Q & A    Archive
Page 159


Name:              Aaron S.
E-mail:             

Dear Josh:

Exactly when in her career did Vanessa Redgrave get famous?

Dear Aaron:

In 1966 Vanessa Redgrave made her film debut in "Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment," won the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for an Oscar, but didn't win.  She followed this up with Michelangelo Antoninoni's "Blow-Up," also in 1966, "Camelot" in 1967, then "Isadora" in 1968, for which she was also nominated for an Oscar, but also didn't win. Anyway, by 1968 Ms. Redgrave was a huge, international star.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I was just scanning through you Favorite Film list, as I often do when in search of something new to watch, and I noticed the addition of "Grindhouse." Is this a mistake? Or did you actually enjoy a film by Tarantino and Rodriguez, two filmmakers whose past work never seemed to impress you. I checked IMDb for any other films bearing the same name, but this was the only one of notoriety. What gives?

On different note, I recently watched "The Dirty Dozen" for the first time and loved it. The final act at the German occupied chateau was one of the most intense sequences I've ever witnessed in a film...I don't think I breathed more than a couple of times during its entire nearly forty minute duration. The fact that the movie did such a superb job of making me care about the characters made watching them face such a seemingly impossible situation all the more difficult. Great stuff!

Hope all is well,
Trey

 Dear Trey:

This must be some sort of joke of Kevin, the webmaster. I didn't even see "Grindhouse."  I too love "The Dirty Dozen," which I've seen at least a dozen times.  That ending is indeed very intense, and also incredibly brutal.  The force all of the German officers, and their wives, into the cellar, then pour gasoline down the air vents on them, then drop hand grenades down the air vents.  The shots of desperate fingers trying to grab at the grenades through the grates is really disturbing, I thought.  Jim Brown's final dash is terrific.  As a kid I was very impressed with Charles Bronson, who managed to live through both "The Dirty Dozen" AND "The Great Escape."

Josh

Name:             Lee Price
E-mail:            

Hey Josh

I agree about Sidnet Lumet's book MAKING MOVIES. I love his sign off - he says there are people out there dreaming of living the Hollywood lifestyle. But there are a few who are saving for their first camera... cos they want to make a great film. I was skint for AGES to buy my Arriflex 16 BL.

I dip into that book very often.

Do you mind posting this link? It's to my latest short film BUMBLIN' (just a little over two minutes). Again, I made it on digital for a VERY low budget - forty pounds. It's getting loads of hits on the Virgin Media Shorts MOST WATCHED THIS WEEK chart.

http://virginmediashorts.co.uk/films/film/bumblin-the-best-ever-forty-quid-bee-movie-yo/

And, as you suggested, I've posted DOODLEBUG in a shorter duration:

http://virginmediashorts.co.uk/films/film/doodlebug-the-best-ever-fifty-quid-monster-mo/

Thanks Josh

Leepy :-)

Dear Lee: 

A British Three Stooges short (with two Brits instead of three Jews).  Nicely done.  Cool FX.  Good work.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,
 
Just wanted to say Jack Cardiff passed away today at the ripe old age of 94!
 
Great life, great career, and great Cinematographer, and not a half bad Director.
 
-Scott

Dear Scott:

Yes, farewell to the great DP, Jack Cardiff, who shot one of my very favorite films, "Black Narcissus," for which he won an Oscar.  But he also shot (among many other films): "The Red Shoes," "A Matter of Life and Death," "The African Queen" "The Vikings," and, for whatever it's worth, "Rambo: First Blood Part II."  Bruce Campbell and I were just discussing him yesterday regarding his direction of "Dark of the Sun," a guilty pleasure for both us.  Cardiff also did an excellent job directing "Sons and Lover." A truly talented man.

Josh

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

Josh,

Haven't written in a wild, but I keep on reading.

Re: your poem, I do shudder when I see rhyming poems because most writers let the poem chase the rhyme, rather than choosing a rhyme to fit the poem.  The first is a cop-out, the second is the action of a gifted writer, a true word-smith(I place you in this group).  We've got three million words in the recent Oxford Dictionary; one ought to be able to find an appropriate rhyme out of all that.
 
"Contact", the Jodie Foster movie, could have redeemed itself by not including her POV during the trip.  The faith which was meant to be the theme of the movie would have been given full bore if all the audience had to go on was her testimony and the eighteen hours of static on the tape machine.  That's the way the originals at Twilight Zone would have handled it.
 
"Million Dollar Baby" has POV problems, as you say. Freeman becomes the omniscient POV in the end.  Why care about what anyone else has to say?
 
I've been studying physical anthropology and it's a humbling field, just given it's sheer scale.  It appears that proto humans like Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus had fairly elaborate beliefs in the afterlife, judging from funerary practices.  This up to two-million years ago.  I find that food for profound thought.
 
Has Michigan moved anymore on de-incetivizing the local film industry?

Best of luck to you, as always
John

Dear John:

No, the 40% incentive program is alive and well, for the time being. Meanwhile, I absolutely hated "Contact."  Thankfully for me, most of the film has come and gone from my head.  I do recall, however, that it had one of the ridiculous plot-twists I'd ever seen.  Scientists have come up with their super-duper teleporter, or whatever, and it's sabotaged and destroyed. Luckily, they happen to have a spare one, so the story can continue.  Aside from the POV issue in "Million Dollar Baby," it's just a dumbass movie. There's been professional boxing since the 1880s and yet no one has broken their neck on the stool.  I found Act III to be particularly miserable, with the respirator in her throat just waiting to be yanked out.  Nobody is put on a respirator in a movie unless it's getting yanked out.  Regarding poetry, for me if it doesn't rhyme then it's simply pretentious.  As my late buddy Rick once said, after having gone to quite a few poetry readings in L.A., most of these "poets" think, "I have suffered, therefore I am a poet."

Josh

Name:              Stephen Worf
E-mail:             theworfman@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

Have you had a chance to watch a movie on blu-ray? I'm curious to hear what a movie collector/director has to say about the enhanced format.
 
The picture is undoubtedly smoother than conventional DVD's, but the downside is that a majority of the titles available are movies that offer nothing redeeming other than a great picture.  I watched "The Longest Day," and the picture almost seemed too clean for a movie of that era.
 
Another quick question. I'm trying to figure out which Orson Welles biography to pick up. I'm leaning towards, "This is Orson Welles."
Dear Stephen:

We just did the Blu-Ray HD transfer of TSNKE, and let me tell you, that movie has never looked so good.  Regarding books about Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich's "This is Orson Welles" is great, I've read it a couple of times.  It's all interviews over the course of several years, and Bogdanovich is a terrific interviewer who really does his homework.  Any time Welles attempted to not answer a question, Bogdanovich would just as it again, and again, if necessary.  Barbara Leaming's book, cleverly entitled, "Orson Welles," is also very good.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

It was nice to see a new story up.  It's been a very long time since there appeared any original stories or essays.  And it's a good story.

Is there anything interesting going on?  Movie news or gossip?
 
I just saw a really engaging and long (like six hours) documentary called "The Staircase."  Sort of an in-depth 48 hours murder mystery, only not crammed into an hour with commercials.  The crew gained incredible access into all the behind-the-scenes work of a Defence Team during a murder trial, but with a level of forthrightness I don't feel I've seen in another documentary.  (I got so caught up in the damn thing I sat up till 2:00 Monday morning, with work six hours away, in order to finish both DVD's.  It'd been a very long time since I'd done that, too).

Dear Blake:

Nothing's going on.  Thankfully, the state of Michigan is paying the rebates, so that issue is settled.  It looks like at least three films will be starting to shoot in May.  I'm presently writing another memoir piece, this one about my year in Oregon.  I'm 50 pages in, so it's coming along.

Josh

Name:              Scott
E-mail:

Hey Josh,
 
I was curious to know what you thought of The Innocents. I just saw it for the first time last night and I enjoyed it. I was especially impressed by the fact that it pre-dated The Haunting, which I am a fan of, and used similar techniques with lighting and sound design to convey a really creepy atmosphere.
 
I thought Deborah Kerr and the children gave good performances and the film was both moody and creepy to boot. I also thought the use of sound design was way ahead of its time and added so much to the film.  I was just wondering what your thoughts were as they don't make horror films like that any more.
 
Scott
Dear Scott:

It's a good picture, but a tad slow.  Nice lighting.

Josh

Name:              Travis
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Is Obama doing a good job even thoh hes black?

Dear Travis:

Jesus, what a stupid fucking question.  And "though" is spelled T-H-O-U-G-H. President Obazma is doing a great job, and it doesn't matter what color he is.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Have you read Sidney Lumet's book "Making Movies"? Recommended?

Dear David R.:

Yes, I have read it, and yes, I absolutely recommend it.  It's a very good book.  I brought it down to New Zealand and waved it front of the face of the sound man, who I liked a lot, but he wouldn't let actors step on each other's lines.  Sidney Lumet explains clearly how to deal with this, and that it's better to let them step on each other's lines, and I totally agree with him.

Josh

Name:              paul
E-mail:             pablocampbell2@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I love all your films! I hope sometime can make films with your style!

Dear paul:

Well, hasn't this come full circle.  Once again, I wish you all the best with your paper.  Here's a tidbit for you.  Hitchcock had a scene in "North By Northwest" set in Detroit, which he ended up not shooting.  Cary Grant would be talking to a foreman in a car plant.  As they walked along the assembly line we would see one car fully assembled behind them, and as it rolled off the line they'd open the door and a dead body would fall out. Pretty cool, I think.

Josh

Name:              paul
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I have better things to do then spend all day getting screwed by you on your own website. You're an asshole and your unreasonable and should be doing what your supposed to be doing on this site which is helping the next generation. The internet generation. My generation. Otherwise what are you here for?

Dear paul:

Hey, I wish you all the best on your paper, but you've got to write it, not me.  If you had a specific question I'd have been happy to answer it.  The only things I'm "supposed to do" are pay my taxes and die.  I answer questions here strictly because I want to.  I owe you nothing.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: Here is a LINK to all 25 mp3 audio interviews of Hitchcock and Truffaut. Scroll down on the page till you hit #22 and you'll find the one for NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Sorry, Dreamweaver kept changing the link to the wrong spot, you'll just have to copy and paste it. - Kevin]

http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Hitchcock%2FTruffaut%20Tapes

>> North By Northwest mp3 <<

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I noticed that your appreciation for "The Shining" seems has gone up over the years. Have there been any other films that you initially didn't like that have improved for you on subsequent viewings?

P.S.- I have this assignment for school where I have to compare two filmmakers. I thought about comparing Alfred Hitchcock to Bill Lustig. Can you help?

P.P.S.- Just kidding. ;)

Dear Henry:

Bill probably weighs as much as Alfred Hitchcock ever did (although admittedly I haven't seen Bill in years. He might've had a gastric bypass by now). Another film that has improved over the years, and keeps improving every time I see it, is "Full Metal Jacket." At first I found Matthew Modine weak, I didn't like spending the entire first half of the film in basic training, and I thought it was a letdown that Rafter Man is a Stars & Stripes photographer, not a combat soldier. Now I don't care about any of those things. I find the film so incredibly well-made, and ultimately so emotionally satisfying, that I forgive it everything. If I may, one thing that has impresses me about me is that most of my early opinions have held up. If I didn't like it when I was eleven, I probably still won't like it now.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,
 
You sent in "The Ballad of Jehosus"????
 
Look Josh, I can't write a line of poetry and I don't critique it, but as far as I know, as a form, "The Ballad of Jehosus" is "doggerel."  That's a real effect, and fair enough for what you're driving at, but seeing it in isolation a literary journal isn't going to get the picture.  I looked at your pdf poetry file a long time ago and remember thinking it was more interesting than other unpublished poetry I've seen. "The Ballad" by itself shows what kind of a strip-tearer you are -- or *would be if you were right* -- just holding up the side -- but not what kind of a poet.
 
NYC had all the wow factor I could ever have hoped for, and felt as safe for persons and their property as I'd been told.  It was just hard work. And it's the first city I've yet visited where I half-guessed what American fiction writers mean when they talk about urban loneliness. This was just impressionistic, but it caught me completely off-guard. However, the boat tour guide said people go on living in Manhattan because it's fun living there, and if he doesn't know, who does.
 
Going back to religion for a minute, did you ever read Isaac Asimov's classic short story "The Last Question?" I love that story despite it's irreconcileability with my own theology, and I'm supposing you would. It's easily googled if you don't know it, but I realize that would be strange.
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

I didn't say it was a good poem, I just said that one of the reasons given for its rejection, and it's rare for a publication to actually give reasons, was that it rhymed.  But all of my old poems rhyme, too.  Part of the fun of writing poetry for me is coming up with the rhyme scheme.  Regarding Asimov's "The Last Question," I first read it when I was probably 12, and have read it many times since.  It's one of the great sci-fi short stories. What happens at the end of entropy?  I like the idea that gravity wins, pulls everything back together, then there's a new big bang.

Josh

Name:              paul
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Fuck you dickhead. You probably don't know shit anyway. I'd rather puke and eat it then help you fix your sink.

Dear Paul:

The same goes for your paper.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: This is a question answered in the F.A.Q. section linked in the rules area before you write in. EDIT: I just added it to the rules. - Kevin]

Name:              paul
E-mail:

Yo.
 
I'm writing a school paper on North by North West. You seem to know your stuff. Can you help?
Dear paul:

You want me to help you write your school paper?  You want to help me fix my bathroom sink?  Try reading some books.  I suggest "Hitchcock/Truffaut."

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

(re most recent post) Oddly enough, I've just been to NYC myself and back by car for the long weekend.  I've always wanted to go there.  Now that I have it's the most terrifying place I've ever been to.  But at least the only really leading item on the list that didn't work out was the Empire State Building, where the lineup for going up reached all around the block.
 
I was just looking back at some stuff and I don't suppose we could maybe see this recent poem that the literary review rejected because it rhymed? Just asking.
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

The poem is posted.  It's "The Ballad of Jehosus."  Meanwhile, I like NYC, although I wouldn't want to live there.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

On THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY'S, I noticed somebody in a diner or costume shop looking into a box that looked like a Cinematograph or Kinetoscope or something similar to see films.
 
But the film takes place in 1925, and I'm reading about these parlors in 1897. Were they still around in 1925? What was that he could've been looking into?

Dear Aaron:

1896-97 is when Edison began to really manufacture and sell the Kinetoscope. In 1906 Carl Laemmle, who would go on to found Universal Pictures, started Chicago's first nickelodeon, which was a storefront full of Kinetoscopes. And even though they began projecting movies about this same time, the Kinetoscope was still a hot item.  Considering that tens of thousands of them were sold, the fact that there might have been one around in 1925 doesn't surprise me.  Of course, "The Night They Raided Minsky's" isn't a documentary, either, so just because an art director put one on a set doesn't mean it would really be there.

Josh

Name:              Tom Ridges
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Oh you did bury the hatchet with him--that's so cool, I guess I got the wrong idea. I really think yours and his scripts are the best on your whole site and would make some awesome films, that's why I mentioned it. Ball-Breaker would be cooler than most movies out there now, that's for sure. You guys should get back together in the partnership and write some new stuff in that case :) You're both really talented in your own projects and you both seem to be getting better as the years go on so I think it would be a great fit. That's just my two cents, at least. And I didn't know you didn't know the Coen Brothers, I got the wrong impression and I knew you both worked on The Evil Dead together. Maybe you should meet them in that case. They're doing some pretty great things these days and maybe they'd hire you on one of their movies or do one of your scripts :) You should send them Ball-Breaker, lol.
 
Thanks for responding! I love you stuff!
 
-T-

Dear Tom:

I've met Joel and Ethan Coen a number of times, particularly way back when in 1980 when Joel was the assistant editor on "Evil Dead."  Sam and I drove to NYC in my green, military-looking, postal Jeep to visit the editing room. We hung out with Joel and Ethan in the city for 3 or 4 days.  That sure was a long time ago.  But in the movie business folks don't give other folks jobs just because they've met.  You can bet that a lot of people would like to work with the Coen bros. these days.  Regarding Scott, A). I haven't seen him in a decade, and B). he's got his successful "Hostel" movies, what does he need me for?  Anyway, I'm glad you liked "Ballbreaker."

Josh

Name:              Justin Hayward
E-mail:

Hi Josh,
 
After seeing Frost/Nixon, how do you feel about the non-existent phone call being such a major story point?

Dear Justin:

I found the whole film insignificant.  It's not about Nixon and the Watergate cover-up, it's about: will Nixon give an interview, and then will he admit to acts that we asbsolutely know he committed?  So what?  He resigned the presidency, for goodness sake, could there be a bigger addmission of guilt?  And Frank Langella is doing a crappy Nixon impersonation.  Bullshit.

Josh

Name:              Tom Ridges
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

You've been mentioning Scott Spiegel a lot lately--don't you think it's time to bury the hatchet with him, anyway? The Coen Brothers too--they've got a lot going on these days! Well, that's just my two cents.

Dear Tom:

Scott and I buried the hatchet 20 years ago.  I don't know the Coen brothers, I've just met them a few times over the years.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I've got a question. I was thinking about HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING lately, and how Robert Morse is the only real reason to watch it. Which led to SIMON: KING OF THE WITCHES where Andrew Prine is the entire show and everything else is badly dated.
 
What old films come to mind where the leading actor is the only thing worth watching in it?

Dear Aaron:

I don't have a quick answer for that, but I'm reminded of Scott Spiegel running into a drunk Andrew Prine at Hollywood Book & Poster about 25 years ago.  Scott quickly found a still from "The Evil" and had Andrew Prine sign it.  He wrote, "Scott, Let's scare hell of them, Andrew Prine," which was on our office wall for years.  Robert Morse, meanwhile, who didn't have a much of a career, was in a scary "Night Gallery" with Rudy Vallee ("I've taken the liberty of amputating your legs while you were asleep").  I realize now that it was an homage to "King's Row" with Ronald Reagan.  Getting back to your question, not a lot of examples are coming to mind.  Laurence Olivier gave a slew of nutty, over-the-top, yet still interesting, performances at the end of his life in pieces of junk like: "The Betsy," "The Jazz Singer" and "Inchon," but he was just trying to put away a nest-egg for his family and keep himself amused as he died.  I don't know.

Josh

Name:              Tor Hershman
E-mail:             tor_h_tor@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         

How dare you, Mr. Becker, say that religion is evil.
 
You, sir, need to veiw my latest YouTube video.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m6qC6FCiY0

Dear Tor:

Well, that was a goofy video.

Josh

Name:              Niyex
E-mail:             simplyafrica@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Hello director.I am contacting u cuz I need your  experiencein regards to a Arrilfex 16bl camera...I have just bought one and I really dont know much about this camera and the kind of picture quality it provides.
 
I am actually from West Africa, Nigeria and I am very happy to have seen your contacts online after searching endlessly on one who can help me..
 
Please tell me what you think about this camer and also can it also be used for Music videos and other stuffs.?
 
Please email me as soon as possible and also let me know if you will like me to call you....perhaps you can call me...my number is +2348052501864..

Dear Niyex:

I like the Arri-16BL very much.  We shot both "Evil Dead" and TSNKE with them.  What sort of lenses did you get?  Do you have a film lab nearby? It's a silent camera so you'll need a sound recorder, like a Nagra, if you want sync sound.  Good luck.
And if you have any specific questions, this is the place to ask them.

Josh

Name:              Simon
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Are you, Raimi, Tapert, Spiegel, Coen Bros, and Binder all Jewish?
 
I noticed there are a lot of big Jewish directors and am interested in how the Jewish experience influences the art. Any thoughts?

Dear Simon:

I'm Jewish, as are Sam Raimi, the Coen bros. and Mike Binder, but not Rob Tapert or Scott Spiegel (although his dad was Jewish).  Many studio heads and agents are Jewish, but not most directors.  My favorite director, William Wyler, was Jewish, but not John Ford or Howard Hawks or Alfred Hitchcock or Frank Capra or Victor Fleming or Francis Coppola.  I'm not sure what the "Jewish experience" is.  I had a Bar Mitzvah when I was 13, although I don't believe I really became a man at that point.  Quite frankly, I don't think that happened until I was about 35.  What's the gentile experience like?

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Thanks for the reminder, I read that when you first posted it and forgot about it.
 
Is it just me or is Hollywood completely schizophrenic? Everyone there wants to be remembered forever and yet the place seems to forget its past faster than any other.
 
Now where do I find a list of locations so I can go on my "Running Time" tour?

Dear Jeff:

"Running Time" was shot all over L.A.  The prison was in Lancaster, the laundry was a film stage in Glendale, the truck breaks down in downtown L.A., they pick Anita in Studio City.  Many far-flung places.  Jane Goe, my co-producer, and I literally spent months scouting those locations.  Anyway, you're absolutely right about Hollywood's schizophrenia.  Nothing's Sacred. Hey, that's a good movie title.

Josh

Name:              Jeff
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     

I'm headed to LA for the first time this week so I re-read your "Walk of Fame" article from Rushes to get into the mood. I love that the threshold for getting a star is so low, it somehow seems right for an industry where self promotion is such a big thing.
 
Being a movie buff I was wondering what your must see sights would be of the Los Angeles area. Since you're one person I know of with a huge knowledge of movies and also lived there for awhile I was wondering if you had any suggestions.
 
Thanks!

Dear Jeff:

You should read (and print and take with you) my essay about the Hollywood film studios, cleverly entitled "Hollywood Film Studios," which gives you the history and location of all the studios since 1909.

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:

Dear Josh,
 
Well, one thing I did wonder was if I should be more critical of the homosexual references in RT, and actually they were the comparitor I was mostly thinking of.  I might not be remembering the right moment because I can only remember two and I must have blocked out that exact pejorative. I just remember when he's leaving jail, someone calls out "F**k you" and he says "not any more," which struck me as kind of just simple and candid. Then near the end of the movie, when he refers to what he did in jail, in context all he's implying might be wrong with it is that he did it for compensation.  I thought it all could have been a lot worse.
 
It kind of reminded me of the treatment in "Advise and Consent," and the predicament of the one young senator which I know is a story that wouldn't be written now.  But I thought it was good that they present his final course of action as necessity-driven to the discouragement of other judgments or assumptions about his state of mind.  (I like that movie better than you, apparently, though you've called it OK).
 
Respects and regards,
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

You're referring to Don Murray in "Advise and Consent," who I always liked. I think he's great in "Bus Stop" with Marilyn Monroe ("But Cherry," "It's Cheri!").  In RT the "Fuck you," "Not anymore" exchange gets one of the biggest laughs at screenings.  BTW, delivering the "Fuck you" line is my good buddy, Jack Perez, who is a very talented film writer-director.

So I just saw "Frost/Nixon" and was pretty unimpressed.  I never bought Frank Langella as Nixon.  Quite frankly, I can do a better Nixon impersonation.  The best one so far for me was the guy in "Elvis Meets Nixon," who didn't look like him, but did a dead-nuts impersonation.  That's the way to go.  If it were abraham Lincoln you can do what you want, but many of us still remember old Tricky Dick, and of his many faults he did not mumble.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,
 
Neh, the one line I meant in RT was when she says he's "religious" at the end of the sex scene.  It wasn't the expletive but the wisecrack, which I thought wasn't quite worthy of the rest of the dialogue including its other wisecracks.  It's one moment in a whole movie or rather two whole movies.
 
As far as swearing in movies goes, I barely register the non-sacred-references kind any more, though I should. I'd always prefer the sacred kind weren't there but it usually is.  Letting the actors improvise must work because dramatically the dialogue does.  In RT when they're driving toward the scene of the heist, you the viewer could totally be another passenger in the vehicle.
 
Not to push the "Before the Devil" thing beyond its strength, I mentioned it because while I was watching RT "Devil" had come specifically to mind twice, and not various other heist-movie comparitors you might expect first.  I can't say now exactly what the two moments were, only that I thought of it early on, and at the end of the movie I hadn't changed my mind, and when I see it again I expect I'll have the same notion quite possibly at two completely other points.  This is vague I know, but not half-hearted.  It's in no way farfetched that "Devil"'s screenwriter, who wrote his screenplay in 1999, might have seen RT and assimilated a lasting impression, though of course this *need* not be the case.  Possibly what I was detecting was an overlap not between screenplays but between RT's sensibility and Sidney Lumet's; I did think of that too, then remembered that even so, "Devil" was still what I'd thought of first and not "Dog Day Afternoon," though I've seen both quite recently.  So, be it all as it may.
 
I've lately seen "A Place in the Sun" and was really drawn into it. Pursuing the Montgomery Clift link, I've also at last seen "From Here to Eternity" but didn't do so well with that.  I know you love it, and especially Clift's line about loving the army even if it doesn't love him, but for the first three-quarters of the movie they lost me with everything except Frank Sinatra.  I love Deborah Kerr and I expected to love Burt Lancaster in this after "The Train," "The Rose Tattoo," "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and long ago as a child "The Rainmaker," but I didn't. I regrouped for the attack on Pearl Harbour but thought I'd come to in another movie.  I'm going to try it again another time, which sometimes works.
 
Respects and regards,
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

The religious line was improvised during the take, it's not in the script, nor was it in any other take.  Just like Bruce and Jeremy's "fag" lines as they're tossing the football outside the prison.  I didn't write those lines and never heard them before they were spoken in that one take, and that was the good take.  I'm not saying that any of these lines are out of character, and I think Bruce, Jeremy and Anita are all terrific actors, but in both cases I wish those lines weren't in the movie.  Whereas, the fag line in "Alien Apocalypse" was written into the script ("The bounty hunters will track you down and kill you" "Oh, those guys are fags") and it ultimately got cut out after the first showing.  In the case of AA, it's an homage to Spiccoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."  Anyway, I hope you're right and I did inspire "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" in some minor way.  I watched it yet again (thus making it five times), and it really holds up. I'd forgotten that Michael Shannon was in it.  That guy's great in everything, particularly "Revolutionary Road."  He was fabulous in "Bug," too.  And "World Trade Center."

Josh

Name:              Dane
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"I really think they should have had the kid and stayed married, and remain in that house, and that would've been the true nightmare ending."
 
I COMPLETELY agree about Revolutionary Road. I honestly thought the movie was going to end when Kate Winslet lies to her husband as he leaves for work the morning after their explosive argument, telling him "I love you" and continuing to play housewife. That would have been the more powerful, meaningful ending--although definitely not empowering at all. The actual ending, with Winslet's breakdown and death and the introduction of the new couple, is heavy-handed and feels tacked-on. But I do love Leonardo DiCaprio's performance. It's refreshing to see him all fat and droopy.
 
Anyway, I'm currently taking an American Lit survey course, and the professor made the retarded mistake of letting the students choose works for the syllabus (I mean, this is the American canon we're dealing with), so one of the novels we're reading is Kerouac's On the Road. I was curious about your views on the novel, because to me it seems to be the literary equivalent of an awful movie: formless, meaningless, and fucking looooong.
Dear Dane:

I'm abashed to admit that I've never actually made it all the way through "On the Road," and I've tried several times.  Nor have I made it through any of Jack Kerouac's books, for that matter.  The concept of the Beats interests me far more than any of their actual work.  And being a truly old school guy who believes that poetry should rhyme, I have no intrest in Ginsberg, Ferlingetti, or any of the other beat poets.  I actually sent a poem into a literary review last year and received a rejection slip stating that they NEVER print poetry that rhymes.  That's what the Beat poets gave us.  The rejection of form and structure isn't a movement in art; it's pure laziness, and is at the heart of most piss-poor literary works.

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I saw "The Stunt Man" recently too, and drew a complete blank on it.  All that game and no scoring system.
 
In old business -- re. "Revolutionary Road," I agree it undercuts the whole movie if she's having a nervous breakdown, but I don't think she's having one.  A crisis yes, but not a breakdown.  That film strikes a haunting note I thought was really unique, and it would be too bad to waste it I certainly agree.
 
I've just seen "Running Time"!  FYI you had a line in there I didn't like. But overall I rated RT another gem, engrossing and tense and witty and swift. I suppose "Lunatics" remains my favourite too just by being the broader-based film, but RT is pro at its own thing. I wouldn't be at all surprised, by the way, if it played a part in the inspiration for "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" for what any hunch of mine is worth.  I mean "inspiration" in the honest sense, obviously.
 
Respects and regards,

Alice

Dear Alice:

I'm glad you enjoyed "Running Time."  What's the line you didn't like, because I have a few myself that ended up in the film due to the actors improvising.  In both RT and TSNKE I ended up with two to three times as many fucks as I would've liked due to improvising.  Once you let actors swear, they tend using expletives as placemarkers.  And of course in RT I couldn't cut anything out.  I had one good take of every shot.  Meanwhile, although I'd love to have been any part of the inspiration for "Before the Devil...", but I don't think I was.  Also, I watched "revolutionary Road" again and I really do think that April is cracking up from early on.  Her whole plan about going to Paris (hmmm, April in Paris) is nutty as hell from the word go.  And her attempt at self-abortion, after 12 weeks, is a suicidal, crazy act.  I really think they should have had the kid and stayed married, and remain in that house, and that would've been the true nightmare ending.

Josh

Name:              Kieran O Brien
E-mail:             kieranobrien@fastmail.fm

Dear Josh:         

i realize this article is quite old but i just came across it now and would like to say i strongly agree with many of your views! thanks for posting

Dear Kieran:

Yeah, it's one of my best pieces.  I really nailed it.  Thanks.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

You say of M. Night Shayamalan at the end of your Review of "Unbreakable", "Should he make a film worse than Unbreakable, which wouldn't be easy, I daresay they will be no hope for him." Have you tested this theory yet and seen any of the Films he's made since? If so, what is your verdict? While I'm here, do TV Series have to have a Point and Theme? I'm fine (I'm only reffering to the Dramatic ones, by the way.) if it's Structured, is logical and believable and has good Characterisation. Also, we're doing "Romeo and Juliet" in English and so recently watched the MTV-inspired version with Leonardo DeCaprio and Claire Danes and I swear I was nearly asleep during our second Lesson watching it. Inspired by this, for the big Animation Prroject we're doing in BTEC, I'm doing a Claymation Comedy version with a Happy Ending, and set in Shakespearian Times but using modern Dialogue.

Dear              :

My theory proved entirely true.  M. Night Shayamalan hasn't made a good movie since "The Sixth Sense," nor do I believe he now ever will. Meanwhile, I couldn't sit through "Romeo + Juliet," which I found unbearably awful.  You might want to check out Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film of "Romeo and Juliet," that's really good.  Gorgeous, Oscar-winning photography, too.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     

Two questions: 1)Regarding television directing, what sort of direction do you give actors who know their part better than everybody? 2)I just watched Richard Rush's film "The Stunt Man". It gets four stars in all the film reference books, but it left me cold. Am I missing something?...or is this film wildly overrated?

Thanks,
Stan

Dear Stan:

1). I give all of the actors their blocking, and regarding line readings, it depends on the line.  I often indicate to the actors which words I think need to be emphasized.  2). I saw "The Stunt Man" once when it came out, and I really didn't like Steve Railsback whom I felt made a weak and creepy lead.  Peter O'Toole was good.  The whole film seemed way too long, as well. Otherwise, its all gone in one ear and out the other.

Josh

Name:              Joseph Lee Snyder
E-mail:             mega_droogie777@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

So, what going on with your movie The Horribleness. I am really looking forward to seeing it. All that I really know about it is what I read on IMDB.com. Thanks.
 
Joseph Snyder

Dear Joseph:

All that there is of "The Horribleness" is a script.  There's no deal, no financing, no nothin'.  Thanks for the interest.

Josh

Name:              Keith
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

In the Oscar article you wrote with Rick Sandford you listed "Woodstock" as the best movie of 1970. I'm trying to track down a copy of the film but have only been able to find the Director's Cut.  I'm usually hesitant to watch Director's Cuts since they are so often the result of filmmakers/studios cashing in on their old movies, throwing in deleted scenes that had been originally cut out for a good reason.
 
Do you think the longer cut of "Woodstock" is worth watching first or would you recommend I track down the shorter theatrical cut?

Dear Keith:

Great question.  Find the original, which was edited and co-directed by Martin Scorsese and his editor, Oscar-winner, Thelma Schoonmaker.  The film is brilliantly edited and makes three hours go by astoundingly fast.  The "director's cut" has an extra hour of unnecessary bullshit that bogs the whole film down, including an homage to Janis Joplin from the perspective of knowing she's died, so you're no longer in 1969, not to mention she was in absolutely terrible form that day and deserved to be cut out of the film. The other performances added to the director's cut all stink, particularly Canned Heat, whom I like, but they too were in poor form that day.  I have the double VHS version and it's the first film I ever got that was letterboxed.  It really is a great documentary.  The original is 184 minutes long, btw.

Josh

Name:              Atilla Tyshkov
E-mail:             crazy_filmmaker1000@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Hello, my name is Atilla Tyshkov and I am a director just starting out. I found your website and want to ask about receiving connections. My plan is to get to LA soon but before I do I want to set up meetings for possible productions. I hear it's not easy but I am persistant and I have several movies I made and screenplays to show that are pretty good. Please contact me at my email address crazy_filmmaker1000@yahoo.com and I will send you samples. Thank you for your help. I am a big fan of Sam Raimi and so I'm sure I would like your stuff too! Can you send me samples? I would love a meeting with Mr. Raimi but wouldn't ask you to set that up but maybe you could just give me his office number?
 
Sincerely,
 
Atilla Tyshkov

Dear Atilla:

If you seriously want to be in the film business then you'd better be prepared for a long, arduous series of rejections and heartaches.  You will either persevere and keep going, or you will give up somewhere along the way as most folks do.  I will now do you the great favor of beginning the process for you.  No, I won't help you, I won't read your scripts, I won't watch your movies, I won't set up any meetings, nor will I send you anything.  All you can ever possibly get from me is advice here on the Q&A. Good luck.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Adding to the piracy discussion, they put all the episodes of SOUTH PARK on the internet for free (http://www.southparkstudios.com/) with minimum advertisements, which I feel was a great way to make money, and give the people what they want.
 
The Internet Movie Database was talking about putting all the movies listed on their site up like that, and while it might take time, it sounds like better idea than anything the MPAA has come up with.

Dear Aaron:

Google is trying to do the same thing with all of the books ever written. I've got the form here so that they'll post my books.  I believe that only authors with active copyrights will actually receive money.  How that money is generated -- from a download fee or advertising -- I don't know.  It is ambitious, though, and an attempt at a new way to sell books.  Obviously, a new business model is necessary for the selling of movies because the present one no longer functions.

Josh

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

Josh,
 
Glad you seemed to have liked "Doubt," going so far as to call it very well written and performed. I can't agree more - it's lean, on message and every scene is working toward the end. It's a great example of there not being an ounce of fat in a film that could be didactic.
 
While "Milk" isn't nearly as lean at 2:08, it's just as powerful. Gus Van Sant worked hard to create late 70s San Francisco and to cast parts to support the verisimilitude. Sean Penn is good and the story is compelling - however, it's framed around Harvey Milk reading his own will, which is a bit hokey. Still, like "Doubt," it's a message film and uses the 1978 Proposition 6 vote to parallel the recent gay rights fiasco of Prop 8. Dustin Lance Black got an enormous amount of press in the trailers for the film -- can you remember this being done at any other time? He's only 35 and hasn't a great deal of screen credits to his name, yet was on marquees beside Van Sant and Penn. I wonder if there was a clear push from Day One to nab the Oscar?
 
Best,
BG
Dear Brett:

Yes, I liked "Doubt," although I do have a few doubts (see the previous Q&A).  I saw the documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk," that the film "Milk" is based on, so I feel like I've got a very good sense of what the film is.  When it appears in front of me, like a screener or on cable, I watch it.

Josh

Name:              Brian Shueer
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

It's amazing that the writer/director of "Doubt", John Patrick Shanley, also wrote "Congo". According to IMDb, he also appeared briefly in "Crossing Delancey". Just thought that was interesting and random. But you recommend the film? It seems like you are actually going to see movies in the theater again lately.

Dear Brian:

John Patrick Shanley adapted Michael Crichton's book, so you can't really blame him.  I'll bet you he made more money on "Congo" than on "Moonstruck." That's how the pay-off in Hollywood works: make a hit film that you own no part of, then you're way overpaid on your next gig.  Meanwhile, I've seen all of these recent films on borrowed DVD screeners.  It seems to me that if the studios wanted to stop a lot of the piracy going on in the world, they'd stop giving out perfectly transferred DVDs before the films have been released on DVD.  Oscars were given out for over 60 years without screeners. Academy members could see every film for free at the Academy, or their Academy membership card gets them into any theater for free.  If you won't go to the trouble of seeing the films in their proper formats, you shouldn't be able to vote.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Some thoughts on those 2008 films you mentioned:
 
"Doubt" is one of the best scripts in a long time. The questions of religious conviction, innocence and guilt created a portrait of faith and Catholicism were devastating in their complexity. The film doesn't deal in black-and-white judgment of these characters, and offers more questions than answers giving the story many different facets that lend themselves well to the overall theme of the film. And of course, every actor is playing the hell out of their roles.
 
I thought "Revolutionary Road" achieved near greatness. It's an extremely frightening film. Complacency is scarier to me than any zombie or serial killer. I did feel that the film made a compelling argument exactly why complacency is so easy. Money and children are both a blessing and curse, but another tangential factor was Leo's job security. In this economy, it's easy to recognize how important that is, even when you hate your job. I felt DiCaprio really put everything into this role, and delivered a pretty great performance, but Winslet and Michael Shannon are also terrific. And yes, it looks gorgeous. It's above and beyond Sam Mendes' other films.
 
"Slumdog Millionare" was unique. I'll give it that. The bright colors, dynamic angles and kinetic cutting keep a powerful beat for two hours. Dev Patel flashes back to his entire life story -- slums, evil con-men, gangsters, guns, chases and escapes -- while sweating under the lights of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." His hope is to find his true love, who has been forced into the service of gangsters. I thought it cleverly manipulated the flashback structure and the dramatic nature of the game show. It sometimes has a hallucinogenic feel, like "All That Jazz," and the energy comes through in the end.
 
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

I'm going to play devil's advocate, just for the hell of it.  The big pay off of "Doubt" (**spoiler alert**) is that the close-minded bitch nun played by Meryl Streep actually has doubts, too, didn't seem particularly surprising, or moving.  It seemed to me that there's an inherent belief lurking behind this film that all the horseshit Catholics believe is actually true, and having any doubts about that is impossible.  The big, big doubt is never examined, and if all of your lead characters are nuns and priests, doubt in the extistence of god, and doubt in faith, ought to have been prominent issues.

By making Kate Winslet's character, April, crazy in "Revolutionary Road," I felt it took some of the punch out of the story because it's no longer the story of the average American young married couple coming apart, it's more the story of creeping insanity, and it reminded me a lot of Cassavetes' "Woman Under the Influence."  But since all of Winslet's arguments are perfectly rational -- that they're stuck in rut they'll never get out of unless they flee to Paris -- yet so foreign to everyone they know, I don't think she needed to be having a nervous breakdown, too.  It seemed to me that the story was more naturally leading to them completely stuck in their rut, then 25 years go by.

To me "Slumdog Millionaire" was over-shot and over-edited, with more useless Dutch angles than I've ever seen in anything.  The fact that the structure is all based on a TV game show slightly bored me, since I don't give the slightest crap about game shows.  Nor did I feel that the flashbacks properly explained why Jamal knows all of the answers.  Why would he give his fellow slumdog, whom he knows from the slumdog blinding encampment, one hundred U.S. dollars for the information about where is Latika?  It seemed like the kid would just tell him out camaraderie, or for no more than say 10 Rupees.  Nor did I believe that if Jamal was doing well on the show the cops would grab him, beat him, then administer electric shocks.  Interrogate him, perhaps; torture him, no.

Just adding to the discussion.

Josh

Name:              CD
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

So I've been in Los Angeles a little over ten years now and overall I don't mind it. Not unlike everyone else out here, I'm pursuing a career in movies, trying to get projects going and coming close to getting something made a few times.
 
One thing I'm noticing lately though is the new young breed coming in these days. This new breed DO NOT KNOW MOVIES. They have no passion and know nothing of movies made before 1980.
 
Whenever I speak to some of the new breed about 'classic' movies and actors, I get a glazed look from them. I hear them talking about remakes clueless that they are even remakes at all.
 
Whenever I hear them talk amongst themselves about being pumped for Transformers 2, my own eyes glaze over.
 
This new breed wants to make movies but don't know the history of movies, the history of the studios, who the great actors and directors of the past were. In short, they have no passion. All they know is that Watchmen looks AWESOME and that they too want to be rich and famous.
 
I'm old school and have a great appreciation for classic movies. I have a great appreciation of the history of the industry and who was who. Not unlike you, I feel like I was tricked. The industry I fell in love with back in the day is gone and no one seems to remember or care, so I have just two words for you:
 
HELP ME!

Dear CD:

This is a much older phenomenon than you're making out.  Most of the folks in the film industry know very little to nothing about movies, and haven't for at least 25-30 years, maybe longer.  Maybe always.  The reality is that most people don't much about anything.  I recall, and not fondly, back in 1986 when I lived in a little bungalow in Hollywood with Scott Spiegel, and his good buddy, Quentin Tarantino, used to stop by rather frequently, and seemingly the one and only topic was "bad movies," basically referring to the shitty grindhouse crap that Quentin seems to revere.  I got so pissed-off at one point I hollered at everybody, "Have you ever considered discussing good movies?  Maybe if you discussed them, you might make one." Admittedly, at that point Quentin hadn't made any movies yet, and I'd only made one shitty grindhouse piece of crap, so who was I to talk?  But if you're entire frame of mind is discussing only the new movies that are presently in the theaters, or the worst movies ever made, how on earth do ever expect to do anything good?  Nevertheless, given all of that, I honestly do think that movies have been improving in the past few years.  I just watched "Revolutionary Road," which is a difficult subject -- the failure of a young marriage -- but it's beautifully made, with terrific performances, and gorgeous photography and production design.  "Doubt" is a very, very well-written, well-performed film.  "Slumdog Millionaire" was okay; not great, but I felt like I'd never seen it before.  I've seen quite a few films from 2007, and other than miserable piece of crap, "No Country For Old Men," it was a pretty good year for movies.  Do not lose hope.

Josh

Name:              Chowda Head
E-mail:

Dear Josh:
 
You are delusional. You think your shit don't stink. Did you even SEE Watchmen yet? No, but you've made your mind up like you're some kind of all knowing movie psychic god...maybe if you saw the movie, you'd see the creation that is Dr. Manhattan, and realize the satire being played on "gods on earth" like you! Oh, wait, forgot that wasn't going to happen...you're too busy being self-important and full of yourself and ragging on whoever comes to this site and disagrees. I'm going to rename you Dr. Detroit and envision you with blue skin and a big blue dong from now on, oh master of the universe!

Dear Chowda Head:

I don't even recall saying anything about "Watchmen," other than I don't want to see it.  What I do know is that the film is taking a giant dump at the boxoffice.  Down 71% between its first weekend and its second.

Josh

Name:              Joseph Lee Snyder
E-mail:

Hey,

I just wanted to let you know that I just saw your movie Running Time after a long time of searching for a copy and you've amazed me once again. It was a totally great movie although Lunatics : A Love Story is still my favorite.

Joseph Snyder

Dear Joseph:

Thank you very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it.  I can't wait to make the new HD transfer.

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

To add to the discussion of worst "Best Picture" winners, may I offer up "Million Dollar Baby". Over-rated doesn't even begin to describe it. I thought it was very well acted by the three leads, but that was all the film really had going for it. Overall I found it depressing and not very entertaining. Don't get me wrong, I don't think films have to be "feel good" in order to be good ("Blue Velvet" and "Raging Bull" are among my favorites), but this one just left me cold. I just couldn't see what all the fuss was about.
 
However, I do think Hilary Swank made a much more convincing female boxer than Sandra Bullock, who was originally up for the role, would have.

Dear Henry:

I'm with you on "Million Dollar Baby, although, since it's over an hour shorter than "Titanic," that to me makes it a better film.  Nevertheless, it's ugly, unbelievable, ridiculous, and ultimately makes no goddamn sense. For Morgan Freeman's narrator character to tell us about Clint pulling Swank's respirator tube, he'd have to be hiding in the closet.  And in nearly 130 years of professional boxing in the U.S., no one has ever broken their neck on the stool.  Nor does anyone become a professional boxer at the age of 35 and expect to get anywhere, let alone to a championship.  "Gran Torino" is a better movie, and it's not very good.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

My revival theater showed "The Good, The Bad & the Ugly" last night, and it was the first time I got to see it on a big screen.
 
I'd forgotten how much I liked it. For a three hour movie, the story is so lean, and says so much with so little dialogue. I'd also forgotten how much the film was really about Eli Wallach's Tuco. He moves from over-the-top eye rolling and incredibly subtle facial expressions so smoothly...it really is a great performance.
 
I wonder, what do you think of Sergio Leone, and what do you think of Wallach? I also really like him in "Baby Doll."

Dear Will:

I like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (the original Italian title is "Il Buono, Il Bruto, Il Cattivo"), but I think it's at least 30 minutes too long.  My issue with Sergio Leone, whose direction and use of widescreen I enjoy, is that his films just kept getting longer and longer for no good reason.  "A Fistful of Dollars," which is the first and the best of the bunch, is 96 minutes.  "For a Few Dollars More" is inexplicably 130 minutes. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is 161 minutes, and "Once Upon a Time in the West" is 165 minutes.  I like Eli Wallach very much, but he's certainly reprising his Mexican bandido performance from "The Magnificent Seven." Meanwhile, "Baby Doll" is a weird film, and not one of Elia Kazan's best, but Eli Wallach is good in it.  Wallach is a scenery-chewer, given half a chance.

Josh

Name:              Aaron Stroud
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I'd have to say CAVALCADE is the worst best picture to win.
 
I really liked WINGS and wish they'd release it on dvd. Gary Cooper is on screen for less than one scene, brags about how great he's going to be, then walks off screen and dies. Then there's the party scene where the drunken soldier sees magical bubbles floating out of the women's cleavage. The girl sent to retrieve him and send him back to war can't get his attention, so she dresses up and has a battle with a whore as to who can shake the most "Bubbles" to lead him out of the room.

Dear Aaron:

I must disagree.  "Cavalcade" wasn't that bad -- although it's certainly not all that good, either -- and it has that wonderful reveal of the newly married couple on the ship discussing how grand they're life will be, then stepping away from the rail and revealing the life preserver that reads "H.M.S. Titanic."  "Around the World in 80 Days" was a pretty miserable Best Picture.  For me "Chicago," "Crash" and "No Country For Old Men" must rank way up there, too.

Josh

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

Howdy.
 
I was recently impressed with a little film called "Jackson County Jail." It's an old drive-in movie from 1976, executive produced by Roger Corman, but as far as these kinds of titles go, quite memorable with a lean, no-nonsense script and some really good cutting and cinematography.  The thought occurred to me that it might be the best performance Yvette Mmieux ever gave, and Tommy Lee Jones stood out in what apparently was his first lead.  It all reminded me of the pictures guys like Edgar Ulmer and Joe Lewis were making in the 40's; not exactly award winners, but really well-crafted work that knows what it's about and stays true to its intentions.
 
It also made me recall an old story I'm positive was brought up here, although I can't find any mention of it, where you long-ago got a meeting with Mr. Corman himself; a meeting that lasted about as long as it took for you to tell him you recognized him from "The Godfather Part II."  It seems to me Corman would have been a perfect fit for a young director like yourself back in the 80's.  How'd that come about?
 
As for the bad Best Picture Oscar winners, I had never heard about what went on with "The Deer Hunter."  That's a surprising bit of news.  For me, "Gladiator" is far and away my idea of THE VERY WORST to ever win (let alone be nominated).  Even "Titanic" is better.

Dear Blake:

I'd go with "Titanic" being worse than "Gladiator," mainly because it so much longer, but I also think it's more idiotic.  Both of them are worthless pieces of shit.  Meanwhile, I've never seen "Jackson County Jail" and you make it sound good.  And yes, I did have that meeting with Roger Corman in I guess it must've been 1981.  I had made the super-8 version of "Stryker's War" and had written the feature script and was trying valiantly to get Corman to make it.  As soon as I stepped into his office I realized for the first time that he was one of the Senators in "Godfather II" and I said so. He replied, "Yes, I was.  Sorry, I don't have anything for you right now." And that was that.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 

You had a pdf of some of your seventies poetry on here a while back, I'd like to take a look at that again, but I can't seem to locate it. Is it still up? Maybe webmaster Kevin can help.
 
Hope all is well.
 
Best,
Kristie

Dear Kristie:

It seems to me that I did have my old poetry posted once upon a time. Oddly, stuff just disappears over the course of time.  Perhaps Kevin can locate it.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: What's that? You mean this little ole thing? Enjoy. - Kevin]

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I just watched "Sweet Smell of Success" again, and it really holds up. What jumped out at me this time was the dialogue. Just fantastic dialogue that really crackles. This brings me to my two questions: 1) Can I get your thoughts on the film? 2)What other films jump out at you as having great dialogue?
Dear Stan:

I like "The Sweet Smell of Success," too, although the whole Martin Milner-sister plot gets drearier every time.  But it does have a bunch of terrific lines, like JJ Hunsecker saying to Tony Curtis, "You're dead, kid, go get yourself buried."  Or as the two of them are walking up a Manhattan sidewalk, a drunk gets thrown out of a bar in front of them, and JJ grins and says, "I love this filthy town."  Meanwhile, there's different kinds of great dialog: the snappy variety like "Sweet Smell of Success," "The Big Sleep" or "His Girl Friday," or there's the period believable dialog like "True Grit" or "Sense and Sensibility," or there's meaningful variety, like "Bridge on the River Kwai," "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Judgement at Nuremburg," or funny dialog, like "The Lady Eve" (including most of Preston Sturges' films), "Pillow Talk" or "Broadcast News."  All varieties are difficult to write.  And now we have the Tarantino-like/nonsequitur dialog that has nothing to do with anything, but seems to fool people into thinking it's snappy.

Josh

Name:              Justin Hayward
E-mail:

 Hi Josh,
 
"The Oscars are bullshit."
 
I was a PA on a film six or seven years ago and got stuck driving around some bigwigs from Miramax.  This one girl was really friendly and actually talked to me between phone calls.  After some polite questions about what I want to do and all that junk, we somehow got on the topic of marketing and then about "The Sixth Sense".  She suddenly got real serious and told me "The Sixth Sense" would have won the picture Oscar if she and her team were in charge of the marketing.
 
I guess that mentality is not at all unusual and I can only speculate how well known it is in Hollywood, but it makes you wonder why anybody cares about getting an Oscar anymore if they know they're not winning based on merit, but simply good politics on the studio side.  I mean, the acceptance speeches should start with, "Thanks to my incredible marketing team for this wonderful honor."
 
What happened?

Dear Justin:

In the old studio days every Academy member at a studio was required to vote for their studio's films.  The Oscars have always been an industry celebrating itself, giving itself awards, and trying to sell more tickets. The fact that the Academy actually did award what seemed like the best film of the year most of the time for the first 50 years or so is amazing.  The real change came in 1978 when Universal was convinced they had an expensive stinker on their hands called "The Deer Hunter," and went to  extreme lengths to make it sound like the most important film of the year without actually letting anyone see it.  They managed to get the film nominated for everything before it had actually gone into release (other than one week in L.A. and NY to achieve elegibility), then it swept most of the important Oscars -- picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor, cinematography, editing -- and it still wasn't in general release.  I saw the film on an early sneak preview and was appalled at what a crappy, unfocused movie it was, and kept predicting to anyone who would listen, "Michael Cimino has no career.  He stinks, and every film he makes after this will prove it over and over again."  I was taken for a nut at the time, since everybody was calling Cimino the next Coppola.  And how did Mr. Cimino end up proving his enormous talent?  "Heaven's Gate," which almost singlehandedly sunk UA, then he followed up with painful horseshit like "The Sicilian."  After 1978 it all went haywire because the studios now realized that if you spent enough money promoting your film, it would win.  Suddenly you had truly dreadful shit, like "Chariots of Fire," "Out of Africa," "The Last Emperor," "Rain Man," "Dances With Wolves," "Schindler's List," "Forrest Gump," "Braveheart," "The English Patient," "Titanic," "Shakespeare in Love," "Gladiator," "A Beautiful Mind," "Chicago," "The Lord of the Rings," "Crash," and "No Country for Old Men."

Josh

Name:              Bernadette Hurley
E-mail:             berniehurley@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

I'm interested in the Crowley family.  Can you tell me more about them?  Was Francis a relative as well as a foster child of the Crowley family?  What was the fathers christian name?  Could it have been Francis/Frank?  There is a striking likeness between the photo of Francis 'Two Gun' Crowley and my own Crowley uncles.  I just wondered if there was any connection.

Dear Bernadette:

Sorry, but I don't know anything more about the Crowleys than I what I wrote in that treatment.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I'll be going to a screenwriting panel tomorrow at Cinequest, the highlight of the day is Diablo Cody, Oscar winner for best original screenplay of Juno. My question for you is do you think that the Academy Awards are a bunch of bullshit, or was 2007 just a terrible year for original screenplays and that Juno won because there was nothing but stupidity going on because of Little Miss Sunshine being called "quirky and cool"(lets make hip references so others will call it hip bullshit) the year before?

Dear Danny:

The Oscars are bullshit.  They weren't always, but they are now.  Meanwhile, "Juno" is not a bad script, although I wouldn't have given it any awards. Both "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" are both original screenplays and both are much better than "Juno."  "Little Miss Sunshine" was a piece of crap.  But all in all, 2007 wasn't a bad year for movies.  Have fun at your screenwriting deal.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I think Anderson knew where he wanted the story to go in "There Will Be Blood", I just don't think he had any clue on how to get it there. I feel the same way about the movie, the beginning was very interesting and I was quite surprised to be enjoying it so much. However, about halfway through it started to become muddled and stopped making sense.
 
Still after I saw the movie it stuck with me for quite a few days and I found myself liking it more and more. Looking back on it, though, I think the reason I became more fond of it is that I started filling things that weren't there myself. I shouldn't have to do that, it should be there, and me wanting it to be more than it is isn't going to change that.
 
When I write short screenplays or try to come up with ideas, I could never work the way Anderson does. I'll get an idea and, try as I might to do otherwise, I always come up with my best ideas after I know where my story is going and have a treatment that literally lays out the path I want it to take.
 
I think you hit the nail on the head there with Anderson's writing habits being the problem. Which is a damn shame, as "There Will Be Blood" could have really been an astounding movie with some of the other things it has going for it, especially the beautiful cinematography.

Dear Trey:

You seriously think Anderson knew that the whole story was leading to Plainview killing the priest with a bowling pin?  I doubt it.  The bottom line is that he didn't know where he was going, nor did he know what his theme or point were.  P.T. Anderson is by far a better director than he is a writer.  In fact, I think he's kind of a piss-poor writer with "Magnolia" being a brilliant example of shitty screenwriting ultimately, and very slowly, leading to nothing.

Josh

Name:              Leepy
E-mail:

Hey Josh
 
I haven't seen TWBB, but I just wanted to riff on A.V.E. comment about films where people lose their soul due to ambition.
 
Well, I've got the reverse of that. Just watched Bill Forsyth's Local Hero again last night. I think it's a lovely story about a man gaining a soul, a sense of community and place.
 
The Forsyth films I've seen (I'm thinking specificall of Gregory's Girl and Local hero) are very gentle. They're not angry political polemics. I love the quirkiness and little details. It tickled me how the suit in Local Hero reverts to a boy. (He slowly loses his suit - his armour - and starts to dress like the locals).
 
Call my misty-eyed but I miss whimsical films like these. A producer critisised a screenplay of mine a while ago for being, "Too gentle." She said it probably should get made, but it won't. I just feel we're living in an age where sense are blunted and cinema reflects this.
 
As an aside, have you seen Forsyth's Being Human, starring Robin Williams. It's been years ago since I watched it, but I remember it did move me. Very differnet from Gregory's Girl and Local Hero.
 
Anyway - just thought I'd chime in with Local Hero as the opposite to A.V.E.'s question about films where people lose their soul.
 
Lata
 
 
Lee

Dear Leepy:

"Local Hero" is a nice little movie.  I wish it didn't have the whole Burt Lancaster subplot in Houston.  Finding that the pretty marine biologist has webbed toes was wonderfully weird.  I do like Peter Riegert.  Another little film from the same period, with Peter Riegert, that I like very much is "Crossing Delancy," which my life resembles, to some extent.  I'm the Pickle Man and my on-again/off-again girlfriend, Lisa, is the one who's always falling for foreign creeps with accents.  And using the grandma's advice, I have become "a piece of furniture."  Meanwhile, I haven't seen "Being Human," and it sounds weird.

Josh

Name:              A.v.E
E-mail:             aesparz2@depaul.edu

Dear Josh:         

"There Will Be Blood" is nothing more than a man chewing scenery for two plus hours. Somewhere along the way, over-the-top became synonymous with good (Sean Penn's recent Oscar Win is a fair example of this) - and people heralded Day Lewis for his tremendous (see; loud) performance. My theory is that there was probably a hefty amount of footage shot, and what we have in this movie is the "highlight reel."
 
Arguments that it was a character/psychological study are invalid in that the subject, Daniel Planview doesn't develop. We start off with his silent beginning, then immediately jump into him as the ruthless businessman. I think the most interesting segment of his life would have been in-between that cut. People fill in that blank with a preconceived notion of what might have happened, but as you said, "it's not in the movie." The only point this movie could claim to make is that wealth makes the unscrupulous, that much more unscrupulous.
 
I'd say that "There Will Be Blood" is closest in storyline and material to 1983's "Scarface," right down to an over-the-top lead and a flat arch that shows a bad guy just being bad.
 
"The Bad and the Beautiful" is great at showing the change that wealth or success have over someone. "All the King's Men," not so much.  What movies do you think were good at showing this "gain the world/lose his soul" motif?

Dear A.v.E.:

"The Bad and the Beautiful" is a good choice because we commiserate with Jonathan Shields' decisions as screws everybody moving up the ladder, but nothing is entirely his fault.  Another terrific example is Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd," with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his life, and young, cute Lee Remick.  An interesting literary example is Budd Schulberg's "What Makes Sammy Run?" that's oddly never been made into a movie (Schulberg also wrote "A Face in the Crowd").  There was just "American Gangster," which wasn't bad.

Josh

Name:              Chuck
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I certainly agree whole-heartedly that There Will Be Blood is unfocused, and that it falls apart halfway through. However, I don't think that Plainview is supposed to be seen as a greedy, unlikeable character from the outset. He's supposed to be a victim of the corrupting power of a capitalist society; a good man who turns evil (which would certainly reflect Upton Sinclair's own sentiments). Nonetheless, Plainview's corruption is still quite jarring--it happens out of nowhere, without subtlety.

Dear Chuck:

An interesting theory, but it's not in the movie.  At what point in the story does Plainview become "a victim of the corrupting power of a capitalist society"?  It's just not there.  And he doesn't become corrupt, he becomes a mean, foul-mouthed asshole, which isn't the same thing.  To say that a man works hard and becomes rich, doesn't necessarily mean he becomes evil or corrupt.  Bernie Madoff is corrupt.  He's dishonest and he took advantage of tens of thousands of innocent people.  Daniel Plainview works hard to supply the world with its ever-increasing need for petroleum and takes in an orphan kid.  What's his problem?  That he drinks too much?

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"That Plainview kindly took in the orphan kid, called him his own and raised him, then sends him away when he becomes deaf, doesn't cut it.  When the kid returns grown and Plainview tells him he never loved him and only used him to help buy land, it's way too late and means nothing, and I don't believe it."
 
I think Plainview only said this to the kid because he said he was going to leave him and start his own business, which Plainview took as a betrayal. Also, he sent the kid away when he tried to murder his "brother" in the middle of the night, which seems like a sensible reason to send someone away. Then he brought him back when he realized the "brother" was a fraud and killed him himself. I do agree with you that the "brother's" murder and the fact that it's never mentioned again afterward is poorly handled.
Dear Henry:

It's way too late in the story is be pulling out that information. Plainview says he never loved the kid, just used him, so it must not have anything to do with him starting his own company.  That information is really coming out of nowhere, and to me is simply the desperation of a clueless screenwriter who has no idea where his story is going.

Josh

Name:              Ed
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         
 
Long time reader, first time poster. But I'll also chime in on "There Will Be Blood." I think what it ultimately amounts to is a character study that rigorously denies the psychological dimension in favor of the sheer physical facts of the character's existence. Plainview is an oilman, a shrewd businessman with a simple thirst for wealth and the process of acquisition. The emphasis is always on that process - the means rather than the ends. The "ends" of material wealth, for Plainview, is just an excuse, a distant justification for everything he does, something that he perhaps never even expects to achieve.
 
At one point, some of Plainview's more established competitors in the oil business offer him a very tempting buyout proposition, an opportunity to become instantly rich and skip over the risky hard work of digging his oil fields on his own and then transporting the oil through hundreds of miles of pipeline to the ocean. His response to this offer is to ask, quite seriously, what he would do with himself then. It's not for nothing that the last line in the film, Plainview's final line, is his ambiguous "I'm finished," a line that carries with it multiple layers of meaning, for a man who equates achievement with the end of his life and purpose, and who nevertheless spends his entire life working towards this point. Greed as its own justification.
 
The film provides two counterpoints to Plainview's archetype of greed: religion, in the form of the boyish local preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano); and family, embodied in Plainview's adopted son H.W. (Dillon Freasier), who Plainview took on after the boy's father, one of his employees, died in an accident. If the film's view of American entrepreneurism is bleak, it's dim view of these two institutions is possibly even bleaker. Eli is the film's antagonist, at least to the extent that a fiercely unlikeable character like Plainview can be defined as the protagonist simply because he's the central figure. In point of fact, though, Anderson links Eli and Plainview as opposing sides of the same coin, united by a common greed and power-lust, and divided only in terms of the methods they use to achieve these goals. It comes down, then, to means and ends once more, and the process-obsessed Plainview of course puts due emphasis on the difference in means rather than the commonality of ends.
 
My two cents.

Dear Ed:

Welcome.  I still can't accept greed as a motivation for Plainview, since he doesn't display the slightest bit of greed for the first half of the movie. Nor is he an unlikable character in the first half.  The fact that he wants to dig oil wells and sell oil doesn't inherently make him greedy.  To just have Plainview state, halfway through the film, that he only sees the evil in men souls, comes out of nowhere and isn't backed up by anything we've previously seen, nor is there any motivation for it.  Regarding that scene with the competitors, why on earth does plainview tell the guy he's going to cut his throat, then he repeats it later?  Once again, unmotivated and it comes out of nowhere.  In a well-written screenplay the theme doesn't begin to emerge halfway into the story, it's there right from the outset, if indeed the writer knows the theme, which in this case I don't believe he did.  A truly sophisticated screenwriter will then extend the theme to include as many other characters as possible.  Greed is not the theme, nor is it a lust for power, since neither of these things are Plainview's motivation.  In fact, for the first half of the film Plainview has no issues other than the difficulty of getting oil out of the ground, and purchasing the title to the land.  On a thematic level there's absolutely nothing there for half the film.  Using my favorite example of great screenwriting, within five minutes of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" beginning, we know the theme -- duty -- and how it relates to Col. Nicholson, Col. Saito, the doctor and the the American.  By the end of Act I both of the lead characters, both with their overdeveloped senses of duty, have come head to head, and the prisoner has come out on top, which is reasonably unexpected under the circumstances, except that Col. Saito's sense of duty is so acute that he's going to get that bridge built no matter what he has to do, including losing face.  Col Nicholson isn't going to build that bridge under any circumstances, including torture and death, unless the Geneva Code is followed.  Meanwhile, William Holden's character has no sense of duty, other than to himself, and escapes.  As you can see, the theme is everything in an intelligent, well-written script.  It supplies the coherency and holds all of the elements together.  "There Will Be Blood" has no theme for its first half, and a weak, underdeveloped, unmotivated theme for its second half.  I saw an interview with Mr. P.T. Anderson and he explained with screenwriting method -- he gets an idea for a scene, he writes it on an index card and puts it in a box.  When he has enough cards in the box, he writes the script.  I think this is a weak, faulty method.  Each card needs to relate to the card before it and the card after it; if they're all seperate, they'll never add up to anything.  Ultimately, TWBB doesn't add up to anything.  Plainview killing the priest with a bowling pin, then saying, "I'm finished," isn't a satisfactory resolution because it doesn't answer any questions, other than he has a bad temper when he drinks.  Were this the story of a man's alcoholism and his internal wrestling with the need for religion, it might have been a good ending.  As it is, it explains nothing. After getting the priest to admit that "God is a fallacy and religion is superstition," they may as well have just bowled a few games.

Josh

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Good Morning Josh.
 
Just another couple "out of curiosity" questions specifically for you Josh.
 
Did you ever read anything by Carl Sagan and if you have are you a fan of his thoughts?
 
I just got "The Dragons of Eden" and I am reserving comment until I finish the book.
 
Tim
Dear Tim:

I haven't read any Carl Sagan.  I hated that stupid Jodi Foster movie.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

 
As it happens, just yesterday I found "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" at the library -- I'd never have risked the $6 rental on what I knew of it -- and to my great surprise I was impressed by it.  It's one accomplished piece of filmmaking and interesting throughout, what with all the archetyping and layering and so on.  For my part I did continue to empathize with the characters through to the end, which is the decisive (and of course subjective) question. The movie struck me as morphing more and more into myth and allegory as it went along, and the ending is one of those high-yield enigmas (I also wanted it to be physically more credible at the time, then later I thought maybe the ease of passage was meant to reflect a willingness to go. But it was dicey). Oh and along the way the comic relief of the hired hood and his girlfriend actually was comic, which is always refreshing.
 
I thought maybe the flashbacks started to get a bit untidy after a while. Otherwise this is very surefooted moviemaking altogether.
 
About flashbacks, I was interested to see on IMDb.com that in 1960 Sidney Lumet directed a TV version of "Rashomon."  I finally saw Kurosawa's film for the first time just last week, but I didn't relate to it all that well.

Did you ever see "Courage Under Fire," which many compared to "Rashomon" when it came out?  It was too baroque to quite get away with it, but compelling and emotional anyway, and I watched it twice in succession to get the stories and motivations straight.  Strongly written and with a capable cast of contemporary actors who really knocked themselves out to bring the story home.
 
Alice
Dear Alice:

Good to hear from you.  I've never been a big fan of "Rashomon," either.  I actually liked Martin Ritt's American remake, "The Outrage," with Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson better.  Of course, the concept of all the different POVs is great.  And yes, I saw "Courage Under Fire" and it seemed okay.  To me Ed Zwick has just seemed like a big disappointment since "Glory."  His stuff is generally okay -- with the exception of "The Last Samurai" -- but doesn't move me.  "Glory" is his masterpiece, and it came first.

Josh

Name:              Kristie
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
 
I'll chime in on the "There Will be Blood" discussion.
 
I'm not a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, but I've met him a few times. He is a director who clearly loves cinema as much as we do, and "There Will Be Blood," his first enjoyable movie, couldn't be a better example of his love, whether it's the staging, the drama, or -- in broader terms - the Herzog-ian conquest of turning the process of making a film into one grand battle with nature.
 
The script is exceedingly better than anything else of Anderson's, and easily, this is mainly do to with the pleasure of watching the process of how to pump oil under the ground, from start to finish. Every shot is gorgeous, and it looked amazing projected.
 
Musically, the Brahms violin concerto conjures up Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange, Arvo Part's Fratres does the same for Bartok in The Shining, and of course the Penderecki-esque score is unmistakable. The idea of Anderson looking to find the perfect piece of classical music to become the film's anthem is Kubrickian in nature.
 
The film's punchline seems to be the general satirizing of the war between those who know they are corrupt and those who are corrupt but think otherwise -- isn't that in most of Kubrick's films?

Kristie
Dear Kristie:

As these various pieces of classical music came up I could think of nothing else but Stanley Kubrick.  The difference is that when Kubrick chose a piece of classical music, it fit the film.  This was mainly due, I would say, to the fact that Kubrick was a classical music afficiando, whereas I don't get a sense that P.T. Anderson is really a classical music fan, he just wants to be like Kubrick.  There's a huge difference.  Each one of Kubrick's music choices is a stroke of genius, from Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" as the main theme of "2001" to Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie" as Alex and his droogs invade Patrick Macnee's home.  It's all how you use it, and I'm purporting that P.T. Anderson used the classical music poorly, where it never quite fit, and was doing it more as an homage to Kubrick then out of a love for classical music.  Regarding the theme of the knowingly corrupt confronting the deluded and corrupt, why is Plainview corrupt?  He comes out with that speech maybe halfway through to his "brother" that he only sees the evil in men, but why?  Because he's rich?  He worked hard for his money.  If in fact Daniel Day Lewis is doing John Huston from "Chinatown," let's look at his corrupt character, who's become rich from water.  Is he corrupt?  He had sex with his own daughter and had a daughter. Now there's an explanation.  That Plainview kindly took in the orphan kid, called him his own and raised him, then sends him away when he becomes deaf, doesn't cut it.  When the kid returns grown and Plainview tells him he never loved him and only used him to help buy land, it's way too late and means nothing, and I don't believe it.  I think that they really do have a bond throughout the early parts of the story.  As I said, I expected to hate this movie and didn't, but I also don't think it has a very good screenplay.  The writing is unsophisticated, clunky, and dramatically it ultimately fails.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Yea for worthwhile topics!
Continuing with "Devil" talk -
I too thought Hawke gave the right amount of frenzy to much of that role.
The panic and anger as he's flying away with the car door still open - perfect.

So too, his more practiced hate toward his ex-wife.  I suppose my only real problematic Hawke scene was the office:  Andy reveals to Hank the heist plan.  Hawke has Hank interchangeably smiling and excited, and scared and puzzling at Andy.  I thought he should've picked "overwhelmed" and stuck with it, since we know his brother successfully bullies him.

But I feel a tad better about his participation in the scene once Hawke explained in that interview I linked to:  He gave Hank a love-hate dependency on Andy.  I think he was trying to convey that tug-of-war.  By the end of the movie I felt there was a Cain and Abel dynamic that unfolded, which I liked.  Am I my brother's keeper? Etc.
 
Sounds like you were brought on board with interest in seeing Andy arrive back at the happiness of his Rio days.  Similarly I was invested in finding out if Giamatti's "Sideways" guy, Miles, would overcome his fixation on his ex and not sabotage what he has in the here and now (represented achingly well yet humorously when he sneaks his most prized wine into a fast food joint and downs it straight from the bottle with a sloppy burger).

Continuing the comparison of the two films (I can't seem to help it): I found the problematic relationship between parent and son much more interesting, though briefer, in "Sideways".  I'm still not sure Miles stole his mother's stashed money from the dresser, and find myself wishing mightily that he restrained himself, but empathizing if he did.

In "Devil", the 1st born resentment angle seemed like too easy a draw from the cliché pool.
Didn't we all see Finney's lines at the picnic table predictable?  But maybe that was the point, and why Andy got so angry at the apology.  I did however love that his responses to it had that "gee that's so original, dad" sarcastic, monolithic tone.
 
One more comment:
I'm baffled you found the ending completely fulfilling, because I recall you scoffed at the father/son suffocation in Gladiator, finding the ability to physically do it implausible.
Harris' Aurelius was a feeble man at death's door.  Granted he could still hobble around, but I bought that such an ambitious, unhinged young Commodus was capable of squeezing that hard in that moment.
Andy was shot and weak too, yes, but I have to say, I almost laughed when that went down.  And the heavenly white light at the end of the tunnel as the final shot... Gah.  Heavy handed, imo.
But I'm really wanting others' impressions, because I'm convincible and want to like good stuff.  *chuckle*
Dear Diana:

I think everyone accepts that you can smother someone with a pillow, I don't buy that you can hug somebody to death.  But the whole shtick with Finney putting the heart monitor gizmos on his own chest was good.  Meanwhile, Finney going to see the evil old jewler who gives him Andy's business card is a powerful scene.  And I love the scene when Marisa Tomei leaves him and he gives her carfare.

Josh

Name:              Chuck
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Did you happen to catch Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday? Definitely one of the best episodes I've seen. I loved the moment when Bill confronted P.J. O'Rourke and Gavin Newsom (whom I love) about their Christian faiths, and the two of them basically responded that they cling to their religion as a result of their childhood, and that they don't take most of the church doctrine seriously. It blows my mind that these intelligent people can be so thoughtless sometimes.

Dear Chuck:

Yes, I saw it, and yes, it was silly.  I believe that most people embrace religion due to childhood trauma, then are too afraid to let it go in adulthood.  I believe that most people think, "It's probably all bullshit, but what if it isn't?" then they go to church or synagogue or the mosque to cover their bets, on the offhand it's not all bullshit.  The fact that we don't accept the ancient explanations for anything else -- like the sun revolves around the Earth, or menstruating women must shunned -- but many people accept 1,500- to 5,000-year-old explanations for our existence I find very silly.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I saw "There Will Be Blood" twice in theatre, and haven't been able to shake it since.  It will certainly be a film I buy. And what did you think of Daniel Day?
 
What I do want to comment on is the score, which I can't say how wrong I feel you are by nay-saying.  While I agree with your qualms about the ending, the score is utterly haunting and, along with the cinematography and John Huston impersonation by Mr. Lewis, one of the really compelling aspects of the picture.  (And what's the deal by bringing up the score to 2001?  You don't like the original music for that, either?  I think it's brilliant.)  When the oil derrick burns in TWBB, I really think the music is contributing to one of the very great montages in recent memory as the pounding drums and other chiming noises rise as the frantic men run around, their faces lit by flame.  And when the strings rise up at the very beginning, as we're treated to 11 minutes of no dialogue, as Plainview digs for his silver, falls, then drags his way to an outpost, I was totally drawn in.  I felt I was in an atmosphere of ghosts...the ghosts of long-ago pioneers of the wild west, which is just what the film is about.
 
What perplexes me most is that I generally have found you to share the same taste in film scores as me...for example, liking Jerry Goldsmith over John Williams.  Well, Jonny Greenwood's score for "There Will Be Blood" easily goes on my top ten Hollywood movie scores.  I am shocked that someone such as yourself, who's as attuned to film and what a great score can bring, is calling it out.  (It frankly comes off as wanting to tag something else onto a quite fascinating, if not a quite good film, that falls short in the last 15 minute).
 
Blake

Dear Blake:

You and my buddy Paul are on one side with that score; me and Bruce Campbell are on the other side.  Bruce warned me that the film had the most obnoxious score he'd ever heard, which I promptly forgot.  Two minutes into the movie I remembered Bruce's comment.  I think the Ligeti music works great on the surface of the moon, when you've just found a monolith that's sending signals back to Jupiter.  I felt every single second of this score was inappropriate, and stuck out like a sore thumb.  Nor do I think it's an issue that the story falls apart in the last fifteen minutes, I think it begins to fall apart halfway through, when he sends the kid away, then connects with his "brother," whom he kills and nobody says a single word about it.  From that point on it makes less and less sense, until the ending, which makes no sense.  When I was in high school, for acting class I did the Captain's big speech from "Mr. Roberts," and I did it as James Cagney, like the movie.  I did a helluva good job, too, but got a C.  The teacher said, "An impersonation is not a performance."  Ultimately, I must agree.  Imitating John Huston from "Chinatown," which was clearly an inspiration for TWBB, is a bit of a cop-out, although Lewis does it very, very well.  Great photography, and well deserving of the Oscar.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

Oh!  Yea, let's talk about "Before The Devil Knows You Dead".  I could have sworn you'd answered previously that you disliked it, particularly the back-n-forth timeline presentation.
I just saw it and immediately went to the Rotten Tomatoes site to read the collection of reviews, because I didn't know what to make of it.
(Always am riveted by Philip Seymour Hoffman, regardless.)
For any interested, here is Lumet, Hoffman, and Hawke discussing the film with Charlie Rose.
http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/8815
There's a comment by Lumet about closing 2nd acts halfway through or so that was odd.  But hey, at least he's bringing up structure!
 
I'm interested in your impression of the lead (Andy?), in terms of empathy:  why he was worth watching for the audience.
I ask because I recall the main issue you had with "Sideways", another 'miserable fellas with relationship failures self-destructing' plot, was that you felt Giamatti's lead character was thoroughly unappealing, offering nothing for the viewer to care about.
 
Which I think is very interesting, because I'm opposite - I found something to root for in "Sideways", and not "Devil"; in spots, perhaps Hawke's character, but he lost me with confusing emoting (overacting?) in portions like the office scene with Hoffman.
 
And just a couple housecleaning questions for webmaster Kevin since I'm writing in:
 
We used to be able to use codes to bold, italicize, and create links here. Last couple times I wrote in, those apparently didn't work.  Is there something different we can do to create those again?
 
Also- I'm a failure at trying to search the Q&A:
How for instance would I find Josh's previous comments on "Before The Devil Knows Your Dead"?
Thanks if you can help!

Dear Diana:

Good to hear from you.  I have never said a word against "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," I think it's great.  The fact that we begin at the last good moment of Andy's marriage, making love to his wife in Rio, is a brilliant set-up.  I know exactly what he wants to get back to, and there isn't even a single exterior shot of Rio.  Then you go directly to Hank's worst moment, seeing his partner come flying through the jewelry story window shot dead.  Even though it's a huge reaction on Ethan Hawke's part, I think he's hitting exactly the proper emotion.  Hank goes to the pay phone and calls Andy, saying it all went wrong.  Okay, now what does Andy have to do with this?  Well, everything.  When Andy is finally brought to the same place that Hank was at the beginning, which is him killing all the various people, shooting through a pillow and grimacing like no one's ever grimaced before, we've been taken on an emotional rollercoster rise.  Culminating in the almost biblical brother against brother moment when Hank tells Andy he cannot shoot the girl, "You'll have to shoot me first."  Andy swings the pistol around aiming it at Hank, "Not a bad idea.  In fact, it's a pretty good idea.  I know."  Hanks says, "What do you know?"  Andy says, "I know." Then we see a finger on a trigger that we assume is Andy's, but it's not . . .  I love Hank's exit at that point when the girl tells him to go, and logically too because he just saved her, and he just flings packets of money as he's leaving.  Then to have the truly biblical father and son ending I found completely fulfilling.  I really don't think it has a spare moment in it, and it knows it exactly where it's going, which to me is the sign of a great movie.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: Hi Diana. That Q & A Search always annoyed me when I wrote in because I could never find ANYTHING I was looking for. And I don't know how they work. As for the BOLD, ITALIC and LINKS problem, at the bottom of your message, you could tell me specifically what you want done and I can do it (obviously leaving out your message to me). This isn't automatic like Chud.com, Josh forwards me an email, I copy, paste, and edit it in microsoft word, then copy and paste it into Dreamweaver in the proper places. - Kevin]

Name:              Roger Dobson
E-mail:             rogeralandobson@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:           

Further to my comments on "Ben-Hur", I inexplicably forgot to praise Miklos Rozsa's majestic musical score: surely the greatest ever composed for a non-musical.

"Lawrence of Arabia" greater than "Ben-Hur"? A finer cast? Critics insist Lean's film is superior but I remain unconvinced. What does the film tell us about T.E. Lawrence? Apart from the fact that his father wasn't married to his mother, absolutely nothing. Now I Iove mysteries, but this is going too far.
 
Visually the film is magnificent, but that is all, I fear. In the final third the narrative just collapses. I much prefer the much more coherent "Doctor Zhivago" or "A Passage to India", which at least have females in them (and such females!), while Lean's Dickens adaptations are incontestable masterpieces.
 
I don't really mind the flaws in "Ben-Hur": wobbling Roman models on the galleys in the sea battle; the studio sets in the crucifixion scenes; the camera shadow on Charlton Heston's cloak in the encounter with the blind beggar (there's an even more embarrassing shadow in "El Cid!").
 
I have yet to spot that red sports car in the chariot race sequence. M-G-M, having gone through every frame, claims it's just not there.
 
The one thing that does annoy me though is that editing anomaly very early on. As a veteran of many screenings I'm sure you'll know it: Heston, muffled up in Arab robes à la Lawrence of Arabia, appears as an extra among the Jerusalem crowds - a clip purloined from much later in the film when Judah returns home. Did Wyler and his editors think viewers would see "Ben-Hur" only once? The shot rather spoils the character's dramatic introduction in the Fortress of Antonia.
 
Years ago I interviewed Laurence Payne, who played Joseph and later became a crime novelist. He greatly enjoyed working with Wyler and had some amusing stories. One apocryphal one is that the producer (Sam Zimbalist or his successor?) was nervous about the long anticlimactic coda following the chariot race - for me, the finest section of the movie: "The greatest footage ever put on film, and what have you got afterwards? The crucifixion!" Meaning only the crucifixion . . .
 
Wyler apparently refused to visit the chariot arena, so the crew kidnapped him, forcing him to view the set. He took one look at the awesome construction, saying, "Could you raise it all up by six inches?"
 
Roger Dobson
Oxford
England

Dear Roger:

I truly appreciate your love for "Ben-Hur," which I reciprocate, however "Ben-Hur" just makes number five on my top-five William Wyler movies, being: "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Friendly Persuasion," "The Big Country," "Mrs. Miniver" and "Ben-Hur."  And as much as I love William Wyler's films, I still think I'd put "Lawrence of Arabia" ahead of all of them.  We learn an enormous amount about Lawrence in that film, other than his mother and father weren't married.  In just his very first scene we learn that he's a map-maker for the British army in Cairo during WWI, he gets and reads the Arabic newspaper, and is probably the only British soldier in Cairo aware of what's really going with the Arabs, he gives away other people's cigarettes, he's not afraid of fire, sees himself in a more important position then he presently holds, and he has a sense of humor.  When Claude Rains informs Lawrence that he'll have to travel hundreds of miles into the desert, Lawrence replies, "This will be fun."  Rains says that it's known that Lawrence has "a funny sense of fun."  Then you have some of my favorite scenes in the film with Lawrence traveling to Prince Faisal with his guide Tafas.  From the first moment of Lawrence and Tafas talking (and this is all from memory, folks) -- "Here you may drink.  One cup."  "You do not drink?" "I am Bedu."  "I'll drink when you do." -- we realize that Lawrence is speaking fluent Arabic, because there's no way Tafas is speaking fluent English.  Now, for just learning information about a character, Lawrence and Tafas camp in the desert, under a million stars, and Tafas asks, "Truly. You are a British officer, from Cairo?  You walked here?"  "Good god, no, it's 700 miles.  I took a boat."  "And you are from Britian? Truly?" "Oxfordshire."  "Britain, it is a desert country?"  "No, it's a fat country, full of fat people."  "You are not fat."  "No, I'm different."  T. E. Lawrence was a real person, and is depicted as a complex, realistic character; Judah Ben-Hur is a terrifically compelled, though utterly melodramatic, character from an 1880s novel, by the Civil War general, and first governor of Arizona, Gen. Lew Wallace.  Although there's only three years between the two films, "Ben-Hur" is an old-fashioned movie (and a remake of a 1925 silent film), and "Lawrence of Arabia" is a modern movie, with complexity and unresolved issues.  Meanwhile, I love this discussion.

Josh

Name:              David R.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

The first few minutes of "There Will Be Blood", with Daniel Day Lewis alone working in the mine, are really terrific. I loved that there was no dialogue.

Dear David:

I agree, the beginning was the best part, although the score was particularly annoying there.  Sort of like bees buzzing, and along the lines of  the Ligeti music used so well in "2001."  Meanwhile, Plainview's fall in his mine is a great stunt, and perfect cut between Lewis and the stunt man. I rolled it back and watched it again.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,
 
Are there any other film criticism websites similar to yours that you could recommend? Your kind of point of view is always refreshing.

Dear Brian:

I don't know, I don't read reviews anywhere but the NY Times, and those don't particularly impress me.  Here's a little review.  I finally saw "There Will Be Blood," and was very surprised that I didn't hate it, as I do most of P.T. Anderson's films.  But this film had an interesting setting, with a reasonably intriguing lead character.  It also has beautiful cinematography.  However, as it goes along it becomes less focused and less focused, until, by Act III, it has no idea where it's going or why. Ultimately, the film has no point and no conclusion, which is a shame, but highly common to modern movies.  It also has a terribly inappropriate score.

Josh

Name:              Leena
E-mail:             xena_trade_center@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:         

at risk of breaking rule 5 - no Xena questions...
I was wondering if you had any shooting drafts or scripts youd be willing to part with? I'm truely facinated about "Fins, Femmes & Gems," originally being the 'coming out' episode, and thus its of particular interest to me. Although all your Xena work was superb.
 
Leena

Dear Leena:

I have all the scripts, most in both regular size and mini-scripts (they make reduced size scripts for shooting).  However, I'm not willing to part with any of them, nor do I want to post them or make copies of them, either, so there you have it.  Sorry.

Josh

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

Josh,
 
I'd count John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" among the best films I've seen recently. It's reminiscent of films like "A Man for All Seasons" and "12 Angry Men" in that not only is it a message film, but it's assured of its pacing and story. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour are arguably two of the best working actors, and "Doubt" proves why that's the case. For Shanley, the film is elegantly and simply shot and except for a penchant for pathetic fallacy that's more at home on the stage that in a film, it rarely has a misstep.
 
BG
Dear Brett:

It sounds terrific, I can't wait to see it.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is my favorite right now.  I just watched "Flawless" with he and DeNiro, and though it's anything but great film, Hoffman still is great.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

And speaking of your Favorite Films list, do the ones with a picture or poster indicate a particular favorite? Or is that just a random selection of titles with images.

Dear Jeff:

No, there's no significance to the pictures, they're just the ones I found that I liked.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         

I was wondering, do you still update your favorite films list? I swear sometimes I'll see a movie on there that I haven't seen before, but it's such a big list I can never be sure.
 
Thanks. Looking forward to the new book and DVD releases.

Dear Trey:

Yes, the Favorite Films list has been updated several times over the years. I would definitely add "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," which I just watched for the 4th time, and it keeps holding up.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: It is done - Kevin]

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

Dear Josh:         
 
I thought you might like this quote from author John Irving: "When I finally write the first sentence, I want to know everything that happens, so that I am not inventing the story as I write it - rather, I am remembering a story that has already happened."
 
Best,
BG

Dear Brett:

It's a great quote.  I've quoted in one of my essays and in my book.  It's from John Irving's very interesting non-fiction book, "My Movie Business," about the making of "Cider House Rules."  Personally, however, I like to outline a story, then write a treatment, then write the script, so that by the time I write the script I know the whole story, and have it all in its proper order.  I'm also a big believer in knowing your ending before you start writing, otherwise you don't know where you're going so you can't logically make everything lead there.  That's why you have a theme, to keep you on track, so that you're not writing about just anything, but you're specifically following a line toward your conclusion.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"People may only want Brawndo ("The Thirst Mutilator, with electrolytes") to drink, and put on their crops, but it'll ultimately make them all idiots, the crops won't grow and they'll all die...."
 
So you dug Idiocrocy?  It's no wonder that flick never got released- talk about biting the hand that feeds.......

Dear        :

The big problem with "Idiocracy," which I've watched three times, is that it starts off great, then gets less and less funny as it goes along.  I love the opening of all the stupid people mating and having lots of kids while the smart people keep putting having kids off, and I also loved showing the time go past by seeing Fudruckers transforming into Buttfuckers.  Also, the Great Garbage Avalanche of 2550 was funny, as was the Dildozer and Brawndo. But once it gets caught in its plot it becomes increasingly wearisome. Still, nice try, and a worthy subject.

Josh

Name:              Kevin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

<<If a filmmaker or critic is so beyond populism that they don't want to even try to understand why the audience is buying tickets for popular films, what an audience hopes to get in return for watching films, then it is a useless argument. It's one person saying 'this is bad and I am above trying to understand it' and another trying to figure out 'how and why does this work?'>>
 
No, I've spent over a year or so (maybe two) looking into this using myself as a guinea pig and it boils down to this:
 
The audience has the choice of pick and choose on their piece of mindless crap (entertainment). A film critic doesn't. They have to watch ALL movies because its their job and they pay the rent with it, and when you're forced to watch ALL movies, some are bound to be better than others. But the fact is there are over 300 movies released each year, most of them are bad and the critics have to sit through them, and then they have to write a review on a bad movie that I wouldn't waste three sentences on. And when you watch that many movies each year in this decade, what might appear to be special to someone else is really a copy of a copy of a copy. So it's either diss the film or lower their standards.
 
My guess (hey I'll never really know) is people think they have a selection to choose from because most people don't know what's out there (the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, etc). Not everyone's a film buff. They don't know what cinema was like back then or how many good movies were released per year that weren't mindless crap. I found 60 in 1965, and I've only seen a 3rd of that year. I'm lucky if I get 20 in 2006, and they're okay/good at best.
 
I like mindless entertainment on occasion, because I have the choice of pick and choose between decades. I can go back to the 60s and 70s lists and have a better chance of hitting more good movies than duds, so it doesn't bother me to occasionally watch films like A KNIGHT'S TALE, SHOOT EM UP, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, BATMAN BEGINS, CORALINE. But if that was all I had to watch, then they'd stop being fun, so I have to go back to the 60's and 70's lists.
 
Those films are only good every once in a while. But now, that's what's mostly left in cinema and they're the main focus.
Dear Kevin:

Velvet paintings of sad-eyed clowns may be the rage, that doesn't mean I have to like them.  A lot less people may like Monet or Dali, but that doesn't mean those guys weren't WAY better than the folks painting the sad-eyed clowns.  Popularity does not equal quality.  In fact, I'd say it's the opposite: popularity frequently equals lower quality, and that's why it appeals to the masses.

Josh

Name:              Tom
E-mail:

Hey Josh, how's it goin. Thought I'd chime in on the discussion. That "Friday the 13th" has the highest-opener of all-time means nothing anymore, particularly since nearly every film that comes out these days tops the previous one in terms of grosses (and we're talking per-week). To me, that's like hearing that somebody I never met won the lottery, but I'm not going to see any of that money, so why should I care? And, ultimately, it is entirely dependent on factors which have nothing to do with the film itself. If a film opens on 4,000 screens, and it costs $11.95 per ticket, is it really any wonder that it breaks the bank? Do you find it particularly ironic that nearly every Hollywood film released these days is trying to be the next "Heaven's Gate," costing $50, $100, $200, $250 million, etc. (of course it can be insured a film won't bomb with a $60 million advertising budget)? Even in the 1980's and 1990's, during the reign of the blockbuster, filmmakers were routinely criticized for going insanely over-budget and over-schedule (like with "Waterworld"). Nowadays it just seems to be the norm. Why do you suppose this is? Incidentally, why do you think people feel the need to vociferously defend these films (particularly since they're going to forget they exist in a month). This must be the eleventh or twelfth "Friday the 13th" movie by now.

Dear Tom:

It's a variation of the free market/the-consummer's-never-wrong philosophy, with which I don't agree.  If you just leave things to the consummer, all they want is no-money-down mortgages for houses they can't afford, Hummers, Suburbans, Escalades, McDonald's and Coca Cola.  I've quoted him many times before, but good old George Bernard Shaw overstated it wonderfully: "If more than 10% of the population likes a painting [or any work of art] it should be burned for it is bad."  Let me repeat this for those who missed it --  "Titanic" is the biggest moneymaker of all time and it's hammered shit.  If the entire point of being in movies was to just make a living, I'd have either stayed in series TV, or weaseled my way into making low-budget horror movie.  In either case, it's not stuff I personally want to watch.  And making art that you know is crap from outset is ultimately soul-killing.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:

Hi Josh
 
"So, you're an advocate for stupid movies?"
 
It has nothing to do with advocacy. What I am saying is that many critics who decry the lack of intellectual content in popular movies don't understand that the audience is not buying tickets for intellectual content, but instead they are buying them for the emotional content, primarily for particular kinds of catharsis.
 
If a filmmaker or critic is so beyond populism that they don't want to even try to understand why the audience is buying tickets for popular films, what an audience hopes to get in return for watching films, then it is a useless argument. It's one person saying 'this is bad and I am above trying to understand it' and another trying to figure out 'how and why does this work?'
 
I am not advocating for anything. I am trying to understand a complex economic and artistic system that appears to be working quite well, considering ticket sales are increasing and audiences expanding.

Dear Eric:

Ticket sales are not increasing, nor is the audience expanding.  Each year they sell less tickets for more money.  Last year they had a boom year with "Dark Knight," but that doesn't happen very often (the last time they had a runaway hit like that was 1997 with "Titanic").  You think you know what the audience wants?  You only think you know what they want, you don't really know.  Neither do I.  Neither does Jerry Bruckheimer.  What this all comes down to is, are movies art or are they commerce?  The fact is, they're both. On a commercial level, "Titanic" is the best film ever made because it grossed the most money.  For me the film was unbearable crap.  Now, do you think all filmmakers need to study "Titanic" for its emotional and cathartic properties?  I hope to never have to sit through it again, or any "Friday the 13th" film, for that matter.  I don't care what people buy the most tickets for, nor what makes the most money.  That to me doesn't equal good, and certainly not the best.  To me film is art, and the point of art is to express the ideas and emotions of the artist, and if other people can connect with that, great; if not, fuck 'em.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     
   
"The simile I have at the end of one of those essays is, if you eat nothing but popcorn all of the time you'll die of malnutrion because popcorn contains no nutrients."
 
While it is probably true that if you only consume any single food it will damage your health it is certainly untrue that popcorn has no nutrients.
 
Popcorn has:
 
more protein than any other cereal grain;
more iron than eggs, peanuts, spinach or roast beef;
more phosphorous and fiber than potato chips, ice cream cones or pretzels.
And 1 gram of fiber per cup is similar to 1/2 cup of bran flakes or a large apple with skin.
 
But the real point of the letter was that the movies we get are not dictated by evil studios, but an honest attempt to give audiences what they are asking for. And what they are asking for is less about right brain intellectual goods and more about left brain emotional goods, catharsis instead of logical development.

Dear Eric:

So, you're an advocate for stupid movies?  All the stupid people got together and voted you in as their spokesperson?  The slogan for the Stupid People's Coalition is, "Don't challenge us, it makes our heads hurt."

Josh

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

Josh~

Well, "Friday the 13th" had the biggest opening of any horror film ever; so is Hollywood just giving the people what they want?

Most people don't know what they want, so they just take what's familiar to them. You've said it before: the producers of "Friday the 13th" just blanketed the TV with ads and bought their opening grosses; that doesn't prove anything about 'what the people want', it just proves people want to go to the movies.

When a film like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" opens small, does well and plays in more and more theaters for months on end based on positive word of mouth, THAT proves the film is something people want.

Question: Can't we start up some kind of International Tribunal on Crimes Against Art? I would like to bring charges against Micheal Bay, Producer of "friday the 13th" & director of "Con-Air". I believe that by giving the people "what they want" he is actually helping with the devolution of the human race and the extinction of true art. If you agree, what would be a just sentence for his crimes?

Dear Raoul:

I suggest the Capt. Bligh Approach: put them in a leaky little boat in the middle of the ocean and see if they can find their way home.  People may only want Brawndo ("The Thirst Mutilator, with electrolytes") to drink, and put on their crops, but it'll ultimately make them all idiots, the crops won't grow and they'll all die.  And as you say, the only thing big openings prove is that advertising works.  If they spent enough promoting dogshit sandwiches, people would buy them and eat them.

Josh

Name:              Eric
E-mail:

Hi Josh,
 
I read your essay on "The Intention of Storytelling" and come to a different conclusion. First off, if you look at it from the audience point of view, what is it they are seeking when they buy a ticket? I think the answer in the majority of cases is a particular kind of catharsis, not a new story.
 
The day I am writing this FRIDAY THE 13th is opening on 3,200 screens. This is a franchise that has spawned 9 sequels and a remake in the past 30 years. The writer/director Sean Cunningham says in interviews that the film was originally made to cash in on the HALLOWEEN craze. So, what are any of the millions who will buy tickets to this film expecting? They want to scream and laugh, that's all.
 
MARLEY AND ME-A good cry will be had by all
PAUL BLART: MALL COP Fat man comedy

"Here's an example -- someone you know launches into a story that they have already told you.  Many times out of sheer politeness you just let them tell the story again, smiling along, a dull glaze coming into your eyes.  Obviously, the point isn't you hearing the story, it's them telling it.  The second a story is not taking the listener into consideration, it has become a bad story."
 
Here's my counter-example: A six year old begging their parent to tell "the" story again, and the parent sighing and starting the story at the beginning. The audience knows the story, and they know what they want from it-to laugh, cry, cheer, or scream. Hollywood is giving us the comfort food that we're asking for...

Dear Eric:

The simile I have at the end of one of those essays is, if you eat nothing but popcorn all of the time you'll die of malnutrion because popcorn contains no nutrients.  If all you desire from your art is pap that can by gummed by a 6-year-old, there's plenty of it out there.  I, personally, like at least a tiny bit of a challenge in my art.  Since the first "Friday the 13th" movie completely sucked, and they've all gotten progressively worse, I don't think that's a great example.

Josh

Name:              Charles
E-mail:

Josh:
 
I watched "Dr. Strangelove" again on TCM last week. My question is about it and "2001" (two of my favorites). Both of these films seem to be exceptions to the usual rules about film structure. "Strangelove" has three acts, but it doesn't appear to have a central character. "2001" is divided into four sections, although I guess you could say the movie occurs in three acts. Again, there's no central character, but there are three major characters. (I guess it would be impossible to have a single main character in a story that spans 4 million years.)

If there was ever a filmmaker who could break the "rules", it was Stanley Kubrick. Your thoughts?

Dear Charles:

Yes, I think Stanley Kubrick loved breaking the rules, and was so damn good he could get away with it.  But some stories simply don't have a lead character -- not most -- but some.  My script "Head Shot" has no lead character.  It's much harder to tell a story without a lead, and it's much harder to get the audience to stick with you since they haven't invested their empathy with any one character.  Regarding "2001," I think it is in three acts and Act III is broken in two.  Act I is the apes and the monolith; Act II is finding the monolith on the moon; Act III is the Jupiter mission (and beyond).

Josh

Name:              Roger Dobson
E-mail:             rogeralandobson@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:         
 
I enjoyed reading your comments on Ben-Hur - just about my favourite movie on account of the elegance of the screenplay and the power of the acting. Not to mention the great Frank Thring - at his finest here.
 
The screenplay, as far as I am concerned (and whoever actually wrote it), is far superior to Lawrence of Arabia (very dull considering the subject matter) and A Man for All Seasons,where Robert Bolt has Sir Thomas More using modern expressions, such as "nice" several times.
 
Wyler, it seems to me, had the ability to wring out every ounce of emotion and passion from a scene, and  that made him the finest director of performance, as Chuck Heston was careful to call him. Even the cat is acting in Mrs Miniver.
 
It's just a pity about that dull chariot race in Ben-Hur: it's all people ever seem to talk about. Even Chuck on a visit to London described the movie, ironically I hope, as "a film about a chariot race".
 
I rather take issue with your point about Judah not being placed in another position where he has to betray his people with Messala. Surely it makes a suitably dramatic point and has no need to be repeated. After all, he saves Jack Hawkins only once and wins only one chariot race.
 
One of the things I love about the story (apart from the race taking place half an hour before the end, pleasingly breaking a rule of cinema) is that the whole plot develops from  a minor incident: tiles slip from a roof and don't actually hurt anyone. It's a little like the Godfather saga wouldn't have played out the way it does if Talia Shire's Connie hadn't brought that nice young Italian Carlo to dinner at the end of Part II. Everything stems from that.

Dear Roger:

That was an interesting little essay on "Ben-Hur."  I must say when I watched it the other day, for perhaps the 20th time, I had as much fun as I ever have.  It's a four hour movie that actually deserves to be four hours. I must, however, take exception to your comments disparaging Robert Bolt and his brilliant, though certainly flawed, screenplay for "Lawrence of Arabia." Yes, the second half has some problems, but the film in its totality, sir, is one of the really and truly great movies ever made.  As much as I love "Ben-Hur," I'd take "Lawrence of Arabia" first.  It's far more intelligent, an even bigger spectacle, and it has a better cast.  And more beautiful photography.  And far less bogus process shots, like almost everything in "Ben-Hur's" sea battle.  And let's not dwell on the phoniness of the leper colony.  Yes, "Lawrence" has some script problems in its third hour, but I forgive it.  We won't even go into Fred Zinneman's terrific "A Man for All Seasons," which is one helluva play to movie adaptation, and of course won Best Picture 1966.  Nevertheless, I truly love "Ben-Hur," and it's one of the very few remakes that's better than the original.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         
 
I don't know if this is needful, but re. "Lunatics," since I brought it up I thought I'd drop back in and say what I meant by "breaches of realism or PC."
 
If I should have take issue with any gender questions in there, I missed those. Racially, it's occurred to me since that maybe you should have mixed the street gang more -- and you do bring in balance in other ways --, but I never thought of that at the time.  The big risk I had in mind was just Hank and his condition -- the miseries of a real hallucinatory paranoiac aren't in themselves funny, and the living conditions of such a one are (even) more chaotic than that, and some might call it targeting to present our helping medical professionals as the goons in the hall.
 
That's where this movie could have gone so wrong, and didn't.  It could have been trivializing, but it isn't.  It does all this about Hank for the sake of a laugh, but nothing at all for the sake of a cheap one (whereas on the opposite hand, for just one example, I wouldn't call a hospital nurse out of line if she sad Nurse Ratched is cheap drama), and nothing without cause or in any cause but a good one, and that's everything right there.
 
Last thing, about my closing paragraph.  It's funny I've just noticed now that the write-up on the back of the video sleeve ends, "'Lunatics: A Love Story' is just what the doctor ordered." Ultimately I can't speak for a real-life perceptional disorder, but I can for a mood one.  You've been quite candid on this site about your long-term battle with depression. I've been spared that chronic condition myself, but I've had two major acute cases in my lifetime, spaced about ten years apart and each of several months' duration, so I know what it is.  I also know that one case might be a fluke but two is already a pattern, so I never take a day of mental health for granted. I honestly believe that if I'd seen this film while I was depressed, it would have been one of those things that comes along every once in a while and dispels that shadow of death. I don't mean dispels it permanently from that moment on, like a whole miracle cure, but as a respite or a break in the clouds, plus something left over to hang onto later.  You have to have had the clinical condition to know exactly what that much would mean, but of course you for one will know.  That's all, thanks again,
 
Alice
Dear Alice:

The street gang is WAY more racially mixed than it really ought to be in reality.  There's a black kid, a white kid, a Latino kid, and the leader is playing Latino, but is really Native American.  Look, it's a comedy, and if you got some laughs out of it then it succeeded and I feel good.

Josh

Name:              Charles
E-mail:

Hey, Josh. What's your favorite of Shakespeare's plays? I'm taking a Shakespeare survey course, so I was just curious. Also, do you have a favorite film adaptation of one of his plays?

Dear Charles:

I enjoyed reading Shakespeare much more than most of the movie adaptations I've seen.  I'm very partial to Laurence Olivier's "Henry V" and "Hamlet." And I really like Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet."  Kenneth Brannagh's "Henry V" was pretty good, too.

Josh

Name:              Tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Here's my two cents on the Christian Bale thing: I think he's a skilled actor (not great by any means), and throwing a hissy-fit with good reason certainly does not make me lose any respect for him. What does make me lose respect for him, however, is a pretty good actor wasting his talent by making another seven Terminator films (which will be rehashes of part 2), and another fourteen Batman films (which will be rehashes of the first Christopher Nolan film). Thoughts?
Dear Tom:

Actors have rates.  If a producer has enough clout to make a legitimate offer to Christian Bale through his agent that meets or beats his rate, and Bale's not booked at that time on something else, and nobody's deeply offended by the script, why would he not take the gig?  Somebody's got to be in these movies.  But an actor pitching a hissy fit is the most unexceptional piece of news I've ever heard.  I just wish I had a tape of Anthony Quinn yelling at me.

Josh

Name:              Justin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

Well, I can't argue with any of that.  No hard feelings?
 
So, I saw Frost/Nixon the other day and was reading some stuff from the writer in "Script" magazine.  There's a scene in the movie where Nixon makes a drunken phone call to Frost in the middle of the night which gives Frost a new drive to really hit Nixon hard in Act 3.  In essence, the film tells us without that phone call this story would not have ended the way it did.
 
Trouble is, according Peter Morgan (the screenwriter) in "Script" magazine; the phone call is completely fictional.
 
It seems a movie, using the real names, places, and events of a true story may be crossing an ethical line-in-the-sand by hanging the entire film on one scene that never happened.
 
What do you think?
Dear Justin:

All right, moving on . . .  Good question, and one I've thought about having written "true" stories about real people.  It's one of the reasons I hate "Saving Private Ryan."  There's a scene at the beginning where General George Marshall (with a superimposed title stating who he is) personally giving an order to save Private Ryan that he absolutely never gave.  Not to mention, it's a dumbass order -- that immediately after the D-Day invasion a whole squad of soldiers has to go find this private because his brothers died?  What?  That makes Marshall look like an idiot.  So I agree, there is an ethical line-in-the-sand that ought not be crossed when dealing with real people.  I may or may not have crossed it myself with my final fisticuffs scene in "Teddy Roosevelt in the Bad Lands" that I absolutely know didn't happen.  But that boxing match is why I wrote the script, I needed to fix that piece of history.  Teddy really and truly needed to beat the crap out of the Marquis de Mores and he never got the chance, so I supplied it.  It's like Vanessa Redgrave's character in "Atonement" fixing history and making the love story work, the one she screwed up as a kid. Or how about inventing Letters of Transit in "Casablanca," which certainly never existed?  But that's fiction so I guess it's all right.

Josh

Name:              Alice Schultz
E-mail:

Dear Josh:     

My word.  My copy of "Lunatics: A Love Story" arrived here earlier this week and I've just seen it.  Now just to get this cavil over with, I don't see much true indie and no doubt partly for that reason, yep this definitely is the worst set of production standards I've ever seen in a movie. Any of that that's your fault and not your budget's, you need to brush up there.  However, I wouldn't know which is which, and as I say, I'm short on indie context.
 
That being said -- I remember your saying here and there, If you have to get a film made, you'll get it made.  I don't know many artistic people, but I've seen what good comes of the few I do know taking that attitude. If they don't have the resources to create a thing perfectly, they know the point when creating it anyway is better from every human point of view than leaving it uncreated.
 
Anyway -- "Lunatics" is the first thing of yours I've actually seen in my five-years-plus visiting this site, and do I love this little film. It could so easily have been a cliche, but it isn't -- it's fresh, original, immediate, funny and humane.  None of that's easy to do, but humour, and especially humour in balance with the whole, is notoriously difficult and I can't remember the last time I've had that many belly laughs at one sitting.
 
I get nervous about breaches of realism or PC, but even I had to rule out the long face over here. The tone is just right for the content.  And you're right about something else -- you do bring out the very best in your actors. The long apartment scene between the two of them when they first meet, the kind of scene that has so many ways to fail and so often dismally does, is a standout success.  (Oh and by the way, ace, now *that's* a poem.)
 
No wonder this is a cult hit (now that I know that), it has a quality that's really rare.  It tries for "optimism," and lo and behold, succeeds in comfort&joy and hope.  I see Maltin gives it a friendly write-up and 2.5 stars, which as you know is not at all a bad star rating from Maltin however one might prefer the 3.5 "Running Time" gets. Thanks for this film,
 
Alice

Dear Alice:

I'm so glad you enjoyed it.  For the first two paragraphs I was getting a little nervous.  I thought you might be leading to -- just because you think you have to create something doesn't necessarily mean it really needs to exist.  But, thank goodness, you weren't.  And yes, I unhumbly must agree with you that Ted and Debbie are just wonderful in Act II, leading up to him decking her, which never fails to make me laugh.  Oddly, as I was drifting off to sleep recently I was sadly lamenting not getting an insert of Hank lining up his bean paste cakes on his leg, then taking little bites out of each of them.  And I still miss the little scene that got cut of Hank staring at his electric socket, and the electric socket POV staring back at him.  Oh well.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

"The basis for my opinions is because I've written 35 screenplays, directed 7 movies, quite a few TV episodes, I've written 3 books, and I've seen 4,397 movies.  If this is somehow not a basis for a legitimate opinion, please explain why it isn't."
 
Do you really want me to go into it again?
 
4,397, really?  Do you have a counter you click every time you watch something new?  Why not round up to a cool five grand?

Dear Justin:

No, you need not go into anything again.  You're simply a piece of internet crud that runs around pretending you're someone else, and pretending you have a legitimate point of view, when in fact you're just pretending you're Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues.  A.  Grow up.  B.  Get lost.

Josh

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

Hey Josh
 
I've been thinking about this a lot recently...
 
Do you think that creative people (actors/directors/crew etc) who work in TV and film have to make a choice between career and family life?
 
Cos we had people like Paul Newman who seemed to get the balance right, but mostly there doesn't seem much happiness in abundance. I mean, looks at Christian Bale, who's recently spouted off on set, and who not long ago allegedly attacked his sister and mom.
 
We get these images of the stars and directors on the red carpet, as if they're saying, "Look at my wonderful life," but behind the scenes they're car-wrecks.
 
I guess it brings in issues of insecurity and the need for success/mass adulation.
 
You know, we put these people on pedestals and countless magazine pages cover their movements, but most of them probably have some sort of mental discombobment going on!
 
I've been thinking about all this cos I love the art form of film-making, and as you may remember I make short films in my spare time on digital and 16mm. But I just don't think I'd want the lifestyle; at least not at the moment - my son is ten and I'd hate to miss out on him.
 
Maybe I'm just a provincial wuss!!!
 
So, anyway, not a big question, really; only - how can we be happy?!?!?
 
Lata
 
 
Lee ;-)

Dear Lee:

They say, if you do a job you like; have a mate you love; and have something to look forward to, that's happiness.  Meanwhile, I don't believe that on a percentage basis creative folks are any more screwed up than the rest of the population, they just get all the publicity.  I wouldn't lose any sleep about getting famous, let alone too famous, it only occurs to a very, very small amount of people.

Josh

Name:              The Lite Knight
E-mail:

Dear Josh:   
     
Great poem ("The Ballad of Jehosus"). You should have someone illustrate it and put it up on your site in (yikes!) comic book style. Dr Suess lives ! I also see an animated short in it.  By the way a couple of people have asked you about the movie "Once". I just watched it. You wouldn't like it. I found it charming yet so so and the music so so as well. Pretty people falling in love in a rambling slice of life style. Kind of in the tradition of "Before Sunrise" but not as self important and chatty. But in a way it would make a great double bill with "IIHAHammer". Subject wise not quality wise.

Dear The Lite Knight:

Glad you enjoyed my poem.  There is a version of the poem on the site set in Old English, so it sort of looks like the bible (thanks, Shirley).  I did see "Once" and I completely agree with your assessment.  And yes, they both have the boy and girl meeting in the music store.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:         
"I don't care what the critics have to say about anything because they have no basis for their opinions"
 
Neither do you.

To be fair on the Christian Bale thing, Shane Hurlbut certainly didn't walk through a take (his imdb profile shows he's far more professional than that, NOT TO MENTION, it simply wouldn't make any sense). He probably got up to take a closer look at some light he couldn't see and stepped into Christian Bale's eyeline.
 
Thing is, DP's have so much going on.  They aren't just thinking about the take at the moment, but the next one and next and the following scene and all those takes and the next day and all the scenes day after day that have to match or follow the visual style.
 
So, for him to get lost in the placement of a light and walk into an actor's eyeline cause he was figuring out his own stuff, is quite understandable.
 
Now, he apparently did it twice which is a tough call.

Dear Justin:

"Neither do you."  The basis for my opinions is because I've written 35 screenplays, directed 7 movies, quite a few TV episodes, I've written 3 books, and I've seen 4,397 movies.  If this is somehow not a basis for a legitimate opinion, please explain why it isn't.

Josh

Name:              KS
E-mail:

Hey Josh!

Here's a question that you don't have to answer, seeing it's a) hypothetical, and b) involves movies and actors that you don't give the lower side of rats arses about but I'm gonna ask it anyway!
 
You've probably heard Christian Bale's temper tantrum on the new Terminator movie that he blows a fuse at the DP for tweaking the lights during a take... it's basically a star having an intense hissy fit and everyone from the director down being very unprofessional.

My question is - if something like that happened on your set like that, how would you deal with it? And, is there any sound advice for directors out there you would reccomend to deal with situations like that?

(NB: I've included a link of an mp3. Might not work... seems more entertaining than the movie itself will be... Webmasters, please don't include on the board if Josh answers http://www.aolcdn.com/tmz_audio/020209_christianbale.mp3)
 
Real sorry for the longwindedness! K

Dear KS:

There's certainly nothing new about an actor pitching a fit on the set. However, once you call "action" it's the actor's set and everybody shut the hell up.  DPs don't need to be relighting or tweaking during a take, just let the actor act.  You're asking the actor to transport themselves to some fantastical place, so let them go there.  Crew people frequently forget that the whole game isn't about them setting shit up, it's about the actors creating an alternate reality.

Josh

Name:              Joseph Arechiga
E-mail:             arechj_1999@yahoo.com

Dear Josh: 
     
I really enjoyed your article "Relgion is Evil". I'm a hard core Christian who believes "God is Love" and that reading the bible literally makes people hate each other and is indeed the source of all division and hate on this planet.
 
Remember it was the people who "knew" the bible best (Pharisees) that Jesus condemned for being hypocrites -- and he blessed those who viewed all mankind as their brothers and didn't know squat about the bible.
 
Anyway -- without knowing it I think you're more of a preacher of truth and love than you know.
 
Peace to you and May God Bless Your Work!
 
Joseph.

Dear Joseph:

You might enjoy my poem.



"The Ballad of Jehosus"

by

Josh Becker





He has seven arms

And an elephant's head

He died on the cross

And returned from the dead

Instead of going to the mountain

The mountain came to him instead

He's Jehosus Krishvishnu Buddallah



Jehosus Krishvishnu Buddallah

Is a really terrific scholar

He wrote the Torah

He wrote the Koran

The Bhagavad-Gita

And the Book of Morman



The bible of old

The bible of new

The Septuagint

Vulgate

And 1611 King James, too



The words of Krishna

The Mahabharata

The Hebrew Mishnas

And the Magna Carta



He's fat and skinny and really wise

He's a Semitic guy with blond hair and blue eyes

He sat under a tree and gained insight

He started a jihad and a 1500 year fight



Buddallah Krishvishnu Jehosus

Is bigger than anyone supposes

He's bigger than me

And he's bigger than you

He's cohesion and structure

He's the elemental glue





He's the animating force

In everything living

Completely benign

And totally forgiving



We six billion are his chosen few

And we're all free to do whatever we do

To give this power

Silly human labels

Is as meaningful as

Comic books, fairy tales, and fables



Jehosus Buddallah Krishvishnu

Is Catholic and Jewish and Hindu

And Muslim and Buddhist

Both clothed and a nudist

He's for the frightened to cling to

Name:              Tim
E-mail:             NansemondNative

Dear Josh:         

"Please get a life and try your call again...Please get a life and try your call again...Please get a life and try your call again."
 
My wife and I love "Lunatics" Josh. I went and dug it out of storage in an attempt to find the mishap crane shots you referred to on the "Touch of Evil" discussion. Always a pleasure to watch "Lunatics". I'm not implying it deserved to be in storage Josh, it's just that I have so many movies that my wife is constantly on my ass to get them out of the house. Seems like she'd learn...I just end up buying more. That's why we need a house with a garage so I can move all my movie stuff , and me, into it and be left in peace.

I saw two possibilities. One would be when Nancy is running from the gang in the alley. She turns the corner but the camera keeps going straight at a high rate of speed. The second one would be when Hank walks out of his apartment for the first time right into an earthquake. Maybe you cut it. I'm just one of those people that has to find out every little piece of trivia about a movie.
 
It truly is a shame that the clowns in charge will not release that movie on DVD. It has a major cult following and everybody I have lent the movie out to in the past has appreciated it.
 
I like everything from the "LuLu's Lingerie" billboard to the HarryHausenesque animated spider. When Nancy spits out the bean paste cake in Hanks apartment it is outright classic! My wife looks at me and is like "What the hell are Japanese bean paste cakes?" Regretably, I didn't have a good answer for her Josh.
 
I also appreciate your shadow work on that flick. The shot I am specifically referring to is when Nancy is contemplating suicide in a major way and steps back out of direct light into a shadow situation. You see it in many of Orson's movies and Hitchcock's too. I am sure there are many more but those are the two that come right to mind and you see it alot in the Film Noir movies.
 
Sorry this is so long. Have a good one Josh.
 
Tim

Dear Tim:

The good folks at Synapse Films are trying to get the DVD rights to "Lunatics" from Sony, but aren't having much luck at the moment.  You nailed the rolling crane shot that went awry.  It's when Hank leaves the building and the earthquake begins.  The use of shadows in the film was completely inspired by Michael Curtiz, who was the master of that technique. Meanwhile, we did the HD transfer of TSNKE and it looks great.

Josh

Name:              allan aigeldinger
E-mail:             dingerusmc@gmail.com

Dear Josh:         

what web site can i go to to verify the information you have written ? your story was excellant.

Dear allan:

I'm going to guess, given the USMC in your email address, that you're referring to "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood."  As far as I know, there's no website about the battle of Belleau Wood, nor were there very many books or articles, either.  Nor is there a biography of Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly.  Quite frankly, it was a difficult script to research.  I got the most information from a single 40-year-old issue of Leatherneck Magazine. Anyway, I'm glad you liked it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:       
 
I agree with you 100% about Jimmy Carter being shortchanged by history. It's amazing to me that Nixon and his crooked cadre of descendants have been allowed to hijack the narrative of America/China relations.

Why don't you work up a screenplay? "Carter." That has a nice ring to it. I'm thinking you could make a helluva picture. Of course, it'd never get financing....

Dear Will:

I'd rather make my script "Teddy Roosevelt in the Bad Lands."

Josh

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

Hey Josh,
 
When you say you've got an idea that's like "Buds II", do you mean it has the same characters? Or that it has quite a similar story? Also, have you ever thought about trying to shoot scripts that you wrote years ago? "Buds" was awesome. "The Happiest Guy In Town" is also one I'm quite fond of. Some might not require big budgets.
 
I finally got around to watching "Marty" last night. What a great performance by Borgnine! I loved how the story is so simple yet it really holds its viewers attention and really gets you rooting for Marty. Very cool movie. Any other films with Ernest Borgnine that you would like to recommend?
 
Thanks,
Chris
Dear Chris:

I have no financing for any of my scripts, old or new.  Regarding "Buds II," it would be a completely new script with the same two characters, but 15 years older.  I have no idea what the story is.  Paul and I have just been kicking around some various scenes.  And regarding "Marty," which is one my favorite movies, now that's a screenplay.  Paddy Chayefsky has you caring about Marty within 60 seconds, and that's highly impressive to me.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh: 
       
"if I don't like a film someone else likes, then they rip my a new asshole over my lack of talent"
 
I shouldn't have done that and, again, I apologize.
 
But, just to clarify, it's not that you simply don't like a film someone else likes, it's that you rip films "new assholes" that happen to be movies that were executed with the utmost craft and style.  And when someone who has worked in it all long enough to have a small grasp of the technical and artistic merit of some of these films, it's surprising when you see another filmmaker brush off something like "No Country For Old Men" as a "a story about a guy with a bad haircut chasing a guy with a mustache.  The end" or "The Aviator" as a "worthless piece of shit" or "In the Bedroom" as "a half-assed, second-rate TV movie at best" or "Saving Private Ryan" as "a bowl of shit" or "Sideways" as "a dull, dreary, over-long, meandering, unbelievable series of events about two shallow, creepy, uninteresting characters" and on and on and on and on.
 
I just can't understand (as a filmmaker) why you want to openly rip your fellow filmmakers when you clearly know how hard it is to make a film at all, let alone a good one.  Why not leave that to the "those who can't do, teach" crowd?
 
I know, I know. no one is forcing me to read your stuff, but I guess it's too late for that now.

Dear Justin:

As my late friend Rick used to say, and he was 75% harsher of a critic than me, "Great art should be able to stand up to strongest criticism."  I don't care what the critics have to say about anything because they have no basis for their opinions other than wanting to keep their jobs.  I believe that film is capable of being great art, and horseshit like "No Country For Old Men" doesn't come within a country mile of great art, and as I far as I'm concerned, someone needs to point it out.  If you don't like my unexpurgated opinions, you shouldn't come here because that's what I'm about.  I take movies very, very seriously, and the films I don't like, I really don't like, and I'm not cutting anyone any slack.  Everybody else can do that.

Josh

Name:              Stan Wrightson
E-mail:

Dear Josh:         

I too tried to get through the George Stevens Jr. book, but I had the same reservations as you're having. I got about half way through it before putting it down. (I will eventually finish it) Regarding "Rushes", I got mad at Bruce for not letting you finish your shot on "Lunatics" It seemed totally unreasonable to me. If I was your producer, I would've let you get your shot. Did you ever have a really serious fight with Bruce? One that threatened your friendship?

On to your essay on the making of AA. The story of Bruce getting attacked by the same dog twice made me laugh really hard. I think this would make a really funny scene in a movie (Maybe MY NAME IS BRUCE II ???)

Three questions: 1)When is the new book coming out? 2)The actress in TSNKE was pretty hot. You ever go out with her? 3)Maybe this has already been suggested, but have you considered getting your fans to invest in one of your films? I could save up a grand over a couple of months, and would be glad to hand it over if it meant that we'd have a new Josh Becker film. (If this is out of line, I apologize)

Take care,
Stan

Dear Stan:

That's very nice, thank you.  Unfortunately, movies cost a lot of money.  I don't think I can do "The Horribleness" for less than $1.5 million, and "It's a Lost, Lost World will take about $5 million.  My buddy Paul Harris and I have been kicking around a much cheaper comedy idea, which is basically "Buds II."  That could be a $100,000 movie, and that's possible. So, let's see . . .  The new book will be out in the next few months, I think.  The actress in TSNKE is Cheryl Gutteridge, who is gorgeous, and still is.  No, I never went out with her, although I wanted to.  She's in the earlier, super-8 version of TSNKE, "Stryker's War," and she's even cuter back then. Cheryl was the prettiest girl in our high school, and luckily she liked making movies.

Josh

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