just saw TSNKE for the first time last night, and I
really enjoyed it (indeed, I watched it over again with
the commentary track right away). For such a low budget
film, it looks like you got good production value. Despite
some inaccuracies on the military side of the house
(soldiers with longish hair and full beards, CAR-15's
instead of M16A1's, and TA 312 field telephones-which
need to connected to one another with wire, and are
not easily transportable-masquerading as field radios;
also that funky shotgun with an M16 30-round magazine
glued to it and a bayonet tied on it, to name a few
things) it was still entertaining.
Strangely enough, almost all of the supporting actors
gave better performances than the lead, with the possible
exception of John Manfredi (his performance puts me
in mind of Bruno Kirby's later performance in GOOD MORNING,
VIETNAM). I particularly enjoyed Tim Quill's performance,
especially as his character both looks and acts like
a buddy of mine in my National Guard unit (indeed, when
I first saw him in the film, I blurted out "Oh
shit! It's 'Ski!" and almost died laughing).
On the whole, I have to say that the film was very entertaining.
I did see a few possible influences in the performances
that you might be able to confirm or deny, particularly
with Sam Raimi. His performance as the cult leader reminded
me an awful lot of Hugh Keays-Byrne's performance as
the Toecutter in MAD MAX. Was that Sam's influence,
your direction, or just coincidence?
I also bought RUNNING TIME, and will probably see it
tonight or tomorrow at the latest.
blatantly guilty of all the inaccuracies you mention.
You should have seen the movie I had in my head, or
even in the script. Sgt. Jackson was supposed to be
the guy that carries the M-60 machine gun, that's why
he's the big guy, and that's why he would run right
into an enemy village, because he could spray a million
bullets. Just getting one actual AR-15 was a real trick,
let alone getting actual M-16s or AK-47s. Well, anyway,
I'm pleased you enjoyed it despite its inaccuracies.
know Bruckheimer's a producer....that's why I had to
hang my head in shame for being of the same species
as that guy.
I do, too.
my earlier point on "American Beauty", Of
course a writer's sexual orientation doesn't "matter"--
but a bad writer's might. Just like a great white writer
can write a interesting exploration of an inner city
black scenario, whether through research, or just creative
will. But a lousy writer will write an artificial exploration
of the same that will ring hollow and maybe even offensive,
if only for the superficiality -- and while a lousy
african-american writer will write a bad script on the
subject, I bet it often will be bad for different reasons
than if a rich Hollywood white guy wrote it. The same
with sexual orientation, and I don't think I'm being
a "jerk" -- Just like plenty of straight white
writers (many of whom are clearly Hollywood writers)
have written utterly crappy one-dimensional visions
of basically everyone who isn't them -- homosexuals,
women, minorities, elderly, etc. I think Ball in "American
Beauty" didn't have the slightest idea what a marriage
between those two characters was like. I had a creative
writing class about 10 years back with John Weir, an
openly gay novelist who wrote the novel "Eddie
Socket". He wrote several heterosexual sex scenes
in the novel that involved ritualized err, self-stimulation
and involved a lot of towels and stuff that didn't strike
me as once ever sounding like any sexual encounter I
had ever been in as a heterosexual male. The gay sex
scenes in the novel rang more "authentic"
and I told him that and he laughed and said I might
be right -- my only point being that I thought Ball
didn't have the slightest handle on what he was allegedly
exposing in "American Beauty", I know that
wasn't your reasoning for disliking it. I think it was
just one more layer of artifice in an entirely artificial
I agree with you. I don't know that his homosexuality
has anything to do with it, but it might. I completely
agree that he had no idea what he was exposing, but
was attempting to write an expose. But we all come from
families, gay or straight. Ball just didn't know what
his theme or point were. Why is the American family
falling apart? Is it because the father in most families
wants to have sex with his daughter's friend? Is it
because his wife is having an affair? Is it because
he's buying pot from the neighbor kid? None of these
things. Once he had established a premise, he had no
idea where to go with it. The moment of Chris Cooper
looking through the window, seeing Spacey and his kid
getting stoned, but thinks they're having sex, is one
of the dumbest moments in a drama I've ever enountered.
Chris Cooper coming over and kissing him is the second
dumbest. And Spacey not screwing the blonde girl is
the third dumbest. It's just a dumb, poorly-written
movie, and perfect representation of the time we're
Dear Mr. B,
write more film reviews and essays. My roommate and
I enjoy them so and you haven't written any for a while.
The web needs you!
Sadly, though, all these movies I keep seeing are so
damn awful that all I want to do is immediately put
them out of my head, not sit and analyze them. I watched
"Women in Love" for about the tenth time last
night. I saw it when it came out in 1971, when I was
13, and I thought it was great and it really made me
think. Well, it's still incredibly well-made, and it's
still thought provoking -- and it's visual. I'm sorry,
but no one (including Ken Russell) is making anything
like that anymore. Films that are worth thinking about,
analyzing, going back and seeing again. When I see crap
like "The Center of the World" or "Requiem
for a Dream" I want to get out of movies, resign
from the human race, and go live under a rock. Movies
could not be worse than they are. It's like Chris Gore's
silly review of "Star Wars 5" on Film Threat,
where he says that the reason the "Star Wars"
films are so excellent is because George Lucas uses
every tool available to a filmmaker. Hello! How about
a script? That's the filmmaker's main tool, and Lucas
may as well be wiping his butt with TP, then shooting
it. Who cares if you have a million digital effects
if you don't have a script? But it's all worse than
that. These contemporary movies are all empty at the
centers, and the characters are creepy, shallow, miserable
people. This is a clear representation of our present
society, where life is hollow and empty, and most people
are so stupid and badly educated they're not worth speaking
to. It's all very sad, I think. And the people that
defend this garbage are minions of the devil.
recommend you get into plays and books a bit more, because
the moving image is visual, and films just can't accomplish
as much as plays or books in the areas you are interested
in. If you don't care about cinematography, then you
will find much more fulfilling works outside of the
suggest you see more movies because it's very obvious
you don't know what you're talking about. First of all,
cinematography is about lighting -- that's what the
cinematographer does, the lighting. As far as camera
placement goes, this interests me as much as any director
working, and I'm sure I know more about it in my little
finger than you'll ever know. However, I'm also a writer,
and writing screenplays is about telling stories. Some
stories are more visual than others, but that's not
the main element that a writer works with, it's characters,
motivations, and plots. A camera is a tool that you
use to record your story. If you're only interested
in cinematography, then become a DP. Lighting is neither
the director nor the writer's job.
like an idea...
...except I think Jerry Bruckheimer must have many acts
of violence commited on him...
for nothing except that I've actually heard people refer
to him as a good director....I'm not kidding
he's a producer.
just saw your answer to my last post, and I know what
you mean about fantasy. I'm no "Dungeons and Dragons"
type, myself. Tolkien's works were an exception to the
rule, and there is enough straight drama and action
in them to keep me interested.
In other events, have you seen a little picture called
LOVE AT STAKE? It looks like a U.S./Canadian co-production,
and has no name actors that I can recognize. It's a
campy send-up of the Salem witch trials, which in this
plot are a scheme cooked up by the mayor and the magistrate
to steal land for an urban development deal. The gags
are unpredictable, except for a Thanksgiving scene,
where it looks like the Indians loaded a peace pipe
with some really good hash. It was almost midnight last
night and I was completely exhausted, but this was on
and I stayed up to watch it. It'd be worth checking
out if you're having a bad day.
Some people say that Keanu Reeves represents a move
away from the old Hollywood, beef and brawn action hero,
but I agree with you that he's a creep. Heroes in movies
are supposed to be looked up to, but in Keanu's case,
I just sit there and thing "Damn, he's supposed
to be the hero, and I can kick his ass. That's NOT good."
If there are any geneticists on this web site, please,
I beg of you, clone John Wayne and Lee Marvin, so that
they can come back and open up a can of whup ass on
these new era Hollywood pansies...I, for one, would
be eternally grateful.
was no exception to me. "Love at Stake" looks
amusing. Meanwhile, someone recommended "The Center
of the World," which was really miserable. It redefined
just how long 86 minutes can be. And I feel so bad for
what an actor has to go through to be in a movie, nude
scenes, and masturbating, and stick your naked ass right
into the lens. It's like a half-assed porno film where
everyone's a miserable creep. And what is the point?
That a pretty girl can't love a computer geek, even
if he has $20 million. Yuk!
certainly agree with you about the load that is "American
Beauty," especially because I can't see why Annette
Bening is made to be a villain and Kevin Spacey a hero,
when both are just selfish turds. The only reason Bening's
character has any humanity is because she does her damndest
as an actress to instill some. And let me get flamed,
but I think the writer being gay helps explain some
of this: I really think he doesn't "get" women,
not even a little, and is maybe even afraid of them,
therefore, the "understanding" of Spacey's
juvenile longings but the ludicrous portrayals of the
female characters, which come off to me as "science
fiction" at its worst...plus, the title is a crock
-- put the word "American" before anything
and it sounds significant! "American Outlaws,"
"American Rhapsody," "American History
X," sheesh. You should retitle "Cycles"
"American Cycles" -- see? Now it sounds significant!
writer's sexual orientation means nothing to me, I just
don't like or respect the script.
you tell me what "crime after crime" is before
i read it please?
a rather silly heist comedy, about an old thief and
a young thief.
didn't make sense about 'American Beauty'? I think You're
looking for the wrong things in films. Do you sit in
a cinema or in your living room trying to discover if
the writer stuck to theatre's precious three act structure
or do you actually watch the films? Don't forget film
is a visual medium after all.
in the world of movies would someone's knowledge be
used against them. "Oh, you know too much about
movies to actually enjoy them like a regular person."
The bottom line is that anything that's any good at
all can stand up to some criticism. If it can't stand
up to any criticism, then it's just weak. "American
Beauty" is a weak script. Yes, it may be better
than a lot of other crap right now, but that still doesn't
make it good. By the way, it may very well be a visual
medium, but the feature film is still primarily a narrative
medium -- we're being told a story, about characters
-- it's not just flashing lights and colors. "American
Beauty" is clearly and obviously attempting to
be a narrative story, and failing. Just because you
turn your brain off when you go to a movie doesn't mean
we all do.
Hey Josh, wanna help me drag George Lucas into the streets
and beat him around the head and neck for helping set
back literate film making by decades?
I'm non-violent guy. What we need to do is what my buddy
Bruce suggested: get a leaky little boat, load in Lucas,
Spielberg, Coppola, Ovitz, Eisner, Bruckheimeir, and
Jack Valenti for good measure, push them out to sea,
and bid them bon voyage.
does the short Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter differ
from the script? (or does it?)
should write a Cleveland Smith II
short film is its own animal. We tried to work some
of the images of the short into the feature script,
but they're just different things. The feature is envisioned
with some money, the short was shot in my backyard.
you seen the 1999 film 'A Walk On The Moon'?
so, what did you think?
a pretty well-structured independent that was completely
overlooked in 1999 when it was released.
performances from Diane Lane, Anna Paquin, and Liev
Schreiber and solid direction from Tony Goldwyn (his
first film, I believe).
you haven't seen it, you should add it to your Netflix
on the list. It sounds interesting, but Diane Lane as
a Jew? She couldn't be more gentile. Wow, that's bad
for that, OK I haven't seen Once Upon a Time in America.
As far as movies goes, 100,000 is a heck of a lot of
movies, but I figure your educated guess is probably
as accurate as anyone's ever going to get.
another topic, in 'Bailing on LA' you said your indie
films got you in trouble with the DGA, but you weren't
specific about why. Care to elaborate on that? (Don't
if you don't want to!)
"Running Time" and "If I Had a Hammer"
were made under DGA auspices, and I was signatory to
the DGA, meaning I agreed to follow their rules. On
"Hammer" I then went and idiotically broke
the rules by not offering the 1st and 2nd assistant
director positions to DGA members, which pissed them
off, and rightly so. I will not make that mistake again.
questions regard public filming and lighting.
was the biggest upset you have ever caused making a
movie? I hear on things like Bruckheimer movies, "we
shut down the Bay bridge for two hours." Did I
mishear them? Can you really shut down a major transportation
access in the name of entertainment? And how much does
it cost to do something like that? It must be hard enough
to say, in a small town, "I want this sidewalk
cleared for the day," or something.
when I think about lighting a shot, does the light source
have to be explained? Obviously, you can't get too crazy,
but say you wash some light over an actor's face, then
in the reverse shot, there's no lamp. Is that a problem?
I guess it's like the night scenes, where the lady turns
off the light as she crawls into bed, and it's never
dark. I guess people accept it. Am I right?
don't know how much Bruckhiemer paid to shut down the
Bay Bridge, but I'm sure it was multiple tens of thousands
of dollars. Plus, you then have to hire policemen to
enforce the closure. I've personally never shut anything
major down, but I've had side streets closed down. You
get a permit from the city, post notices of when the
street will be closed, then hire cops to enforce it.
On Sam's film "Crimewave," they shut down
one of the major freeways running into Detroit for a
number of nights, wrecked cars, did stunts, and left
a big burn mark on a cement wall that was there for
years. Meanwhile, regarding lighting, some DPs rationalize
the source of their light -- like it's supposed to be
coming from that window -- but some don't. As far as
a fill light goes, which is what you brought up, that's
just supposed to be the ambient light on the scene anyway,
and really needs no rationale. It always amused me when
we shot in cave sets on Xena and Herc, and the DPs (DOPs
down there) would have a big beam of light coming straight
down from the ceiling, as though there were a skylight
in the cave, and nobody questions it. Quite frankly,
I don't think anyone ever questions the source of the
light. When I was lighting "Evil Dead" I made
no attempt at rationalizing sources, I just put the
lights -- often just one -- where I thought it looked
been sitting on a screenplay I wrote and feel to be
complete. I've changed very little since finishing the
first draft six months ago, and am convinced it will
be my next picture.
there is one thing that is on my mind, for whatever
reasons. It's only 61 pages. I'm convinced it will be
feature length film, probably around 85 minutes +\-.
Since it will be an independent film, I have nobody
to please but myself, however if I were to send it out
to possible SAG actors (or their agents) when financing
falls into place, would the length of the script be
think "Hollywood" screenplays are something
like 110-120 pages. 61 pages is a quick read. Is there
a way people "time" screenplays besides the
director reading it and just picturing it in his mind?
a good one.
basic rule of thumb is that it's a minute a page, and
if it's mostly dialog that's true. If it's mostly action,
however, then it's not true. If a page is a solid description
of action with no dialog, it could run two, three, or
even four minutes. TSNKE was about 75 pages and came
out at 85 minutes, but the end is all action. My scrpt
for RT was 80 pages and came out at 70 minutes, but
it's all dialog and the actors were delivering it in
a hurry. If you're going to send it to Hollywood agents
and such, it really should be at least 90 pages. Break
up the paragraphs more and squish the margins. Good
luck to you.
been following your Q&A pages for a couple of years
now and very interesting they are too. There were a
couple of references to movies that stuck in my memory.
saw a reference a page back to Sergio Leone's 'Once
Upon a time in America', which I don't know. Is that
an alternate title for 'Once Upon a Time in the West'?
If so, I agree with your comment about it being very
slow, especially the first scene at the railroad station,
but I think it had great 'atmosphere'. And Henry Fonda
(I think it was? it's years since I saw it!) looked
really cold and ruthless as the villain.
Vincent Price, who I've always liked, was 'His Kind
of Woman' the movie where the Mexican Chief of Police
in the rowing boat very elaborately calls him a 'ham'?
It always seemed to me that Vincent did rather like
'hamming it up' but there can't be many stars who would
actually permit that to be said onscreen.
mentioned 'Dr Phibes' and its sequel - they were the
first Vincent Price movies I saw, and they were what
I'd call 'comedy horror'. Not to be taken seriously.
What did impress me was the production values, and particularly
the elegance of the sets. They were consciously 'stagey'
I think, but beautifully done. Though I think those
movies come rather close to the category of 'never mind
the story, just look at the lovely sets'.
I have a question for you - how many movies have been
made? Since movies started in 1900 or so, I mean. Just
to make the question answerable, I'd better limit this
a bit - say, to English-language movies that achieved
a cinema release (which leaves out 'TV-movies' and such).
This isn't a trick question or anything, it just occurrred
to me to wonder.
That idiot Michael San Juan who was asking about Xena
Episode "F67" and the invisible scorpion was
trolling you (but you've already figured that out).
That was never in any episode (and unlike you, I have
watched them all). 'Scuse my Xena fixation, I'll try
to keep it under control. <grin>
Upon a Time in America" was Leone's last film,
made in 1984, with Robert DeNiro and James Woods. It
too was way the hell too long (particularly the director's
cut). I recall watching the director's cut on cable
and my dad walked in and sat down. About ten minutes
in he turned to me an asked incredulously, "These
people aren't really supposed to be Jewish, are they?"
I said yes and he snorted, stood and left the room.
Meanwhile, it would be difficult to figure out how many
movies there are out there. The Maltin Guide, and the
others like it, all have about 20,000 movies in them.
But there are thousands of movies not in these books
that have never seen the light of day. There are also
thousands of movies from the silent era that no longer
exist. And then there's all those foreign films. I would
figure that there has to be at least 100,000 feature
movies lurking out there somewhere.
'American Beauty', 'The English Patient'.
Stick that in your pipe and by the way, less profanity
are good characters? You can have them. I didn't even
know the Ralph Feinnes character was supposed to be
Hungarian until the end when it became their big story
twist. And I'm not impressed with any of the characterization
(or any of the writing) in "American Beauty"
-- I didn't believe it and it didn't make sense. It
was interesting having Spacey's father character walk
in at the beginning, say he quit his job, and now everyone
has to fend for themselves, but I don't think the writer
had a clue where that was going or who this character
was from there on out. And, once again, him not having
sex with the blonde girl is a HUGE cop-out, done exclusively
to be PC, and because Spielberg was the producer. And
all the homosexual stuff with Chris Cooper was severely
stupid. So far your examples don't impress me. I apologize
for swearing, but I believe all of you anti-structure,
anti-knowing-what-you're-doing-as-a-writer people are
the forces of darkness come to ruin movies.
saw "Apocalypse Now" on your favorite films
list, so I was wondering...what do you think of the
"Apocalypse Now Redux" version? I heard they
added a bunch of scenes to it and that it's well over
3 1/2 hours now.
question, more about the writing side...how important
is having dynamic characters? There have been a few
classic films, like "Night of the Living Dead",
for instance, where the characters pretty much stay
the same throughout the movie. But on the other hand,
isn't change what the movies are all about?
characters are crucial. I don't think "Night of
the Living Dead" is a particularly good example
of writing, although it is a good example of low-budget
filmmaking. Meanwhile, I saw the "Redux" cut
of "Apocalypse Now" in 1979 before the film
actually opened, and was seriously bored. I thought
the edited-down version was far superior. I've tried
twice now to watch "Redux" on TV and keep
spot on assessment of Wyler's superiority over Capra.
scenes in the kitchen and the bomb shelter in Mrs Miniver
are so rattling as to be upsetting; I cannot imagine
Capra achieving an outcome even close to what Wyler
was able to achieve.
enjoyable site, thank you.
could do what he did quite well, which was called Capra-corn,
but he didn't have much range. Wyler was the guy with
the biggest range, who succeeded at most everything
going through your list of reading materials, and I
was curious if you read either of the relatively recent
Welles biographies by David Thomson and Simon Callow?
The Thomson one is pretentious and too self-conscious,
but isn't "against" our hero, while the Callow
one is exhaustive (only from birth to "Kane")
and immensley involving, if a little too much in the
Houseman-as-hero camp to make me a full fan. If only
having time for one, I'd choose the Callow, but having
read as much if not more about Welles as you, I still
found both books amazingly interesting and offering
bits I hadn't heard before.
have you read any biographies of Abraham Lincoln? I
want too, as I feel I don't know nearly enough about
the guy, but don't know what might be the "right"
one to take a look at. Any suggestions?
also recommend Don Delilo's masterful (and not too long)"Mao
II" (and I think he writes a lot of junk) and any/all
of Chester Himes' Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones novels
in Harlem, I think in these he offers more social commentary
and insight into the complicated Harlem culture of the
time than any "straight" novels (including
his own), and the level of detail and energy (and sex
and violence and humor) is astounding...
to your interest in entertainment history I'd also recommend
the two volumes of the "I Spy" dvds (21 &
22) which are exclusively the episodes Robert Culp wrote
himself (and are clearly the best episodes of the series)...he
does a commentary on both that covers the history of
the show and the specifics of his career that are frank,
incredibly informative, and well-presented. I wasn't
a huge "fan" of the show, but I saw these
and really enjoy them-- I bet he had a book proposal
(or really really prepared himself) re: the amount of
detail he offers regarding shooting this one-of-a-kind
show (the first casually assertive dramatic black character
in television, maybe film, history; doing location footage
in exotic locations for 3 months ,then returning and
doing all the studio stuff for all the episodes months
later!). A lifelong student of film history I think
would really find them at least worth a Netflix rental.
for the suggestion of the Callow Welles book, I'll read
it. I liked the Barbra Leaming book on Welles quite
a bit. No suggestions for a book on Lincoln. I'm reading
an interesting book now called "Founding Brothers"
about Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison,
and Burr, and how they affected one another. Very interesting.
Apparently, the history channel has made some kind of
show out of it. I liked "I Spy" as a kid when
it was originally on.
I read "Judas" to see what what's-his-name
was complaining about. Personally, I had two concerns
about the story. First, mentioning Lazarus was too coincidental
unless he were known for something else; i.e. "the
well-known agitator, Lazarus." Otherwise it seems
to stand out too much, if you get my meaning. Second,
I think Father McPhillip, as a scholar of early Christian
texts, would have considered the possibility that his
scroll was apocryphal. There were certainly any number
of such works in a variety of guises. Jewish literary
traditions from the third century BCE would allow an
author to write in someone else's name if he thought
to write in the spirit of that person. The various Isaiah
authors fall into this category. McPhillip would have
There is an interesting book by Stephen Wylan called
"The Jews in the Time of Jesus" which deals
with how a figure such as Jesus was dealt with in the
Jewish context. He was not the only Holy Man claiming
or being attributed a special relationship with God
and Judaism had a niche for such people.
Finally, just a thought on the issue. I think that even
were there no reason to doubt the veracity of the scroll,
a reason would be invented. "Truth" is usually
valued more highly than fact. If anything, such a document
would be most likely, I think, to spawn new denominations.
Thanks as always,
for the thoughtful critique.
you believe in writing goals down? Where do you see
yourself 5 years from now? If your personality keeps
you from your ultimate goal/dream in life, then why
don't you change it? I mean, hell, learning to get along
with people (and even perhaps shmoozing a little like
Sam does) seems like a small price to pay to make movies.
After you reach a certain point where people will greenlight
your projects, then you can become antagonistic again.
Just my opinion, which means absolutely nothing.
you much happiness and success,
doesn't work that way. A leopard doesn't shed its spot
when it's convenient. I've always had far too much respect
for the truth to be a schmoozer, which is another word
for a liar. To schmooz you have to be able to look people
right in the eye and flat-out lie to them. It doesn't
interest me. If you have no scruples left once you've
climbed the ladder of success, you've left yourself
nothing. Besides, liars will never make good art, which
is always a search for the truth. It's the irony of
is it about "The Bridge on the River Kwai"
that grabs you? Did you happen to catch the documentary
on the Dicovery Channel last night about Devil's Island?
It was pretty interesting.
I missed it. What do I like about "Bridge on the
River Kwai"? It's brilliant on every level -- the
script, the direction, the acting, the photography --
and it's deeply ironic, which tickles me.
didn't you answer my question about applying for a grant?
It seemed like a thoughtful question.
was, sorry, but I'm not going to do it. I think my book
turned out okay and now I'll see if I can get it published.
smucture when you ain't got a good story with interesting
characters. Something which all of the films you like
to complain about tend to have.
you the witty one. Give an example or shut the fuck
remembered while I was watching THE FRIGHTENERS that
it was filmed in New Zealand, and commenting at the
time that it looked just like America (I'm starting
to see why filmakers love New Zealand so much). You
mentioned that it was a Peter Jackson film, which led
me to wonder if you had seen LORD OF THE RINGS yet?
I remember that you expressed some doubts about seeing
it awhile back, but I do recommend it. It follows the
books pretty closely (but not TOO closely; no HARRY
POTTER dragging out here), so it doesn't go too far
wrong in terms of story. The thing that I found most
compelling about the film is that I cared about the
characters; they had enough depth to them to allow that,
which is rare in fantasy or science fiction (all too
often, the writer gets so carried away with creating
this fantastic world of his, that he pencils in two-dimensional
characters, as a token nod to the plot). It was also
filmed in New Zealand (are the locations there really
so varied?), which made for some outstanding visuals.
And most important of all, it doesn't overdue it with
the CGI or the effects. I'll grant you that the film
does have alot of effects, but every example that I
saw was necessary to the plot; there were no gratuitous,
"Wouldn't it be cool if we did this?!" shots.
If it's still playing in a theater near you, I will
go so far as to say that it is worth a viewing on the
Another classic western line is the one in THE WAR WAGON,
where, in a surprise gunfight, John Wayne and Kirk Douglas
(10,000 times better than his wussy son Michael) gun
down the two hired thugs who try to kill them (one of
them a very young Bruce Dern). Kirk says to John "Mine
hit the ground first." To which John replies "Mine
was taller." How did we ever go from heroes like
that to Keanu Reeves?
don't know, is Keanu Reeves a hero? He seems like a
creep. He plays one pretty well. I'll catch "Lord
of the Rings" on DVD when it comes out. It looks
miserable and painful to me. I couldn't even read the
books as a kid. I was a serious straight science fiction
fan -- Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Ellison -- hobbits
with furry ears held (and holds) no interest for me.
My inner child grew up and is an adult now.
written junk. You would not believe it, I am sure, but
Judas has already given his account. And is continuing.
Maybe one day you will read the book.
assume you're referring to my story, "The Gospel
According to Judas." Did Judas write a book I didn't
know about, or are you referring to the bible? In which
case, I suppose you mean the sequel, the new testament
(if The Book of Mormon is part III, maybe the next one
will be called The Bible Part I: God, the Phantom Menace).
first question, do you still smoke weed? i've been smoking
for a long time now and since i'm a writer too, the
smoking does good things with my creative process. my
second question, do you ever come up with fascinating
ideas when you're stoned?
I smoke weed, and yes, I think I come up with interesting
ideas when I'm stoned (which may or may not actually
be interesting). Pot is the only drug that holds any
interest for me.
do you think of the Coen brothers movies? Did you work
with Joel Coen at all on " The Evil Dead "?
other question: do the Coens adhere to the three act
structure in your opinion?
you're something of a newcomer to this website. This
is a recurring argument that really wearies me. No,
I don't like the Coen bros. films, nor do they have
the slightest clue about script structure, theme, irony,
nor do any of their films ever have a point. What they
do have is a nice sense of composition and they always
make sure to work with terrific cinematographers, like
Roger Deacon. I do like "Fargo," I must admit,
although I certainly don't think it's a great film,
nor do I think Fran McDormand is all that great in it.
William Macy is very good, as is Steve Buscemi. But
films like "Miller's Crossing," "Barton
Fink," "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou" were
just painful for me to sit through. And i guess you
could say Joel Coen and I worked together in that we
both worked on "Evil Dead," but I was on the
production, and he was in post-production as the assistant
editor. I've met he and Ethan a number of times, but
I don't know them.
like that line from THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES myself. Isn't
there another scene (in the saloon, when they finally
get to Texas) where the other bounty hunter walks out
of the saloon with his partner, then comes back in?
The line as I remember, was "I had to come back."
Clint replies, "Yeah. I know" and they fight
it out. That moment always struck me, because of the
bounty hunter. He realized that there was nothing out
that door for him, and that he would more than likely
get killed, but he had to go back in and face down Josey
Wales. But I digress (sorry again; just call me Tangent
I was wondering if you saw a little film called THE
FRIGHTENERS. I happened to catch it on HBO the other
night, and I don't recall it ever being released. The
basic plot is this: Michael J. Fox is a seedy psychic
investigator (who, oddly enough, can really see and
speak with ghosts) who enlists his ghostly friends to
haunt houses, then comes in and gets paid to "drive
out" the spirits. It gets interesting when he starts
seeing people with numbers carved in their foreheads,
numbers no one else can see. The marked individual soon
die, seemingly of heart attacks. The only other actor
in it that I recognize is Jake Busey, Gary Busey's son.
It was definitely a B movie, but it was interesting.
It's worht a try for a little escapist entertainment.
I just ordered RUNNING TIME and THOU SHALT NOT KILL...EXCEPT.
Hopefully, I'll get them in a few days.
also like the line in "Josey Wales" where
Clint sneaks up behind Chief Dan George, puts a pistol
to his head and rasps, "I thought you weren't supposed
to be able to sneak up on Indians." Chief Dan George
says, "Are you kidding? White men have been sneaking
up on Indians for years." And yes, I have seen
"Frighteners," which, by the way, was written
and directed by Peter ("Lord of the Rings")
Jackson. I thought it had a terrible tone problem --
is it a horror film or is it a comedy? I think it fails
on both counts, but it did have a few eerie moments.
It also has a number of actors I know in it, like Anthony
Ray Parker, who's a big black American actor that lives
in New Zealand and played the minotaur in the Hercules
film I directed. There are a few other Herc and Xena
actors in it, too, because it was shot down there. And
thanks for supporting the cause, I hope you enjoy the
all the hype over the new Star Wars, it got me thinking
back to a question that I could never find the answer
to. If Alec Guinness hated his dialouge in Star Wars
then how did Lucas ever get him for the film in the
first place? I'm assuming it wasn't money considering
Star Wars was fairly low budget.
probably be wrong. I have no doubt that Alec Guinness
took the role strictly for money. Lucas's people contacted
Guinness's agent, they stated a price, Lucas agreed,
there you go. $10 million may not sound like much now
(it does to me), but it was worth quite a bit more in
1976 (when they shot the film). Consider that "Heaven's
Gate," which cost $40 million in 1980, was the
most expensive movie ever at the time. And Mr. Guinness
wasn't working all that much at the time and had bills
name is Marta Kamienska and I come from Poland (oh my
God, I sounds like David's Cooperfield - "I was
born, I grown up..."). I have university education.
I've just taken Silesia University (Film and Television
Organizating post graduate course) and I can work as
a Production Menager. Of course, as everywhere in Europe
first I have to be an assistant, than the second Production
Menager to grow Production Menager.While I was studing
on University I've started to wark in Warsaw Film Studio
called Akson Studio which cooperates with Mr. Andzrej
Wajda, Pawel Edelman and many more. In Akson Studio
(where I still work) I was an assistant of Production
Menager in tv serials and tv movies. The most importand
experience was the latest big movie Andrzej Wajda called
"The Vengance" with Roman Polanski, Andrzej
Seweryn and Daniel Olbrychski.It was a great honour
for me to workin this film as an Assistant of Production
But now I know that I want more...
I'm elastic, open mind young person (I'm only 22 years
old)I knoe 2 languages - English, German and Polish
of course)If you let me to work for you I will com as
soon as possible. Please answer me.
certainly wish you all the best in your career, but
I have no jobs to offer. When I do make a film, since
I am a member of the DGA, I must use DGA assistant directors
and production managers. If you want to work in the
U.S., you may want to look into joing the DGA (www.dga.org).
is, in your opinion, the best example of a festival
don't know about "the best," but I think "Stranger
Than Paradise" is a good example. So is "Pi."
fully understand the power of a three-act structure.
If a person can't write dialog, great characters, etc.,
then the least they can do is make sure that the script
has a main character who follows the arc of "propose
problem, complicate problem, solve problem," will
have a movie that is tolerable. The best thing that
comes out of the structure is that the audience knows
when the movie will end. They won't get bored stiff.
I don't see how mastering the skills allows someone
to move beyond them. What do you see in a unstructured
script that is written by a master that you don't see
in an unstructured script that is written by a hack?
is only a good example of someone who could do both,
not someone who spent his latter days creating masterpieces
that had some hint of the basics, thus making it acceptable
for him to transcend the basics; in my opinion, he spent
his life "ingesting" all he could about real
art, which included composition, then he shit it all
out onto a canvas or whatever else he used. The former
doesn't excuse the latter.
was a great artist and a great innovator. Whatever he
did was worth paying attention to, whether you like
it or not, because it came from his incredibly deep
mind. I don't expect anyone, no matter how much training
they have, to come up with a "better" way
to tell a story than in three acts, because that's just
how stories come out. Just like there's no better way
to tell a joke than set-up, pay-off. That's how they
work. However, if there are ever going to be any worthwhile
attempts at telling stories differently, they will have
to come from the educated, not from the merely enthusiastic.
you ever seen Sergio Leone's film Once Upon a Time In
America? What did you think?
Also, what would you say are the most important films
of the 70s?
seen it a couple of times. It's loaded with cool, interesting
shots and moments, has a terrific cast, and makes very
interesting use of the wide-screen. Ultimately, though,
it's WAY too long, and has a very slow pace.
As for the most important movies of the 1970s, sheesh!
That's a big list. Let's see . . . (This is in chronological
order, not of importance):
"Five Easy Pieces"
"Women in Love"
"A Clockwork Orange"
"The Last Picture Show"
"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"
"Last Tango in Paris"
"The Last Detail"
"The Godfather Part II"
"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
"A Woman Under the Influence"
"Day For Night"
"Hearts and Minds"
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
"All the President's Men"
"Harlan County, U.S.A"
"Saturday Night Fever"
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
"Kramer Vs. Kramer"
"The Tin Drum"
really contradicted herself there. First she says film
is a business, and the people who have the most money
have the best films, then she says that film is an art.
Well, no studio film is going to allow the writer/director
complete creative control, unless your name is Coen,
Allen, Speilberg, etc. I'm sure some of the biggest
money makers out there probably had the final cut re-edited
by the studio, thus undermining all the "creative
And here's a petty correction that bugs me, it's not
"know one," it's "no one," okay
cat? "No one" will give Josh the time of day.
Anyway, here's a question. I just got Casablanca on
DVD and they had a short documentary on the film. I
knew the Epstien brothers wrote most of the script,
but I didn't know they pulled in a different writer
for the romantic parts, and a few various other parts,
too. Do you think the reason that that movie turned
out so good from re-writes, but other movies go horribly
bad (as in "Monsterization")
is that the studios cared more, or is it because most
of the writers that worked in that era just knew their
writers then knew their stuff. The guy that came in
to punch the script up was Howard Koch, who also wrote
"The Sea Hawk," "The Letter" (for
my man William Wyler), "Sergeant York" and
"Three Strangers" (both with John Huston).
He also wrote the "War of the Worlds" radio
broadcast for Orson Welles. Meanwhile, the Epstein brothers
were just top-notch writers that wrote many terrific
pictures together and seperately, like "Yankee
Doodle Dandy," "Four Daughters" and "Light
in the Piazza" (a film I really like). But it wasn't
like the Epsteins actually worked with Koch, it was
all seperate. The Epsteins left to do war work and Koch
was brought in, and he really did do a lot of work on
the script. The Epsteins were very good at dialog and
comedy, Koch was very good at story construction. Miraculously,
it all came together.
curious. How do you keep track of all your ideas? Do
you focus on one idea for a screenplay at a time, or
do you write more than one? The reason why I'm asking
is because I have too many ideas for my own good and
I don't know what to do with all of them. I've written
them down on looseleef but I can't focus on one thing
in particular with more ideas in my head. Do you ever
get this problem? If so, how do you overcome it? Any
advice would be helpful.
There are some surprisingly good films you should check
out. There's "Rounders", "Insomnia"
(the original version), and "Following". There
is also another film that you should check out if you
can find it. It is called "Scrapbook" and
it is one of the most disturbing, shocking, and scary
films you will ever see in your entire life. I'm serious,
if you thought "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was
disturbing or story, you thought wrong. "Scrapbook"
is a great study in survival and it is far from exploitation.
If you see them, let me know what you think.
they're on the Netflix list, except "Scrapbook,"
which wasn't listed. I sure hope "Following"
is better than "Memento," which I found to
be pure misery. I watched "Romper Stomper,"
at someone's suggestion, and it was also a big nothing.
So far, all of these contemporary films I've been watching
have terrible scripts. That's why I keep pushing the
concepts of structure, theme, and irony, because that's
how you write a better script and go deeper into your
subject and characters. Just saying that skinheads fight
Asians means nothing. Is there a point? Does this mean
something? Just like having your story go backward --
which was done better by Harold Pinter in "Betrayal"
in 1983 -- means nothing if the story isn't any good
going forward. At least Pinter used it for the sake
of irony. Anyway, you have too many good ideas? That's
a problem? Here's a simple view of life, writers write.
And to write you must entirely focus on one idea. So,
choose the idea you like best, focus in and write it.
Having hundreds of good ideas doesn't mean anything
if you can't write them. Good luck.
Howdy there, just a response to cat.
You said that film-making is a business, then you define
it as art. Which is it? Art is not business (well, not
fine art as opposed to commercial art). "Art"
created solely for the buck does not exist. Art can
be successful financially of course, but it is not the
Oy, again with the nay to structure stuff. The Picasso
arguement is incorrect. Picasso's father had him do
hundreds upon hundreds of sketches of birds before he
would let him touch paint. (Or something like that,
I forget the exact story.)
general I wish people would name the movies that ignored
the three act structure that went on to success. From
the sound of it this would be every second movie out
there. An arguement isn't an arguement without examples,
it's just name-calling.
terms of the necessity of the basics, if an architect
throws the basics out the window and just goes for something
pretty, his/her ceilings are going to squish a lot of
people. Even Franklin Lloyd Wright's work leaked.
Picasso example is perfect. He was such a fine craftsman
that he was able to take art to new places. He was so
inventive by the end that he could take a bicycle's
handlebars and mount them above a bicycle seat, call
it a bull, and damn if it doesn't look just like a bull.
Or his "Don Quixote," which is about six slashes
of black paint on white, and it's very definitely Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza. As for film being art, I think
it has reached that level, but not frequently. I don't
think a film has really risen to the level of art in
years. But it's just like any other craft, like architecture
or furniture design, it's generally not art, it's most
often a utilitarian form, but it occasionally rises
above that. Here are some examples: "The Magnificent
Ambersons," "The Best Years of Our Lives,"
"Bonne and Clyde," "The Last Picture
Show," "From Here to Eternity."
just saw your answer, and I didn't know Victor McLaughlin's
son directed "McLintock!" The lead in to the
mud pit scene was great (another great John Wayne scene
was in RIO BRAVO, when he and Dean Martin go into the
saloon after the gunman, and one of the disarmed thugs
starts reaching for his pistol on the floor, only to
be deterred by John Wayne. The Duke just looks at him
and says "Go ahead and pick it up. I wish you would."
and the thug backs off. I love scenes like that..)...Anyway,
I liked FATHER GOOSE, too (the gag where the Royal Navy
captain hides Cary's whiskey bottles in exchange for
information on the enemy is great), as well as another
film in a similar vein, OPERATION PETTICOAT (to this
day, Tony Curtis calls that his favorite film, as Cary
Grant was his idol growing up). Damn, I digress again..
Alright, here goes; the actually question or bust: last
night, some friends of mine and I went to Dudleytown,
which is the site of an old town here in Connecticut,
abandoned and in ruins (just overgrown cellar holes,
and a few stone walls, all buried in Mohawk State Forest).
The place is supposedly cursed, and indeed, the place
was abandoned in the late 1800's, as too many people
died, went bankrupt, or met untimely deaths there. It
was eerie, but we took some photos (at midnight, nonetheless)
and hauled ass out of there.
That got me thinking about spirit photography, which
is the process of capturing a spirit image, or "ghost"
on film (supposedly it's not really photography at all,
as the spirit chooses to psychically imprint it's image
on the film, rather than the image being captured normally).
With that in mind, I was wondering if you knew of any
films that are rumored to have spirit images on them?
This of course, rules out that whole story about the
supposed ghost on "Three Men and a Baby"...
It may seem like a strange thing to be interested in,
but there are a pair of famous paranormal investigators
here in Connecticut named Ed and Lorraine Warren, who
give lectures at all the colleges around here during
the Halloween season. The lectures are very popular
and I've been attending them for about five years now,
so I decided to give ghost photography a try. I have
heard off and on about films that were supposedly "haunted",
so I figured that if anyone would know of a few examples
of such, it would be you. Most of the examples of such
phenomena out there are either taken by accident or
are documentary shots taken by researchers, and I was
wondering if anything was ever photographed in a cinematic
Darryl "I assure you, I'm
not weird" Mesaros
not really one for paranormal stuff, and I do recommend
reading a few issues of the Skeptical Inquirer. Nevertheless,
my friend showed me a TV report about these weird flying
tube-like items that have been caught on film several
times, once during the making of "Braveheart."
I have no more information than that. Another great
western line is in "The Outlaw Josey Wales"
where Clint comes upon a bounty hunter and asks, "You
a bounty hunter?" The guys says, "It's a living."
Clint sneers, "Dyin' ain't much of a livin'."