Q & A    Archive
Page 53

Name: derek
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I know your not a Soderbergh fan, but have you seen his 1999 film The Limey? It was pretty intersting. The direction was original, but when you look at jump cuts and voice-overs and odd colors like he uses, you end up thinking "That's cool, but why is it there?" That seems to be the main problem with Soderbergh's direction in general, he uses certain angles and filters just for the sake of using them, and it eventually becomes annoying. I must say that I did find the film to be ok though. What are your thoughts?

Dear Derek:

I didn't care for it at all. I didn't care a whit about Terence Stamp, whom I like, or his quest. And, as you mentioned, Soderbergh's directorial style is simple-minded, obvious, and meaningless. In my opinion, he has yet to set up one legitimately good shot in his entire career. Any time he does anything with the editing or camerawork, I feel like I'm watching a guy fumbling for a visual style he simply hasn't got.

Josh

Name: jack cambell
E-mail: jack_cambell@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

i agree, i dont think there has even been a movie above 1 star rating in the past 10 or even 20 years. i prefered the movies that werent made by developed directors. they are less commercial and more real. i have to say that alfred hitchcocks psycho is the only satisfactry film i have ever seen. i havent seen any of your films josh, sorry. i was wondering as well if u did stuff on xena and hurcules than would you have been in new zealand for that? im a film student down there and i wanted to know what the new zealand film industry is like. thank you very much.

Dear Jack:

I was down in New Zealand about 25 times for Herc and Xena. I enjoyed working there very much. For the most part, the crews were very professional and knew their jobs as well as anyone in Hollywood. Sadly, however, due to the weird, socialistic employment rules there, you can't fire anybody, and a few crew members that really did a crappy job and had bad attitudes stuck around for years. But they were by far the minority. Otherwise, it was really terrific.

Josh

Name: Will Armstrong
E-mail: andykaufman@home.com

Hey Josh,

I really like the ending of "Running Time". What does it take to make a great ending? I might have almost enjoyed "Cast Away" if the ending wasn't so damn anticlimatic.

Oh yeah, what are some of your favorites? I love the endings to "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather Part 2," and "The French Connection".

Sorry to bring up a million things in one post. The most disturbing scene I can think of is the first russian roulette scene in "The Deer Hunter".

Dear Will:

A good ending is one that ties up all its loose ends. As all the threads tie up at the end of "Kwai" it becdomes breathtaking because you didn't even realize there were that many threads out there. The man that gave me my first serious idea of what screenwriting is (which is mainly structure), Inigo DeMartino, Sr., who had written 35 films, used as his example of "bad suspense" (this was 1977, two year before "The Deer Hunter") was playing Russian Roulette. It's not real suspense, it's fake suspense because it doesn't go anywhere. Beside, the VC never made anyone play Russian Roulette, it's just a silly, lame dramatic device to try and end the severe boredom the first hour of that film caused. "The Deer Hunter" is a film I really can't stand.

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

In regard to "fargo", The fact that she didn't notice William H. macy's apparaent guilt at all contributes to their parody of rural areas and their naivety. The scene with the chinese man in the diner also achieves the same end.
The william h macy scene in question also illustrates the parody when he simply raises his voice to her causing her to go silent and then claim that he is being completely rude and unreasonable.
But then Again it's just my opinion.

George.

Dear George:

There's a thing called consistency in characterization. Fran's character is never meant to be stupid. I must also say that the Coen's contention that folks in rural areas are dumb makes me think that pretentious filmmakers are far dumber than anyone living in a rural area. Doesn't the Coen bros. knuckleheaded pretentiousness get anyone else down but me?

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Hey,

I had to ask you, what do you think of the hodge/boyle team up? I mean, sure " the beach" was a piece of shit, but I thought "shallow grave" was an excellent film, and that "trainspotting" was very good too, and one of the funniest films of the last five years. I do disagree with the labelling of shallow grave as a comedy, sure there where one or two funny parts ( the new flatmate interviews) but I just thought that cutting off hands and feet and smashing out teeth with a hammer, didn't make for big laughs although it does make it into my disturbing films scenes list.

I must also mention another one of my 4 star films, "glengarry glen ross", the cast was straight from leading man heaven and david mamet's script was his sharpest since "the untouchables" ( another **** effort).

Do you enjoy Depalma? I wil say that he's sold out lately ( "mission to mars" anyone? not even gary sinise and don cheadle could save that one) but I still enjoy his directing teqniques for a bit of fun.... and "scarface" is forever one of my favorite films. And another **** film which should have gotten best picture over that piece of shit "titanic", was "LA confidential". Another film I thought was damn near perfect. And just for the record I think "goodfellas" is the best film ever made, did you give it 4 stars? It couldn't be given any less.
Did you happen to catch Scorsese's three part documentary on the history of film? It was excellent, and I think he takes the award for best directoral cameo of all time ("do you see the women in the window?").

George.

Dear George:

Well, let's see? I haven't seen "Shallow Grave." I did enjoy "Trainspotting," although I didn't think it was great by any means -- almost none of it sticks with me at all. I also like "Glengarry Glenross," but I don't think it's a 4-star film -- there's too much yelling, swearing, and repetition, and it's all pretty obvious. It's well-done, and it's certainly Mamet's best work, but I don't think it's great drama. I really don't care for "The Untouchables," other than Sean Connery's performance ("Who would say they are that that was not that"). Costner is a total stick-in-the mud, them charging out on horses was dumb, and I really couldn't get behind what they were doing. The whole scene on the steps is just painfully wearisome in its homage to "Potemkin," with the bouncing baby carriage. To say that DePalma just sold out is a laugh. he sold out 20 years ago. Did anyone but me see "Bonfire of the Vanities"? In fact, the only DePalma film I really like and respect is "Carrie." I'm also not a very big fan of DePalma's remake of "Scarface." Pacino is ridiculously over-the-top the whole time, and the ending with the rocket launchers nearly put me to sleep. I'll take Howard Hawks's original any day of the week. Certainly "L.A. Confidential" was far superior to "Titanic," but I still wouldn't give it 4-stars. I really didn't like Guy Pearce, it was too long, and there was way too much weapon-fire at the end for believability's sake. I also don't think you can really play that gag of "That really is Ava Gardner." Well, no it wasn't. I agree, "Goodfellas" is a 4-star film (and Scorsese's last good film).

Josh

Name: Ray-The Screenwriter
E-mail: ray3259@excite.com

Dear Josh,

Howdy, how is it going? Well, I have to be in this conversation about four star films and disturbing film and everything. I got to start by saying I do think that Memento is an amazing film, I mentioned it before. It is in a page in the archives, I am not sure which. But anyway, it is a film that is as original as anything you can think of. And Bound, it is a good Joe Pantoliano film and I have been wanting to get the DVD, I am not sure when though. I cannot think of a fourstar film either. I have a question, though. Josh, have you seen any film that you admire the ending of? I can think of a few but you probably did not like them.

Dear Ray:

I like the endings of many films. "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon" jumped to mind right away. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" has a terrific ending. Good God, I like the endings of hundreds of movies. The end of "Going My Way" is really great, when Bing Crosby brings Barry Fitzgerald's 95-year-old mother in from Ireland and reunites them after 50 years. Or the end of "The Palm Beach Story," when you realize Joel McCrea and Cluadette Colbert both have twin siblings. It goes on and on.

Josh

Name: Barney Bloom
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

hows it hanging? I crew on films in small capacities such as PA and dolly grip jobs. Growing up I watched Stryker's War, and that was one of the sole reasons for wanting to become involved in the film industry, the other reasons were The Toxic Avenger, Coming Home and Psycho Cop. Psycho Cop is a great film if you ask me, and its star Robert R. Shafer is one of my favourite actors and I think he could and would be perfect in your next project. Consult www.imdb.com for his full filmography. Anyway I absolutely adore your work. Running Time is the best low-budget single take american film starring Bruce Campbell and Art LaFleur to come out of 1997. Just kidding, I hated it!!!! Na, I just had you, it was a good film, and was what got me interested in mortgaging my house to film a low-budget 16mm film entitled Love on Devil's Wheels starring a promising actor with one prior film credit Mitch Maglio and several other non working actors. The film will be independently released sometime in the middle of 2002. You are an inspiration to me. Tell me what you think of the films Psycho Cop, Psycho Cop Returns, Ms. 45, and No Way Home. Don't be so harsh on Bringing Out the Dead. Catcha on the flipside.
sincerely Barney Bloom.

Dear Barney:

Good work on getting a film made. I haven't seen any of the films you've mentioned. I haven't liked any of the Abel Ferrara films I've seen, though. "Bringing Out the Dead" was a disaster. Other than a few good angles, it really has nothing to recommend it. I wish you extra luck on your release.

Josh

Name: curtis dancer
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

another thing, Maybe the reason you hate so many films is because you enter onto them fully expecting a cetain structure and, when disapointed ( which im sure happens alot as films attempt to be new and fresh)
consider it a slap in the face for boring, ordinary structures in films which it's obvious you can't break away from and hence dump all over.
now you think about it asshole.

Dear Curtis:

Oh, now I'm an asshole, eh? Simply put, those who dump on story structure are those that don't understand anything about writing.

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I also had to mention that two films this year have made my top twenty list of all time.

They are "cecil b. demented."
and the best film of the year "o brother where art thou" which breaks into my top ten.
both are 4 star films.

Dear George:

Different strokes for different folks. I watched a half-hour of "Cecil B." and it was awful! I think John waters sold his soul to the Hollywood devil. Every film of his after "Female Trouble" is worthless. As for the Coen bros., well, 'nuff said.

Josh

Name: Curtis Dancer
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I honestly can't believe how much of a hard-ass you are.
Is there any films you do like? It seems to me that everytime you criticize the shit out of a film, it's because It doesnt follow the typical conventions of ye olde cinema work. You claim traffic has no story, no lead actor, bad direction and acting. Bull shit...
If there was ever a set protocall that a filmmaker had to follow in order to be considered a real film maker, then he ceases to allow his creative intentions to eventuate, if every film maker in the world modified their ideas to fit a more acceptable frame of structure, then the monotony of an identical framewrok and storytelling premise would soon grow very tiresome.
You did however, mention Benicio del toro , who did not speak a word of spanish, and for traffic,
learnt his lines of dialogue in another language, and acted them in a totally convincing manner, not unlike Robert Deniro's completely italian speaking Don Corleone in The Godfather part II.

Art is expression,and yes, film is an artform , once you begin placing restrictions on an artists creativity, it's not their own anymore, and has been sullyed to convey the thoughts of a people who refuse to make exceptions concerning style.
And as for legalizing drugs, a number of countries who chose to adopt this method have turned into the biggest waystation drop off points for drug shipments and home to some of the largest cartels in the world. In the Netherlands, a country smaller than West Virginia, there is around fifty clinics set up to help addicts. Over three percent of the population over fifteen years of age in Rotterdam use cocaine. In England, heroin was made legal by prescription and the number of heroin addicts went from under 500 to about 20,000 in only five years.
One more thing, I thought Election was another 4 star film. The whole affair thing was to contrast his ethics concerning his school with his private life,
which also served to add up and result in his final resting place as a museum curator.

Dear Curtis:

That is a boring argument I've heard 500 times. To use my house metaphor yet again, you certainly have the right to put the roof in the basement, then put the walls on top of that, it just won't function as a house. And using the joke metaphor, you can absolutely tell your punch-lines first, you just won't get any laughs. You don't have to use proper story structure, but you simply can't tell a good story without it. You say that my assessments of "Traffic" are "Bullshit," but you only back that up with the fact that Benecio Del Toro didn't really speak Spanish. So what? Is Michael Douglas' DEA agent a good character? How about Catherine Zeta-Jones? These are poorly-written characters. And I will reiterate my stance, when you are aware of a director's presence every frame of the film, as in "Traffic," that's called bad direction. Any director that makes umbrella decisions, like I'm shooting the entire film hand-held with long lenses or everything is in tight close-up, isn't dealing with the specific moments. All of the architecture we know deals with the foundation, then the walls, then the roof, and it hasn't gotten in anyone's way.

Josh

Name: FilmCritic
E-mail: filmsrpriceless@yahoo.com

Dear Josh & Everyone:

As someone who has a say in whether he thinks a film is good or not, I think that most of the films have their good points and their bad points, for me atleast. My take:

Affliction- ** Stars. Throughout the film, I had thought that the character development for Wade Whithouse (Nolte's Character) seemed dull and thawed out, as if Paul Schrader was making everything along as he went. I never cared about the character, and the film's premise was just okay. I do agree that it was disturbing.

The Shawshank Redemption- ** Stars. I have to admit that the first time I saw it, I fell in love with it, but the more and more I watch it nowadays, I don't have the admiration as I did the first time I viewed it. I do have to say it is Frank Darabonts best yet, best Stephen King adaption that, considering that the guy made a career out of putting his works to the screen.

Bringing Out The Dead- * Star. Josh, I can't agree with you more. The picture is well ripped off Taxi Driver and if you think about it, the story tries to become Taxi Driver while trying to become a whole new film. God, what a mess.

Heat- *** Stars. This film has its moments, that I admire. I liked it because I felt I was watching a cops and robbers movie, just like a thing where me and my friends used to play around when we were really young and I loved the fact that Pacino and De Niro (My favorite actors, btw) in the same movie, even though they are only in a (breif) single scene. I don't like how there should be an ending long before it is sussposed to be. That is the only problem. But other than that, I enjoyed it.

Bound- *** Stars. When I saw this, long after The Matrix and Assassins, I was questioning whether or not the Wackowski brothers made the film. I checked and I was surprised that the Brothers did in fact make this film. It was surprising because I hated Assassins and I thought Matrix was boring from the start and I thought that Bound was well crafted, well written and awesome acting, mostly by Joe Pantoliano. Maybe this is because I just like crime movies, and I am questioning myself whether to give it *** Stars. By the way, it does have some depressing scenes in it where Joe Pantoliano bounds and gags Jennifer Tilly and tries to cut her finger off just to know vital information from Jennifer Tilly's lesbian partner, Gina Gershon.

Shadow Of A Vampire- * Star. Not worthy of anything past * Star. I just simply hate the fact that they are trying to pass for a good film but it turns out to be a tedious mind game. Hate cannot describe the boredom I felt when watching this move. Do not see, if you do, you have been warned.

If I have to say, the worthy **** Star film that comes to mind is "Following" written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the same man who would later make "Memento", a mindbending thriller that breaks filmmaking rule after filmmaking rule, just not worthy of **** Stars, *** Stars is good. Don't believe good old Maltin with that one. Anyway, if you are interested in seeing "Following", then I suggest you are in for a wild ride. Christopher Nolan's style is just mindblowing, you have to check it out. It really would make you wonder who Christopher Nolan is.

Josh, when you mentioned the film "Tigerland" and said that it had believable characters and such, I checked it out. It came on, so I watched it. Whoa, thanks for mentioning that, may I add. I just got the DVD of it today and I have been watching it over and over ever since. Though, questionable if it is a **** Star film.

P.s, about RT, I have no problem with the film, dont get me wrong. But the ending just didnt do it for me in terms of answering a couple of things. It really is a good piece of work. Sorry, to offend you.

Dear FilmCritic:

You didn't offend me. You and everyone else can say whatever you'd like about my films and TV eps. They're out there to be seen and critiqued. Go ahead and hate them if you'd like, just have a reason. I think "Shawshank" is better than you're making out, but it's not a great film, just a good one. I don't think "Tigerland" is a four-star film, either, but a good one, nonetheless. I'd give it three, and I think it does have some subtext. Pretty good thumbnail reviews, who do you review for?

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

If you haven't seen "bound" , make a b-line for the nearest video store and get it, Joe pantoliano, who I think is one of the best actors working today ("momento" anyone?), His performance deserved some kind of award.
I was also looking through "running time"'s maltin review, pretty damn favorable, You gotta be happy with that. I wonder, does him saying your film was "well acted , suspenseful, both realistic and romantic" help cement your respect for him, and praise him so totally in your replys? Nah im just fucking with you....
I think Running time deserved everything it got, (well decidedly that) an excellent effort.
Bye the way, I believe "Fargo" to be as close to film perfection as possible with no adjustments able to be made. A real **** effort.
One last thing, In "seven" where the fed ex guy comes out to the middle of nowhere, the driver says that "this guy payed me $500 bucks just to bring it out here" shows that the guy is obviously acting on his own time. There may have been numerous inaccuracies and faults (a homocide detective was quoted as saying he shuddered when Freeman just plucked the note from behind the fridge with his bare hands) it is still Amazingly photographed (the chase scene in particular)
and well written.

ps. how many of your films has maltin reviwed? ( I know that running time got 3/4 which according to him makes it on par with unforgiven)

George.

Dear George:

Yeah, isn't that a joke. And, given his ratings, "Lunatics" is as good as "Taxi Driver." Yeah, right. Two of my films, "Running Time" and "Lunatics" are in Maltin's book (both reviewed by Bill Warren, BTW). The other book just like Maltin's, "Video Movie Guide" by Mick Martin & Marsha Porter has those plus TSNKE, which they give a turkey, their lowest rating. They do give RT three and a half-stars, but that's out of five. Meanwhile, I agree that "Seven" is well-photographed, but I disagree that it's well-written. I also disagree that "Fargo" is "as close to film perfection as possible." I do think it's the Coen's best film, but I'd give it three stars. I don't think Frances McDormand's character is particularly well thought-out. For a cop she comes off as not very observant. The first time she questions William Macy in his office, he's acting so guilty a five-year-old would suspect something, but Fran just stands and leaves. Also, the scene with the Asian fellow in the restaurant couldn't be more extraneous. Also, Fran's husband could not have been more underwritten. Beyond any of that, there's no subtext or theme, it just is. As Hemingway said of good writing (including his own), it should be like an iceberg, with one-quarter showing and three-quarters below the surface. That ain't going on in any of the Coen bros. films.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

A four star film since 1992.....I really like Michele Soavi's "D'ellamorte Dellmore" (released in America as "Cemetery Man," starring a pre-star Rupert Everett. I think it's a four-star movie, despite not following your structure essays (:p). It's surrealism and surprising resonance in pre-socratic Heraclitian philosophy (don't see that every day) poses very interesting questions about real/not real and the boundaries between the concscious and subconscious. I also think Steve Buscemi's "Trees Lounge" is a four star movie. Reasoning being the well-developed characters and the tightness of the story. All the subplots move along at a steady pace and are intertwined with the main story convincingly. And the performances and photography are top-notch in my opinion.

Let me also weigh in on the "disturbing" discussion. Tod Solondz's films, which I don't particularly like but find compelling to watch anyway, do it for me. In "Welcome to the Dollhouse," when school bully refuses to allow Heather Matzouri's character to leave the restroom until she defecates and in Happiness, the entire homosexual pedophilia subplot just make my spine all aquiver.....

Dear Will:

Having not seen "Cemetery Man" or "Trees Lounge" I can't comment. I have a distinct feeling that if and when I see either of these films I'll disagree. I don't honestly see how anyone could get a 4-star film out of either of those premises. Come on, a 4-star zombie movie? I just kinda doubt it. Nevertheless . . . I didn't like, nor was I moved by, Todd Solondz' "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and I bailed out halfway through "Happiness" because it was so fucking repetitive, but perhaps I should try again and stick it out. As a note, a 4-star movie is a GREAT film, a classic. So far, the choices I'm hearing I don't buy, even if I haven't seen them. I'm supposed to believe that Steve Buscemi, a good character actor, made a GREAT, classic film his first time out? Call me a doubting Thomas.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail: david@dustdevil.com

Josh-

Okay, maybe "disturbing" was the wrong word, maybe "frustrating" is more appropriate.
Besides, I thought of something else. The movie "Blood Simple." Especially in the scene where Dan Hedaya won't die and the other guy buries him alive. Just the thought of Hedaya trying to crawl away on the side of the road gives me shivers.

David

Dear David:

I suppose one could take that scene that way, I, on the other hand, was so annoyed at how blatant of a rip-off the scene was from Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain," which is a truly disturbing scene, that I couldn't take any of "Blood Simple" seriously. Not to mention that the premise has been done so many times, from "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity" to "Body Heat," and the Coen bros.' film seems like weakest version of the bunch. I can accept a man killing for Lana Turner or Barbra Stanwyck, but not for Francis McDormand.

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

While reading your onset diary for " book of the dead" I couldn't help noticing it's parralels with an extremely unknown documentary called "the demon lover diary". The diary being of course, about an hour and a half of on set behind the scenes 16mm footage showing the trials and tribulations of the troubled shoot of the 1976 film "The demon Lover" directed by Don Jackson.
One of the producers is even mentioned as deliberately cutting his finger off in an industrial "accident" to claim the insurance money, therefore, funding the picture.
I believe it to be one of the most raw, real and altogether amazing film documents of all time.
Despite it's lacklustre appearance (natural light and grainy 16mm, although I would choose 16mm over 35 if given a choice), It exhibits the most humourous traits of human psychology and the climax although not quite clearly filmed, is quite amazing.If you have not seen this, I seriously recommend you do, and if you have seen it, then maybe you should watch a few of Don Jackson's other works of art... ie. "hell comes to frogtown" or "I like to hurt people". I also recommend
"Lingerie Kickboxer". I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the "diary".

ps. I do believe there has been a number of 4 star films in the last ten years, most notably "Bound", "Seven", "Heat" ,"Bringing out the dead" and " Shadow of the Vampire". Just to name a few.

George

Dear George:

I have seen "Demon Lover Diary" and spoke highly of it in my review of "American Movie," of which it reminded me. I didn't see "Bound." "Seven" wasn't very good. As my friend put it, "Seven" is a mystery for idiots. The cops never figure out anything, they just keep getting calls in the middle of the night saying, "There's been another one," then showing up somewhere that's all covered in blood. At the end, when a FedEx truck delivers a box to the 137th phone pole in the middle of nowhere is so stupid it's breathtaking (FedEx won't even deliver to PO boxes, for God's sake). "Bringing Out the Dead" is Scorsese at his worst, ripping of his own film, "Taxi Driver," and have nothing new or interesting to add. Cage's character is terrible, played at the same level the whole time, and never goes through any kind of interesting change. Patricia Arquette's character is a dull, miserable whiner. I really hated it. It's the perfect definition of "Great directors don't die, they become cinematographers." "Heat" was okay, if overlong, but it's certainly no great shakes. It's a persistent cop and a wily criminal and not much more than that. The big heist scene had way too much automatic weapon fire for me. And DeNiro and Pacino have one scene together. 4-stars it ain't. I haven't seen "Shadow of the Vampire" yet.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail: bseckard@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I think there have been a few 4-star films made since 1992:

"Affliction", I felt, was a truely great picture with an absolutey chilling pair of performances coming from Nick Nolte and James Coburn. I've never liked Paul Schrader as a director, but "Affliction" is a very strong picture. Unforgetable, and I've only seen it twice. (Actually it could fit on a disturbing list. Coburn hitting his own, grown son over the head with an embty bottle of booze then being murdered and burned by him, is really awful.)

I also felt "The Shawshank Redemption" was a really great film. A true throw back to the golden era of films, say the 30's or 40's.

I also remembered two other films to add to the disturnbing list:

The little seen documentary "Brother's Keeper" about three elderly, backwoods brothers that all lived together in the same house, and how the youngest one was accused of murdering the oldest brother.

I also always thought that "Cutter's Way", a little movie from the early 80's, was always disturbing. John Heard, one armed, one leged, and one eyed, drinking himself into death, knowing his best friend, Jeff Bridges, is screwing his wife, and basically making up a murder story around a local welthy man...Then it winds up being possibly ture after he goes psycho and kills himself.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I agree that "Affliction" should be on the disturbing list -- Nolte pulling out his own tooth with a pliers was one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen in a film (and ought to have gotten him an Oscar), but I sure don't think it was a 4-star movie. I don't know that I'd even give it three. Two and a half seems more like it. I really do like "The Shawshank Redemption," but I don't think it's a 4-star film, either. It works really well on a surface level, just like the Stephen King story, but there's no subtext, no depth, and therefore I don't think it deserves more than three and a half stars. I saw "Cutter's Way" when it was first released and was called "Cutter & Bone," and though it's been quite a few years, John Heard's performance still stands out as utterly absurd. Admittedly, it was a difficult part to play, but he approached it as though he were a cartoon pirate, only lacking the parrot on his shoulder.

Josh

Name: Noelle
E-mail: terrabelle98@aol.com

HI Josh,

Well Maltin also gave 4 stars to Howards End, Little Women, and Schindler's List...just for the record. I liked Howard's End (I don't think I could sit through it again though). Little Women was OK, but I didnt go crazy for it.

Dear Noelle:

But those are all before 1997. I think the fact still stands that he's only given 4-stars twice since then. I think "Howard's End" is a very good film and I've seen it four times. It gets easier to sit through each time. It's also highly ironic, which impresses the hell out of me. Both Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson simply could not be better, nor could Helena Bonham Carter. And it looks wonderful. I think it's Merchant/Ivory's best film. The Gillian Armstrong version of "Little Women" was okay, if rather dry, but I don't think it comes close to the 1933 version with the very young and incredible Katherine Hepburn. Personally, I'll take the 1949 version, with Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor, over the recent one. Regarding "Schindler's List," I just think it's a bad movie, poorly thought out, with simple-minded characterizations, annoying music, and severely overlong. That's a film I truly hope I never have to sit through again.

Josh

Name: FilmCritic
E-mail: filmsrpriceless@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Oh and this Maltin discussion. Obviously, you and Maltin have something in common. You have your own different but fascinating opinions. See, I may disagree with some of Josh's favorite films of all time and I may disagree with Maltin's picks in his books. But I still read Josh's and Maltin's stuff just because it is interesting to read and why the critic cut up a certain film. Am I right? Like Maltin and his take on "Taxi Driver". What is he thinking? I think "Taxi Driver" is a film where there is so much character development with its lead character that it is so hard to get your mind off of something else. You feel how lonely De Niro is and what he becomes and how he becomes it. How is there anything bad to say about that, and that alone?

And Josh, I am curious: do you have any regrets on the ending of "Running Time"? Would you want to make it better if you really could? OR what do you think has its strong points?

Dear FilmCritic:

"Taxi Driver" is an exceptional film. Scorsese and DeNiro are at their very best, it's certainly Paul Schrader's best script, Michael Chapman's photography is breathtaking, and it's the great Bernard Herrmann's last score and a brilliant one. Regarding the idea of disturbing, that's what "Taxi Driver" is all about. Travis taking Betsy to a porno movie on their first date is excruciatingly disturbing. As to the ending of RT, with which you seem to have a problem, I quite like. So, what's your problem with it?

Josh

Name: Thom
E-mail: Rampage04@aol.com

whatsup,

I was wondering if it is a good idea to buy software for making screenplays. It seems to be easier, they basically have the format for you layed out, you just have to write your story. Is that the way to go or writing it from scratch a better choice?

-thanks

Dear Thom:

I think it's a waste of money. Screenplay format is very simple and is simply four or five tab stops. Figuring out what to write, then writing it well are the hard parts, not the formatting.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail: david@dustdevil.com

Josh-

Here's another addition to the "disturbing films" discussion, even though it's a bit late. While "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" isn't a disturbing movie as a whole, that one scene where the "gangsters" or whatever they were are beating up little kids, stealing their papers and driving them off the road, and then when they turn a fire hose on a parade, well, that was pretty disturbing.

And the ending was really good, too. When they bring in all the telegrams and Stewart doesn't show a reaction, they just hold the suspense for what seems like minutes. I mean, we all know they're going to be bad news, but when he doesn't respond immediately, we start to wonder. (in case you can't tell, I just rented it today)

David

Dear David:

I think we've gone astray of actually disturbing. There are some uncomfortable spots in many films, the "Mr. Smith" examples being a few of them. "Disturbing" is a different thing. In "Forbidden Games," a French film about WWII, a German plane strafes civilians killing a 5-year-old girl's parents and her puppy. She crawls out from beneath her dead parents, holding her dead puppy, and a fat ugly woman grabs the girl and throws her dead puppy off a bridge. That's disturbing. Newsboys being run off their corners is not.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: jforde40@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Talking disturbing films? How about The Wall when Bob Geldof shaves himself and cuts up his chest. I know you are a Pink Floyd fan, what did you think of that film?

Also very disturbing is the Ken Russel film Tommy by the Who. Ann Margaret rolling in baked beans? I can't believe she won an Academy Award for that.

Howdy, John:

Long time no hear. I really disliked both of those films and simply found them dull, not disturbing. And Ann-Magaret did not win an Oscar for "Tommy," nor anything else for that matter, although she was nominated for "Carnal Knowledge" in 1971.

Josh

Name: George Spelvin
E-mail:

Josh,

If the topic of disscussion is disturbing scenes in films, I must mention Alan Parker's Angel Heart.
The sex scene , which is intercut with scenes of blood running down the walls and over the two in bed, and images of the devil in black and the unknown man at the parade, while Micky Rourke's participation suddenly becomes slightly more fervent and violent.
is altogether a very unsettling scene, which is enhanced by the lack of sound from the two in bed, and a strange chorus of tribal music instead.

Another disturbing array of horror appeared while I witnessed the paul Verhoven epic, "showgirls"........ ......scary stuff.
Did you know that leonard Maltin has only given two films 4 stars since '97 and they are spike lee's "4 little girls" and Lasse Hallström's " the cider house rules".

George.

Dear George:

I suppose you must have heard that fact somewhere. I double-checked it and it seems to be true, too. I won't argue with Maltin's concept, either, as I don't think there's been a great film in ten years. I saw "4 Little Girls" and even though it's a powerful subject, I thought it was kind of a crappy documentary. "The Cider House Rules" just isn't a terrific story. That Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron end up screwing so quickly after her husband leaves for war (I read John Irving's account of the making of the film, "My Movie Business," which was interesting, and he explains that what was 14 years in the book became 14 months in the movie) made me not like either of them. Also, Michael Caine's scheme of making a fake diploma for Maguire so he can take over the orphanage is just stupid -- he didn't go to med school and he's going to get caught, fast. I must also say that Caine's New England accent is preposterous. It is very well-directed and well-photographed, however. For me, there hasn't been a 4-star movie since "Unforgiven" in 1992. Maltin only gives it 3-stars, and originally only gave it 2 1/2, but unpgraded it. He gives "Titanic," though, 3 1/2-stars. I'd give it a BOMB. Anyone else think that there's been a 4-star movie in the past ten years?

Josh

Name: S.C.
E-mail: scornett@yahoo.com

Hi,

Regarding creepy films, have you seen "Santa Sangre"?

It was years ago when I saw it, but I remember feelingvery disturbed after viewing it.

Also, the french film "Betty Blue" has some reallyun-settling moments.

-S.C.

Dear S.C:

I haven't seen either one, but I did hang out with Alejandro Jodorowsky (who wrote and directed "Santa Sangre") for an afternoon last year in Chicago. He's a very interesting man, with a gorgeous young French girlfriend. We all went to a Jewish Deli (Jodorowsky is Jewish, BTW) and had corned beef sandwiches. His film "El Topo" was sort of disturbing, too.

Josh

Name: Lou Silvestri
E-mail: louissilvestri@hotmail.com

Josh,

I see all of this talk about Leonard Maltin's book of reviews. Quite frankly, I'm completely unimpressed by him. I received a copy of The Psychotronic Video Guide for my birthday last year. This book is great and puts Leonard to shame. It gives reviews of movies from almost every genre and avoids most of the commercial/generic films. The author, Michael Weldon, has in fact viewed all of the movies that he reviewed.

Dear Lou:

Yeah, but they're very different books. The Psychotronic Video Guide has possibly 500 to 800 films listed (I'm just guessing), whereas Maltin's book has 20,000. It's possible to see 800 films, it's not possible to see 20,000 films. I find Maltin's book to be the best general film reference book as it's fairly complete (although it still doesn't list my first film, which, considering it had a theatrical release, really ought to be there). And, for the most part, I generally agree with the reviews. But whether or not I agree with a critic isn't my big issue, but do they have valid reasons for their opinions? Maltin is still a sucker for anything that made a lot of money or won Oscars. For its purpose, though, it's a good book.

Josh

Name: JuStAnOthErFiLmCriTic
E-mail: filmsrpriceless@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I have been reading some messages and I now have knowledge of a talk about disturbing films. Well, I just need to get in on this conversation. Okay, here I go:

First of all, I always thought that "In Cold Blood" was pretty disturbing.

"The Tenant" and "A Clockwork Orange" were creepy.

I know you do not like "American History X" but most of the film, notably the end, were found to me to be disturbing and unsettling.

The scene in "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane" where Jane is kicking the living hell out of her sister Blanch and when she kills the maid right in front of her eyes. That was pretty tense.

Also, "M" with Peter Lorre was one of my top disturbing films. I really admire the way it had an impact on me.

"Rope" was disturbing on how the killers acted.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was just the weirdest and creepiest lowbudget film that I experienced. When they have Sally tied to the chair and when they torment her, I just went, "geez".

At last, I thought that "Single White Female" was pretty sick, too. It was not a film that should be taken 100% literally. I thought that the scene where Jennifer Jason Leigh comes out of the bathroom, with a new appearance, and when she confronts Bridget Fonda who is taped down to a chair with her mouth taped shut and everything was pretty disturbing. Not only that, but when she talks to her as if everything was okay, I thought it was odd and twisted.

So, Josh, is there any films that I have mentioned that you agree with? If there aren't any, then why don't you agree with them?

Thanks for you time,
JuStAnOthErFiLmCriTic

Dear Just . . ."

No, they're all good choices. The concept of disturbing is bringing out interesting films. As a kid of 11 or 12, I was particularly disturbed by "Dead End" and its depiction of poverty during the Depression, particularly when they beat the crap out of the rich kid just because he's rich.

Josh

Name: FanX
E-mail: resone11@aol.com

Josh-

Yup you beat me to Freaks. "Lord of the Flies" was creepy. Especially when Piggy gets crushed by the rock. Also the scene in "The Omen" when the girl hangs herself from the building. Its been awhile but I think that is the same movie with the guy getting decapped by a giant pane of glass.

And although its a tad tacky "The Bad Seed" had some good scenes between the girl and the gardener.

Speaking of unsettling I rented "Wit" this weekend which was amazing.

X

Dear Fan X:

I agree, I thought "Wit" was very good and most certainly unsettling. Christopher Lloyd was terrific as the Oncologist. One line stuck with me for some reason. The intern is taking her history and asks if she uses stimulants? "Like what?" she asks. "Like coffee," he says. "Oh, yes. Six to eight cups a day, but I don't think that's immoderate." Meanwhile, "The Bad Seed" was one of my favs as a kid, and yes, all the scenes with the handyman (Henry Jones) are great. He's telling her about going to the electric chair and says, "They have little blue ones for the boys, and little pink ones for the girls." And the mother's realization that the half-moon shapes on the dead boy's hands and face are from the heel of Patty McCormack's shoe as she hit him while he tried to get out of the water. "Lord of the Flies" was another film that really got me as a kid of maybe 14, that I found very disturbing. And I also agree that the nurse saying, "It's all for you, Damien," then hanging herself was totally creepy. Excellent choices.

Josh

Name: Evan
E-mail: evdoggand@aol.com

Dear Josh,

A few years ago when RT came out, only Hitchcock had attempted real time. Recently though, real time seems to be all the rage. Showtime did 12 angry men, HBO made "Conspiracy", "Timecode" used it, Richard Linklater has a real time film called "Tape" coming out, and Joel Schumacher has "Phone Booth". With all this, do you think the technique has become played out? would you as a viewer be interested in seeing real time films anymore, or are you just annoyed by it?

Dear Evan:

But the only ones to do it without cuts so the real time is actually real time are "Rope" and "Running Time." "12 Angry Men" isn't in real time as there is some time lapse during it. "Conspiracy" is a remake of a German film called "The Wannsee Conference," and though both are in real time, they're both done with cuts, so who cares? Cinematically, as far as I'm concerned, being in real time isn't an issue and doesn't mean anything unless it has no cuts.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail: bseckard@hotmail.com

Josh,

For disturbing and unsettling I've got to say "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia". Warren Oats looses his woman, becomes a murderer, gets Garcia's head, looses his mind, starts talking to the head, is drunk all the time, gets no money, and then is machine gunned.

"Wait Unitll Dark" is another pretty good one. Alan Arkin is absolutly evil in that picture! And what about Kubrick's "Lolita"? The idea that James Mason wants to off his wife just so he can be with her daughter is bad enough. Then, after she does herself in they do start a relationship. But that's not all. I'm always shocked when Mason finds that Lolita (the very sexy Sue Lyons) was with Quilty (Peter Sellers, who's a total creep) durring the whole time that Mason felt she was only his. It suggests that Lolita is just as much a perv as Mason's character, and she's 15! What a shocker.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

Interesting choices, although neither one disturbed me. I always felt that 1962 was just too early to do "Lolita" justice. Instead of the big seduction, we have James Mason doing half-assed slapstick gags with a folding bed. My good buddy, Gary Marvis, who was the co-production designer on "If I Had a Hammer," had a fling with Sue Lyon when he first got to Hollywood in 1975-76. Getting back to disturbing, how about the scene in "Platoon" when Charlie Sheen makes the Vietnamese man dance by shooting at his feet, then Kevin Dillon crushes the guy's head with the butt of his rifle. Truly awful. Or when Tom Berenger shoots the old lady, then threatens to kill the little girl.

Josh

Name: Fan X
E-mail: resone11@aol.com

Josh and the gang.

How about Freaks? I think it was directed by Todd Browning a long time ago. That one never sat well with me. That guy with no arms or legs who rolled around with a knife in his mouth was just damn strange.

Fan X

Dear Fan X:

Yes, I just suggested "Freaks" yesterday, so I agree. The pinhead girls are pretty disturbing, too.

Josh

Name: David
E-mail: david@dustdevil.com

Josh-

Do you think Leonard Maltin really watched every movie in his movie guide? I always just assumed he let the publisher put his name on the book (for a large sum of money) and a team of ghost writers wrote most of the reviews.

Also, have you ever wanted to change a script after you've copyrighted it? Would you need to copyright it again if you did?

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

When Maltin first started his book in 1969, following up on Steven Sheuer's book (which had been around since 1958 using the same format and four-star rating system), I think he had seen all of those films, which was far less than there are now. Since then he has hired a team of other reviewers to assist him and they're all listed as editors or contributors on the front page. If I'm not mistaken, Maltin still reviews most of the "big" pictures. Most of the low-budget, horror, and sci-fi films are reviewed by Bill Warren, who recently published "The 'Evil Dead' Companion." Regarding copyrights, you certainly can change it after it's been copyright, and if they're not substantial changes, it doesn't really matter. But you must state of the front page that the script is copyright and put the little c in the circle, or at least like this (c) (MS Word will make a little c in parentheses into the proper mark). Stating your copyright is very important.

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: upon request

Dear Josh:

Oooh!
I'd like to offer a few suggestions for the *disturbing* discussion.

1--"Leave Her To Heaven" with Gene Tierney's character encouraging her handicapped brother-in-law to swim, and then allowing him to drown, and then when she, pregnant, puts her toe into that carpet edge at the top of the stairs. The first time I saw that, I screamed to myself-- No! surely she isn't going to....dear god, she's gonna do it! And it's revealed finally her behavior is rooted in a sick obsession with her father's love.

2--How about Bette Davis in that film with Karl Malden (Josh -you know the title?) where she takes up her sister's identity. That scene where she ponders how she's going to mask her handwriting...and then we see her pick up that hot poker and sizzle her own hand. Oh, and then in another scene the camera stays on her face as she lets that Great Dane maul a man to death.

3--In "Glory" when Matthew Broderick's officer orders a disciplinary whipping of Denzel Washington's union soldier; the camera pans over his shoulder to reveal dozens of old lashing scars. I thought the audience would be shown mercy and the scene would end there, but no, we see a close up (as I recall) of Washington's tear stained face as he is whipped...once again.

4--Now, this is disturbing to ME, but not in the way you all probably mean!--
but how about "Manhattan", where Woody Allen's 42 yr. old character Isaac has a sexual relationship with Mariel Hemingway's 17 yr. old Tracy.
I think I was probably around 17 when I saw that on t.v. and I was shocked at how it was handled. I kept thinking, good lord, what are we supposed to think of Isaac here? Josh, do you recall any pubic backlash when that film was first released in 1979?
(Of course, as I've mentioned before, I have this foible of regarding gossip of actors and directors when I consider a film. So when Allen ends up in real life with the Sun Ye scandal, and I heard of Gene Tierney's (supposed) troubled deal with her father, I got all the more "disturbed" at the irony of their work...coincidence though it most likely is.)

Dear Diana:

I haven't seen "Leave Her to Heaven" since I was about twelve, so I can't really remember it, other than Gene Tierney looked sort of spectacular (for which the great Leon Shamroy won the Oscar that year, 1945, for Best Color Cinematography). The Bette Davis/Karl Malden picture you're referring to is "Dead Ringer," which was indeed creepy. Plenty of other Bette Davis pictures could go into this category, too, as she was the queen of disturbing performances -- let's not forget one of my favorites, "The Little Foxes," where Ms. Davis just sits there as her husband has a heart attack and dies on the stairs. I agree as well with that scene of Denzel Washington being whipped, which stays on his close-up for the whole whipping. I still think that was Washington's best performance of his career. Lastly, when "Manhattan" came out in 1979 no one really commented on Woody Allen being with a 17-year old as it just seemed like a plot device at the time. It was, as far as I'm concerned, however, the beginning of the end for Woody Allen as a filmmaker. He took his fame, fortune, and Oscars from "Annie Hall" so seriously that he was never able to make an unself-conscious, legitimately funny movie again. To add another film to the disturbing list, "Who'll Stop the Rain," where Ray Sharkey and Richard Masur are torturing Michael Moriarity, burning his hand on the stove and injecting him with heroin.

Josh


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