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Page 64

Name: Kevin Kindel
E-mail: kindel@mail.mc.maricopa.edu

Josh,

Tell me if you agree with me or not. Regarding Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, I think this film represents a perfect example of timeless cinema. It represents an age of horror when charisma and romance was intertwined with a dark backdrop to deliver a terrifying, yet charming villain. Bela Lugosi's intensely haunting portrayal of the count makes me wonder why anyone would try to remake this film that has been around for seventy years and will very well be around for at least a hundred more.

Kevin

Dear Kevin:

I agree that Bela Lugosi is very good as Dracula, but Todd Browning wins the award for the crappiest filmmaker of the silent era to make their way into the sound era. What Browning did have was very weird sensibilities, having grown up in the south in the early 1900s working in carnivals and freak shows. But he never had much of a grasp of filmmaking. Browning does more crummy cuts and lousy shots than any other director I can think of. Meanwhile, James Whale, who directed "Frankenstein" the same year as "Dracula" was a far better director, with a real visual sense. I'll take "Frankenstein" over "Dracula" any day of the week. And James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein" is pretty wonderful, too. As a little historical note: Todd Browning was from Louisville, Kentucky, and his uncle, Louis "Pete" Browning, was one of the very first professional baseball players in the 1880s. Back then you could use any kind of bat you wanted, and some players used cricket bats. Pete Browning went to a bedpost company in Louisville and had them make him a baseball bat at certain specifications, which became the Louisville Slugger, and the same company still makes them.

Josh

Name: max jackel
E-mail: marmax@brinet.com

Dear Mr. Becker:

Thank you very much for your excellent description of Wm. Wyler's genius for making worthwhile movies. Max Jackel

Dear Max:

It was my pleasure. I just showed a group of my neighbors Wyler's "Detective Story" and it's still strong stuff. Kirk Douglas is really at his overwrought best, ready to poke his own eyes out over things. It's William Bendix's best performance ever, and I don't know how Wyler knew that Bendix had it in him. And young Lee Grant is just great. William Wyler never fails to hook me, no matter how many times I've seen his films. I really want to see "Counsellor-at-Law" again, which I've only seen once, and it was John Barrymore's best film performance by a mile, and seemed like a really good film.

Josh

Name: Bill Sisemore
E-mail: bill@sisemore.net

Dear Josh:

Hello and nice to see a fellow smoker being vocal about the injustice. Yesterday the Lincoln County Commission passed a smoking ban in Lincoln County West Virginia (the last place as far as I know that was smoker friendly) that disallows smoking in ALL businesses. I own a small ISP (one employee, me) and I smoke in my office which is publicly available by appointment. Anyway, it is now illegal for me to smoke in my own office.

I am filing a lawsuit against the Lincoln County Commission and wondered if you had any information that might assist me in winning this stupid battle.

Thank you for being vocal in any respect.

Take care,

Bill Sisemore

Dear Bill:

What would you like me to do, testify that there are other smokers out there? I'll come in as an expert witness. Yes, your honor, I have been smoking non-stop since I was eleven. Got a light? Nobody bothers me here on my mountaintop in rural Oregon. And since I got my cats as little kittens, they're used to it. I honestly wish you all the luck in the world if you do sue.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

I was watching the documentary series "A Personal Journey Through American Film with Martin Scorsese" recently, which was interesting actually. Worth the time, even if I did laugh at Scorsese's statements like "without a story you have no movie..." Guess that's what happened to "Bringing Out the Dead." He does list off some pretty good examples of overlooked films that should be seen, particularly in his gangster and western sections. Pretty fun.

So I started thinking about Scorsese films and wondered what your opinion was on "After Hours" and "The King of Comedy." The former is always written as his big comeback after the flop of the latter, but I really liked "The King of Comedy" and hated "After Hours." "King" has interesting casting, good performances, and a tight story that was light years before similarly themed stuff like "The Cable Guy" (and of course, it's way better than that stuff). "After Hours" was ponderous, the story pointless, and the characters totally uninteresting, merely collections of quirkiness, which is a shitty, lazy way to make characters. That's why Tarantino scripts suck. What did you think?

Dear Will:

I'm in complete agreement with you. I think "King of Comedy" is a really good movie, and "After Hours" is meaningless, insignificant, and illogical. At every single moment all the way through "After Hours" all I could think was, so walk home, it's not that far. I've walked further than that in NYC, what's the big deal? And he's running into people like Cheech & Chong for no reason who aren't even funny in it. Meanwhile, I'd say "King of Comedy" is almost a great film. I also think it's Jerry Lewis's best performance on film. My one and only gripe with the film is that I desperately wish Rupert's comedy routine at the end were actually funny. That would be the big irony, and his minor fame after getting out of jail would then be somewhat deserved.

Josh

Name: pedro
E-mail: sounddesign79@hotmail.com

hey josh,

how about jacobs ladder? i guess its not really sci fi enough, but i was happy with the overall mystery to the film. is something like this just too jumbled for your tastes? the script too loose? or is tim robbins just too much of an idiot?

Dear Pedro:

All of the above. It also didn't make any sense. You can't flash forward into the future that hasn't occurred yet and have a soundtrack of the contemporary pop songs that will be hits then -- nobody's imagination is that good. And since we're discussing needlessly tricky movies, is that what people think is a good story now? Endless twists with dull characters that you don't give a crap about? That's what "Memento" was, and that's pretty much what "Open Your Eyes" was, too. I liked "Open Your Eyes" better than the two afore-mentioned films, but I never cared. And if I don't care what I'm watching, it can't be very good. It's too bad Phillip Dick isn't alive, he'd be the most popular writer working. It was interesting to see that Penelope Cruz actually was beautiful before coming to America, hooking up with Tom Cruise, getting a Ralph Lauren contract, and losing fifteen crucial pounds. Now she looks anorexic.

Josh

Name: john albanese
E-mail: johnalbanese@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Hi, Licia Albanese is a cousin on my fathers side. It would be great is you could post a photo of her star on your website for us to look at if you have the time, or maybe if you could tell us a site that has a photos of the star on it. She is retired opera singer from the NY Metropolitan Opera. She is still alive and is about 86.

Dear John:

I live in rural southern Oregon. If you want a photo of the Hollywood walk of fame, go there and take it.

Josh

Name: Ed
E-mail: ednewman5@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I noticed you sing songs of praise for The Road Warrior, George Miller's film, and compare it unfavourably with Mel Gibson's recent work.

What about " Braveheart "? It has a stronger story and more believable characters than The Road Warrior, and the action scenes are way better.

Ed

Dear Ed:

Sorry, but I'm not going there with you. George Miller is a real film director, with a visual sense, and a terrific grasp of montage. Mel Gibson isn't really a director and has no visual sense or any grasp of montage at all. Gibson shoots in the run & gun fashion, meaning you get as many cameras running as you can afford, shoot everything in sight, then dump it on an editor to figure out. Due to this, all of the action scenes in "The Road Warrior" are FAR superior to those in "Braveheart." As the stunt director in Herc and Xena pointed out at the time, the foreground stuntmen in the fights in "Braveheart" look fine, but one level back they're slapping each other like girls. I didn't mind the first hour of "Braveheart," but once the girl was killed and it became nothing more than a lunkheaded revenge film, I grew increasingly bored. By hour three I was reduced to a quivering blob of bored jello just praying for the miserable picture to end. For a similar film, that came out the same year, I'll take "Rob Roy" any day of the week. It has a better cast, stronger performances, a much better story, and is an hour shorter.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I'm glad to hear the Road Warrior get mentioned on this site; the action is incredible, and the story moves well. My take on the characterization is Max doesn't change; he's a selfish bastard throughout the whole movie, but he's challenged to change by the situations. What's your favorite aspect of the movie?

One Sci-fi movie I saw recently that I liked was the low budget "Cube". The character interaction was interesting to watch, and makes you think, "what if that happened to me?" You might have a problem with it because there's no real main character, just a small group.

Eric

Dear Eric:

I like everything about "The Road Warrior," except the score, which sounds too much like John Williams' music for "Star Wars" (which sounds too much like Holst's "The Planets"). My favorite aspect of the film is probably George Miller's direction, which is visually well-conceived, inventive, and snappy; then Dean Semler's photography, which is gorgeous; then the imaginative costumes; then the cast, led by young Mel Gibson at his best and still an Australian, before he transformed into an American from the 51st state, Flatland, where everyone talks through their nose. Meanwhile, I looked up "Cube," and it sounds unbearable to me, rather like the God-awful "Labyrinth," where everyone is stuck in a maze the whole film. It also sounds a bit like Harlan Ellison's classic story "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream," where a group of people are caught inside a computer.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: chowkidar@aol.com
Dear Josh: Josh,

Question for you about "Lunatics". First I should say that I really enjoy the film. There is only one thing about it which does not sit well and that is towards the end. Hank is rushing to the rescue of Nancy when, by coincidence, a garbage truck turns down the alley Hank is in. Hank, in keeping with previously established hallucinatory tendencies, interprets the garbage truck as a giant spider trying to get him and runs in terror. The garbage truck/spider is bearing down on him when Nancy shoots at the truck causing it to veer off. Why would an LA garbage truck driver pursue Hank. As shot, it sure appears as though the driver is trying to run Hank down. Why? I've looked at this scene several times for clues, what am I missing? Thanks.

John

PS: Just a reminder to everyone else to write in to Anchor Bay in support of "Hammer". Email suggestions@anchorbayentertainment.com

Dear John:

Why is an city garbage truck driving around at night? is probably a better question. In the script the garbage truck is entirely unaware of Hank and turns the corner into the alley at the last second, thus fusing Hank's delusion with reality. Sadly for me, though, the alley didn't work that way, and there was no other way for the garbage truck to go except across that parking lot, so I just went with it. The garbage truck driver, BTW, is Gary Jones, the special effects supervisor on the film, and now a director -- he directed "Mosquito," which I appear in.

Josh

Name: Sean Casey
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What do you think of films like: "Swingers", "Made", and "The Crying Game". The reason why I ask is because these are three films that I just recently seen and I don't know if anyone has seen them to give me their opinions about them.

By the way, I just watched "The Crow" trilogy with me cousin and I was bored after the first one. I was really impressed with it. It was a comedic, dark, brooding revenge story adapted from an underrated comic. Did you see that? If so, any thoughts?

Dear Sean:

I didn't care for "Swingers," which was okay for the first thirty minutes, then completely fell apart; or "The Crying Game," which I had figured out in ten minutes. "Made" is presently on its way to me from Netflix. I absolutely hated "The Crow," and wouldn't watch a sequel to it if my life depended on it. It's nothing more than MTV music video nonsense.

Josh

Name: Godmil
E-mail: godmil@xenafan.com

Dear Josh

In your Essay about being a PA you mentioned coming
across a lot of really annoying AD's. After becoming
a Director did you have any arrogant AD's working
for you? If so, did you get your own back? :)

Dear Godmil:

I liked all of the ADs in New Zealand, and I hired a New Zealander on "Hammer." I haven't really worked with many American ADs since becoming a director, it was mainly when I was a crew member. There wouldn't be any "getting your own back," though. An AD is not the director's assistant; an AD is the foreman and hatchet-man for the producer. The 1st AD runs the set. But I would never hire an obnoxious AD when I was producing and directing. I'd hire an AD that was on my side.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Josh,

Finally, someone else who thought Memento was complete trash. I knew you'd hate it. For a while I thought I was the only one. Guy Pierce is an abomination to the acting profession. Didn't you find that he was the weak link in LA Confidential? It seemed as if he was laboriously attempting to sustain an American accent, and failed on all counts. My question for you is: What do you think of Bruce Campbell as an actor? I think he is highly underated, and is one of the only actors of this generation that has a classical golden era-like presence. His screen presence is remeniscent of actors like Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks. Other than Bruce, I can only think of a handful of modern actors that exude such charisma. What is your impression?

Dear Scott:

I think Bruce can be very good, given he has the material to work with. Sadly for Bruce, though, he's ended up in a lot of crap. I think he's a lot better than many of the bigshots, like Jim Carrey or Brendan Fraser.

Josh

Name: Tim Beringer
E-mail: tberi665@uwsp.edu

Dear Josh:

I'm going on a backpacking/camping trip in the mountains of Tennessee this summer and was wondering if you remembered how to get to the site where Evil Dead was filmed and would you be able to giv em directions?

Dear Tim:

All I know is that we shot in Morristown. Maybe you should write to Bruce Campbell at his website and ask him.

Josh

Name: hasan roberson
E-mail: hasanroberson@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I enjoyed reading your comments on 99 cent stores. I'm thinking about opening up a store in the near future and hopefully I can find better products and still sell them at 99 cents. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that no Chinese prisoner had a hand in the manufacture.

Dear Hasan:

If you don't want to promote slave labor in China, then don't sell 99-cent products from China.

Josh

Name: Stryker
E-mail: :)

Dear Josh,

How much would it cost to make a low budget Vietnam flick set entirely in Vietnam and full of battle scenes?

P.S.

I'm a big fan of Thou Shalt Not Kill....Except and of John Woo's vietnam epic Bullet In The Head.

Dear Stryker:

That's a pretty open-ended question. TSNKE was about $200,000. "Apocalypse Now" was about $40 million. So I guess it could fall anywhere in between, or more expensive if Hollywood does it.

Josh

Name: Lenita
E-mail: leaoln96@student.umu.se

Dear Josh:

I am trying to find the vocal score of the song "What is a youth" from the Romeo and Juliet 1968 soundtrack, and I am just wondering if you have any tips as to how I could find it? I would very much appreciate if you would send me an answer to this.

Sincerely / Lenita, Sweden

Dear Lenita:

You could buy the record, which was by the late, great Nino Rota. I had the record as a kid, and I may still be able to remember the lyrics.

What is a youth
Impetuous fire
What is a maid
Ice and desire
The world wags on

A rose will bloom
It then will fade
So does a youth
So does a fairest maid

Comes a time when one sweet smile
Has its season for a while
Then love's in love with me

Some they think only to marry
Others will tease and tarry
Mine is the very best parry
Cupid he rules us all

Cape of the cape (?)
Now, sing me a song
Death will come soon to hark us along
Sweeter than honey and bitter as gold
Cupid he rules us all

Josh

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

Josh,

Well you've got one email off to Anchor Bay in favor of releasing "Hammer". I'll bet there's others going too.

I just saw "Ghost World" and it was absolutey brilliant. Infact, I found it to be so good, that it made me realize how long it had been since I last saw a film I liked as much. One that affected me like this one did. Have you seen it? I'm not sure if it's on the cable networks yet. Terry Zwigof (who's "Crumb" I found offensive and dull) is a better narrative director than documentary. Anyhow, it was easily the best film I saw this year. Actually, I didn't find "A Beautiful Mind" to be too bad. I was expecting something dreadfull, but foreced myself to go see it since it won the oscar. I actually go into it after the opening drag-ass 30 minutes.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to tell someone about "Ghose World". It really is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Great acting. Wonderful style (not one attention getting shot in the movie, yet the visuals are still ringing in my mind), wonderful score, honest story that never becomes obscene. Excellent, man, excellent!

Oh, and you're right. The new "Mad Max" dvd does have the original Australian soundtrack. That was a good line you put in there...Remember the lead bad guys name? The guy talking about the Night Rider?

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

OK, I put on my Netflix rental queue. I must say that I liked "Crumb" very much, and I've seen it three times. I think it's a terrific documentary about a very interesting guy. Meeting Crumb's family was a real eye-opener. Meanwhile, I didn't hate "A Beautiful Mind," it was easy enough to sit through, it just doesn't have a story. The guy's delusional in college, and remains so for the rest of his life. Uh-huh? Then what? Then nothing. And having read his real story since then, it seems that Ron Howard and co. are just afraid of the actual drama, that his wife left him, and he became homosexual. Ron Howard is a ridiculously flat, uninteresting director, who directs as though he were a bottle-cap machine.

And while we're at it, since several folks have recommended "Memento" to me here, I finally saw it. The key word was DULL! I was solidly bored in fifteen minutes, severely bored by 35 minutes, and excruciatingly bored for the remainder. In my humble opinion, that is a BAD movie, with dull characters, and no interesting dialog. Oh great, it's going backward. Well, so what? I didn't believe any of it for a second, and didn't care at all. For me the two most important things about a film is that I believe it, whatever it is, and that I care. "Memento" had nothing. And Guy Pierce is just awful. He's the emaciated version of Val Kilmer. If that's the modern version of a good movie, we're all in trouble.

Josh

Name: J.C. Denton
E-mail: aliensareedible@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

On the subject of film vs. digital video, did you ever hear of MaxiVision48? If so, what do you think about it? Ebert had an interesting article on it and why he felt it was better than digital video at http://www.volksmovie.com/rants/archive/rogerebert.htm

Dear J.C.:

This is a variation of an older system developed by the special effects wizard, Douglas Trumbull ("2001"), except his sytem runs even faster than 48 fps. Although I have no doubt that MaxiVision48 looks superior to film at 24 fps. or digital video, I don't believe all of the theaters will switch over to it, nor do I believe that Hollywood will embrace it, either. It would double the price of film prints, which are already expensive, and would double the shipping costs. I think everybody was wrong about downloading from satellites with digital video, but I wouldn't be surprised if all the theaters finally switched to DV projection of DVDs, which can be sent out for nearly nothing (Netflix includes postage on DVDs for free). We'll see.
But I can't see Hollywood taking on extra costs in the already expensive world of distribution. To make 3,500 prints, as they do with a big U.S. release, costs over $4,000,000 right now, and MaxiVision would kick that up to over $8,000,000. Hell, the movie companies can't get the average Joe to buy DVD machines yet.

Josh

Name: Daniel Garptoft
E-mail: insanepictures@hotmail.com

Hello, I saw your film Running Time in 1998 at a filmfestival in Sweden called, Gothenburg Film Festival, the thing is that ever since I´ve looked for this really special and just great movie but haven´t found any place I can buy it. I just love that movie, do you have a answer to this please mail it, keep up the good work!
/Daniel

Dear Daniel:

Well, you could order it online from many places here in the U.S., but I don't know if the DVD will play in your machine. I'm just signing a deal with an overseas sales agent, and hopefully it will finally be available in Europe. I was originally supposed to be at that festival in Goteborg, but went and directed a Xena episode instead. The man that runs that festival, whose name I've forgotten, was very nice and I was sorry to let him down. Someday I'd still like to get there.

Josh

Name: Godmil
E-mail: godmil@xenafan.com

Dear Josh,

I've just been reading through your essay's (I've nearly finished). I must say they are a fantastic read. A beautiful blend of wit, irony, and genuine heartfelt emotion.

Your viewpoint on 'what makes a good film' is really fascinating. I was wondering, does your view point stem primarily from a writers point of view. The majority of your criticisms seem to spring from the content and style of the stories. Given that film making is really story telling, it is a valid point. But do you never watch a film (from the last 25 years) and think "Wow, that's a really beautiful shot"?

Do you ever find yourself getting excited over a grand (though ultimately meaningless) action sequence?

Or do poor stories always negate any entertainment value that can be derived for you?

Dear Godmil:

I don't think a beautiful shot is a beautiful shot unless it's in the proper context. If it's there to help get across the story, then it's a beautiful shot. If it's there to amuse the director, it's masturbation. Everything is a feature film is there to serve the story. In a short film it can be different, but not a feature -- it's simply a storytelling form. Nevertheless, as an example, I admire and like the opening D-Day invasion sequence of "Saving Private Ryan," and really hate the rest of the film. There's a terrific car chase in "The Seven-Ups," which is a nothing film otherwise. But generally, a single action scene or well-set-up shot won't move me much in a poor context. Whereas, if the filmmakers have an interesting story to tell, I don't really care if they ever do a good shot.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: robk98@hotmail.com

Josh,

What's your opinion on some of Sam Raimi's latest efforts like: 'A Simple Plan', 'For Love Of The Game', and 'The Gift'?

Dear Rob:

Sam's my friend, so I will leave him out of my tirades. Let's just say that I admire his success and his ability to have achieved it.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

Obviously there are no scenes in "Lunatics" where the doctor is present absent Hank. What I meant was that another writer/director might have made that mistake of misplaced perspective. Quite correctly, you did not. To me this reflects the "craft" present in your "art", something I find lacking in all too many movies.

As active as this forum is also thought I could post the suggestions email address at Anchor Bay Entertainment. If the people in this forum can write to them and indicate support for "If I had A Hammer" I would think it can only help the cause. That email address is:

suggestions@anchorbayentertainment.com

This email address is openly posted on their website where they solicit opinions so I can't imagine they would have a problem in me including it here. Thanks.

John

Dear John:

You the man. I say, go for it. Write to Anchor Bay and tell them to release "Hammer." Absolutely. They've been waffling for over a year. Any influence in "Hammer's" favor is good influence. They're all good folks over there, so be polite. And thanks.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I noticed that "Starship Troopers" seems to be coming up in a few emails on the site, and I just wanted to put down a comment on it.
As it most often the case, the book was infinitely better than the finished film. I didn't understand why they boiled a great science fiction/war story down into a mishmash of neo-fascism and political correctness. In the novel, the Mobile Infantry are equipped with armored suits capable of enhancing the strength of the soldiers wearing them, as well as being armed with an array of weapons from grenade to sub-nuclear in size and power. The infantry is still entirely MALE (I think that soldiers everywhere gave a wolf whistle, then shook there heads at the scenes of co-ed infantry school in the movie), and is transported to hot-spots around the galaxy in space-going troop transports (piloted by women, interestingly enough; the book claims that women had better reflexes and math skills to become starship pilots than men). The world that they live in is not a weeny form of fascism, but an evolved form of democracy, wherein the right to vote and have political francise (citizenship) is only given to those who first serve in the military. The novel is infused with the philosophy of the future society, and is still full of action and entertaining. Then the Belgian director of the film watered down the philosphy into Fascism, and put a ridiculous politically correct spin on the nature of future warfare (this may also be why all of the uniforms appear either subtlelly or blatantly Nazi-esque; Belgium is Germany Lite). A talented director could have made so much more of the premise; it is a soldier's diary, coming of age story, and social critique all rolled together. The Great Hollywood Homogenizer ground all of that up and spat out a piece of trash where soldiers fire thousands of rounds from miniature magazines, then, when they DO actually run out of ammunition, get passed another mag and are told to "make 'em count!" The only thing that the idiot in charge of that piece of crap got right was the reality that, no matter what leaps in technology or developments in weaponry, you will always need infantry on the ground, buying real estate with blood to win wars.
Phew...sorry about that, but I just needed to rant on that one...will there ever be decent films in the theaters again?! The only hope is that they perfect cloning and bring back some real directors, which leads me to my question (I assure you, there is one)..
In the film WITCHUNT, there is a scene where a movie producer has a witch bring William Shakespeare back to life, then puts him to work writing screenplays. If you had your choice, what notable director of the past, now dead, would you like to see brought back to life and making films? [This question assumes that the individuals involved would be brought up to speed on current events and incorporated into the modern world, etc.] Yours truly,

Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

I read many Heinlein novels as a kid, but I never read "Starship Troopers." BTW, Paul Verhoven is Dutch, not Belgian. My favorite filmmaker is William Wyler, but I don't think Im would want to subject him to today's Hollywood. I don't think he could function nearly as well now as he did in the old studio days. Everything has to be homogenized and turned into flavorless mush now, and I don't think he would have appreciated it.

Josh

Name: Aaron
E-mail: agraham83@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I hope you don't mind me responding to the guy who asked me why I slamming "Donnie Darko". Even though, I didn't really intend to slam it, it had a few interesting elements that I liked.
I thought that it characterized Donnie as a genius by a few scenes (and it's mentioned in the director's commentary on the dvd that he sort of looked at Donnie as one): His complete understanding of that Graham Greene short story, as well as the scene where the principal tells him that his "test scores are intimidating".. I combined that with what the director's comments and assumed that he was meant to be some sort of genius.
The film plays like a Science Fiction "Magnolia", it even has a 'big star' play upon his public persona (Patrick Swayze as a Self-Help guru not unlike Tom Cruise as Frank TJ Mackey).
I suppose I should ask Josh a question (I'm always intrigued of what he thinks of certain films).. what did you think of the original "Mad Max"? Not as good as its sequel, "The Road Warrior"?

Dear Aaron:

No, I don't think "Mad Max" is nearly as good as "The Road Warrior," but I still think it's terrific low-budget film, and I've seen it many, many times. I still wonder how George Miller could make such a cheap film with such good stunts? I think he must have been buds with the stunt men. Anyway, I hear the new DVD release has the original Australian soundtrack, which I'd like to see. "And remember, when you look into the night sky, think of the Nightrider."

Josh

Name: Jeff
E-mail: warren_jeff@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

What is it like directing is it fun? I plan to direct some of my scripts. could u give me any advice?

Dear Jeff:

I like it. I'm happy to answer any of your questions if you just get more specific.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

First a follow-up on The Thing (1951). I read somewhere that Hawkes may have ghost-directed the movie, standing over Nyby's shoulder and offering "guidance". I do think the movie draws inspiration from Hawkes, but Nyby was clearly a director with skills as his later TV work shows.

I actually have a question for you about the sci-fi genre as regards your friend BC. He did a movie called "Mindwarp" wherein he turns out to be a character who never actually existed. He was a computer-generated character in a controlled dream sequence. The problem is that a good portion of the movie is told from his perspective. In "Lunatics" the parallel would have been if the Doctor, BC's character and Hank's tormenter, had had scenes of his own independent from Hank. This seems to be an endemic problem in sci-fi today, and in a more abstract sense in all movies; a disregard for the perspective from which the story is told. From a writing/directing perspective this seems like a technical issue rather than an artistic one. You refer to this problem in your review of "Saving Private Ryan". How could Ryan remember what Hank's character was thinking and doing when he, Ryan, was'nt even there?

It seems to me that perspective is one of the primary responsibilities of the director and that control of perspective should be an elementary, rather than an advanced directorial skill. The alternative is that the writers should be held accountable, but isn't that why directors call for rewrites? What do you think? I'm looking to place blame here so help me out. Thanks.

John

Dear John:

What scenes are there of the mad doctor without Hank? I think you're mistaken. I do agree with you, though, about the writer and director sticking to the proper POVs. For instance, there's only one scene in "Taxi Driver" outside Travis Bickle's POV, which is Sport and Iris dancing, and I really wish it wasn't there.

Josh

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

P.S.

To the guy named Aaron that slammed "Donnie Darko": I'd agree that the plot was a little hard to follow, but only for a while. After the first half (which still maintained interest, despite some of the confusion), it started giving enough answers that not only kept it interesting, but made it (in my opinion) even more fascinated and curious.

Also, what's this about a boy genius? He was a very disturbed kid, with some "out there" visions and ideas, but never characterized as a "genius". His was a character with many questions about him (including his sanity... which, by the way, was answered at the film's end), but what made you see him as a genius?

Sorry Josh, this isn't really a question for you, but I'm hoping that Aaron responds.

Thanks,

S.C.

Dear S.C.:

Fine, then you don't get an answer from me -- not that I had one. BTW, I saw "Gosford Park" yesterday, and found it to be a pretty big bore. It's like a half-assed Agatha Christie mystery, which I've never been a fan of, and not as good as most of them. I also couldn't understand almost anything Emily Watson said. It was a film I was hoping would end within 35 minutes of it beginning. Also, it has an historical error in it -- Bob Balaban, as the Hollywood producer, says that Zanuck is taking over the studio (Fox), which didn't actually occur until three years after the story was set.

Josh

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

Hi,

Regarding the whole sci-fi discussion, I'm going to first say that "Pitch Black" was pretty much crap. It had a few things going for it, but a weak story riddled with stupid details (like the one suggested about how can a huge race of flying monsters survive in a baren desert) is not made up for; not even close.

I AM going to say that I thought "Donnie Darko" was great. I don't get what the problem was that the guy who slammed it had with it, but I'd be curious to know if he'd send in a more detailed critique. It's hard to say if it would qualify as "sci-fi", but it did have that element to it. One of the things I liked about it was that it blended different genres together intelligently, and without seeming like it was trying too hard. I thought the protaganist was a great character, and very well acted. There were a few supporting roles that were a little weak, but there were others that were very effective. Also, it had a great ending, that tied everything together in a bittersweet way that made sense of the mystery that had been built up, but without spoon-feeding it, either. If you've seen it, or get a chance to see it, I'd be curious to hear what you think. I have a feeling that you won't like it, just because our tastes seem very different, but I'd still be curious on your take of the film.

Thanks,

S.C.

Dear S.C.:

Well, I put "Donnie Darko" on my Netflix list, too. I ought to have a mailbox full of DVDs in no time.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@berneusdavin.com

Josh,

My goal is indeed to tell a story. In that sense, I guess "professional-looking" productions aren't important. At least, not right now. It seems to me that the next thing I could use would be a digital 4-track machine. I suppose I could record the dialog more deliberately, and I could mix an honest-to-goodness audio track with necessary sound effects and music.

I saw "The Arrival" long before I paid a lot of attention to act structure, but I do remember liking the movie. Have you ever seen it? I didn't care too much for the ecological message, but the movie was entertaining.

Thanks.

Benedict

Dear Ben:

I'm not a fan of buying equipment, since it's expensive and becomes outdated very quickly. I think you'd be better off borrowing or renting what you need. No, I haven't seen "The Arrival," but it sounds kind of interesting. I put it on the Netflix list.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Re: Pi - You said there wasn't enough sci-fi in it to justify calling it sci-fi. True, there wasn't much, but at the point where he does go at it with the drill is arrived at only through that superchip and the soop, which qualify.

Starship Troopers - I'd rather have bullet-spewing guns in the future than wussy Star Trek phasers. The thing that got me was the guns in the movie are nearly useless, they have to use 1000+ rounds to off a single bug. We have guns now more powerful-looking. I have to admit I got a kick out of the cartoony facism of their future.

So about Cycles.

1. It seemed to me that your hero did two unheroic things. The idea of it isn't so bad, nobody's perfect. But these actions seemed to me to be the sort of thing to lose the audience's support completely. The first was the reaction to his old flame, seeing her after she's gained wieght. Realistic maybe, but not heroic.

The big one was he came close to clocking his father. This of course deals with his father not understanding him, but dad never seemed to push too far, he read to me like he was trying to get his son to do something with himself. (I also got that your hero was adrift after the war.) Anyway, it seemed like an overly big reaction to the way his father had been relating to him.

Bye for now!

Dear Dan:

Part of what I like about "Cycles" is that good guys aren't all that good, and the bad guys aren't necessarily bad. Everybody's got their own agenda. In my first draft, the good guys were good, and the bad guys were bad, and I was bored. It took me two more drafts to move everything into the gray area. Then the first person I showed it to optioned it, then it sold. I still think it would make a good film, but that's just me.

Josh

Name: John
E-mail: chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

I think it's clear that your point on sci-fi films falling short of ACO has been well demonstrated. The dearth of even eligible challengers poses, to me, another question. Have there been good ideas poorly developed since ACO? Take "Contact" for instance. If you stripped away about seven subplots and focused on what seems to be the primary question, which is one of faith rather than fact, you might have had an interesting movie. If we as the audience had only watched Jodie Foster fall into the ocean then she could have tried to convince us as well as the Senate Sub-committee of what she experienced. Done right it would have required a complete (that would be a "complete!") rewrite, but there is a kernel of an idea there.

Someone mentioned the movie "Pitch Black". Essentially a monster film, one wonders what six million large, hyper-active flying monsters eat on a desert world when there are no people around. One of the stupider things about the movie "Starship Troopers", and this is at the head of an impressive list of stupid things, is that a desert world could possibly support an apparently infinite number of giant monsters firing bug-plasma out of their asses. Like the gunmen who don't carry ammunition (and yet only run out when there are only two left) this sort of ignoring of resource issues illustrates the inability of modern science fiction movies to deliver.

By the way, for what it's worth (precious little, I realize) I prefer "The Thing" 1951, to ACO; great dialogue, intelligent characters and a monster that was largely intrusted to our imaginations. The build-up of tension is smooth and the delivery at the end spectacular. Whether Hawkes directed it or not it shows his influence and ranks, to me, as not just a great sci-fi film but one of the better films period. Thanks.

John

Dear John:

I much prefer the original "The Thing" as well. I wish we never got to see that it's James Arness in a carrot suit, but what the hell. I don't know why everyone thinks Hawks directed the film. Perhaps because no one knows who Christian Nyby is. He was a big-shot editor to whom Hawks gave a directorial shot, and Nyby remained a director for the next 30 years. Quite frankly, I think Hawks liked the project, but felt it was beneath him to direct it. What was even worse for me in "Starship Troopers" was that in this silly vision of the future, where we have a fleet of starships like the Enterprise, humans are still using bullets. It's so painfully stupid it hurts.

Josh

Name: Aaron
E-mail: agraham83@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Hey, long time reader of the site, not partaking much by asking questions, but the movie geek saloon is really picking up lately.
How do you feel about the films of Terry Gilliam? Interesting visuals for sure, but that doesn't make a film. I still have to give "Brazil" a second look to see if it's as good as most people like to claim(that's probably not *really* a sci fi film at all, just fantasy).

Coming to your site is refreshing, before i even THINK about asking a question about a particular film or director, I mull it over in my head over and over, and usually a film that I think is brilliant ends up not being so after a little bit of thinking about it.

Also, there's a new film "Donnie Darko" that just came out on video, already something of a cult film to most. It's just a mess of a film, with a terribly, hard to follow plot about a boy genius and him being a major part of the end of the world. If you've caught it, i'd love to hear your thoughts. Why must all new filmmakers have a plot about a genius?("Good Will Hunting", "Magnolia", "Donnie Darko"), I think it's a helluva lot of egotistical directors thinking they're the next big thing.

Dear Aaron:

I don't like Gilliam's films, I find them all to be self-conscious bores. I tremendously disliked "Brazil" when it came out, and everyone I knew kept praising it, so I went back and saw it again, and it was even worse the second time. Yeah, and now that nobody can make a decent film, they're all geniuses. We are in a time period where style has totally overtaken content. It's a tremedous bore. And nobody has the balls to be sincere anymore, either, and insincere stories are inherently crap.

Josh

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

Josh,

Actually the recent Hamlet film by Branagh had an intermission. At 4 hours it only made sense. But what would be nice is an intermission for the interminable 3-hour oscar-baiters that generally come out around christmas every year. Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Frank Darabont movies come to mind. Maybe theaters could offer a half-price refund if you dont want to come back for the second half.

As for good sci-fi, I honestly can't think of anything great since Clockwork or 2001. I'm looking at lists of sci-fi movies of the last 20 years or so and you guys are right, basically all kids movies. I found things to enjoy in Brainstorm, Total Recall, The Fly, and 2010, but nothing close to what I would call a classic. Its hard to believe, but there have probably been thousands of sci-fi movies made in the last 20 years and yet none have achieved any kind of greatness. What does that say about filmmakers nowadays?

Its like everyone has given up on making things for adults. Everything revolves around kids. I'm only 23 years old and I'm already bored with most of the stuff out there. Its getting more and more difficult to find anything remotely intellectual. There are some interesting movies being made for HBO and Showtime and occasionally a good foreign film slips through. I thought best-foreign film winner No Man's Land by Danis Tanovic was smart. And I enjoyed the documentary Startup.com that I think premiered on Showtime. But overall its pretty slim pickings in general, let alone in sci-fi specifically. But what are you gonna do? Maybe a better question would be whether good sci-fi stories are being told anywhere? Has anyone read a great sci-fi novel or short story lately? BTW, I'd recommend skipping Pitch Black. I thought that director's first movie, The Arrival, was decent but Pitch Black is just a dumb action movie in space.

Jim

Dear Jim:

Since I bailed on Branagh's "Hamlet" I didn't know it had an intermission. I've always found Olivier's "Hamlet," which I like a lot, to be too long at 153 minutes. If I die and go to hell they'll make me watch all of Branagh's "Hamlet" in a double-bill with "Magnolia." Anyway, Jim, you pose the question that constantly plagues me -- why can't anyone make an intelligent film anymore? My theory is that once the baby boomers took over Hollywood, then the subsequent generations, everyone is too lazy and too stupid to understand what an intelligent film is. Since "Star Wars" and the advent of "the blockbuster," the whole deal is about scoring the big, big money, and nobody knows or cares what's good -- good is what makes money.
Money, money, money. Zzzzzzzzzz!

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@berneusdavin.com

Josh,

I've been playing around with this camcorder and, as much as I'd like to end up with a professional production, I'm the theory that the bare minimum requisites for believable storytelling are a) A script. b) Some cuts. c) Distinct characters.

All I had to do was film myself in two sides of a conversation and cut them together. Right away it looked like it was closer to a story, rather than watching home videos.

In my second attempt, I did minimal scripting, in the sense that every word was scripted but it wasn't a story, as such. It was just about three lines a piece.

My most recent attempt, I had two and a half pages of dialog that went (shallowly) from beginning to end, and went through the trouble of shaving my beard, slicking my hair, putting on glasses, and intoning my voice differently, along with different mannerisms. BOOM! Suddenly, I was watching a movie.

Basically, what I'm saying is that sound and picture quality don't bother me too much. The lighting was not perfect, by any means. But it was enough to tell an audience a story. I'm very excited about the next few weeks.

What is your insight on this? Do you consider the lighting, sound, visual, production design, costume, etc. to be necessary to tell a story? Or, is the point of a movie no more than to tell a story, or is it to convince an audience that they are experiencing the story?

I'm not sure if I'm making sense. But this is what is going through my head.

Thanks.

Ben

Dear Ben:

If you're telling a good story, that really is the bottom line. Do you need a nice production, good lighting, costumes, make-up, etc. No, not necessarily. It depends on what you're after. Do you want other people to watch your film? Do you want to sell it? What's your goal?

Josh


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