Q & A    Archive
Page 161


Name:            M. Prosky
E-mail:           
Date:              2:01pm - 12/09/09

Dear Josh:

Hey. Look. What a surprise. All the end of the year awards are coming in and it looks like Inglorious Bastards IS one of the best movies of the last year AND Tarantino is once again proven to be one of the best directors the screen has ever seen. Nice interview with him where you belittle him, question him, and act high and mighty like you're king shit. See you at the Academy Awards this year, Mr. Smarty Pants.

Dear M:

I do hasten to point out that the interview was done during the shooting of "Reservoir Dogs" when the only one who had ever heard of Quentin Tarantino was me.  At that point I had written and directed two feature films and he was making his first one.  I truly wish I had the rest of that interview because we talked for hours and he said some of the silliest shit I've ever heard, like "The best director working is John McTiernan."  And like any objective interviewer my response was, "Get the fuck outta here!"  Hey, if you like Quentin Tarantino, god bless you.

Josh

Name:            simon
E-mail:           
Date:              7:56am - 12/09/09

Dear Josh:

Do you like the director Jaques Becker? Are you related?

Dear simon:

No, I'm not related, nor have I seen any of his films.  The name Becker was dreamt up by an immigration officer at Ellis Island when my grandfather immigated from Poland around 1910.

Josh

Name:            Russ
E-mail:           
Date:              7:11am - 12/08/09

Dear Josh:

That Crime After Crime thing and Breaking In thing is crazy. There's no way that's a concidence. On my dvd it says it's the Samuel Goldwyn Company that made it and MGM that distributed it and MGM OWNS Columbia, so there's no doubt in my mind there was some monkey buisness going on behind the scenes! I sent an e-mail to John Sayles about this because I have to know the true story. Maybe he can set the record straight, like they came to him with an "original idea" because I doubt he would have stolen it personally. Maybe now that he's become such a big name in the buisness he'd be willing to make up for what happened (I put the link to your script in the e-mail). Do you remember the name of the guy you pitched it to? Maybe you have it written in one of your journals if you don't. Check!!!!! Let's get to the bottom of this mystery!

Dear Russ:

MGM doesn't own Columbia, Sony does.  Personally, I don't give a crap about this anymore, but if you want to look into it, have fun.

Russ

Name:            Trey Smith
E-mail:           
Date:              7:07am - 12/08/09

Dear Josh:

I actually use my X-Box to watch the Netflix movies on my TV, which is the only reason I love the feature so dearly. I understand not wanting to watch a movie on a computer screen, I'm not to fond of it myself. Anyway, I watched Knife in the Water this morning which I really liked. I loved the subtle battles between the man and the hitchhiker throughout the film. The film obviously revolved around them, but they were done so subtly. Seemingly everything they did was a contest. There was such great tension throughout the entire film and yet there was no violence above a few punches near the conclusion. It was also beautifully shot in black and white and had a lot of great shots. I loved the opening shots in the car with the reflection of the trees in the windshield as they drove along. Definitely a great debut feature film by Polanski. I also watched The Duelists by Ridley Scott, which I enjoyed immensely. It's a shame he isn't making films like that anymore, I watched Matchstick Men about a month ago and thought it was awful. The twist was beyond stupid. I heard he is directing a movie based on the board game Monopoly next. How about yourself, seen anything worth mentioning lately?

Dear Trey:

I liked "Knife in the Water," too.  It's an incredibly assured first feature.  The moment of the knife actually going into the water seemed amazing.  To get the knife to fall the way it did made me think they needed a whole box of knives to get it right.  There's also that tiny brilliant moment of the hitchhiker lying on his back, looking up at the mast past his index finger, then closing one eye, then opening the other, and jump-cutting his POV.  "The Duellists" is really one of my favorite movies and I've seen it about ten times.  I also think it's one of the most beautifully photographed movies of all time.  I love that halfway through the narrator says, "Military fashion changed," and then all of the uniforms and hairstyles are different.  I've personally been using Harvey Keitel's little "La!" ever since.  I saw "Matchstick Men" and it immediately went in one ear and out the other.  I haven't seen anything of any particular interest lately.

Josh

Name:            Trey Smith
E-mail:           vgntrey@gmail.com
Date:              10:06am - 12/07/09

Hi Josh,

Have you considered rejoining Netflix? With their instant watch feature you now have thousands of movies to watch at any time you'd like. Unlimited movies to watch a month with most of the plans. I just woke up this morning to find that the Criterion prints of "Knife in the Water", "Shoot the Piano Player", "Bed and Board", "The Virgin Spring", "Eyes without a Face", Tarkovsky's "Solaris", and "Au revoir les enfants" have been made available to watch instantly. Though I've already seen "The Virgin Spring" and "Au revoir les enfants" (both of which I enjoyed), I've been wanting to see the others for quite sometime. It's such a great feature. Also, I've been keeping an eye on Amazon, waiting for Going Hollywood to appear...hopefully soon, eh?

Trey

Dear Trey:

Good to hear from you.  I was a member of Netflix for years, although before their instant watch feature.  I canceled when I got TiVo 6-7 years ago and I've never looked back.  I always have so many films awaiting me that there's no way I'll ever get to them all.  I can't tell you how many new movies I start to watch that aggravate me within 15 minutes so I delete them.  Plus, I have no interest in watching movies on my computer, or my telephone for that matter.  Also, if I never see another Francois Truffaut movie again it will be too soon.  Anyway, thanks for the suggestion.  Seen anything good lately?

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:              9:16am - 12/07/09

Dear Josh:

I saw the documentary "Directed by William Wyler" last night and thought of you, which means that for at least a few film fans, you and Wyler are forever linked. A nice thought, isn't it? His contemporaries shared your assessment: Wyler's primary talent was his taste. He knew good dialogue when he heard it, and a good take when he saw it. Some called it intuitive, but the film notes that Wyler had a 12 year apprenticeship as an assistant director. This apprentice period is something that was lost at the end of the studio era. (I don't think it's a coincidence that the best directors of the 1970s did something of an apprenticeship working for Roger Corman.) My question has to do with Wyler's visual style. Wyler himself noted that he didn't have a "signature style," and said it was harder to do different kinds of films rather than to make all his films look the same. Yet he was certainly capable of spectacular visuals. For example, the intricate opening tracking shot of "The Letter" and the gloomy mood of "Wuthering Heights" (with Gregg Toland). Not to mention the chariot race (interesting coincidence, Wyler was an assistant director on the 1925 silent version of Ben Hur, which had a similar chariot race). Do any particular shots or sequences jump out at you for their technical achievement and artistry? Or do you just have a favorite Wyler sequence or two?

Dear Will:

Isn't that a great documentary?  I have it on tape and I've watched several times.  William Wyler was interviewed for it the day before he died, and he seems like he's perfectly sharp, funny, and in terrific shape.  And yes, I love the idea that when Wyler is mentioned I come to mind, at least for a very few film fans.  As an historical note: Wyler arrived in the U.S. in January, 1922 and began directing two-reelers, then five-reelers, in 1925, so he only spent 2-3 years as an assistant director.  And it was a big deal for him that he'd been an A.D. on the 1925 "Ben-Hur" then he ended up directing the 1959 remake, which I believe is one of the very few remakes that's better than the original.  I believe that Wyler was a very visual director, but not blatantly obvious about it, nor did he have, as he mentioned, a "signature style," like Hitchcock as the most extreme example.  Going all the way back to Wyler's first sound film, "Hell's Heroes" in 1929, which I believe is not only the best sound movie of 1929, it's also the best version of the oft filmed "Three Godfathers" (John Ford made two silent versions, and a sound version with John Wayne), and there are wonderful visual touches all over the film.  Wyler did what is probably the fastest and most brilliant tracking shot of the day, that I'm convinced David Lean basically ripped-off for "Lawrence of Arabia."  The lead cowboy (Charles Bickford) is dying of thirst and carrying a baby across the desert.  The camera quickly tracks along his footprints in the sand, then we see a canteen sitting there, then his holster and pistol, then a line in the sand beside the footsteps (from dragging the rifle), then the rifle itself lying there, until it finally catches up with the cowboy holding the baby.  The same shot is in "Lawrence" when the guy falls off his camel.  As Bickford nears the town where he robbed the bank and killed the teller, he keeps seeing a noose dangling in front of him that his POV pushes right into.  Meanwhile, Wyler and Gregg Toland and Orson Welles and Toland were both experimenting with long focus at the same time: Wyler with "The Little Foxes" and Welles with "Citizen Kane," both in 1941, a brilliant, innovative technique, used perfectly in both films.  But keep in mind that Wyler had been working with Toland since 1936, and it's those films that inspired Welles to work with Gregg Toland.  This is a topic I can go on and on about, but I'll stop.  The big difference between William Wyler and Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock (or anyone else) is that Wyler was not ostentatious, had great taste, and only used beautiful visuals where they fit.  William Wyler is a constant inspiration to me.

Josh

Name:            Misha Tyshkov
E-mail:           
Date:              8:23am - 12/07/09

Dear Josh:

I am indeed a woman. My name is adapted from Mishka, which of course, is Russian. I would also note that I'm writing in my second language so maybe that's why it comes across as unoriginal to Alice. I'm also 17 years old, attractive, and my favorite film is "Black Narcissus." Does that shatter more stereotypes? Josh, you never responded to my note about twitter. Have you checked it out?

Dear Misha:

No, I haven't checked out Twitter.  I was on Facebook for 5 days, then canceled because it seemed worthless to me.  I hated checking in each day to see what new drivel was besmirching my "wall."  So, you're 17, Russian, attractive, you write in English very well, and your favorite movie is "Black Narcissus," which is also one of my favorites?  You sound like my kind of gal, if perhaps a tad young.  Why is "Black Narcissus" your favorite film?  Here's a still from it.

Josh

Name:            Russ
E-mail:           
Date:              8:15am - 12/07/09

Dear Josh:

Whoa--did John Sayles plagerize your Crime After Crime script? Like...for real? Did you and Speegel maybe see a preview of the movie, then write the script, then the movie came out? Wasn't it the same year? That shit is fucked up. How did you do your burglary research? Were you ripping off other movies, taking stuff from news articles, referring to a book maybe? How did you know that stuff? Maybe you WERE a burglar, that's how you got to make so many indie movies! Ha-ha! That would be awesome.

Dear Russ: 

Scott and I wrote "Crime After Crime" almost two years before "Breaking In" came out.  We were both exremely shocked when we saw "Breaking In" because it's beyond similar; it really does seem like a case of plagerism.  Not to mention that we had pitched Columbia (I believe that's who made "Breaking In," but whoever it was, we'd pitched them) and had left our script there.  I checked at the time and a plagerism suit is very expensive and particularly difficult to win.  Since we had no money at the time, we had to let it go.  I didn't knock myself out with the research -- it is a silly comedy after all -- but I did go to the library and read a few books on the topic.  I guess John Sayles read the same books.

Josh

Name:            Alice Schultz
E-mail:           aeschultz333@hotmail.com
Date:              10:36am - 12/05/09

Josh,

I'm not sure if the spirit of your mild correction was understood. Could you just clarify that simply as a formality in the interests of peace, order and good government, the convention on this site is that we address more or less all remarks, questions, recommendations etc. directly to you. Note that I myself am doing it right this time. Misha's re-write was pretty good, and I admit I couldn't do as well so it I won't even try to rise to the challenge. But the fact is, for me it didnt escape the expository rap. It just sounds like it's trying not to sound expository. Her effort also shows how incredibly difficult it is to do anything original. She's clearly got control of her subject and she knows how to write and she has a handle on the cadences of dialogue, and there's STILL a derivative sound to it. That isn't supposed to be a diss. Again, I couldn't do half as well and all this is actually quite an eye-opener. Those were my impressions.

Alice

Dear Alice:

I automatically assumed that Misha was a male name, I never considered that it might be a woman.  Yes, exposition is exposition, and it's absolutely necessary and a major part of storytelling.  In movies the idea, if possible, is to show and not tell.  But that's more of a good idea than a rule.  Most exposition, like it or not, is generally told, and that's just how it is.  It's an accepted theatrical convention, and let's face it, it's just easier.  As an interesting example (I think), Akira Kurosawa started in the Japanese film business before WWII as an assistant director, and then as a screenwriter, and he mainly worked for one director (whose name I don't remember) whom he admired greatly.  So Kurosawa wrote a scene where the lead samurai comes into a village and finds the villagers are all looking at a sign that says everyone must now pay twice as much in taxes, give up their first-born children, etc.  Ths samurai goes back to his own village and tells them about the sign he saw and the tax increase, and all the other stuff.  The director Kurosawa was working for who he admired so much crossed out all of the dialog in the second scene and added a note, "The angry samurai throws the sign down on the ground at the feet of his fellow villagers."  That's filmmaking, not theater.  So, neither Misha nor I found the cinematic way of conveying the information in that scene -- if indeed there is one -- we both just did it with dialog: mine being formal and not stating the point, but keeping it right below the surface; Misha's much more informal, slangy, kind of kidding around, and stating the point, then stating it again.  Which way is better in the scheme of the whole story?  You decide.

Josh

Name:            Misha Tyshkov
E-mail:           
Date:              9:36am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

There was no way in hell you were going to give my rewrite the benefit of the doubt so it was probably a futile exercise to begin with. Even if this scene blew Robert Towne out of the water on his best day of writing, you would not have admitted it. Too proud and stubborn. And look, if I were a successful writer/director like you, I'd probably be the same way. You deserve to be. By the way, I'd love to see you on twitter. I think you'd appreciate it--you get 135 characters per post to espouse on anything under the sun. It's a great way to keep in touch with fans, friends, etc. in a real-time manner. Any other writers out there want to take the HEAD SHOT challenge--rewrite the scene I rewrote and post it here? I'd be curious to see other takes on it.

Thanks,
Misha

Dear Misha:

You may believe that I'm too proud and stubborn to admit your rewrite was better than the scene as I wrote it, but that's truly not the case.  I've explained in two other posts what my issues were and that's what I really think.  I reiterate, I don't for one second think that it's a brilliantly written scene (although I do quite like the whole script), but I don't think you improved it in regard to the context of the whole story.  One scene is just a piece in a big puzzle, and they all have to fit together.  As a little note, you don't get to make the challenges on my website, only I do.  And rewriting one scene from someone else's script doesn't make you or anyone else a good writer.  Nevertheless, I'm still impressed that you stepped up to the challenge, and though I don't agree with your approach to the rewrite, I do think you have ability.  Meanwhile, what's Robert Towne done for anybody lately?  The guy hasn't written a good script in over 30 years.  Honestly, he only wrote three good movies -- "The Last Detail," "Chinatown" and "Shampoo" -- all in a three year period, and that's it.  Yes, he script doctored a lot of scripts, but so what?  Robert Towne's career seems like an enormous missed opportunity to me.

Josh

Name:            Cindy
E-mail:           cgpotato@aol.com
Date:              9:14am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

Just finished reading your structure series (and the one on Religion because I was intrigued at your willingness to express your views so candidly). I really liked the structure essays. I guess you could say I'm in "Structure Hades" at the moment working on a little re-write of a screenplay I recently finished. You made many great points about motivation, theme, etc. I noted you wrote it in 1997. Just curious if you think things have improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse since then. Meaning, do most stories still suck in your opinion (slight paraphrase)? Enjoyed your site! Thanks!

Dear Cindy:

I'm glad you enjoyed my essays, and perhaps even got something out of them.  There are a few movies these days with decently written screenplays, but not many.  We're in a world where most movies are based on comic books and video games, or are remakes or sequels.  In none of those cases is intelligent writing needed or even desired.  That was the case in 1997, and it's even more true now.

Josh

Name:            AdriftinLA
E-mail:           
Date:              8:38am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

I'm at the breaking point. My writing partner and I have been slaving away at the screenwriting trade for close to 5 years. We're both 30. We both have day jobs. We come close to selling our scripts often. We've had scripts sent out through CAA's top agents and developed spec material with big producers. We have management representation, never had an agent. We've had scripts optioned and we've been commissioned to write scripts but we're still not WGA. For years there have been great signs of encouragement, major opportunities, and near brushes with success. But it's been 5 years! I'm still waiting tables, he is still a security guard! I love film, obsessed with it, never wanted to do anything else. But as my girl puts the pressure on me to get married and have a family, I\'m beginning to wonder if I should go back to school and get certified to teach or maybe become a cop--something stable, with benefits--I can always write on the side, right? But I know I'll get caught up in that life and writing will be something of a hobby. I'm at a cross roads. And really, the only thing that's stopped me from quitting already is a fortune cookie I got one time at Chin Chin that read: "Most quit without ever knowing how close they come to succeeding." I know this is a very brief recap of my life and my situation but based on what I've told you...should I continue? Should I struggle on? Suck it up and go for my dreams? What would you do if you were me?

Dear AdriftinLA:

I was in exactly the same position as you starting with the third time I lived in L.A., having moved there and bailed out twice before.  I ended up bailing out and moving back to L.A. two more times after that.  Although I felt like I was giving up on several occasions, I never actually did.  I don't think there's anything wrong with kicking back for a while, living a normal life, getting some perspective, regrouping, then attacking again later.  Trying to make it in Hollywood, I think, is like "The Shawshank Redemption," where you're trying to pound your way through a thick concrete wall with a tiny little hammer.  You may very well never get through, but if you quit pounding you can be certain of it.  After a million rejections and discouragements in Hollywood -- it truly is a mean, nasty, stupid, heartless business -- I reverted back to making my own movies, which I'll never regret because I actually got some movies made.  However, each time I made an independent feature and returned to Hollywood thinking, "Now they'll take me seriously and I'll get work," I didn't.  It wasn't until 1993 with "Hercules" that I actually started to work regularly, and I have no doubt that Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert wouldn't have given me that job (I was 35 at the time) had I not already directed two indie features.  I then had to start as the 2nd unit director and work my way up to main unit director.  To summarize: just because you feel like you need a break doesn't mean you're giving up; and making an independent movie can only help you in the long run.  Good luck and I completely commiserate.

Josh

Name:            Betty Klein
E-mail:           
Date:              8:08am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

I've written in before but it's been a while. I felt compelled after seeing ME AND ORSON WELLES, the new Linklater film. It's not a particularly good movie but it has two things going for it: Christian McKay's performance as Orson Welles is astounding and it recreates his m1937 Broadway production of CAESER with a loving attention to detail. Any interest?

Dear Betty:

Not really.  Richard Linklater doesn't interest me very much.  I enjoyed most of "Slacker" the first time I saw it (the last 10 or 15 minutes were awful), but found it unwatchable the second time.  I liked the script and performances in "Tape," but thought the direction was by far the weakest aspect of the film.  The rest of his films that I've seen just bored me.  The subject matter of "Me and Orson Welles" does sound kind of interesting, though, so I'll give it a look when it pops up in front of my face.  I did like "RKO 287" with Liev Schrieber as Welles, and I also liked the old TV movie, "The Night America Panicked," with Paul Shenar as Welles.

Josh

Name:            Travvy
E-mail:           
Date:              8:00am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

On Howard Stern I herd Francis Copola interviewed and the one piece of advice he gave to young filmmakers was to get married and have kids. That way you have no choice but to succeed. Do you agree and if you could only give ONE PIECE OF ADVICE to young filmmakers what would it be?

Dear Travvy:

I've heard Coppola give that same piece of advice before on "Inside the Actor's Studio."  Hey, if it worked for him who am I to disagree, and considering that I never got married and had kids, and my career hasn't really soared, he may very well be right.  My one piece of advice to young filmmakers would be -- see as many movies as you possibly can, and not just new ones, old ones, too.  You can't expect or believe that you'll do good work unless you know as much as possible about the exceptional work that's already been done.  One of the most important aspects of being a writer or a director or both is having good taste.  If you don't know what's come before you there's no chance of having good taste.  The bottom line is, know your craft, and the more information and references you have, the better off you'll be.

Josh

Name:            Carter Nispel
E-mail:           
Date:              7:49am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

Can you once and for all tell us the reason you had such a falling out with the entire Michigan crew (minus Bruce), specifically your long-time writing partner Scott Spiegel? A lot of your scripts with him are cool, and no offense, but I think the best work you've done. BALL BREAKER is cool. What happened? Do you still talk to him? It doesn't seem like he's had much of a career to brag about since the break-up. Maybe if you two got back together you could do some cool work, no?

Dear Carter:

I didn't have a falling out with the Michigan crew, just with Scott.  Scott stopped working with Sam and Rob Tapert in the late '80s, or early '90s.  I continued working with them until Xena ended in 2001.  The end of Scott's and my collaboration occurred during the writing of "Ball Breaker."  We worked on the story together a little bit, then Scott quit and went off to work with Boaz Yakin on Clint Eastwood's "The Rookie," so I wrote "Ball Breaker" myself.  I suppose if I got the chance to write a Clint Eastwood film, as opposed to writing a script where we were getting paid about $1,000 each, I'd do it too.  No, Scott and I never talk anymore, and I'd say the chances of us ever working together again are zero.

Josh

Name:            Dan Johnson
E-mail:           
Date:              7:34am - 12/04/09

Dear Josh:

I have a friend named Jeffrey who is obsessed with the movie THE DYING GAUL. It was written and directed by playwright Craig Lucas who is responsible for PRELUDE TO A KISS which I found to be an interesting movie...but the THE DYING GAUL is one of those movies about a screenwriter. I hate those. ADAPTATION. Ugh. Have you seen this movie, and also what do you make of playwrights who turn filmmaker? Mamet, LaBute, Tyler Perry, etc...

Dear Dan:

My late friend Rick Sandford was good friends with Craig Lucas, who I met a couple of times through Rick.  I don't think that a story about a screenwriter is necessarily bad -- check out Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place" -- but for the most part they usually are.  My feeling has always been, if you have to write about making movies then you don't really have a story to tell.  And in most cases, when writers write about writing, they never show the process realistically (like "Adaptation").  But no, I haven't seen "The Dying Gaul."  Regarding Mamet and LaBute as filmmakers, they don't interest me at all.  David Mamet's book on filmmaking may be the single most useless book on filmmaking ever written.

Josh

Name:            Janet Synger
E-mail:           
Date:              7:31am - 12/03/09

Dear Josh:

I actually think Misha's rewrite was good. I won't say whose was better, that's for Roger Ebert or someone to decide, but I will say that I was impressed. Not sure if you're reasoning made sense though, Josh because of course there has to be exposition it's just a matter of whether you can hide it well in a natural flow of dialogue. In Misha's, you don't really know that you're being fed facts because it's all part of the flow. In yours, it's very much on the surface, the character is just feeding information instead of tying it into who the characters are, what they sound like and what their personal dynamic is. Well, in writing this, I guess I've decided which one is better, so there you go... I'm sorry but it worked. The fact that XENA used to do what you did with exposition in Head Shot is not really a good argument...it's Xena, the dialogue was not well-written.

Dear Janet:

I didn't say I was doing it like Xena, I was giving an example of expository writing.  If you like Misha's version better, god bless you.  Still, I wouldn't do it that way.  As I said, to me it's a big mistake to make the favor so blatant.  Also, it has a joking tone that I found entirely inappropriate.  They don't know each other very well and haven't seen each other in about 30 years.  I believe that it's a formal meeting and they're both on their best behavior.  Nevertheless, all scenes can be approached from a million different angles and this is an example.  I'm still not weeping.

Josh

Name:            Mike T
E-mail:           
Date:              7:20am - 12/02/09

Dear Josh:

Ever seen a Dustin Hoffman film called Straight Time? I hear it's a rarely seen gem.

P.S. in addition to the "your name" and "email address" fields, you should consider also adding a date field so we know when questions were responded to. It would be useful for when going back through the Q&A archives.

Dear Mike:

I've seen "Straight Time" three or four times and think it's a very good film.  Dustin Hoffman is great, and so is the whole cast: Gary Busey in what may be the best performance of his career, M. Emmett Walsh, Harry Dean Stanton and Theresa Russell at her cutest.  The film had a big influence on me regarding "Running Time," as well as having a big influence on Quentin Tarantino and "Reservoir Dogs" (the book's author, Edward Bunker, appears in RD).  My one gripe would be that the film has a leisurely pace and could've been more tightly edited.  Meanwhile, Kevin, can we add dates to the Q&A?

Josh

Name:            Guy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh,

If you were smart enough to realize that Religion itself isn't evil, than you wouldn't blame every little conflict on religion. It's hard to find a Christian that isn't a hypocrite. And we all watch the News, and I also watch Dateline. Turns out, 80% of those abuse accusations are proven to be false. And I bet a lot of them were made just to get a hefty cash settlement. *bump* for Religion...yet again

Dear Guy:

Where did you get that 80% fact from?  Your ass?  Celibacy for priests is an abomination that can only lead to an unhappy outcome.  That the Catholic church still preaches against the use of condoms, particularly in countries with high rates of AIDS, is, in my definition, pure evil.  I don't think enough can be blamed on religion.

Josh

Name:            Anti-Atheist of the USA
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

"Religion is the insidious evil of our planet, and the sooner people start to wake up to that the sooner we can get on to bigger, more important issues like peace and goodwill toward others." Well getting rid of Religion is doing the exact opposite of what you want,Dumbass. Religion is not evil. Religion can't use weapons. Only humans can. This "producer" is nothing but a tyrant. That's the true nature of Atheism. To kill Religion. And Atheists are doing much more harm than religion has.

Dear Dumbass:

"Religion can't use weapons.  Only humans can."  Right, in the name of religion.  What do you think most of the terrorism is about?  One religion believing that all other religions are blasphemy, or that one sect of a relgion is more correct than another.  It's all nonsense.  I repeat, religion is nothing more than monkeys shrieking at the moon.  At least Athiests are thinking for themselves, as opposed to the religious who follow along blindly with the majority, all doing exactly what they were indoctrinated to do since early childhood.  I know it's terrifying, but try thinking for yourself for once.  If Athiests are trying to kill religion, which is crap, they can't kill it quick enough for me.

Josh

Name:            Guy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Religion has done more good than bad. You obviously overlooked that fact. And Priests dont molest children, dumbass.

Dear Guy:

They don't?  I must have somehow misinterpreted all those news reports.  As for religion doing more good than bad, I emphatically disagree.

Josh

Name:            Ryan McAvoy
E-mail:           

Hi Josh,

Wuz looking thru ABOVE THE LINE, ur script, and thought it was weird to have a 29 year old guy havin a wet dream. Dude, I stopped havin wet dreams when I wuz 13. If u can honestly tell me that you came in ur pants from a sex dream post 20 i'll shut up. but i asked my buddies and none of em have either, so... Peace

Dear Ryan:

That scene is based on a true event.  I actually did have a wet dream while hitchhiking, getting picked up and falling asleep in the car.  Admittedly, I was 18 at the time, but I suspect the same thing could happen to a 29-year-old.  I certainly don't think it's out of the realm of possibility.  Jeez, I'm really having to defend my writing today.

Josh

Name:            Janet Synger
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Sure, Josh's dialogue in that scene of "Head Shot" could have been improved, but I think it served its purpose all-in-all. Most scenes could be improved anyway. It'll be interesting to see if Misha can respond to your challenge, Josh: how would you have done the scene differently?

Dear Janet:

I wouldn't have done it any different.  That's how I did it.  Exposition is an important aspect of every script.  If you've got two people sitting in a room having a discussion and you need to make some plot points, you make them with dialog, either subtly or dead on the money, but either way it'll be expository.  More often than not, characters come straight out and tell you what's going to happen, which I don't think is the best way to do it, although I've certainly done it myself.  To me that's like how they handled it on Xena, where Xena would say something like, "There's an evil warlord oppressing the people and I have to go stop him."

Josh

Name:            Misha Tyshkov
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Not to brag, but read it and weep:

SAM
We go back, what, 40-some years?

JOE
That’s right. To '20.

SAM
“The Baptist Bootlegger.”

Joe chuckles.

SAM
Always a man of contradiction, weren’t you, Joe? Catholic sinner. Irish Jew-lover. Rum-running U.S. Ambassador. (snorts) I remember you when the only ambassadorship you held was to Rocco Perri slinging bottles of Candadian Brown across the Atlantic.

JOE
Long, long, long ago.

SAM
Maybe. But no matter how much dough you’ve made, no matter how high you’ve climbed, here you are...just an old crook on his knees, begging another old crook for a favor. Joe is silent for a moment. He clearly doesn't care for that designation. Still, he manages a smile, tempering himself.

JOE
A favor connotes an act that is largely one-sided in who it benefits. You’re a business man, Sam...think of this as a business proposition. One that’ll benefit all parties.

Sam remains unmoved. Joe leans in close and speaks with great passion.

JOE
This is the Presidency of the United States of America--you think helping to net that kind of power goes unrewarded? Business. The highest power in the land, and all the privileges that can be enjoyed along with it. We're not talking a monetary transaction, here, Sam, cops and robbers, hidden hooch and gin mills. Sure, I may be an old crook, but I've come a long way from '20. It's the difference between the pittance of man and the power of God. Joe stands, one of his guards promptly hands him his cane and hat, the other opens the door.

JOE
I’ll leave you to reflect.

Joe slips on his coat with the help of the guard and struts to the door. He turns back to Sam before exiting.

JOE
It comes down to one choice, Sam. You’re either with us, or you’re against us. You could be a bad guy playing on the good guy’s team. Now how’s that for contradictions?

Sam ponders and Joe is gone. A smile slowly creeps up on his face. He likes it--he likes it a lot.

Dear Misha:

First of all, I'm impressed you took the challenge and came up with something.  This puts you far ahead of  the people who come here just to give me shit.  Your rewrite of the scene is interesting, although I don't see how it's one iota less expository.  Also, it's dead on the money with Joe promising Sam a favor, then going on about how big of a favor it is.  This was something I definitely didn't want to do.  Personally, I think the concept of the favor is better left unstated, lurking below the surface of the conversation.  I think it's even lazier to tell the big plot points and not give the audience credit for understanding what's transpiring.  You go to a big mobster and ask for a favor, you owe him, we all understand that.  Certainly both Joe and Sam would understand that.  However, by not coming right out and stating it, this gives Joe a little wiggle room in his own mind for reneging -- no favors were ever discussed, so why does her owe anything?  As a point of fact, which doesn't mean anything to the present discussion, the booze didn't come across the Atlantic, it came across the Detroit River from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, that's why they call it Canadian whiskey.  Also, for whatever it's worth, Joe Kennedy didn't become an ambassador until ten years after being a rum-runner.  Quite frankly, I don't think you've got all that much to brag about, nor me to weep about, but it was an interesting attempt.

Josh

Name:            jj fontaine
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I still disagree. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this point. In my opinion, you have to be someone of substance if you want to play in the same league as the big boys. I don't think this troll is. Are you a fan of Cormac McCartney?

Dear jj:

I've never read any Cormac McCarthy.  I do own a hardcover copy of "All the Pretty Horses," but I've only seen the movie, which was okay.  My buddy Paul, who has good taste, has read a lot of his books and liked them a lot.  As with many writers, Paul thinks that the best aspect of McCarthy's writing is his prose, which doesn't translate to the screen.  We'll see how "The Road" turned out.

Josh

Name:            Alex Markman
E-mail:           

Dear Josh,

I am a film student at UCLA. I've always admired Sam Rami's work and through his films found yours. My favorite is LUNATICS which I think is a truly authentic, original vision. Hank and Nancy are two of my favorite characters and as a poet and filmmaker myself I really relate to them and you. As a screenwriter, I was wondering if you might shed some light on your experience selling Cycles--well really, more the AFTER-PERIOD of selling Cycles. Why weren't you or your agent able to capitalize on the heat that was surely generated from the sale? Wasn't it in the heyday of the spec selling period too? I would think at least you could have gotten some jobs or rewriting work, no?

Best,
Alex

Dear Alex:

I didn't have an agent at that time, and no heat that I knew of was generated.  Had the script been produced that would be a different story.  Nor was it a big money sale.  Had there been some sort of bidding war that ran the price up to a half million or more, then there would have been some heat.  As far as Hollywood was concerned it was just a minor little deal in a town full of deals.  Generating "heat" is a much more difficult thing to achieve than one might suspect.  Getting anywhere in Hollywood is a lot more difficult than most folks realize.  I had eight agents over a 20 year period and none of them ever got me a deal.  Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed "Lunatics."

Josh

Name:            Misha Tyshkov
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I have to disagree with you, JJ and say that Abe was right in leveling the expository dialogue criticism at Head Shot. Here is a perfect example from the beginning of the script as Sam and Joe are talking over iced tea: Sam: I've known you a long time, Joe. Since back when we were both bootleggers during prohibition. I bought a lot of Canadian whiskey from you and it was always top-quality, and you always delivered when you said you would. I respect that. So I believe what you tell me. These guys have known each other for years and have done business. They would speak in a short-hand, Sam would not need to reiterate to Joe that he sold him Canadian whiskey (besides, there would probably be a slang term for it anyway) and they certainly would not refer to themselves as "bootleggers during Prohibition." This seems to me to be lazy, expository writing. You see the writer putting the words in their mouths not the characters actually saying these things. Just my two cents.

Dear Misha:

I still don't disagree with the criticism, but Abe offered it in a friendly, constructive way, whereas you're being a tad insulting.  Anyway, Sam Giancana and Joe Kennedy only knew each other slightly and did some business in the 1920s and this scene takes place in 1959, so it's not like they're close or good buddies.  And by the way, "bootlegger" is a slang term.  But instead of calling me lazy, and in lieu of a flashback, what would you have done differently so that it wasn't quite so expository?

Josh

Name:            Travvy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

What's with the "Directing From The Edge" subtitle? Like a bad title for a sequel. Speed 2: Cruise Control. Josh Becker DGA: Directing From The Edge. Lose it.

Dear Travvy:

Lose it?  Who asked you?  How about eat a bowl of shit.

Josh

Name:            Kristie
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I caught "Two Lovers" the other night. It's a traditionally structured Hollywood film adorned so beautifully that I kept getting worried the picture would fall into the listless independent film indulgence that comes so easily from movies with a similar aesthetic. But no, it remains strong and sure throughout. Great score too. Just passing a recommendation along. And when's "Going Hollywood" coming out?

Dear Kristie:

Thanks for the recommendation.  Regarding "Going Hollywood," I'm told it will be available any day now.  Nothing seems to move quickly these days.

Josh

Name:            jj fontaine
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

The guy who is criticising your script sounds like another troll. What has he ever done that's so great? What movies has he written that he has a right to criticise you? I hate idiots like this.

Dear jj:

You've got it entirely wrong.  That was perfectly legitimate criticism -- something I have no problem hearing -- given in a completely respectful way.  Not to mention that what he said was true, the dialog in that script is very expository, and that's an issue worthy of discussion to screenwriters.  That's one of the reasons this website, and particularly this Q&A, exists -- to discuss the concepts of screenwriting.  He has as much right to critique my writing, which I've put on display for all to read, as I do being critical of all the movies I see.  I've dealt with this issue many, many times over the years, although generally in the other direction -- who am I to be critical of say Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino?  I'm just bitter because they're more successful than me.  No, I'm just the poor schmuck watching their movies, and I get to say anything I want to say.  When you put your work out there for anyone to see, you're asking to be judged, and you'd better be ready for both positive and negative comments.

Josh

Name:            Abe Giancana
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I read your Kennedy script and enjoyed it thoroughly. If I had to "guess," I'd guess you're not so far off in your thinking. Sam Giancana is a weirdly tragic figure; he certainly deserved his fate, and yet, his transgressions in life were all motivated by a deep and totally American need to succeed. He never demonstrated that he had a conscience, and yet he was anything but sociopathic. When he killed, he killed for a reason (of course, the rational and sane among us will point out that there never is a "reason" to murder anybody, least of all the President of the United States, but if the game of life was poker, the rational and sane among us would be sitting at the penny ante table, while Sam played for much higher stakes). Anyhow, I thought your script was very good and very well researched. It would make a great companion piece to Stone's film. However, since I am very interested in screenwriting myself, and as of late trying very hard to understand what "works" and what does not, I would like to level a critique at you, if you don't mind. You seem to do quite a bit of telling rather than showing and your dialogue seems very on the nose and chock full of exposition. If I know anything about these wiseguys, it's that they rarely said what they meant, as they lived in constant fear of surveillance. What are your feelings on this in general--is the point of dialogue to be realistic, to convey information, etc?

Dear Abe:

You make a valid point, there is a lot of expository dialog in that script.  Of course, when one is showing characters hatching a plot there aren't all that many ways of conveying it.  And all of the set up is based on what people are saying to one another.  Which isn't to say that the script couldn't be better, it probably could.  Dialog has two purposes: create characterization and convey exposition.  I think that characterization is generally more important, although in some cases, like this one, there's a lot of information to get across.  I agree that it's usually better to show something than to tell it.  But if it's irrational to show it, then you have to tell it.  In this story you're not going to get to see the assassination until the end, but absolutely must know how this all came to be.  Another weird aspect of this script, which I don't have in any other script and don't recommend, is that there's no lead character.  It switches from Sam Giancana to Jack Ruby to the assassins.  Doing this is against my basic beliefs in script writing, but I couldn't think of a way around it.  Sometimes you just have to go with how the story develops.  Anyway, I think my script is a lot closer to the truth than Oliver Stone's film, even though I liked "JFK" very much.  He's got his theory and I've got mine.

Josh

Name:            Todd Peissig
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I certainly agree with your view that Religion is Evil. In fact my partner and I have been saying that for years. We think it is by far the most evil force on the planet Earth. What makes it so evil is not even the fact that it make people kill, torture, hate, discriminate, etc. but that it does so under the guise of this wonderful, moral and peaceful institution which it convinces its' followers. One quick point I need to make, however, concerns the paragraph where you talk about the Catholic sex scandals with little boys and then in the next sentence mention homosexuality. We have to be very careful here not to continue to promote the misconception that pedophelia and homosexuality are linked. Being a homosexual myself, I am very sensitive to this non-causal link that is often used as a form of homophobia. Pedophiles do not molest boys because they are homosexual necessarily they molest children for the sake of the power over the weaker child. They may or MAY NOT be homosexual. They are not linked. In fact in mainstream society 85% of all pedophilia is men molesting little girls. Thanks for the great letter.

Dear Todd:

I certainly didn't mean to make that connection.  Homosexuality is not the issue, it's absurd religious doctrine combined with the ridiculous practice of celibacy.  You never hear about ministers or rabbis molesting children because they're not forced to be celibate, which is a truly evil abomination.  Taking this a step further, I don't trust any "holy" person, be they priests, rabbis, ministers, mullahs or anything else.  They're all selling a shabby bill of goods.  They're certain of things that they know may very well not be true.  Nobody knows what happens after you die.  Nobody.  To pretend that you do makes you a liar.  Even Buddhism, which I think has a very interesting and useful philosophy behind it, still has a whole voodoo bullshit side to it regarding reincarnation.  There's just as much chance of being reincarnated as there is of going to heaven or hell, going to Valhala, or ending up on Mt. Olympus.  It's all bullshit.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I loved Doubt. I believe it and Milk were the two best films of last awards season ... granted, Milk has it's issues, but I still enjoyed it. Have you seen Milk? Regarding Doubt, if I had any problem with that movie at all, it'd be with Amy Adams, who I like, but she came across as maybe a little too fake. Like she took the idea of "nice nun" and went way to far with it. That's not enough to make me dislike the film, but she could have done better I thought. I liked how no real questions ever got answered in the film. But I love that kinda story. That's why I liked David Mamet's Oleanna so much too ... no real answers are ever given. Do you have a theory, for Doubt, on whether or not Hoffman's character was guilty?

Dear Jeremy:

I don't think it matters.  The point isn't whether or not he did it, it's that we're left in a state of doubt.  Meanwhile, other than a very good performance by Sean Penn, "Milk" was just okay.  I think the documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk," which "Milk" is based on, was much better.  Harvey Milk himself was a more charismatic character, and the fact that there's so much footage of both Harvey Milk and Dan White leading up to the murder made it really creepy.

Josh

Name:            James Johnson
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Approximately how many scripts does a major studio like Disney purchase a year?

Dear James:

I don't think there is any set number, nor do I think they just buy all that many, either.  Spec scripts went out in the early '09s.  Projects are now generated and writers are hired. 

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Dammit to hell! I was hoping Pirate Radio would be awesome. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite current actors. I thought he was great in both "'Before The Devil Knows Your Dead" and "Doubt." Have you seen "Love Liza?" It's a weird little drama, but Hoffman is really good in it. I found it for cheap at an FYE and I thought it was very good. Kathy Bates is in it as well, and she does a decent job. Not the greatest movie ever made, but worth watching for his performance alone if nothing else.

Dear Jeremy:

"Love Liza" sounds interesting.  Yes, I like Phillip Seymour Hoffman a lot.  It was sad to see him wasted.  And I agree, he was terrific in "Doubt," a film I liked.  John Patrick Shanley knows his theme so clearly it's the title.  I think if all screenwriters were forced to use their theme as their title, movies would get a lot better.  Meanwhile, I just watched "Tony Rome" with Frank Sinatra as a washed up detective.  It's got a nice sense of 1967.  I also watched the 1931 French film "Marius," directed by Alexander Korda.  It was very well made, quite realistic for it's day, and it too has a strong sense of it's time. It's the first film of trilogy by Marcel Pagnol, so now I need to see the next two.  They showed them all on TCM, but I only recorded the first one.

Josh

Name:            Tim
E-mail:           NansemondNative

Good Afternoon Josh.

I want to beat the dead horse a bit too on "The Mist" which was ridiculous and painful to watch. King wrote the story in 1980. It appeared in a collection called "Dark Forces". Maybe it is a coincidence that it appears about the same time as John and Debra's "The Fog" or that it operates on the same premise...What if there is something in that creepy looking fog? If there is then what the hell is it? A ghostly presence or some tentacled interdimensional beast who surfed in with some of his nasty little friends? "The Mist" was a waste of good celluloid and I doubt if you would have gave it a look for more than 5 minutes. Moving forward...I know you like slap-stick and I just stumbled across Mel Brooks "History of the World Part 1" which I found very entertaining.I hadn't seen it since I was a kid and it was on cable. Even "Maude" (Bea Arthur) has a small role in it and is hilarious.

Have a good weekend.
Tim

Dear Tim:

"History of the World" is hit or miss, and mostly miss, but it does have some funny stuff in it.  Mel Brooks as King Louis, "It's good to be king." Cloris Leachman as the French peasant woman, "Dumb scum."  It's certainly one of Mel Brooks' better later movies.  I tried watching "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and it's just terrible.  And the film version of the musical version of "The Producers" was horrible, too.  I hear his new musical version of "Young Frankenstein" isn't very good either.  Oh well, Mel's old.

Josh

Name:             Diana Hawkes
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Great to see traffic has picked up again at your Q&A. One quibble to all the great folks chiming in, and even for Josh's meaty answers, which I'm enjoying - Double space once or twice, folks! I've hit 40 and my eyeballs are not going to let me forget it. The recycling-King topic had me recalling a rather funny scene from Family Guy: We see King sitting in his publisher's office, and clearly King, out of ideas, hasn't even bothered to think of something ahead of time -- Stephen King: "Now for my 300th novel, a couple... is attacked... by a giant lamp monster! Oooh! Aaah! Editor: "You're- you're not even trying anymore, are you?" *Sigh* "When can we have it?" Sounds about right, doesn't it? Hah!

Dear Diana:

Good to hear from you.  Yes, it does sound right, although you do have to give Stephen King credit for being so damn prolific.  Writers like him make it all seem so easy, and writing is anything but that.  I struggle with everything I write, as I believe most writers do.  In 2009 I've written one script and three short stories (so far), and I feel like like I've kicked some ass.  Altogether, though, I probably haven't written 200 pages worth of stuff.  King, on the other hand, probably knocks out at least 1,000 pages worth of stuff every year.  Good or bad, original or recycled, he's certainly a prolific son of a bitch. 

Josh

Name:             Morris Labett
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Do you own/use a cellphone? I'm scared about the radiation and developing brain tumors from them. Seems like it might be a developing problem.

Dear Morris:

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything, nor how my opinion could possibly matter, but yes I do use a cellphone, and no, I don't think about brain tumours.  I've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day since I was 14 so I probably don't need to worry about my cell phone killing me, or global warming, or terrorists taking me out, either.

Josh

Name:             Jeremy Milks
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I've seen The Mist, and I thought at best it would have been a great short film, or episode of some anthology horror series, but as a feature there wasn't enough to it. I did like the ending however, I just thought a lot of the movie was filler, and it felt like filler, so I couldn't get into it. I do remember liking Thomas Jane in the movie though. And Marcia Gay-Harden played a believable religious bitch zealot. I wouldn't waste my time on it if I were you.

Dear Jeremy:

Speaking of filler, I saw "Pirate Radio" last night.  Three-quarters of the movie is DJs playing classic rock songs, intercut with various people around England lisening and dancing.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is utterly wasted.

Josh

Name:             Not Johnny Gallagher
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Why didn't you post my Johnny Gallagher link? I thought it was damn funny, and figured so would you and your readers. I'll try one more time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wI0cJUGA0E Come on, if that's not the funniest Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Al Pacino and Rocky BalBOLA you've ever seen I don't know what is.

Dear NJG:

You're fuckin' kidding, right?  The guy's not a bad impersonator, he's just not funny.  At all.

Josh

Name:             Kevin
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Adding to the Stephen King recycle bin, he wrote that wonderful segment for CREEPSHOW about alien plants that grow all over everything with water... including him. Some years ago, he tried an experiment called "Weeds"(I think) where he re-used this concept and published it online chapter by chapter. People who read it were supposed to mail $1 for it if they downloaded it. If the count downloaded vs. count paid didn't reach a certain percentage, Stephen King would simply stop writing the story. The experiment failed.

Dear Kevin:

I must disagree regarding "Creepshow" which I thought stunk, every episode.  Interestingly or not, the script for "Creepshow" sat around our old offices for a couple of years before it finally got made.  The interstitial parts between the episodes I found highly amusing, and they were all turned into nothing in the film.  King gave the garbage men who find the comic books in the trash their own language -- "comig boogs, m'kids lovem."  Anyway, I thought the film was complete failure. 

Josh

Name:             Blake Eckard
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I too liked "The Mist" and was pleasantly surprised at how effective it was, for what little noise the film made. "Misery" I think is tremendous, and I have no problem with, nor do I buy Josh's claim that it's improbable that a writer would work on a typewriter. For one thing, the film came out in 1990. Totally possible. Larry McMurtry still only writes on a typewriter. I really think that having a problem with the film based upon the idea that a writer would never write the first draft of his book on a typewriter is really quite trite and searching. I find the overall film just marvelous. Josh, it's set up...you either buy it or you don't...and since it's so minimal of an aspect in terms of the film, how on earth can that stop you from being involved, heavily, in the nightmarish goings ons that later come? I don't think I can seriously buy that as a problem in such a marvelously produced picture like "Misery" where they could have gone wrong so many places, but didn't. Anyway, I'm curious if you hold any thoughts on Robert Bresson? (Talk about a change of subject!) I can't recall any talk of him here, which probably means something. I've recently (few years ago) discovered him and think he's a real master. Both a deep thinker and a great craftsman...who apparently insisted on shooting, everything, with a 50mm lens, which is pretty wild. A friend says Orson Welles hated Bresson, and perhaps that explains this clip, where ol' Orson clearly doesn't shake Bresson's hand in presenting him with his BEST DIRECTOR award at Cannes (which was shared with the, in my view, way, way overrated Andrei Tarkovsky...who's hand Orson heartily shakes). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8qxiwhuD3g

Blake

Dear Blake:

Whoa, partner.  I didn't say I didn't like "Misery," I just said I didn't buy the one and only draft concept.  I thought it was a stretch, but I went with it.  As far as I recall, it wasn't supposed to be the first draft, it was supposed to be the final draft, meaning there were earlier drafts.  The old adage is, "Writing is rewriting," which is true for me, and I imagine it's true for most writers.  Anyway, I went with it because it's crucial to the story.  Regarding Robert Bresson, I've only seen "Lancelot du Lac," which I thought was beautifully lit by the late great Ghislain Cloquet ("Love and Death," "Mickey One," and he won an Oscar for co-photographing Polanski's "Tess"), but I found it dreadfully boring -- non-actors delivering dialog in a monotone -- to the point where I was ready to scream.  It seemed to me there were many shots of character's feet.  Also, when it got to the jousting, he only photographed the horse's feet.  From my perspective of a filmmaker, I think limiting yourself to only using a 50mm lens is ridiculous.  The excuse may be that it's the closest to the human eye, but I don't even believe that.  I think the human eye is closer to 40mm.  To me that's like a carpenter saying, "I only use a pliers, never a hammer or a wrench."  That may be your own unique approach, it's just not a good one.  I know that "Diary of a Country Priest, " "Pickpocket" and "Au Hazard, Balthazar" are very highly regarded and I'd like to see them.  I know you're a fan, and acquianted with, Jon Jost, and I found his films to be similarly boring.  Perhaps both Bresson and Jost's films are simply over my head, but I doubt it.

Josh

Name:             Andrew Escalante
E-mail:           

Dear Josh,

My mom got me a dvd collection of the tv show called ONE STEP BEYOND for chanukkah and I never saw or heard of it. She said it reminded her of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which I like. Have you seen it? Do you have any favorite episodes? Is it just a bad ripoff of stuff like that and OUTER LIMITS?

Dear Andrew:

"One Step Beyond" was on at the same time as "Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits."  It was the lamest of the three shows and was never scary.  If I recall correctly, it leaned more toward "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (which was much better), going for ironic endings as opposed to any kind of horror.  Rising through the thick fog of my memory, the host was John Neufeld, or something like that.

Josh

Name:             spieler
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

have u ever taught film school?

Dear spieler:

No, but I almost did twice.  The first time was in L.A. in 2001.  I was approached by the UCLA extension folks, which would have been a cool gig, but I had already made plans to leave L.A. and move to Oregon, so I couldn't take it.  Flash forward to 2008 when I was offered a job teaching film history at the Michigan Motion Picture Institute.  Sadly, after I'd prepared my syllabus and was all ready to do it, they canceled.  The guys who run the school said that most of the students there had never heard of Stanley Kubrick.  How can you possibly be a filmmaker if you haven't heard of, let alone seen any films by, Stanley Kubrick?  It's ridiculous.

Josh

Name:             jj fontaine
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

The Mist is an entertaining B-movie, kind of like the Darabont co-scripted 1980s The Blob. He is far too kind to the King text, which is superior in its medium, but when spoken aloud, most of his dialogue comes off as trite, unrealistic, and extremely "written." It's weird, King is a lot like his hero Ray Bradbury in that regard--Bradbury's a poet when it comes to prose, but his dialogue is dreadful! King's tends to work in the context of his stories, but inevitably when he writes the screenplay--or someone adapts his work too closely--the chinks in the armor show like a mother fucker. Also, the end of the film The Mist--which I won't spoil for you or anyone else--takes the haunting open ending of the story and gives it a bizarre and pointlessly ironic conclusion...it's one of the most perplexing, frusterating, stupid fucking endings I've ever seen. King endorsed it, but I think he was just being kind to Darabont (this new ending was the make or break dealpoint for Darabont, who passed up a 40 million dollar budget to make the movie for 18 just so he could retain this illogical ending of his own concoction). Glad you got to hit up Eddie Brandt's while you were out here. That place blows my mind. I watched The Savage is Loose, starring and directed by George C. Scott from the mid-70s. It's about a father, mother, and young son who get shipwrecked on an abandoned island, and how as the years go on, the father gets old and weak, and the son grows and becomes strong, and eventually decides he wants to claim the one woman on the island (his mother) as his own. They sure don't make 'em like that anymore...in fact, I'm pretty sure they never did!

Dear jj:

That's two votes against the ending of "The Mist."  Didn't King already do this story with that knuckleheaded Barry Levinson movie, whose title my brain refuses to remember?  And it sounds similar to his new book about a dome over a city.  At this point it seems like King has minimally recycled every one of his ideas twice, and some three times or more.  I thought he was going to retire.  What happened to that?  Clearly, he's just addicted to writing, which I appreciate, and doesn't seem to care what he writes anymore.  I bailed out on his books 25 years ago, and it seemed like he'd run out of ideas then.

Josh Becker

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

Dear Josh:

Re: 'THE MIST' ~ I think Frank Darabont understands Stephen King's strength is characterization, and he manages to capture some of it in his films; HOWEVER . . . 'THE MIST' has the worst ending of any King adaptation ever made,( without spoiling it ) it's supposed to be 'shocking' but I could not believe the lead character would do what he did. It's also completely opposite the novella's ending, which closes on a note of (small) hope. I thought 'Dolores Claibourne' was pretty good, although a little long ( aren't they all?) Has anyone mentioned 'Salem's Lot'? I thought the original TV movie was great ( for TV horror.) The novel is one of my favorite King books, and I think Paul Monash did an excellent teleplay. One of the most overlooked King films is 'Hearts in Atlantis', which has strong acting from Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, David Morse and a young Anton Yelchin ( a.k.a. New Chekov); and a solid script by someone named William Goldman: keep an eye on this kid, he may be going places. It's one of King's more sentimental stories, and it made a lovely little movie ( so go ahead and slag it, see if I care!)

Dear Raoul:

Another country heard from.  I only saw "Salem's Lot" once, when we were down in Tennessee shooting "Evil Dead," and I thought it was very poorly directed.  Was it Tobe Hooper?  Anyway, I found the whole affair rather clunky.  I do remember the great James Mason as the vampire, but the two leads, whoever they were, seemed weak.  "Delores Clairbourne" seemed okay at best, and I bailed out on "Hearts of Atlantis," so I can't really comment.  Paul Monash, by the way, produced "Carrie," as well as "Slaughterhouse-Five."

Josh 

Name:             Anthony Palmer
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Have you seen Frank Darabont's "The Mist"? I think it is the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel in years. Though it is essentially a monster movie, Darabont takes the story and its characters very seriously, which is quite unusual in the horror genre today. My only gripe is that it moves at a somewhat leisurely pace, but I assure you it is a very satisfying and effective film.

Dear Anthony:

I haven't seen it.  I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Josh

Name:             Henry
E-mail:           

Dear Josh,

Getting back to Stephen King, I thought that "Misery" was very good. Kathy Bates is terrific in it, Meathead's direction is competent, and I found the whole situation to be weirdly plausible and unsettling. What if some psycho fan held you prisoner and forced you to burn your only copy of a screenplay you considered your masterpiece... that would kind of suck, wouldn't it? Another good one is "Stand By Me" (two for Meathead). I thought it was very well acted by the young cast, and it was interesting to see Keifer Sutherland and John Cusack turn up in small roles. But it's not your typical King story. I thought "The Green Mile" would've been good had it not been stretched out for three hours for no good reason. Another one I always kind of liked, but that rarely ever gets any attention, is George A. Romero's adaptation of "The Dark Half". I know you and I most likely differ on this, but I thought it had an intriguing story, a writer's pseudonym coming to life, and I always found it creepy. Not great, but I kind of like it. I also sort of liked King's miniseries "Rose Red", which is not based on a book of his, it's actually a teleplay he wrote as a pseudo-remake of "The Haunting". In fact, it was Steven Spielberg who initially hired him to write it (Spielberg of course produced a very crappy "Haunting" remake, but not from King's script) It has its share of spooky moments. Those are the only King adaptations I can think of, aside from the ones already mentioned. Most of the movies based on his work are complete dogshit. By the way, I actually recommended "Eastern Promises" to you when I first wrote in to this site, way back in January of 2008. Glad you liked it.

Dear Henry:

So it was you who recommended "Eastern Promises."  Then the brick ought to be thrown at you.  Man, that fight in the steam room with Viggo Mortenson naked is one helluva piece of fight choreography.  You've got to wonder how the blades didn't look fake, yet they weren't really cutting him.  Getting back to good old Stephen King, I liked "Misery," too, although I didn't buy one of the basic elements of the plot, which was him only having the one copy of his new book.  That's a real stretch in the age of computers.  Even if he still used a typewriter, which I doubt, are we supposed to believe that he only writes one draft and it's finished?  Anyway, it's still a good movie.  As you mentioned, "The Green Mile" is way too long, like by an hour.  When moths flew out of the big dude's mouth they lost me.  I know everybody jumped up and down about "Stand By Me," but I wasn't moved, I thought it was drawn out, and it's not as good as the story.  I never saw "Rose Red" or "The Dark Half."  Another King apation that hasn't been mentioned, perhaps because it's a TV mini-series and not a movie, is "The Stand," which I thought was pretty good, but once again, not nearly as good as the book.

Josh

Name:             Abe Giancanna
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

One more question, if you don't mind. I'm very interested in the subject of JFK and his assassination and see you have written a script. I read your blurb and it sounds intriguing so I will probably read it in the near future. But would you mind just throwing out there the general theory you're putting forth as to the who/why? (Mafia, Castro, CIA, etc?)

Dear Abe:

Ah-ha!  You are related to Sam Giancanna.  The theory I'm following is that Sam Giancanna was behind it all, based on being betrayed by Joe Kennedy, after Sam went to the trouble of securing the election of JFK.  Once JFK was in power, due to Sam getting him the votes in Illinois and West Virginia, John and Bobby turned on the mafia, brought them before the Senate, and tried to indict all of them.  I'm saying that Joe Kennedy went to Sam Giancanna for a favor, then wouldn't return it.  My own addition to this theory is that part of the mafia's plan to assassinate JFK is to pin it on the CIA and let them cover it up.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Josh

Name:             Abe Giancanna
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Hi again, I really appreciate that you update everyday and make time for everyone's questions. I was reading your essays on structure and found them interesting. One point that I'm very interested in is your belief that Act I and Act II must end with the protagonist having no recourse. Do you mean he can't turn to anyone for help and must solve the problem himself? If so, why should each act end this way?

Dear Abe:

Are you related to Sam?  If so, you ought to read my screenplay, "Head Shot."  Anyway, it doesn't matter how the protagonist deals with their issue, just that they have it.  The reason that Acts I & II end that way is to compel you to keep watching.  Dramatic one-hour TV shows have to do it three times, since they work in four acts.  Using my favorite example, "Bridge on the River Kwai," at the end of Act I, Col. Nicholson has won his battle with Col. Saito to not have his officers work on the bridge and agrees to build the bridge in a proper fashion.  Now what is he going to do?  Build the bridge properly, thus aiding and abetting the enemy?  Sabotage the construction?  What?  You need to keep watching to find out.  At the end of Act II the bridge is finished and the demolition team has arrived and mined the bridge.  Is the bridge going to be used to transport enemy soldiers and equipment?  Will the demolition team actually blow it up?  You must keep watching to find out.  As another example, in "Rocky" Act I ends with him taking the world championship heavyweight title fight, even though he's only "a ham and egger."  Is he really going to fight the champ?  Can he possibly get into shape in time?  Or will he back out and continue being the loser everyone thinks he is?  Act II ends with Rocky's realization that no matter what he does he can't beat the champ, so that can't be his goal.  With that in mind he lowers his hopes to just going the distance so he won't be "just another bum from the neighborhood."  In all good scripts this is how it works.  If you understand this concept, then you know what you're aiming for with each Act.  Act I -- set up the issue to the point of no return; Act II -- confront the issue to a point of no return; Act III -- resolve the issue.  If you have a story that you can logically break up into three acts, then you'll have a rational script that functions properly.

Josh 

Name:             jj fontaine
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

As an ex-LAer and movie buff did you ever go to eddie brandt's video store in studio city? they have like 10,000 movies that you can't find anywhere else including stuff they taped off the tv in the 80s.

Dear jj:

Sure, I went into Eddie Brandt's a few times over the years.  Whole lotta titles.

Josh

Name:             Jeremy Milks
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I've read the book too, and admittedly, the book is better, but like all Stephen King books it has it's slow patches. I thought the movie was a very good adaptation of the book though. It's not the greatest King movie (That's Kubrick's The Shining) but I still enjoy it. It could have been better, I suppose, and Lambert almost ruined anything that was good about Pet Sematary with her horrendous Pet Sematary 2. As much as I do like the first movie, I think she's better suited to direct Madonna music videos.

Dear Jeremy:

You bring up an interesting topic -- favorite Stephen King film adaptions.  For me it's no question "Carrie," which was the very first one.  I think it's Brian DePalma's best movie, where his flamboyant style perfectly matched the material.  It has an absolutely terrific cast with Sissy Spacek giving the performance of her life and getting an Oscar nomination, young John Travolta, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, and Piper Laurie giving a chilling performance and also getting an Oscar nomination.  Not to mention is has lush, gorgeous photography and brilliant score.  The film is better than the book, and is probably the only example of that in Stephen King's career. 

Next for me would be "The Shining," not that it's really a great adaption of the book (which I really, really liked), but almost entirely because it's Stanley Kubrick, one of the great filmmakers of all time, as well as Jack Nicholson pulling out all the stops.  To me it's a film that can be watched over and over again because it's so brilliantly made.  Stephen King isn't the star; Stanley Kubrick is, and that's probably why King doesn't like it.

Then "Shawshank Redemption," which is nearly as good as Stephen King's brilliant little novella, but not quite.  King's horrifyingly detailed description of crawling through the sewer pipe to escape is the pay-off to the whole story, and it was just too far into the movie to go into it in any detail, so Frank Darabont just brushed over it quickly.  Nevertheless, the film is an incredibly solid piece of craftsmanship with just the right tone, very believable performances, and beautiful Roger Deakins photography.  Why didn't Frank Darabont continue making films of this caliber?  Odd.

Next would be "The Dead Zone," one of my favorite David Cronenberg movies, along with "Eastern Promises" (Uh-oh, look out, I might get a brick thrown at me).  The car wreck at the beginning blew my mind, and the part is a perfect fit for Chistopher Walken.  This happens to be one of the Stephen King stories that's absolutely going somewhere and leading to a conclusion.

There are my picks.

Josh

Name:             Lee
E-mail:           

Hey Josh

Congratulations on the historical landmark status! I think your stoic response is the right one re: directors being recruited from commercials and music videos. That's the way it is! I think the crux of the matter, for me, is THIS: I don't wanna live in London. Yep, that gets right to the nub of the situation. I used to think, as a younger man, that I could get into films with my screenplays. I got close, once, with the BBC. But no cigar. And, to be fair, my screenwriting did get me an agent and some gigs writing for episodoic TV. But, again, I had to take days off from my day job to take meetings in London and Manchester. Anyway, I guess what I\'m thinking right now is this: getting into the film industry is a young person's game. Cos they'll put up with a lot more inconvenience in lifestyle. Sorry, Josh, these are really random thoughts strung togther in this post!

Lee :-)

Dear Lee:

I agree with you, movies now are a young person's game, which is one of the major reasons they're not very good anymore.  Making movies is an extremely difficult task, and in my opinion, the more experience you have the better.  I know that I'm a much better director now than I was when I was 25 and making my first feature.  I learned a lot more on my second and third features, but I didn't really become comfortable with directing until Xena, when I was already 38.  It was then that I finally stopped getting all stressed out and developed the attitude of, "Throw anything at me, I'll handle it, you can't freak me out."  That's why I worked as much as I did and became the go-to guy when the scripts were particularly fucked up.  Whatever they gave me I handled, and I generally made a much better episode than anyone expected.  That's experience at work, and there's no way a 25-year-old can have that.

Josh

Name:             Vincent Price
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

http://www.cinematical.com/2009/11/18/why-roger-corman-doesnt-deserve-an-oscar/#comments This fucktard should quit while he's behind. Thanks for your opinion. And yes--I am aware of a certain actor with the same name as mine...that's because I'm him. And I'm standing over your shoulder right now... Mu-hah-hah!

Dear Vince:

About 25 years ago I was trying desperately to make the feature version of my short film, "Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter."  My partner at the time, Scott Spiegel, and I really wanted Vincent Price for one of the parts.  I ended up speaking with his agent, Paul Kohner, a couple of times.  To make the six degrees of separation connection, Paul Kohner was William Wyler's good buddy with whom he immigrated to America in the early 1920s.  Probably 30 years ago, very early one morning, after staying out all night, me and a friend of mine were walking up Sunset Blvd., just west of the Sunset Strip, and came upon a tipped over trash can.  It was full of correspondence from various movie actors, like Ingrid Bergman, addressed to Paul Kohner.  Me and my friend looked around and realized we were right outside Mr. Kohner's office.  I still don't know why I didn't take some of the letters, other than I was probably trashed at the time.  Anyway, having spoken with Mr. Kohner puts me two degrees of separation from: Vincent Price, William Wyler and Ingrid Bergman.

Josh

Name:             Jeremy Milks
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

It's weird to see my name pop up on here from time to time still. It's kinda scary really. Did I make a big enough ass out of myself that I'll forever be linked to BeckerFilms.com now? Man, oh man, how I wish I could take off a lot of what I said back in the day. I still like most of the movies I defended, but I don't like how I defended them. I apparently got kinda trollish. To hop in on the Stephen King debate, I agree, most of his best movie adaptations weren't written by him, but what do you think of Pet Sematary? He wrote the script for that and I thought it was a very good movie. It had a mild level of creepiness running throughout the whole thing, and Fred Gwynne was great. Also, I thought the whole Pascal/Pax-cow stuff was creepy. And, even though he was an evil, undead, cat, I still felt bad for Church when he was put down while eating that steak. But I'm a cat lover ... even if they're evil. Opinions, good sir!

Dear Jeremy:

Welcome back.  I guess you made enough of an impression that it still hasn't worn off.  By the time I read "Pet Sematary" I was weary of Stephen King, although I admit that it did have it's moments.  As I vaguely recall, the movie really seemed like a complete piece of crap, and luckily has mostly exited my head.  The film was critically shit on at the time of its release (Maltin gives it a BOMB, which may be going a bit overboard, but not by much), and it seemed like it deserved it.  The director, Mary Lambert, who had one brief second in the sun, didn't end up with much of a career, either.  I think "Pet Sematary" backs up my claim that King isn't much of a screenwriter.

Josh

Name:             Rob
E-mail:           info@bookofthedead.ws

Hi Josh,

I run UK Evil Dead fansite; www.BookOfTheDead.ws, and made a couple of posts a week or so back about the Super-8 shorts. I wanted to ask if it would be possible to please do an email/phone-interview with you for the site? I've already interviewed Tim Quill, and am currently in contact with Cheryl Guttridge. Although The Evil Dead trilogy has been very extensively covered over the range of books, there is far less known about the earlier Super-8 shorts. I and many others would be really interested to hear from you.

Kind regards,
Rob.

Dear Rob:

It would be my pleasure.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:         

Josh,

I haven't chimed in for a while, but I have been reading your new posts here which has now made me chime in. I have to clarify something in one of your more recent posts about the RED ONE camera. Sony does not own the RED company nor the camera. The company and idea for the camera is the brainchild of Jim Jannard who started the Oakley eyewear and apparel company. His goal was to create break into this market with a camera that was on the more affordable end, but had the best quality above and beyond HD. RED ONE is a very popular camera for a variety of reasons I won't go into here, but it is also unique as it shoots on to it's own proprietary file format (R3D files uncompressed) and it is tapeless. It's chip sensor is also the equivalent of Super 35mm and it can shoot in 4k resolution. I have now shot one project with the camera as well as edited two shorts that were shot with the camera. I won't go into all the specifics as that is for another longer and more in depth post, but the reason the RED ONE camera is so revolutionary and a headache at the same time is that Jannard created a camera that is of a professional level, but has it's own proprietary work flow that everything else on the post end had to adapt to. It was a pain in the ass for a while because there was no great way to convert the R3D files and import them into Avid of Final Cut Pro. Also they keep updating the firmware for the camera because it is still evolving and this has created a lot of problems. Things have gotten better overtime and now the work flow is much easier in general, but there is still room for improvement. I will only say this about high end digital cameras over Film and that is digital is no film and you have to do things to it to achieve a certain look or looks that is different from film. Somethings workout to your advantage and somethings do not. Cost has played a big factor over the shooting film vs digital, but that certainly should not be the deciding factor when choosing your format. Episodic television is the place that is seeing a lot of transition from shooting film to going digital and much of that is based on cost, yet, I am not sure the networks are really saving a heap of money in the end. It is a very interesting time in our industry and the scales are tipping rather quickly now with digital over film acquisition. I will always prefer film hands down and 35mm is still the best for me, but it really depends on the project. I shot a short on 35mm this past summer and when compared to the things I have shot on high end HD or even the RED ONE camera, there really is no comparison to me. It just has a look that you really can't quite put into words.

Dear Scott:

Good to hear from you again.  Thanks as always for your technical clarification, as well as your wisdom from hands-on experience.  I actually did know that Sony didn't own the Red Camera, but I made a mistake.  Such things even happen to a super-brain like myself.  I personally have never shot with the Red camera, but I only hear good things about it.  I did shoot with one of Sony's high-end digital cameras last year and it was a total pain in the ass.  It was heavier than a film camera, clunky, poorly balanced which made hand-held shots extremely difficult, and this horseshit of having to recalibrate the camera every time you change lenses, which takes 10-15 minutes -- something, I believe, that's common to all high-end digital cameras at this juncture -- is absurd.   You quickly get to the point where you don't change lenses, but simply put on the zoom and leave it on.  Well, I much prefer prime lenses over a zoom, so that's a big issue.  I'm attempting to put together another SyFy Channel movie (with my buddy Gary Jones), and they still prefer 35mm.  So do I, but honestly, I'll shoot on whatever format is acceptable. 

Josh

Name:             Lee
E-mail:         

Hey Josh

I know you and Sam R aren't joined at the hip (!)... I only use this next tidbit as an example: I read on-line that Sam Raimi has hired a commercials director to direct a horror film. WHAT IS IT WITH COMMERCIAL DIRECTORS BEING FETED FOR THEATRICAL MOVIES? (Ah, feel better after venting!!!) Seriously, films aren't JUST photography, are they? WHAT ABOUT STORY?!? Like you said, showiest is best! (Have you ever been tempted by the comemrcials route earlier in your career?) To be fair, sometimes a 30 second TV spot can be cinematic, and have strong visuals. But when was the last time you heard great dialogue or character interaction in a TV ad?!? It just depresses me!

Leepy

Dear Lee:

Sam will do what Sam will do.  He's hired a lot of directors in his day -- including me many times -- so he must have some clue what he's doing.  Since short films and most low-budget features don't get released anymore, commercials and music videos are now the training ground for directors.  It's like that, and that's the way it is.  Meanwhile, as a little side note, the office where Sam, Bruce, Rob Tapert, Scott Spiegel and I started off, in Ferndale, Michigan, nearly 30 years ago, has been deemed an "Historical Landmark."  Now I know for sure I've been around a long time.

Josh

Name:             Vincent Price
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

http://www.cinematical.com/2009/11/17/oscars-2010-presenters/ I don't know your feelings about Roger Corman--I suspect you're highly critical of at least 99% of his stuff--but I hope you recognize his vital contribution to cinema unlike the ignorant asshole who wrote this "blog." I, for one, think Corman's honorary Oscar is well deserved.

Dear Vincent:

You may not realize this, but there was a famous actor with your same name.  Regarding Roger Corman, of whose work I am 99% critical, absolutely deserves the honorary Oscar.  He's been an important part of the film industry for nearly 60 years.  As far as I'm concerned, the bottom end of a business is every bit as important as the top end; one doesn't exist without the other.  With his Poe series, all written by the great Richard Matheson, Roger Corman directed the best films that American International Pictures ever made, several of which are classics -- "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "Masque of the Red Death," photographed by Nicholas Roeg.  Although most of Corman's own productions are nothing to get excited about, he started off more important careers than anyone in post-1960 Hollywood: Francis Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, James Cameron, Joe Dante, John Sayles, Jonathan Demme, Monte Hellman, on and on.  Roger Corman deserves his Oscar as much as anyone.

Josh

Name:             Warren McG
E-mail:         

Hey Josh,

Longtime reader, first-time poster. I've been checking your site daily for the last 5 years ever since I saw Running Time and as long as I've been here, there has been a mostly steady, only sometimes infrequent, stream of cleverly written but ultimately baseless hate posts--I submit that there's no way you can have this many haters and that there is a certain pattern to the writing itself. I submit, this Nancy is the same person who has been writing in time from time to get your blood boiling. I actually think that "Nancy" has writing skills, always a witty comeback, and that said, I challenge her/him to use that intelligence to actually debate Josh on a film or several films or film theory or whatever the agreed upon subject is in a REAL way. Thoughts?

Dear Warren:

I heartily disagree with "always a witty comeback."  Generally, the retorts are nothing but negative obfuscation -- avoiding the issue, not being witty, and adding nothing to the discussion.  A troll, as Kevin the webmaster pointed out to me, will NEVER join in the conversation.  A troll's entire purpose and motivation is to be obnoxious.  Period.  "Nancy" or "John DeLancie" (very clever making it rhyme) do not have the intelligence or wherewithal to defend their positions which is why they directly to being offensive.  It's useless challenging an idiot to be smart.

Josh

Name:             Dave Evans
E-mail:         

Josh, stumbled on your blog by accident - and can only congratulate you on your nearly perfectly accurate observations about the place and especially the people and their personalities (or lack of)!! You've wrapped it all up in a few paragraphs, and obviously only been in Sofia for a relatively short time. I'm a Brit married to a Bulgarian 14 years now, we normally visit an apt we keep here 2-3 times a year and I generally (out of convenience) ignore the bizzare attitudes - I'm now here full time on business and it's frying my head !! Can't pretend everything you say's not true any longer and after 15 years back in Manchester I'm desperately trying to stop the "Wife" turning "Local". Whatever the reasons most of them are "Miserable Commy Bastards" ! god Bless USA and Little England. Give us a call if your over again ?

Dear Dave:

I suspect you're referring to my essay "Bulgarian Impressions."  I just wrote it how I saw it, for whatever that's worth.  And I never called anyone a "miserable commie bastard."

Josh

Name:             Rose Halopoff
E-mail:         

Josh:

Thanks for your Hollywood history info. It means a lot to me as I was born and raised in California. Traveling with my family in the late 1930s in a big black square automobile on our way north on Highway 99, I recall seeing a HOLLYWOOD sign to my left with an arrow pointing west. Many times, I wondered what Hollywood really looked like. Then, we moved to Central and Northern California in 1945 and returned to Chino, CA, after seven years. It was now 1952, I graduated from high school and attended Chaffey College in Ontario for one year and ended up in Hollywood the remainder of the 1950s. I worked during the day as a secretary (at one time for Louis Factor at Max Factor Co.) At night, I studied tap and ballet at the Jerry Kosloff Dance Studios across the street from Samuel Goldwyn Studios in addition to taking more college classes. While my first major in college was Theatre Arts, it later changed to Business and Law. In short, I have always worked and gone to school without fail. I did a lot of community theatre as well as appear in three short movie roles - nothing spectacular. I have also been active as a docent at Olvera St. and spent many years at KCET filling in for guest actors, giving tours, and answering telephones during their pledge days. Oh, yes, I also took voice lessons and private drama classes from Sol and Eileen Friedman way back then. The last two scripts I wrote for the stage were in 1982 and 2000; always based on true history. I won first place in 2001 from the California Federation of Women's Clubs for Best Drama for the San Gabriel Valley District. The 1982 play was for the dedication of the Prado Regional Park which was attended by known politicians. Of course, I wrote, produced and directed my plays. As you undoubtedly know, it involved many hours of work. I used to get up in the middle of the night to write my scripts and pace the floor inumerable times. You know the feeling. I retired some years ago (not really). Now I write historical stories for a newsletter in Los Angeles and am working on my book. At the end, I will be buried at "Hollywood Forever" as I bought my plots many years ago. My mother was buried there when it was named "Hollywood Memorial Park." Ironically, the studio where I studied dancing was a couple of blocks west of the cemetery, but I understand it was razed to make way for condos. I need to walk around the town to jog my memory as to the old buildings that were still there in the 1950s and the new ones that went up. Needless to say, my memory is still sharp as though it were only yesterday, but looking at the locations once more can only enhance my trip there.

Dear Rose:

I guess that's the whole story.  Glad to have jogged your memory.

Josh

Name:             Arthur
E-mail:         

Hello, mrs Becker,

I'm from Brazil. You could not make an exception? I'm doing a scientific article about Xena... Please! Sorry to bother you.

Dear Arthur:

Let's take this sentence by sentence.  1.  Mrs Becker is my mother.  2.  An exception to what?  3.  A scientific article about Xena?

You got questions?  Go ahead and ask.

Josh

Name:             Kal
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

Dr. Zhivago... ...thoughts?

 Dear Kal:

I've seen it quite a few times and enjoyed it, but it's certainly lesser David Lean.  It does have a sense of scope, but instead of invigorating me, it ultimately makes me feel weary, like I had to walk across Russia in the snow.

Josh

Name:             Abe Giancana
E-mail:         

Hi Josh,

I'm actually thinking this has been one of the best years of the last decade far as movies go. Maybe there's reason to hope things are turning around. You don't really talk much about movies that are still in the multiplex, is that because you never go? Have you seen Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, or Up yet? There all actually really good and there's a whole bunch of others that are pretty enjoyable too. What do you think about the decision to open up the best picture nominees to ten films this year? I wasn't sure at first but I think it's pretty interesting. There should be a whole range of interesting movies to choose from.

Dear Abe:

Although I could be wrong, which I doubt, "Inglorious Basterds" looks like a steaming pile of dogshit.  From everything I've heard, it sounds like it has a pathetically weak script, no characterization at all, an over-the-top Brad Pitt, and a severely wrongheaded use of music -- I mean, come on, David Bowie's "Putting Out Fire With Gasoline" in a WWII movie?  I wanna barf.  "Star Trek," which looks like it might be moderately fun, and apparently did nail imitating characters (but didn't come up with new ones), from what I've heard also has a weak script and an unimpressive story.  "Up" sounds good, as are most of Pixar's films, although they're not particularly deep or memorable.  I enjoyed "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story," but they're a country mile from being legitimately great films.  Meanwhile, the Academy has been farting around with the number of Best Picture nominees almost from the very beginning of the Oscars.  There were five nominees from 1927-28 through 1930-31 (Oscars used to cover half of one year and half of another).  In 1931-32 they unnecessarily went up to eight, then in 1932-33 they unnecessarily went up to ten.  Ten nominees finally made sense in 1939 when they actually had ten terrific films to nominate.  This practice continued until 1944 when they realized that they really didn't have ten exceptional pictures to nominate and so they went back to five.  It has remained five for the past 65 years.  Movies might possibly have gotten a tad better in the past few years, which I find debatable, but they certainly don't need ten Best Picture nominees.  They haven't been able to find five worthy nominees in decades. 

Josh

Name:             Rick Mcstanzy
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

Do you think there aren't any Hitchcock's, Wyler's, etc simply because of time? In other words, they tackled things first and did it the best back when. Once it's done, it's done and every subject and film technique's been done and done very well at least once. Someone had to do it first and the best and everything will always be compared to the first. As time goes on and more films are made, the less anything seems 'original' and the harder it is for current 'artists' to be original and innovative. Let's face it, 'artists' today have their work cut out for them. In some ways, they're at a disadvantage and it's unfortunate. We never lived in these times. If Orson Welles himself was living in our age trying to make films, he would've missed the opportunity to try things first (and best). He probably would be very good, but he wouldn't be as 'innovative' as he was no matter how great he got. Even if someone does pull off a film as good as Hitchcock, Wyler's, etc. best today, this person still wouldn't be looked at as highly as them, mostly because he didn't do it best first. Even current working filmmakers that have made great films in the past (Coppola, Scorsese) aren't making great films anymore. If they can't pull another great film off, probably no one can. Even if they do make another great film, they won't be held in high regard as their 'classics'. I don\'t think there'll ever be another 'golden age' of film. I think some of the questions are, can films be 'innovative' anymore? Where do we go from here? You can only do so much in film, right? I still think great films can be made, but they'll never be looked at as great as the great ones of the past simply because of time. I hope you know what I'm saying. Just a theory anyway.

Dear Rick:

And an interesting theory, too, except I don't buy it.  Filmmakers are just telling stories: some in a stylish fashion, others in a plain, straight forward fashion, and yet others in an inept fashion, but it's still all stories.  Being innovative is a secondary concept to telling an interesting, involving, compelling tale.  Style ought to come out of the subject.  The reason Alfred Hitchcock was able to keep using the same style over and over again is because he kept telling the same sorts of stories over and over again.  Hitchcock's style fit the suspense genre perfectly.  It certainly didn't fit comedy, so he didn't even bother employing it in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Trouble With Harry."  But I believe that there's far too much emphasis put on innovation these days rather than on pure craftsmanship.  What I love about "Unforgiven" is not the style, of which Clint Eastwood hasn't got much, if any, but the fact that it's an incredibly good script (that he didn't fuck up in development, although he tried and was smart enough to go back to the original), a great cast, and is being handled in such a strong, sure-handed way.  Every decision that Clint made is the right one, and that's the main thing a director does is make decisions all day long.  As John Ford said, if you make better than 50% of the decisions correctly you'll have a good movie.  In the case of the later Scorsese and Coppola films, the biggest problem is weak scripts, and secondarily, weak actors.  Whatever you want to say about Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, they're not Robert DeNiro or Joe Pesci or Harvey Keitel.  DiCaprio and Damon are pretty boys who know how to act, they're not strong screen presences, nor do they even seem like grown men.  Also, to use Martin Scorsese as the example, he has not become more assured in his direction as he's gotten older.  My belief is that he's so afraid of just shooting a scene straight and being branded an old fuddy-duddy that he no longer believes his story is strong enough to carry the film, and in the last 20 years since "Goodfellas," that's been entirely true.  Even in "Casino" where he's got the cast, the material is so much weaker than "Goodfellas" that Scorsese now feels he has to constantly display his technique -- craning around above the characters' heads, flashing back, flashing forward, etc. -- as well as dragging the proceedings out for three hours, that the film is nothing more than a pale, gaudy imitation of his earlier work.  In "The Departed," where he's got weak, pretty boy leads, and a flabby, illogical script, he feels the need to pull out all the stops on his technique and shoots the film like a music video.  What this all boils down to is choice of material, belief in that material, and casting.  Innovation isn't the point; craftsmanship is.  There's no good reason to reinvent the wheel, just make a better wheel.

Josh

Name:             Nate Capp
E-mail:         

Mr. Becker,

I'm sorry for the potential length, but I have a few questions. I'm in the process of prepping a short film for early next year and had been planning on shooting on 16mm. My thinking is that if I expect to get anywhere, I'll need to know to shoot with film and learn how to light it. From what I understand, it's far more difficult to light than digital. Would you say that saving the money is more important than the experience of shooting film at this point (it will be my first short)? Also, when the lab digitizes the negative, do they return the negative with the digital copy? Also, have they figured out a way of archiving digital formats that will last (I know people aren't really concerned about shorts, but I'd like to be able to have it around as long as possible)? I'm reading your Guide to Low-Budget Filmmaking in preparation for shooting and came across something that piqued my interest, but has nothing to do with anything I plan to write or shoot (I printed the book from your website when you had it posted here years ago, so it may have changed. Don't worry, I actually bought Rushes and will buy your next book, so I'm not just in it for freebies). You mention the film 15 Minutes and how killing off the main character leaves the audience hanging for the rest of the film. I know that this is an exception, but what makes it work in Psycho? Is it that it happens at the end of the first act or that Norman Bates is a particularly strong character? Or maybe the film shifts main characters during the dinner in the back room between Norman and Marion? Finally, and you don't have to include this because it comes off a bit whorish, my friend and I just started a film discussion site where we watch classic films we haven't seen on Sundays then talk about them through the week. You probably have better things to do, but I though some of the visitors to your site may be interested. The first screening was Singin' in the Rain. www.sundayscreenings.wordpress.com

Thank you for your time,
Nate

Dear Nate:

"Psycho" really is the exception to the rule, as they're always is.  Killing Marion Crane at the end of act one, then switching to Norman Bates as the lead character is a bold move that Hitchcock and Robert Bloch pull off, but I sincerely don't believe that most filmmakers could do this.  However, "15 Minutes" kills their lead character at the end of act two, which is certain death for a story.  It's one thing to kill the lead character 30 minutes into the story (which I highly don't recommend), but it's a whole other can of worms to do it 75-90 minutes into a story once you've invested that much into the character.  At that late date I'd say it's impossible to switch lead characters, and what you're left with is no lead character, and therefore no POV for the audience to identify with, and that's when the entire audience will lose interest and become bored.  Now let's see . . .  Regarding lighting, the concepts are entirely the same no matter what format you shoot on (this is why you need to buy the published version of "Complete Guide," it has illustrations illuminating, if you will, these concepts).  The only difference between film and digital is that film takes a bit more light, depending on what film speed you choose.  For a very first film, I recommend going digital -- it's cheaper and you can shoot a lot more takes if you need to.  Once you've got all the filmmaking concepts down, then switch to film.  As for getting your negative transferred to digital, of course they give you your negative back.  You need that to conform so you can make your final transfer, or to make prints.  As far as I know, there is still no archivable digital format because no digital format has stuck around for more than 20 years.  The top-end digital format right now is Digital-Beta, which is just a big, expensive video tape that absolutely degrades over time.  My Digital-Beta tape of "If I Had a Hammer" already has glitches in it from just sitting around.  DVDs don't degrade, but nobody says they'll still be in use in 10 years -- the DVD market is rapidly drying up.  The again, nobody says that film will still be in use in 10 years.  I wouldn't worry about it were I you.  Have fun making your movie, and have fun with your chat site.

Josh

Name:             John DeLancie
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

Hi, my name is John DeLancie, and I think your website is awesome. I also think most movies these days suck, except Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Eastern Promises, which are great. I'd like to take a moment to point out how intelligently they are shot and scripted--very good structure. These are definitely well thought out movies.

Thanks,
John DeLancie

Dear (John):

Fuck you you hairy ugly misshapen misbegotten little troll.  You'll have to do a lot better than that to fool me or anyone else here that you actually have a viable, let alone intelligent, opinion.  Go back to the hole under the bridge where you live, pull the dirt in after you, and drop dead.

Love,

Josh

Name:             Mark Sutherland
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese addressed the Blu-Con 2.0 conference as the keynote speaker live via satellite from the Film Foundation offices in New York City. He spoke very positively about the Blu-ray format: "BD's potential to replicate the original theatrical experience is the best I've seen in forty years of [movie] collecting. Blu-ray offers the ability to see the film as it was intended." The most interesting quote he offered, however, was something I HOPE was not lost on the audience of studio executives and mastering engineers on hand. He noted that Blu-ray is capable of displaying "a film grain texture which I think is very important in recreating the film experience."

Dear Mark:

We're at a weird corssroads in the clash of digital and film.  The most popular professional digital camera at the moment is Sony's Red camera.  However, the image is so sharp that it is generally degraded to give it more of a film look.  Although no one could have anticipated it, if an image is too sharp it seems to become less appealing.  In my opinion this is because everything in high-quality digital is in focus, and it's difficult to throw anything out of focus, like foreground images or background images, even on long elnses.  Therefore, many movies are still being shot on film.  Then when you transfer to a high-quality digital image like Blu-Ray it's not offensively sharp.

Josh

Name:             Paul
E-mail:         

Joshula~

I noticed you quoted me as saying Stephen King's teleplay for 'Storm of the Century' was good; if I could clarify: we were talking specifically about his endings, and I said I thought 'Storm' had a very good ENDING, especially strong for a TV movie ( because it's a downer, which may be why I liked it, because I wasn't expecting it at all.) The movie itself is okay; too long and some silly fantasy effects shots, but I do like King's characters. Didn't want anyone getting upset if they rented "Storm of the Century" based on the recommendation of an unknown third person quoted on the Interweb. ( It could happen.)

Dear Paul:

Thanks for the clarification.  We certainly wouldn't want Stephen King to get an extra rental of one of his movies that he doesn't deserve.  The money might go to his head.

Josh

Name:             David R.
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

Who do you like in Pacquiao vs. Cotto?

Dear David:

I like them both.  It's a very even, well-matched fight.  My gut instinct says Manny Pacquiao.

Josh

Name:             Alice Schultz
E-mail:         

Dear Josh,

Yeah but if she's not allowed on here any more, I have to quit while she's ahead. I've had this interesting thought out of this: you can't really ban a person on the Internet. They can just invent a new identity and come back. It turns out all you can ban is behaviour. But that you can ban. *And that's all you need or want to ban.* Isn't that cool? *The Internet is better than real life.*

Cheers,
Alice

Dear Alice:

Since the Q&As don't auto-post, if I just delete it then it doesn't get posted.  If Nancy has the wherewithal to completely change her personality and come back as an intelligent person who cares to participate in the discussion, then her doppelganger is welcome.  I sincerely doubt that she has that ability.  I suspect that if one has that fucked up of a personality there's no hiding it.  I honestly kept thinking that she'd get with the program and join in, but Kevin knew better.  Once a troll, always a troll.

Josh

Name:             Kevin
E-mail:         

Dear Josh:

I don't buy that the troll ever really cared about her argument. That whole Beckerite rant was a joke from the beginning and an obvious giveaway was name dropping Jeremy Milks. Anyone who's been here that long knows the regulars are aware that Josh is broke, rarely gets work, and only sees Sam once in a full moon.

2009 is up

Dear Kevin:

Jesus, does it really look that bad?  At least I have my health.

Josh

Name:             Nancy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

That's cool--gang up on the girl. Alice, you don't count, you may not have a dick, but you certainly act like one. Josh, it's not like you ever have anything intelligent to say, all you do is throw around your opinion. "This movie is shit." "This movie is great." My impersonation of a Josh Becker review: "The writing sucks because there's no structure. The acting sucks. The directing sucks. All movies suck these days unless they're Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which is a masterpiece because it's awesome." And then all your troll fans who have been trashing movies with you all along suddenly come out of the woodwork and say, "Yeah, I just saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and it really is awesome, isn't it?" And you pat their heads like the dutiful dogs they are. I'll get involved in an intelligent discussion when there's one to get involved with. Till then I'll exercise my 1st Amendment right to post here anything I damn well please.

Dear Nancy:

You are a troll and nothing more.  You now have the audacity to pull the sexist card?  You are now officially banned from Beckerfilms.  Is that what you wanted?  Well, you've succeed.  If in fact I have nothing intelligent to say about movies, which is pure crap coming from an obvious moron like yourself, you're nothing more than an internet annoyance without a single intelligent thing to say about anything ever.  My amusement with your ignorance has ended.  Fuck off and drop dead.  Oh, and have a nice day.

Josh

Name:             Trey Smith
E-mail:           

Hi Josh,

Do you think that Super 8mm is still a viable option for learning to shoot on actual film? Obviously, digital video is cheaper and easier, making it a great way to practice. However, having moved from Super 8 to 16mm and 35mm, do you think it prepared you better than DV does for aspiring filmmakers today?

Thanks,
Trey

Dear Trey:

I don't think so.  Nobody cuts or finishes on film anymore (except Steven Spileberg, from what I hear), so even if you shoot on film it gets digitized immediately from the negative, then all the editing and sound work are done digitally, so why not just shoot digital and save the money?  All of the filmmaking concepts are the same either way: you have to write a decent script from which to shoot, you have to shoot it in a fashion that cuts together, you have to stage your action and block the actors movements, you have to inspire the actors to give you good performances.  Were I just starting off I'd shoot digital now.  Shooting super-8 at this point is like writing your script on a typewriter--it's a pain in the ass for no good reason.

Josh

Name:             Kevin
E-mail:           

Dear Josh,

From wikipedia: "In Internet slang, a TROLL is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."

Also known as: Nancy

Dear Kevin:

I had no idea there was actually a term for it.  I'll happily battle hobbits, gremlins or trolls--anything I'm bigger than.  It's the behemoths, gargantuans and leviathans that I don't want anything to do with.

Josh

Name:             Alice Schultz
E-mail:           

Hi, Josh.

Nancy, Lee Price is already published and produced and has an enthusiastic following. The same goes for Josh Becker. When you yourself are making free offers of friendship to newcomers on sites full of strangers from the same point of advantage, you can beech. Till then, you are not a peer, you are a guest. So demonstrate some degree of intelligent insight by showing some respect you excuseless child. And yes, put your money where your mouth is. Substantiate. Your opinions of actual subjects that is, not your personal attacks.

Alice

Dear Alice:

Always good to hear from you.  Thanks for the defense, although I do believe I can defend myself.  Besides, Nancy will now think you're a "Beckerite," which I envision is like a troglodyte--folks who love movies and live in caves.   On the cave walls they paint storyboards.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I think you nailed it with Stephen King's endings - they're usually not that satisfying. IT was the first King novel I read, and the journey IS terrific, with some great riffs on what it's like to be a kid (I love the passages about the kids in The Barrens). But the giant spider ending? Yeh - I think you're right: King's great at taking you on a journey, but he's not making a comment on the human condition. And I like the differentaition you make between screenplays and novels. Yes, novels can ramble and take detours; a film, with ninety minutes to play with, has to be more focused. And yes, his original screenplay (and directing debut) Maximum Overdrive is, at best, a bad B movie!!! And it was Frank Darabont who adapted Shawshank. Although to be fair to King, the book and film feel, to me, to be very similar. King ended the book on the word 'hope', whereas Darabont showed us the reunion. And The Body, which is the basis for the film Stand By Me, is very close to the film, although they cut out the narrator's attempts at novel-writing. Apparently King hates Kubrick's version of The Shining. King says that Nicholson is bonkers right from the start - there's no gradual decline into madness. But I love watching that movie. The sense of dread is palpable. And I love the switch with Scatman Crothers coming ALL that way from Florida to save Danny and his mom... (as he does in the novel - kinda deus ex machina)... and then... BAM - there's Jack springing from behind a pillar with that axe! And the blood running out of the lift. And the ballroom scenes. And those steadycam shots. The ending is a bit unsatisfying, with the photo of Jack in the 1920s, suggesting he's been reincarnated... but I still admire that film. And that sense of isolation just really gets me. And those wide angle lenses. As a film-maker, it just love letting it wash over me. I know what you mean about King's work being like stretched Twilight episodes... but he doesn't half make them real on the page. (An interesting King book is Pet Cemetary. Apparently when his wife, Tabitha, read it, she told him to put it in a drawer, it's SO dark. The film is okay, but the book's a real page turning downer). Anyway, I've probably done King to death in relation to writing methods. And you made a good point about the difference between novels and screenplays. And hey, Nancy, you're good entertainment. You'd be even better if you had something to say... about anything! The reason I read Josh's site, and I contribute, is because I really do feel that films have deteriorated in general over the years, so Josh is a like-minded soul. And also, I like to test my theories against a film-maker with a brain. Anyway... whatever.

Lata Josh
Lee

Dear Lee:

Stephen King may well hate Kubrick's version of "The Shining," but's WAY better than King's TV version.  And of course Kubrick's filmmaking is astounding.  Those opening shots following the VW through the mountains are breathtaking.  All the steadicam shots following Danny on his Big Wheels, going from carpet to wood, are too good.  Meanwhile, Stephen King didn't write the screenplays for any of the good movies made from his books, like: "Carrie," "Stand By Me," "The Dead Zone," "Shawshank Redemption," or "The Shining."  My buddy Paul tells me that King's script for "Storm of the Century" isn't bad, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Josh

Name:             Martin Bell
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Did you see the new HBO documentary on the election of Barack Obama, "By The People"? It looks good, I wish I got HBO. How would you say the President has done so far in his time in office?

Dear Martin:

Are you the same Martin Bell who made "Streetwise" and "American Heart"?  If so, I think you're a talented filmmaker and I both respect and appreciate both films.  Meanwhile, I watched the first half hour of "By the People."  I admire Barack Obama very much, and think he's an incredibly charismatic, intelligent, funny guy, and so far a very good president (particularly compared to the ignorant, deluded, wrong-headed shitbag, George W. Bush).  However, I just lived through Obama's election and didn't feel like I needed to go through it again this soon after the event.

Josh

Name:             Tim
E-mail:            NansemondNative

Evening Josh.

Hope everything is going well for you these days. I do not have any ground breaking questions or news and I have been so busy that catching a new flick has been difficuly lately. However I stole the time and , because I like scary stories, went and caught "Paranormal Activity" in Norfolk recently. Not your cup of tea but all the elements of a three act structure were there Josh and it held my attention for most of the movie. The director shot the movie in his house...Saved on building those sets or finding locations. The rumour is that he pulled it off for around $11,000. Who knows? Maybe he did. I don't know if you believe this or not but it was better than some big HW productions I have seen and I could tell it was well researched and not just thrown together. It has some cheese but it's actually a pretty good horror movie. Any feedback Josh?

Have a good one.
Tim

Dear Tim:

People I respect have told me that it's legitimately interesting and creepy.  Of course, many people said the same thing about "The Blair Witch Project," which was miserable crap (admittedly, with an interesting idea lurking within it).  Sadly, though, "Paranormal Activity" is going to send literally thousands of aspiring filmmakers off in the wrong direction believing that they too can make a digital movie for 11 grand, have it released theatrically and make millions of dollars.  As a little note, it's not the filmmakers who are making millions of dollars, it's the company that bought the films and spent millions releasing them that make all the money.  Nevertheless, "Blair Witch" came out in 1999 and "Paranormal Activity" came out in 2009, and there's no example of anything comparable in between.  Clearly, this phenomenon occurs once a decade.  For everybody else, including me, you have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, hire real actors, build sets, pay for expensive special effects, etc. to get anyone to pay any attention at all to your film, and the chances are about 999999.9999 to 1 that they won't.  Still, I give the "Paranormal Activity" folks all the credit in the world, and I'll happily watch their film when it pops up on TV.

Josh

Name:             Nancy
E-mail:           

Hi Josh,

it's me, Lee, I'm your biggest fan and I just think you have the best taste in the world, because you like GOOD movies, like the ones they used to make, you know, before they started making all the BAD movies. Now that I've earned your approval by yessing you and stroking your ego, will you do me a favor and approve of me back so I can feel better about myself? Just by getting this published on your site I already feel like I'm getting my writing published! I feel so accomplished. This guy makes Jeremey Milkes look like 1970 Bob Rafelson.

Dear Nancy:

Uh-oh, sarcasm.  You're a scream.  I'm about to fall out of my chair you're so damn funny.  Why don't you try flexing your mental muscles for a second, join in the conversation and tell us about a movie you like, or don't like, and explain why.  It's really not that hard, you just have to think about it for a minute.  Like myself, Lee and many others enjoy discussing movies we actually admire and respect, as opposed to just blindly following along with whatever is new is good, which is almost always false.  You've said a couple of times now that you think "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" and "Eastern Promises" were shit.  Please explain.

Josh

Name:             Michael Rowshan
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I agree with much of what you have to say. I have recently been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell and have come to the conclusion that all religions are based on myth...not historical fact. I also believe that one has to find their higher purpose or God within not outside of ones self....religion sucks....it causes wars, separation, bias, hatred and greed....I am done with any type of organized religion because it is all a big lie.....Thanks for your time.

Dear Michael:

Joseph Campbell had a big influence on me.  I absolutely agree that all religions are based on myth, and one myth is just as good as another.  As Campbell points out in many of his books, but particularly in "Myths To Live By," mythology is an attempt to answer the unanswerable questions--why do we exist?  What happens after we die?  What makes us who we are?  As Campbell said on a number of occasions, anyone who believes that mytholgy is true and takes it literally is a fool.

Josh

Name:             Lee
E-mail:           

Hey Josh,

Right on, man. My approach with all my screenplays is to work out the story and themes, do character biogs and a step outline and only THEN write the screenplay. Doing all this background work takes most of the time! When writing the screenplay I've freed myself to concentrate on the flow of the scenes (cos I'm not worrying about where the story is going). And as you say, you can explore the theme through various characters. This is true of my first screenplay, called TROLLEY BOY (ALMOST made by the BBC - close but no cigar!) The themes of TROLLEY BOY are: boys need father figures, and, non-violence gets better results than aggression. Because I knew this I could have different characters exploring the themes from different angles. The story could build to the realisation of the themes by one of the main characters at the climax. I've recently read Stephen King's book about how-to-write-a-novel. Or, more presicely, how he writes. He's the opposite to what I've descibed above. He says most of his stories are situational. Therefore, he comes up with the premise, the situiation, gets his characters in his head, and then he just goes. He starts to write. His theory is, basically: if the writer is constantly being surprised, so will the reader. His analogy is that STORY is like a huge unearthed fossil. If you use a jackhammer (preperation/a step outline) you break the story as you unearth it. If you use a toothcomb (your instincts) you'll get the story out just fine. It must work for him. I read loads of King's early work when I was younger, right up to books like Desperation. I think King's key skill is in writing believable characters. He then puts them into extraordinary situations (a bit like Spielberg). What happens in the poor movie adaptations of King's work is that all that characterisation goes out the window and you're left with 90 minutes of plot, with no believable characters to help you buy the supernatural elements. I've always known King could write good characters. People are still surprised when I tell then King wrote the source material for The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. I tried King's approach with my second novel. I had a strong situation and I ran with it. (The premise is: what if a person was bullied at school; he becomes a father; however, he can't put the ghosts of the past to bed - so, what happens if you can't let go of that anger? It destroys you). So, anyway, I thought I'd try Stephen King's approach. However, about half way through the novel, I started to plan ahead! I couldn't help myself! And to be fair, I already had a pretty good idea of where I wanted the story to go (as descibed just now)... so I was going back to my former modus operandi (of planning). That's what works for me. Planning. Knowing what you want to say so that the screenplay is like a well constructed house of cards. Five Easy Pieces is such a great example of this. And you know what? It plays so freely and it's loosey-goosey. That's the skill of the director. To take a story that's been WELL worked over, and then make it seem fresh. Like it's just happening in front of the camera/audience. Anyway, mate, I'd better do some work! (Got some radio commercials to write - day job!!)

Lata Lee :-)

Dear Lee:

You can't argue with Stephen King, considering how well he's done.  And I was a big fan from the time he started with "Carrie," up through "Christine," which seemed like a 30 minute "Twilight Zone" idea stretched out to 500 pages.  However, with all due respect to Mr. King, his stories do have a tendency to fizzle by the end.  He takes you on a rollercoaster ride that ultimately just slows down and stops--he doesn't work toward a big finale, or even necessarily a satisfying conclusion.  But after you've been through 500 pages of an extreme rollercoaster ride you're just happy to get off the damn thing.  What King is exceptionally good at, as you already mentioned, is characterization, and that's enormously important.  If you have really interesting, well-drawn characters, they can just sit around a room talking for two hours and it will be fascinating, like David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" or Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night."  In my opinion, characterization trumps plot.  Metaphorically, the real trick in writing is seeing how many plates you can get spinning on the ends of sticks at the same time.  It's very very rare to get all of the plates spinning simultaneously.  Stephen King isn't much with themes or a point, but he's great at plot and characterization, and mastering those two elements can make you the biggest selling writer of all time.  But a novel is not a screenplay.  A novel is a much bigger, looser form than a screenplay.  In a novel you can go off on tangents, spend time with secondary characters, take entire chapters just to set the time period, and just let your story fade away at the end instead of having a firm conclusion. Screenplays are far more dependent on structure, theme and conclusion than a novel, mainly because they're so much shorter.  You don't have 25 pages to establish your time period and milieu--a screenplay has to do that in its first scene.  With all due respect, Stephen King is a terrific horror novelist and short story writer, but he ain't much of a screenwriter.  The best film adaptions of Stephen King's books were not written by him.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I downloaded the screenplay of Five Easy Pieces a while ago. Our conversation got me to open it today. On the VERY FIRST page of dialogue there's just exceptional dialogue. E.g. Bobby says to Rayette (after he's insulted her) "You heal fast." This is true of children - this one line shows that he treats her as he would a child. And then, "Why'nt you take 'at sign off your tit, Ray, an' let's go on out." (So he hates the fact she's doing a low status job... but that's EXACTLY what he's doing as an oil rigger). Oh, Josh. It's properly structured writing. In this first scene between the two Rayette chastises Bobby for having the knowledge of musicality but he won't share it. On the one hand Bobby won't share it cos it reminds him of his past, but parallel to that he's being condescending about her singing the country and western number. Right from the off, the themes and conflicts are set (in Bobby's case, his self-loathing/conflicted self). Man, Josh, how many award winning screenwriters these days write like this?!? I mean, it's what I've gleaned from watching good movies and reading screenwriting books: KNOW your theme, KNOW what you want to say, and that informs EVERYTHING else. I think you said, a lot of writers today just string together cool scenes and hope they have a great film. Where's the art gone, Josh? I feel quite betrayed, to be honest. There ARE good modern films that work for adults, but BOY, do you have to search for them.

Lee

Dear Lee:

You feel betrayed?  What about me?  I've based my whole life on the concepts of theme, structure, point, conclusion and characterization, and now almost no one gives a shit.  These are the elements that can make a screenplay great and are what give a great screenplay all of it's depth, richness and texture.  Without them you're left with nothing but plot, which, at best, may function, but will never be anything more than functional.  It is not possible to make a great movie with a script that's nothing more than a plot.  Here are bad guys who do something bad; here are good guys who ultimately kill or capture the bad guys (after much searching, or forensic work, or whatever).  The end.  Whereas a theme, if its appropriate, can be explored in a thousand different ways, through every single character in the story.  I was just discussing the concept of knowing your ending before you start writing with a friend of mine.  He'd just heard the author John Irving on the radio discussing this very topic (I quote John Irving in my book about this).  John Irving says that when he sits down to write a book he's not conceiving it, he's remembering it because he's already thought up the whole thing, including the ending.  He actually doesn't begin writing until he knows his last line, which I find very interesting.  If you don't know your ending before you begin writing, then you don't know where you're going or why any scene is there.  If you don't know your theme, you won't know why anyone is saying what they're saying.  Beyond everything else that's good about "Five Easy Pieces," it's a brilliant example of making a great movie, nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, for very little money.  I think it was a million and a half bucks.  It's an impressive picture all the way around.

Josh

Name:             Lee
E-mail:           

Hey Josh

I think Nancy needs a hug!!! I think you'll enjoy BR's Blood and Wine. Nicholson plays a seedy so-and so - he's conflicted, but not half as much as he was in Five Easy Pieces. (Ooh, I detect a theme - conflicted men - do you think this is one of Bob Raffelson\'s interests?!?) And man, I have a huge hankering to watch Five Easy Pieces again. I just love Nicholson's conflicted character SO much. That scene in the car where he beats up on himself. And the ending! Perfect. A script that knows what it wants to say and doesn't cop out. Man, if it was made today Nicholson's character would be wearing a cape and his pants on the outside of his trousers. Ooh, that was a bit English... okay, his underwear outside his pants. Apparently, Pixar's Up! is meant to be pretty darn good; critics say it works for kids and adults. So I'm gonna check that soon, too. Love this website, Josh. I love talking about films. (And Nancy, that includes when Josh disagrees with me, too, girlfriend).

Leepy

Dear Lee:

I'll definitely check out "Blood and Wine" when I get a chance.  I agree that the scene of Jack Nichsolson freaking out in his car in "Five Easy Pieces" is brilliant.  Or the scene before when Nicholson and Billy Green Bush are talking and Bush says he wouldn't leave Rayette Depesto (Karen Black) behind, and Nicholson replies (and I may not have it exact after all these years), "I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to some asshole cracker from a trailer park compare his life to mine.  Tell me about the good life, Elton, because it makes me puke!"  Or when Nicholson comes out of the bowling alley to find Rayette pouting in the car, he says, "Come on, Depesto, let's go to Elton's and have a good time."  She says, "I am not a piece of crap."  A lot of that movie has embedded itself in my brain.  And it's a great example of a very low-budget movie that's expertly made, beautifully performed, and exceptionally well-written.

Josh

Name:             Lee
E-mail:           

Josh,

I just read your piece on Stupid Americans and hand guns, I can't say that I agree with you on this but then again I don't have to do I? The more significant question would be would you or anyone want to live in the USA?

Thank you,
Lee in Detroit Michigan.

Dear Lee:

How is that a more significant question?  I'm saying we don't need hand guns to fulfill the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights, that says, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  One could easily interperet "well-regulated militia" to mean the national guard.  But the Bill of Rights doesn't say a thing about hand guns, and they're the cause of most of our problems.  We have over 50,000 shootings a year with hand guns--quite a few being children shooting children--whereas all of the other civilized countries in the world that don't allow hand guns have less than 20, and many have none.  To answer your question, yes, I do want to live in the USA, hand guns or not.  If hand guns were banned I don't believe we'd have a mass exodus.  Perhaps Texas would secede from the union, but that might not be all bad.  Since Texas has the longest border with Mexico, most of America's issues with illegal immigration would be solved.  And so we don't have to change all of the flags, we could make Puerto Rico the 50th state.

Josh

Name:             Nancy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

Did I say I like No Country for Old Men? Maybe I do, maybe I don't, I'm not going to indulge you by answering that, it's besides the point. The point is you have a website where you publicly mouth off against everyone who's made a movie since Unforgiven--including all your old friends--and then one day rattle off a list of a dozen of the SHITTIEST movies yet, saying they're actually pretty good. Let's not turn it around on me, the problem here is you. Oh, and all the little Beckerites out there who are like, "Yeah, like you said, Josh, XXX sucks majorly, haha, don't you think I'm cool?" And never dissent, but then, when you're like, "Yeah, Eastern Promises rocks," they all come out of the woodwork to be like, "Yeah Josh, me like Eastern Promises too, don't you think me is cool?" And you're just so glad someone agreed with you, you're like, "Yeah, you're kinda cool, I guess." And they're inevitably like, "Oh, wow, thanks, Mr. Becker." Because they think someday they'll impress you enough that you'll pass one of their scripts along to Sam Raimi. The routine grows old.

Dear Nancy:

If you're lucky, someday you'll hear a popping noise and it will be the sound of your head coming out of your ass.  Sadly, that day may never come.  The point here is to state your opinion on movies.  Since I started this website 11 years ago there have always been people coming here who can't handle the fact that I actually state my honest opinion on movies, with which you can either agree or disagree.  Most folks get this concept; some never do, then feel the need to disparage me.  You write, "Did I say I like No Country for Old Men? Maybe I do, maybe I don't, I'm not going to indulge you by answering that, it's besides the point."  No, you're wrong, it's entirely the point.  I stated why I didn't like "No Country For Old Men," and I listed the movies of that year that I thought were better.  If you disagree, say why.  I seriously believe that if you had a gun against your head you couldn't defend that movie.  Apparently, you have no critical facilities and that's why you have to revert to calling me names, which is an intellectual cop-out.  The more you rag on me, without actually stating an opinion on the movie in question, the more foolish you make yourself look.  Keep it up, we can all use the amusement.

Josh

Name:             Nancy
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

You're an idiot. You spend years ripping on every movie that comes out, then heap praise on shit like Eastern Promises and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. What's next, Beverly Hills Chihauau? You've got the taste buds of an Egyptian shit beetle.

Dear Nancy:

Perhaps that's so.  However, if you're defending "No Country For Old Men" you might want to actually state your opinion, as opposed to just spewing slime, like say a slug or a snail (I'm following up on your insect analogy).  The difference between what you say and what I say is that I have reasons for my opinions, whereas you're just calling me names with nothing to back it up, which, quite frankly, comes off sounding extremely stupid.

Josh

Name:             Scott
E-mail:           

Josh,

I'm glad that you brought up Targets a few posts back. I agree that it was a good film with a unique premise for it's time. Boris Karloff is great in it as well. A question I have is, are there any other Corman produced films that you particularly like? Did you ever see The Intruder? The drama Corman directed starring William Shatner as a bigot who's trying to promote segregation at a southern high school. I thought the film was pretty bad, but it was amusing to see a pre Star Trek Shatner hamming it up in such a serious role within a very serious story. Also, I saw a very good sci-fi film this year called Moon. It stars Sam Rockwell and has a tight script that has a theme, a point, and knows exactly where it's going. It's also well acted and is directed in a very classic fashion. It avoids the style over substance approach that most young directors utilize these days, and I couldn't spot one hand held shot. Definitely worth checking out.

Dear Scott:

Yes, "Moon" was already highly recommended to me by a trusted source and it does sound good.  Of course it's no longer playing at the theater.  It was directed by David Bowie's son.  Now back to Herr Corman.  I like "Bucket of Blood," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "Masque of the Red Death," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Trip," "Targets," his appearance in "Godfather Part 2," and I guess that's about it.  Yes, I saw "The Intruder," and I agree, it wasn't much other than seeing young Shatner.  Other interesting early William Shatner parts are "The Brothers Karamazov" (as Yul Brynner's son) and "Judgement at Nuremburg" as Spencer Tracy's attache.

Josh

Name:             Eastern Promies R Us
E-mail:           

Dear Josh:

I just watched Eastern Promises and I thought it was terrific. Did you see A History of Violence? If so, what did you think of that film?

Dear EPRU:

I bailed out on "History of Violence" so I can't comment.  It never caught my interest.

Josh

Name:             S. Wharf
E-mail:            the wharfman@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Polanski, tortured genius who is the victim of the American judicial system? Or, he drugged and raped a 13-year old girl before fleeing the country! I'm surprised this hasn't been brought up yet.

Dear S. Wharf:

You do the crime you gotta do the time.  Plus he has a second charge to deal with, fleeing justice.  I read Polanski's book and I believe his account of the incident, that she brought the 'loods, but so what?  I am reminded of Cheech & Chong's hit song, "Basketball Jones," where they interview Jones's coach, Tyrone Shoelaces, and ask, "What about your record?"  He replies, "Hey, I didn't know she was 14.  She looked 15."  In any case she didn't look 18.  If this were you or I nobody would defend us.  What makes Roman Polanski special?  That he has an Oscar?  That 35 years ago he made some great movies?  That he had a very difficult childhood and that his wife was killed by the Manson family?  Ultimately, so what?  He blatantly broke the law, then fled the country.  I'd say he hasn't got a leg to stand on.

Josh

Name:              Jeff Alede
E-mail:             

Dear Josh:

So you saw "Michael Clayton," "Eastern Promises," and "Into The Wild"? What did you think of those? The knife fight in the bath house in Eastern Promises was wild.

Dear Jeff:

It was terrific, and beautifully staged and directed.  Viggo Mortenson gives a brilliant, and totally believable, performance as a Russian mobster.  I would go so far as to say that it's David Cronenberg's best movie.  "Michael Clayton" was well-made and reasonably interesting, though quite forgettable.  "Into the Wild" has many of the same issues as "The Assassination of Jesse James."  It's way too long and artsy-fartsy for no good reason -- Sean Penn doesn't leave a single directorial technique in the toolbox -- slo-mo, fast-mo, stop-motion, split-screen, and none of it is necessary.  But he does have a very interesting story with a surprising and moving conclusion.  Apparently that's not sufficient anymore.  Now you have to take your good story and bury it in bullshit.

Josh

Name:              Trey Smith
E-mail:             

Dear Josh:

I couldn't agree more. I actually tried to watch "No Country For Old Men" a few months ago and, while I wasn't expecting much, when we were suddenly dropped down with Josh Brolin's character while he was hunting with no introduction to who he is before he stumbles across the treasure, I turned it off. Who we meet is who he remains the entire film, just a bland man being chased by another bland man, with Tommy Lee Jones popping up every once and a while lamenting about the old days. Then suddenly, Brolin's character is killed by Mexican's (sorry), the bland hitman kills his wife and then gets into a wreck, and Tommy Lee Jones talks about a pointless dream. Such a mess. "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. All of the characters have clear forces that motivate them, all leading to a logical conclusion. I know what kind of man Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character is, I know why he initiates the plan, and I know why Ethan Hawke goes along with it. Everything makes sense, everything follows a chain of events that are continuously leading up to the film's conclusion. I haven't seen "Charlie Wilson's War" yet, but it is on my list. "The Assassination of Jesse James" really disappointed me, it being overlong definitely being a major factor in this. I quite enjoyed Brad Pitt's performance though, and I always like seeing Sam Rockwell. It felt like someone reading a historical novel while actors were acting out everything to the side of the reader. Interesting concept, I guess, but I don't think it worked very well as a movie. It also felt too "arty" for its own good.

Dear Trey:

I believe that there's a good movie lurking within the bloated, way overlong, needlessly arty released version of "The Assassination of Jesse James" (which should have been its whole title).  Cut about 45 minutes out of that film, like all the bullshit slo-mo shots of wheat waving in the wind and clouds blowing by, and you'd really have something.  Brad Pitt is really terrific, and scary, which I would never have guess he could pull off.  The whole rest of the cast is very good, particularly Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell, and the photography is gorgeous (Roger Deakins, who shot "No Country For Old Men").  Somehow or other they all thought they were making an art picture and it's really just a western, but an interesting one.  I've watched both "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" eight times each, something I haven't done in a long, long time.  Sidney Lumet really deserved the Oscar that year, considering he's never gotten one.  It's a strong, muscular, no-nonsense movie that absolutely knows where it's going and why.  The Coen brothers or Quentin Tarantino will never be in the same league as Lumet or Mike Nichols.

Josh

Name:              Nick
E-mail:             

Dear Josh:

Thought I'd add to the discussion. Peter Bogdanovich? Made a few crappy Roger Corman films to directing "The Last Picture Show." Followed by such luminous masterpieces like "At Long Last Love" and "They All Laughed." Or how about John Huston? Hit one right out of the park with his debut film, "Maltese Falcon." Wrote a million screenplays beforehand, but that doesn't count. Here's a more interesting question: why do you suppose so many big-budget feature films these days are helmed by people with almost no directing experience whatsoever, except maybe some commercials or music videos, or a few shorts?

Dear Nick:

So neither of your examples fit the concept.  Bogdanovich's first film is "Targets" which is a very good Corman film, so he started right off with a good film.  And so did John Huston.  The question was, who started with a stinker, then made a good, or highly successful, second film.  Regarding why Hollywood hires young, inexperienced directors to direct big-budget movies, it's this completely wrong-headed idea that young people are more in touch with the tastes of young people.  Sam Raimi is 50, but he seems to be able to make films for kids.  The difference is that Sam knows what he's doing.  Peter Jackson is no spring chicken, either.  Meanwhile, I attempted to watch "Australia" the other night and good god Baz Luhrman stinks.  That film was completely and utterly awful within 60 seconds.  Same with "Moulin Rouge."

Josh

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

Dear Josh

Like Rob, I also emailed Don over at Synapse Films, but this one is more recent. I just received a reply from him today: "We are currently doing some digital restoration on the HD master and it, hopefully, will be out sometime next year." So, there you have it. Hopefully it won't be too deep into next year, I'm pretty interested in seeing the Super 8mm version of Stryker, primarily because of Bruce in the title role. On another note I finally got around to seeing "No Country for Old Man", which I hadn't. Boy, that picture just kept going no where. Apparently, there was No Room for a Point. Okay, bad joke, but true. Regards, Trey

Dear Trey:

Yes, I really think the film is a disaster.  My good buddy Paul Harris has read all of Cormac McCarthy's books, and when he finished "No Country For Old Men," which he liked quite a lot, he told it to me.  It's the reminiscing of an old small town sheriff who tells the story of the drug deal gone bad as an example of how it's no longer a country for old men.  Joel and Ethan Coen in their infinite wisdom decided to not have the old sheriff narrate the story.  Therefore, if he's not telling the story, it can't lead to the point which also happens to be the title.  It's a huge, unforgivable mistake.  And since there's no characterization at all in the film, what we're left with is a guy with a bad haircut chasing a guy with a mustache.  Also, another regrettable change the Coens made was when the Josh Brolin character returns to the scene of the crime.  In the book he's going there to kill the wounded Mexican man in the truck who saw him and is the only witness, which makes perfect sense.  In the movie he returns to bring the man water, which makes no sense at all.  That it won Best Picture is particularly annoying to me because, in my opinion, there were at least three pictures that were far better than it: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Atonement."  I'd go so far as to say that "American Gangster," "Michael Clayton," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and "Eastern Promises" were all clearly better films.  I'd even take "Into the Wild" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford," a highly flawed, overlong movie, over "No Country For Old Men."  But that's just me.

Josh

Name:              Henry
E-mail:             

Dear Josh,

Another director who took a few films to get on track, Francis Ford Coppola. I know he wrote "Patton", but directing wise, did he do anything of significance, before "The Godfather"?

Dear Henry:

Coppola's a weird case.  He started with the nudie picture "Tonight For Sure" in 1961 when he was 22, then he made the totally forgettable "Dementia 13" for Roger Corman in 1963, then four years later he made "You're a Big Boy Now," which was taken rather seriously in 1967.  He then got his big break directing a big-budget Hollywood picture with "Finian's Rainbow," which took a dump.  Then he made another indie "The Rain People" that went nowhere.  Then he co-wrote "Patton," won an Oscar, produced George Lucas's "THX 1138, and then he got "The Godfather."  Well, that's a whole career before he had a hit as a director.  Coppola is more like the generation of directors before him than after him who got a half dozen to a dozen tries before they hit.

Josh

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             info@bookofthedead.ws

Josh,

Yes I spotted the news about the inclusion of the Super-8 shorts on the synapse website some time back, but that release date has long since gone. A friend emailed Don May Jr on September 20th for a staus update, he replied "We haven't started RUNNING TIME yet, but we just finished the transfer of THOU SHALT NOT KILL EXCEPT. Right now, we're doing dirt removal, digital cleanup and the audio layback." So there you go. Considering the high quality transfers you got from 'Oedipus Rex' & 'The Blind Waiter', I'm surprised CinePost are so cheap? Doing anything with your original Super-8 films must be such a tough call (especially with the loss of the Super-8 version of 'Night Crew') Unlike digital formats where footage can be re-copied & duplicated time & again, one mistake and something could be ruined or even lost forever! The list of shorts I have, has been built up through years of trading with other fans. One of the most difficult things is that a couple of people who had some of the rarest items, never even knew what they had (ie they didn't know it was so rare) so they never advertised what they had. Just to add, you're welcome to DVD copies of any of the shorts I have should you want them? Here is a question; did you licence 'Attack Of The Helping Hand and 'Torro! Torro! Torro!' to the German distributor 'Dragon Films' to include on their 2002 'Night Of The Intruder' R2 PAL DVD?

Cheers,
Rob.

Dear Rob:

I never said CinePost was cheap, I said they were good.  It reminds me of the old, very true, adage, "Good, fast, cheap.  Choose two."  Meaning you never get the third.  Anyway, the transfer of TSNKE is completely done, for whatever that's worth.  Regarding the inclusion of "Torro, Torro, Torro!' and the German DVD, Scott never asked my permission, but what the hell.  And yes, I was a tad concerned about sending out the original super-8 films for transfer, but CinePost handled them well and it all went fine.

Josh 

Name:              Rob
E-mail:             info@bookofthedead.ws

Josh,

I'm the webmaster of a new & comprehensive Evil Dead fansite; www.BookOfTheDead.ws which also covers the long list of Super-8 shorts in great detail (just in case you want to look though it?) Just recently I had the good fortune to see your short; 'Holding It', and I have to say that of all the shorts I currently have this one is now my favourite. I know you have some misgivings about it (as detailed in your book) but as a well directed tight short film with simple clear plot, I would rate it above just about all the other shorts I've seen, with the possible exceptions of parts of 'It's Murder' and 'Within The Woods'. (Just so you know, I own 'Oedipus Rex', 'Six Months To Live', 'Holding It', 'Shemp Eats the Moon', 'It's Murder', 'William Shakespeare - The Movie', 'Attack Of The Helping Hand!', 'Clockwork', 'Within The Woods', 'The Blind Waiter', ‘Stryker's War', 'Torro, Torro, Torro!', 'Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter', and 'The Sappy Sap')

Dear Rob:

Jeez, you've got more of the shorts than I do.  You're missing two of my shorts, "The Final Round" and "Acting & Reacting," which, if I may say so, is one of the more interesting of the short films because it was a reasonably serious story about people just like us taking place in the contemporary real world (1978 when we were 20).  And it stars Bruce, along with Sam and Scott and the usual gang of idiots.  Meanwhile, I also now have beautiful new transfers of "Stryker's War," "Holding It," "Blind Waiter" and "Oedipus Rex" (done by CinePost, www.posthouse.com).  Actually, they're the best sound super-8 transfers I've ever seen.  They were done by Synapse Films, who are supposed to be re-releasing TSNKE in HD (we've done the transfer and it looks terrific) with a second disk containing "Stryker's War" and part of a documentary about the films, but they never seem to get around to doing it.  I find it very odd.  Anyway, thanks for the compliments on "Holding It."  I shot the entire movie in 2 days.  It was the first time that Bruce and I really ran a production in a professional, tight manner.  We'd already shot a bunch of movies by then, but we'd never shot that much footage that fast, and we had a great time doing it.  Thanks for dropping by and good luck with your website.

Josh

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

Hey Josh

Yep, see your point. No, Shane Meadows didn't hit it out of the park with A Room For Romeo Brass. He went very corporate with a Channel Four film (his third) called Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. Shane hates the film cos the suits got involved, and I think he felt he wasn't being true to himself. He went back to guerilla film-making with his fourth, the very low budget Dead Man's Shoes. I know you don't like revenge flicks, but it's a well structured one with a great twist. And Paddy Considine is great in it. The films that have brought him to a wider audience are This Is England - his fifth - (I haven't seen this yet) and Le Donk (his seventh) - a music mockumentary (nor have I seen this). But, no, he didn't gain a wider audience with his second film. I still think he's battling the commercial tide (after SEVEN films!), partly out of a sense of staying true to his storytelling ethic (lots of improv') and partly cos the young multiplex audience want comic heros, not real people on run down estates doing the best with what they've got. (Some people say Shane's films are more Tv than cinema. The Full Monty got the same criticism). If Shane would stop with the inverted snobbery against the middle classes I'd dig his films a lot more. Have you seen Bob raffelson's Blood and Wine, starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine (and Stephen Dorf)? It's not GREAT, but it is workmanlike; and it's great watching Nicholson and Caine duke it out. It's quite rare on DVD but it may come up on cable. I really admire Spielberg's Duel. It started life as a TV movie, and the producers were so impresed they released it theatrically (in France, initially, I think!) I love films like Duel that tell stories with little dialogue. (Although I also love films like Withnail and I that just have SUPERB dialogue). I'd say that The Howling is a better film than Piranah (both written by John Sayles). I enjoy Joe Dante's quirky cartoon-films (Gremlins/Inner Space). I have some lifesize promotional Gremlins from Gremlins 2 - they were made by Warners to promote the film. Got one in my log cabin next to my chair!) Good comment from that producer about your progression from first to second feature. It sounds like you're getting closer to having one of your own scripts taken on bya prod company with a fair budget. Hope it comes about, for you. (Got My name Is Bruce on DVD the other day. Will watch this weekend). Anyway, waffling, now, Josh!

Leepy

Dear Lee:

"Duel" was only released theatrically overseas, not here in the U.S.  Meanwhile, "Blood and Wine" does sound good.  Perhaps I was a bit harsh on Mr. Rafelson, although after "Five Easy Pieces," which I really, really liked, he basically did nothing else but let me down after that.  His remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" could have been good, I mean it has a great cast and gorgeous photography, but it's WAY too long and he foolishly dropped the best gag in the book and original film (the Hollywood original with Lana Turner and John Garfield, not Visconti's "Ossessione," which I like a lot, too).  When they kill her husband they take him to Echo Point.  He hollers "Echo!", then they kill him, and then his echo returns after he's dead.  Regarding Joe Dante, "Pirhana" was a hit low-budget film, so he started right off with a hit.

Josh

Name:              Cecile Marie
E-mail:             

Dear Josh:

The quote from asquaretoit regarding George Burns was never said by him...however, in reviewing his QUOTES it should have read "I'd rather be a failure at something I love, than a success at something I hate" Found under George Burns Quotes.

Dear Cecile:

I have no idea what you're referring to, although it is a good quote.

Josh


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