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

Dear Josh,

I 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?

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. I also bought RUNNING TIME, and will probably see it tonight or tomorrow at the latest.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

I'm 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.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

I 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.

Dear Kevin:

Then I do, too.

Josh

Name: Jim K
E-mail: jimfk@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Regarding 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 movie.

Dear Jim:

No, 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 living in.

Josh

Name: Worm
E-mail: wormmiller@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. B,

Please 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!

Thanks

Dear Worm:

Thanks. 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.

Josh

Name: Ron
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I 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 cinematic field.

Dear Ron:

I 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.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespyhtatshagsu@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

Sounds like an idea...


...except I think Jerry Bruckheimer must have many acts of violence commited on him...

If for nothing except that I've actually heard people refer to him as a good director....I'm not kidding

Dear Kevin:

Except he's a producer.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I 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.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. 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.

D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

Tolkein 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!

Josh

Name: Jim K
E-mail: jimfk@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I 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!

Dear Jim:

The writer's sexual orientation means nothing to me, I just don't like or respect the script.

Josh

Name: Donna
E-mail:

dear josh,

can you tell me what "crime after crime" is before i read it please?

Dear Donna:

It's a rather silly heist comedy, about an old thief and a young thief.

Josh

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

Josh,

What 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.

Rob.

Dear Rob:

Only 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.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

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?

Dear Kevin:

No, 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.

Josh

Name: Stryker
E-mail: :)

Dear Josh,

How does the short Cleveland Smith, Bounty Hunter differ from the script? (or does it?)

P.S.

You should write a Cleveland Smith II

Dear Stryker:

The 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.

Josh

Name: John Dranschak
E-mail: Dranscript@aol.com

Josh -

Have you seen the 1999 film 'A Walk On The Moon'?

If so, what did you think?

My thoughts:

It's a pretty well-structured independent that was completely overlooked in 1999 when it was released.

Wonderful performances from Diane Lane, Anna Paquin, and Liev Schreiber and solid direction from Tony Goldwyn (his first film, I believe).

If you haven't seen it, you should add it to your Netflix list.

Best,

John Dranschak

Dear John:

It's on the list. It sounds interesting, but Diane Lane as a Jew? She couldn't be more gentile. Wow, that's bad casting.

Josh

Name: cr
E-mail: cr@orcon.net.nz

Hi Josh

Thanks 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.

On 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!)

Regards

Chris

Dear Chris:

Both "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.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Josh,

My questions regard public filming and lighting.

What 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.

Also, 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?

Ben

Dear Ben:

I 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 cool.

Josh

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

Josh,

I've 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.

However, 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 a problem?

I 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?

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

The 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.

Josh

Name: cr
E-mail: cr@orcon.net.nz

Hi Josh

I've 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.

I 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.

Regarding 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.

You 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'.

Anyway, 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.

Regards

Chris

P.S. 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>

Dear Chris:

"Once 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.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Example? 'American Beauty', 'The English Patient'.
Stick that in your pipe and by the way, less profanity please.

Rob.

Dear Rob:

Those 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.

Josh

Name: Nick
E-mail: HandfulofGuitar@aol.com

Hey Josh!

I 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.

Another 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?

- Nick

Dear Nick:

Dynamic 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 bailing out.

Josh

Name: Adam Owens
E-mail: adam.owens@aph.gov.au

Dear Josh:

Absolutely spot on assessment of Wyler's superiority over Capra.

The 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.

Very enjoyable site, thank you.

Dear Adam:

Capra 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 he tried.

Josh

Name: Jim Kenney
E-mail: jimfk@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Just 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.

Also, 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?

I'd 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...

Related 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.

Dear Jim:

Thanks 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.

Josh

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

Josh,

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 known this.

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,

John

Dear John:

Thanks for the thoughtful critique.

Josh

Name: RogerDodger
E-mail: rogerc@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Do 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.

wishing you much happiness and success,
R

Dear Rodger:

It 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 life.

Josh

Name: Steven
E-mail:

Josh,

What 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.

Dear Steven:

Nope, 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.

Josh

Name: Rocko
E-mail:

Josh,

Why didn't you answer my question about applying for a grant? It seemed like a thoughtful question.

Best,
Rocko

Dear Rocko:

It 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.

Josh

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

Josh,

Structure 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.

Dear Rob:

Aren't you the witty one. Give an example or shut the fuck up.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I 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 big screen.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. 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?

D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

I 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.

Josh

Name: Geoff
E-mail: gcutler@bigpond.net.au

Dear Josh:

Well 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.

Regards,
Geoff.

Dear Geoff:

I 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).

Josh

Name: Eric Rossi
E-mail: eriCMan69@excite.com

Dear Josh:

my 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?

Dear Eric:

Yes, 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.

Josh

Name: Ed
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What do you think of the Coen brothers movies? Did you work with Joel Coen at all on " The Evil Dead "?

One other question: do the Coens adhere to the three act structure in your opinion?

Ed

Dear Ed:

Clearly 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.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I 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 Man)...
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.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. I just ordered RUNNING TIME and THOU SHALT NOT KILL...EXCEPT. Hopefully, I'll get them in a few days.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

I 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 films.

Josh

Name: J.C. Denton
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

With 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.

Dear J.C:

You'd 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 to pay.

Josh

Name: Marta Kamienska
E-mail: marta.kamienska@mediafilm.pl

Hello.

My 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 Menager.
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.

Dear Marta:

I 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).

Josh

Name: Michael
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What is, in your opinion, the best example of a festival film?

Dear Michael:

I don't know about "the best," but I think "Stranger Than Paradise" is a good example. So is "Pi."

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Josh,

I 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.

However, 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?

Picasso 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.

Ben

Dear Ben:

Picasso 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.

Josh

Name: enrique
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

Have 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?

Dear Enrique:

I've 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"
"M*A*S*H"
"Patton"
"Women in Love"
"Woodstock"
"A Clockwork Orange"
"The Last Picture Show"
"The Conformist"
"Cabaret"
"Deliverance"
"The Godfather"
"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"
"The Exorcist"
"Last Tango in Paris"
"The Last Detail"
"Papillion"
"Chinatown"
"The Conversation"
"The Godfather Part II"
"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
"A Woman Under the Influence"
"Day For Night"
"Blazing Saddles"
"Phase IV"
"Hearts and Minds"
"Jaws"
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
"Shampoo"
"Dersu Uzala"
"All the President's Men"
"Network"
"Rocky"
"Taxi Driver"
"Carrie"
"The Shootist"
"Harlan County, U.S.A"
"Annie Hall"
"Saturday Night Fever"
"Star Wars"
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
"Autumn Sonata"
"Apocalypse Now"
"Kramer Vs. Kramer"
"Manhattan"
"Best Boy"
"The Tin Drum"

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

Cat 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 minds" involved.
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 stuff?

Thanks,
David

Dear David:

The 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.

Josh

Name: Robbie Rehill
E-mail: robbreHill@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I'm 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.

P.S. 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.

Thanks,
Robbie

Dear Robbie:

Okay, 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.

Josh

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

Howdy there, just a response to cat.

1. 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 original purpose.

2. 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.)

In 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.

It 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.

Dear Dan:

The 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."

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I 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 digress....
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 film.

Yours truly,
Darryl "I assure you, I'm
not weird" Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

I'm 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'."

Josh


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