film down into a good movie; as it is, it's nearly unwatchable.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         
 
And now...for your endless amusement...
 
http://www.ihasaids.com/upload/data/1229313488.gif
 
D'oh!

Dear Saul:

But why is Larry getting it, too?

Josh

Name:              Monsieur Boolay
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
 
No, my insult is sitting there for all to read because I WROTE it. You putting it there is just doing your job instead of censoring anything that doesn't agree with your sensability.
 
Bottom line is this: The Dark Knight sucks. So does Seconds too, while we're at it, so shows what you know. THAT'S your favorite movie? Come on, that's like Top 5 Frankenheimer at best (behind Birdman, Manchurian, Train, and Seven Days).
 
Check this link out to see some of that Dark Knight bullshit I've been talking about:
 
http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2008/12/critics_better_love_the_dark_k.html

Look, there shouldn't be hurt feelings here, and I apologize for the comment about Shirley, that wasn't cool, and it's not even true, I don't give a rat's smelly ass about Shirley. Bottom line is this: Dark Knight fans are so insecure in their fandom that they feel the need to insert their cultural zeitgeist based personal opinions into the realm of historic "greatness."
 
They should chill out, toke up, watch their "deep" superhero movie on loop, enjoy it, and bite their fucking tongues till they bleed before they start spewing nonsense about the 1967 Batman being any more gay than the 2008 Batman, which is fruitier than Little Richard's underwear.

Dear M. Boolay:

I don't know what the hell you're talking about.  I never said that "Seconds" was my favorite John Frankenheimer movie, but it certainly doesn't suck.  Quite frankly, I think it has a terrific first half that falls apart as it goes along, with stunning James Wong Howe photography.  But I would absolutely take all of the afore mentioned Frankenheimer films above it. I'm sure I agree with you about "Dark Knight," too, but honestly, you're the one who needs to chill out and toke up.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         
 
Well, no, Little Lotta and those aren't really funny.  I read them all back when, myself, I think now more as illustrated kid's books than as humour.  Thinking about that -- I don't remember whether I've ever heard you mention the comics in the papers?  Surely like everyone else you visit this page first before moving on to lesser matters like finance or world news?  Have you had any favourites past or present?  (As a child I never missed a "Henry," I don't know how to say why.)  Andy Capp, B.C., early Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Zits? Doonesbury, obviously? And not to forget the panels -- Herman (total immersion in my case), The Far Side, Non Sequitur (friendly on-and-off acquaintance)....
 
Well back to great actors for a minute -- the other day, yet again courtesy of the local public library, I saw "The Caine Mutiny" for the first time. I was completely engrossed in this, I thought Bogart was brilliant, and I was only-too-legitimately surprised by the resolution, but it's not on your list.  Is that just an oversight, or is there something about it you don't like?

Also, I've added two Bette Davis movies to my "seen" list lately, "The Star" and "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex."  I liked "The Star" a lot for both its heart and its brain, and I thought "Elizabeth and Essex" was outstandingly credible on the part of Davis, and quite acceptably so on the part of Flynn, as a love story between two people the world doesn't have enough room for. I see neither of these are on your list either?
 
Incidentally, do you by any chance share any of the interest sparked by "JCVD?" Reportedly Jean-Claude Van Damme's work in it deserves to be seen, and I will if it ever shows up in theatres around here (they did have it at TIFF).
 
Respects and regards,
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

"The Caine Mutiny" not being on my Favorite Film list is purely an oversight that will be corrected immediately.  I'll bet I've seen it at least ten times, several times in the theater, and also within the past couple of months.  I think it's a great film, although the kid's a bit of a drag, but appropriately cast.  Nevertheless, Bogart couldn't be better, and so is Fred MacMurray and Van Johnson.  Jose Ferrar is pretty damn good, too.  Even Lee Marvin and Jerry Paris in small roles.  No, I love that film and always have.  "I've got those yellow stain blues/ From my head to my shoes."

I like both "The Star" and "Elizabeth and Essex," but I don't *really* like them, nor love them.

Regarding comics in the newspaper, I don't look at them anymore (I get the NY Times online), but I did for a long time as a kid and young adult.  I used to love Peanuts and B.C.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

so heres the question. Do I buy the "running time" DVD on amazon now, or do i wait for the new high def version? i guess I'm asking whether you're expecting a new release soon?

Dear Alex:

At this point I'd say wait.  It ought to be a better transfer, and there's some good extras (my short film, "Holding It," with Bruce and Sam, as well as a documentary about the super-8 days).  Synapse Films, who's releasing RT and TSNKE wanted to do the new HD transfers this month, but I stalled them. I think we'll do them early in '09, like Jan.-Feb.

Josh

Name:              Jim
E-mail:             jeaganfilm@aol.com

Josh,

have you seen the BBC doc "Stanley Kubrick's Boxes"? I watched it on Youtube and found it to be very revealing about his filmmaking process. Which is that pre-production (and background research) is everything. An interesting note in the film is that Stanley spent more time in the 80s doing research for a never produced Holocaust film called "War Crimes" than was spent on "Schindler's List" from script to screen. It seems like the older he got, the more difficult he found it to pull the trigger until he had exhausted all avenues of research available. Anyway, worth checking out:
 
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5739282975440441779&hl=en

Dear Jim:

I'm of the same opinion as Mr. Kubrick, pre-production is where you work out as many issues as humanly possible so they don't pop up during shooting. This film I was just on had almost no pre-production and therefore surprises occurred almost constantly, that you either have to stop and deal with at that moment, or just ignore and live with.  Either way, it's not the best way to make movies.  As for the documentary, I'll watch it later.  Thanks for the link.

Josh

Name:              Monsieur Boolay
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Wow, Kevin's not a wine drinking critic, he's a cool-aid drinking critic, far as I'm concerned.

Josh, I don't think "zzzz"ing it will quite do it with these Dark Knight nuts...seriously, it's not like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fans who feel like anyone who criticizes their faves just "don't get it," the Dark Knight fans are militant, they're angry, and they demand passage of their holy grail of a movie into the pantheon of cinema greats, alongside Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and The Godfather, etc. Moreover, many are insistant their precious little Dark Knight is BETTER than all those old farty pictures anyway.

Because the Dark Knight has such DEPTH...yeah, like this is really the first movie ever to engage in moral ambiguity. In fact, if it deserves any distinction, it's that it's the first movie ever that is so INSECURE and DESPERATE and PRETENTIOUS that it has to TELL you over and over again that "There is moral ambiguity here! And here! And here!"

And btw, that brilliant scene Kevin described for a thousand words or so involving the boats was one of the most contrived hunks of moose shit I've ever seen.

If you were the captain of a ship and handed a fucking detonator that would blow up another ship (and the same drama was taking place on the other ship) would you seriously WALK INTO THE HULL WHERE HUNDREDS OF DESPERATE PEOPLE ARE, allowing THEM, not YOU, to make the decision?

That's called Grade-A Camel Cum, Kevin!!!

I miss Shirley.

Dear M. Boolay:

Kevin's doing a fine job, and is a first-class movie geek, like myself, so get off his case.  I don't hold it against him or anyone else if they like comic book movies since most everyone in my generation and thereafter grew up reading, and in many cases loving, comic books.  I didn't.  In 1968 at Camp Tamakwa, when I was nine, I made the huge mistake of not bringing any books with me.  Every other kid in my cabin -- and it was a big cabin with about 20 guys in it -- had all brought lots of comic books.  So I read comic books that summer.  Very quickly I came to dislike all of the superheroes because I felt that all of stories were stupid, and were all painfully similar.  This superhero wears a green leotard, that one wears a red leotard, they both fight super-villians who intend to rule the world, or the universe.  So I ended up only reading the "funny" comic books, like Little Lotta, Richie Rich and Archie, which aren't funny.  When I got home from camp that summer I made a mental note to myself -- never go anywhere without a book ever again, and I haven't.  Nor have I ever read comic books again of any sort.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it, but it just makes me the oddball, not the comic book-lovers.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: If I said my favorite movie was John Frankenheimer's SECONDS, nobody would give a shit. If I post a project I work on where I track down all the films in chronological order and watch them, nobody comments and it gets taken down, but if I like one comic book film, somebody wants my job? Why do you want my job? All I do is copy and paste your messages into a box and click send. Your insult is sitting there for all to read, because I put it there. - Kevin]

Name:              Webmaster Kevin
E-mail:             winedrinkingcritic@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I never made a real comment on DARK KNIGHT since it came out because:

1) I know you really don’t care.
2) Everything new is the greatest thing since slice bread
3) Even if you did watch it, you’re not going to see what’s so great about Heath Ledger anyways. You’re going to bail on the movie.

But since enough time has past...

Heath Ledger did exactly what the role called for, he was good at it… and he disappeared into the character, which is what makes him memorable by the end of the movie. But he’s still just acting the lines he’s given and what he’s given is the same as all the other comic book villains. He starts out as a nobody bank robber, and then the first few times he threatens someone with a knife to their throat, he tells them completely different disturbing stories about how he got his scars just to fuck with them. He kidnaps people and sends their torture videos to the news a ala the terrorist beheading videos. And when he's finally caught, he says "Hey, I don't really want to kill you, what would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob banks? No no no, I want this to go on forever". When someone offers to reveal Batman on television, he calls them up saying he doesn't want it to end, and threatens to blow up a hospital if a civilian doesn't kill the
squealer, which causes a riot... he blows up the Hospital anyways. Then when he gets his half of the entire mob's money they owe him... he burns it to make a statement. He just likes to cause Anarchy. I like the climax of the film. Heath Ledger has kidnapped a busload of hospital evacuees and a new reporter and puts the city into panic stating whoever doesn’t want to be in the game at midnight should leave… but the bridge and tunnel crowd are in for a big surprise.

So everyone has to leave in two boats. One for all the criminals held in jail, One for all the civilians. Once both boats have taken off, they find hidden detonators to the bombs on their boats. A voice comes over the speaker telling them that each detonator is to the bombs on the other boat. At midnight, both bombs go off. Whoever blows up the other boat first will be allowed to live. So who should die first, the criminals who made the city what it is, or the innocent civilians. Nobody wants the responsibility so they put it to a vote. At the end of the vote, it says that the civilians should kill all the criminals. But the captain notices that if they are still alive, then the criminals haven’t killed them either.

On the criminal’s boat, the biggest one, Tommy Tiny Lister, stands up and tells the cop to give him the detonator, he can tell everyone he took it by force, but if he doesn’t, the other criminals will kill him. Give him the detonator and he will do what should’ve been done 10 minutes ago. The cop cowardly hands over the detonator and Tommy throws it out the boat window instead, then sits down and waits to die.

At the end of the time limit, neither boat blows up. Given the body count on this film, it was believable that these people could just have easily died as lived.

The Joker wins at the end of the film. Aaron Eckhart is like Barack Obama to this city. His mission was to bring change and lock up the entire mob, but if he was caught doing anything dirty, his case would be lost and all the criminals would be let back out on the streets. The Joker kills his most important witness, kills his girlfriend, and leaves him disfigured and half-mad (Two-Face). He convinces him to take physical revenge on all the dirty cops and mob bosses who he couldn’t stop the legal way. The Joker has lowered Aaron “Obama” Eckhart to a cop killer and undoes everything he was working for. Even though Joker is caught at the end, we know he can escape because we saw him do it before.
So in the end, Heath Ledger wins.

There some complaints in the film that piss me off: The badly done opening fight in a parking garage, and Bats jumping off the top of a skyscraper to save a woman, catching her, hitting the bottom without breaking his fall, then saying “whew, let’s not do that again”… and it doesn’t even wrap up the terrorism that was happening back at the party, it just jumps to the next scene. And I hate that opening shot of Bat’s talking to the cop in the bank vault. And Bats sounds like he has throat cancer. That’s it.. Those are the complaints.

But otherwise, it’s a genuine cop drama meets terrorist film. Overlong, yes, but every film has it's minor problems.
I went back and re-watched Tim Burton’s BATMAN and it was completely unwatchable. Michael Keaton is a bore. The huge action scenes are Batman jumps into frame, talks, jumps out of frame and disappears. The Batmobile is stupid. Jack Nicholson hams it up to the point of complete annoyance.

BATMAN FOREVER is so cartoony and over the top it’s annoying. Jim Carrey serious needs to calm the fuck down, but this was coming off of Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber so that’s what was expected from him. Later I heard this was a nod to Frank Gorshin from the original show.

So I watched the original 1967 BATMAN film that was played for camp. Wow, that’s gay. Frank Gorshin’s most over the top moment is that goofy laugh and the costume changes and that’s it. Jim Carrey’s performance is nothing like this guy. I liked Burgess Meredith as the Penguin but the Joker was a great big bore, just Cesar Romero in clown make-up and nothing else.

Dear Kevin:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......................

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
       
What do you think of Meryl Streep? I used to think she's overrated, but 14 Academy Award nominations is nothing to scoff at.

Dear Jeff:

Meryl Streep is certainly one of the greatest living actors, as well as one of the very best to ever work in movies.  I think you'd be hard-pressed to find another actor with her range, living or dead.  I'd also add that no one, male or female, to act in movies has ever been as good at her at doing accents.  When Meryl Streep does an accent, she nails it every time. Another of our greatest living actors, Robert DeNiro, can't do accents to save his life.  When I think of his attempts at southern in "Cape Fear" or nearly Canadian (very northern U.S.) in "This Boy's Life" I just want to laugh.

Josh

Name:              Andy Nonymous
E-mail:             enigma@fake.id

Dear Josh:         

If, as you say, you Write Film Reviews when moved positively or negatively enough, why aren't there Reviews for "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" and / or "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", which you say are some of the worst you've ever seen, and what are the best and worst Films you've ever seen? Also, I've found out what a Smash Cut is (you said in "The Complete Guide to..." that you didn't know what it was) - it's when, say, there's a Cliffhanger on a T.V. Show like Heroes and there's a really sudden Cut to the "To be Continued..." Screen to shock People, that's a Smash Cut.

Dear Andy:

I didn't have a website when those films came out and I'm certainly not going to watch them again now to review them.  Thanks so much for the useless definition of a smash cut.  The bottom line is that two images are stuck together, thus making a cut.  Whether it's a shot of a baby and a puppy cut together, or it's a shot of a gun firing cut to a shot of someone's brains splattering the wall, they're both just cuts.  Cutting to a superimposed title, whether it's "To be continued" or "Pow!" or even "Smash" is no different.  It's just a cut.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         
 
Are you a fan of any James Bond movies? If so, what are your favorites?

Dear Brian:

No, I'm not a fan of James Bond movies.  The whole series ought to have died on the vine 30 years ago, when Sean Connery left.  But it really and truly should have died when the cold war ended.  Admittedly, when I was a kid I liked "Goldfinger" and "You Only Live Twice," but I was a child then, and I have since put away my childish things.  I watched "Dr. No" not that long ago, just to revisit where it all began, and it stinks.  Those movies were a joke from the outset.  Joseph Wiseman playing Chinese?  Come on.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Just two titles I left out last time, but have been wishing I'd included. It's just that like many Canadians, I'm not that happy even seeming to comment on the Iraq war.  The movies are "Lions for Lambs" and "In the Valley of Elah."  Neither are perfect films, though "Elah" almost would be if it weren't just barely overworked enough to notice by the end.  "Lions for Lambs," it must be admitted, is uphill work in a variety of ways from start to finish.  But both of these movies succeeded in getting me to remember them for the right things and in lasting way they intended,

Respects and regards,
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

I'll keep my eyes peeled for them.  "Lions For Lambs" nearly sunk UA, again. If "Valkyrie" doesn't do some business they'll have to go before congress and ask for a bailout.  Meanwhile, I just watched "Charlie Wilson's War" for the second time and that's a good movie.  Mike Nichols and Sidney Lumet are the last two surviving competent filmmakers.  I even liked Julia Roberts, which is a first for me.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is absolutely great, in everything so far.  Julia Roberts asks him, "Are you Catholic?"  He says, "No, Greek Orthodox."  She says, "Well, that's still Christian."  He mumbles, "Imagine my relief."  And I loved Charlie asking the president of Pakistan for a large glass of whiskey.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             silverseed72@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Larry made a very persuasive argument with his intelligent "you're an idiot" post. I had no idea there was a connection between "premature" death and artistic merit. When I think of all the years I've wasted admiring John Huston (who died at the tender age of 81 from emphysema) and David Lean (who only managed to reach 83 before expiring untimely from throat cancer), I could kick myself.

I'm not a smoker, but I can't help but notice the hateful nature of the anti-smoking rhetoric that finds its way to your site. Larry's self-righteous attitude reminds me of the evil "you may not believe in god, but he believes in you and you're gonna BURN IN HELL!" promises made by bible thumpers.
 
Anyway, as you've observed many times, most directors no longer have it in them to make great movies once they reach a certain age. So, a cigarette in the hands of an aging director is potentially a good thing for the rest of us.

Dear Danielle:

I lie awake at night utterly bummed out by William Wyler, John Ford, John Huston and David Lean's premature deaths.  Think of it, if those guys didn't smoke they'd all be over a hundred now, and think of the films they could've made between 80 and 100?  Quite frankly, I don't think any directors living have it in them to make a great movie at any age.  In my opinion they all need to start smoking, or do anything that might give them a good idea.

Josh

Name:              larry
E-mail:             larrybrush@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

you're an idiot.  i love that you worship all the people in your industry who smoke, cause most of the greatest talents in Hollywood history have died prematurely from smoking.
Dear Larry:

Sorry, nobody dies prematurely.  If it's something you only do once it's always right on time.  It's just like the ridiculous propaganda that smokers incur more medical costs.  So, if I smoke myself to death at 60 I'll incur less medical costs than if I live to be 95 and spend my final 20 years deteriorating and failing?  This crap is strictly based on insurance companies not wanting to pay anything now that they might not have to pay in 20 years because medicare and medicaid will then handle it.  Given a choice between two smoking directors like William Wyler (who lived to be 81) and John Ford (who lived to 78) over non-smoking directors like say Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, I'll immediately take Wyler and Ford, who were both far more talented and far more creative.  And as a final thought, no, you're an idiot.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

If you're glad to be off "Intent," I guess I am, too. I was looking forward to a new Becker Film though.

So last night I saw Otto Preminger's "Advise and Consent".  Having recently seen "Anatomy of a Murder" for the first time (and just loved it) I was eager to give this a look considering it was his next film and Charles Laughton's last.  DEAR LORD!  All I can say is I will forever remember this film not for it's slow pace, confusing plot or Washington D.C. locations, but for all of the camera shadows I saw!  I lost count at 10 and by the half-way mark I was scoffing aloud every five minutes (about the average time between stark shadows from the camera and even technicians that would appear on bare, white walls and even on the actors, as is the case on Laughton's wide, white-suited figure at one point).  I see boom mics and camera shadows all the time and it seldom bothers me (which reminds me that there were a few in "Anatomy of a Murder," too).  I actually sort of like it, because rarely do others notice them, and I get to see a sliver of the "work" or "mechanics" behind the production...but this took it to an all new level.  I simply couldn't believe my eyes and am confused that I've never heard it brought up before.  It was truly appalling.

Anyway, after watching I knew it was going to be a comment for this board. What do you make of it?  You must know exactly what I'm talking about.
 
Have a good one.
 
Blake
Dear Blake:

I've been saying it for 25 years and it just came up again the other day when my friend Paul saw "Laura" and commented that he didn't see any booms or camera shadows.  My response was, "That was the last time."  In my opinion, Otto Preminger is the all-time winner for having booms drop in and camera shadows, and what makes it worse, and inexcusable as far as I'm concerned, is these are all big A-movies.  When I see his films like: "The Cardinal" or "Adise and Consent" or "Exodus" I just want to scream.  I saw a whole series of Preminger's films at UCLA in their proper formats and and I've never respected him again.  He did make a top-notch Nazi in "Stalag 17," for a Jew, that is.

Josh

Name:              LaJuan
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
 
I want to espress to you my sadest simpathys for your loss of job on movie Intent. It would have been very good movie but now I think it wont. I want to wish you good luck in finding a new job because I am sure you will soon and return to makeing good movies that we all love so much. If your fans can do anthing to help you these days you must let us know thrugh message on your web site.
 
You are an inspration to all us. And like a good friend.
 
Sincearly,
 
LaJuan Gansberg
Dear LaJuan:

Thanks.  I feel like I dodged a bullet, so I'm fine.  I think I did some good work in that one week of shooting, as did the crew.  They were all pretty green and inexperienced (except the DP and 1st AD), and everyone got their shit together fast and did a fine job.  I wish them all the best in the upcoming weeks.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

This is Michael Moore's latest and greatest.

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php?id=242
 
Makes sense to me.

Dear Aaron:

Makes sense to me, too.  I must say, however, that I also drive a Chrysler and I like it a lot.  I also liked my last Chrysler.  If they can manage how to stay in business I'll buy another one, too.

Josh

Name:              Jorace Poag
E-mail:             mephi@lebbidose.net

Dear Josh:     
   
Josh, this is an ancient question, but in going thru a bunch of old movies I came upon the film "The Annihilators" which according to IMDB was released the same year as "Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except" and seems to have at the same concept and even a similart opening as your film.  I'm wondering how this happened.  Pure coincidence, or did someone get ahold of the short film you made of this earlier and decide they'd make a full-length rip-off, oblivious that you were making your own full-length version of your own short?  Here's a link to a page describing the film:  http://www.badmovieplanet.com/unknownmovies/reviews/rev190.html

Dear Jorace:

I've never heard of it, but it sure does have a lot of similarities.  I'm surprised that website hasn't got a review of TSNKE.  And of course I made my 45-minute super-8 version in 1980, so that might have been the inspiration.  Who knows.

Josh

Name:              Campbell Cooley
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
         
Sorry to be joining this discussion late folks.  I have absolutely NO idea what the circumstances are which are being addressed about Josh supposedly being 'fired'. So, at the risk of sounding like I'm automatically taking his side, I'd like to offer a few facts that go towards his character.  Yes, Josh can be abrasive on this site.  But as someone who has worked with him twice (as an actor), I can attest that on set that he's always been nothing but professional. In fact, if he was any more laid-back, he'd be declared clinically dead! (a dumb joke, I know...)  Despite inevitable problems that are bound to occur on any given production, he's always been calm, cool and collected.  I've only ever seen him get upset once about a situation and the worst he did was throw a script. In fact, the person causing the problem didn't even see Josh throw the script, so their precious ego was left intact.  And believe me, the actor causing the problem deserved more than that! They should have been fired! Oh, and it is my personal experience that most producers are idiots and NEED to be yelled at more often. Anyway, I suspect I've contributed absolutely nothing of use to this argument.  Just thought I'd do my yearly check-in and say 'Hi'!

Go hard dude!
Dear Campbell:

Yes, that's me at my limit when I throw my script.  I don't recall why I threw my script on that episode, but it certainly wasn't the first time.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
 
What do you have to do to become Network Certified and why have you been unable to do it?

Dear Aaron:

First, you have to want it, which I don't.  Second, you have to get hired on a network show, which I haven't been.  That's all.

Josh

Name:              Edwin Spaulding
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
       
Why does everyone immediately jump to Josh's defense? Don't you guys think there's another side to the story as well? I mean, for crying out loud, they FIRED him. It's entirely possible they weren't happy with Josh's work (perhaps another reason the writer/producer was closing in on him) and they removed him before he got them in too deep. This payroll thing could be Josh's excuse. Because he's embarrassed.

I'm not saying definitively this is the case, but I'd be curious to hear the other side of the story before we all jump to conclusions.
 
And, Josh, if you did blow up at the producers in front of the cast/crew then maybe you deserved to be fired. There's a right and wrong way to approach these situations -- and by asserting yourself above them in front of cast/crew you may have damaged already weak egos -- and thus, lost out on a potentially great job.
 
You can write them off all you want but that doesn't change the fact that you've got to know how to deal appropriately with people (and assholes) if you want to work in this business.

Dear Edwin:

Yes, there's certainly another side to the story.  If you ask the producers I'm sure they feel they're completely right and I'm completely wrong.  The fact of the matter was, they weren't paying and hadn't done anyone's payroll paperwork, so it seemed to me they were never going to pay.  Quite frankly, if I do say so myself, the stuff I directed was pretty good.  If they can pull off the next three weeks, which I kinda doubt, I'm reasonably certain it won't be as good as the first week.  But that's just me.  And you're right that blowing up at one of the producers on the set in front of everyone was a bad idea, but when they'd missed payday a second week in a row, with no explanation, and I still didn't have my contract, on the second day of shooting, I went nuts.  Plain and simple.  Was it the best way of dealing with the situation?  It doesn't matter because that's what I did.  I would say I was fired as of that moment, but they let me finish out the week.  I've been burned a number of times before and I don't like it.  It seemed like it was happening again and I put my foot down because I could. But I was the head of the Michigan crew and if I didn't stand up for them, who would?

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:
         
No problem. I'm getting used to it. I've been considering petitioning to get rubbing off on me considered an olympic sport.
 
I wanted to say I'm really sorry to hear that you got fired from Intent. I'm always happy to hear when you have a new movie in the works, so it's sad when things don't work out completely. Although, all things considered, if you had to get fired for something, at least you got fired for something noble.

Dear Jeremy:

Thanks.  I did what I had to do.  I wish I could tell you I feel the slightest bit noble about this whole thing, but I don't.  As I sat there on the set Friday, payday, and watched the Vi, the co-producer stand there and gab all day, when she ought to have been writing checks and signing contracts, then finally missed payroll, I went ballistic.  I didn't decide to do this, I just did it.  I told her, infront of everybody, including Eric Roberts, to "Get your ass back to the production trailer and sign the checks and contracts.  What the fuck is wrong with you?"  She said, "You can't talk to me this way."  I said, "Okay, how about this way?  Fuck you!"

Josh

Name:              Jason Roth
E-mail:             oxboy30@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         
 
Re: Intent-
 
What a load of horsesh*t!  You can't be praised enough for what you did. Vultures like that producer need to whither up and die.  I'm sure you'll find something better, or get one of your own financed.  Cave Alien 2? (KIDDING!)
 
The My Name is Bruce screening was a gas.  I was seated behind an elderly couple.  Once BC came out to do his Q&A I found out I was sitting behind Mr. & Mrs. Raimi.  Too cool!  It was neat seeing Tim Quill in attendance as well.
 
Just got my first writer/director/editor credit on IMDB.  It's a small victory, but it sure feels good.
 
Best,
Jason
Dear Jason:

I love Mr. and Mrs. Raimi, they've been my alternate parents my whole life. The ones who were actually inspiring, who urged me to keep doing what I do. They've both told me I'm stupid on a number of occasions, but they've said it about all of their kids, so I happily take it as part of their advice. Here's my imitation of Mrs. Raimi.  "You wanna know what Sam's problem is? He's stupid, that's what."  They really are wonderful people, who have always believed in me.  Once, when Mrs. Raimi was telling me how good Sam was at schmoozing, I said, "I've never been good at schmoozing."  She said, "Josh, it's worse than that, you're insulting."  She's right.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Dear Josh:       

Nobody in this world could ever say you don't have guts and don't stand up for what you believe in. Nobody could ever say you sold out at the sacrifice and expense of other team members (crew).
 
You're right though 100%. How were these crew members going to pay to put food on the table for thier families if the head dicks in charge aren't signing the paychecks.
 
You should just look at it as an opportunity to pursue something else.
 
Clearly the bastards were poison.
 
Tim
Dear Tim:

These people were evil.  They had PAs driving in from over an hour away and not reimbursing them for their gas.  They expected the Michigan crew to finance their movie for them.  And Tim, the writer-producer, owns a chain of sporting goods stores and says he's owned several Bentleys and Rolls Royces. I'm very pleased to be off this film.  I slipped through the devil's grasp.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
 
Wait a minute. You're saying you've fired as director on "Intent?" Surely you jest, or that I misread something. At least, I hope so.

Best,
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

No, I was fired.

Josh

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

Dear Josh: 
       
Aw shit!  Well'p, are they still renting your walkie talkies?

There will be better days...and better films to direct (like your own scripts).  But, you did direct about a week of the movie, right?  Did this all come down on set, or what?  Who in the hell will they hire in Michigan to take over as director mid-shooting?  Something like that would have to happen immediately.  Of course, maybe you just don't give a rat's ass by this point.

Bummer, man.
 
Blake

Dear Blake:

Yes, I directed a week of this movie.  The footage looked pretty good, too. I think Tim, the writer-producer, is going to take over the direction.  He was moving in on me all week attempting to co-direct.  Dropping into the chair next to me (my chair) and saying shit like, "Don't you think this is to tight?  Maybe we should back up a little."  And I put up with it, too. So now he'll find out what it's like to direct.  I believe that he never noticed most of what I do.  He thinks the scene just magically appears on the monitor, then you get to change it.

Josh

Name:              Danielle
E-mail:             silverseed72@hotmail.com

Dear Josh: 
       
Josh, I can't believe those unprofessional, self-serving assholes fired you for sticking up for your crew. It's disgusting how many people take on the responsibility of shooting an independent movie without feeling the need to compensate their employees in a timely manner -- especially when those employees often work such brutal hours.
 
Are you still a member of the DGA? I'm probably being very naive, but can't they protect you from being fired merely for demanding that the producers honor their legal obligations?

Sorry about the way things turned out.

Dear Danielle:

I am still a member of the DGA, but this wasn't a DGA shoot so I'm not covered under their bylaws.  No unions were going to look out for this crew, so I had to.  That's all.

Josh

Name:              Jeremy Milks
E-mail:             admin@homecomingcreations.com

Dear Josh:         

All I'm sayin' is, the next time you wanna rub off on me, ask permission first. It's hard to get those kinda stains out of the laundry.

Dear Jeremy:

Sorry.

Josh

Name:              Jason Roth
E-mail:             oxboy30@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

Cave Aliens, eh?  I can't wait.
 
I'm looking forward to seeing Ted in what looks like a rogues gallery of wacko characters.  You and Bruce are the only ones really using Ted's full range.  Sam seems to mostly use him as a cinematic punching bag (which is still funny.)
 
Who's replacing Cloris Leachman?
 
Hope your shoot goes swimmingly,
Jason

Dear Jason:

A local actress replaced Cloris Leachman.  Meanwhile, because the producers refused to pay the crew and missed payroll twice, I went nuts on them, actually got them to pay, but they fired me.  La!

Josh

Name:              Jack Alderton
E-mail:

Dear Josh:       
 
I have started Research on a Book that is to be called "Epic Novel" that covers every Genre there is (according to Wikipedia) with the Main Characters being Astronauts (Sci-Fi Comedy.) This and all the different Sub-Stories will run alongside eachother, occasionally cross then come together in one big explosion of a Finale, possibly in New York. What do you think of this idea? Doable or do you think I'll go crazy before I finish.

Dear Jack:

If it makes sense to you, go for it.  Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Dear Josh:         

I just read that there is a SAG strike looming on the horizon.
 
These are like the writer's strike right? If one strikes they all strike? Nobody is acting and we are looking at reruns and no new productions?
 
Any thoughts on this?
 
Tim
Dear Tim:

If labor doesn't stand up for their rights management will absolutely take advantage of them, history has proven it over and over.  Producers feel that they deserve all of the money and the folks who actually make the movies and the TV shows, the talent, deserve nothing.  Being a liberal lefty I'm always on the side of labor.  Fuck management!  Workers of the world unite, you've got nothing to lose but your chains!

Josh

Name:              Mike Wellborn
E-mail:             mike@wellborn.net

Dear Josh:         

Re: Religion is Evil
 
Bravo!

Dear Mike:

Thank you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Boy, the World is going Topsy-Turvy: Mich. passed the Medical Marijuana Law ( joining 13 other states,); we have a President-elect whose intelligence I actually respect; and instead of giving you shit for hating the new Spielberg film, people write in to give you shit for liking the new Lumet film.

I believe Chowey has a point, though. He's way too vituperative and should maybe cut down on the caffeine, but has a point none the less.

"Before the Devil ..." is a heist-gone-wrong flick, and the only thing I saw original about the script was the fact that they're ripping off their parents and kill their Mother in the process. And since they really don't NEED to, it makes them despicable and I really can't empathize with the characters. ( Except for the fact that the actors are all top rate; and Hoffman, Finney and Tomei are three of my of my favorites ... and has anyone mentioned the best thing about the movie: Marisa NUDE! That is one lovely forty-something!)

In some respects I thought it was similar to "Fargo", with Bill Macy's character turning to crime and starting a whole chain reaction of bad shit: but unlike Phillip Hoffman, I really love Macy's character in "Fargo", I think because his sense of desperation is so believable. Also "Fargo" has a solidly moral character as a lead in Fran McDormand and it's a comedy. Chowey has a point in saying "Tragedy is easy". Am I wrong in thinking you also like "Fargo" better than "Before the Devil ..." ?

Dear Raoul:

Why don't Hoffman and Hawkes "need" to pull this heist?  They need to every bit as much as Macy in  "Fargo."  Hoffman has extorted money from his company that's going through an IRS audit and has used it for drugs.  His marriage is falling apart and the only way he can save it, in his mind, is to get his wife back to Rio, where they had their last good time.  Hawkes can't make his child support payments and his daughters thinks he's a "loser."  These are motivated characters.  Personally, I'll take "Before..." over "Fargo" because I completely believed it, whereas almost everything with Fran McDormand seemed like silly horseshit to me in "Fargo."

Josh

Name:              Edwin Spaulding
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Ray Bradbury.

Your thoughts on his career.

GO!

Dear Edwin:

I've enjoyed many of his short stories, and I thought his screenplay for John Huston's "Moby Dick" was very good.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:   
     
You mentioned you're a fan of CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Have you read the uncut Harlan Ellison screenplay?
 
I haven't yet, but I read the compare/contrasts on Wikipedia and it seems like the only major change was the villain they were after. In Ellison's version, it was a drug dealer who gets found out, and in the end is forced to relive his death for all eternity.
 
I thought changing the murderer to Dr "Bones" McCoy was a great idea. It made the whole beginning feel like a nightmare.

Dear Aaron:

Yes, I have read Ellison's original teleplay, and I think it was better than what ultimately got filmed.  Nevertheless, it's still one of the very best Star Trek eps.  There's a big logic flaw in the filmed version.  Spock uses his tricorder to see the obituary of Joan Collins, and when Kirk asks him when it will happen he says, "I don't know."  Well, if it's in a newspaper there's certainly a date on the newspaper.  But Bones injecting himself by mistake was slightly ridiculous.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
       
Is "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" a great movie?

Dear Jeff:

No.  It's simply a fully realized movie.  It's completely succeeding with what it's attempting to do.  Is there a terrific point?  No.  Crime doesn't pay.  Yeah?  So what?  But unlike Tarantino or the Coen Bros. it's totally believable, it's not some jerk-off idiotic fantasy.

Josh

Name:              beck
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Do you feel you are a "cult" director? If so, what does that mean to you?
 
What level of filmmaking are you on? Is there another filmmaker out there today you often compare yourself to in private thought -- maybe in style, skill, or experience?
 
Thanks in advance for your insights.

Dear beck:

No, I don't feel that I'm a "cult" director, I'm just not particularly successful.  I don't think of myself in comparison to anyone right now.  I do on occasion in my own head compare myself to directors like Wyler and Hitchcock and I come up so utterly lacking that I try to not to do it very often.

Josh

Name:              duffy
E-mail:             roguewriter1@juno.com

Dear Josh:         

Hey Josh it's been awhile but you're as busy as ever it looks like. First off I wanted to give you a big virtual hug. A couple years back you very kindly and patiently answered my questions as I wrote my first script. She (seems my scripts like cars are female) is currently being looked at in Chicago and I have all fingers crossed.  Honestly without your input it wouldn't be half the script it is so thank you! Guess what I have a film making/writing question. Big surprise there I know. When writing an action block where you picture it to be set to a song, not a long one a short 1.4 to 3 min segment, how do you put this down on paper? Add in the need for a slow motion effect and you have me...mystified. You are my answer man and in honor of Thanksgiving I am so very thankful for you. PS how are the cats?

Dear Duffy:

Read "Head Shot," wherein I do both of those things.  It's my pleasure to help.

Josh

Name:              Michael Darios
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

The Jericho Mile, a television film by Michael Mann, was very good. Best movie I've seen behind Duel and Conspiracy. Have you seen it?
 
I know you're not a Mann-fann, but what were your problems with Thief? I think it's a very good film.
Dear Michael:

I think it's dull.  It promises to be exciting, then isn't.  Good score, though.  I did sort of like "The Jericho Mile."  I'd say there are many better TV movies, like "A Cold Night's Death," "Evil Roy Slade," "Warm Springs," "Elvis Meets Nixon," "Empire Falls," "The Day Reagan Was Shot" and on and on.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Hope things are going well, I appreciete the casual discussions you have with people on your website about movies, and I just wanted to also make a comment about Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. I picked up the movie after hearing good things, and Ive got to say, i was disappointed. The story wasnt bad, but i felt they tried to make it more powerful than it really was by chopping it up. Those repeated transitions with the sounds of glass shattering and the flashing between scenes were laughable. it just got worse everytime they did it. It cheapened the feel of the whole movie. I think that was some of Albert Finney's worst acting. I really wanted to like it, and Im hardly ever this critical of movies. I was just wondering if that didnt bother you as well.

Dear Alex:

Different strokes for different folks.  No, I didn't see it that way.  I thought that every time they flashed back it revealed something new about the characters and the situation, of why it occurred and how it occurred. I didn't care for this approach when Tarantino did it, but I liked it very much in this case.  Once again, of the movies I saw from 2007, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" was the best one.

Josh

Name:              Winston Sethman
E-mail:             wsethman12@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Sup, dude? You a fan of James Macavoy's work? I think he's really good. I mean REALLY good. Like he's the real deal, you know?

Know you worked with Peter Jason--ever see him in 'They Live'? Fuckin great work, man, I mean REALLY great stuff.

You still with that Lisa chick? The one with three kids?

You been on board with Springsteen's last few albums? I think one or two tracks off of 'Rising' 'Devils and Dust' and 'Magic' are among his better tunes, though nothing can match the exuberance of 'The Wild, the Innocent, and the East Street Shuffle.'

Well alright then. Out.

Dear Winston:

Once you know who Peter Jason is, then you realize he's in everything.  He's the other cop with Stacey Keach in Cheech & Chong's "Up In Smoke," for goodness sake.  He was all over "Deadwood."  Yes, Lisa and I are still hangin' out.  I love her.  Meanwhile, I have not been aboard with Springsteen on the last few albums.  I haven't **really** liked anything he's done since "Bloodbrothers" in 1995.  "The Rising" has it's moments, but I never listen to it, nor did I put any of it on my iPod.  Is this the same James McAvoy who stars in "Atonement"?

Josh

Name:              Andy Nonymous
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Are you like me where if a Film is just trying to be funny and succeeds (like "Johnny English") or if it's just trying to be scary and succeeds (like "The Sixth Sense") then you'll watch it regardless of it's lack of Depth?

Dear Andy:

Certainly.  Movies don't have to have great depth, or any depth, really, if that's not their point.  But if they set out to make a comedy, then it must be funny.  If the idea is to make a horror film, then it must be scary.  If your point is to make a deep human drama, then do that.  But you must know and understand your intentions from the outset.

Josh

Name:              Jason Roth
E-mail:             oxboy30@gmail.com

Dear Josh:   

Been meaning to see Find Me Guilty for awhile now.  If you give it a thumbs up I'll bump it up in my netflix queue.
 
I'm currently working through the Pusher trilogy from Denmark.  They're very low-budget, but well-told drug trade crime tales.  Lots of human dimensions given to the usual stock characters, and well-acted to boot.
 
And regarding the new 3:10 to Yuma- I found the original to be a lot snappier and better acted.  The new one feels extremely padded.  Christian Bale does well, but Russell Crowe is no Glenn Ford in the villainy department.  I believe Ford's character would tear Crowe's version a new one any day of the week.
 
Will you be attending at BC's Royal Oak premiere of My Name is Bruce?
 
Best,
Jason

Dear Jason:

No, I won't be attending because I'll be shooting.  But I already saw the film in E. Lansing and I laughed my head off.  Aside from being a very funny actor, Bruce is a very solid director, too.  I love the idea of him playing a fictionalized version of himself.  And I'm extremely honored that it begins with a parody of my film, "Alien Apocalypse," entitled "Cave Alien," and the astronauts have absolutely terrible beards.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             Nansemondnative

Dear Josh:         
 
Barring any unforseen events shooting is scheduled to start Monday on your project.
 
Got your game face on?
 
Tim

Dear Tim:

We've now been pushed back to Thursday.  Cloris Leachman is sick and in the hospital and will no longer be in it (get well soon).

Josh

Name:              Benji
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was just wondering if you'd heard any of Ben Fold's music; whether it be his solo work, or his work with Ben Folds Five?
 
Also, if you have heard it, did you like it?
Dear Benji:

Never heard of him.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Have you found a distributer for Hammer yet?
 
 and as a recomendation for last years movies: i really liked 'Into the Wild' and '3:10 to Yuma'.
 
TJ

Dear TJ:

Honestly, I've given up on finding a distributor for "Hammer."  Thanks for the recommendations, I haven't seen either of them.  Well, I did see the original, 1958 version of "3:10 to Yuma."  Way back when Scott Spiegel and I used to write together, 25 years ago, we kicked around a comedy western entitled "3:10 to Humor."

Josh

Name:              Jason Roth
E-mail:

Josh,
 
Just chiming in on Before the Devil Knows You're Dead:
 
I'm amazed at what a powerful film it is, especially when considering it was made by an 84-year old (great)director.  I'd say Lumet is on the winning side of the age vs. creativity battle.
 
Albert Finney's performance really moved me- he creates so much empathy just with his facial expressions and mannerisms.
 
I'm glad to hear you're working on a new feature.  Best of luck!
 
Cheers,
Jason
Dear Jason:

Yes, I agree, I think Sidney Lumet did a really top-notch job directing, particularly at his age.  He's a very good filmmaker.  Although I didn't think it was great, I enjoyed his last film, too, "Find Me Guilty," with Vin Diesel, who's surprisingly good.

Josh

Name:              Leo Buscaglio
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I was wondering if you were not a fan of the rock band Tangerine Dream and some of there musical scores? I very much enjoy them, especially in the movies Sorcerer and Thief.

Dear Leo:

I like those scores very much.  Apparently, Tangerine Dream wrote the score for "Sorcerer" without seeing the film, just based on reading the script.

Josh

Name:              Armand
E-mail:             sincero112@yahoo.com

Hello Mr. Becker
 
Of all the websites that exist as forums of some kind I don't know any that continually remain as entertaining as this one.  I just don't know where else one could go to find passionate film observers, frankly biased disgruntles ranting polemics, and some people who have to be seriously deranged--all in one place.  It's just a treat.
 
Anyway, I just watched "White Heat" for the first time last night and just loved it, though I expected to do so.  Thrilling performances, taut direction, and good lighting--just fantastic.  The film got me wondering if you managed to catch the Warner Brothers retrospective that aired on PBS American Masters:  "You Must Remember This--The Warner Brothers Story."  Given your knowledge of film history and accumen as a director I'd enjoy your opinion on the film and its version of the WB story.
 
My apologies if this has been covered in the forum previously.  I have been away for a while and site searches proved fruitless.
 
Good luck with "Intent."
 
Armand

Dear Armand:

Yes, it's very entertaining around here.  It's gotten to the point where I like a movie and get called an asshole.  Meanwhile, yes, I saw the WB show and enjoyed most of it, although I did finally turn it off before it was over when it got to Batman.  I love "White Heat," and I'd say it's the last great gangster movie that truly ended the era.  Getting back to an earlier discussion brought up by Raoul, who felt that noble characters were better than villians, all one has to do is point out Cody Jarrett who is an astoundingly watchable character without any nobility at all, other than he loves his mother.  Raoul Walsh was one of the old-time masters of no-bullshit film direction.  By the time he made "White Heat" in 1949 he'd already been directing for 35 years.  WB was always my favorite studio, with Bogart, Cagney, Robinson, Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, not to mention Forhorn Leghorn ("I say, that's a joke, son").  I loved Warren Beatty's story about having an argument with Jack Warner, who finally said, "Whose name is on the water tower?"  Warren Beatty replied, "Those are my initials."

Josh

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