Q & A    Archive
Page 54

Name: Tamandra
E-mail: TAMandraM@aol.com

Hey Josh :)

Just thought of you as I was watching the news here in L.A., they said that Medford got it's first snow. So, how are you liking the real change in weather? I bet it's just gorgeous. I loved your comparison between Oregonians and Los Angelenos lol. Very true. Nice to see you got some very cute kitties..a whole brood. Did you adopt them all at the same time?
You know, I was thinking how funny it would be to see you and Bruce do a Siskel and Ebert type thing. I'd love to see you guys in a lively discussion on films. The faire lately seems to be more dismal than ever.
Tell Bruce to read his fan mail..I sent him several weeks ago lol. Fanalysis was a hoot!

Take care,

Dear Tam:

Yes, I adopted all three at the same time from the Humane Society. The kitties are all sisters, and they happily sleep on top of each other, but they'll also happily bite each other's tails. The problem with Bruce and I doing a review show is that neither one of us has the slightest interest in watching new movies. I'd rather watch the snow fall than anything coming out of Hollywood now. They can't even pull off a run-of-the-mill film like "Men of Honor" anymore.


Name: Tony Mitchell
E-mail: mitch_2209@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

On the subject of the Aussie film "Chopper" - you haven't missed anything, Josh. It is a pile of absolute trash. It has no story, no plot and not an ounce of structure. The main protagonist is a violent criminal who is supposed to be likeable and it doesn't work. Lead actor Eric Bana was a comedian and was chosen for the role because of his impersonation skills, not because he can act. His performance won him an Australian Film Institute award for Best Actor which beautifully sums up the state of the Australian film industry today (it's OK, I'm an Aussie). Now that Bana the "local boy" has been chosen for a "Blockbuster Hollywood" film role we are all supposed to assume that he has "made it" and the world will be his oyster, just like "Australia's own" Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson (who aren't Australian, by the way).

Dear Tony:

You know, it's sad, too, because for a while there Australia was making really terrific films. But all the Aussie directors immigrated to Hollywood and they turned into hacks. What the hell happened to both George Millers? Bruce Beresford was doing fine work down there like "Breaker Morant," then came to the U.S. to do shit like "King David" and "A Good Man in Africa." The same goes for Peter Weir. And now a good film from Australia is nonsense like "Chopper."


Name: stace
E-mail: ya already have it

Dear Josh:

i mean such tributes as "dr delaney", cos sharon delaney is a friend of the actors and the head of the of the official xena fanclub. fanfiction is mentioned, the fans wanting season 7 is mentioned as is the fans hate of spoilers. thanx again 4 answering me, bye 4 now

Dear Stace:

Oh, those things. Well, they were all in the script. Ted being a better Xena is undoubtedly due to Ted and not me, too. I'm glad you liked the episode. I thought it was just okay, personally.


Name: dustin
E-mail: dustglas@hotmail.com

hey josh,

i was just curious to know if you liked the show south park and what you think of trey parker and matt stones humor. also, when you've had someone edit your films, what program are they using? i've been working with the avid meridians all this quarter at college and was wondering if they are still the industry standard. later, dustin

Dear Dustin:

I've worked on Avid, Lightworks, and D-Vision. Avid still seems to be the industry standard, but things change pretty rapidly these days. Bruce Campbell and his wife Ida just got Final Cut Pro, which looks like a cool system. It doesn't much matter to me as I don't run the software, I just point and say, "Cut there," then the editor makes the cut. As I was discussing with Ida yesterday, just because you can use an editing software sure as hell doesn't make you an editor. Editors have a million little tricks for speeding up and slowing down the action or dialog that have nothing to do with software. As I recommended to Ida, a good book on the subject is "On Film Editing" by Edward Dmytryk. It's more about why and where to make the cuts, not how.


Name: Stace
E-mail: u already have it


last week i told u i was just about 2 see ur last xena epp. i saw it on sunday and needed to tell u how great it was! it was sooo funny, i think ted did a better job as playing xena this time, do u think this was down 2 good directing? there were also alot of "fan tributes" were u told about this or did u put them in, and did any of the actors notice?
thanx sooooo much for sharing ur talents with us

Dear Stace:

In my eps I'd say all the good things are due to my direction. Just kidding. So, what specific "fan tributes" are you referring to and I'll tell you if they were in the script or improvised?


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

Dear Josh:

Actually, the Coen brothers have never even read "Homer's Odyssey". "O Brother Where Art Thou" is ranked the 166th best film on http://www.imdb.com. "The 39 Steps" is ranked 238! Unless Joel and Ethan are constantly voting for their own films, the public must like this crap. So I guess the state of today's movies will never change if this kind of stuff is popular.
I think you should give "O Brother" a rent. I don't know if you know this or not, but in one of the final scenes there is an exact recreation of "The Evil Dead" cabin.Seeing that gave me the chills.
That whole thing was more of a comment than a question, so I got one for ya. If Alfred Hitchcock had directed one of your films where do you think his cameo would be? I was just curious because this question was brought up on a "JAWS" message board recently. I'm still trying to spot Hitch in "The 39 Steps".

Dear Will:

I'm not much for questions like, "What if Hitchcock directed your films . . ." But he didn't direct my films, I did. I do make my own funky little appearances in some of them. And, as hard as I try, I don't remember Hitch's walk-through in "The 39 Steps." They're usually right near the beginnings of his films, though, just to get them out of the way.


Name: PooP
E-mail: Beckersucks@yourmom.com

Dear Josh:

Your work sucks my ass.

Dear PooP:

No, you're confused. It's your mom that sucks my ass.


Name: Eric Rosenthal
E-mail: eric3020@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

I like the comparisome of story structure to joke structure. In the book, "Phantoms in the Brain" the author uses jokes as one of his tools to test the extent of people's mental disorders; if they get the joke, at least that part of their brain is working okay. He also explains that most jokes work by leading the author along one path, and at the punchline, revealing a twist that causes the events to be reinterpreted. This twist, although unexpected must still make sense in terms of the proceeding events. I think that plot twists and surprises in good movies have to work the same way to avoid the "god in the machine" syndrome. How do you know if you're doing too much "god in the machine" action?

Harlan Ellison wrote in one of his essays that the only thing worth writing about is people. This makes sense to me with Horror/Sci-fi in which the best ones focus on the effect of the monster/technology/crazy situation, etc... on the people. I think that's why I've never liked Star Trek, you just don't get into the characters that much, it's always about the space gizmos.

You've mentioned the Simpsons, at it's best it's an amazing show. Do you have a favorite episode?
Have you seen the Batman animated series (the original ones, not the future guy one)? It's as far away from those rubber-nipple movies as you can imagine; interesting heroes, bad guys with clear motivations, great voices and artwork, and you actually root for the hero.

I heard a commercial for the Planet of the Apes that scared me worse than the Sixth Sense - they touted the DVD as "The most advanced DVD ever!". Never mind that the movie sucked ass, you can get a cool DVD with lots of neato extras! Anyways, I just had to get that off my chest; that trend sucks.

By the way, I'm addicted to your site and read it every few days.


Dear Eric:

I think the comparison between story structure and joke structure is a solid one. I honestly feel that the people who fight me about story structure really are emissaries of the devil, the representatives of evil dark forces that want to take over humanity. As evil takes over, the first thing it does is ruin all the good stuff like movies. Anyway, no I haven't seen the "Batman" animated series, although it's been recommended to me before. I just don't give the slightest crap about super heroes. I didn't care about them when I was a kid, and care even less now. And of course Harlan Ellison is right, as he frequently is, that people are there really is to write about. If your character stinks, your story stinks. Regarding "The Simpsons," there are many episodes I love -- when Lisa becomes a vegetarian and they make her watch a school film about eating meat (Troy McClure says, "Come on, Jimmy, let's go see the killing floor, although it's not really a floor, it's more of a grate for organic material to sluice through"), or the ep where Troy McClure stars in the musical version of "Planet of the Apes"
("I hate every monkey from chimpan-A to chimpanzee"). I really love when Homer argues with his brain--"I don't like you and you don't like me, so let's just get through this and I'll go back to killing you with beer."



Dear Eric,

Did you miss Harlan Ellison's Star Trek episode, then?


Name: D. Huffman
E-mail: L5g@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I would just like to say that two years ago if you had asked me my favorite movie, I would have rattled off Die Hard or Pulp Fiction, which is sad to name those films being as I am a film major. You, along with the film theory classes I've taken, helped opened my eyes. I took your advice of watching as many movies as possible in addition to what I watched for my classes. One sad thing from doing that was seeing the gamut of a professional's work rise and fall, like Kurosawa and Frankenheimer, in the course of a weekend. Long ago I was a Coen brothers fan but now I just wish I could get my fucking money back from watching and buying their movies. A friend took me to see O' Brother and I still felt ripped off, did I mention he paid for the tickets. We were actually apart of a survey but for some odd reason the website that posts all the comments neglected to show my unfavorable one.
Thank you for your website.

If you ask me the current state of Hollywood is due to the fact in the rise of Scientology.

Dear D.:

Maybe Scientology is to blame. The idea of joining a religion started by a half-assed sci-fi writer, entirely disrespected by his peers, seems pretty absurd. Anyone ever try reading L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi? He makes guys like Mack Reynolds and Jack Finney look like Shakespeare and Goethe. Scientology makes the Church of Latter Day Saints look ancient.


Name: Bobbet Raines

Dear Josh:

Before I ask about your work, I have some questions about other films. Have you seen the impressive Aussie film Chopper? What did you think? Eric Bana is taking America by storm with him being cast in the Incredible Hulk. Do you think he is a talented actor? I read that letter from that Barney fellow, and am inclined to agree that you should use Robert R. Shafer in your next project. He is a great actor, who has had roles in Echo Park, Hollywood Shuffle, Mr. Atlas, The Corporate, Finding Kelly and the hilarious Psycho Cop Returns. He has also had guest spots in Becker and Malcolm in the Middle. Now, are you friends with Bill Lustig and Scott Spiegel? Do you think Scotty has directing talent? Are you a fan of the Maniac Cop trilogy? I am making a low-budget feature entitled Old School. How would I go about getting permission to use songs in the film. I would like the rights to use The Joker by Steve Miller Band. The film's budget in around $10,000. Is it possible to get the rights? What is your upcoming project and who have you in mind to star?

Dear Bobbet:

I have not seen any of those contemorary films you mentioned, nor am I the slightest bit interested in seeing them. "Chopper" sounds awful to me. And I'd have my fingernails torn out before I ever see "The Incredible Hulk." Meanwhile, I used to be both friends and partners with Scott Spiegel, but we haven't spoken in years. I didn't care for either of the films he's directed so far. I've known Bill Lustig for years -- Scott and I rewrote his film "Hit List" in 1988 -- and I'd say he hasn't got the slightest shred of filmmaking talent. As has been said of Bill, he really cares about all the movies ever made, except his own. As far as getting bthe rights to a song, you need to contact a clearance house, like Harry Fox in NY, although there are several of them. I'd guess the rights to Steve Miller's "The Joker" will cost as much or more than your whole movie. In 1990 when we finished "Lunatics," they wanted $75,000 for Frank Sinatra's recording of "Strangers in the Night" and that's at least ten years older than "The Joker."


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

Dear Josh:

I agree with Kimberley...she sounds intelligent. Has anyone mentioned yet how embarrassing George Clooney was as Ulysses? I think Clooney signed a pact with the devil to be a movie star.

In response to you regarding Howards's End--this was a few days ago. I liked it too but I didnt think it was as good as Remains of the Day which I thought had alot more to say, especially about class issues and the German appeasement subplot added an eerie untertone.

So when are you getting some kittens? PLease post pix when you get them!

Over n out

Dear Noelle:

I still haven't seen "O Brother," but the whole concept offends me. The title is stolen from Preston Sturges's film "Sullivan's Travels," wherein a film comedy director really wants to make a serious movie, very much like "The Grapes of Wrath," entitled "O Brother, Where Art Thou." For the Coens to make a comedy out of it means they didn't understand it. Anyway, although I liked "Remains of the Day," I don't think it's half the film that "Howard's End" is. I think both Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are better in "Howard's End," but most of all I think it's a very powerful, highly ironic story, and irony really interests me. Irony is a difficult dramatic concept and E.M. Forester weaves it through the story beautifully. I really do think it's a terrific film, and very much worth seeing again. I've liked "Howard's End" better each time I've seen it, and "Remains of the Day" just didn't hold up for me the second time.

I have gotten the kittens and here are their pictures.




"Pile O' Kitties"



Name: Simon Riera
E-mail: simon@cinematographer.co.nz


Just came across your web site, so thought I would drop you a line...Seems you have moved out to the country!

hope all is well



Dear Simon:

Your name just came up last night when Bruce Campbell and I were discussing how many good DPs there are in New Zealand, given it's such a small place. For the readers, Simon photographed the last episode of "Xena" that I directed. For the record, I truly enjoyed working with you. I hope we get another chance to work together in the future. All the best.


Name: Kimberley

Dear Josh:

This comes in part as a response to the remarks posted by Frank. I've been skimming through the recent exchanges related to the Coen brothers and, to the best of my ability to discern, the discussion had been addressing their poorly drawn characterizations. Perhaps inadvertently, though, Frank does raise a matter of some academic worth. I agree the Coens do on occasion manage to provide striking visuals, but so does any tourist shop with a rack of scenic postcards. That doesn't mean if I thumb through a series of those postcards that I will have a well-told story in my hands. (Actually, relative to most flicks these days, I might.) I need more from a film than a glimpse of an interesting visual to make it worth my time and money. Applicable vision is all well and good, but it would be nice if the Coens had any sense of what the hell they're looking at and why they're trying to apply it to anything.

To that, I'll add another issue that kicks me out of their films (and not because I have any personal invective directed toward them, mind, but simply because their work is currently being discussed in this forum). Whatever merit their films may have for me tends to be lost in how frequently they opt for scenes of gratuitous violence in lieu of actual character or story development. Now, for anyone who may want to come at me on the topic of violence, please note I have spent many hours exhuming shallow graves, pulling dead babies out of filthy crawlspaces, and even assisting in the autopsy bays. I am not a squeamish woman by any means, nor do I have any illusions about the state of the world. And perhaps that's why I've particularly come to have no room for pointless depictions of violence; in all honesty, the last thing I usually want in watching a movie is my "drudgery and struggle" even loosely brought to the screen. Nevertheless, if I am going to be asked by any filmmaker to sit through a beating, a murder, a volley of gunfire during what little time I have for escapism, then I damned well expect that filmmaker to give me a reason to endure it along with the characters. I have no problem with suffering so long as it remains apposite and meaningful and, if I'm really fortunate, ultimately cathartic. ...Which leads right back to arguing for rock-solid characterization and where filmmakers like the Coens frequently fail for me. The example of Frances McDormand's character confronting William Macy for the first time demonstrates they had no real story, no real plot -- they had to suspend characterization in order to keep things moving. Why the hell should I, as the audience, be asked to invest anything into a character when the filmmaker obviously hasn't?

But I digress. The beatings in most of the Coen films always leave me queasy because the violence, besides seeming pointless and hateful, comes across as having been a vaguely masturbatory experience for them. We're watching it not because the film requires it, but because it's what they personally like to look at. They put what gets their rocks off ahead of the characters, ahead of any attempts at storytelling, and certainly ahead of the audience. Putting a character through a scene simply for the sake of creating a splashy visual (violent or no) or to burn through a little of the effects budget is -not- the same as telling a story. Ditto contriving artificial instances in a script to set up said splashy visual. And, frankly, if you're not looking for a story, then save yourself some money and snag a flipbook of postcards instead.

Not that this is anything that hasn't already been said here any number of times. Besides, based on the spelling, grammar, and coherency of what has been posted here in defense of their work, it becomes readily apparent for whom the Coen films are intended and argues quite eloquently (however unintentionally) for any further points I might make regarding to what their vision might be applicable.

Please do forgive the length of this response and its lack of a question for the director, Josh.

Dear Kimberley:

You go, girlfriend. As an example, could there possibly be anything more extraneous than the last 30-40 minutes of "Barton Fink"? Suddenly, all the wallpaper is peeling off, everything's on fire, and everybody is shooting everybody with shotguns? Until then we had been in a very poorly conceived Hollywood story. But we really needed some visuals, I guess. Joel and Ethan Coen are nice enough guys, but their films, just like Woody Allen's films of the past ten years, are so badly written that beautiful photography and all-star casts don't really help anything. The Coen bros. have never created a decent, well-drawn character in any of their films. Period. If I don't have a fully-formed character to pay attention to, I have nothing to pay attention to. Then I may as well be looking at a pile of pretty postcards, as Kimberley suggests.


Name: Quinton

**Also, this whole argument that the simple folk only want entertainment is nonsense.**

It may be your OPINION that it's nonsense, but from my observations, that's very much what we folks want.

When I go to see a movie, all I care about is whether I enjoy it or not, and I feel the vast majority of people feel the same way. I can tell you for a fact practically every person I know could care less about how a film is put together, they just care whether or not they enjoy it. And there is no 'ONE' designed formula to produce enjoyment in a film. What may please you may bore me, and vice versa.

Many of the films you have critisized and claimed a failure because of the writing structure, I along with millions of others have loved, also many of the films you have mentiones as your favorites, I've felt were worthless. There's no 'definate' definition as to how to make an entertaining film. You may have certain things you want and need to make a film an enjoyment to yourself, but that's just your personal opinion, not a FACT that is a given for everyone. If you standards were the norm, how come so many love films that lack your structure....it's because we have DIFFERENT standards than you.

Dear Quinton:

That's all were talking about here is opinions. I don't speak for anyone but me, and neither do you. You don't know what everyone wants any better than anyone else. Some people are only looking for knuckle-headed entertainment, while others are looking for something more. Is it really that big of an offense that there is one harsh critic of movies left in the world? When I was a kid I couldn't wait to read Pauline Kael's reviews every month and I certainly didn't always agree with her, but I was always interested in her reasons for liking or not liking a film. When I say that "Election" for example falls apart in its third act and doesn't follow through on its stated themes, I explain my reasons. What I get in return is people saying bullshit, I'm an asshole, and "that's your opinion." You're Goddamn right it's my opinion. And I have reasons and logic behind my opinions. That the simple folk just want entertainment, well, who cares? Then read the reviews in Cosmopolitan, they're always positive. If you want to discuss films on a slightly more intelligent level, then come here.


Name: Rick Harmon

Dear Josh,

I have been looking all over for "TSNKE" and "RT" on DVD. I heard that they have a killer Commentary Track on them and they are worth buying just for that, not only the film but the Commentary, too. Do you have any suggestions? Is it out of print? Or what?

For disturbing films, I just have to say that David Cronenberg's "Dead Ringers" is quite disturbing, also depressing. The whole film was creepy and had that throughout the entire film. Cronenberg did a good job with that. How about "Requiem For A Dream"? It is Aronofsky's follow up to "Pi". Tidbits of "Breakdown" are disturbing as well. The whole bit where the kidnappers bring their Kurt Russels wife, to their home, we found out that the main kidnapper is married as has a son. That was disturbing, also it was an original tidbit that was never used in any film that I have ever seen or would see. It had a good ring to it. Seen these films, Josh? Agree or disagree?

Dear Rick:

If you click on either TSNK or "Running Time" on the front page you go to amazon.com and can buy both films. Or you can go to many other places online. They don't seem to have them at Best Buy anymore, though. I do agree that "Dead Ringers" was creepy, but I was bored by the end. I thought Jeremy Irons was very good. I didn't see the other films.


Name: geri
E-mail: boung88@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I am a student currently studying a media production course at college, and would be very greatful if you could tell me the steps i need to take to become a film director. It would be a great help if you could include any relevant info, such as required qualifications, eqipment needed- anything at all!!! Thank you very much- with your help i might just pass the course!!!

Dear Geri:

Try reading some books, I have a recommended reading list.


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


"Sling Blade". That's a great film. I'd give it 4 stars. It sports some of the best acting all around that I've seen in a long time. The direction is strong, but definately not overbearing (like the discussions going on about self conscious camera angles and such). The story is a simple one, but definately not boring or stupid. There are also wonderfull moments of real humor in it. You never feel like Thornton pulled a Spielberg and said "Ok, we've had 30 minutes of seriousness, time for a cute joke to keep it from getting too heavy." Even in the end with the murder, nothing goes too far to the point of becoming gratuitous. And that is a very hard thing to overcome with a picture, particularly one that has such a tricky scene as a retarted man that's taken alot of flack for 130 minutes that's going to kill a character that everyone really hates.

There also scenes that will forever live on in my mind. When Thornton goes back to his house to confront his father, it really is an eerie feeling one gets. Especially when he goes out to the shed and we see a shot of the hole in the ground that he used to sleep in as a boy. Or what about the amazingly uncomfortable scene when Dwight Yoakam gets drunk, invites all his friends over to play in the band, and infront of them and his entire family, gets drunk and beligerant, and proceeds to kick everyone out before getting abusive with his grilfrind and then being hurt by the little boy. This whole scene was as realistic as something from a Cassavettes film. John Ritter also stood out as the gay friend that is always around, but not really of anyuse to the family. Thornton deserved an oscar for his portrail. And J.T. Walsh is absolutely freaky and gross as the perverted inmate. Everyone is a standout.

The ending left me feeling that the characters really were alive out there somewhere.

"Sling Blade" is a truely great film. That's easily the greatest film produced in the last ten years.

Have a good one.


Dear Blake:

Well, I don't think it's a great film. I saw the short film, "They Call it a Slingblade," first, and the feature really seemed like the short exapnded out in all directions. Also, Billy Bob's performance seemed very self-conscious to me. The whole thing was okay, but it didn't seem anywhere near great. It doesn't even seem to be terribly memorable, either.


Name: Frank

Dear Josh:

For anyone who's utter disdain at the Coen's amazing visuals, and off beat plotting (which you obviously don't fully comprehend) and apparent lack of your fucking 1-2-3 structure, I just have one thing to say,
they have succeeded for a reason, they are talented,
they have an applicable vision, not one good idea every ten years, and the fact that they have slipped into the mainstream with their style, must make alot of you who believe your drudgery and struggle laced with your boring fucking formulaic filmaking styles is more worthy of being brought to screen.
The second you can make a film, not one that good, but make a film nonethless, then you can criticize, and no mr becker, just because you've made one or two films doesnt mean you are off the hook.
Oh by the way, running time sucked ass.

Dear Frank:

Hey, I think the simpleminded dullards of the world need to have their say, too. Go ahead and preach the gospel of stupidity, it's a difficult job, but someone has to do it.


Name: Quinton

Dear Josh:

Just a comment on your enjoyment of films because of the so-called story structure. You can tell me if you think this opinionmay be accurate or not.

In my opinion, I feel you may look at films a tad differently that just your everyday, ordinary person. You are a writer yourself, therefore you see more and different things when you see a film. Similar to how Renee O'Connor(after she directed) claimes she saw the episodes differently(from a totally different perspective) than she used to and what the ordinary fans do.

You probably know your story structure like the back of your hand, so you can tell in a film if it follows it or not.

On the other hand, most ordinary folks(like myself) don't have a clue what a story structure even is, so we certainly aren't going to be looking for it when we watch a film, and we aren't going to notice if it's lacking or not. Most ordinarly folks culd care less about a 'story structure', but rather are just concerned as to whether the film is entertaining or not.

I look at "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". I've never read your story structure, so I have no idea whether or not 'Fast Times...' followed it or not. I would assume however that it didn't simply because there wasn't much of a story at all. Just a group of kids that they followed in highscool....jumping from one to the next with several different stories going on at the same time.

I could care less about the structure of the story, all i cared about was that I liked the movie. I found it entertaining. Millions loved it.

Main point is that I feel you being a writer yourself look at films from a different perspective to normal folks. Where you may look at more in depth things, like the writing or structure, us normal folks are just concerned about whether or not we are entertained or not. Kind of like a parallel to an ex-football coach sitting down and watching a game with just regualr fans. He'll be looking at the game from a totally different perspective than the normal fans.

Would you agree with that assessment.

Dear Quinton:

No, I don't agree. I've been putting up with this nonsense my whole life. Movies have to be the only subject where knowing a lot about it is used against you. Would you say to a mechanic, "You know too much about engines to enjoy a smooth car ride" or to an air conditioner repairman, "You know too much about AC to enjoy a cool room"? It's just silly. Also, this whole argument that the simple folk only want entertainment is nonsense. As Sean Penn said on Inside the Actor's Studio, "Movies are too important of a medium to only be about entertainment. If all you want is entertainment, get yourself an eightball and a hooker." "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" happens to be a very well-observed script (and Cameron Crowe's best script), with very believable characters and situations. No, there isn't much of a plot, but there doesn't have to be if you know what story you're telling and who it's about. Each of the main characters does go through a dramatic arc -- Spiccoli actually does his homework. If his character hadn't been set up as well as he was, him finally understanding the school lesson wouldn't have been funny. Knowing more about a subject does not decrease your enjoyment of it, you just understand why things are working or not working. A good film is not an artistic mystery, as many people would like to believe, it's a craft. That's all.


Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Hey! Glad to hear that you've gone rural like myself. Now I can comment on this whole "hick" mentality thing that the Coens (and many other filmmakers) seem to believe--and where are they from, anyway?

After six months in a small town, where blue-collar jobs rule and people have dirt under their fingernails, I've learned that rural people aren't dumb. They have less money, generally, yes, due to layoffs in local factories because labor is cheaper in foreign countries. They don't care about things that people in L.A. care about: liposuction; new, expensive clothes that last three months before they're 'useless;' Hollywood drivel...You know, crap. No. Instead, they care about their families, their jobs, the repairs that need to be done on the car, the phone bill that might not get paid, or the Christmas presents for their four children. They are like most of America...just 'plain' folks. And living here with them has taught me that wearing cool clothes and listening to the 'right' music or being up on the latest crap coming out of LA or NY doesn't matter. At all. That's not stupidity, not by a long shot.

On another note, I saw "October Sky," a well-crafted film, which you recommended on your site. Not bad. And now that I live here...I understand it a lot more than if I'd seen it in California.

Thanks for continuing to rock,


Dear Cindy:

My thoughts exactly. It's now such a pleasure to go to gatherings and not discuss weekend grosses, who's about to do which film, or what assholes this agent or that executive is. Here people discuss things like the terrible draught last summer and the hope for a lot of snow this winter; the mountain lion someone saw and shot; or simply world or local events. It's also a real pleasure to hang around with adults that act like adults, that aren't pretending to be hip and clued into youthful desires. I've honestly come to believe that you can't have a real sense of humour until you're at least thirty because you simply don't have enough information to get the references.


Name: Patrick

Dear Josh:

Thanks for the heads up on the false rumor about Ted. Weird. I just assumed it was true since its on his credits at the Movie database site. I'll let everyone know...

Anyway. I think the quintessential example of idiocy in a Coen Bros film is the scene in Fargo when one of the officers (I think maybe it was Marge's retarded partner) questions a guy who saw Buscemi's character in a bar. He asks him what he looks like and the guy says he was "funny looking." The officer says "funny looking how?" He replies "Oh just in a general sort of way." END OF CONVERSATION!! I mean this is a guy who saw a triple homicide suspect first hand and the officer is satisfied with "funny looking" as a description??? Anyway, enough ranting. ha ha.

Could you see yourself filming a public domain story/novel/play? I know that sounds weird but I work at a high school and there is alot of interest in film versions of the classics, or stuff that wouldnt be likely to come out of Hollywood.

From Pat

Dear Pat:

Another good example of why "Fargo" is not a 4-star movie. Let's face it, even in a small town, cops are not a naive group of people. There are only 2000 people here in Jacksonville and I still wouldn't mess around with the local cops. "Fargo" is an okay movie -- certainly the Coen's best film -- but it sure ain't great. Regarding PD works of fiction, no I don't have much interest. If I never see another Jane Austen or Henry James adaptation it will be fine with me. I really just want to do my own work.


Name: Alan Mackulin
E-mail: mac1357@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I read your article on leaving L.A., and I found it extremely enlightening. I am thinking about moving out to L.A. because that's where I was told the business was. I recently graduated from film school at NYU, and I moved home in Cleveland to save up some money to head out west. So it's that corrupted. I have no opportunities here in Cleveland, so what can I do?

Alan Mackulin

Dear Alan:

I say, stay in Cleveland and make your own independent films there. Take advantage of knowing your location and the people there. You will not be able to make the films you want to make -- if you get to make any films at all -- in Hollywood. As people in the film business love to tell everyone else, making movies is a long series of compromises, until you ultimately end up with a piece of crap. Even if you can only scrape together a little bit of money, you're much better off doing the films you want, without compromises. The chances are 99.9 to .1 that if you go to Hollywood you'll either end up bailing out or settling for doing some job you don't really want to do -- that's how all those post jobs get filled -- then kidding yourself that you're in show business. Working in a lab or a post house, you're in show business just as much as the guy that shovels the elephant shit at the circus.


Name: Jeff
E-mail: wonkyj@aol.com

Hey Josh,

If we're talking about recent good movies and the use of structure I have to throw in "The Red Violin". It had a non-traditional overall structure but the individual stories had a normal three act structure.

Not surprisingly, it was made outside the U.S. and didn't win any oscars. Has there been an oscar given to a actual good movie in the last twenty years?

Enjoy the site and movie talk.

Dear Jeff:

I started watching "The Red Violin," but got distracted or something and didn't actually watch it. In the last twenty years I'd say that "Platoon" in 1986 deserved its Oscar and "Unforgiven" in 1992. For me, that's it.


Name: Messala
E-mail: trampled@thechariotrace


After watching Ben-Hur again tonight I was looking for information about the movie and found out that there was actually a sequel to the book called Ben-Hur:The Odyssey. It was just published last year by some guy I never heard of (it's his only book). When I tried to get some more information on the book, all the search engines came up with lists containing "Ben-Hur" and "2001 A Space Odyssey." Now my morbid curiosity is piqued and I was wondering if you've ever read it. Is it any good (or any good for a laugh) or should I just forget that a sequel ever existed?

Dear Messala:

Really, who cares if some bozo just wrote a sequel to "Ben-Hur"? It certainly wasn't written by General Lew Wallace, former governor of the Arizona Territories, so what's the difference? It's like that "Gone With the Wind" sequel that came out about ten years ago. It's a completely worthless genre, the unnecessary sequel not by the original author.


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


What, in your opinion, are movies supposed to do? Obviously the majority of movies out there today are designed to make money, but what's the general purpose of films? To entertain seems to be the easiest answer, but is there something much deeper?

How about more specifically-what, in your mind, are your movies supposed to do? Inform the audience? Alter their perspective? Maybe even just to provide an escape? Is there any one intention that links the majority of films?


Dear David:

I'd say to catch us up in their spell and transport us to somewhere else. I don't care what a film is about, who's in it, or if it has any deeper message (although I prefer it if it does), I just never want to be aware that I'm sitting there watching a film. That's it.


Name: Scott


I completely agree with you in regards to the curent state of hollywood. It's a damn shame that agents, lawyers, and suits with MBAs run the business, and believe that they "know" exactly what audiences want to see. I am currently getting a taste of this first hand, because I work for a Warner Bros. based company. It should be no surprise to anyone that our development slate is just plain sad. Nothing of worth or value will come of any of the 13 scripts that we plan to greenlight. The sadest part is that crap only starts with the material. The powers that be dictate that about 30 actors are considered "bankable", and no studio film will be greenlit unless one of these actors are attached to a project. Do you think this is because the rising cost of prod. budgets, as well as the cost of prints and advertising seem too risky for studio heads and distributers to think outside the box. Do you think this will change? As recent as 12 years ago you could make a film for a couple million dollars, with no stars, and could receive some kind of theatrical release. It also seems as if most of the micro distributers, as well as mini major studios are being swallowed by larger conglomorates. At this point it appears as if the independent film market is on it's last leg. What is you're impression of this, and do you believe that the exhibition/distribution business will ever change for the better? I am a huge fan of both Lunatics, and Running Time, and was very disappointed that they didn't get proper exhibition. Hope all is well, and Warpath sounds like a great project; I wish you the best with it.



Dear Scott:

You sound like you understand the situation quite well. Why would anything change for the better? Honestly. It's a total mess and I can't see it getting any better. The entire business is now geared exclusively to the blockbuster mentality, which means aiming at kids, and trying to second-guess everybody. I so utterly don't give a crap about "Harry Potter" I can't even express it. If I was twelve I still wouldn't care. Of course, the whole star thing is just crap, too. Stars don't assure you of anything, and most of the star's films go down the toilet, too. Someone needs to come up with an alternative to Hollywood, but no one has the forsight, guts or money.


Name: Derek

Dear Josh,

How many DVD's do you own?, do you have a favorite disc?

Dear Derek:

I only have about 20 DVDs, including my own films. I only buy movies that I love, so I love all the films I have on DVD. But I've seen all these films many times so having the DVDs doesn't mean much to me.


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

Dear Josh,

What is your favorite Paul Newman film?I'd have to go with Cool Hand Luke or Hud, Do you think Newman has made any good movies in the 80's or 90's?

Dear Evan:

I like a lot of Paul Newman's films. My favorite is probably "Hud" as well, but I also quite like: "Cool Hand Luke," "Somebody Up There Likes Me," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Hombre," "The Hustler," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Sometimes a Great Notion," "The Sting," "Fort Apache, the Bronx," "Absence of Malice" and "The Verdict," which was 1982. I haven't much cared for anything he's done since then, except his food products, but I don't think it's his fault, there just aren't any good parts anymore.


Name: George Spelvin

Dear Josh:

they was't saying rural folks are dumb, they were saying that they can be naive. That's all...naive.


Dear George:

Sorry, I don't buy it. The way Frances McDormand's character is written when confronting William Macy the first time is not naive, it's stupid. She's a cop questioning a suspect who is acting blatantly guilty and doesn't notice anything -- I've never met a cop like that from anywhere, and I worked with cops for a year on "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." And the way Fran's husband is depicted he may as well be retarded. Small town people aren't naive, but pretentious filmmakers certainly are.


Name: Kimberley
E-mail: KDRector@aol.com

Dear Josh:

In response to your question, the Coen bros. knuckleheaded pretentiousness wears thin on me as well. The assumption that being from a small town means being ridiculously naive (Fargo, Hudsucker Proxy) or unlearned trash (Raising Arizona, O Brother) gets tiresome. For that matter, so does the general portrayal of Southerners in film these days, but that onus I cast upon Hollywood collectively. Yeah, I'm from small town Texas and now live in rural Oregon...but I'm also concurrently working on a doctorate in archaeology and a bachelor's in chemistry. I make this point because, having worked in both the lab and the field with law enforcement as a forensic archaeologist, I've (apparently) been fortunate enough to never work with anyone remotely like a Coen character.

I realize this is leading to a rant tangential to your inquiry, but the issue has become something of a point of contention for me in the last few years. As for films that represent what I would recognize as a reasonable portrayal of the modern (as in the last two decades) Southern culture, only one readily comes to mind.

Of course, I could just as well go off on the current characterizations of anything from law enforcement to archaeologists in film. (And just might at some point because, despite what H'wood would have folks believe, my coursework has yet to require hand-to-hand combat with Nazis or inexplicable mechanical bugs. Any whipwork was strictly elective.)

Btw, you've made some interesting changes since I've been here last. Nice job on the site.

Dear Kimberley:

Yes, it's the aspect of the Coen's work I'm most offended by (and a lot of thing about thier films offend me), which is their looking down their noses at small-town people. Anything new and interesting does not come from LA or NY, it comes from all the areas in between and around. LA just likes to take credit for everything as they take whatever it is and market it until you can't stand it. But to rationalize living in such crummy places the big city folk have to pretend there's some positive aspect, which there really isn't. Nice to hear from you again here at Beckerfilms, Kim. Thanks for entering the fray.


Name: Patrick


Last time I was here we were ripping on the Coens about OH Brother and why it sucked so bad because they didnt want to read the book they were allegedly basing it on. Ive only seen that one and Fargo and am not impressed so far. I was gonna see their latest one because Ted Raimi is in it but according to the Tedites listserv his part got cut out. True or false? Doesnt really matter I cant stand Billy Bob Thornton.
Later, Pat

Dear Patrick:

Ted wasn't edited out, he was never in it. That was a false rumour. Well, it's nice to know I'm not the only person who isn't impressed with the Coens, who substitute quirkiness for story, plot, and characterization.


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