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Page 70

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

Dear Josh,

I haven't seen APACHE, but I put it on the Netflix list. I also had down SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, which I've already seen and want to see again. I agree: Burt Lancaster was great in every part he played. I saw him portray Jim Thorpe in that bio-pic of his life (was it JIM THORPE: ALL AMERICAN, or something like that?), and he is quite believable when portraying an Indian. He is one of the few white actors who have pulled this off convincingly (Jack Palance was great as an Apache in BROKEN ARROW, especially in that scene where he takes his hat off and shakes out his long hair; and Paul Newman was very good in HOMBRE. However, I couldn't get into Dustin Hoffman's performance in LITTLE BIG MAN). I most recently saw Burt in AIRPORT, and he was great in that, as well. Can you think of a less than average Burt Lancaster performance? I honestly can't; he's one of those actors that make any film watchable when they're in it.
Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

I love "Airport," it's the kind of movie I miss most, a big, adult, all-star Hollywood spectacle, that's not stupid. It was made by one of my favorite filmmakers, George Seaton, who wrote and directed it and he was already in his 70s. And the film has a great pace. No, I don't think Burt ever gave a bad performance. I just bought the DVD of "Marty," which Lancaster produced, and he stars in the trailer, "Hi, I'm Burt Lancaster, and I'd like to tell you about a new picture I just made. It's Called 'Marty,' and I think it's something special . . ." BTW, Dustin Hoffman isn't supposed to be a real Indian in "Little Big Man," he's a white guy living with the Indians. And as for whites playing Native Americans, I particularly enjoy Jeff Chandler as Cochise in "Broken Arrow." Also, Ricardo Montalban made a good Indian in "Cheyenne Autumn," as did Gilbert Roland and Sal Mineo.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

The "Devil Dogs" script is excellent. I remember you saying in your "Blackhawk Down" review that you CAN keep large numbers of soldiers unique and with different personalities and still have the audience know who each and every one of them is. At the time, I wasn't so sure, but you've definitely accomplished that with this script. It looks like the kind of film that'd be high budget...you never know, it could happen. I always think of it like this: if "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a major TV series, then absolutely ANYTHING can happen. And, on top of that, if "Devil Dogs" gets made, you know you can run rampant with the blood and gore because this event really happened. For whatever reason, the MPAA seems to be fine as long as its real people who died.

A recent war film that I liked was "Enemy at the Gates". What did you think of this movie? It's billed as "The Most Triumphant War Film Since 'Saving Private Ryan'", but in my opinion it's head and shoulders over "Saving Private Ryan".

Also, glad to hear about your new film project...I wish you the best of luck.

- Nick

Dear Nick:

I'm pleased you enjoyed "Devil Dogs," which was by the far the most difficult script I've ever written. I'd need at least $15-20 million to do it right, I think. I haven't seen "Enemy at the Gates," but it's now on my Netflix list.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Bruce Campbell in a gay sex scene? Now that one I did NOT see coming... Speaking of Linklater, I enjoyed SLACKER (I had a professor in an English class at UCONN who was so enamored of the film that she bought his written treatment of it and had us read it as a literary work, preceding a screening of the film). If TAPE is on NETFLIX, I'll put it on my list.
Have you seen VALDEZ IS COMING, with Burt Lancaster? Of all the revenge films, I think this one may be the most satisfying. It doesn't overdue the "man with a past" set-up, although Burt switches gears from unassuming Mexican peon to blood and guts ex-cavalry scout with an agenda pretty quickly. Just a thought for the ever exapanding NETFLIX list.
Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

I saw "Valdez is Coming" in the theater when it came out. I've seen it many times since, too. He can make the switch quickly because he'd already made once before, when he became a cavalry scout when he was younger. Switching back is perfectly believable. It's all there in the shot of opening his trunk. Have you ever seen "Apache"? I pretty much love Burt Lancaster in everything.

Josh

Name: joseph lewis
E-mail: thebalticsea@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Making movie, need "bullet just hit me" effect like you had in Running Time eg exploding-type bullet wound. where do i acquire/how do i make? thanks. i dug running time.

Dear Joe:

I'm a fan of your namesake, the B-director, Joseph Lewis ("Gun Crazy"). How did we do the bullet hits, or squibs as they call them? I hired a professional pyrotechnician, who then purchased actual squibs, and set up a system whereby the actors had the detonators on them and set the squibs off themselves with hidden button in their palms, thus not having to be connected by wires to car batteries.

Josh

Name: Dave
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

I was just curious what you have against Dog Day Afternoon, its not on your favorite films list. Also, that new horror movie sounds like a great idea, and definitely one you could sell, but I strongly recommend changing the name, "Terrified!" sounds like a theme park ride.

Dear Dave:

It's a working title. Without a title, you haven't got a project. Meanwhile, "Dog Day Afternoon" is okay, but I never loved it. It just all feels so stuck in that bank, and I never bought that Pacino and Cazale were actually gay. For Pacino movies of that period, I'll take "Serpico."

Josh

Name: Poop
E-mail:

Dear J,

Exactly what part of the edge are you directing from? What if a large gale were to occur, couldn't you possibly fall off? Why must you put yourself in such grave danger?
P.S.- What festivals did you send hammer to this time?

Dear Poop:

I believe I've already toppled off the edge, and now I'm free-falling. I sent it to: Austin, Ashland, Boston, and New York. However, my record for getting into festivals isn't so good.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

How was your Memorial Day weekend? I watched RUNNING TIME yesterday and thought that it was excellent. As much as I liked TSNKE, RUNNING TIME was a far superior film. The only part that I couldn't watch easily was Bruce Campbell's sex scene with Anita Barone, which was due to the fact that I've never seen him do one in any other film, and wasn't prepared for it (it was kind of like catching my dad having sex...brrrr!). At any rate, I enjoyed the film a great deal. That makes 2 out of 4 on the Josh Becker playlist for me. Is LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY available on DVD?
Congratulations on your new film project! I wish you luck, and will look forward to seeing it. Do you think you'll post the script here on the website when it's completed?

Best Wishes,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. I know you're not a terribly big fan of Richard Linklater, but there is a quote from SLACKER that you would appreciate: Nil illegitimus carborundum (roughly translated: "Don't let the bastards grind you down!"). That one has saved me from punching out the boss at work on a few occassions.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

I guess I am sort of a Linklater fan, since I did watch "Tape" twice and enjoyed it both times. And I liked what he was up to in "Slacker." "Waking Life" doesn't sound like it will be my cup of tea, but when I get a chance I'll see it. Regarding RT, when I gave Bruce the script I thought he'd turn it down due to the sex scene, but he never had a problem with it. Since then, however, he's done gay sex scenes on "Beggars & Choosers" on Showtime, so apparently, he'll do anything. Anyway, I'm glad you liked it. No, "Lunatics" is not on DVD, and it's rather difficult to find. And regarding posting the scripts, my theory was that I wouldn't post the script until the film was released. Given that theory, I may never post the "Hammer" script.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I was just wondering if you have any songs from your childhood that always take you back whenever you hear them. Mine are "Music to watch girls by", "The girl from Ipenema", "My beautiful balloon", "You're just too good to be true", just to name a few. A dumb question, I know.

Dear Tony:

This would probably be more meaningful if every other radio station wasn't playing classic rock and all those songs that had meaning to me as a kid. "The Girl From Ipanema" does put me back to being a little kid, before the rock & roll age really began. All of the early Beatles' songs put me back to being a kid, particularly "All My Lovin'" and "And I Love Her." Also, having grown up in Detroit, all of the early Motown, like The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, all put me back to my early youth.

Josh

Name: Dennis
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

What did you think of "Hard Eight"? I think its pta's best film yet. What do you think?

Dear Dennis:

I agree. It's the only one that I thought was any good, but it sure hasn't stuck in my memory very well.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Good luck w/ the new project...I still like Polanski a lot actually, I thought "Ninth Gate" was a black comedy with more in common with "Chinatown" than "Rosemary's Baby", and I think most people went in thinking it was going to be a " Satanic Thriller" (I think he was mocking the rich thinking they would have some direct connection to the "devil", and tossing their money around to do it, which may connect to the parties he and Tate used to attend in L.A.)..I also liked "Death and the Maiden" and "Bitter Moon" especially, although I do think he didn't do much of interest between "Tenant" and "Bitter Moon"...but his new film "The Pianist" is encouraging...he's doing a film based in Poland in WW2, something he knows very much about, and is a inevitable film I think he'd been suppressing a long time --so I at least have to be interested in it...also, glad you liked "Tape", more or less, I think it's a title I (among others perhaps) recommended...whew!

Did Anchor Bay officially give up on "Hammer"? I realize you (I assume) need to make some money back on the flick, but is there perhaps another DVD outlet (Vanguard) or somebody that may not offer any money whatsoever, but at least get it out there? Or is that not an appealing prospect? (I just wanna see it, dammit -- it may be the only DVD I ever buy sight unseen, if it would just come out!)

Dear Jim:

Some of those later Polanski pictures are okay, like "Bitter Moon," but his films between 1962 and 1976 are just brilliant, and everything thereafter seems like rather pale imitations. You're right, though, that he's always needed to make a WWII film set in Poland. I thought he should do Jerzy Kozinski's "The Painted Bird," as he and Kozinski were friends. I don't know of Vanguard, have you got any contacts there? I have just sent "Hammer" out to four festivals.

Josh

Name: Gregory B Moss
E-mail: bushviper@adelphia.net

Dear Josh:

I've given an assignment to my sophomores and juniors to write a movie review on either "The Spanish Prisoner" or "Memento," both of which I've seen. I am definitely, definitely going to point them to your web site for examples of how to write a damn movie review in the first place! Fuck Roger Ebert! (I don't say that word in class but that's how I feel). Your movie reviews are like candles in a pitch-black labyrinth, trying to light our way out of post-modernism and back home again. You are the only reviewer I've read who slams "Saving Private Ryan" for the very reason I wanted to puke when I saw it. Guys like my Dad, who fought in the Pacific in WWII, didn't need to create some kind of shit-brained existential meaning out of life a la Camus and Sartre to make it through their days of military service. Who's that dumbfuck character who says, "Duh, yeah, duh, and maybe if we find this Private Ryan, duh, it will make some sense out of this godawful war, duh"? Spielburg can sling that kind of shit at today's nihilistic college pukes and they eat it up like hungry hyenas. In fact, it's a disgrace even to suggest that a guy like my Dad or any middle-class guy in the 1940's, kicking Nazi ass in Europe or Jap ass in the Pacific, would ever even have entertained such a blasphemous thought. The whole film is built on this premise, and it's like building a house on quick sand. Besides, it's patently false. It's bullshit. I could go on about how the viewing public has changed over the past fifty years, like how men have become feminized and how political correctness has suffocated the arts, as well as the brains of people who go to watch movies these days. That would take too long. Let me just finish by saying that you've got one hell of a web site here, and that your movie reviews are no-nonsense, kick-ass-and-take-names straight shooters. You also know what a story is. Keep up the good work.

Dear Gregory:

Cool rant, much invective, I like. Stop by anytime. As I said in my review, "Ryan" is taking Vietnam attitudes and sticking them on WWII, where they absolutely don't fit. It's also just a very badly written script. While I'm ragging on Spielberg, I think "A.I." is the worst film of his career, and the man has made a lot of crap -- let us not forget: "1941," "Hook," "Always," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and "Jurassic Park 2." But I think he's worked his way down to a new low.

Josh

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

Josh,

I understand congrats are in order on the new horror film. Is it funded already? From the description of your financial travails with "Hammer" I feared you might be out of commission for a while.

Did you know that Scott Spiegel has a cameo in "Spiderman"? He is credited as "Marine Cop".

My primary reason for writing is to ask a question and make a comment concerning "Cycles". The question involves the radium dial painters. It was my understanding that the public was made aware of the hazards of radium through the "Radium Girls" lawsuit which ran from '27-'28. I believe that in '32 federal guidleines for handling radium were passed. I am waiting on a copy of Ross Mullner's book on the subject. I think that '47 would be too late for this particular problem.

The comment concerns Dewey's statement to the rest of the gang that he would be happy to get to New Mexico where people would at least be used to Indians. Oklahoma had a large African-American population dating from the end of the nineteenth century. An American history I own says that African-Americans in Oklahoma in 1907 outnumbered Native Americans and first and second generation European immagrants. As for Native Americans, Oklahoma still has, I believe, the largest population in the States. Its nickname is, after, "Native America". Of course Dewey might not have known this, but I think Oklahoma was at least associated with Native Americans if not as much with African-Americans.

Again, I'm glad you've got a writing/directing project in the works and that I have something to look forward to. Thanks as always.

John

Dear John:

Yeah, everybody got a cameo but me. I don't think Sam respects me as an actor (I don't blame him, either). Although he has given me extra parts in several of his films, he has never given me a line to deliver. He has had me come in to do general looping (dialog replacement) on several of his films, too, but generally just for crowd stuff. He had me doing a specific voice on "Crimewave," and he got so disgusted with my performance that he threw me out of the sound booth and did it himself. My voice did make it into AOD as one of the skeleton army. Anyway, you may be right about the radium dial thing, but I do believe it was still going on until soon after WWII, when the effects of radiation really became known. And as far as the character Dewey is concerned, I don't think he really knows what he's talking about, geographically and ethnically speaking.

Josh

Name: Jackie
E-mail: trickey28@aol.com

Josh,

I took ur advice and tried to rent Running Time from Thomas Video (btw, they are in Clawson). First, they couldn't find it. Boy, is that place in complete chaos. So, I left them my phone number and I could pick it up later. Two days later they call to let me know they found it and it's on DVD. I asked them to order a VHS for me and I would buy it. They agree and told me they could get it from Anchor Bay. A month or two goes by and I still don't have the movie. I called them yesterday. After keeping me on hold for 12 minutes they inform me that they can only get it on DVD. I was so upset! So, I just ordered it myself from Amazon!!! I hope I get it this time. I've never tried so hard to see a movie. LOL!
Jackie

Dear Jackie:

Thanks for all the effort, I hope you think it was worth it once you've seen the film.

Josh

Name: Noelle
E-mail:

Dear JB

Terrified sounds like a great project. But your first horror---I thought TSNK...E was a horror film too? At least that's where they keep it at the video store.

Did you hear that Roman Polanski's cut a deal to come back to the US? No jail time.

Later,
Noelle

Dear Noelle:

I've found that most stores seem to keep TSNKE under action/adventure or with the war films. I think it's based on having guys in military uniforms on the box. Also, I don't think it is a horror film; it's an action/adventure/ revenge film. And no, I didn't hear that Polanski had a cut a deal. For his sake, I hope he has. As a filmmaker, however, I think he's long past his prime.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

YeeeeHawwwww!

"Terrified!" sounds great...And I have no clue as to what it's about.

A few curious questions. Will you be shooting on 16mm? Filming in OR? (If so, the woods out there are some of the creepiest you could film) Are you thinking b&w like "Repulsion"? And lastly, do you have some sort of a pre-distribuiton deal since you're doing a horror film with Bruce in the lead? Hope these questions aren't too inquisitive.

I sincerely wish all the best of luck. I was sort of let down when I heard "Warpath" fell through, so this is good news.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

This film is sort of a response to "If I Had a Hammer," which seemingly no one wants, if, for no other reasons, that it has no star and is not in a recognizable genre. I'm glad I made it, but it's hurt me. So, this one will have a reconizable star, in a clearly defined genre, in 35mm, and in color. It will still be exactly the film I want to make, but I am taking commercial aspects into consideration this time. And yes, it will be shot here in Oregon. No, I don't have any deals set up, although I have been told by a number of distributors over the years that they would just love to have another horror film starring Bruce. If I actually get to make this, it will be my first horror film.

Josh

Name: Stephanie
E-mail: already have it:)

Hi Josh~

Long time no email...I just read that you have something "put together" for an indie film "Terrified!" with Bruce...I am so so happy and all of my fingers are crossed!:) Have you wrote the story completely yet? Can you tell us anything else about it? Any other ideas for casting other than Bruce? And I have a few other questions (hope you don't mind)...I remember you saying that you and Scott Spiegel were roomies once and got into a little tiff and were no longer friends after that. I was wondering is that still true today? And odd question (but so curious), I read Bruce's book and wanted to know if his ex-wife (who was on that soap with him) was still acting? And last, I wanted to say (if it means anything) I am no computer geek or internet junkie, I get on the internet for my email and to keep up with your web site since I am a fan. And as busy as I have been these last weeks, I haven't been able to really read anything until tonight (today was just awful for me!)...anyway to make this long story not so long-you truly made my day! I read the last 2 archive pages of Q&A and laughed insanely! You are absolutely too funny! Anyway, thanks for making my day because you really did! Keep up all the great work!

Stephanie:)

Dear Stephanie:

Jeez, thanks. I do my best here. Now let's see, yes, I've written the whole story in a lengthy treatment, which I'm now rewriting. It's sort of Polanski-like/Twilight Zonish story, along the lines of "Repulsion" or "The Tenant," mainly with just Bruce. Ted Raimi will have a supporting role, and will co-produce with Bruce and I. That's all of the details for the time being. Let's see if it can actually happen, and doesn't fall apart before that. These guys could possibly hate my treatment and that would be the end of it. So, we'll see. Scott and I haven't spoken in years. He doesn't hang with any of the old gang anymore, so I never hear about him. Bruce's first wife, Chris, does not act anymore. She gave it up early into their marriage, when they had their first child (who's now in college).

Josh

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

Josh,

Just a comment about Marines and entrenching tools. My father was a captain in intelligence in Vietnam from '67 to '70. At one point he was sent to evaluate a situation involving the Marines. A batallion had established a beach head for a landing which was to have followed immediately. For whatever reason the Army landing was a month delayed. In the meantime the Marines were taking casualties all out of proportion to the enemy they faced. When he got there, my father found the Marines sitting on the beach in their tents and being picked off by sniper fire. When he asked the Colonel why they had not dug in the Colonel replied "We're Marines, we don't dig in!"

My father was a Captain and not about to tell a Marine Colonel what to do, but he made his report and within days the Marines were entrenched and the casualty rate fell. My father says that this episode convinced him that the Marines had the best soldiers and the worst officers.

Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

Interesting story. In the case of Belleau Wood, the marines did dig in, but had no shovels to do it with.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have a suggestion. Have you seen Ang Lee's "Ride with the Devil"? I thought it was great. The most overlooked picture of 1999. Universal totally screwed up an opportunity to have a real award winner. They should have released it later in 2000, instead of craming it into 5 theaters in late '99. It most certainly would have been the best picture of '00.

It's an accurate look at what was going on over the Missouri\Kansas border durring the late civil war between the loyalists and jhawkers. I think you said you enjoyed Lee's films prior to "Crouching Tiger". I was absolutely surprised when I first saw this. It deserves far more than the little it's attained. The acting is great all around, and I remember likeing how nobody was made up to look like a movie star. Every one's ugly in this movie (Except Jewell, of course).
Having grown up in NW Missouri, I was interested in seeing a historically factual film that was actually shot where the script takes place. It's always irritated me when films go out of their way to take place in a specific region and then are promptly shot else where. At any rate, I think you'd like this film and certainly recommend it if you haven't seen it. If you have, what did you think of it? The widescreen photography by Fredrick (Blue Velvet) Elmes I also remember being extremely beautiful.

As a side note, I too greatly enjoyed "Devil Dogs". I probably read it a year ago and I still think of it often. I'd like to see it (or "Buds", which is hilarious) get made into a film more than any of your scripts.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

It has been added to my ever-expanding Netflix list. And yes, I liked all of Ang Lee's film up to "Crouching Tiger," particularly "Sense and Sensibility" and "The Ice Storm," but his Chinese films, too.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

In Cameron Crowe's "Conversations With Wilder," the late great Wilder poses the question "Do you ever think about quitting," to which Crowe responded "yes," an answer he felt was wrong.

You frequently note your disgust with the current state of Hollywood and how sometimes you think about just quitting. My question to you is - could you truly give up filmmaking? The current state of cinema aside, as a story-teller do you think you could really just walk away from it all?

Dear Worm:

You're not Dennis Rodman, are you? Anyway, no I don't think I ever could quit filmmaking. Stories, filmmaking, and movies are what I primarily think about. I just couldn't do the stupid Hollywood thing anymore. And I think I may have my next independent feature put together. It's a horror film called "Terrified!" and starring Bruce Campbell. Everybody cross your fingers.

Josh

Name: Jean Thompson
E-mail: jthompson77@adelphia.net

Dear Josh:

Thanks for responding! I'm the former Beacon employee that worked on "Cycles". I was the assistant to the development department at Beacon for the past 2 and a half years. Now I'm an unemployed assistant to the development department. But if I become a producer I will let you know! I have several copies of the various drafts of "Cycles" laying around here somewhere. If you are interested in taking a look at any of them I would be more then happy to send them to you. Note that my email address has changed since the last time I contacted you.

Thanks again!
Jean

Dear Jean:

Thanks for the offer, but I have intentionally not read any of the rewrites, which would just piss me off. I'm quite proud of my version, the first and original version, and can only believe that anyone else's contribution is a detriment. Beacon has had that script since 1994.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Sorry, second post today, but I wanted to write in before the weekend (I use the computer at work). I just read THE WINDS OF FATE and enjoyed it a great deal. These scripts of yours are very good, and deserve to be made into films. There must be some way to get financing...what about Sam Raimi? He must be sitting on a pile of cash by now. Surely you know something embarrassing about him that he'd pay to keep under wraps. Use it! Sorry about that, just a little frustrated. Have a good Memorial Day weekend.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Thanks, I like that script, too. Sam and his partner Rob have their own agendas, and I leave them to it. They do have a treatment of mine they're considering making, but if so, they wouldn't get me to write the script or direct, so it interests me very little.

Josh

Name: fexo
E-mail: fex0@yahoo.com

Dear Lord & Savior Becker,


I read all of your Articles & Essays and Reviews + Words including other stuff then I felt like we connected on a supernatural level where the winds of intellects blow like sweet rain drops across the milky blue earthen vesseled sky pillows. Your thoughts bang down the duties and proclamations that us persons as creatives must adhere to and focus upon with much earnest. I type this question &/or comments to just let you know that I found this website to be very beneficial to my education in becoming a movie type one day and that I am studying your every letter on the site to help further my furthest hopes of getting further than my farthest aspirations of achieving that far off area of further ness. In closing I type to you on a shop talk level & I found your scripts very insightful in helping me structure my own dumb works and I thank you. In conclusion I type thank you and I want to give you my appreciation and gratitude for pouring out your anger, so thanks.

P.S.

I was wondering if you maybe had some script work for me because I have this script I'll send to you its a Love story between Xena & Hercules but i'll only send it if you can tell me which episode Xena's boob popped out.

Dear Fexo:

It must be too early in the morning, but I can't tell if you're being sincere or snotty. Either way, good luck with your writing. Lucy's breast popped out at a hockey game.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Thank you again for writing that script. I really enjoyed it. Interesting NOTE: the mess kits that the Marines used to dig in (I think Kit, mess, individual, M1910 is the official designation, but I can't be sure)is still in service to this day: indeed, I was issued one when I joined the National Guard in 1995 (I've never used it, but I have it).
I saw a film the other day that I enjoyed, called JUST VISITING. It starred Jean Reno (that French guy with the goatee from RONIN and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) at the Duke of Malvet, a medieval French nobleman who goes to England to marry a princess. Unintentionally, he drinks a hallucinogenic poison that an enemy poured into his wine, and in a panic, he kills his intended bride. Awaiting a death sentence, he summons a wizard (Malcolm McDowell) to send him into the past and right his wrong. Unfortunately, the potion that the magician mixes up is missing a key ingredient, and thus sends the noble and his lackey squire into the FUTURE, to the present day. It sounds like the usual "fish out of water" element exploited by every movie or TV show from "The Beverly Hillbillies" to "Encino Man", but it is unusually well done. Jean Reno gives an excellent performance; he is wholly creditable as a medieval knight. Christina Applegate plays a dual role as both the slain princess and a descendant of the Duke, whom he bumps into in the present day. It was an enjoyable comedy, not overdone in any particular aspect. I get up at 5 am to go to work and I stayed up to watch this, even though it started at midnight. I even see a surprising adherence to the three-act structure in it (i.e. Act I: characters and problem are presented, Act II, problem is struggled with, with a point of no return, and Act III, problem is resolved). It's definitely another movie to watch if you've just had a bad day.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

I haven't seen "Just Visiting," but it's a remake of a French film called "Les Visiteurs" with the same cast, and apparently better. There are two sequels, as well. Meanwhile, I saw a pretty good film last night, "Tape." It actually has a well-written script with an interesting premise, real characters, and actual drama. It's based on a play (by Stephen Belber), and it seems like a play since it all takes place in one hotel room, but it's far better than all the rest of this crap I've watched lately. I don't think Richard Linklater is all that great of a director, and certainly has no knack or finesse with a camera, but he understood the material, and cast good actors who carry it along. Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke are both very good. And it has some ideas to think about, too. If someone like Mike Nichols had directed it, it might have been a great film. As it is, though, it's pretty good.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

Per your advice, I just read the script for DEVIL DOGS, and was thoroughly impressed. It is an excellent script from every angle; I can find no fault with it. Excellent work! My hat is off to you.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. Did the marines really have no shovels? If they were carrying full packs and rolls, they would've had their entrenching tools with them (at least in a perfect world; it wouldn't be the first time that such a mistake had been made. For example, when Task Force Smith deployed from Japan to Korea in 1950, one entire heavy weapons company was shipped overseas without bolts for their machine guns).
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

Honest to God, they had no entrenching tools or shovels of any kind. They used the mess-kit lids. And arriving at Chateau-Thierry and finding only African soldiers, and Vietnamese drivers of the trucks, it's all true. I'm pleased you liked it.

Josh

Name: Al Cohen
E-mail: na.cohen@gte.net

Mr. Becker,

I read "Winds of Fate" and enjoyed it very much. I've traveled all around Africa and felt you captured a little of the "feel of the place". Screen plays are so compact, it is difficult to do justice to the surroundings of a place (which is of course the job of the camera), but you've done an admirable job. Thank you for putting your writtings on the web.

Dear Al:

Thanks for reading it. I actually have been to Africa, but to Morocco, not to Togo or Ghana. I did do research, and I met a guy from Togo with whom I discussed the whole story. If I were 14 years old I'd rather see "The Winds of Fate" than "Star Wars," but that's just me.

Josh

Name: Deana
E-mail: DeanaLackey@msn.com

Dear Josh:

I hope you understood my previous e-mail. Quickly:

The essential "plot" of the story just stops -- there's essentially no ending to my little short flick (Cat in a Beach Chair). I was thus, making fun of crappy movies that are crap nowadays, by making a flick that had no STRUCTURE (and thus no ending). My own little crappy contribution to a crappy industry, until I can make a good contribution. Still working on that.

Dear Deana:

That's great.

Josh

Name: Deana
E-mail: DeanaLackey@msn.com

Hi. I'm back (again).

I shot a short in my backyard too! The "story" of the film was actually nothing. I sent a copy of the 8-minute film to my Hollywood screenwriter friend making in the six figures for each script he writes, and he watched it and asked me what was the point of the story. I simply told him there WAS NO POINT IN THE STORY -- EXACTLY MY POINT. I was essentially making fun of films nowadays in general by doing my own little film without a point! Hilarious! God I'm so unique! It's called "Cat In A Beach Chair" and after screening it at a couple of independent festivals in the Texas area, the same question was asked of me -- is there some "significance" to the last scene (a scene where I just shoot a carved wooden cat sitting in a carved wooden beach chair for the last two minutes of the 8 minute flick)? And I said, no.

(grin)

Dear Deana:

I don't know why you're so proud of yourself. Making a movie with no point is so easy toddlers can do it. It's like my late friend Rick, who hated horror movies, but wrote one because he thought he could sell it. I read it and said, "It has no point," and he responded, "That's the point! It has no point." Well, as I said to him, whether you've arrived at no point intellectually, or you got there because you're an idiot, you're still in the same place.

Josh

Name: Christopher Hamilton
E-mail: notlimahsirhc87@aol.com

Dear Josh,

Have you ever seen these two films, "A Better Place" and "Bully"? If not, you HAVE to see them. Recently, I saw them and was blown away by them. Both of them shocked the hell out of me. They are still with me. They are two of the most POWERFUL films I've ever seen in my entire life. Both of them are very well-done, too, in their own way. See them and they will surprise you, I guarentee. If not, it would be interesting to hear what you have to say about them.

Dear Christopher:

"A Better Place" wasn't available, but I put "Bully" on the list.

Josh

Name: Dennis Tenorio
E-mail: dteno@optonline.net

Dear Josh:

I used to agree with you comment about "the Coen's contention that folks in rural areas are dumb" until I watched O Brother Where Art Thou. Isn't it in a way their intention to poke humor at the stereotypes?

Also, I recently watched two Linklater movies, Waking Life and Tape. I loved the way he filmed the character interaction throughout both films. I think you can be a blind person and enjoy these two films. I just really want to hear your opinion on the matter if you watched them yet.

Dear Dennis:

That's all the Coens have ever done is make fun of stereotypes, and sling cliches around, as thou that was actually humor. But worst of all, their stereotypical characters are always one-dimensional and dull, and generally not terribly believable. It all rings incredibly hollow to me. And I haven't seen either of those Linklater films, but they're on my Netflix list. I liked "Slacker" and hated "Dazed and Confused," so he's batting 50-50 with me.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Just showed "Running Time" to some friends last night on a double bill with Edger Ulmer's "Strange Illusion" last night -- of seven people, 5 actively liked it, two didn't (such is life), but the 5 were then asking me questions about "who made that? What's the story behind that?" And are now interested in checking out "TSNK"-- so I'm doing my bit! Figure I'll show "TSNK" on a double with "Get Carter" (the original) -- 2 films that are different but build to pretty impressive walls-of-violence toward the end, which is much more effective than slaughter every 8 minutes, which apparently is the current Hollywood formula.

Did you ever see any of Ulmer's work? Since you read "Who the Devil..." I figure you're aware of him, but I don't know a lot of people who've seen his stuff. Just another guy who could make superior films on ridiculous budgets...Also, how bout Hodges' "Croupier"? I thought that was an intelligent, under 2-hour flick that didn't insult the audience's intelligence...

Dear Jim:

Keep up the good work. Indoctrinate your friends. For some reason I couldn't get into "Croupier," although I didn't give it much of a chance. I'll try again. I've seen quite a few of Ulmer's films and I respect him greatly. I really like "Detour," which is a terrifically creepy little movie. Have you seen any of Joseph Lewis's films, like "Gun Crazy"?

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I agree with your take on Robert DeNiro. He is very focused on his work, and doesn't like to talk to others. Howard Stern once mentioned that he couldn't have Robert DeNiro on his show, as DeNiro was too serious, didn't say much, and only wanted to speak about acting when he did say something. But then again, you're right. He doesn't have to be able to recite a dissertation on acting in the modern cinema; all he has to do is act. I still enjoy his films.

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. If you suddenly got the financial green light for another film, which script do you think you would pick to film?
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

No question, "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood," a script which you might very well enjoy. I think it's a story that needs telling.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I saw part of JACKNIFE awhile ago (I'm putting it on my NETFLIX list to see again), and the performances were good. I found the flashbacks were well edited into the narrative of the contemporary story.
I've talked to a few of the older and retired guys from my unit who were around when they shot the film (they shot it at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, while my unit was there doing it's two-week annual training period, which is how they were asked to be in it). They all thought very well of Ed Harris, who was a real gentleman and not above speaking with the crew and extras. Their opinion of Robert DeNiro was a little different, though; he was wrapped up in his method acting, and would hustle back to his trailer after every shoot, not speaking to anyone. A few of the guys thought he was an asshole, especially when they had to get a van to drive him from his trailer to a foxhole set up nearby when it rained during shooting. Then again, there's no rule that an actor has to be a nice guy, so long as the end product justifies his attitude.
Which leads me to a question (I knew there was one in there somewhere): have you ever had to deal with difficult actors on any of your films? If so, how? I was interested in Bruce Campbell's account of how Sam Raimi dealt with actors, particularly Gene Hackman. Have you ever been faced with a similar situation in your work?

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

P.S. Did you see SUICIDE KINGS yet? I enjoyed it and recommended it awhile back, and was wondering what you thought of it.
D.J.M.

Dear Darryl:

No, not yet. It's on the list. I don't get a feeling that DeNiro is an asshole, I just think he's very internal and doesn't really want to talk to anybody. I recently saw him on "Inside the Actor's Studio" and he's incredibly inarticulate. I saw him speak quite a few years ago, right after "Taxi Driver" came out, and he was inarticulate then, too. You know, all artists don't have to be able to explain what they do, or how they do it. Anyway, the most difficult actor I've ever dealt with by far was Anthony Quinn, and all of those experiences are written down in my "Directing Anthony Quinn" essay. He did seem to take a real joy in busting a director's balls. I don't think it was exactly the same thing with Hackman and Sam. I think Hackman wasn't into being in Sam's complicated shots. After Sam explained to Hackman a particularly difficult camera move he was about to do, Hackman said, "No, that's not what we're doing at all. What we're doing is getting a medium close-up of me saying my lines." And Sam said, "Right. Let's set up for a medium close-up of Mr. Hackman."

Josh

Name: Jean Thompson
E-mail: alumrockpro@earthlink.net

Greetings from a former Beacon employee!

I used to work in the development department at Beacon pictures. I worked on your script "Cycles" for about 6 months until it got shelved again. I actually asked to be put on the project because I liked the script and the story so much. I thought it was a great idea for a movie. We went through a few diffrent writers including the Fishman brothers until the president of the company lost interest in the project.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I thought it was a really cool script and it was one of the few scripts that I took with me when I left the company.

Later!
Jean Thompson

Dear Jean:

It's good to finally hear something. And I'm glad somebody actually enjoyed the script. I heard that Phil Kaufman was on it for a while and the title was "Griffen." Hey! Why don't you become a producer and get the film made. Just a thought. Good to hear from you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh:

Just for reference, the Australian Brian May is NOT the guy from Queen...

Dear Jim:

That's good to know, I was never sure. Thanks.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

That's OK. I'd say that you got the military aspects of TSNKE down pretty well for someone who was working without a technical advisor. Too bad you couldn't use a little CGI on the film. If you took the magazine and bayonet off of the shotgun, it would be realistic enough; Marine infantry platoons have each squad leader armed with a pump shotgun. They've been doing that since WWI, when they found out how effective it is as a close range weapon. Indeed, military pump shotguns are nicknamed "trench brooms" because of this. Oh well, bun done can't be undone.
My question is this: in the audio commentary track on the film, it sounds like you and Bruce are simply reminiscing, yet periodically, either yourself or Bruce will be specific about something (for instance, when Bruce brings up the Super-8 prototype to the film). When they do commentary tracks, do they have formal scripts, per se, or do you have notes to go off of with things that you want to mention (i.e., a note saying "mention where the Viet Nam stock footage came from", etc.)? Just wondering.
In regard to military films, alot of filmaker's overcome the difficulty of getting soldiers, equipment, etc., by contacting the National Guard of the state that they're shooting in. If they agree to let you use their assets in a film, this gives you access to equipment, training sites (usually built on the cheapest, most worthless land that the government could find, most military reservations work fine for simulating any "field" environment. John Wayne, for instance, filmed THE GREEN BERETS at Fort Benning, GA), and a pool of potential extras, who are more disciplined than the average extras, and know how to work the equipment (technical advisors). They're usually a little easier to deal with than the Regular Army, too. In JACKNIFE, with Robert DeNiro and Ed Harris, the soldiers in the Viet Nam sequences were National Guardsmen from Connecticut. In the end credits, there is even a special thanks to "Company A, 1-102ND Infantry, Connecticut Army National Guard". In most cases, you call the Public Affairs Officer of the state and say that you're making a film, and would like the assistance of the National Guard. He then helps work out the deal in terms of rental fees, permission to use state property, etc. I don't know if you have any war films planned in the future, but I thought I'd mention it.

Sorry for yet another long letter,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Yeah, but they also want to read the script, and you've got to have insurance. None of that would have worked out on TSNKE, which was made very quickly and cheaply 18 years ago. BTW, I really liked "Jacknife." I think DeNiro, Harris and Baker are all great, and I was basically enchanted. I've seen it several times. What did you (or anyone else) think?

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

Finally had a chance to catch Black Narcissus on DVD. It has to be one of the most beautiful films I've ever viewed. I flipped on the commentary track and was literally shocked to learn it was entirely filmed in a studio. The paintings used for the mountain location completely fooled me. And not to devalue the acting and writing either, which were all great- but you already know all this. Thanks for the recommendation, it's a keeper.

A couple other things- I'll try not to get too long.

Recently watched Once Upon a Time in America. As soon as it finished, I had to agree with your statement about old filmmakers losing their sense of pace. Sooooooo sloooooow.......

I was happy to see the Road Warrior pop in discussion here a while back. I was surprised to read that you thought the score was a weak point. I honestly consider it my favorite film score- I really couldn't imagine the film without it (although you're definitely right on about the influence of The Planets).

One final question: Where did you see The Believer? I had no idea it had been released anywhere.

Dear Jason:

It's been on Showtime. It's one of the very few films of recent vintage that I liked. It's got some really weird, conflicting motivations, and I believed the kid. Ryan Gosling was very good. As for "The Road Warrior's" score, by Brian May, who I believe was lead guitarist for Queen (if I'm wrong about this, someone please tell me), not only is it Holst's "The Planets" (specifically Mars, the Bringer of War), but that's by way of John Williams have completely ripped it off a few years earlier for "Star Wars." And, as good as "Black Narcissus" looks on DVD, it looked 90% better in the theater with a nitrate print. There's a luminescence to the colors in a nitrate print that DVD can't even come close to. And it was all shot in a studio in London. Amazing. I love that film.

Josh

Name: Stryker
E-mail: :)

Dear Josh,

Could you please tell me what THE WINDS OF FATE and BUDS are about before I read them?

Dear Stryker:

"The Winds of Fate" is about a kid who works in camera store in Michigan, who, through the winds of fate, ends up in a mercenary army fighting in a small country in Africa. "Buds" is about two lifelong pot-head buddies who, due to the intervention of a woman, get into a fist fight and stop being friends, but ultimately work it out.

Josh

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

Hi,

I know that you could give a rat's ass about the new "Star Wars" film, but I think this review of it makes some good points about not just the problem with these movies, but movies in general, these days. Especially important (I think) is "the difference between plot and story", and general methods of developing characters (and developing interest in characters). If anyone's interested:

http://www.metromix.com/top/1,1419,M-Metromix-Movies-starwarseventcaroreview!ArticleDetail-16611,00.html

-S.C.

Dear S.C.:

The reviewer never does make clear what he feels is the difference between a story and a plot, and quite frankly, I don't think there is one. They're both "Something causes something else, which frequently causes yet something else." That's both a plot and a story.

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: sdhawkes@penn.com

Dear Josh:

What can you tell about James Whitmore? Is there anything he's done that particularly appeals to you?

I am attending a convention this coming weekend with t.v. actors who have raved about being directed by his son, James Whitmore, Jr. (who I understand directed a Hercules episode)
I plan to ask them why they're so jazzed about his technique.
But it occured to me I know next to nothing about his father. For some reason I thought his father was a cinematographer, but he's actually an actor who's been working since the '50's, correct?

And I wanted to ask them, *especially* since they've only completed one season,
if it is an added hurdle to have so many different directors coming in every week to "develop" how they play their characters.
I wanted to ask you too about the following, and compare the answers.

I always envision directors of feature films going over what goes into the establishing: "motivation" and subtext with the actors,
but for televison (a series) in terms of growing the character through-out the story, isn't that more an ongoing conversation that the producer would have with the actors? Since typically a hodgepodge of ideas would have the potential for the t.v. characters to end up inconsistent.
If every new director came in and said, "Character X would look bored here, Character Y and Z would deliver their lines tensely to each other because of sexual tension" and some other director had different ideas, it'd be maddening for the actors, no?
Or are there no hard and fast rules, and every set finds their own way of working together?

You sat through all the read-thrus on Xena if I remember correctly, but not all t.v. directors do that, right?
(I realise there is more to directing than guiding the actors.)

LOL! Sorry for the broad questions, I just want to come up with intelligent, appreciated questions for the guest star panel, and not just ask "Is it cool to be on t.v.? What's your favorite color?"
I'd love any suggestions for what ever else I could ask!

Dear Diana:

Jeez, lots of questions. First, If I'm not mistaken, Bruce Campbell was in one of Mr. Whitmore, jr.'s Hercules episodes. James Whitmore, the elder, is a wonderful actor with a gruff voice, thick eyebrows, kind of stocky, and made a good army sergeant. I particularly liked him in "Them!" (the giant ant movie), "The Next Voice You Hear" (about God coming over the radio, his wife is played by Nancy Davis, soon to be Nancy Reagan), he's one of the head apes in the original "Planet of the Apes," he did the voice over narration for John Huston's great "The Red Badge of Courage," and was nominated for an Oscar for his one-man show, then made into a film, "Give 'em Hell, Harry," as Harry Truman. As far as the character's growth in a TV series, I'd say there's generally no discussion with actors or directors, it's between the producers and the writers. For the most part, actors speak the lines they're given, and directors direct the script their given. I don't know about other TV shows, but on Herc and Xena and Jack of All Trades, every director sat through the read-throughs, it was mandatory. Have fun at the convention.

Josh


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