Q & A    Archive
Page 162


Name:            Amy
E-mail:           
Date:              02/15/10

Dear Josh:

You "wrote to Rob and asked for a gig?" No wonder he turned you down. You think you can secure a job via email? You need to get your butt on the phone and talk it out man to man. Hiding behind email shows weakness and timidity. If you really wanted that job you would be on the phone or on a plane to LA to convince Rob to give it to you. This is why you're selling walkie talkies instead of directing SPARTACUS Christ, I'm not trying to lecture you, but show some deterimination.

Dear Amy:

No, you absolutely are lecturing me, and I must say there's nothing like getting advice from people who have no clue what they're talking about.  The older I get the more it aggravates me.  Look, I appreciate your sentiments, but if directors have already been booked for all the episodes, and they have been, then that's how it goes.  My spending a thousand bucks or more to fly to New Zealand won't change anything.  You seem to forget that I've known Rob since we were kids, and I worked for him steadily for 8 years with Herc and Xena.  I know him, you don't, so do me a favor and stop giving me worthless advice.  As the old expression goes, "Don't give advice unless asked."

Josh

Name:            Amy
E-mail:           
Date:              02/13/10

Dear Josh:

Why aren't Sam and Rob having you direct Spartacus? Don't they know that's your big thing? Forget "favors," weren't you just a good, solid, straight-up journeyman director who delivered for them on their past TV shows? What's their problems? Rob's been in NZ too long--he's got kiwi in his brain. Sam's been in Hollywood too long--he always wears a suit and tie to set, which makes him a fag in my book.

Dear Amy:

I appreciate the sentiments, but Sam and Rob will do what they do.  I wrote to Rob, I asked for a gig, he turned me down.  He was very friendly about it, but that's how it goes.

Josh

Name:            David R.
E-mail:           
Date:              02/13/10

Dear Josh:

Hate to say it, but the new Scorsese film sure looks terrible.

Dear David:

Well, you can't trust advertising.  Of course, I don't think the Scorsese's made a good movie in 20 years, so it won't be surprising to me if it isn't any good.  I must add that I'm weary of actors doing a Boston accent, or overdoing it, as the case may be.  With all due respect to Mr. Scorsese, he is one of the great filmmakers of cinema, and he had a helluva run from 1973 to 1990, although, quite frankly, I thought he'd shot his wad by 1980 and "Raging Bull."  Most of what he made over the course of the '80s was nonsense, but he did come back with "Goodfellas."  And he still may make another great film, but I'm not holding my breath.

Josh

Name:            Bubba Longhorn
E-mail:           
Date:              02/10/10

Dear Josh:

I was wondering if you'd seen Silence of the Lambs and if so, what you thought of it?

Dear Bubba:

It's OK, although I think it's a country mile from being great or legitimately deserving a Best Picture Oscar, which doesn't mean all that much anymore anyway.  It's got a great twist near the end when you think Scott Glenn and his guys are going to Buffalo Bill's place, but it's really Starling.  I think the whole ending with the night-vision goggles doesn't work, and I never bought Lecter getting out of the straight jacket and jail because someone left a pen behind, then skinning a guy and wearing his face.  All in all, though, it's pretty good for what it is.

Josh

Name:            Trey Smith
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Dear Josh:

That last question from Jeff reminded me that they haven't given The Magnificent Ambersons a proper Region 1 DVD release yet, which is extremely disappointing. I own it, but it is a VHS recording off of Turner Classic Movies and the quality isn't the greatest. I heard a few months back that the WB (I believe they hold the rights) wanted to release one, but had been waiting until they could get a suitable print for restoration, which they apparently now have. Hopefully soon then? Maybe even a BluRay release, as well. I love Citizen Kane to death, but I always feel like it overshadows The Magnificent Ambersons when discussing Welles. Personally, I think it deserves just as much discussion and admiration from film fans.

Dear Trey:

That's right, "The Magnificent Ambersons" isn't on DVD.  Well, I'm one of those weird folks who likes "Ambersons" more than "Citizen Kane," which of course I like very much, too, but "Ambersons" moves me more.  I often think of the scene of Major Amberson sitting beside the fire musing, "We must come from the sun.  The Earth comes from the sun, and we come from the Earth . . ." then it fades out and it's his funeral.  Or Aunt Fanny panicking, saying, "You're going to leave me in the lurch," then sitting down on the kitchen floor and Georgie saying, "Aunt Fanny, you've got your back to the boiler" and she crazily yells, "It's not hot!"  I must admit, I really do love that movie.

Josh

Name:            Jeff Alede
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Dear Josh:

The African Queen is finally coming out on dvd in a couple months. One of the last really famous films to make it to dvd.

Dear Jeff:

It's a wonderful movie.

Josh

Name:            Paul
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Dear Mr. Becker:

I was looking for information about a new film of yours when I found that your next work will be the film: "The Horribleness". I also found that the star will be: Ellen Sandweiss. Are all these things true? I took the information from a Spanish web. You can watch it on this link: http://www.abandomoviez.net/db/pelicula.php?film=9557 Thank you! And if it is true: Good luck!!

Paul

Dear Paul:

Sadly, it's not true.

Josh

Name:            Forrest Bartlett
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Dear Josh:

Very well said! Thank You I agree 100%

Dear Forrest:

I'll just bet you're talking about the religion piece.  Glad you liked it.

Josh

Name:            Ken
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Josh,

Have you seen Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro" yet? I wasn’t prepared for anything in particular (I missed Coppola's last few films), but I certainly never dreamed that I’d find myself watching one of the best movies in years. As a story, it recalls the great dramas of William Inge, and Tetro can be taken as part coming-of-age story and part coming to terms with one’s self. It scores nicely on both levels, but what makes the film brilliant rather than merely good is the way — the wholly cinematic way — in which Coppola presents the material. It’s bold, full-bodied filmmaking all down the line. On occasion Coppola teeters on the brink of pure melodrama, but melodrama is not entrely wrong for something as operatic in tone as this particular film, especially one that pays hommage to Powell and Pressburger. There’s been nothing like it on theater screens for a very long time, and it serves as a reminder of that fact. I think you'd enjoy it quite a lot. Just saying...

Dear Ken:

Coppola, Inge, Powell, Pressburger.  Sounds great to me. 

Josh

Name:            Nancy
E-mail:           
Date:              02/08/10

Hi Josh...

...I liked "Going Hollywood" too. It was a very good read, very heartfelt, very perceptive.

Dear Nancy:

Thanks.  Anything partricular that struck you?

Josh

Name:            Shane
E-mail:           
Date:              02/07/10

Dear Josh:

And by the way, House of Wax IS a great movie and just because it's horror doesn't make it not so. You just probably never saw it in 3d. Grow up and get a life.

Dear Shane:

Oh, fuck you!

Josh

Name:            Shane
E-mail:           
Date:              02/07/10

Dear Josh:

Dial M for Murder you fucking asshole. I made a typo, big fucking deal. You just try to back up the fact that you don't know as much as you pretend to by bullying people who actually post with something to say. I repeat: GROW UP!

Dear Shane:

When you enter a conversation with a snotty tone saying shit like "Grow up!" do you honestly believe that you're just some nice rational guy who ought to be taken seriously and shown respect?  You grow the fuck up!  Now, to be serious for a moment, which you certainly don't deserve, I agree that "Dial M For Murder" is the best 3-D movie, I just don't accept that it's actually a good movie.  I think that it's mediocre Hitchcock at best, and like his other foray into odd technique, "Rope," it's a stuffy little play that isn't particularly good film material.  Hitchcock does his best with both of them, but I don't think it elevates either film to the status of a legitimately good movie.  That's my opinion.  Accept it, don't accept it, but in either case I'll continue growing up one second at a time.

Josh

Name:            BogosianisBack
E-mail:           
Date:              02/06/10

Dear Josh:

Dude, no offense or anything but the way you've talked about your "friend" Rick on this site for years, the essays you've written about him, the pictures, etc. it makes it seem like you were a little gay for him. Nothing wrong with that but did you two ever take it one step beyond friendship? I bet Rick wanted to and it sure sounds like something you would have been into. Just saying...

Dear BogosianisBack:

Nope, we never had sex and I was never into it.  When we first met Rick wanted to have sex, and the scene is in "Going Hollywood," but he got over it.  He was my very good friend for nearly 20 years and I loved him, but that certainly doesn't have to be a sexual thing.  No offense, but it's a real shame if that's difficult for you to imagine.  Just saying...

Josh

Name:            Alex Markman
E-mail:           
Date:              02/06/10

Dear Josh:

Seriously, do you just spout bullshit day and night? "If the camera is in a constant state of movement you can never have a great camera move." Tell that to Murnau, Cassavetes, and Scorsese.

Dear Alex:

Interpret what I say as you like, however I stand by my assertion and I don't believe any of the examples you put forth dispute it.  Murnau didn't move the camera all the time by any means, and when he did a camera move it mattered.  Cassavetes never gave the slightest damn about doing interesting camera moves, and came flat out and said so on a number of occasions, and never really did any great camera moves.  He was, however, extremely good at following the action in a documentary style.  Back in the day when Scorsese used to not move the camera all the time he did indeed do some terrific camera moves.  But you really need to watch "Raging Bull" or "Taxi Driver" or "Goodfellas" again because all of them are loaded with static shots
-- beautiful static shots, I might add -- and when he moves the camera he means it.  By the time you get to something like "The Departed," I don't think it has a great camera move in it because it's got too many camera moves in it.  It's an issue of dynamics.  Just like really great film scores frequently have sections with no music -- if there's non-stop music from beginning to end you've turned your score to mush.  Just like if every instrument plays all the time it becomes grey noise, with no blacks and no whites.  Call it bullshit if you will, but you probably just don't understand the concept.

Josh

Name:            Trey Smith
E-mail:           
Date:              02/06/10

Dear Josh:

Have you had a chance to watch "Moon" yet? Of all the 2009 movies I've seen, it's definitely the best of the lot. The directing is assured and Sam Rockwell's performance is incredibly impressive. It's a shame Sony decided not to campaign for it during awards season, but I guess a movie needs money pumped into it rather than quality to win something. In the least, Rockwell deserved a nod for his acting, if not a win. Also, though I wrote in and told you that I found Going Hollywood interesting, subsequent questions made me realize that I didn't mention if I enjoyed it or not. Well, fear not, I did indeed enjoy reading it and breezed through it quite quickly. By the end of it I thought it was a story that was worth telling and certainly worth reading, if that means anything to you at all. I'd also be interested in seeing it in movie form, though as you said, it would be quite ironic.

-Trey

Dear Trey:

It does mean something to me.  I wrote the book in the hope that people might actually read it, and perhaps even enjoy it, and beyond that, possibly even get something out of it.  If I accomplished any of those things it pleases me.  Of the 36 screenplays, and all of the other stuff I've written over the years, "Going Hollywood" was by far the most difficult to write.  That you breezed through it quickly tells me that all of my effort wasn't in vain.  I spent a solid year pounding on that manuscript like a Japanese swordmaker pounds on a samurai sword -- you heat it, bend it, pound it down, heat it, bend it, pound it down, ad infinitum -- and when you're done you can only hope you haven't heat it and bent it too many times, or that you weren't using the wrong metal to start with.  One of the true horrors of creating art of any kind is that it not only shows one's abilities, it's a blatant and obvious display of one's limitations.  Eventually you have to hit a point where you say, "This is the best I can do," and whether that equals good or bad is up to everyone else and not you.  To me anyway, art is the most extreme example of personal expression that we humans have come up with.  If that's why you're creating art then there's a chance, albeit slim, that you might have come up with something that's of some value to others.  Going back one question, if you're simply jumping on a bandwagon, you can be reasonably certain you're creating nothing but crap.  Your intentions for creating whatever you create mean everything.  If you attempt to honestly express something, whatever it may be, you have a chance at creating something valuable, which I'm not for one second saying I did, but I did try.  If your whole intention is to cash in on someone else's idea, you're a whore, and nothing of lasting value will ever come from that.  But I go on.  No, I haven't seen "Moon," but I'd like to, it sounds good.

Josh

Name:            Shane
E-mail:           
Date:              02/06/10

Dear Josh:

Just cuz it's a fad don't mean it's bad. The 1940s 3D boom caused many good movies. You're still big about The Godfather. It's good but it's not everything. Grow up.

Dear Shane:

Although nothing's entirely true, for the most part, if it's a fad it's bad.  Meanwhile, there were no 3-D movies in the 1940s, so why don't you grow up and try reading a book.  Or if that sounds too difficult, and I'm sure it does, try Wikipedia.  Beyond that, name one legitimately good 3-D movie (and "House of Wax" is not a legitimately good movie).  And yes, I'm still "big" about "The Godfather," just as I am about any great movie I love.

Josh

Name:            nick
E-mail:           
Date:              02/05/10

Dear Josh:

Thought I'd chime in on the DV vs. film debate. I've seen several films at the theater over the last few months, several of which were shot with the HD Red camera ("Antichrist," "The Box," and "2012" respectively) and they all looked absolutely terrible blown up to 35mm film. Scenes shot in the dark actually looked like they were filmed on Hi-8, replete with the blurry interlaced movement (in a movie theater, no less). Don't get me wrong, it's an ideal format for low-budget/indie/made-for-TV/direct-to-video stuff, but for actual movies, it's crap (apparently even the Red camera is already being outphased by something called the "Scarlet" HD camera, from what I hear). If film is a 10-year-old Dom Perignon than HD/DV is Olde English 800. Granted, "The Book of Eli" (which I also saw) was shot with the Red camera and looked pretty darn good, but the film itself was so awful I don't think it mattered. Speaking of technology, any thoughts on this new 3-D fad? I went and saw "Avatar" and the 3-D completely blew me away for about fifteen minutes, then I forgot about it and after which, the film had only the story to get me through the next three hours...euaghhh...

Dear nick:

Ah, the new 3-D fad.  What will they think of next?  It's like it's 1953 all over again and we're working our way backwards.  Next will be the widescreen fad, then the color fad, then the talkie fad.  I guess what's old is new -- if you have no memory.  3-D seems fine for certain kinds of movies, where shit flies in your face all the time and that's the best you've got, but it isn't going to do a thing for a real drama.  Having watched quite a few utterly unimpressive recent films -- "Crazy Heart," "Julie & Julia," "Up in the Air," to name but a few -- I finally got so fed up I dug out and watched "The Godfather" and "From Here to Eternity" again, and those are simply great movies with no need for silly technical schticks.  If you made either of those films 3-D you certainly wouldn't improve them.  Personally, I think filmmakers, and studios, are simply searching for some way to bypass actually having a story that's worth telling, and then telling it as well as possible.  Most of what I see these days has the subtext of: Sure, the story stinks, now we're going to try and hide it.  Watch "The Godfather" again and you'll see a film where the director has absolute faith that what you're watching is worth watching.  The filmmaking jerk-off level is at zero.  Coppola does about four or five push-ins with the camera in 175 minutes, and each one is in exactly the perfect place (like Michael having come out of the restaurant's bathroom with the gun, sitting back down, then thinking about shooting Solozzo and MacClusky).  Otherwise, the camera never moves for no reason.  And when you do that your camera moves really means something.  If the camera is in a constant state of movement you can never have a great camera move.  And let's not forget that Gordon Willis's lighting is constantly breathtaking and doesn't look like any other movie, except "Godfather Part II."  I would much, much, much rather see a great cinematographer doing a brilliant job with the lighting than having shit fly in my face, which I didn't even enjoy as a kid, and certainly doesn't help me lose myself in the proceedings.  Regarding the DV vs. film debate, DV's fine and cheap, I just think it's harder to make it look exceptional in any way; there's a certain built-in blandness that you have to try to beat out of it in post. 

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           
Date:              02/04/10

Dear Josh:

I think it would make a good bookend to Into the Wild, indeed. I haven't read the book, which I've heard is very good. I really hated the movie, because to me the kid came off like a real asshole. The kid's attitude seemed to me to consist of: "Oh, no, mom and dad, don't you get it? I don't want you to give me a car, I want you to give me a hug! Hey, older people who have had real experiences! Listen to me! I've read Walden and I know what life is really about!" And so on. That could just be my reaction, although I watched it with my 80 year old grandmother, and she said she wanted to smack that kid. Speaking of film adaptations, I think Going Hollywood could make a pretty good movie....

Dear Will:

I didn't read the book "Into the Wild" either, I just saw the movie, and I basically agree with your assessment, although it did strike a personal chord with me since I'd already done a similar thing.  Interestingly to me at least, in the movie the entire hitchhiking trip to Alaska was eliminated.  Luckily for me, though, I had no interest in living off the land or eating "edible" roots and berries, I just wanted to get there.  As a movie, "Into the Wild" annoyed me in a hundred ways, yet I was still interested.   Sean Penn is so insecure as a filmmaker that there isn't a technique he didn't use, which ultimately comes off as inappropriate and ridiculous, and the pace was way too slow.  Regarding "Going Hollywood" as a movie, my first attempt at writing the story was as a screenplay and I totally didn't like it.  Then I wrote it as a novel and also didn't like it.  Finally, it ended up being what I think it always should have been which is a memoir.  Why it was so difficult for me to arrive at that I can't say.  I think it would be ironic is someone else made it into a movie.

Josh

Name:            Clarence Oliver
E-mail:           
Date:              02/04/10

Dear Josh:

I've recently bought your book, The Complete Guide to Low-Budget Feature Filmmaking, and think it should be called The Necessary Guide for all Low-Budget Feature Filmmakers, it's just wonderful. My question pertains to the opening pages of the book, about DV and HD recording. I've worked as an AD and a Producer on films shot on film and on digital (i've been very lucky for being 21), and I understand the importance of film as a medium. But in 2009, with more theaters going to digital projection, do you see that switch coming for acceptability of DV soon? Also, what are your thoughts on movies that utilize the camera itself as a part of the movie, i.e Paranormal Activity?

 Dear Clarence:

I've got news for you, dude, it's 2010.  I'm glad you liked the book.  DV is far more acceptable now than when I wrote the book five years ago.  Should I get the financing to make the films for SyFy that I'm hoping to make, I'd go digital now.  Personally, I'd rather shoot 2-perf 35mm, and that's how we budgeted, but I've changed my mind.  I'm still of the opinion that it's more difficult to light DV and make it look good.  However, DV is certainly cheaper, and if you have a lot of digital effects, as these SyFy films do, it will make our lives a lot easier.  "Paranormal Activity" is a clever idea and the camera is clearly an integral part of the whole concept.  But it's not a genre, it's a specific idea.  Anyone else that uses the same idea is just a rip-off

Josh

Name:            Debi, Rick's Sister
E-mail:           
Date:              02/04/10

Hi Josh,

I was just netting around and discovered Rick's picture (his favorite) on your page. I've wondered sometimes how things went with Stevie (also Rick's middle name - Steven). Cat's deserve the honor we give them. Hey, how are you doing?

Debi

Dear Debi:

It's very nice to hear from you and I hope you're doing well.  Coincidentally, as I was going through my books two or three days ago I opened T. E. Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom," which used to belong to Rick, and two photos of Rick dropped out.  The black and white shot is Rick posing as the GQ Hassid, a look I know he favored.  Regarding movies and what we thought was good, it used to be Rick and I against the world, with Rick being the louder and more opinionated of the two of us.  Now it's just me by myself and I don't hold up my side of the argument nearly as well as Rick did.  I never had a filmmaking mentor, but I did have a movie-going mentor and it was Rick.  By the way, I dedicated my book "Rushes" to Rick, and there's an article in the book that he and I wrote together, as well as an explanation by me about that writing experience, that I'm sure would interest you.  Thanks for dropping by.

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           
Date:              02/02/10

Dear Josh:

Bildungsroman is just fancy talk for "coming-of-age" story, though it includes more than just that. Like, an awakening to a new kind of existence. So the whole memoir is a bildungsroman of Josh, "to be or to do" is the epiphany. And then Bert has one in his episode. Anyway, it's good stuff. I also just love the idea of getting to Alaska and then turning around, and the number of odd/interesting characters you meet in quick succession in that period. Though there were plenty of big characters in LA, somehow the people in the Alaska section were more individualized, more meaningful, which kind of implies that in fact just taking the trip really did have the huge impact on you that you had hoped.

Dear Will:

Going to Alaska changed the course of my life.  Had I not decided to go back to Detroit I wouldn't have hooked back up with Bruce, Sam and Scott, and look where that went.  Meanwhile, it certainly was a barrage of characters as only reality can throw them at you.  Even though my story happened a lot earlier, and isn't quite so dramatic, I think it sort of makes a good bookend with "Into the Wild."  What do you think?

Josh

Name:            jc
E-mail:           
Date:              02/02/10

Josh,

My question is regarding the need for studios to have big stars attached to films to sell them and then make money at the BO. Will this every change? And should it? My personal opinion is that people like Brad Pitt, Clooney, Julia Roberts, all ruin films because they cant act their way out of their own huge persona. Therefore they pop me out of the movie. In other words, I see Pitt rather than his character in every movie hes in. Im thinking of 3 films specifically I recently saw: District 9, inglorious basterds, and avatar. All big hits and arguably the only huge star in an any of these films is Pitt in basterds. And he not only gets out acted by the Hans Landa character and the Shoshanna character but really most of the cast, who are in fact not even American. Kind of begs the question, what other great actors are we missing out on because hollywood is cramming Pitt, Cruise and clooney down our throats? The thing I like about these three films is they rely on story and direction and writing, they dont need a huge star. The star is the material. Maybe we will see some better films if these types of films succeed without the hollywood elite?

Dear jc:

Oddly, Hollywood executives are trying to make movies that sell, and since the beginning of motion pictures movie stars have sold movies, or at least opened them.  Now we also have the filmmakers as stars, like James Cameron or Quentin Tarantino, who can also open and sell a film.  But, for the most part, film executives need something to hang their hats on.  Why will anyone see this film?  If it's not the stars or the filmmakers, then what?  Good reviews?  Those frequently don't work, and who says you're going to get good reviews?  This is the reason there's such a plethora of sequels and remakes, because those have a built-in awareness factor, and if it's a sequel to a hit film then you can be reasonably certain you'll do at least half the business of the first one.  Making movies is a high-stakes crap-shoot and there has to be some belief that the film will sell, and that's what movie stars do -- they give the executives something to believe in.  Also keep in mind, and I don't think most people realize this, that there are about a hundred times more movies made each year than actually get released.  All you need to do is to go to any film market, like the American Film Market, MIFED or Cannes, or atleast look at the Variety and Hollywood Reporter that come out to accompany them, and you'll see ads for hundreds of films that will never see the light of a projector bulb, or even the inside of a video store, and what those films are generally lacking is a star.  These films may have some good name actors, too, but that doesn't do the trick.  Also, stars get movies made.  Without the stars, many of the films you're aware of would probably never have gotten financed to begin with.  Stars aren't the problem, the audience is the problem -- they'd much prefer to see "Bullshit III" with Julia Roberts than something they haven't heard of with actors they've never heard of.

Josh

Name:            Bob
E-mail:           
Date:              02/01/10

Dear Josh:

Did you ever see 'Kill the Umpire' with William Bendix? I remember seeing it years ago on late night TV a few times. If you saw it, did you like it?

Dear Bob:

Never heard of it until now.  It was written by Frank Tashlin, so it might be funny.

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           
Date:              02/01/10

Dear Josh:

I think the reason the scene with Bert was my favorite was the way it became a symbol for your own growth. I mean, you're in L.A., and you're writing but not really getting anywhere. Then on this journey you have this discussion with a kid and say for the first time that it doesn't really matter where you are, but what you do. Yet you hadn't really realized that yourself yet; you say it before it sinks in. The fact that Bert seemed to be the kind of kid who thought about things made him, in character terms, kind of like a mirror to you. Like you were talking to yourself, I guess! It's a memoir as the classic bildungsroman story, though I don't mean to sound like some pretentious literary critic. Anyway, that's one of the things I really liked. Good luck with the short stories. I look forward to reading them.

Dear Will:

Yes, the classic bildungsroman story.  Actually, I don't know that word and can't even find it in my German-English dictionary.  Is that like meeting a character who is another version of you?

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           wdodson52@hotmail.com
Date:              01/31/10

Dear Josh:

I ordered "Going Hollywood" the day it was released, but didn't get a chance to read it until this week. Just finished it. Your three books are very different in subject and style, so one couldn't really say one or another is the "best," but your writing style here is really quite good. Your pace, rhythm, and structure make the read go quickly without being light in content. Your inclusion of journal entries is a great way of comparing the 18-year-old perspective of them to the looking-back perspective of now. I also like the way you chronicle all the details of your life at that time. Details that would be mundane in a typical memoir, like your various sexual experiences, are exactly the details that are most important to a kid that age having those experiences. My favorite episode is your conversation with Bert. I wonder if he remembers any of it now. Anyway, congratulations. I hope it's selling well and that you have another book in you soon.

Dear Will:

You're not the first one to read the book, but you're first one to make any comments.  Thank you.  I was starting to think that the book was leaving no impression at all on anyone.  I wonder if Bert remembers the conversation, too, although I doubt it, considering it was 34 years ago and he was a 14-year-old kid having a conversation one day with a hitchhiker on the side of the road.  But he was a very bright, cool kid who certainly helped make that long day go by.  Interesting that that was your favorite episode.  Regarding another book, I'm presently pounding my way through a collection of short stories.  I've written eight stories in the past three months and maybe four of them are good to OK, so I've probably got ten stories in total for the collection now, and I probably need at least five more.  I'm hoping at some point this year to have enough for a whole collection.  Since I've already written a how-to book, an essay collection, a memoir, and now a short story collection, next ought to be a novel I guess.  Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed reading the book.

Josh 

Name:            Toad Lytle
E-mail:           
Date:              01/28/10

Dear Josh:

Thanks for your thoughts, Josh. I tend to agree. I also agree with Will on his assessment of Crimewave (which I just saw), especially in its showcasing of Sterling Hayden's tough guy persona. I've always liked him, but this role is particularly exceptional, I'd argue better even than his justly famous turn in Asphalt Jungle. I also just saw Honor Among Thieves and I think I like it even more than Will (especially the central set-piece which involves Bronson and Delon trapped inside a vault and slowly suffocating). That's what I love digging deep into great star's filmographies--such unexpected discoveries! Josh, I think The Mechanic is one of the most fun of the group, in particular that methodic opening kill (first 10 minutes or so, no spoken words) and the shock ending which is one of the great twists. I also watched The Evil that Men Do recently and find that to be on the other side of the spectrum, just another J. Lee Thompson/Bronson flick about killing people, although this one had the unusual distinction of having Bronson pose as a bisexual in order to seduce Raymond St. Jaques back to his hotel room and throw a knife through his neck! Have we exhausted the subject yet? I hope not!

Dear Toad:

There's also "Master of the World" (1961), which I haven't seen in 30 years, but I recall that it was good, with Vincent Price and Charles Bronson and a script by Richard Matheson.  Price is an evil genius trying to rule the world from a wacky Jules Verne Zeppelin-balloon contraption and Bronson is oddly the good guy trying to stop him.  I always kind of liked "Never So Few" a WWII film with Frank Sinatra and Charles Bronson, directed by the always solid John Sturges.  If you want to see an exceptionally weird one try "This Property is Condemned" with Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Charles Bronson, based on a Tennessee Williams play adapted by Francis Coppola, directed by Sidney Pollack, shot by James Wong Howe, and the film is real crap. Then there's Sam Fuller's film "Run of the Arrow," with Rod Steiger and Bronson, which was pure nonsense, except I saw it and Sam Fuller answered questions afterward.  Someone asked him, "Why doesn't Rod Steiger even admit to making this movie?"  Fuller replied, "That's because Steiger's an asshole."  Anyway, there's some more Charles Bronson films that if not good, then weird.

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           
Date:              01/27/10

Dear Josh:

I'm also a big Charles Bronson fan, and I'd like to add another pretty good movie and performance from his Buchinsky days. Andre De Toth's "Crime Wave" (1954) starring Sterling Hayden features Buchinsky as an unhinged escaped convict. It's his first speaking role after his mute performance in De Toth's "House of Wax." Anyway, it's a pretty good little movie, mainly due to Bronson and Hayden's performances (both really make you feel like they're dangerous). There's a heist movie pairing Bronson and Alain Delon, "Honor Among Thieves," that has some great moments, although the movie as a whole doesn't really hold together. Still, I liked it mainly because it's one of the few Bronson performances (and this was during his period of European superstardom) where he's a playful character who laughs a lot. It's funny seeing him irritate Delon, who's really stuffy in the film.

Dear Will:

I've never seen the 1954 "Crime Wave," but it sounds good.  Regarding Bronson's European stardom phase, there's also "Cold Sweat," which is kinda sorta interesting.  Broson's also pretty good in the silly Elvis remake of "Kid Galahad."  And did we mention "The Mechanic"?  I like that film.  It has a terrific opening sequence.

Josh

Name:            Wahlt
E-mail:           
Date:              01/26/10

Dear Josh:

I was wondering if you had seen either "The Look-out" or "(500) Days of Summer" and if you have what you thought of them. Also, what do you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor?

Dear Wahlt:

No, no, and I don't know who he is.

Josh

Name:            Toad Lytle
E-mail:           
Date:              01/26/10

Hey Josh,

I've recently been on a Charles Bronson kick in an effort to watch most (but certainly not ALL) of his films. I've seen some great ones (Great Escape, Dirty Dozen, Once Upon a Time in the West), some good ones (Battle of the Bulge, Magnificent 7, Hard Times, Never So Few, Mr. Majestyk), some bizarre and awesomely outrageous ones (10 to Midnight, The Mechanic, Death Wish), and some lame ones (St. Ives, Breakheart Pass, Telefon). Do you have some favorite Bronson performances? I'd like to hear your thoughts--particularly on films of his I haven't mentioned, as it could help me to figure out what else I need to see. I'm particularly curious about Death Hunt, Red Sun, Breakout, and The Valachi Papers, and I value your opinion.
Thanks!

Dear Toad:

I like Charles Bronson a lot.  I don't think people realize now that he was a character actor for 20 years before he became a star at the age of 50.  Meanwhile, I thought "Telefon" was OK and I wouldn't put it on the lame list, and I really like "Hard Times," which seems better than good, but not great, otherwise I agree with your assessment of his career.  "Breakout" and "The Valachi Papers" are OK, "Death Hunt" and "Red Sun" are crap (I digress here, but as a kid when I heard about "Red Sun," with Bronson and Toshiro Mifune, I got very excited and the film turned out to be a HUGE letdown).  All you really need to see now are some of his early pictures, back when he was Charles Buchinski, like "Pat and Mike," "House of Wax," "Apache" and "Vera Cruz," just to fill in, but otherwise you've got him.  I guess my favorite performances of his were "The Great Escape" and "The Dirty Dozen," and, as I said, I really like "Hard Times."

Josh

Name:            Jr
E-mail:           
Date:              01/26/10

Hello Josh,

is Legend of the Seeker in trouble of being canceled? Hey Josh i heard Renee gave you a kiss and made you blue in that scene in which she was blue and howling at the moon? is this true?hehhee,if true you lucky guy,well maybe Jed is even luckier. Man i miss that show.

Dear Jr:

That's nothing more than a rumour about "Seeker" and may very well not be true.  Meanwhile, it wasn't really a kiss, it was a gag.  Renee was covered with all that mud and blue stuff and waved me over like she wanted to discuss the scene, then grabbed me and got me covered in all that crap, too.  It was funny, but I was filthy for the rest of the day.

Josh

Name:            A.J.
E-mail:           
Date:              01/26/10

Josh,

How do you feel about films with no dialouge? Do you have one you like enough to recomend checking out? Im think about trying my hand at a short of this nature and it would be cool to find some to study. Thanks. Oh And I finally got to read "Going Hollywood" and enjoyed it for a while on my lunchbreaks at work. Ill pass it on to some of my buddies to check out.

Dear A.J.:

I don't know of many sound films with no dialog other than "The Thief" (1952) with Ray Milland, which was a terrible drag and was completely hindered by not having dialog.  Obviously, all films from 1927 back had no dialog, but darn near all of them had title cards indicating dialog, other than F.W. Murnau's "The Last Laugh" (1924), which is a very interesting film and definitely worth seeing.  The first ten minutes or so of "There Will Be Blood" had no dialog and it's the best part of the movie.  I guess my feeling about this is, why make your life more difficult than it needs to be?  It's difficult enough as it is to make a film that's any good at all, why make it harder?  Thanks for reading my book.  Any comments?

Josh

Name:            Brian Mackanee
E-mail:           
Date:              01/24/10

Dear Josh:

What do you make of Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat from MA? To say that I am a little distressed about this turn of events is an understatement. Is health care reform now dead? Seems to me that President Obama is trying to deliver on his promises of change and the Congress and American people just can't handle it.

Dear Brian:

Here's your choice in American politics: evil on the right; incompetence on the left, you choose.  For me there's no choice, I'll always take the incompetent left, but with that comes a total snarled logjam.  I don't care at all about Scott Brown because it doesn't matter in the slightest.  The Democrats can't get anything done even with a "super-majority," and that doesn't matter in the slightest either regarding the health care bill because it's already been stripped of everything that's important -- no public option, no buying into medicare at 55, no lower prescription prices -- so what's left?  That we'll all now be required to have health insurance?  Therefore, the only ones who will benefit from this bill now will be the insurance companies.  Sadly, it's all bullshit.

Josh

Name:            Jack Alderton
E-mail:           
Date:              01/23/10

Dear Josh:

I am currently working on a Pilot Script for a TV Series that features two 12-year-old Twin Brothers as the Lead Characters and I was wondering, in relation to the rule of Characterization that all your Characters should speak differently, if Twins speak differently or if, because they're fairly close and their experiences that shape how they speak (where they Live, etc.) there's no difference in a Screenplay. Would greatly appreciate an answer. Am also wondering just out of curiosity if you've seen Bruce Robinson's "Withnail and I," based on Robinson's experiences as an Unemployed Actor in London in the 60's.

Dear Jack:

I watched about the first third of "Withnail and I" years ago and bailed, so I can't comment.  I don't think it matters that the two boys are twins, they're different people and therefore sees things in their own ways and respond in their own ways.  "60 Minutes" did a piece about 12-year-old twin boys, one of whom was your average 12-year-old, who liked sports and shoot-'em-up video games; while his brother liked nothing but feminine things and already knew that he was gay.  No two people are alike, even if they're twins.  They may be similar, but they're not the same.

Josh

Name:            Warren McG
E-mail:           
Date:              01/23/10

Dear Josh:

Asking a smoker if "they want to stop smoking" is a stupid question. All smokers would love to stop smoking. If you say to the most confirmed smoker, "If you could go back in time before you became hooked, witht he knowledge you have now, would you have started smoking?" "NO WAY" will always be the reply. Say to the most confirmed smoker--someone who doesn't think it injures his health, who is not worried about the social stigma, and who can afford it--"Do you encourage yours or other children to smoke?" "NO WAY" will always be the answer. The whole business of smoking is an extraordinary enigma. The only reason we get on to it is because thousands of other people are already doing it. Yet every one of them wishes he or she had not started in the first place. You say you smoke for pleasure? Enjoyment? Relaxation? A prop? Inspiration? A boost? All illusions, unless you consider the wearing of tight shoes to enjoy the removal of them as some sort of pleasure. You only smoke to relieve the slight withdrawl pangs created from the last cigarette. Josh, it’s time to quit.

Dear Warren:

Thanks for answering all of the questions for me.  As a friend of mine suggests, one really ought to avoid definitives like "always" and "every" and "all" because they make you sound silly. Smoking may very well kill me, but I must honestly admit that I've enjoyed every cigarette I've smoked, including the one I'm smoking right now.  Saying "All smokers would love to stop smoking" is as spurious of a statement as has ever been made.  You absolutely don't know what "all" smokers think, and the chances are that you don't even know why you think what you think.  As a wise man once said, "Don't give advice unless asked."  If I could go back to before I started smoking I would very probably start again, so that first "NO WAY" is not true.  Do I encourage children to smoke?  No.  Are all my reasons for smoking  mere illusions?  Perhaps, but I certainly do get a boost from a cigarette, even if it's only momentary, and I like that boost.  To intimate that you know why all smokers smoke is as meaningful as believing that you know why all drinkers drink or why all writers write.  The fact is, you don't.  You think you know something, but that doesn't mean you actually know anything.  Perhaps you should just stick to running your own life and let the rest of us run our own lives.  Should I quit?  Yes.  Will I quit soon?  Probably not.

Josh

Name:            Carter Nispel
E-mail:           
Date:              01/23/10

Joshy,

What the fuck, man? There are now two Sam Raimi/Bobby Tapert shows on tv that you could be directing... why can't your old pals get you on to this new SPARTACUS shit? I'm sure it's not Kubrick, but what is these days?

Dear Carter:

Joshy?  Bobby?  Did we all go to elementary school together?  "Legend of the Seeker" may not be long for this world.  I tried for a gig on "Spartacus" but all the positions were filled.  That how it crumbles, cookie-wise.  Regarding "Spartacus" the movie, it really is an Anthony Mann/Stanley Kubrick film.  Mann did all of the prep and casting (with Kirk Douglas, of course), and it's an Anthony Mann cast, with his regulars, John Ireland and Charles McGraw.  Also, Mann directed all of the slave school scenes, which I really like.  I love Kirk drowning McGraw in a pot of soup.

Josh

Name:            TJ
E-mail:           
Date:              01/22/10

Hey Josh,

I got a question for ya: How many days did it take to shoot 'Running Time'? I just finished a short; we rehearsed for 7 hours, hour lunch and then shot for 4...it was brutal;P

Dear TJ:

Good to hear from you.  It took ten days to shoot "Running Time," although we had gotten so far ahead of ourselves that we wrapped before lunch one day.  There was nothing brutal about that shoot.

Josh

Name:            Diana again
E-mail:           Ha-HAH!
Date:              01/21/10

Dear Josh:

Huh! Way cool. Loved too the anachronastic mention of Joxer needing "a hotel room, dirty pictures, and lingerie. ... But I can get those things!" LMAO! So did Strayton and O'Neill write the sauna chat, or you?

Dear Diana:

No, all that dialog was in the script.  My big contributions were the wrestling match and some of Joxer's quips.  Everything else was in the script.  It's just that the entire script was thrown out a week into prep (by Rob, not by me), and a new one was written in the course of the next week, with, I would think, quite a lot of help from R.J. and the Xena staff writers.  I was told "Kindred Spirits" was the one and only time that ever happened.  Nevertheless, the writers kicked ass, the pages came through exactly when they were needed and it all went fine.  When I said "we" pulled that one out of thin air, I meant that I was only one of the we.

Josh

Name:            Diana Hawkes
E-mail:           upon request
Date:              01/21/10

Dear Josh,

"Thighs of doooooom!!!" Hey, you know me, I'm a Becker-gal at heart, but even *I* have to admit that was a bridge too far, my friend! I just assumed you, Ted and Lucy all together were having too much fun to rein it in. But I did love the: "Hey, he's got something in his hand!" looped-in crack ending the peeping Tom scene. All of Ted was just marvelous. "Look, you're pagan. I'm Zoro-astrian. How will we raise our kids?" Comedy gold! But now that you mentioned it, actually I hold the episode near to my heart because you had the girlie "sauna sex-talk" scene that highlighted the difference in how Xena and Gabrielle like gettin' down with men. (I found Gabrielle's romance with Perdicus very touching.) Back in the day it served as a wee bit of ammunition in this shipper's arguments with some of the more possessive subbers. So- much obliged! Ha-HAH! as Joxer would say.

Dear Diana:
 
As I said, that episode was sort of pulled out of thin air.  I just dug out the shooting script to see what was there.  It goes right from the dialog about the only rule in a fight to the death is that someone has to die to Xena giving Joxer the pinch and "killing" him. Everything in between I added, with enormous help from Lucy and Ted.  I knew that if I set that situation up and gave Lucy and Ted just a few ideas of what the silly dialog should be, off they'd go.  I'd also gotten Peter Bell the stunt director to work out some cool wrestling moves, and when we put it all together, that's what you got.  I put in that Pagan/Zoroastrian line, too.  I put in another line that Ted loved.  An Amazon goes by dressed in furs and Joxer asks, "Is that real fur?"  Bruce and I have discussed this many times.  He and I basically got to do whatever we wanted because we were friends with Rob and Rob trusted us.  It's unheard of on TV.
 
Josh

Name:            Kevin
E-mail:           
Date:              01/21/10

Dear Josh,

Since you own 35mm prints of your own films, have you ever had problems with vinegar syndrome?

Dear Kevin:

No I haven't.  I keep my film prints (as well as the negatives) at Pacific Title Archives in L.A. where everything is kept at exactly the right temperature.

Josh

Name:            Dilyana Kroutilikova
E-mail:           
Date:              01/20/10

Dear Josh:

When I was reading it, it reminded me a lot of the Polanski's film Rosemary's Baby.

Dear Dilyana:

What did?

Josh

Name:            Jeff Alede
E-mail:           
Date:              01/18/10

Dear Josh:

Hey, speaking of great films scores, Jerry Goldsmith's score to Islands in the Stream was just released (http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm?ID=13375). I know you're a big fan of the three successive "P" films from Franklin Schaffner, so what do you think of Islands? I've read that Islands is considered one of Goldsmith's greatest scores as well.

Dear Jeff:

It's a pretty mild score for kind of a nothing movie.

Josh

Name:            jr
E-mail:           
Date:              01/18/10

Dear Josh:

Your mention of "Kindred Spirits" made me smile. I remembered Renee and Ted on the blooper tapes laughing these asses off.Man i would love to see them work together again with you directing, it would be pure magic.Yep that my new year's wish.have a good day josh ant thanks for the fun memory.

Dear jr:

That was a pretty silly episode.  That was the one where the entire script got thrown out and was rewritten from scratch a week before shooting.  I added the entire wrestling match, for whatever that's worth.  I thought all of that stuff with Joxer in the stocks was funny.

Josh

Name:            Ian Baird
E-mail:           
Date:              01/17/10

Dear Josh:

Why doesn't director Michael Curtiz get the respect he deserves? The man is responsible for some of the greatest films ever made. Among them, "We're No Angels," "White Christmas," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "The Sea Hawk," "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," "Angels with DIrty Faces," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "Captain Blood," and last but not least, arguably the greatest film ever made...CASABLANCA! I don't get it. This guy is one of the best. Can you speak on this a bit?

Dear Ian:

Michael Curtiz certainly has my respect, to the extent where I have a scene in my film "Lunatics" that's an homage to him (when Nancy tries to kill herself, puts the gun in her mouth, takes a step backward and her shadow appears on the wall).  He was the master of the use of shadows.  I don't know that it's a lack of respect as much as it is a lack of acknowlegement.  Those who know who he is respect the hell out of him.  The issue is that he was a "studio director," who primarily worked for Warner Bros., and directed the pictures that were assigned to him.  He didn't initiate projects, nor did he develop them, he just came in and directed them once the heads of production, first Darryl Zanuck, then Hal Wallis, decided they were ready to shoot.  I believe that there's a lot more respect, and acknowledgement, given to the writer-directors and the producer-directors who did initiate and develop projects.  Had John Ford or William Wyler not taken control of their own careers right after WWII and began initiating and producing their own films, they too might well have ended up in the same boat since they too were both studio directors (Wyler for Goldwyn, Ford for Fox).  There's also the issue that many people, particularly actors, didn't like Curtiz.  Errol Flynn hated him, and finally wouldn't work with him anymore, so Warners  assigned Raoul Walsh to direct his films (another terrific studio director).  James Cagney never stopped making fun of Curtiz and his thick Hungarian accent.  Cagney really resented that Curtiz gave the actors line readings of the dialog, accent and all.  I used this as an example in my book, "Complete Guide...," of you do what you have to do to get what you want.  It doesn't matter if Cagney doesn't like how you direct, if it works--and clearly for Curtiz it did work, considering how many great movies he directed--then you stick with it.  Michael Curtiz did get an Oscar for "Casablanca," so he was acknowledged within the industry, just not outside of it.

Josh

Name:            Diana Hawkes
E-mail:           upon request
Date:              01/16/10

Dear Josh:

I just saw a blurb online (very little details) that the first seasons of both Hercules and Xena are being re-released by Universal, not Anchor Bay. Rob had stated, oh ... years ago if I recall correctly, that neither him, Lucy or Renee got their compensation for filming the extras/commentary; he seemed rightly steamed about it. I wonder if this new release somehow means that all involved finally got what they were promised. Anyway - wanted to give you the heads-up since I know you were involved in the 1st season commentary for Xena. With no sword sticking out of your head! Maybe you are entitled to $$$ for this new production? Don't let 'em skunk you!

Dear Diana:

They never said they'd pay me for the commentary.  They flew me into L.A. for it and put me up and that was it.  But a rerelase of DVDs means more residuals, which is OK with me.  Someone asked me on New Year's Eve what I had been doing ten years earlier on the millenium?  I looked in my journal and I had just shot the Xena ep "Kindred Spirits," which I didn't remember at all, so I watched it.  That was the one in the Amazon village with Joxer in the stocks and the big wrestling scene at the end.  That was an episode completely pulled out of the air.  Ah, the good old days.

Josh

Name:            Josh Jackson
E-mail:           
Date:              01/14/10

Dear Josh,

I'm curious as to your feelings on the seeming respect animation is getting these days, 2009 being a banner year for all facets be they mainstream (Up, Coraline), art-house fare (Fantastic Mr. Fox, 9) or foreign (Ponyo). Do you think any member of the genre deserves to be included in serious discussions or are they just another contributor to the malaise of modern film making?

Dear Josh:

Animation is every bit as valid as anything else, and it deserves to be respected.  Nor do I think animation is in any way a cause of malaise.  I personally don't watch many animated movies anymore, since, for the most part, animation is aimed at children, often little children.  Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy "Finding Nemo" or "Toy Story," I did, but a little of that goes a long way for me now.  I find it hard enough to care about actual human beings in movies, let along digital creatures with movie star's voices.  But obviously that's just me.

Josh

Name:            Paul
E-mail:           
Date:              01/12/10

Dear Mr. Becker:

Do you have a book where you talk about your films: Hercules, Running Time, Lunatics, Alien Apo...?? I would like to buy it. But I don't know which of the three is that...

Thanks.
Paul.

Dear Paul:

That's "Rushes."  You get all of that, plus much, much more.  Enjoy.

Josh

Name:            Kevin Neece
E-mail:           
Date:              01/11/10

Dear Josh:

I've just got a movie trivia question I've wanted answered every goddamn day I go to lunch at work.

On the poster for POSEIDON ADVENTURE at my job, it says "Combining the talents of 15 Academy Award Winners!"

Which 15? I can name a handful off the poster, but not all 15.

Kevin

Dear Kevin:

1. Gene Hackman -- Best Actor, "The French Connection;" 2. Ernest Borgnine -- Best Actor, "Marty;" 3. Red Buttons -- Supporting Actor, "Sayonara;" 4. Shelly Winters -- two Supporting Actress awards, "A Patch of Blue," "The Diary of Anne Frank;" 5. Sterling Silliphant -- Best Screenplay, "In the Heat of the Night;" 6. Wendell Mayes -- Best Screenplay, "Anatomy of a Murder;" 7. John Williams -- Best Adapted Score, "Fiddler on the Roof" (he'd go on to win 4 more); 8. Harold F. Kress -- Best Editing, "How the West Was Won;" 9. Raphael Bretton -- Best Art Direction, "Hello, Dolly;" 10. L.B. Abbott -- Best Special Effects, "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "Dr. Dolittle;" 11. A.D. Flowers -- Best Special Effects, "Tora, Tora, Tora;" 12. Irwin Allen -- Best Documentary, Feature, "The Sea Around Us;" 13. Steve Broidy, Jean Hersholt Award.

So, with Shelly Winters' 2 Oscars and L.B. Abbott's 2 Oscars you're up to 15.

Josh  

Name:            Jonathan Moody
E-mail:           
Date:              01/10/10

Hey Josh,

Its been a while since I asked a question. And mainly due to not really having an interesting question to ask. But I have one now. I was just watching an interview Lloyd Kaufman did with director Vincent Sherman a year before Vincent Sherman's death. It was a really well done interview and the main thing they touched upon was Vincent being blacklisted. And Elia Kazan being one of the people who turned many of those people in. What are your thoughts on Vincent Sherman as a director? And what are your thoughts on the black list? Especially Elia also getting a lifetime achievement award and being applauded by many filmmakers like Steven Spielberg? Thanks Josh... I'm looking forward to picking up both of your books when I get some extra cash.

Jonathan

Dear Jonathan:

I'd say Vincent Sherman made two really good movies, "Mr. Skeffington" with Bette Davis and Claude Rains and "The Hasty Heart" with Ronald Reagan and Patricia Neal.  Otherwise, he was an extremely competent, workman-like director who knew how to keep things moving.  Regarding the blacklist, I've always felt that, for the most part, you can't hold an artist's personality or beliefs against them as an artist.  For instance, Richard Wagner was a virulent antiSemite, but that doesn't mean that "Tristan und Isolde" isn't beautiful.  Beethoven was supposed to be an asshole, but that doesn't make his music any less spectacular.  Therefore, giving Elia Kazan a lifetime achievement award for being a great filmmaker is, in my opinion, entirely deserved -- he was a great filmmaker.  Were the award for being a great man, that's a different story.  I don't think Kazan was a bad man, he did something that was unforgivable to a lot of people and was scorned by many to the end of his days.  The director Edward Dmytryk was the one member of the Hollywood Ten who, after a stretch in jail with no end in sight, recanted before HUAC and admitted to being a Communist and he too was scorned and never forgiven.  Here's my big issue: I wasn't there and I didn't have to deal with it.  I don't know what it would be like to have Feds arrive at your door, take you away and you don't know what's going to happen to you or how long you might be in jail because the laws of the land where you live have gone completely haywire. It would be like Feds arriving at your door today, saying you're a terrorist and taking you away to god knows where for who knows how long?  As has been said, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Josh

Name:            Michael
E-mail:           
Date:              01/09/10

Dear Josh:

Just started reading GOING HOLLYWOOD, loved RUSHES, any more memiors in the works?

Dear Michael:

Between those two books it pretty much covers most of my life.  All that's left are my first 17 years, which were no big deal, and the last three years, which totally sucked.  I need to do something else so I'll have something to write about.  Anyway, I'm glad you loved "Rushes," and I hope you like "Going Hollywood."  Write back and let me know what you think.

Josh

Name:            Scott
E-mail:           
Date:              01/09/10

To Henry:

Good guess, but I can neither confirm nor deny.

To Josh:

I actually haven't seen Straight Time but it is certainly on my list of films to see. I hear it's great. Yes, M. Emmett Walsh is terrific and terrific to work with as well. We didn't have him for too many days but he couldn't have been nicer and more professional. Our show is all staffed up but would love to work with you if I could get some money together. I feel your pain about raising money, and hopefully your latest lead comes through. I'm dealing with a set of investors for a film right now and have been presented with the most common chicken or the egg scenario; "We'll match first money in if you can find it." Once you find first money, they say: "We'll put first money in if you have an actor attached." It's sad, but as you know, this scenario is common place. I just take it in stride and don't get frustrated anymore. Life's too short. I really hope you're able to raise money for your projects. Making features directly for SyFy sounds like a good business plan. There is a solid revenue stream unlike making an independent one-off where you're most likely to get a lousy rev share deal from a corrupt distributor. Best of luck with it!

Scott

Dear Scott:

I think it's the best movie deal I've ever put together.  Between myself and my partner in the deal, Gary Jones, we've made eight pictures for SyFy, and, if may immodestly add, "Alien Apocalypse" was their highest-rated movie for a while, so I think we understand the market, and we can make them at an extremely reasonable price here, with a 40% rebate.  To use what I believe is the most common phrase in the film biz, we'll see.  Yeah, the old "you get first money or get a name actor attached" is a bitch, since name actors won't commit without the financing in place.  I wish you the very best of luck with your film, and put "Straight Time" high on your list.  It's not an easy movie, but most definitely worth it.  It was a huge influence on both "Reservoir Dogs" and my film, "Running Time," which, if you haven't seen, you might enjoy.

Josh

Name:            Henry
E-mail:           
Date:              01/08/10

To Scott:

Would I be far off base to guess that "Your Name Here" is about Philip K. Dick?

To Josh:

Speaking of Mr. Dick (what an unfortunate surname), have you seen Richard Linklater's adaptation of "A Scanner Darkly"? I found it fairly intriguing. It was (unlike most Dick adaptations) faithful to the novel to a large extent, and I thought the rotoscope (sp?) animation worked because it makes the characters both lifelike yet artificial at the same time, and given that the story is about people who often can't tell the difference between reality and delusion, it makes sense that Linklater would go that route with the animation... at least it does to me. I also think that it's Keanu Reeves' best performance because he usually comes across as some kind of drugged out zombie in his films, and since that's essentially what his character is, I'd say it's perfect casting.

Dear Henry:

Haven't seen it.  I hear "Me and Orson Welles" is pretty good.  I did like "Tape."  I must admit that I'm not a big fan of rotoscoping.  And yes, Phillip Dick has not been treated all that well by the movies.

Josh

Name:            Dave Brown
E-mail:           
Date:              01/08/10

Dear Josh:

Sir, Thank You. You was able to articulate what i believe with all my being. It is maddening to live in a world such as this and see our fellow humans fight and die for a lie. History does in fact prove our point. Have you ever taken it one step further? What i mean is truly ancient history..most notably the sumariens. It was a time when science was religion. Anyway i just wished to convey my graditude to a well written article.

Dear Dave:

Well thank you.  I've read about the Sumerians, but I've never thought of adding them to that essay.

Josh

Name:            Scott
E-mail:           
Date:              01/07/10

Hey Josh,

I did enjoy the Alaska portion of the book, I like how it made you realize that you can't escape yourself no matter where you leave your life behind. LA has driven me to the brink many times but I don't have a Detroit to go back to. I'm a 4th generation Angelino. My family has been rooted in LA for over a century, and my entire support system is there. Despite all of that it can still be a miserable place, not that it doesn't have its charms. To answer your question, I make my living as a producer. I have made 14 features, most of which I'm not particularly proud of, however the experience has been invaluable. Most of my films have been low budget genre pics; mostly horror. Sam Raimi picked up my film Brotherhood of Blood for his Ghosthouse Underground label; that was a real coup. The film I am most proud of has yet to come out, it's called Your Name Here and is loosely based on the last 4 days of a famous science fiction author's life. (There were some hiccups with this particular author's estate, so we had to change the character's name. I can't mention who it is until the film comes out.) He basically ends up living his unfinished novel which he experiences during his last drug trip. Bill Pullman leads the cast. M. Emmett Walsh, Harold Parrineau from Lost, and Taryn Manning round out the rest of he cast. It turned out to be an interesting little film, and I'm hoping people get to see it soon. I am now producing an astronomy series for Discovery. Television is where the work is as features have taken a complete nose dive. I really would love to produce a great script one of these days but the economy and the decaying state of the industry have made it increasingly difficult to raise money. It hasn't stopped me from plugging away. How are things going with your endeavors?

Scott

Dear Scott:

14 films is impressive no matter what they are.  Meanwhile, I think M. Emmett Walsh is a terrific actor.  Have you ever seen "Straight Time"?  Walsh is great in it, as are Dustin Hoffman, Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton.  And your new films sound interesting.  Good luck with it.  Need any directors on your Discovery show?  Meanwhile, I'm attempting to raise money to make SyFy Channel films here in Michigan.  Me and my partner Gary Jones have been at it since April and have already been through four groups of investors who all crapped out (I think you know this story).  We've got a pretty good lead right now (knock on wood), so we'll see.  Michigan isn't the world's greatest place to be raising money these days.  A 4th generation Angelino is quite rare.  L.A. was a tiny little town a hundred years ago.  It's gotten a tad larger since then.

Josh

Name:            Scott
E-mail:           
Date:              01/06/10

Josh,

I really did enjoy the book, I suppose "Very Interesting" can be deemed as a tad nebulous. I enjoyed it mostly because I was able to relate to it. I have an undying passion for film, and currently make a living as a filmmaker. I'm always interested in hearing people's stories about this town, especially from transplants who have ventured far and wide to compete in this dog eat dog world we call Hollywood. One element that I think you captured very well, which I hope was intentional, was the loneliness of LA and the non-existent sense of community. This was peppered throughout the entire book and it felt incredibly honest.I meet transplants practically every day who courageously took the plunge to move to LA with no social support system. I don't know how they do it as LA can be such a scary, dreary, unfriendly place. It takes chutzpah to take the plunge and stick with it. Most people leave after 6 months. In any event I can see why you ventured to Alaska, if I were in your shoes I would have done the same thing. Regardless, keep writing and I hope you get another film off the ground soon, this financial crisis is really hurting us independents.

Dear Scott:

It's one of the big ironies of my life that I love movies and the history of Hollywood, I just can't stand living there.  Like you say, there's no sense of community, it's a dreary, unfriendly place, and there's nothing lonelier than being by yourself in a big city (although being by yourself in the woods in the middle of nowhere isn't any better).  I did end up moving back to L.A. four more times after that, then bailed out each and every time.  Aside from the traffic, smog and unfriendly people, it distressed the hell out of me that 99% of the people in the film business aren't really film fans, haven't seen most of the important movies, and therefore have no perspective.  I see movies as the great art form of the last 100 years; they see it strictly as a commodity business that's as meaningful as pork bellies.  What did you think of the whole Alaska section of the book?  By the way, what films have you made?  You're making a living as an independent filmmaker?  Tell us about it.

Josh

Name:            Trey Smith
E-mail:           
Date:              01/04/10

Happy New Year Josh,

I received your latest book as a Christmas gift and finished reading it a few days ago. I too thought it was incredibly interesting and though I have never lived there, nor do I plan on ever doing so, I could easily relate to some of your doubtful thoughts about your future as a filmmaker. Also, after reading your book, I attempted adapting The Choice as my next short film with my friends starring. It turned out horribly, though there are a couple of shots in it that I like a lot.

Hope things are well,
Trey

Dear Trey:

So far on "Going Hollywood" I've gotten a "very interesting" and an "incredibly interesting," although I'm not sure that either of those translates into "good."  You and I had exactly the same experience making a film out of "The Choice."  It's a good little story.

Josh

Name:            Bob
E-mail:           
Date:              01/04/10

Dear Josh:

Do you know if Elmer Bernstein contributed to the theme song of The Big Valley? IMDB and other sources credit Bernstein in addition to George Duning, however the TV show credits seem to only credit Duning for the theme. It does have a very Bernsteinish sound to it. It\'s one of my top 10 or so favorite TV themes. Thanks.

Dear Bob:

Sorry, no idea.

Josh

Name:            LaFong
E-mail:           
Date:              01/03/10

Dear Josh:

Avatar was extremely entertaining but I noticed that the storyline of the film is uncannily similar to the storyline of the aborted Merian Cooper project War Eagles which also had giant flying birds, a paradise like setting invaders threatening the peaceful etc. Did Mr. Cameron draw inspiration from the War Eagles project? Ray Harryhausen was supposed to supply the special effects in the Cooper version.

Dear LaFong:

It does sound similar.  However, to actually find out if James Cameron drew inspiration from it, you'd have to ask him.  I know nothin'.

Josh

Name:            Danielle
E-mail:           
Date:              01/03/10

Hi Josh.

I just ordered GOING HOLLYWOOD from Amazon and I can't wait to read it. I enjoyed the excerpt you posted some time ago that described the birth of your friendship with Rick. Anyway, I just wanted to wish you a very Happy New Year.

Dear Danielle:

I hope you like it, and happy new year to you, too.

Josh

Name:            Scott
E-mail:           
Date:              01/03/10

Hey Josh,

I recently read Going Hollywood and found it very interesting. I am actually an LA native and share some of the same sentiments about the city that you have. Since it is my home I definitely have a love/hate relationship with it. In any event I was curious as to what happened to some of the cast of characters you wrote about. What ever happened to Marvis, Sherman, and Rex? Did you ever reconnect with them upon returning to LA? Have you thought about writing a follow-up if Going Hollywood does well?

Scott

Dear Scott:

Thanks so much for buying and reading my book.  I'm glad you found it interesting.  No, I haven't thought about writing a sequel.  I honestly don't think my further adventures in Hollywood were nearly as interesting as the first one, and of course I never hitchhiked to Alaska again.  Meanwhile, I was good friends with Marvis until about six years ago when he dropped off the face of the earth and stopped answering his phone or emails.  I ran into Rex years later in a grocery store and he told me he'd won the lottery for like $300,000.  Sherman and I were in contact until about ten years ago, then we totally drifted apart. C'est la vie.

Josh

Name:            Lenny Moore
E-mail:           nemo@metrocast.net
Date:              01/02/10

Hi Josh

I am always looking for information about June 6th 1918. My grandfather was in the 6th Marines, 96th Company 4th Platoon. Lt Clifton B Cates was the 4th platoon Leader. I read through most of what is on line here and was wondering where you got your information. Do you have letters from some of these men? Or is this pretty much an overview? One note - when Cates was hit with a machine gun bullet to the head and was knocked out, that happened when his 4th Platoon was heading towards the town of Bouresches. When he regained himself, he did together with Argaut, Finn, Dorrel and Belfry. These 4 men went with Cates into Bouresches where Lt Robertson had taken Cates men when Cates went down. Robertson and the 4th Platoon cleared out most of the town (some 250 Germans retreated) and Cates met up with then in the town. Robertson turned the men over to Cates as he (Robertson) went for reinforcments. Your story has Cates going fro getting hit right into Belleau Wood. Cates wasn't at Belleau Wood till the night of June 13-14th. I would be interested in any material you have on these men. I am looking for facts as to what happened there. Many stories from here are not all that detailed. I, along with several retired Marines and relatives of the 96th Copmany, are looking through letters sent home from our relatives, as well as Marine Corps documents.

Thank you,
Lenny Moore

Dear Lenny:

Yes, a lot of the details in that script are fabricated because, A. It's a dramatic presentation of a huge event telescoped down to 2 hours, and B. There's so little written about the Battle of Belleau Wood.  I read the few books there are on the battle, and I got most of my information about Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly from Leatherneck Magazine.  Six or seven years ago I was contacted Daly's grandson-in-law (I believe it was) who said that he and his wife had all of Daly's letters, but he'd stated in his will that they would never be published.  I said that I thought he should send them to Marine Corps, where they wouldn't be published and be in safe hands, but he disagreed.  I even contacted the historian H.W. Brands to solicit his advice about the situation and, sadly, he said there was nothing to do if the family says no.  I have the man's name somewhere, I'm pretty sure, but he was a NYC fireman.  Anyway, I got as much information as was humanly possible on the battle, then I just wrote it.   Good luck to you on your quest.  I apologize for the script's inaccuracies.

Josh

Name:            Jeremiah Johnson
E-mail:           
Date:              12/30/09

Dear Josh:

Why does Tarantino using the word "nigger" offend you? The word itself shouldn't be offensive so long as the intent behind it isn't that of a racist manner. And you're not black, so why does it matter?

Dear JJ:

I thought the whole scene was entirely extraneous, I do think the intention behind it is rascist, and it's there only for it's rascist shock value.  And were I Sam Jackson I'd have smacked his fuckin' lights out.  I heard, although I don't know that it's true, that Tarantino went up and introduced himself to Denzel Washington at Cannes, and Denzel wouldn't shake his hand and called him a rascist, specifically due to that scene.  Let's just say I'm empathetic to the offensive nature of the scene.  And why does it matter?  It doesn't.  It just happened to come up as a topic.  Nothing Tarantino has done matters to me.

Josh

Name:            Jeff Alede
E-mail:           
Date:              12/30/09

Dear Josh:

Good choices on film scores, Josh. I'm very fond of several John Barry scores - "Out of Africa," "Until September," "Enigma", the Bond films, etc. One of my faves of Goldsmith's that you didn't mention is "L.A. Confidential". He sure knew how to use trumpets/horns to great effect. Also, you did not mention John Williams (or Johnny, as he was called in his earlier years). He's certainly the best composer alive today.

Dear Jeff:

Yes, Jerry Goldsmith's score for "L.A. Confidential" was terrific.  Personally, I think Spielberg ruined John Williams.  I liked him a lot up through "Close Encounters," but I don't give a damn about most of his work after that, although I do like his score for "The Fury."  I don't recall if there was actually a lawsuit, but the "Raiders" score is a rip-off of an old Kent cigarette commercial ("to a smoker, it's a Kent").  Also, his score for "Star Wars" is asuch a rip-off of Gustav Holst's "The Planets" (specifically "Mars, Bringer of War") that it's shocking.  I did like Williams's scores for "The Cowboys" and "The Long Goodbye," both pre-Spielberg.  I never cared for John Barry, and since he didn't write the main theme for the Bond films, who cares?  I think Maurice Jarre completely shot his wad on "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Dr. Zhivago," and nothing after that matters.  Let's not forget Alex North, whose score for "Spartacus" is wonderful, and he composed many other fine scores, too.  Or David Raksin, whose score for "Laura" is a classic.  Henry Mancini did some terrific work in his day, like "Touch of Evil," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Peter Gunn" (for TV), "The Pink Panther" and "Victor/Victoria."

Josh

Name:            Anthony Palmer
E-mail:           
Date:              12/30/09

Dear Josh:

Thanks for recommending some westerns for me to watch. Unfortunately, I don't have Netflix or anything, so I am pretty limited in what I can get. I was able to watch "The Professionals" and "A Fistful of Dollars". I enjoyed "The Professionals", but I didnt care for "A Fistful of Dollars". I thought "The Professionals" was pretty well-paced and exciting, and I enjoyed Lee Marvin's performance quite a bit. Interestingly, the plot for "The Professionals" served as the basis foe the final episode of "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.". Now I felt that "A Fistful of Dollars" dragged too much in the middle, but I did enjoy the final shootout with the bulletproof vest. Could you tell me if "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" are worth watching? I see that they are generally considered to be quite a bit better than "A Fistful of Dollars". I will definitely try to watch some of the other westerns you recommended if I get the opportunity. Some other westerns that I was able to watch recently include "Pale Rider", "Appaloosa", "Open Range", and "Tombstone", all of which I enjoyed to varying degrees. Also, I watched "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", which I found to be a very dull movie with some good performances. While it is technically not terrible, at 160 minutes, it became unbearable.

Dear Anthony:

I really do think there's a good movie lurking within the flabby 160 minutes of "The Assassination of Jesse James . . .", if the film were cut down to 120 minutes and all of the artsy-fartsy nonsense was removed.  I think it's a beautifully shot film (Roger Deakins), all of the performances are good, and Brad Pitt is excellent and scary.  It's like they thought they were making an art film, but they were really just making a western.  I love "The Professionals" and I think it had a HUGE influence on Sam Peckinpah and "The Wild Bunch," right down to having at least one very similar scene -- in "The Professionals" it's between Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster discussing having given their word to Ralph Bellamy (Lancaster says, "My word to him isn't worth a plug nickel," Marvin replies, "Yeah, but you didn't give your word to him, you gave it to me"), whereas in "The Wild Bunch" the scene is between William Holden and Ernest Borgnine (they say something like: Holden, "We gave him our word." Borgnine replies, "It's not about giving your word, it's who you give your word to").  Anyway, if you had trouble with "A Fistful of Dollars," at 96 minutes, you'll have a lot more trouble with "For a Few Dollars More" at 130 minutes, and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" at 161 minutes (the restored version is 180 minutes).  I think they're both worth seeing, but they're both extremely draggy.  Personally, I didn't care for "Pale Rider" or "Open Range," which I thought was a really bad movie -- they stole our cattle, let's wait the whole movie to shoot it out with them.  You might also enjoy Clint Eastwood's first American western, "Hang 'em High."

Josh

Name:            Jeff Alede
E-mail:           
Date:              12/29/09

Dear Josh:

What are some of your favorite film composers and individual scores?

Dear Jeff:

As with many other film fans, I think the greatest film composer so far was Bernard Herrmann, who started with "Citizen Kane" and ended with "Taxi Driver," which are both great scores.  Herrmann never wrote a bad score, and no matter how dumb the film was, his score would always be beautiful.  A few examples are: "The Magificent Ambersons," "North By Northwest," "Vertigo," "Psycho," "The Kentuckian," "Cape Fear," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Farenheit 451," "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and "Mysterious Island."  Oddly, one of his least impressive scores was for "The Devil and Daniel Webster," for which he won his one and only Oscar.  Unlike many other composers, Herrmann completely wrote out his scores and did the arrangements himself.  If you listen to his "Citizen Kane" score, he's come up with a little tune that he rearranges a hundred different ways.  Next would probably be Jerry Goldsmith, whose score for "Patton" is one of the truly great scores in all of movies.  Other terrific Goldsmith scores are: "The Sand Pebbles," "Planet of the Apes," "Chinatown," the Wind and the Lion," "The Omen," "MacArthur" and "First Blood," to name but a very few.  Then Elmer Bernstein: "The Ten Commandments," "Sweet Smell of Success," "The Magnificent Seven," "Walk on the Wild Side," "To Kill a Mockingbird" (one of my very favorites), "The Great Escape" (another of my faves), "True Grit," and "Airplane!" (where he managed to get laughs from the music).  Then there's the wonderful film composers of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, like: Max Steiner, Miklos Rozsa, Alfred Newman, who between them wrote hundreds of film scores, and many, many great ones.

Modern composers like Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard or Danny Elfman are good at what they do, and their scores are always very appropriate, they're just not all that memorable.

Josh

Name:            porter
E-mail:           
Date:              12/28/09

Hi Josh

What do you think Hollywood will be like in 10 to 20 years time? I think it will probably have eaten its self. I'm just waiting for those fateful words "A Clockwork orange remake”.

Dear porter:

Who knows?  I can't see the future any better than anyone else.  Box-office-wise it's doing great.  Quality stopped being a criteria long ago, so don't expect that to return.  Hollywood's just in the recycling business.  What's the big deal at the moment?  3-D.  Jeez, that's only been around for about 55 years.

Josh

Name:            Jeremiah Johnson
E-mail:           
Date:              12/28/09

Dear Josh:

Was it just that Tarantino used the word "nigger" repeatedly that made his appearance in "Pulp Fiction" offensive to you?

Dear JJ:

Yes, combined with his less than stellar acting ability, in a scene that doesn't need to be there, leading into an entire sequence that sucks. 

Josh

Name:            Jeff Burr
E-mail:           JeffCBurr@AOL.com
Date:              12/24/09

Hey Josh...thanks for answering my questions and putting it out there for your readers. JT and Blake really are thinking along the same lines as I was in reference to spiritual movies. I didnt mean overtly "religious" movies, surely not biblical epics, which always either bored me or mystified me, but movies dealing with exactly the first definition you pulled out..."of the human spirit or soul". I.E. what it means to be human, what might be man\'s place in the universe (if he has a place), etc. I know that seems like a recipe for pretentious nonsense and boredom, but when a movie like that works, it stays with you forever. For me, I saw 2001 in 1970 at a big Cinerama theater in Chattanooga, and I was 8 years old. I was never bored, it was amazing to look at, and some of the images and sounds haunted me. I have seen it in the theater many many times since, and the questions it raises (and doesnt answer) totally rewards multiple viewings. And for me, the so-called "ultimate trip" section and the starchild ending make the film. It gave me a true sense of wonder, which is what cinema can do so well, but so rarely does. And I was glad to see that AU HASARD BALTHAZAR was on the list too; after seeing it, I guarantee you will never look at a donkey the same way ever again. I would add MIDNIGHT COWBOY to my list, one of the best films of the 70's (I know that it came out in 69) dealing with friendship and the disenfranchised. If you really absorb that film, you would never look at a homeless guy the same way again either. Other filmmakers whose work I would say over and over again deal with man's place in the universe and nature would be Malick, Boorman, Lynch. So I guess one way to describe the kind of film I am talking about would be spiritually emotional, or emotionally spiritual. Or soulful cinema, which sounds like a bad marketing label for dvd's. And you should give KOYAANISQUATSI another shot, but in a big theater. It helps if you like Phillip Glass music, I guess!

 Dear Jeff:

I saw "Koyaaniquatsi" in the theater and I walked out.  I must add that I do not like Phillip Glass's music, which I find insanely repetitive and dull.  This may be due to the fact that I listen to classical music all day long and pretty much everything I hear is better than Phillip Glass.  Even a second-rate modern classical composer like the late Alan Hovaness is a country mile ahead of Glass, and Hovaness's music annoys the piss out of me.  As a film composer I find Phillip Glass sadly inadequate.  I'll take Jerry Goldsmith's worst score over anything Phillip Glass has ever done.  Good god, I'm a curmudgeon.  I love "Midnight Cowboy," but it wasn't a spiritual experience for me.  It was a tremendously empathetic experience, as well a highly cinematic one, but that's as far as I go.  I love "2001," but, once again, it was a cinematic experience, not a spiritual one.  As I've already said, I love emotionally moving drama, but this "of the human spirit or soul" stuff seems like new age nonsense to me.

Josh

Name:            Lee
E-mail:           
Date:              12/24/09

Hey Josh.

Well, I went to see Avatar in 3D at my local cinema yesterday. I really, really enjoyd it. The story is a very obvious eco message, with strong echo's of America's dark, genocidal past. There's some clunkiness, sure: for example the element the humans are mining is called 'unobtainium'. The 3D was very well used (tho it took me about an hour to get used to the slightly layered effect)... but it was the motion capture that blewme away. Not just physical body movement, but the facial gestures. You can see that it's Sigourney Weaver acting thu the skin of her digital avatar. It truly is a leap forward in technology. The really smart thing Jim Cameron did was have a story that uses the technology. The premise is this: a marine is put into an alien world to learn their culture - to integrate he projects his mind into a genetically designed avatar. So the joy of this film is seeing an actor in the human world, then buying his/her performance in the alien world. It really, truly works within the context of the Avatar story. My worry with this technology is this: the latest SCrooge story starring Jim Carrey (can't remember the title) uses similar technology. I haven't seen it, but my impression is that you get to see Kim Carrey as Scrooge - and again his personality shines through the digital avatar - the tech is that good. But in this case - what's the point? hey might as well make it live action. SO anyway, that's my fuzzy conclusion. I think the tech works really well in AVatar - it serves the purpose of the story. (APparently Jim Cameron had to wait over a decade for the tech to catch up with the AVatar screenplay). But if the tech is used for it's own sake, I can't see the point. Story has to come first. I mean, what a waste to use this motion capture, when it all could've ben done live. My fear is that Avatar will be the only time when the tech and the story converge to outstanding effect. After this, it could be the geeks takin over Hollywood with no understanding why they're using it. Making life difficult for themselves. It coyuld be the ultimate tool for unemotional directors whyo don't want to get involved with pesky actors!!! See Avatar, Josh, in a cinema. do think it's a next generation step. I also fear, ironicaly, that it could have reached it's peak ALREADY, in terms of melding story and tools.

Lee

Dear Lee:

Here's a thumbnail review by Kevin the webmaster.  I have a feeling I'll agree:  "I saw AVATAR yesterday. The most expensive movie ever made and all I can say is the "sets" were good. The story is simply diverting. The only real high I got from the film was Sigourney Weaver's "Oh shit!" when it comes out that Jake's been fucking the chief's daughter and mated/married her. He's a parapalegic that doesn't even really inhabit that body and she's a 12 foot tall blue monkey that can crush him with a hug. I'd give that marriage 6 months.

I believe the point of the movie is: if you fuck over an entire village and burn their history to the ground, all will be forgiven if you trade your dragon in for a bigger and better model. Apparently only five ancestors in the entire population figured out you can easily tame the big dragon if you attack it from above. Oh, and, an entire village group sex session will help you switch bodies."

Thanks, Kev.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: SAM STRANGE's review sums it up perfectly. CLICK HERE ]

Name:            Greene
E-mail:           
Date:              12/23/09

Josh,

On the topic of director cameos, what did you think about Francois Truffaut's bit in "Close Encounters"?

BMG

Dear Brett:

That's not a bit or a cameo, he's one of the stars of the film.  I just remember my late friend Rick saying, "We have to hear every single line of his in French, then translated into English, and at the end he starts speaking English?  He was playing possum the whole film."  Francois Truffaut wasn't a bad actor.  He was perfectly OK in "The Wild Child" and "Day For Night," and he's perfectly OK in "Close Encounters."

Josh

Name:            Nate Capp
E-mail:           
Date:              12/23/09

Dear Josh,

I'm sorry for being so vague. It's the scene where Liam Neeson is confronting the French head of police in the latter's home. The Frenchman's wife is also in the room and *SPOILER* Neeson shoots the wife in the shoulder to get what he wants from the Frenchman *END SPOILER* It was a moment that caught me completely off-guard.

Dear Nate:

Me, too.  I have to see it again, but I think "Taken" enters my Guilty Pleasure list, not that I legitimately have such a list.

Josh

Name:            JT
E-mail:           
Date:              12/23/09

Dear Josh,

In the spirit of the season, a couple of non-religious spiritually moving films come to mind... Robert Bresson's "Au Hasard Balthazar," which ascribes more saintliness to a donkey than it does to man (De Sica's Umberto D and the old man's dog fits here -- it's a bit sentimental and manipulative, but still very moving).  Douglas Trumbull's "Silent Running." This isn't the best example perhaps of the wonders of the universe, but at least it places man on the same rung as all the other species... including robots. Any film with what the science fiction literature calls 'sense of wonder' or 'conceptual breakthrough,' could ostensibly claim a stake here. "2001", even "Koyaanisqatsi." And lastly Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire," which makes you think of ones place in the universe on spiritual, cultural and personal levels. It's thoughtful, accessible, human, and moving. Others coming to mind as I type, Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev," Bergman's "Seventh Seal," maybe even Hal Ashby's "Being There." Would you subscribe to these movies, or movies like these, being spiritually moving?

Happy Holidays,
--JT.

Dear JT:

Clearly I need to see "Au Hasard Balthazar."  I feel out of the loop.  Meanwhile, I think we're in a very sticky realm here with "spiritual" films.  Spiritual is a word with which I have grave difficulty.  1. of the human spirit or soul. 2. of a church or religion.  And "spirit" is even worse, 1. a person's mind or feelings or animating principle.  So, other than the body, it's almost anything. I think we're really discussing sentimentality -- I feel bad for the donkey (that happens to be a metaphor for Jesus) or the dog or whatever.  Within that scope I think we can add "Old Yeller" or "The Yearling," and maybe "Lady and the Tramp."  Regarding "2001" being spiritual, perhaps that's what Kubrick was aiming at, but as for me, I think that final section of the film, "Jupitar and Beyond," is where the film drops dead.  If one was tripping on acid, the last section was great; without the LSD, though, I think it's pure nonsense.  It didn't put me in mind of my spirit; it made think that Kubrick needed a stronger editor.  With all due respect, I thought "Silent Running" was horseshit from the word go, and the Joan Baez songs make it utterly unbearable, not to mention that Bruce Dern is a weak lead.  I walked out of "Koyaanisqatsi," which to me seemed like a feature-length show reel for a company that sells intervolometers, the item that allows you to shoot one frame a second, or one frame a minute, or whatever you'd like, which speeds up the image, like a flower blooming.  After 30 minutes of that I was about to fall asleep so I don't believe I was moved spiritually, although if "spirit" means one's mind or feelings, I suppose having one's mind anesthetized might count.  "Wings of Desire" for me was pretty black and white photography and an amusing part for Peter Falk, and everything with angels seemed ridiculous and dull.  I'm beginning to suspect that whatever spiritual means it doesn't include me.  To me "Being There" is a testament to how stupid people are, that they'll accept and venerate an idiot.  The book, by the way, is a wonderfully fast read; the movie on the other hand is minimally a half hour too long, and Peter Sellers is much too old for the part -- it's supposed to be a kid who grew up locked in a room doing nothing except watching TV.  If Peter Sellers had been locked in a room for his whole life, half of it would have been before TV was invented.  Anyway, I don't see the spiritual part.  I may well have a severe deficiency in my intelligence -- as many folks who visit this site believe -- but I don't get Andrei Tarkovsky.  To me he's nothing more than a pretentious bore.  I liked "Seventh Seal" when I was a teenager, but I tried to watch it recently and got nowhere.  I'd nominate it as Ingmar Bergman's most pretentious movie.  So, what I derive from this discussion, which is interesting, is that if a film is pretentious, boring, sentimental, or shot at high-speed, it's spiritual.

Josh

Name:            Blake Eckard
E-mail:           
Date:              12/22/09

Dear Josh:

On the spiritual film front, I've got one: Robert Bresson's "Au hasard Balthazar," where we have a donkey playing a surrogate Christ. We see the donkey go from having a wonderful life on a farm where it's treated lovingly by children to being sold over and over again, winding up in a circus, owned by a drunken farmer who beats it, and finally used as a packer for materials being smuggled across a border, only to be shot and killed by border guards as the criminals escape. When Balthazar crumbles to it's knees amongst a herd of sheep in a serene high-mountain setting, I was profoundly moved. No other film has ever affected me in this way, and it went a long way to helping me "rediscover" Bresson as a brilliant filmmaker (before this I'd seen and been bored to no end by "Diary of a Country Priest" and wasn't too inclined to go near him after that.) I'd also strongly recommend his incredible film "A Man Escaped," which he based on his own memories of being a WWII P.O.W. I also think Dreyer's "Ordet," and Carlos Reygadas' "Silent Light," fit into the realm of what would be termed spiritual cinema.

Dear Blake:

All movies I haven't seen.  Interesting.  I've missed out on the entire spiritual genre.  But I get a glimpse of what might be termed spiritual in Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc," in her fervent belief, even if it's not mine.  I was also thinking about "The Song of Bernadette," once again, not that I believed anything, but Jennifer Jones is so sincerely convincing it moved me.  I'm more inclined toward religious images in movies like the priest in "War of the Worlds" who gets disintegrated.

This can easily shift us to -- what are the most emotionally moving movies?  I had a moving/spiritual experience as a 12-year-old kid watching William Wyler's "Dead End" on TV.  I became so empathetic to those poor kids in NY -- the Bowery Boys, no less -- during the Great Depression that it left me speechless.  Somehow Sidney Kingsley and William Wyler and Gregg Toland, et al., on a set in Hollywood, teleported me into the Great Depression for a couple of hours.  Beyond the empathy for poor kids, I also thought, "Wow!  Movies are great."  Wyler also did it to me a number of times in "The Best Years of Our Lives," like when the three soldiers are in the taxi coming home, they drop Homer of first, and with his hooks he can't hug his girlfriend.  Or the famous scene of Fredric March first seeing Myrna Loy up the long hallway.  Or sticking with Wyler, because this is what he was so good at, when Gary Cooper finds his son, young Tony Perkins, after a Civil War battle, clutching the confederate soldier he killed.

There's a few.  I think I could keep going for a week on this.

Josh

Name:            Anthony Palmer
E-mail:           
Date:              12/22/09

Dear Josh:

I recently began watching quite a few Westerns. I've found that I really like the genre, but most of the films I like are the ones that have some more realistic/bloody violence, like "The Wild Bunch", "The Outlaw Josey Wales", "Unforgiven", "High Plains Drifter", "3:10 to Yuma" (2007), etc. The earlier Westerns kind of bother me because when guys get shot, they just put thier hands over their stomach or chest and fall down without any sign of being shot, which is a little too silly for me. Anyway, do you think you could recommend some violent Westerns for me to watch? I figured that you would be a good person to ask since you've seen so many movies.

Dear Anthony:

One of my favorite westerns that's actually about violence one level is Robert Aldrich's "Ulzana's Raid."  Other Aldrich westerns worth watching are "Apache" and "Vera Cruz."  I can't really use violence as a criteria.  Here are some good newer, westerns (meaning nothing before the 1950s) that you might enjoy: "The Professionals," "True Grit," "Warlock," "Once Upon a Time in the West" (in it's own goofy, stylized, overlong way), "A Fistful of Dollars, "Valdez is Coming," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" (an arty western), "El Topo" (a truly weird one), "Lawman" (a good one with the most zooms I've ever seen in a movie), "Jeremiah Johnson" (it's not exactly a western, it's a mountain man story, but it's terrific), "The Cowboys" (a good late John Wayne film), "Little Big Man" (more about the west than a western, but terrific stuff), "The Shootist" (Duke's last film and a great one), "A Man Called Horse," "Seven Men From Now (Budd Boetticher's best film), and my three favorite Anthony Mann westerns, "Winchester '73," "The Naked Spur" and "The Tin Star."  That ought to get you going.  Let us know what you think.

Josh

Name:            Jeff Burr
E-mail:           
Date:              12/21/09

Hey Josh...just want to wish you happy holidays and a very productive 2010. And in the spirit of the holidays, here is a question I have been meaning to ask you...what is the most "spiritual" movie that you have ever seen? One that caused you to think that maybe man is not the center of the universe, that there might be a larger force out there somewhere, that there may be more out there than is dealt with in your philosophy, etc. etc. And how old were you when you saw it? And one more question for you, less weighty. What do you think the weirdest directorial cameo has been in film? I am not talking about a character that a director might play that is strange (ala Marty Scorcese in TAXI DRIVER) but just a head-scratching, WTF? moment. The reason I bring this up is I just saw HAROLD AND MAUDE, and Hal Ashby\'s cameo is pretty strange. And on the subject of scary movies, the biggest single shock jolt that I have ever witnessed in a movie theater was the last little bit in CARRIE, in a packed theater in Chattanooga, where the popcorn and drinks flew all over the seats.

Dear Jeff:

The same back at you, and may you have a very successful 2010.  Always a pleasure to hear from you, and you've always got good questions.  Except I'm not sure about this spiritual thing.  I've been emotionally moved by many movies, but spiritually moved?  Religious movies when they find Jesus or god or whatever just annoy me.  At the end of "Miracle on 34th St." when Santa Claus leaves his cane behind I kind of believe in him for a second.  I guess I was sort of spiritually moved at the end of "Mrs. Miniver" in the bombed out church, but I think that's really just sentimentality.  I'm not sure what being spiritually moved actually means.   That when the picture's over I believe in god?  That's never happened.  What are your examples?  As for weird, or perhaps creepy, directorial cameos, sadly, the first one that comes to mind I fear may start the dumbass discussion again, but it's Quentin Tarantino in "Pulp Fiction," which I found both stupid and offensive, not to mention the guy's just a shitty actor.  I can think of some I thought were good, like William Castle in "Rosemary's Baby" (no, he didn't direct the film, he produced it, but he did direct quite a few other movies), or Roman Polanski in "Chinatown."  Nicholas Ray in "Hair" was a little odd.  What have you got in mind?  Meanwhile, I didn't know that Hal Ashby was in "Harold and Maude."

And I absolutely agree, the biggest single scare I've ever seen was the hand at the end of "Carrie."

Josh

Name:            Nate Capp
E-mail:           
Date:              12/21/09

Dear Josh,

I was pleased to read that you got some enjoyment out of Taken. While I certainly had my issues with it, I found it to be pretty enjoyable. Taken also featured one of the most surprising things I've ever witnessed in a film (at the Frenchman's home, don't want to spoil it too much). Sadly, I was born after most of the really great cinematic surprises and they were spoiled for me long before I had a chance to catch up with the films, so it was nice to have a real shock.

Nate

Dear Nate:

You didn't spoil it at all since I have no idea what you're referring to.  Give me a hint or add **Spoiler Alert**.  Ultimately, "Taken" just comes down to killing, which is all he does for about an hour.  And you can't question the logic of the story or it will just unravel before your eyes.  Given all of this, I enjoyed watching it.

Josh

Name:            Todd
E-mail:           
Date:              12/20/09

Dear Josh:

What if when you died you got to heaven and God said to you, "Josh, not believing in me is one thing. But why would you waste your life watching 5,000+ movies at least once, several several times. You would have been better served doing more with your life." What would you say in response?

Dear Todd:

Yeah, like what?  Helping blind people?  Giving blood?  Becoming a rabbi?  By the way, I'm actually only up to 4,502, so please don't exaggerate.  And, once again, repeated for the hundreth time, just because I don't believe in religion doesn't mean I don't believe in greater consciousness.  One belief has nothing to do with the other.  I just met this woman who was a staunch Athiest with a capital A.  I said, "If you're so darn sure about your philosophy, isn't that just like a religion?"  She got very excited, found a dictionary and "proved" it wasn't.  So I said, "Then I guess it's more like a cult," which got her even angrier.  I think it's the epitome of horseshit to believe you're going before some sort of supreme deity to be judged after death.  To me that sort of thinking is not nearly as meaningful as a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Josh 

Name:            Dan Cohen
E-mail:           
Date:              12/20/09

Hello Josh.

You say you are all finished with this old Tarantino argument, which I understand and respect, but then you go on once again to heap praise upon Sidney Lumet's abysmal 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.' These two positions cannot, and should not, co-exist, at least without rebuke. Or, put more artfully, repuke. If you openly, repeatedly, and adamantly champion one retardedly idiotic piece of shit (that was directly inspired by, of all things, 'Pulp Fiction'), you gain no sympathy votes when you cry victim everytime someone reiterates their belief in some film that is arguably no better, but certainly no worse. At least 'Kill Bill' knows it's a piece of shit and has fun being so. 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' aspires to be great tragedy, the height of all pretention, and in its inability to achieve anything remotely approximating that, succeeds only in being mediocre melodrama punctuated by gratuitous violence and pervasive misery for gratuitous violence and pervasive misery's own sake. In 'Kill Bill' the violence is everywhere, but it's not gratuitous, it is the point. (If you want to argue that with a film where violence is the point then it's not much of a film, and you'd be right enough). In 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' the violence is there because of weak script writing. The hallmark of a novice screenwriter at work is everyone shooting everyone else to settle their problems. Go into any Freshman Script 101 class and 9 out of 10 scripts will employ this "technique." The Sidney Lumet of old, of 'Dog Day,' and 'Network,' and '12 Angry Men,' and 'Prince of the City,' and 'Fail Safe,' and even 'Deathtrap' would be ashamed of this latter piece of dreck by an old man, one of the all-time greats, who may as well retire. It's the equivalent of 'Family Plot.' I hope you do not consider this post too Tarantino-centric to respond to. It's a legitimate response, and one I hope you find thoughtful.

Dear Dan:

There ain't no good guy
There ain't no bad guy
There's just you and me
And we just disagree
             --Dave Mason

Honestly, I can't comprehend someone not liking and appreciating "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," I really and truly think it's excellent on all levels, and, as I've said before, I've seen it eight times and it really holds up, too.  For me, sitting through any QT movie is a near impossible trial.  Everything you say about "Before..." I think about QT's films, but double.  And I don't have to give it up to anyone for anything.  Whether it means anything or not, I've spent my entire life studying screenwriting and I seriously believe the script for "Before..." is an incredibly solid, thoughtful, exciting piece of work.  I also believe, me personally, no one else, that QT's writing sucks, and his direction is run-of-the-mill.  I'm tired of slinging adjectives, and having them slung back at me.  As Khan said in Star Trek,"I grow fatigued."

Once again, let drop Quentin Tarantino.

Josh

Name:            Alan Gansberg
E-mail:           
Date:              12/20/09

Dear Josh:

Harry sounds like he doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm inclined to agree with you about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I'd also throw in there Black Christmas and Jacob's Ladder as movies that have chilled me more than any others. However I'll disagree with you on the Lewton films: if you were scared by those you were just a big pussy.

Dear Alan:

Hey!  I was a kid, like 14 or 15, and both of those movies each have one good scare.  In "The Body Snatcher" it's at the end in the carriage when dead Boris Karloff falls into Henry Daniell lap; and in "Isle of the Dead" it when the woman whom they think is dead, but isn't, is put into a coffin which is then placed in a tomb, then the camera pushes in and she begins pounding inside the coffin.  Those are both really good scares.  I thought "Jacob's Ladder" was crap.  I never saw "Black Christmas."

Josh

Name:            Harry Wittmaack
E-mail:           
Date:              12/19/09

Dear Josh:

I agree with what you say about movies these days. I much prefer the old ones. Especially horror movies. These are my favorites. There is no comparison between todays horror movies and the good old ones. Todays aren't even scary. They're just bloody and filled with teenagers having sex. The best horror movies are definitely the old ones. These are so much scarier!

Dear Harry:

As a little kid "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and "The Wolfman" scared me, but I don't think they're really scary to adults anymore.  Hell, as a kid I got scared at "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein."  Other films that scared me as a kid were Val Lewton's "The Body Snatcher" and "Isle of the Dead," and the first time I saw "Night of the Living Dead," when I was 13, it scared the hell out of me.  As for me personally, though, I'd say the most scared I've ever been in a movie was the first time I saw "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and that's not until 1975.  When Leatherface bashes that kid over the head with hammer, then pulls him into the room and slams the metal door shut, I'd never been that horrified in a movie before, nor have I been since.  Other films that scared me were: "Carrie," "Alien," "Aliens," and oddly, "The Howling," which didn't seem all that scary when I watched it, but gave me a terrible nightmare that night. 

Name:            Scott
E-mail:           
Date:              12/19/09

Hi Josh,

I was wondering what your favorite John Huston films were. I recently saw Asphalt Jungle for the first time and absolutely loved it. I really can't think of a better heist film, and the dark ending was quite surprising. The direction and performances were also top notch, although there is something odd about Sterling Haden, I'm not sure if it's his gangly appearance or odd line delivery. I'm also a huge fan of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon. Any other films of his you can recommend? How is Wise Blood? Also, just to close out the Tarantino debate for some of your readers. The reason he is a sub par filmmaker is that he egregiously rips off other filmmakers wholesale. The last third of Reservoir Dogs is a shot for shot ripoff of a Hong Kong gangster flick called City on Fire. Kill Bill is completely stolen from another Asian action film called Lady Snow Blood. The cliche "great artists steal" is true, however great artists don't plagiarize, just Ask Roger Avary. I'm sure he'll agree with me on that one seeing as Quentin tried to take all of the credit for writing Pulp Fiction. Sorry for bringing this up again, but as you had mentioned previously, the emperor wears no clothes and I felt compelled to state why.

Dear Scott:

I've seen damn near every John Huston film, but not "Wise Blood."  I think Sterling Hayden is absolutely perfect in "Asphalt Jungle," which I totally agree is a great, great movie, and very possibly the best heist film of them all.  My buddy Paul and I watched it a few months ago (I actually watched it a couple of times in the course of a week), and we were both quoting Hayden for weeks, saying, "Are you trying to bone me?"  Sterling Hayden is scary in that movie.  Other great or near great John Huston films are: "The African Queen," "Key Largo," "The Red Badge of Courage, "Moby Dick," Heaven Knows Mr. Allison," Fat City" and "The Dead."  He also co-wrote "Jezebel," "High Sierra" and "Sergeant York," for goodness sake. He also wrote another picture that really got me as a kid, "Three Strangers" (1946), with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.  Interestingly, to me anyway, John Huston and William Wyler were best friends (Huston has bit parts in a few early Wyler films), and co-wrote "Jezebel" for him.  Of course, John's dad, Walter, stars in Wyler's great film "Dodsworth."

Josh

Name:            JT
E-mail:           
Date:              12/19/09

Dear Josh,

Thanks for the long and interesting reply on innovations and style. I'm not the worlds biggest Kubrick fan, though I will say that he may have been the last truly great film director, and you may very well be right in regards to his Steadicam use (and accompanying sound design!). There are many formal pleasures in all of his films, but I think that after "Paths of Glory" the technique won over the heart (don't get me wrong, I regularly watch his later films with great enjoyment and appreciation). I feel the same way with Hitchcock's films (which I also revisit often). There's a distance and a coldness to them that doesn't let me connect on the same level as I do with some other masters. On the opposite end, there's something organic and loose in the likes of, say, Nicholas Ray, Bunuel, Nic Roeg and early Coppola. One of the most powerful moments I've had in a cinema was seeing Sam Fuller's black and white "Shock Corridor" for the first time. It's overblown, eccentric and exuberant to a fault, but when the main character has his psychosis manifest on screen in a montage of color film featuring cascading waterfalls and dancing African warrior tribes (really just Fuller's wobbly home movies), the hair on the back of my neck stood out and my eyes welled up in tears... I can't explain it rationally why it was such a moving moment, but that felt more like the power of poetry as opposed to the Hitchcockian beauty of mathematics. That's a terrible simplification of the issues, but you get the point. So. I'm really curious if you have thoughts on this subject, and specifically whether you have films that you can't rationally defend, but which move you equally to something like "Magnificent Ambersons."

Cheers,
--JT.

Dear JT:

I just watched Nicholas Ray's, "A Woman's Secret," written and produced by Herman Mankiewicz, with the gorgeous Maureen O'Hara, Melvyn Douglas, and the miscast Gloria Graham.  It was OK, with a ridiculous plot, but some snappy dialog.  Regarding Kubrick, I think you're cutting him off too early.  Certainly technique had won over the heart with "Dr. Strangelove," which I think is very close to perfect, and Kubrick's technique never over shadows the story or the characters.  I rewatch the film every couple of years and it's always brand new to me.  Peter Sellers is brilliant, but George C. Scott just gets better and better.  Scott considered it the best performance of his career and I agree with him, although he couldn't be better in "Patton," even if he's a bit too young for the part.  The change in Kubrick came between "Dr. Strangelove" and "2001."  That's when he truly embraced the technical side of filmmaking.  Even still, his next film was "A Clockwork Orange" and I don't think the technique overshadows the story in that film, either.  It didn't REALLY occur until "Barry Lyndon," which I believe he made strictly based on the super-low-light lens he purchased from NASA, so he had to make a period film lit with candles to use the lens.  Admittedly, the film is astoundingly beautiful to look at, but it's emotionally cold and distant.

"Shock Corridor" is amusing and one of Sam Fuller's better films.  Regarding being moved by a movie you'd never expect to be moved by, I just had that happen with "Taken," which is anything but a great film, but completely held my interest.  I'll take "Taken" over any James Bond film because it's compelling in a very simple way that Bond films never are.  Liam Neeson isn't trying to save the world, he's trying to get his daughter back, which is a MUCH better motivation.  Anyway, at the beginning of the film Neeson is filling in for a friend on the security team guarding a famous female pop star during her concert.  As she's about to go on stage Neeson asks her for some advice for his daughter who wants to be a singer.  She brushes him off.  After the concert a nut is waiting in the hallway with a knife, obviously intending to kill her.  Neeson spots him and quickly and efficiently takes the guy out saving her life.  Later, she requests to see Neeson.  She gives him her business card with her manager and her vocal coaches names on the back, and says, "If she's any good I'll make sure she gets a break."  Well, I was nearly moved to tears.  I feel like you rarely if ever get to see a character in a movie who's truly thankful.  It surprised the hell out of me.  That's a pretty good example, I think.

Josh

Name:            Keith
E-mail:           
Date:              12/18/09

Dear Josh:

I've got to add something to the Tarantino debate, Ill be quick.. I first saw Reservoir Dogs in an empty theatre in London in 93 and was really blown away. A couple years later I saw Pulp fiction in the same theatre to a now packed house and came out saying "What a piece of shit, what's that about, where's the story?" I gave up on him after that, but recently I made the mistake of paying to see Death Proof. I thought Kurt Russell, car crashes, who could fuck that up? I was bored senseless from beginning to end and asked again where's the story? This is just a bunch of people sitting down talking bollox... Lets get it straight here, Tarantino is the cinema equivalent of a Big Mac.. or more precisely a Royal with cheese.. Let's not get that mixed up real artists like Fellini, Bergman, Hitchcock etc.. People say how unhealthy and horrible McDonalds food is (not to dis them, but they serve as an example in this arguement) yet they're food is very very popular. Tarantino (Like McDonalds)is very popular yes, but it doesn't make him any good (Res. Dogs except) but ultimately I guess love is in the eye of the beholder... There must just be a lot of McDonalds eaters out there...

Dear Keith:

Another country heard from.  Of course I'm way more in line with you than the others, although I didn't bother to see "Grindhouse."  It looks like the "Movie Movie" of bad movies.  See, that's my one edge on Tarantino -- he wishes he made a shitty grindhouse movie and I really made one.  I didn't need to digitally put in the dirt and splices, they were achieved organically.  Seriously folks, I really must drop the topic of Mr. Quentin Tarantino.  At a point, as a quote on this website says (see My Favorite Quotes), "Abuse is an indirect species of homage."  I simply don't agree with you folks who like his films, but I'm bored with ragging on the guy.  God bless him.

Josh

Name:            JT
E-mail:           
Date:              12/18/09

Josh,

Speaking of style... I came across this entry on a blog I try and keep up with: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=6308 Many of the stylistic flourishes that impress young film fanatics of today as audacious and clever, have really been around in various forms from the days of the silent movies. Anybody who has seen at least some of the classics can easily appropriate and approximate those original innovations and amidst all the crap out there, they can appear original and innovative if you haven't seen anything but said crap. So here's the question: what's the last true innovation in the art of filmmaking? Is all we're left to appreciate in modern film simply variations of form, style and story... recycling the past? Without thinking about this too much, I wonder if that documentary style Herzog has been working on more recently (well, in the last 30 years or so, and taking cues from Welles), where he takes a real subject and adds fiction into the process to get to his 'ecstatic truth' applies. I don't count CGI -- Melies was there first, and did it oh so much better.

Cheers,
--JT.

Dear JT:

As the old expression goes, "There's nothing new under the sun."  Like you say, most cinematic techniques have been around a long time.  Perhaps 25 years ago I saw a screening of Joseph Von Sternberg's "The Docks of New York" (1928) at UCLA and it was a spotless, gorgeous print, but there was no muscial accompaniment, so the three of us in the theater watched the film in dead silence.  It didn't matter.  The film is so visual, so beautifully photographed, that it didn't need any sound or music.  As I watched the film I felt on some level like I was watching a handbook of cinematic technique: long tracking shots, backlight, beams of light through the fog, interesting angles, and all being used to tell the story as visually as possible.  The other early film to explore cinematic technique to great effect is F. W. Murnau's "Sunrise," also from 1928.  Silent film hit it's peak the same year that sound kicked in and, visually, they had to start all over again.  

The two directors of the 1930s who were pushing cinematic style (and there may be others that I'm not remembering) were Joseph Von Sternberg and Alfred Hitchcock.  Von Sternberg went for beautiful compositions, sinuous camera moves and gorgeous lighting; Hitchcock, on the other hand, developed his own personal cinematic technique that's really never been matched.  Following the examples of Pudovkin and Eisenstein, pushed the concept of montage further than it had ever gone.  Hitchcock didn't just cover scenes in a standard way -- long shot, close-ups -- he broke the scenes down to their most specific, individual bits, like the classic dinner scene in "Sabotage" (1936) between Oskar Homolka and Sylvia Sidney where she's being pushed to the point of killing him.  You've got a close-up of Homolka yelling, a tight close-up of Sidney's eyes, an insert of the knife stuck in the turkey, and suddenly, purely through the use of montage, the dialog in the scene has very little to do with what the scene is actually about because we see what Sylvia Sidney is thinking.  Hitchcock had been developing his technique for a decade at that point and really had it down. 

The next sea change came in 1941 with "Citizen Kane."  Welles was following up more on Von Sternberg and Murnau than Hitchcock, and he took film to a place it had never been.  Welles was the first filmmaker to use the fake hand-held documentary look, fake scratched-up old footage, extreme use of low angles, long focus (also being experimented with by William Wyler that same year in "The Little Foxes," both films photographed by the great Gregg Toland), as well as backlight and beams through smoke (compliments of Von Sternberg), and breathtaking compositions, which he took even further in his next film, "The Magnificent Ambersons."  Orson Welles had an unparalleled ability to block actors to the camera so that as they moved they reconfigured themselves from one brilliant composition right into another without a cut, and nobody else has ever come close.  I think the next big visual cinematic change came with Stanley Kubrick, first with "The Killing" (1956), then "Paths of Glory" (1957), where he became the master of the long tracking shot, and like Welles before him, once again following up on Von Sternberg and Murnau, not Hitchcock.  Stanley Kubrick was also the filmmaker who took special effects to a place they'd never been before with "2001," which is the standard for all effects movies that came after it (and he achieved it without any form of CGI which hadn't been invented yet).

Bringing us to the present.  What has occurred cinematically since "2001" in 1968 that we hadn't already seen?  There's the angled shutter technique Spielberg used to good purpose in "Saving Private Ryan," which was very quickly pounded into the dirt, and luckily, for the most part, abandoned.  I consider this more of a technical schtick than any sort of real innovation.  There's a lot of very fast cutting now, but that's not new, nor is the use of wacky angles, which goes back to "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary" in 1919.  The last movie I felt like I saw something new was Kubrick's "The Shining" in 1980, where he made better use of the steadicam than anyone had, or has since (Kubrick also did some great steadicam shots in "Full Metal Jacket").  I can't think of anything else since then.

This long post is your fault, JT.  Thanks for an excellent question.

Josh

Name:            Misha Tyshkov
E-mail:           
Date:              12/17/09

Dear Josh:

Sorry for the delayed response, I celebrated my 18th birthday and shot my first short film in Super 16. I'm even editing it on a steenbeck instead of having it telecined. Forget "Black Narcissus" for now. You have thrown down yet another challenge and I'm going to take you up on it. While I don't agree that you've provided any concrete examples for why Tarantino is a poor filmmaker (claiming that direction is rote doesn't count), I will finally be the one to give you concrete reasons why he is one of our best filmmakers today, and perhaps, one of the best of all time. And I'll go movie by movie, starting today with his first three, and we'll see if you have anything intelligent to respond with. RD - A ticking time bomb of suspense. Other than the amusing opening scene, which serves a purely comical purpose, the movie is one long extended climax. Even with flashbacks and time jumps, the suspense never lets up until the end. He shoots the film like Howard Hawks on his most efficient day: avoiding artful, fussy compositions in favor of simple, medium-shot long takes. The dialogue is colorfully written in vulgar gangster vernacular. Scope is small, cinematic impact large. PF - Structure, structure, structure. Much like "Citizen Kane," PF is written in a way where you could see it a million times and still not remember what comes next. It is full of audacious, original dialogue; his ability to take what seem like minor conversational themes and dovetail them onto later exchanges for maximum comic effect is close to genius. And the action can be literally heart-stopping. But it isn't all flash and chronological sleight-of-hand. It\'s driven by one theme: it's filled with people who want to be saved, though most of them have no idea about how to go about saving themselves. Without its commitment to an idea of salvation, maybe it would be little more than a terrific parlor trick but with it, it's a masterpiece. JB Tarantino's only romance. Yes, it's filled with low lifes and gangster gab and a body count but what is amazing is the gallantry and sweetness at its core. Tarantino hits some new and touching notes with Grier and Forster. He adhered closely to the plot of the book but has given it a distinctive tang through his patented touch with contempo street dialogue and use of source music and pop culture artifacts. In yet another daring feat of structural experimentation, Tarantino, in a 20-minute setpiece, stages money ex-change three times from different points of view, each one revealing key aspects of the daredevil maneuver. He works his scenes for all they are worth, extracting from them the maximum values of drama, humor, color and character. For him, there are no small or insignificant sequences, nothing to be thrown away. How do ya like them apples?

Dear Misha:

You've got to fuckin' be kidding me.  Your reviews remind me of Woody Allen in "Love and Death" after he's seen the hygine play (I'm improvising): "A pithy drama, with real verve and pizzazz, and a star-making performance by the glorious ingenue..."  I surrender, you've out-adjectived me.  "Avoiding artful, fussy compositions in favor of simple, medium-shot long takes"?  Oy!  In other words, he's not doing anything.  That's a helluva style.  For Christ's sake, Sam Fuller had more of a visual style.

Look everybody, Quentin Tarantino is great.  One of the great artists of our time.  Now let's drop it.

Josh

Name:            Anthony Palmer
E-mail:           apalmer002@neo.rr.com
Date:              12/17/09

Dear Josh:

I understand that you hate Quentin Tarantino's work, which is fine. I don't hold it against you or anyone else for not liking his work. In a previous post, you basically said that no one can defend Tarantino well, so I'd like to give it a try. First of all, I think Tarantino is an incredibly gifted writer. His characters tend to talk about a variety of things that aren\'t necessarily related to the plot, which is very realistic. The great thing about Tarantino's writing is that when his characters go off on these tangents, it is usually very funny, like in the opening scene of "Reservoir Dogs" or the Royale with Cheese scene in "Pulp Fiction". While his screenplays tend to be very funny, they are also very beautiful and poetic at times. For example, Samuel L. Jackson's Ezekiel speech at the end of "Pulp Fiction" and the final scene between Uma Thurman and David Carradine in "Kill Bill" are both quite beautiful and powerful scenes due to the writing. Tarantino's dialogue contains a level of realism and a level of poetry and pizzazz that makes it just about perfect. In terms of direction, I think Tarantino is very good, but his true strength lies in his writing. What I really like about Tarantino's direction is that it usually doesn't draw attention to itself. When I watch Tarantino's films from the 90's, I am never distracted by his direction, which is good. When I watch a movie, and I notice that the director is doing all kinds of bullshit with the camera, I get frustrated. Unfortunately, Tarantino's films from this decade have been a little more ostentatious, but still well-directed in my opinion. To me, the true measuring stick for a director is his or her ability to direct performances. This is where Tarantino really shines. Josh, even you have to admit that Tarantino typically directs strong performances. You say that Tarantino's films have no characterization, but I disagree. In all of Tarantino's films, I feel like I know who all of the characters are and what their motivations are. Some of his characters, such as Mr. White, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Blonde in "Reservoir Dogs", Jules Winfield and Butch in "Pulp Fiction" and Max Cherry in "Jackie Brown" are quite complex. While Tarantino may not be real big on exposition, I still feel like he creates three-dimensional characters. Regardless of his writing and directing skills, the man makes damn good movies. To me, if you are making movies as good as "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction", and "Inglourious Basterds", you are talented and you know what you are doing. While you despise these movies, most people really like them and some consider them great. When I watch the films I just mentioned, I am exhilarated and awestruck by them. When Tarantino is on, he simply makes some of the most exciting movies that make you appreciate the possibilities of the film medium. Many of Tarantino's films make me feel something special, which is more than I can say for 9 out of 10 films. Again, any filmmaker whose work can elicit this kind of reaction is doing something right. Still, Tarantino is not perfect. He definitely peaked with his first two efforts. "Jackie Brown", "Kill Bill", and "Death Proof" are all good or very good, but they pale in comparison to his other films. In these films, Tarantino became a little too indulgent for his own good and he seemed to forget about the concept of editing. With "Inglourious Basterds", Tarantino has made his best movie since "Pulp Fiction" as well as the best movie of the year reaffirming his excellence as a filmmaker. While "Inglourious Basterds" is an excellent, possibly great movie, I don't think it's as good as "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" and it certainly won't change your opinion of him. Sorry for the lengthy response, but I wanted to attempt to give a fair defense of Quentin Tarantino.

Dear Anthony:

Jesus, what have I unleashed.  I so don't give a crap about this topic I can't express it.  Three-dimensional characters?  Everything has lost its meaning.  These aren't two-dimensional characters.  Am I supposed to reiterate my gripes now, like Harvey Keitel as "The Fixer" who arrives and hoses them down is utterly asinine, or Quentin himself in that sequence spewing the N-word like the hippiest hipster in hipland.  Or that whole horrible sub-plot with Bruce Willis that's so weary and cliched and totally worthless words won't describe.  Or the fact that in "Reservoir Dogs," if they now they have a traitor in their midst and everything went wrong at the heist, nobody is going back to that stupid warehouse to stand around waiting to get caught.  I won't argue with you that direction that completely stays out of the way is sometimes perfectly all right, and that's what QT does, so let's all shut-up about Tarantino's visual style -- he hasn't got one.  He's a workman-like technician, which isn't easy, either, but there's nothing special about it.  I personally hate all that Burger Royale horseshit.  To me it's not good writing, it's blather.  OK, you and many others disagree.  I'm sorry I didn't drop it while I had the chance.

Josh

Name:            Blake Eckard
E-mail:           bseckard@jagtec.net
Date:              12/17/09

Dear Josh:

   This is the second time Richard Masur has been brought up on this board in regards to being in "Altered States," and he's not even in it. You guys must mean Charles Haid, who I remember being realistically intense and profane in the film. I saw this once or twice in my early teens, and what I vividly remember is getting really, really spooked when the isolation tank opens with not William Hurt climbing out, but a scary-ass, Bigfoot-looking thing. God, then it chases someone, right? A guard or something. I can see it running and screaming down a dark corridor with a door being slammed shut just in time. That shit was legitimately frightening and has stayed with me for 15 or more years. Yet, beyond the ending when he's slamming himself into a wall, and the hallucinations which I remember involving blowing sand and snakes, most of it has gone out of my mind. I own it on VHS and am inclined to dig it out. In fact, I'm gonna, as my curiosity is really up now. (I know Paddy Chayefsky all but disowned the film when it was released...do you remember why? I'm pretty sure it had to do with a clash with Ken Russell, who I believe had a co-screenwriting credit).

   Meanwhile, I read "The Horribleness" and found it far superior in both intelligence and comedy to the seriously tired "Scary Movie" franchise (which, oddly enough, Craven's "Scream" was originally entitled..."Scary Movie.") A visual that lingers and still spawns a smile, is the trashed Frank Sr. getting into his Mini-Cooper (following the gay proposition from the Wolf Man), then the whole thing with the two idiot cops, with one of them shitting himself from fear (and switching pants with the dead cop). I also caught and enjoyed many of the subtle homages you and Paul managed to cram into the whole thing. Particularly working "The Wages of Fear" into "The Stepfather III" title, Monty Python's "Bring out your dead!" line, the "8 1/2" dream sequence, and "Some Like It Hot," "Nobody's perfect." I also dug the crazed mob killing the shit out of everything in sight just because...

   But, since this story is a take on films that are older (i.e., not 1990's horror, soon to be 2000's horror) I think that most young people, who by and large constitute those who pay to see comedies, would either not get the jokes, or those that would be in a position to finance this film, would fear that nobody would know what was being parodied. Mel Brooks tried this with "Dracula; Dead and Loving It," and failed miserably. (Admittedly, that may have had more to do with Leslie Nielsen being totally mis-cast as Dracula, and that the whole mess just wasn't funny, nor attuned to the style of an old Universal horror film in the way that "Young Frankenstein" so beautifully was).

Blake

(To keep this from all going into one big lump, I've put a * at the beginning of each paragraph.)

Dear Blake:

This is like deja vu all over again.  It's not Richard Masur, it's Charles Haid, and I think he's good, if a bit over-the-top, but I think the part called for it.  Part of my problem is that both Richard Masur and Charles Haid are in one of my faves, "Who'll Stop the Rain," and somehow get mushed together.  Meanwhile, Ken Russell and Paddy Chayefsky had a seriously clash on the approach to "Altered States," meaning that Russell thought all of the technical dialog was horseshit amd had all of the actors spew it at top-speed.  Chayefsky kept pitching fits, but everyone else liked it, so Paddy walked off and didn't come back.  The screenplay credit goes to Sidney Aaron which is Paddy Chayefsky's real name.  Personally, I think Ken Russell was exactly right and I love the fast, off-handed deliveries.  That scene at the end of crawling up the hallways while transforming into protoplasm and smashing his arm against the wall is a terrific stuff.  So is the tripping scene in Mexico when Blair Brown turns into sand and blows away.  The faces of the old men are astounding.  The film also has a brilliant, utterly unique score by the classical violinist John Corigliano, who I think only did that one film score.  I must also say that I really like practical effects like the bladder ripple on his arm.  I think it's a pretty spectacular film, with problems, but so what.

Josh

Name:            paulm
E-mail:           
Date:              12/17/09

Dear Josh:

Okay we are coming up to the holidays and while there are not a lot of Hanukkah themed movies, what is your choice for a great holiday based movie. Or if not that a movie with great winter or snow scenes.

Dear paulm:

The first films that flashed to mind were "The Ice Storm" and "Black Robe" for just winter.  "Never Cry Wolf" has some great winter footage.  As for holiday movies, other than "Miracle on 34th St" and "It's a Wonderful Life," most of them don't move me.  I ended up watching a big hunk of "White Christmas" recently and that's junk.  I guess that would make it a hunk of junk.  Doesn't "Bachelor Mother" take place over the Christmas holidays?  I forget.  "The Apartment" takes place over Christmas and New Years and that's a good one.

Josh

Name:            Jeremy Milks
E-mail:           admin@homecomingcreations.com
Date:              12/17/09

Dear Josh:

The Tarantino debate never seems to go away I've noticed. As I've stated in the past, I'm a fan of his work, and I do consider him one of my favorite directors ... that being said, he's not one of the best directors ever. His style just amuses me. And admittedly, his "style" is just everybody else's squished together. I get a geeky thrill out of catching references in movies, and Tarantino is hardly anything but reference, so you know, I geek the fuck out. Regarding Basterds, in a lot of ways it's the same as his other films, but in some ways it's actually kind of a departure. I don't know how to explain it ... it almost seems more serious in some parts I guess. At any rate, I wouldn't write it off just yet. Christoph Waltz is really good in it. That being said, it's no "Pulp Fiction" which I still believe to be his best film.

Dear Jeremy:

Like I said, if Tarantino is one of the best director-writers working, that's a total indictment of the present state of movies.  At 83 years old, as a director, Sidney Lumet has more ability in his little finger.  Sadly, Tarantino just doesn't know how to write a decent screenplay, and hasn't got a clue how to create characterization.  And now he's doing remakes for goodness sake.  If indeed "Pulp Fiction" is his best film, my friend's comment upon exiting the theater sums it up.  He said, "That was a real butt-burner."  And what "style" are we talking about?  From what I've seen -- which is most of his movies -- he has no visual style other than simply covering the action like any other director.  As a writer he constantly falls back on non sequiters, which I suppose is a form of style, although to me it's nothing more than laziness.  I would also go so far as to say that "Jackie Brown" is the weakest Elmore Leonard adaptation of them all, and there's been quite a few weak Elmore Leonard adaptations.  Honestly, I don't know why I perpetuate this discussion since nobody has ever given me a single example as to what's good about his shit.  I can go on for pages about everything that sucks in his movies, like they don't make any goddamn sense, yet all I ever get back is "I don't have to explain myself!"  I'm absolutely convinced that the emperor has no clothes.

Josh

Name:            Ed Posey
E-mail:           
Date:              12/16/09

Dear Josh:

Bonjour from Paris, Monsieur Becker! I have a question and a joke. First, where are your people from and what is your history? Second, how many girls does it take to pick the apples up beneath the tree?

Dear Ed:

Bonjour.  Give my regard to the Champs Elysees.  I truly love Paris.  Well, let's see . . .  My mom's mother was from Hungary, her father was from Romania; my dad's father was from Poland, and his mother was born right here in Detroit, Michigan.  OK, how many?

Josh

Name:            nick
E-mail:           
Date:              12/16/09

Dear Josh:

I noticed you put "Altered States" on your most recent list of classic movies. Why that film? It certainly seems like an odd choice. It's pretty good, and not boring at all, but I didn't see anything particularly great or special about it. The film lapses into incoherence at several points, and it's never really explained how William Hurt is able to devolve into the Missing Link, get sucked into a vortex, and devolve even further into an amoeba, simply by ingesting Ayahuasca tea (at least I don't think it was, it's been a while since I've seen it), then transform back to his normal self simply by running into a wall over and over again. Ayahuasca just tends to make you really sick. Great performances by William Hurt and Bob Balaban (Richard Masur is just awful in it, but that kind of adds to its charm) and some truly fantastic visuals. For Ken Russell I'd put "The Devils" and "Women in Love" (now THOSE are movies!) way ahead of "Altered States."

Dear nick:

I'll go with you on "Women in Love," but I've gotten far more enjoyment out of "Altered States" than "The Devils," which is particularly difficult movie, although certainly worth it.  Yes, there are holes in Paddy Chayefsky's script, I won't argue with you, but I do think it's an exceptional movie with the best tripping scenes in any movie ever.  It's an intelligent sci fi story with a lot of gorgeous imagery, terrific performances (I disagree regarding Richard Masur's performance), brilliant editing, great effects, unlike any I've seen before or since, and Ken Russell at his very best.  It's absolutely asking you to take a leap of faith, but not to the extent that most sci fi films do.  Like "2001" and "A Clockwork Orange," I believe that "Altered States" could not be made today.  The system would destroy it before it ever got to the screen.

Josh

Name:            August
E-mail:           joxerfan@hotmail.com
Date:              12/16/09

Dear Josh,

Glad to see traffic has picked up at your site. I think there may have been some sort of technical glitch last summer, because I actually sent several questions in, as well as a quick commemoration of your birthday, but none ever apparently got through. At any rate, your fans (and webmaster) may want to know that Alien Apocalypse is running for what I think is the 15th time on Syfy this Sat. (12/19) at 11 PM eastern, right after the premiere of My Name is Bruce. Which raises one question: I know you've talked about how this wasn't a DGA shoot, but when you sold the script, did that count as a US deal, and do you get writer's residuals for it? Also glad to see The Horribleness script posted (although sadly I guess that implies no immediate plans to film it.) Any chance we may see Lost Lost World? Or is that something you're still hoping to get produced? (Ironic that so much $$ was spent on the big-screen Land of the Lost to turn it into a slapstick comedy, something very different from the original.) And last, how's that rental business going? Did the Michigan film incentive deal work out the way everyone had hoped?

Regards,
August

Dear August:

Always good to hear from you.  Yes, there was a technical glitch and the Q&A had to be fixed.  Thanks for info on "Alien Apocalypse."  Oddly, I think, the script for "The Horribleness" has been up for a long time yet I haven't received a single comment about it.  I really am proud of that script, and, if may honk my own horn (and my co-writer, Paul Harris' horn, too), I think we achieved something that nobody has pulled off in about 20 years -- a flat out slapstick comedy that's not only funny, but consistently funny throughout.  Of course I could be wrong.  People need to read it and tell me what they think.  If anyone ever reads "The Horribleness" perhaps we'll post "It's a Lost, Lost World."  Regarding residuals for the script of "Alien Apocalypse," I'm not in the WGA.  But that wouldn't matter anyway because the film wasn't made under WGA or DGA auspices, which is one of the reasons they shoot these films in Eastern Europe, to skirt union issues.  Meanwhile, the 40% incentive deal here in MI is working great.  My rental business picked up consistently all year long, and in November I had almost every piece of equipment rented out to three different features -- "Vanishing on 7th Street" with Hayden Christiansen, "Master Class" with Faye Dunaway, and "Moozlum" with Danny Glover.  It seems like every big star has been here in the past two years, and from what I hear it's all picking right back up in January, with pictures starring Robert DeNiro (who's already been here), Robert Duvall, Andy Garcia and Will Ferrell.  Everything else here in MI may be going down the crapper, but movies are better than ever.

Josh

Name:            Ray
E-mail:           
Date:              12/16/09

Dear Josh,

What makes me say I have no use for that way of thinking is because there simply ARE quality films out there that people dismiss or disregard BECAUSE of that logic. When you say no movie after "The Godfather 2" are as great, you aren't saying movies aren't GREAT in their OWN RIGHT, you are blankly saying THOSE movies you are comparing to GFII aren't better than Coppola's film. I really, truly liked "Running Time". Not trying to throw you a bone. Stephen King loved "The Mist" and wished he came up with its ending, which is brilliant in its tragic irony. The movie blows "Cujo" out of the water. It may not be as claustrophobic, but its charm lies in the classic Stephen King power struggle of good and evil within the store. It's like a quintessential King story, and I loved its early 80's monster movie vibe and the gutsy 70's horror movie punch. Not a GREAT flick, but I liked it a lot. I disagree with you, especially with some your views like "No Country For Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Eyes Wide Shut," of most recent memory. I write, too. Part of the reason why I contacted you was because I have an intriguing idea in my opinion, involving a true story of Mafia history from my city. I have read books on it and I think it's a great story that has not been told. But then my conflict lies in.... what story is the one to focus on and WHO is my lead character. How do you KNOW who? I ask because your scripts for "Head Shot" and "Devil Dog" are very intriguing and focused. I never wrote a true story for the screen and I wanted advice from someone who had done it before. I ask because I DO respect the fact you put emphasis in characters and structure. I may not agree with you on "Eyes Wide Shut" (which I think is superbly made, brilliant, and thematically deep and rich in details) at all, BUT before you dismiss me and think I know nothing and I am uneducated in film or whatever you MAY think, "The Bridge on River Kwai" is one of my favorite films, as its top ten material for me. Anyway, if I misquoted you, I apologize as that comment was not something I read thoroughly.

Dear Ray:

Nicely written.  So, we disagree, big deal.  Since I am attacked here so frequently I do have a tendency to take umbrage when I'm misquoted.  I know I haven't seen more movies than everybody, just 99% of everybody.  My good buddy Paul has seen as many, or more, movies than I.  If Kevin, the webmaster here, keeps seeing movies at the rate he's seeing them, he'll be ahead of me by the time he's 30.  But it doesn't matter how many movies I've seen in regard to my opinion of other movies; one thing has nothing to do with the other.  Anyway, I'm glad you liked "Running Time."  As to who is the lead character of a story, just consider who is the most important character regarding the story?  In the case of "Devil Dogs," where you've got 18,000 Americans fighting 28,000 Germans, you've got a lot of possibilities.  However, the one person who changed the course of that battle was Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly who caused the Americans to keep fighting under ferocious conditions and take the southern-most tip of Belleau Wood.  Without Daly we might very well have not won that battle.  Therefore, Daly was crucial to the action.  So, which character in the story you're trying to tell is crucial to the action?  As I've mentioned about "Head Shot," it doesn't have a lead character -- it's the only script I've ever written without one -- and that's something I don't recommend to anyone.  Not having a lead character can work, and I'd like to believe in the case of "Head Shot" that it does work, however in most cases it doesn't.  We the audience emotionally invest ourselves in the lead character and see the story through their eyes.  My one script where I was completely befuddled as to who was the lead character is "If I Had a Hammer."  Personally, I'm much more on the side of Lorraine than Phil -- she represents my beliefs far more than Phil -- but she's the past and he's the future and whether I like it or not, he's the lead.  This may have been a mistake because it's much more difficult to get behind an apathetic idiot than a bright, motivated, caring person.  This was the big pitfall in telling an allegorical story, where the characters represent ideas, and I don't think I overcame it.  By the way, "Hammer" is the allegorical representation of my feelings about the time we're living in -- the idiots have taken over.  I hope I'm answering your question, but if not, either rephrase it or ask another.

Josh 

Name:            David R.
E-mail:           
Date:              12/15/09

Dear Josh:

"I'll repeat my contention: there has not been a film made since 1974 that was better than "Godfather Part II"" I agree with you there 100%. But that's a bit of an unfair question since "Godfather Part II" is the best film of all time. Nothing before or since can touch it!

Dear David:

What's unfair about it?  If movies are as good as they've ever been, where are the great movies?  I mean, I just watched "Michael Clayton" for a second time last night and it's a perfectly reasonable movie -- the script makes sense, I bought the premise, it's got a good cast and it's well-shot -- but it's not a great movie, nor is it even close, and that's about as good as it gets these days.  In a great movie every line, every moment, every angle, has resonance that feeds back into the entirety of the work.  Everything is there for a good reason.  My buddy Paul and I were just throwing lines from "Unforgiven" back and forth.  That's a great movie, and I seriously would have never believed that Clint had one in him, but he did.  Everything in the movie is right: the script, the direction, the cast, the locations, everything.  It's a bloody miracle.  And as terrific as I think "Unforgiven" is, I still won't put it up against "Godfather Part II."

Josh

Name:            Ray
E-mail:           
Date:              12/15/09

Dear Josh,

I just want to start by saying that I do not agree whatsoever with your philosophy regarding the state of cinema. The whole attitude that movies made after a certain time, like post-70's or the 80's are no longer quality, is frankly something I have no use for. It makes sense that the quality of movies have been vastly different and not as grand as the past classics, but times change. The state of cinema has changed, and quality still exists. To say you have seen more movies than anyone else is absurd and snobbish. I must be out of my mind because "The Mist" was well done. Also, for someone who is highly critical and hard to please, the only movie you've made that's worth a damn is "Running Time" - it was accomplished, exciting fun - it was legit and I liked it. I respect and admire the way you put a lot of stock in character and structure. My question is regarding such things when writing a nonfictional story. How do you start and who do you decide is the best main character?

Thank you

Dear Ray:

I grow so weary of being misquoted I can't say.  I never said that I've seen more movies than anyone, just most people.  My late friend Rick had seen more movies at the age of 45 when he died than I've yet seen at 51.  But to see 5,000 movies you have to make a very concerted effort for a very long time.  Also, to know how many you've actually seen you have to keep a record.  Yes, the state of cinema has changed -- it's not as good now as it used to be.  If you disagree, as apparently you do, please offer some supportive information.  To say that you "have no use for" that information doesn't mean anything.  I'll repeat my contention: there has not been a film made since 1974 that was better than "Godfather Part II."  If there is one that I've overlooked, please tell me.  I heard Alec Baldwin making this exact point on TCM the other night.  He said (and I slightly paraphrase), "It's not that they don't make good movies anymore, they just don't make great movies anymore."  Of course I don't think they make all that many good movies anymore, either.  What are we talking about?  "Slumdog Millionaire"?  "Crash"?  "Transformers II"?  To shrug this off to "It makes sense that the quality of movies have been vastly different and not as grand as the past classics, but times change," doesn't mean anything to me.  Yes, times have changed, movies aren't as good now as they once were.  In th last 20 years have there been any movies as good as say: "Patton," "The Wild Bunch," "The Godfather," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Annie Hall," "Rocky," "Network," "Altered States," "True Grit, " "The Graduate," "Bonnie and Clyde," etc. etc. etc.?  No, I'm sorry, there haven't been.  You say, "The state of cinema has changed, and quality still exists."  I agree, cinema has changed, and occasionally there is a good movie, but never a great one anymore. And yes, you must be out of your mind if you think "The Mist" is anything more than a third-rate Stephen King adaptation.  That piece of crap doesn't come within a mile of a weak King film like "Cujo" for christ's sake.  I'm glad you enjoyed "Running Time," but I feel like you're just trying to throw me a bone, which I don't need.  If you're really interested in how RT came to be, read "Rushes."

Josh

Name:            Will
E-mail:           
Date:              12/14/09

Dear Josh:

Directed by William Wyler was indeed a good documentary. I especially appreciated how it focused on his work and working methods rather than intrusions into his personal life. The focus was indeed on the "Directed by." The DVD with that documentary includes Wyler's first sound film (1/2 sound, 1/2 silent), The Love Trap. I'm so conditioned to Production Code-era films that I'm always surprised at how suggestive the pre-code films can be! The Love Trap is a minor work, but very funny, and worth seeing if you haven't. I have another filmmaker question. What do you think of Ronald Neame? He made movies forever, beginning as Hitchcock's cameraman in the silent days. I saw Hopscotch last night. Matthau is great as always, and the film was beautifully shot and edited. Further, it was a light, fun movie that nevertheless was well-written and believable.

Dear Will:

I'd love to see "The Love Trap."  Although American films from the pre-code era are suggestive, the French films from the same period just come straight out with things, like in the film I just watched, "Marius" (1931), Maruis's father believes that Marius is having sex with Fanny, and he is, even though they're not married, and they come right out and discuss it, which I find very odd for such an early sound film.  Regarding Ronald Neame, he was great cinematographer, and aside from being an assistant camerman on some of Hitchcock's early films, he was cinematographer, co-producer and co-writer of most of  David Lean's early, gorgeous, terrific films.  As director, though, I think he was rather workman-like.  As a DP he shot a number of great films, but as director I think the closest he ever got to making a great film was "Tunes of Glory," which is quite a good film, but not great.  I also quite like "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

Josh

Name:            David R.
E-mail:           
Date:              12/14/09

Dear Josh:

I checked out the trailer for "Diabolique" and it looks really good, as you said. Would you say the style is similar at all to Hitchcock? Have you seen any other directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot?

Dear David:

I've seen "The Wages of Fear" several times, and it's a very suspenseful, well-made film, and much better than the American remake, "Sorcerer."  Clouzot is sort of considered the French Hitchcock in that he regularly worked  in the genre of suspense, but other than telling the same sorts of stories, they're not very similar as directors.  Clouzot was a very straight shooter, covering the scenes rationally and cleanly, but never going for an odd angle.  Hitchcock was Hitchcock.  I'd now like to see "Le Corbeau," which sounds very interesting.

Josh

Name:            Danielle
E-mail:           
Date:              12/12/09

Dear Josh:

Thanks very much for the great suggestion. I had the feeling I was pushing it by choosing a 1955 release (just in order to get my point across about the changing depiction of women). THE LITTLE FOXES is, in my opinion, a better movie than THE DESPERATE HOURS (that climactic scene with Bette Davis in the foreground and Herbert Marshall crawling up the stairs in the background is brilliant) and showing a pre-war movie is a wonderful idea, since we're all much more familiar with what followed. Sorry about the length of my previous post. When I sent it to you, I swear it was divided into paragraphs (as opposed to being a big, nasty blob).

Dear Danielle:

Anything about William Wyler is entirely my pleasure to think about and answer.  Yes, that's a great, great scene with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall.  Did you know that "The Little Foxes" is Dan Duryea's first film?  He'd been in the stage production.  Speaking of 1955, I just saw "Diabolique" for the first time and it was really good.  Very tense all the way through, with a pay-off at the end.  Vera Clouzot (the director's wife) and Simone Signoret are both terrific.  It was shot well, too.  I'm not sure how I've made it so long without seeing that film.

Josh

[Webmaster's Note: Sorry, everything is smushed together when I get the email and I have no way of telling where the paragraph breaks are. - Kevin]

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

Dear Josh:

This exchange is getting us nowhere. Obviously we're at an impass, and I'd argue it's because you're being flagrantly obtuse. But whatever, to each his own. Keep living in the past, see what good it does you. Me? I'm perfectly content with being a progressive and productive member of society, always forward looking. I enjoy going to the movies every weekend, sometimes twice when I can help it. Most of what I see I love. I feel bad for babies like you who are too stubborn and principled to just loosen up and enjoy yourself. Here's a link to the top 20 grossing films of 2009. http://boxofficeguru.com/top2009.htm Did you see any of these films? I saw all of them, and I pretty much enjoyed every one of them, and I certainly don't regret seeing any of them. Pull the pole out of your bum-bum and check out a few...I invite you to, and in doing so, broaden your horizons, take an adventure, and experience what it means to be a part of the human race in the 21st century.

Dear M:

Yes, our exchange is getting us nowhere.  I find it amusing that you somehow feel like you've made your point and come out on top of this discussion.  So far you've managed to say nothing other than, "New movies are good 'cause I liked 'em."  It's a simpleminded attitude I've been encountering my whole life -- I pays my money, I likes what I see.  If you have no critical faculties that's your problem, not mine.  If you can only compare the movies of 2009 with the movies of 2008, then I'm sure they all look fine.  This highly limited perspective is akin to another knuckleheaded attitude I've enountered many times in my life -- "I work hard all week, so when I see a movie I demand a happy ending."  Simpletons may very well also believe that there are too many letters in the alphabet, but that's not a good reason to get rid of some of them.

Josh

Name:            Danielle
E-mail:           
Date:              12/12/09

Hi Josh.

For a second, I could have sworn M. Prosky was responding to your "Religion is Evil" essay with the ever convenient: "I don't have to explain it!" copout. Apparently, we are just supposed to take it on faith that "Kill Bill" is a masterpiece. Your foes will no doubt dismiss me as another "Becker ass licker," but -- I gotta tell ya, Josh -- I'd rather lick yours than Tarantino's. On a less vulgar note ... a friend of mine asked for movie suggestions for a film class he's teaching about WW2. For several lessons, he'll be focusing on the way in which the war was depicted by Hollywood at the time the conflict occurred and I told him that it might be fun to dedicate a few weeks to how the war affected (or reflected) social roles in society. Recently, when I watched William Wyler's THE DESPERATE HOURS for the very first time, I was struck by how irritatingly weak and helpless the female characters were (Fred March's simpering wife and daughter are a far cry from the stoic and heroic Mrs. Miniver). So, my idea for the class was to have my friend show the following three Wyler movies: MRS. MINIVER, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE DESPERATE HOURS. When MRS. MINIVER was made, the U.S. had not officially entered the war, so the movie's focus on noble characters who are suddenly forced to put aside petty material concerns in exchange for a new life filled with sacrifice and courage was, of course, the perfect morale booster for the American (and British) public. Greer Garson's gorgeous Kay Miniver was the epitome of charm and self-sacrifice and Walter Pidgeon's Clem was equally charming and (as a successful architect) a potent force in the world. When Kay bravely confronts and captures the downed German pilot, Clem's reaction is comical, but his manhood never really appears to be threatened. Even their son, Vin, hooks up with a very cool and capable Teresa Wright (who deftly mocks his initial pretentiousness, remains strong throughout the movie, and eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice). THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, coming out just after the war, was obviously addressing very different concerns and I think these two movies make excellent bookends. The men, who are having trouble re-entering society -- struggling not only with their memories of the war, but in the sudden shift in their identities -- have Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright to patiently help them. The women in this movie are less glamourous than Kay Miniver, but they're still very appealing and courageous in their own way. By the time we get to the post-war release THE DESPERATE HOURS, things feel very different: the fighting is over (though, the "cold war" is presenting a new kind of threat), Daddy's home, and we're back to focusing on material goods and how they define success. Bogart's convict is almost like a communist (infecting society from within as opposed to dropping bombs from afar) and he represents a direct threat to the "American Dream." Since they are no longer rationing goods, worrying about their men and working in factories, women are suddenly transformed into helpless creatures that exist solely to whine and be protected (March's young daughter is engaged to a very bland and condescending older man and March's wife ... I can barely remember her!). Whereas Garson and Loy were strong, key player's in Wyler's previous films, the actresses in this third movie are absolutely unmemorable. The point of it all seems to lie in Fred March asserting his manhood (now that he can no longer do so by proving himself in battle) and re-claiming his rightful place in society. Even the tiny boy in the family is allowed to possess more strength than both women combined. I don't mean to rag on this film so much, I'm sure it has many good points. Even though it was released ten years after the end of the war, I think it would be good to include because it deals with American life following the big conflict and it epitomizes a rather grim decade in our history. So, what do you think, Josh? Does the focus of my argument seem too narrow? Are my observations too obvious and simple? Can you think of different movies that might be more appropriate? Even if the three I chose do not generate interesting class discussions, I think it would be cool to expose students to William Wyler (they get to see the films projected on the big screen!). I'm sorry this post was so hideously long, but I guess I'm pretty envious of the guy who's going to teach the class, and I got carried away. It sounds like a fun way to earn a living.

Dear Danielle:

I'm totally with you on showing "Mrs. Miniver" and "The Best Years of Our Lives," but adding "The Desperate Hours" as a post-war commentary (ten years after the war) seems like a stretch.  You can use the convicts invading March's home as a metaphor for almost anything: Communism, materialism, television, whatever.  Perhaps a better way to go, while still sticking with a Wyler triple-bill, is to show one of his films made immediately prior to the war, or at least prior to America's entrance into the war.  If you started with "The Little Foxes," which is entirely about the internecine squabbling of a family, illustrating how utterly inward the U.S. was looking before Pearl Harbor, paying no attention to the world outside, then I think you have three clear different stages regarding the war: before, during and after.  To show during, after and then a decade later, seems incorrect to me. 

Josh

Name:            Anthony Palmer
E-mail:           
Date:              12/12/09

Dear Josh:

The first reviews for James Cameron's "Avatar" are coming in, and they are almost unanimously positive. It's now looking more and more like "Avatar" will win multiple Oscars and become a huge blockbuster, which is very unfortunate. In my opinion, people like James Cameron have pretty much ruined cinema by making these idiotic CGI fests. From what I understand, the majority of "Avatar" is CGI, so in essence, what Cameron has made is a $300 million cartoon. Since these CGI films have become so profitable, fewer and fewer real movies are being made. When I look at the movies that are playing at my local theater, they are either cartoons, superhero movies, or shit like "Transformers" and "Avatar". Do you consider making movies that are almost entirely CGI actual filmmaking? To me, if the director is relying on the special effects team to create everything that's going to be on the screen, he or she ceases to be a filmmaker.

Dear Anthony:

Digital effects are just another way of doing special effects.  Did Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack cease to be filmmakers when they animated King Kong?  There's nothing wrong with special effects, it's all in how you use them.  From what I've seen, the aliens in "Avatar" LOOK like digital effects, which is a drag, as far as I'm concerned.  But there's certainly a lot of live-action, too.  I hated "Titanic," but the effects at the end when the ship sinks are great.  I'd write James Cameron off entirely except I really like "Aliens."  I don't like it, but if you're pretty sure that non-stop effects will make money, then you're going to do non-stop effects.  A bigger issue to me with "Avatar," or any sci-fi film, is the use of bi-ped human-looking aliens.  The reasons that filmmakers use human-looking aliens is A. a complete lack of imagination, and B. it's easier.  If it looks like a guy in a suit, or under a lot of makeup, what's the point?  Considering that a digital effect can be anything, and doesn't cost any more one way or the other, why make it look like a human?

Josh

Name:            M. Prosky
E-mail:           
Date:              12/11/09

Dear Josh:

When you respond like that you just come off like an ass. Next time take a deep breath, relax, lean back in your chair, take a puff on a fucking joint for all I care, but chill out before you continue sounding misinformed and cinematically uneducated. It's clear by looking at your website you've seen a lot of movies (you even feel the need to brag that you've seen 4,000, which is certainly a lot, but I know plenty of people who've seen way more). But it's also clear at least 3,000 of these are movies that came out at least twenty years ago! You're barely at the tip of the iceburg of recent movies which explains your naivety about the importance of Tarantino. I don't have to explain it! If you love movies you just get it! But you don't love movies, I submit you love "old" movies, which is fine, but that accounts for your ridiculous reviews and posts. I'll put it to you this way: a kid goes to med school, it's fine for him to study the ancient history of medicine for a semester or whatever, but then he should be studying the most up to date shit because THE PRESENT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. An important saying I was once told that I\'d like to pass on to you: keep living in the past and the future will rain tears on your head!

Dear M:

Actually, I've now seen 4,499 movies, and if you seriously believe you know anyone who has seen that many movies, you're dreaming.  As I suspected, you didn't and probably can't defend QT's films or his ability.  I love the old "I don't have to explain it!" retort.  That sure takes the pressure off of you from having to actually defend your position.  Meanwhile, I'm very aware of the new films -- I have both HBO and Showtime -- and literally 9 times out of 10 I don't make past the first 15-30 minutes of these movies.  You, and many folks like you, are under the delusion that the present moment is the most sophisticated time in the history of civilization, that's not necessarily true.  Sophistication doesn't alway just go up and up and up.  It goes up, it comes down and it goes back up again.  In 1,000 A.D. humans were nowhere near as sophisticated as they had been in 450 B.C., nearly 1,500 years earlier.  I contend, and completely believe, that movies have become increasingly less sophisticated in the past 30 years.  As I've posed before, someone please name one movie that's more intelligent and more beautifully produced and directed than "Godfather Part II," which came out 35 years ago.  You can't because there isn't one.  Movies hit their peak of sophistication in the early 1970s, and by the late '70s the giant corporate machine had turned them into pork bellies.  Presently, QT may well be a "hot" filmmaker, but that doesn't make him a good one.  Honestly, I think his star has done nothing but grow dimmer and dimmer since "Pulp Fiction," which is certainly his best movie, and not all that good, either.  You're stuck in the fallacious position of believing that anything new is good; or that anything new is somehow more intelligent than what preceeded it, which is absolutely untrue.  It's good you don't have to explain yourself because if you did you'd fall on your face.

Josh

Name:            nick
E-mail:           
Date:              12/11/09

Dear Josh:

Just got back from seeing "Brothers," which I'd highly recommend. Not a great movie, but a pretty good one. It's a realistic, believable film, and Tobey Maguire is quite good in it. He looks as if he's going to go completely insane at any second. If you liked "In America" you'd probably like this one too. The only aspect I didn't buy, as others have pointed out, is that his character would not be declared KIA so quickly (spoiler: he's supposedly dead within the first ten minutes of the film), but it's really not that important in the movie.

Dear nick:

Thanks for the recommendation.  Meanwhile, anyone who said that "The Mist" was any good at all is out of their minds.

Josh

Name:            Perry Wagner
E-mail:           
Date:              12/11/09

Dear Josh:

If you ever wondered why you never made it (because you are talented and should have by all logic), look no further than this pitiful evidence of your lack of social skills/graces and networking ability: Within what seemed like just a few weeks, Quentin Tarantino and RESERVOIR DOGS became a phenomenon. Me, being the complete schmuck that I am, called Lawrence Bender to see if he wanted to read my new script. "Are you nuts?" wondered Lawrence. "You called me a thief and Quentin ugly." "No," I corrected, "I called Quentin 'goofy-looking.'" "Yeah, well, fuck off!" And he hung up on me. I guess I burned that bridge.

Dear Perry:

Uh-huh.  And this is new information how?  I added that tag onto the interview because who could've known that "Reservoir Dogs" would become what it became?  Quentin and Lawrence were just two more schnooks who hung around the bungalow where Scott and I were living.  There was no reason to take them any more seriously than anyone else.  I did the interview for Film Threat -- and I sincerely doubt there were any other interviews with those guys during that production -- and since they both annoyed me so badly, I decided to write an "edgy" interview, actually attempting to be somewhat honest about my feelings, something that is very rarely, if ever, seen in entertainment journalism.  Then RD went through the roof.  That's how it goes.  C'est la vie.  Regarding logic and "making it," they have nothing to do with one another.  What the great unwashed don't understand and never will is that only .0001 "make it," or in other words, become known entities.  Whether or not I blew smoke up Quentin and Lawrence's asses, my fate would very probably have been exactly the same.

Josh

Name:            alex anest
E-mail:           
Date:              12/10/09

Dear Josh:

I just read your "Religion is evil" rant. You rock. You kick ass. Just in case someone else told you that you were crazy or mean or insensitive (not that I think you would care based on the tone of the article) I wanted to send a short note letting you know that you are right on the money. I typed "religion is evil" into google and you were the first hit. Great job! Alex p.s. Don't let the Buddhists off the hook. Remember WWII? Fuckin' japanese buddhist kamakaze motherfuckers. "In order to establish eternal peace in East Asia, arousing the the great benevolence and compassion of Buddhism, we are sometimes accepting and sometimes forceful. We now have no choice but to exercise the benevolent forcefullness of 'killing one in order that many may live'. This is something which Mahayana Buddhism approves of only with the greatest of seriousness" From the "united Buddhist leadership" at the time of WWII.

Dear Alex:

I'm not letting Buddhists off the hook, although I do appreciate many of their philosophies.  But the whole voodoo aspect of reincarnation seems as silly to me as 79 virgins or perdition.  Nevertheless, the Japanese during WWII followed a truly fucked up form of Buddhism called Shinto, which put ancestors and national pride above everything.  Let's face it, anybody can kill in the name of anything, including "eternal peace."  Religion just gives people the lame excuse of feeling righteous when they kill others whom they consider blasphemers.  Which isn't to say there aren't many kind-hearted folks among the religious, but in my opinion they're seriously misguided.

Josh

Name:            M. Prosky
E-mail:           
Date:              12/10/09

Dear Josh:

Well I DO like Tarantino, I happen to like him very much. I wonder how he would feel if he looked back and saw that interview from THIS vantage point. Lawrence Bender too, who you belittled in a tone that borders the anti-semitic. It's good to know you're at least a little contrite about the whole thing, the man happens to be very important to the next generation of film lovers and you belittling him now would be like someone belittling Hitchcock back in the twentieth century. It's just wrong-minded.

Dear M:

Give me a break.  Quentin Tarantino will never be in a position to shine Hitchcock's shoes.  You may well like him, but to me he's the perfect representation of how bad movies have gotten.  His movies are stupid, badly-written, and poorly-conceived.  "Kill Bill" also wins as one of the most poorly-edited films I've ever had the displeasure to sit through.  Although I haven't seen "Inglorious Basterds," it looks to me like a steaming pile of dogshit.  Meanwhile, I'm not the slightest bit contrite, I was just explaining the circumstances.  And "anti-Semitic"?  The guy tried to rip me off and I told the story.  If I'd said, "That guy tried to Jew me down," that would be different, but I didn't.  Being Jewish myself, I could care less if Lawrence is a Jew, it had nothing to do with what I wrote.  Would you possibly care to explain why you think QT is such an important filmmaker?  I don't think you can do it.

Josh

Name:            Travvy
E-mail:           
Date:              12/10/09

Dear Josh:

Why haven't you directed any episodes of "Legend of the Seeker?" Love that show and since you're part of the "family," just figured you would...

Dear Travvy:

I figured I might, too, but I guess I'm no longer part of the family.

Josh

Name:            Danielle
E-mail:           
Date:              12/09/09

Dear Josh:

I'm surprised you've never seen anything by Jacques Becker. I know you mainly watch movies when they appear on cable, but I highly recommend LE TROU. One can never tell what you'll appreciate and I suppose a recommendation from a complete stranger is pretty useless, but it truly is an excellent prison movie. Take care.

Dear Danielle:

I take your recommendation seriously.  I feel not having seen any films by Jacques Becker is definitely a gap in my film knowledge.

Josh


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