Q & A    Archive
Page 57

Name: CooperScooper
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Since I always hear you say that "you cannot move past the three act structure until you have mastered it". I think that is what you talk about. Anyway, what I am so curious about this is because I have been thinking about it the other day and I asked myself, "Who has gone past the three act structure?" I know it sounds weird, but, who has gone past it? Who has mastered it? Do you know of any writers who have? And one more thing, contributing to my question, I was curious if you will one day (or have already) written a screenplay that goes past the three act structure, which means you believe you have mastered it? Do you think you have mastered it?

Dear CooperScooper:

I have not mastered the three-act structure. It's very difficult to do properly. And then, to get into the deeper levels of theme, irony, allegory, and metaphor is very daunting, if you know what you're looking for. To hear that bozo the other day say that "Reservoir Dogs" is a well-structured three-act story makes me laugh. Where does act one end? How about act two? Tarantino hasn't got a clue. Regarding moving past the three-act structure, I think Herman Mankeiwicz and Orson Welles went beyond it in "Citizen Kane." "Groundhog's Day" is in about forty acts, but that's how it needs to be; that's its structure. Both of these films are highly-structured, not structureless, like most of the nonsense I see. Most writers never figure out the basics, let alone go beyond them.

Josh

Name: Steve Carroll
E-mail: steve_carroll24@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I was currently browsing through your favorite films and I came across Kubricks masterpiece, "A Clockwork Orange". I recently got "A Clockwork Orange" on disc and I enjoyed it very much. It has been the third time since I have viewed it. I can recall back to the first time I've seen it and I remember I did understand the whole entire film, all up to the very ending. The conclusion is what I did not understand the first time I've seen it. What is your take on it? I am curious because you seem to like it as much as I did.

I have a second question for you, Josh, if you do not mind. It is about conclusions in films, which I thought up of while writing the "Clockwork Orange" question. Well, what do you think has more impact on you and what you admire most about different types of endings. Do you enjoy endings that have down notes, sort of like how some film noirs have and other films?

Thx,
Steve

Dear Steve:

I don't care if an ending is happy or sad as long as it's appropriate. That's why the writer must know their ending before they start so that everything is ultimately leading to that ending. I believe it is in "A Cloclwork Orange." I do have other problems with that script, though. I think act three is much too long and everything at the prison is unnecessary. It should almost go straight to the treatment scenes. I also have a problem in the treatment scenes that they should not be showing him footage of Nazi rallies or planes dropping bombs because it's too vague. Will Alex now get sick when he sees a large crowd? Or an airplane?

Josh

Name: Jason Roth
E-mail: rothj@student.gvsu.edu

Hi Josh,

I have a nagging question maybe you can answer. I've heard the term "tyro" used often when a filmmaker is working independently and on a low budget. What exactly does that mean? Just something that's been bugging me. Anyway, happy new year and good luck with all your ventures. Hammer in 2002!

Dear Jason:

A tyro is a beginner or a novice.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Was watching "Bonnie & Clyde" the other day, which I like a lot, and I started thinking about the explosion of graphic violence in "legit" movies that came in B&C's wake, whereas before it was relegated to the drive-in H.G. Lewis crowd (as Lewis said, "my films are like the poems of Walt Whitman; no good, but the first of their kind."). I wondered what you thought about graphic violence as a desensitizing agent, prolific as it is in prime-time television and movies. My opinion has always been that if violence is part of the story, it should be there, but if it's just a way for the writers to be lazy, then it shouldn't. But as for the social implications of art, the so-called social responsibility of artists, my feelings are mixed. I remain a defender of ars gratia artis, but at the same time often see artists as being in a unique and powerful position to influence culture. As an artist who has made films with and without violence, what's your opinion?

Dear Will:

It's an interesting subject, one I thought about quite a bit back in the 1980s when we had just made "Evil Dead" and TSNKE. There's the cathartic point of view which says that seeing violence depicted in films gets it out of one's system. I, however, started to feel like it was bad vibes. Certainly the whole "Friday the 13th"-type of films where innocent kids are slaughtered because they're having sex began to seem pornographic to me. A friend in Michigan called our films "asexual pornography," which upset some people. As far as violence in a dramatic story goes, like "Bonnie & Clyde" or "The Godfather," that's simply part of drama. What would the Greeks or Shakespeare have done without violence? It's a necessary ingredient since it's an extreme end of human behavior. After TSNKE I consciously turned away from flagrant violence in my stories. In both "Lunatics" and "If I Had a Hammer" no one gets killed. Obviously, a story like "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood" is very violent, but that's war. I personally would never make a film like TSNKE or "Evil Dead" again.

Josh

Name: Brad Jordon
E-mail: aginmn@mail.com

Dear Josh,

I am glad you didn't lower down to that idiots level when he wrote in, which wasted time out of his life. I think you are an excellent director and writer. Regarding "Running Time", I think you did a very fantastic job with it and I couldn't be more proud. Excuse this but: fuck what Jackass has to say about you writing and directing more films. Make as much as you have left in you. I hope you do because I want you to know I enjoy your writings and so on. Now back to "Running Time", that film should not be considered JUST a heist film. It is more than that. A work of art is what it is. Damn, that actually inspires me to start writing a heist film at age fourteen in honor of you and because of the making of "Running Time". Keep up the good work and forget what anyone has to say, which you did.

Dear Brad:

Luckily there are more nice people than creeps out there. If you're going to write a heist picture there are several you ought to check out: "The Asphalt Jungle," "The Killing," "Riffifi," "Topkapi," "Seven Thieves," and "Grand Slam." Thanks for the nice note.

Josh

Name: Jackass
E-mail: jAcKAss4LifE45@yahoo.com

dear Josh,

I have a few questions with you, but just bear with me. One, why do you think you are so damn good? I mean, aside from being full of yourself, you pass yourself off to be one of the best writer/directors of all time, but in all fact, you aren't. You stress the three act structure a lot, usually. I finally saw "TNSKE" and it absolutely sucked ass. There is no development between Jack, Sally, and the rest of his soldier buddies. They are all a bunch of one dimensional characters who you tried to make work. But they didn't. I am sorry, I hated it. It sucked. You did a very bad job, I am sorry but your work just needs to be criticized because since you criticize everyone else's work, I feel the need to do the same to your work. I am not just doing this because I like the writers and directors you are criticizing, this is because I am telling the truth. After I saw "TSNKE", I decided to bear through "Running Time", which started out okay, then fizzled out completely. I thought maybe it would be good because your first was low budget and your second would be a better follow up but...it didn't. It sucked, It sucked, It sucked. God, I can't believe you are so full of yourself. It did have a three act structure, but then again it was...just another heist film. What was different about that and other heist films? Nothing, not anything at all. Correct me if I am wrong, please, anyone, help me out. Take "Reservoir Dogs" for example. Now just hear me out...it is a heist film, in some way. It has the same three act structure as your film, Josh. You can disagree with me but I am right and your wrong. Why doesn't anyone want to see "If I Had A Hammer"? Why don't I want to see it? Because it sucks...you suck, you suck! Stop thinking you are the best damn director whoever lived, because you are wrong.

Wrong, wrong. If I have to hear of another one of your films, or a film that you are writing now or directing in the future, I will seriously commit myself to a mental institution. Come on, I am not trying to criticize your work, your shit work that sucks horribly, but Josh, you may be a nice guy, but please choose another job. For your sake, before you make a film that will in fact end your writing forever. You should of paid me for sitting through your films, or should I say, failures.

PS: You suck

Dear Jackass:

So, then you think my works sucks, eh? That's perfectly okay with me. You are confused, however, if you think that I believe I'm a great writer/director. I've never said such a thing, nor have I even intimated it. That I actually have standards and criteria for which movies I like and don't like seems to just freak some people (like you) out. I think that reveals your limitations, not mine. One thing you can say in my favor, though, is that I don't write nasty letters to strangers. Happy New Year.

Josh

Name: Chopped Nuts
E-mail: danjfox@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

Hi there! I was wondering if it would be possible to get that information about the Alpha distributors from Scott as well, either by posting it or just through my e-mail. Thanks very much.

Dear Chopped Nuts:

Their website is Alphafilmgroup.com and their phone number is (770) 740-1962. I haven't contacted them yet.

Josh

Name: Fabio Blanco
E-mail: longtom@oeste.com.ar

Dear Josh:

you know, I live in this third world big country named Argentina, where two presidents did quit in a month. Here last night, meanwhile did rain a lot, I did download, read, and "see" "THE PRESIDENT'S BRAIN IS MISSING". Bruce Campbell was in my mind but all the characters, too. I loved them, to Delbert and Warmwater and the Five Guys named Mo'. I laugh a lot, man, I really enjoy this script. I want thanks you for let me see that marvelous never maked movie... I really hope you keep writing and filming so honest work...
Best Regards, FABIO

Dear Fabio:

Thanks. I thought it would be a good part for Bruce. The scene I was particularly eager to do with Bruce was him in the Oval Office trying to get to a high shelf and putting his feet through antique chairs that had been in the White House since Abraham Lincoln. Oh well.

Josh

 

Dear Fabio,

My best wishes to you and your country in these times. Stay safe, keep well, and may economic and political stability be restored early in the new year.

Shirley

Name: Paul Palmer
E-mail: paul_palmer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh.

Just watched THE EVIL DEAD for like the millionth time, and just wanted to say, you did an excellent job on that films, aswell as the others, but after reading the Evil Dead companion you were one of the guys who stayed out in the log cabin filming with Bruce, Rob and Sam while everyone else left to other things. Now thats what i call commitment! Five Top Fave Films Are---

1. The Exorcist
2. Its a wonderful Life
3. Citizen Kain
4. Dawn of the Dead
5. The Evil Dead

Im English and 23 years old and live with my parents, so as you can guess, im still a virgin.

Dear Paul:

Thanks for the info, dude, I was wondering. Maybe if you stop sitting around watching "Evil Dead" a million times and try talking to some girls you'll score. Hope you get some in 2002.

Josh

Name: Daniel Coyle
E-mail: DanCSM99@aol.com

Mr. Becker,

After reading your review of Unbreakable, I can confirm that Shamalayan was working on another script after the Sixth Sense and then banged this sucker out when he was having problems with the other script. That doesn't excuse Unbreakable, but it leads one to hope that his next film will be better, or you're right, he's screwed.

And for all the exploration of comics the movie tries to do, I found it to be one of the most insulting protrayals of the comics medium ever put on screen.

--Dan C.

Dear Dan:

I hear his next film is about crop circles. Oh dear. Since Bruce Willis excelled as an empty hole in "Ubreakable, I'm sure he'll be great as the lead crop circle.

Josh

Name: Marvin
E-mail: justmarvn@hotmail.com

Hi again Josh,

well, anyways, it's probably about time for me to be thinking about College...senior year going to end before i know it ~ yet i haven't even taken my SATs (do they even look at SATs when you want to major in filmmaking?). Anyways, would you have any thoughts and recommendations concerning what school to go to for directing/screenwriting/cinematography/etc (also i'm wanting to have an art ~ drawing and painting ~ minor). Thanks Josh! Your site is a goldmine :)

Oh, and, just a thought. It'd be great if you could further organize your favorite films into something 1-100 --- #1 being your favorite film, #2 being your second favorite film, etc. Oh and, what is your favorite film anyways? ;)

Cheers,
Marvin

Dear Marvin:

If you want to go to one of the major film schools like UCLA, USC or NYU (where they love me), you undoubtedly do need to take the SATs and score well. A film degree means nothing regarding working in the business, but the information you pick up there is probably useful. Meanwhile, I have no interest in putting my fav films in any kind of order other than alphabetical. I don't know that "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is my favorite film, but has given me tremendous joy, as well as making all of the concepts of script structure, theme, and irony very clear to me. I really do think it's a film worth studying.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Happy holidays! Here are my questions:

At the risk of offending that Jason Patric worshipper, what percentage of film/TV directors (including all the assistant directors) would you estimate have a film degree? (I would guess 25-50%).

In your Matrix review you mention rules (not story structure rules, movie world rules). I think a lot of sci-fi movies fail because the rules of what can happen in the movie's world aren't clearly established; characters conveniently pull powers or gadgets out of their asses. What are your thoughts as far as rules go, and at what point in the movie should the rules be defined?

Regarding creepy movies, I liked the made for TV adaptation of Salem's Lot ('85 or '86 I think) which freaked me out without any gore. Have you seen it?

Also regarding my last email's mention of Harlan Ellison/Star Trek, I read about his episode, City on the Edge of Forever, which sounded really cool although I never saw it. However, the producers changed the ending, which really pissed off Mr. Ellison.

Best wishes on your book and getting Hammer released,

Eric

Dear Eric:

They changed a number of things between Harlan Ellison's teleplay (which I read in it's published form) and the show, which is still one of the best "Star Trek" episodes. The whole beginning was changed. Ellison had a Enterprise crew member selling Jewels of Sound, which were like drugs. In the show, Bones mistakenly injects himself with something that makes him go nuts. The TV adaption of "Salem's Lot" was in 1979 or early 1980 and I didn't like it all, having enjoyed the book quite a lot at that point. I thought Tobe Hooper did a crappy job directing. James Mason was good casting, though. I also agree with you about sci-fi stories -- you must establish the rules of your world as early as possible, I'd say.

Josh

Name: Charles
E-mail: cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Since Wim Wenders' name came up, what's your opinion of his work? Are any of his films among your favorites?

Dear Charles:

No, they're not. I've found most of his films to be dull, as with most contemporary German filmmakers.

Josh

Name: Brad Jordon
E-mail: aginmn@mail.com

Dear Josh,

Thank you very much for answering me and giving me feedback. I know you didn't have to, but you did and I appreciate that.

As for Hawk's version of "Scarface", I have seen it on TCM and I absolutely loved it, so you can tell I own it now. Oliver Stone, though made some decent films made his take came to screen, along with Brain DePalma, and of course it was not superior to the original I am almost postive you agree with me on that. They even got Al Pacino, whom I like very much, but that still does not help.

I heard about "Le Trou" in, which I said befor, The Crterion booklet, which came with my "Dead Ringers" disc. I did some checking on it, and from what I read, it does not sound that bad. So, I will give it a shot. Taken right from the booklet, the caption reads: In a Paris prison cell, five inmates use every ounce of their tenacity and ingenuity in an elaborate attempt to tunnel to freedom.

It is based on the novel by Jose Giovanni and it is directed by Jacques Becker (Ironic, isn't it?) It does remind me of films like, "The Great Escape" and "Escape From Alcatraz".

I am fond of "Repulsion". Too bad it is not on dvd, it should be on Criterion, how great would that be, don't you agree? The reason why I liked it was because it shocked me very much; it is creepy and unnerving, sort of similiar to "Taxi Driver". God, I love that movie. I just do not know why all of my friends do not feel the same. I guess they do not know what good films are, besides they did want to go see "Ocean's Eleven" and "Lord Of The Rings".

I am a fan of Fritz Lang, I think he can do some unique things when he directs. When I think of directors from not so long ago, I can only think of Martin Scorsese, Josh Becker, of course, and I would say Stanley Kubrick, but judging from "Eyes Wide Shut", it makes me think less of him, which is a sham because "A Clockwork Orange", "Killer's Kiss", "Full Metal Jacket" and "The Killing" (and others) are unbelievable on most levels, atleast that is what I believe.

Since you are also a big fan of classics, what other films are thee that you can emphasis on viewing, possibly more than once. Do you have any to mention that you do not think I have seen, and would very well like? I appreciate that a lot. I have a huge collection going (most are vhs copies, but nonetheless in great condition) and I also have some in dvd, but not as much as I would want.

Okay, whew, one more thing, I have seen "Running Time" and "Lunatics", which I caught a while ago at a friends house (we laughed our damn heads off). But I am having trouble getting "TSNKE", I want to see it badly and I am displeased at myself because of not seeing it yet. I am either going to get it off of amazon.com or dvdempire.com, which have been reliable in the past. I am either going to do that, or get it another way, if possible.

Alright, sorry for making you read so damn much,
Brad

Dear Brad:

TSNKE sold reasonably well on DVD, so perhaps you could find it cheaper on ebay or half.com. I recommend, if you haven't seen them, all of the films of William Wyler, going all the way back to 1929, like "Hell's Heroes," "Counsellor-at-Law," "These Three," "Dodsworth," going all the way to the end of his career in 1960s and early 1970s. Let me know what you think of them.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

I was just reading your respnse in which you mentioned the sales agent's "contract". I recently produced an independent feature with no stars and found a wonderful foriegn distributor that you should look into. They are called Alpha Films, and the stndard deal is this: they set up an account in your name, and any sale that comes through, the filmmaker takes 80% of the gross, while Alpha takes a 20% comission. keep in mind there is no advance, but you have the option to give them an option. You can give them 6 months, and if a sale isn't made with in that period, all rights revert back to you. I have dealt with a lot of shysters, and crooks before, however, i was very pleased with the way Alpha handled our film. The company is based in Atlanta, and they attend every major film market. Unfortunately I don't have a contact # off hand, but the person to contact is Ray Guthrie. If you're interested I will forward more info in a day or so. Best of luck.

Dear Scott:

I am interested. Could you send the rest of the info and your last name to use as a reference? I won't post it if you don't want. Thanks.

Josh

Name: tan
E-mail: tanthai69@yahoo.com

dear Josh

I'm Thai student. Now I'm taking the american literlature course and I have to find out that this novel 'the scarlet letter' has any subject related to psycological theory? and how it related. please help me. I cannot find the answer for Hester whether she is right or wrong with her affair. Please send me your help immidietly coz now I'm going to die.

your sincerely,
Tan

Dear Tan:

I sure hope you don't have to die because of this, but you came to the wrong place. I have not only not read the book (although I have started it), I couldn't sit through either the 1934 Colleen Moore version or the 1995 Demi Moore version (Hey, is Demi related to Colleen?). I hear that Wim Wender's 1973 version with Senta Berger is pretty good, though, but I haven't seen it.

Josh

Name: Robert Hosking
E-mail: robhoski@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Have worked in film as a standin actor ... do vocal impersonations ... would like to submit vocal samples for consideration in post production tasks ... any advice or direction?

Thanks
Rob Hosking

Dear Rob:

You probably want to hook up with one of the post looping groups, like Barbara Harris or the Loop Group (pick up a Hollywood 411 book). Keep in mind, though, that all those actors are SAG, and if you're not in SAG they won't hire you. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Marvin
E-mail: justmarvn@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I haven't been through all of your site, but i'm already nodding in agreement with you ~ particularly that a gread movie NEEDS great characters, period. Ahh, when will they release a great movie? The movies now-a-days range from retarded to pretty good, and the pretty good seems to be getting rarer and rarer.

The recent hit was Lord of the Rings which I thought after seeing it was SO overly hyped. I personally found that to be a "butt-burner" of a movie. I expected more from it coming from a novel well reputed to be authored by the "father of fantasy" tolkien. The plot was so simple, and the characters were like cut-outs from a cardboard box. My friends are against me on this one, they think it was a good movie. Then I read your comment on FAQ, "a great movie needs great characters." Yes! That's what I was trying to say, and that pretty much covers Lord of the Rings. An eyecandy, plot-oriented movie that was...ok, but not great.

Well, I shall explore your site Josh. Also, I'm wondering what movies do you think are great and why. (Yes, i'm wanting some recommended movies for me to dig up a few $$ and go to blockbuster and rent 'em). The movie i've claimed as my favorite is Zefirelli's 1968 version Romeo and Juliet by Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. This is no ordinary chick-flik! It was moving ~ the best love story i've seen yet (although I'm still looking to expand my horizons on the realm of movies). Also, you might want to check out Dog of Flanders animated version ~ Quite moving for an animated movie...and does not have a happy disney ending too...very memorable!

Cheers,
Marvin

Dear Marvin:

Yes, good characters are indeed the bottom line of a great film. Without good characters it simply cannot be a great film. I have already posted my 750 or so favorite films, so check that out. And I absolutely agree with you about Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet," it's a great film, beautifully conceived and shot, with a prefect cast. I had Nino Rota's score as a kid and played the hell out of it. I still remember all (or most) of the lyrics to the song, too . . . "What is a youth? Impetuous fire. What is a Maid? Ice and desire . . ."

Josh

Name: Noelle
E-mail:

Hi Josh. I think I can guess your response to this but I was wondering if you were going to watch the A&E version of The Magnificent Ambersons in January. With the following cast...

Madeleine Stowe .... Isabelle Amberson
Bruce Greenwood (I) .... Eugene Morgan
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers .... George Amberson
Gretchen Mol .... Lucy Morgan
Jennifer Tilly .... Aunt Fanny
William Hootkins .... Uncle George
James Cromwell .... Major Amberson
Dina Merrill .... Lady P.

Just curious, Noelle

Dear Noelle:

It doesn't interest me very much. Oddly, unlike most everyone else in the world, I think Welles's version is just as long as it needs to be, even if Welles thought it should be 45 minutes longer. It's so heavy in its own way that 88 minutes seems like exactly enough. But it's simply not possible for anyone else, certainly not an A&E TV production, to approach that story with as much love and visual acuity as Orson Welles (and cinematographer Stanlet Cotez). Madeleine Stowe seems like a good choice for Isabelle, and James Cromwell will make a good Major Amberson, but Jennifer Tilly as Aunt Fanny? It's sort of the key supporting role in the story and Agnes Moorehead just couldn't be better. As a little note, the lead character is not George Amberson, he's George Minafer. His mother, Isabelle, was the Amberson.

Josh

Name: Charles
E-mail: cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I had the good luck to see "Ben-Hur" (1959) on TV again over the weekend. Maybe it's not a great work of art, but I agree with you, it's a helluva movie. When I saw it when I was a kid, it was a thrilling action story. When I watched again and again later, I picked up the irony and subtext in the story. Of course, having maybe the best movie action sequence ever, the chariot race, doesn't hurt the movie, either. Will anybody be willing to sit through something like "Gladiator" (which lacks all of those things) in 40 years? Doubtful.

It also occurs to me that if "Ben-Hur" was remade today, there would have to be big-time changes. The 1959 version was about much more than just a chariot race. That's all a modern verison would be about. So the chariot race would have to be the end of the movie. All that redemption stuff that came after it in William Wyler's version won't sell any action figures. That means that Messala will have to actually kill Ben-Hur's sister and mother. Then Ben-Hur can kill him in the chariot race (done digitally, naturally) without all that messy irony and moral questions tarnishing his triumph.

Usually, I'm dubious when someone says "the old guys did it better." But I have to agree with you, Josh, we're definitely not living in a golden age of movies anymore.

Charles

Dear Charles:

And I don't even think "Ben-Hur" is one of Wyler's best films. Check out "The Big Country" and "Friendly Persuasion," which I find to be endlessly impressive.

Josh

Name: David Espesel
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

In regards to cutcheez: I'm a film student here at Columbia College in Chicago and a fellow student suggested your site. I loved it so much I asked one of my teachers to check it out. Well, she liked it alot and let her students know that it is an excellent resource and a great example of the realities of working in the business.

My opinion is that cutcheez is just another shallow New York hipster who is more concerned w/ being percieved as edgy than dealing w/ reality. Reality is a great equalizer and cutcheez will get cut down fast.

Why even bother posting a rant like that? Keep up your mission; you are a great teacher.

Thank you

Dear David:

Thanks. I may very well begin teaching screenwriting here in Ashland, Oregon come spring. We'll see.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have a few brief questions on the three act structure. Are all three acts supposed to be the same length, or are some supposed to be shorter than others? I assume that the second is supposed to be the longest, followed by the first, then the third act is the shortest.
Also, what is the best way to "master" the three act structure? Is it through observation or practice?

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

Unlike a TV show where the acts must be a certain length, 12 minutes, you do have some latitude in a feature film. Generally, though, act one is about 30-40 pages, act two 40-50 pages, and act three is 20-40 pages. My act ones have a tendency to run long and my act threes frequently run short. Act one of "Lunatics" runs 48 minutes, which I feel is too long. In "If I Had a Hammer" act three is only 18 minutes, but it seems fine. Observing other writer's use of the three-act structure is important, but actually doing it is far more important. It's not brain surgery, but it's not as easy as falling off a log, either. I recommend watching "Bridge on the River Kwai."

Josh

Name: D. Huffman
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Jeez, when I went to film school we watched films from Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Hawks, & your man Wyler, with entire classes devoted to genres like crime, westerns and such. The newest movie that we had discussions over was Goodfellas or Unforgiven. I think I sat through Birth of a Nation three times. In all these we classes never even had one discussion about Jason Patric, I don't even know who the fuck that is. I think I might have gotten a much better education at OU that if I had went to NYU.

Dear D.:

I guess we'll all have to eat our words when Jason Patric becomes the next American acting legend. I wait with bated breath. They may as well be showing film students "Speed 2" and "Solarbabies," that's all they want (and, if they're lucky, get) to make when they arrive in Hollywood anyway.

Josh

Name: Gena
E-mail: PigsWILL3@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Merry x-mas!! I was wondering if you ever feel that you or crtics in general are overly critical of films... and also wanted to know how hard on a scale of 1-10 do u see directing as being?

Dear Gena:

If something is a legitimately sound piece of work it ought to be able to stand up to any criticism leveled at it. Quite frankly, I don't think there are nearly enough (or any at this point) critics that are harsh enough. I feel like all published film critics now are on the Hollywood payroll, getting free trips to Las Vegas that they'll lose if they don't pander and say that every Hollywood piece of crap is a masterpiece and a triumph. Part of my reasoning for having this website, doing a daily Q&A, and occasionally reviewing films is so that there is at least one free, independent voice left out there. Regarding your 1 to 10 rating, it depends on what you're directing. Some particularly insignificant episodes of "Xena" were very hard to direct due to circumstances, like getting the script the morning we started shooting--that's how you throw a wrench into a director's plans.

Josh

Name: Brad Jordon
E-mail: aginmn@mail.com

Dear Josh,

Hello, I am fourteen years old and I am an aspiring filmmaker. I am so pleased that I found your site. Everything is enjoyable, everywhere I click to. I just want to say that I really appreciate your works. The only thing is, I can't get my hands on the TSNKE and Running Time dvd. I have seen Lunatics, and I must say, you did a great job with it. Everyone that was involved with it did a great job with it. So, I enjoyed it, even though I didn't care for its ridiculous story. But then again, as mundane as it was, I still couldn't resist.

About your theories on filmmaking, that is where I really start applauding. I just have something to confess: some films that you hate, I like. That is only with a slim percentage of films that you have mentioned or referred to in the past. I think it is funny because in an interview on the project greenlight website, Kevin Smith gets asked this question that I was anxious to hear the answer:

What do you think about the three act struture?

He answers it, giving his opinion: "It's fine for some films, but not all. Sometimes, it's thrilling to break with convention." Rather interesting, I thought. What do you have to say about that? I think he is right on some levels, but wrong on some, also. I think you can even admit it, some films don't all need the structure to be good.

I am a big fan of old films made way back and I also am a fan of old foreign films. I saw "M" a year or so ago and I really liked it. I heard it is on Criterion, so I might purchase that when I get around to it. I saw it in Criterion booklet, which came with my "Dead Ringers" disc. Another foregin film that I am awaiting to see is which I found out in the booklet, "Grand Illusion", the film where Orson Welles quoted, "If I could save one film, if it had to be one, it would be Grand Illusion". I wanted to check out two more when they are released, "A Knife In The Water", Polanski's first, and reportedly his best and I wanted to check out a french film, "Le Trou (The Hole". Have you heard of these. If so, can you tell me if they are worth it. Your feedback on them is appreciated (and needed). Thank you, it was a pleasure writing in.

Dear Brad:

I think it's great hearing from a fourteen year old that likes old movies. "M" is an impressive film, and particularly coming so early into sound movies. I enjoyed "Grand Illusion," but I didn't see what everyone thought was so great about it. Another film like that is Renoir's "Rules of the Game," which is also all right, but it's greatness evaded me. As for Kevin Smith, he couldn't write a properly structured three-act script if his life depended on it. Those that reject story structure are those that can't do it. I repeat for the thousandth time, you can move beyond the three-act structure, but you must first master it. You can't go to the 200-pound weight until you can lift the 100-pound weight. As for "Knife in the Water" being Polanski's best film, I disagree. I think it's quite a good film and very well-made, but I'll take "Repulsion," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" over it. I haven't even heard of "Le Trou." I think you might get a big kick out of Howard Hawks's version of "Scarface." Check it out and let me know what you thought. And keep watching old movies.

Josh

Name: Tim Gibson - Houston
E-mail: funcrew@yahoo.com

Josh,

My wife and I just saw "The Man Who Wasn't There" in the theater. We liked it very well - despite typical Coen brothers flaws, the script, acting, beautiful B&W photography, music, etc. felt like they were done as the writer intended. It lacked that "script by committee" effect you usually get these days.

Maybe not a classic movie, but certainly different from the mainstream drivel we've seen recently.

Clearly, you are no fan of the Coen's, but:

Q - Have you seen this picture, and if so, did you like it any better than the Coen's other films?

Forgive me if this topic has been discussed here before - I didn't find this movie in the Coen brothers messages in your last 6 archives or so.

Dear Tim:

No, I haven't seen it, nor do I want to. To me just being quirky means nothing, and that's the Coen's specialty.

Josh

Name: tariq
E-mail: tariqrahim2000@yahoo.com

Dear Sir,

Please send me few notes on "The conquest of happiness" by Brterned Russell

Dear Tariq:

No, you send me some notes on it. I enjoyed it.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: Starion106@aol.com

Josh,

I was amused by your review of Unbreakable there, though I haven't seen it myself to say if its as bad as you say. The trailers for that film never interested me, and the whole 'serious' comic book aspect seemed ludicrous. I never understood this whole fascination that 20-something directors have with comic books. If you're going to spend 2+ years writing and directing a movie, can you really not come up with something more substantive than a superhero movie?? Also, having just seen the trailer for this guy's new film, I agree with you he probably shot his load with Sixth Sense. The new movie is called Signs, and stars a similarly bored looking Mel Gibson. Its a serious drama about crop circles. No joke. It might have some horror/sci-fi aspects to it, but come on. Crop circles? OK, can't wait for that one.

So why do you think it is that alot of director's these days can make a pretty good first feature, and then make crap for the rest of their careers? Wouldn't it make sense that if they can tell one good story, they can also tell other good stories? Is it that they suddenly let the success go to their head? I can't figure it out.

And finally, I saw Lord of the Rings this weekend. Like you, I had little interest in the thing but a friend dragged me to it anyway. As it turns out, I enjoyed it. Its not a great film by any stretch, but it mostly held my interest for the first 1 1/2 or so. I thought the acting by the leads, especially Ian McKellan, was very good. But really, the strongest aspect of the film is the visuals. Its not quite like any other film I've seen in that respect. There was some overuse of the crane shots, but overall it is a very unique looking film to say the least. Saying its probably the best movie I've seen this year isn't saying much, since every single 'award-worthy' movie I've seen this year in theaters has been pretty worthless. Moulin Rouge, Memento, Mulholland Drive, The Man Who Wasn't There.. What the fuck? What pieces of shit and these are the front runners for Best Picture? Since when did experimental indie crap like Memento become Best Picture material? And Moulin Rouge is practically unwatchable, its like they gave the camera to a coked up monkey or something. You've said it before, but seriously.. Why even bother going to theaters anymore, when the best thing they have to offer is a well shot fantasy film aimed at 10-year olds? Hope all is well in Oregon,

Jim

Dear Jim:

Why do some people start out so well, then go into the crapper and stay there for the rest of their lives? It's an excellent question for which I don't have answer. I mean, why can't Francis Coppola make a good movie anymore? He sure knew what he was doing back there in the 1970s. Luckily for Hollywood, people seem to have a great fondness for new things. People will defend a new film as though a family member had made it. A year later, however, no one cares at all. In December, 2002, no one will bother defending "Lord of the Rings" because it'll be just one more kid's movie showing on TV.

Josh

Name: Neal
E-mail: ocotilloguy@aol.com

First off Josh I just want to say I'm a fan and also a Bruce Campbell fan. I don't know why anyone would want to work on a big budget film with spoiled celebs and rotten screenplays. Enjoyed reading your many articles and reviews.

To add to the discussion here about hate mail. Hoping not to beat a dead horse but when you get mail like that it seems to me that these individuals (if we are to take them for their word that they do actually go to film school) are lashing out because what you have to say scares the shit out of them and they want more than anything to beleive that you are dead wrong. Alot of people in the industry feel the same way as you. My friend who does set design for two decades has never bothered to see any of the films she worked on because the stories were so lame brained...i won't mention which films so i don't get her in trouble. I've got news for these idealistic film students...if or when you move to LA you're gonna hear EVERYONE talk about how fucked up things are. You may not hear it at Film School (WHERE THEY WANT YOUR TUITION MONEY) or on Entertainment Tonight but you will hear it from just about everyone else.

Pardon the French,
Neal

Dear Neal:

No one outside the film industry wants to believe just how fucked up it is -- it must be run on some logical basis, it's a huge industry. Not so. I just received a contract from a Hollywood sales agent to rep "Running Time" overseas. If I just signed that contract and sent the guy all of my film elements (negative, soundtracks, video transfers), I would never see another cent no matter how many overseas sales he makes. And it's all written into the contract -- they take 25% off the top, plus $3000 a film market (not to exceed $18,000), plus a minimum of $20,000 for expenses that may go as high as $40,000, plus a 20% service charge, plus, plus, plus . . .
And that's a standard contract. I'll attempt to negotiate all that crap away, but I don't think it's possible. If a sales agent or a distributor can't take all of the money, why bother? Now, I happen to know someone in LA that's just finishing post of their first feature. He's been in Hollywood for a long time working on special effects crews. Having put as much time, work, and money into the film, he will not be convinced that he's about to step into a shark pool and be eaten. Not him. It may happen to everyone else, but not him. Everyone thinks that they are the exception to the rule. Young wannabe filmmakers believe that when they get to the border of California and stop at the agricultural check point that they will be handed their big Hollywood contracts and they'll be all set. This is the dream that's been dragging people out to Hollywood since 1913. Who am I to poke a hole in that bubble? I must therefore be "an internet nobody with an axe to grind," because, if I'm not, then I'm speaking the truth and that's too frightening to handle.

Josh

Name: August
E-mail: joxerfan@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

While you are more than capable of skewering "college student nobodies on the internet with an axe to grind" like your new buddy Jake, I gotta add my two cents' worth. Somehow I doubt that professors are recommending your site to their students in lieu of textbooks (although perhaps they should!) Likewise I seriously doubt any actual prof would slam a filmmmaker in front of his class - people lose out on tenure doing stuff like that. And I *really* doubt a film prof would be studying the work of the actor Jason Patric - I actually had to think for a minute to figure out who that was - then I remembered "Oh yeah - kid in that vampire flic with the two Coreys." No Brando, no Olivier, no John Wayne, no Hoffman or Pacino... but they studied the films of Jason Patric. Yeah. Plus if I'm not mistaken, NYU's exams were over a while ago, so it's unclear why they'd be studying any actor when they are on Xmas break. Go figure.

Anyway, I was watching a rerun of "Rocky" the other day, and wondered what your thoughts on it were. I thought it was not bad at all for a B-movie, and I remember when it came out, people said it was a pretty sad commentary on the current state of films that something so simple and old-fashioned would be the best film of the year. This was right at that time you've described as the end of good movie-making in Hollywood, and on its own terms, I thought it succeeded in doing exactly what it set out to do. Granted, it's perhaps a bit far-fetched that a pug could go the distance, but then who thought Spinks would beat Ali, or Ramahn would knock down Lewis?

Hope the holidays are restful for you, and that you don't get snowed in. If Bruce is lurking around, tell him a bunch of his fans saw his pics from "The Majestic" opening, and thought he and his daughter (I'm assuming that's who that was) were quite the elegant duo.

Thanks,

August

Dear August:

I like the first "Rocky" film very much, and think it's rather exceptional. Had Rocky beaten the champ it would have been old-fashioned nonsense, but since he realizes that there's no way he can beat Creed, just going the distance is a believable goal for Rocky. I also think that all of the characters are very well-developed. Stallone is actually funny and charming all the way through, a feat he's never repeated. And for a million bucks, making it the second cheapest film to win best picture after "Marty," I think it's terrific. BTW, that was Bruce's daughter, Rebecca, that was with him at the premiere.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Speaking of Bruce, what does he have to say about the Majestic? Does he think it's any good, or is it just another job? Just trying to figure out whether or not to see it over Christmas,

David

Dear David:

His exact comment was, "It's trying to be great and fails." That may still mean it's okay, although I wouldn't go see it. If you do, let us know what you think.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I dunno Mr. Becker, I really have to disagree. I know Jackson got money from Miramax but he managed to make the films on his terms, as he did as an independent, which I think is great. He didn't give in and make one film, which was the original pressure from the studio. And you don't have to like the source material to like the film. Jackson's re-telling is a cinematic experience of the first order, it really is. It certainly follows the correct story structure (even though the ending of the first film is the beginning of the second so we're left will all this stuff ABOUT to happen, which is somewhat frustrating). Despite that quibble, it still follows the correct story structure, and well. Main characters are developed steadily (though some we know play larger parts in the films to come), even though the visual scope is epic. That's no mean feat.

I hope you break down and get a chance to see it. At the very least it would be less a waste of your time than all the movies on your "nasty review page" : ). So we'll agree to disagree. I thought Heavenly Creatures did a good job of developing believable characters.

But anyway, this is a good example of what Mr. NYU film student misses. You are one of many filmmakers whose work and opinion I respect, but it's still certainly okay to disagree and feel strongly about differing notions on this stuff.

Have happy holidays and all that jazz.

Dear Will:

This is simply an issue of taste. I've never liked fantasy, and I completely don't care about fantasy worlds with furry creatures and monsters. Obviously, many people do. The books have always been popular, but they never appealed to me. And just because a film has good story structure doesn't mean I'll like it. I'm much better off not seeing it at this time.

Josh

Name: Kimberley
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Honestly, I do know it hardly makes me any better, but I can't help getting the giggles when I see someone such as jake "cutcheeze" asttrin attempt to be pedantic when he doesn't even have a handle on capitalization or punctuation. You know, Josh, just today I was describing you to a friend as being charismatic like a razor blade: even when folks know they're just going to end up bloodied from testing the edge, they can't resist the impulse to try. At this moment, I daresay I could extend the analogy to provide for certain dipshits who end up slitting their own throats in the process, but I would hate to deprive the NYU cognoscenti the opportunity to work through that on their own.

And providing Jason Patric's body of work as a means of putting you in your place? Yeah, -that's- a formidable argument. I notice careful omission was made of some of his other outstanding films, such as Solarbabies, The Lost Boys, and (how ever did the world get on with out it?) Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Hee. jake, honey, as Josh suggests, make sure you actually have a leg to stand on before you try for the high kicks.

No questions today -- just a fit of laughter that's fast deteriorating into hiccoughs

Dear Kimberley:

From my perspective, anyone that will write insulting letters to strangers is an asshole, plain and simple. Perhaps he's practicing for when he goes to Hollywood. Of course, one more asshole out there won't even be noticed.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Just wanted to express my amazement at that incredibly rude lambast by the NYU student. If the wonderful star of Speed 2 and The Lost Boys is this student's example of a great actor, I have no doubt he will be the next Renny Harlin. Ick.

Well, here's my question. I saw "Lord of the Rings" last night and was blown away. I've always liked Peter Jackson's gore flicks and Heavenly Creatures was great (I thought, anyway). I like his integrity as well, staying for the most part away from Hollywood machines and making what he wants on the budget he can get. This leap from "small" to "epic" is amazing. I was very worried at what would be lost in the translation from book to film, but my fears were quickly assuaged. I just thought it was incredible. What do you think of Jackson, and LOTR if you get around to seeing it?

Dear Will:

I wouldn't see it if they were giving away money. I didn't give a damn about those books as a kid, and I certainly don't care now. I didn't care for "Heavenly Creatures," which had no insight into why those girls did what they did and was really a one-note picture -- the girls are giddy. All the fantasy stuff with the clay people was just awful and didn't work at all. And "Brain Dead" just seemed like and "Evil Dead" rip-off. To say that Jackson is not making a Hollywood picture when he got $250 million from Miramax's and this giant ad campaign is ridiculous. He just shot on location in New Zealand where you get two NZ dollars for every one American dollar, that's why.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Glad I finally got to hear your review of "Unbreakable" I almost fell out of my chair laughing at the very end when you described Mr. Glass as the supervillan. I honestly think that film could be cut down by at least an hour. And that shot in the train (the little girl's POV) between the seats at the beginning might've worked if it was just showing Bruce Willis and the girl reacting to each other, but continously moving back and forth throughout the conversation, it gave me a headache.

As for the guy from NYU, does he even realize that after the eight years of college it will take him to "know" film, he'll be behind all the people like you that actually make films? I'm betting this guy tries to get funding for a week, quits, then becomes a film critic for "Ain't it Cool News."

David

Dear David:

Well, hope springs eternal. I suppose it's important for film students to believe that they will be the next big thing. Sadly, however, most of them will not. In fact, most of them will be rolled over and either end up working on the crew or in post-production to pay their bills, or they'll just give it up and go home. If you REALLY believe that Jason Patric is the next American acting legend, then you're lost from the outset because the guy is a bore, a roaming hole in the screen. As a little note, when Bruce Campbell read that letter he told of working with Jennifer Jason Leigh and her saying that Jason Patric was not only a full-fledged asshole, but a pretentious pain-in-the-ass to work with that needlessly questioned all of his direction and made shooting a nightmare. She said that she spent most of the shoot smoking cigarettes with the crew waiting for Patric to stop hassling the director so they could get to work.

Josh

Name: Danny Cork
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Liked the 'Unbreakable' review. Especially the hilarious line referring to Mr. Glass : "all you have to do is leave this asshole alone, and he puts himself in the hospital." Christ I was rolling!

Anyway, I noticed that a lot of bad to average films made in the 80s and 90s are now being hailed as classics. It kind of brings to light how easily critics seem to lavish their praise. I was wondering if there were any movies you saw as a kid, that are now 'classics', but in fact sucked ass.

Thanks man,
Danny.

Dear Danny:

I'm lucky because the new films I saw as a kid in the 1960s and 70s legitimately are great films. That's my biggest problem (or blessing, depending on how you want to look at it) -- I really do believe I know what a good movie is and why. It's all those shitty films in the 1980s, like nearly all the Oscar-winners for best picture, that are really just crap, like: "Chariots of Fire," "Out of Africa," "The Last Emperor," and let's not forget the utterly dismal "Rain Main." Another well-thought of movie I have great disdain for is "The Deer Hunter," although I don't think its rep has held up very well anyway.

Josh


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