Q & A    Archive
Page 81

Name: ferdipollo
E-mail: ferdipollo@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Have you idea if Anchor Bay will release some day 'Thou Shall Not Kill...Except' and 'Running Time' in Europe (region 2 DVD)?
And an 'Evil Dead' question. Which is the 'Evil Dead' aspect ratio? 1:33 or 1:85?
Thanks.

Dear Ferdipollo:

No, I don't believe they will. They don't really do European releases. They did release RT in England, though. Anyway, ED was shot in 16mm in a 1.33:1 format, but it was shot with the idea of blowing up to 35mm and 1.85:1, and that's how it came out.

Josh

Name: Mario Ruiz
E-mail: marsobig@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I think you missed the whole point of the movie. The dude stands for lowered ambitions, expectations. He is the ultimate American. The man who is not pissed off about his lot in life. In fact, he is totally at ease with it. He has his bowling buddies, his bowling, and his weed. That's all he needs.
Everyone thinks they are going to be the next Tom Cruise, the next Steven Spielberg, the next Ernest Hemingway but that's all bullshit. Look at it from a different perspective. This is inventive stuff. Never have I seen a character so comfortable in obscurity. It's beautiful to see him go through such turmoil and in the end say, "The Dude abides." You know why? Because he will. And so will I.

Dear Mario:

Are you talking about "The Big Lebowski"? It would be helpful if you said so. Maybe I missed the whole point, maybe that's my problem. Maybe Coen bros. movies are just too damn smart for me.

Josh

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

Josh,

Do you ever watch those entertainment news shows, like ET or Access or whatever? They sort of serve as a reminder to me why Hollywood movies are becoming totally irrelevant. You want to be depressed, leave E! on all day. This pisses me off because I recently came to the conclusion that, for the most part, the best movies have all been made under the studio system. That's not to say that great independent movies have not been made, but it seems to me that the movies I love watching over and over were made with big studio budgets and just happened to be made in a time when smart scripts and talented directors were around and actually used. That combination of money and talent seems to be the spark for truly classic movies, and without the money (and perhaps the talent) they have all but evaporated. I can always seek out the good indie film, but there's just something about a great big Hollywood classic that can't be equalled.. And its really sad that, basically, this sort of film is nonexistent. The big news nowadays is that Superman 5 has the greenlight and that Jon Peters cried when he read the script. Can't wait.

On another note, I saw Serving Sara recently. As I'm sure Bruce would readily admit, its a baaaad movie. From my non-biased point of view, his scenes were about the only entertaining ones in the entire film. I fail to understand how these incredibly boring tv-actors like Matt Perry and Liz Hurley keep getting major roles in major movies. The two of them were on-screen 99% of the running time and (not to kiss his ass) but Bruce provided more laughs in his 1%. And even forgetting about Bruce, practically all the minor characters in the film were more interesting than the leads. These are characters that had probably one line of description in the entire script (probably less for Bruce), and yet they made an impression. I'm aware that Perry and Hurley do something for the box office (though apparently not a helluva lot this time). Maybe its just me, but the pool of great lead actors seems to be diminishing along with the quality of scripts in Hollywood. I don't think that its for lack of great actors even, but Hollywood seems more and more intent on casting the blandest, more boring fucks for their movies. Mel Gibson, Mike Myers, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, George Clooney, and Jackie Chan. And unfortunately the older guys like Deniro, Pacino, and Hopkins seem bored out of their minds. So anyways, what else is new. I did see a good documentary recently called Paradise Lost, seen it?

Jim

Dear Jim:

No, I don't watch those shows. I don't read the trade papers, either. And yes, "Serving Sarah" was wretched. I sat next to Bruce at the screening and he intentionally crinkled a candy wrapper in my ear the whole film, obviously trying to distract me from the film. It takes both taste and guts to be a good film executive, and there hasn't been one of those in about 25 years. Now they're all frightened little rabbits with MBAs.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I just saw Oliver Stone's film NIXON, and was curious as to what you thought of it. Personally, I can see why you quoted that writer in reference to him ("Old directors don't die; they become cinematographers"). All of the rapid cuts to different angles, black and white, morphed archive footage, or undercranked hyper-reality must have given his editing team wet dreams. Apart from that, however, I thought that Anthony Hopkins gave a compelling performance, and the actor who portrayed Henry Kissinger was dead-on.
I also saw an interesting documentary on HBO the other night (I know you like documentaries), called AMERICAN PIMP. It was (obviously) about pimps in the United States, and about the difference in their lifestyle from what is portrayed in the movies. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

I saw it and it was creepy. That women put their trust, as well as all their money, in those guys' hands is insane. Meanwhile, I never accepted Hopkins as Nixon for a single second, and it undermined the whole film for me, as well as all the stupid, meaningless cutting, morphing, and switching to b&w. Stone has become a big jerk-off. That's Paul Sorvino as Kissinger and he is very good.

Josh

Name: Calvin Hobbes
E-mail: circus_maximus@msn.com

Josh-

I've got a nice little scoop for you that I thought you might enjoy.

Last weekend (September 20-22) I attended a small, but nonetheless interesting film festival in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Interestingly enough, it was located just across the street from Yale University, or what I tend to call "Boola-Boola Territory."

During the course of the three-day gathering, I was able to get a good look at what passes for a festival-worthy independent film, albeit a very minor and fledgling festival. I saw a few good films that fit well into the present Indie Mold (such as KAATERSKILL FALLS, a "psychodrama" that takes its inspiration from Polanski's A KNIFE IN THE WATER), some decent films that work well in a specific niche (Like TV actor Tony Shalhoub's directorial debut MADE-UP, which operates as a mockumentary about women who are "coming of middle-age"), and some downright Worthless movies (i.e. GLISSANDO, a DV flick about a father and son and the woman that would tear them apart, if the fucking story actually went anywhere).

The festival itself is only in its seventh year, but I'm more than sure that in a few years it would easily gain momentum. After all, the fact is that Connecticut happens to be the United States' nexus for Old Money, and there happens to be a great deal of celebrities in the tri-county area (Paul Newman, Jane Curtain, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, Dave Letterman, Martha Stewart...) The whole organization has some great potential for expansion.

So after one of the showings (when the filmmakers of the movie held a Q & A session), I approached one of the organizers of the festival, to squeeze a little info out of her about submitting material for next year's competition. I began by finding out a bit that pertains to my own situation (Wannabe filmmaker with plenty of time on his hands and a million project ideas rumbling in his head), and how I might submit.

Then, simply because the idea struck me, I informed the organizer of your own situation: smart indie director being squashed by the inequities of today's film markets, with a new movie under his belt that's dug a deep trench in his wallet; and despite getting great reviews for the movie, no other festival wants to pick it up. I made sure she knew about your current tactics of distributing the film yourself as a sort of poor man's Cassavetes, but she assured me that it wouldn't infringe on your ability to qualify for acceptance.

Submissions for next year's festival start as early as late December, although you're free to pass the organizers a tape of "Hammer" earlier than that. Check out their website for more details:
http://www.filmfest.org

Good luck. Perhaps both our efforts will make it into the next competition.

- Calvin

Dear Cal:

Thanks for the info and heads up. Maybe I will submit it, we'll see. I hope you get a film made to submit.

Josh

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

Hey Josh,

I took a trip to the 99 cent store on LaBrea today and was amused to see that they now sell condoms! I've been a 99 cent store shopper for about 3 years now and I never remember seeing condoms there before. They had a rack full of brands which included "Pure Pleasure", "Fantasy", "Sensitive" and my personal favorite "Reality". The condoms were right next to "Ready Lube" which came in a gigantic tube far bigger then any tooth paste tube I have ever seen. Next to that was a shelf full of "Daisy" pregnancy tests and these were next to a whole bunch of baby care products. Gotta love that 99 cent store! I got a bottle of tub and shower cleaner that smelled so disgusting that I threw it out less then 2 hours after it's purchase. Oh well, it was only 99 cents.

Later,
Jean

Dear Jean:

That's the chance you take at the 99-cent store. I'm sure those condoms are extremely trustworthy, too. There's nothing like a dose of reality.

Josh

Name: Corey
E-mail: cmudd@mines.edu

Hello Josh,

I want you to be aware that someone has been plagiarizing your words on the discussion boards at Rotten Tomatoes. I have no clue the motive of this person but he seems to want to give people the impression that your words are his. Now, I wouldn't be writing to you if you couldn't do anything but I believe you should confront this guy at the discussion boards and set him straight. For some reason he is denying everything. I think a little scare from you will do the kid some good. Below are the links to some of what this kid is saying (his handle is "filmsRpriceless"):

This one is the most blatant:
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=173695&perpage=25&pagenumber=1

Here are some lesser offenses but offenses none the less:
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=157553&highlight=saving+private+ryan
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=142748&highlight=american+beauty
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=158503&highlight=traffic
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=144007&highlight=in+the+bedroom
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=154652&highlight=almost+famous

Thanks for taking the time to read this and if you decide to help this kid out, thanks in advance.

Sincerely,
Corey

Dear Corey:

You're absolutely correct, that guy is ripping me off blind. I guess he likes my reviews. I didn't feel like signing up on Rotten Tomatoes so I couldn't respond, but you could. Tell him he's thief and a plagiarist and give the address to my reviews he's stealing. You can quote this letter. Thanks for the heads up.

Josh

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

Josh,

I have to admit to a certain curiosity concerning several of the films on your favorites list and several that you have mentioned not liking. You have often cited a film's inability to hold your interest, generally due to story problems. There are those films, such as "Tarzan and His Mate", "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" or "Captains Courageous", where the story is so well known as to be almost a non-factor, if you get my meaning. There one falls back on execution of the story, obviously exceptional in the movies listed above. Yet you take a movie like "Chariots of Fire", to which I admit a personal devotion, and say (in an earlier reply to me) that the execution was fine but the story failed. Others, myself included, saw a complex, allegorical and true story with discernible character development. I wonder how you would evaluate your ability to step away from personal preference in your evaluation of a story's interest. Are there, for instance, films whose themes or subject matter you did not find personally compelling, yet appreciated on a more general basis?

I know that the argument could and should be made that an intelligent person should be able to find something interesting in a well written story, but I'll also admit to an appreciation of many classics of literature which far exceeds my actual enjoyment of those classics. If I never read "Moby Dick" again it'll be too soon, but I recognize its value. I also appreciate that this is a forum largely centered on your own views and preferences, yet you've never indicated that you would express your opinions differently in another forum. By the way, I doubt this issue could come up all that often since even a good film you did not find compelling would still have to be a good film and those seem in short supply these days. Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

But the story does matter, even if it's an old one. And "Tarzan and His Mate" is full of surprising story elements, like right at the beginning they are attacked by mean, aggressive apes on a mountain that throw boulders down on them. Who could expect that? I don't like "Chariots of Fire" mainly because both leads are dull, and the execution is slow. I mean, Hugh Hudson certainly didn't turn out to be a very impressive director. And who are those two guys in the leads? Nobodies. Once again, there was a TV movie at the same time called "The First Olympics" with David Ogden Stiers that much better.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: bendab02@yahoo.com

Josh,

Based on its omissin among your favorites, I'm guessing that you didn't enjoy "The Princess Bride" at all. I admit that I am hardpressed to delineate the act structure, but I found the irony entertaining. Maybe irony is a wrong word, since it usually implies not only something unexpected, but some significant reveal or change (a homocide detective eventually becomes a killer after identifying with them for so long). But two swordsman casually bantering while they fight is certainly something you wouldn't expect. Anyway, I think it loses steam once Westley dies and is revived, but I can watch it until the end probably at least every six months or so. What do you think about it?

Ben

Dear Ben:

The film amused me, I certainly didn't hate it. I didn't love it, either, but having read the book when it came out many years before, I though they did a pretty good job of bringing it to the screen. And I thought Wally Shawn was funny.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I see the subject of Magnolia has been brought up yet again. I think an important topic of discussion is the plague of self indulgence that most of today's up and coming filmmakers are guilty of. BTW Josh, I think you were being too kind when you said Magnolia had 30 minutes of story. It seems to me that because the 80's were chocked full of popcorn movies, today's up and coming filmmakers, like Pul Thomas Anderson, and Chris Nolan, feel the need to rebel against the "hollywood norm", and make pretentious films, because they think it makes them look intelligent. I see both Magnolia and Memento as the aformentioned director's big middle fingers to the audience. With those films they are saying "look how intelligent I am, I'm so intelligent that you won't even understand what i'm trying to say." In actuallity many people know they have absolutely nothing to say, and wont fall for the pretension. Filmmaking has become a very selfish medium since the neo independent film boom, that started with Tarantino. No one is interested in telling a story anymore. filmmakers are only intersted in making a mark in society without putting in the effort. It seems as if the product is limited to contrived big budget crap, or low budget self indulgence. Why can't people just tell a stories anymore?

Dear Scott:

That certainly is a good question, and I entirely agree with your assessment of the situation. When I was younger, say twenty years ago, when critiquing a film the single worst thing you could level at a filmmaker was being being pretentious. Now it's just par for the course. I think younger filmmakers won't just tell a story because no one is willing to be sincere. If you sincerely do your best and no one likes it, that hurts. But if it's all pretention, there's nothing to be taken seriously. I find it very distressing.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hey Josh,

I think Michael has a valid point. Sometimes I wish you would elaborate more on why you did not like a certain film. I think that most of us who frequent your site do so because you are a very opinionated film viewer. It would be nice to find out why a particular film bored you.

Thanks,
Jean

Dear Jean:

Well, I did my best regarding the excerable "Magnolia," without actually having to suffer through it again.

Josh

Name: Daniel Schreber
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Any thoughts on the upcoming movie "Phone Booth"? It's an intriguing premise but I doubt that it'll be enough to carry the entire movie even with a running time of only eighty minutes. I just saw the short it was based on called "End of the Line" over at Ifilm (http://www.ifilm.com/ifilm/product/film_info/0,3699,2398940,00.html) and it was unable to amount to anything more than an intriguing premise.

I think it has the potential to be a good movie but I don't think the director (Schumacher) or writer (Larry Cohen) will be able to turn it into one. At least they made the right choice in casting Kiefer Sutherland as the caller which leads me to an interesting question. If Sutherland is never seen in the film, would he technically be eligible for an oscar nomination? On the flip side, if an actor never spoke would they be eligible for a nomination?

Dear Daniel:

I don't know anything about it, but I wouldn't have very high hopes with Joel ("Batman & Robin") Schumacher directing and Larry ("Maniac Cop") Cohen writing. I don't think just a voice performance could be nominated for an Oscar, but certainly a mute performance could be, as was Samantha Morton in "Sweet & Lowdown."

Josh

Name: Michael Turner
E-mail:

Dear Josh,

How is JAWS not a Spielberg film? I just don't get it.

Michael

Dear Michael:

Because it wasn't his project, he was a hired gun on it. The script was developed by the producers, Richard Zanuck and David Brown, and represents their tastes far more than Spielberg's. Also, Spielberg didn't have final cut, or final say-so in the casting (if indeed he had any input at all). It's a Zanuck/Brown movie far more than a Spielberg film.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Ever read any of John Simon's film criticism? If so, what did you think of it?

Dear _____:

Hey, why don't you give your name? Not only have I read a lot of it, I met him and talked with him once many years ago. He's a nasty son of a bitch, but at least he has a strong, learned opinion. He was never my favorite, but I respect him.

Josh

Name: Cesare
E-mail: cv_pr@msn.com

Mr. Becker:

I was at Bruce Campbell's book signing last night, and asked him what advice he had for somebody seriously trying to get a screenplay read by somebody within the industry. Before I was able to even finish asking my sentence, he wrote down your cite's address and told me that I should submit it to you, as he feels that you are "one of the best," and that you would "tear into" whatever was wrong with my work. I just read your guidelines for submiting, and I read that you don't want to buy (or read) my script, but figured that I would attempt to see if you were willing to read this one. Bruce did not read my script, but was very enthusiastic about my visiting your cite, and that you could be very helpful. If you want nothing to do with it I understand, as you probably have quite a bit on your plate. Also, please know that I did not ask this in front of all 400 people, but 1 on 1, so you shouldn't be getting 399 more "nutjobs" writing too you. Thanks for at least reading this email,
Cesare Venegoni

Dear Cesare:

No, I don't want to read your script, but I do wish you all the luck in the world with it, and if you have any specific questions about screenwriting that you'd like to ask, I'd be more than happy to try and answer them.

Josh

Name: Michael Turner
E-mail: I Love Films

Dear Josh,

What is wrong with MAGNOLIA? You seem to hate almost every movie that you see now, and out of curiousity, I searched this site to see if you had any negative insight into MAGNOLIA. Well, I found two critiques of yours and in both of them, you just say that the film bored you. Is that it? Please don't take me as an asshole trying to piss you off. I'm simply trying to understand. I thought that the film was cinematic perfection, a great masterpiece that proves that Paul Thomas Anderson is a great director.

So, if you are up to it, would you be able to go into any insight (other than it's "boring") into why the film is as terrible as you make it out to be? Because I can give you plenty of reasons why it's as good as I think it is.

Michael

Dear Michael:

Oh, dear, why am I being made to think about that miserable picture again? How about that there's legitmately maybe thirty minutes worth of story, dragged out interminably for three and a half hours, and the conclusion is frogs raining down from the sky, which may win as the worst ending on any movie ever. By the fiftieth time we cut back to Tom Cruise saying exactly the same nonsense he spewed forty-nine times previously, I was ready to scream. And who on Earth gives the slightest shit about a fake game show and a kid that's got to pee? "Magnolia" is a truly lousy script, that at three and a half hours, becomes a monumentally bad film.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Other than "The Apartment," "The China Syndrome," "Some Like it Hot" and "Mr. Roberts," can you reccomend a good/great Jack Lemmon film?

Also, was the only western he ever did "Cowboy"?

Thanks

Dear _____:

"Cowboy" was Lemmon's only western. I'd recommend "Save the Tiger," for which he won his second Oscar, and "Days of Wine and Roses," which is a major bummer, but he and the wonderful Lee Remick are both very good.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh!

How did "Running Time" do at the film fest? I caught the documentary "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack" on TV the other night. It's about Ramblin' Jack Elliot and it was made by his daughter. I found it to be very interesting. The film had a lot of insight into the folk movement and traditional cowboy music. You should check it out I think you would enjoy it.

Thanks,
Jean

Dear Jean:

Bruce was there and said it went very well, there was good crowd, and it was fun seeing RT on a big screen at a drive-in theater. There were no awards or anything.

Josh

Name: CHARLES A. OSWALD
E-mail: CASEY JONES 43000@AOL.COM

Dear Josh:

I realy enjoyed Henry Hathaway's HOUSE ON 92nd.STREET(1945). What I would like to know the location of a particular scene in the movie. It was when Bill Dietrich meets Aldoph Kline at a bar somewere in N.Y.C. Any response would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Dear Charles:

The film was all shot on location in New York City, but that's as specific as I can get.

Josh

Name: Cookie
E-mail: glad130@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

If you have ideas that you think would make a great TV show or movie, how do you go about getting your idea to the right people, where do you even start?

Dear Cookie:

Ideas in and of themselves don't really mean anything. You need to write a script, then find an agent. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Saul Trabal
E-mail: ghost_kingdom@yahoo.com

Josh,

I'm sorry to hear you're not working now. Hopefully, something will come along. I've been having difficulties of my own in trying to get published. My father was really sick for a long time (diabetic, and on dialysis); my mom and I spent a lot of time taking care of him and bringing him to doctors. Taking care of him cut into a lot of my free time-not that I minded, he was my dad after all.

He died September 2 of last year-and unfortunately, I also saw the Twin Towers' destruction from the roof of my friend's building nine days later. In early January of this year, I almost lost my mom; her aorta almost ruptured, and the doctors caught it in time. She was was in the hospital for a badly burned foot when the doctors discovered the abnormality in the aorta. She spent a month in the hospital, and now is at home with me. I'm looking after her.

Things have settled down a bit, so I've begun to focus on writing again. I also drive a school-bus part time. I'm looking for other work.

Life can be a real bitch sometimes-but we've gotta keep moving, I guess.

I just ordered RUNNING TIME, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I'll be sure to drop you a line after I watch it.

Take care.

Saul

Dear Saul:

Sorry to hear about all of your troubles. I hope things improve for you, and I hope you get back to your writing. The book I recently wrote is at the agent's in NY. No word as yet. Yeah, life's a bitch, but that's all there is. And by the time you get the hang of it and start figuring out how to live it well, you die. Ah, irony! Good luck.

Josh

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

Josh,

The more I think of the literary comparison the more obvious the need for structure becomes. It doesn't matter whether you are submitting a peer-review research article, a short story or a novel; if you get as far as a full reading your piece will be evaluated for proper structure. Newspapers use the pyramid structure, other forms have other structures, but any editor will insist that your piece have a progressive, logical structure. Romance novels all follow the three-act structure; that may well be the only quality criteria they do have.

Hollywood puts out what; a couple-hundred movies a year? How many books are published in this country in a year? Tens of thousands? If those books, with all their varieties of theme and genre, not to mention quality, can all be held to standards of structure, then there is no reason why the few hundred screenplays written and produced cannot be held to the same standard.

As a tangental thought, writers are often employed to write novels based upon hit movies. Alan Dean Foster used to do a lot of that sort of thing, particularly for science fiction movies. I often felt that his version of the story was smoother, more internally consistant and better structured than the movie upon which it was based.

Two quick questions; first, who submitted the information on "Hammer" to IMDB? Second, you mentioned your residuals and I wondered if Oxygen has ever contacted you for their little running commentaries about Xena episodes? Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

And screenplays are one of the most structured forms of writing, moreso than a novel or a short story. Anyone that says they don't believe in story structure, or planning out your story in advance, is simply an idiot and not really a writer. As a little side-note, I took a screenwriting class taught by Alan Dean Foster in 1977 at LA City College. He may write good novelizations, but he sure couldn't teach screenwriting. And staying all within one paragraph, though changing thoughts, I don't know who submitted the info to IMDB, and no, Oxygen has never contacted me.

Josh

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

Josh,

In reference to this on-going argument over the importance of structure and a good story, perhaps those who disagree with you could distinguish between a movie without a story and a two-hour scene. A scene, after all, is analogous to the paragraph of a story. When was the last time anybody read a good story consisting of a single paragraph? Even short stories are broken into paragraphs, each of which deals with a particular aspect of the story. If your critics can show me a published paragraph of 80,000 words (standard novel length) then I'll concede the point. Skipping paragraph breaks doesn't count as some stories, slave narratives for instance, sometimes fail to employ breaks. That doesn't mean they fail to employ paragraphs. Ten bucks to the winner, via Paypal. How's that?

John

Dear John:

A story could all be in one scene, I suppose. "My Dinner With Andre" is sort of like that, although you do have the scenes of Wally Shawn getting to the restaurant and leaving. It's sort of an interesting analogy, a paragraph and a scene, but it doesn't relate exactly to what I'm saying about three acts. A paragraph and a scene are physical divisions in writing, the three acts are a concept. You could potentially have all three acts within one scene. It is an interesting thought, though.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: bendab02@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I'm absent-minded, too. http://www.gwacvp.com/hammerban.gif

This may be too personal of a question, but it came to mind when I read the Worst Case Scenario story. What do you do for a living? I know that whatever position it was that they offered you wasn't what you want to do, but isn't it a paying job in a somewhat related field? I take that to mean that you have a regular income since making feature films only contributes to debt, not savings.

Dear Ben:

Yeah it's personal, but what the hell, I've got nothing to hide. I'm unemployed. I live on my residuals from "Xena," which I can pull off because my expenses are so low. Also, thank goodness, the show has stayed on the air. What I'll do next, though, is a mystery even to me.

Josh

*** Spoilers for "Hammer" ahead ***

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

Josh,

First, I'd like to congatulate Mark Sawicki, seeing as he's checking in, on his performance in "Hammer". I got a particular kick out of his impersonation of Red Skelton. I used to love his show when I was a kid.

Now for the question. I've been considering the ultimate statement that "Hammer" makes about the folk music movement. For me, the indicative scene is Lorraine's perfomance at the Purple Onion. It should have been Lorraine's hour. The cut aways to Phil and Terry trivialize (brilliantly), not just her performance, but the folk movement which she represents as well, with all those hypocrites singing "Solidarity Forever". The movie seems to say of the folk movement, "Yeah, the music was good, and the motives sometimes noble in a childish way, but it ultimately was a bankrupt movement that amounted to little." Folk ran counter to gratification and so was doomed to irrelevance. This seems to be echoed in the Three Deadbeats and the quarreling Alvin and Debbie as well. The fact that Lorraine doesn't evolve so much as just move on would seem to bode poorly for your assessment of the folk movement's legacy. Am I off base or is this pretty much your position? Thanks.

John

Dear John:

Yes, Mark Sawicki does a terrific Red Skelton imitation. I don't necessarily agree with your assessments, but I think they're interesting and valid. I think the folk movement was more important than that, but by 1964 was running out of steam, and was about to give way to the next movement, rock & roll, which started right off being more self-serving than folk ever was. I believe there's gratification in helping other people, possibly moreso than helping yourself. I don't think folk was doomed to irrelevance, it's time was over, and with it went some of the better aspects of the American character, particularly in the young. I have some neighbors, Marvin and LilliAnn, who are in their mid-seventies, are former folkie/beatniks, and very community-minded. LilliAnn's comment after seeing "Hammer" was "Marvin and I would have gone to her meeting," and I think they would have, too.

Josh

Name: Ben
E-mail: bendab02@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

I thought you might be interested in a banner for Hammer. It's a 184k, but if your interested, I can slim that down.

You mentioned a while back about advertising being the more decisive element of a film's success, rather than the quality of the film. It got me thinking that, even though movies do get re-releases and special editions, a month in a movie theatre followed by video store wasteland is a sad life for a film. In my opinion, home viewing shouldn't really be an option. Sure, one might think that a film would eventually lose enough steam to make it not worth running, but if there was a theatre in town that charged two or three bucks, and it was for a movie I liked, I would be a repeat customer for a while. After all, there have been movies that I've seen several times, and at seven bucks a pop. That's just a hint of my future plans. I'm formulating a revolution in the movie industry. But I tend to get lazy, unfortunately.

Ben

Dear Ben:

Well then don't be lazy, do it. We need a revolution in the film business.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'm sending this as a separate post because it didn't really fit in with my other letter. Anyway, I was wondering if you knew where I could find a particular film, called either COLE JUSTICE or COLD JUSTICE. I saw it a few years ago on the MOVIE CHANNEL and haven't seen it since. A synapsis, in brief (I know you don't like it when I tell the whole plot) would be this:
A history professor lives a double life as a vigilante, in the form of his alter ego, a Western gunslinger called the Killer Cowboy in the press. After witnessing a girl getting raped at the hands of some drug dealers, he takes on the thugs one by one, Western style.
It was a quirky and interesting twist on the standard action film, and unfortunately, it's quite obscure. Any ideas on where to find it?

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Sorry, never heard of it, nor do I know where you can find it.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I can't be certain, but I think you listed yourself as one of the fake shemps in THE BLIND WAITER, which is why I thought you had a role in it. Sorry 'bout that.
I just read the DOGPILE review of HAMMER, and you have my congratulations. A good review is golden.
In defense of Kevin Smith (the director, not the actor), I have to say that I enjoyed some of his films. Although often clunky and somewhat amateurish (even his big productions have an seat-of-the-pants, low-budget feel to them), his films do fulfill one of the primary conditions of art: coalescing the artists' life experiences into a focused work. Would you agree that Smith at least sticks to the basics, and writes based on what he knows? However clumsy, his work IS personal expression (DOGMA, for instance, was born from his views on religion and his own religious upbringing, and being a recovering Catholic myself, it made me laugh my ass off). His work is that much, if nothing else.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

If you're amused by Kevin Smith's films, great. I only see a guy who doesn't know how to write, nor has he the slightest clue how to direct. His stuff is amateur time, and I don't think he has anything to say, either.

Josh

Name: Mark Sawicki
E-mail: biztoon@yahoo.com

Dear Josh

I recieved my copy of "If I had a Hammer" and was able to show it to my wife for the first time (she was unable to make the 35 screening) She got a big kick out of it especially the summation argument at the end on apathy and inability. We had just finished being appaled watching a few minutes of the Anna Nichole show and Hammer seemed to sum up all the reasons we hated that dubiously popular celebrity death watch program. I also bought the Bruce Campbell book and found it fascinating to see how you and your group of Michiganders made the Hollywood journey. I remember Tom Sullivan from those days and on another note recall vaguely the film Demon Lover done in Jackson Michigan by Don Jackson and Jerry Younkins. The Skotak brothers also from Michigan worked on that film and went on to do Terminator II. Don Jackson went on to work with Roger Corman. There was a documentary done called "Demon Lover Diary" that chronicled that movie and its time period. I only saw it once at the Nuart. What a different age! I managed to work my way up as an effects cameraman and actor (when I could get the work [thanks again Josh]). It fascinates me that so many film people came out of Michigan during that period. It was fun reading about your groups journey.
I'm glad that "Hammer" is out there.

Sincerely,
small town boy from Jackson Michigan
Mark Sawicki aka Mr. Buckley

Dear Mark:

I'm glad you got your tape. Thanks for buying it. Yes, lots of movie folks have come from Michigan. And yes, I saw "The Demon Lover Diary," and it was a terrific documentary. Now get everyone you've ever met to buy a tape.

Josh

Name: Erik
E-mail: mrbrown666@hotmail.com

so josh, are you saying that a film CAN be "artsy" as long as it has a story to tell?

do you think that a film lacking a plot can still have a story? for example, BAD LIEUTENANT has no "plot"... the character IS the story of the movie.

Dear Erik:

That's absolutely what I'm saying, and if the artsiness actually fits with the subject matter it can make it a better a story. A good story frequently comes out of the lead character, though not always. I didn't like "Bad Lieutenant" and I think it's one-note and repetitive, but say "Taxi Driver" or even "Tender Mercies" are good stories about interesting characters that aren't about plot. If you actually have a legitimately interesting character you don't necessarily need a plot because the character will cause things to happen, and that's what a story is, something causes something else. Most movies have a plot -- they plan to steal the money, then they steal it, now do they get away -- because the characters aren't all that interesting. But if you don't have that cause and effect concept, whether from a plot or an interesting character that keeps causing things to happen, your film will just sit there and be boring. And as far as I'm concerned, boring is entirely unacceptable.

Josh

Name: the detective
E-mail: gated_well@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

In response to "artsy fartsy" and "jerk off filmmaking"

"I'm referring to the feature film form, meaning over an hour long. Artsy-fartsiness will NOT carry a feature. The feature film form is about story."

First, the Webster dictionary definition of STORY : A usu. fictional prose or verse narrative intended to interest or amuse : Tale. 2. The plot of a narrative or dramatic work. 3. A report, statement, or allegation of facts. 4. A lie.

Arty: i.e. "artsy-fartsy" Informal. Pretentiously or affectedly artistic.

Was Dreyer's JOAN OF ARC "artsy-fartsy" because of its close ups, Murnau's early camera movements in THE LAST LAUGH, Vertov's revolutionary MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA?

What about STORY in the work of Bunuel, Bresson, Ozu, Fellini to name a few... and yes, even "experimental" filmmakers like Brakhage, Anger, Mekas.

Let us not forget that it was "experiments" that brought about the language/vocabulary of film **( it was Melies who was credited with the first SPLICE: his MAGIC)

Each of these filmmakers understood the limitless potential of film form and expression. Their work is not "artsy-fartsy" nor was it confined to such a small minded concept of STORY. They understood that STORY is an act of disguise! A mixture of emulsion and light.

"you're always aware that there's a director at work"

Is there not always a director at work. You are a director, right? And your films, I suppose, is yourself at work.
The almost hilarious inaccuracy and campy-ness of a film like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is more distracting to any intelligent viewer than the jump cuts of Godard.

"You cannot begin with deconstruction; you must first understand construction before you deconstruct."

You can begin anywhere you please, although generally some understanding of how to load the camera is useful.

I am writing this response to challenge the limited view expressed here about experiment and cinematic self-consciousness.
These techniques have been a part of the beauty, art, poetry, and yes, even STORY in film since its birth over 100 years ago.

Do not draw your reference only from the multi million dollar B-movie Hollywood of today and the insipid music video and commercial world. We all know that sucks. But the ignorace of this list is no better...

"WITH NEW THOUGHTS LET US MAKE OLD VERSES!"

Dear The Detective:

You say that as though Bunuel, Dreyer, Ozu, Fellini, or Murnau didn't have stories to tell, but they most certainly did. I've found that Godard frequently doesn't have a story to tell, and most of his films are awful. No Brakhage and Anger aren't telling stories, per see, but they primarily made short films, and they're very watchable, either. And saying "You can begin anywhere you please, although generally some understanding of how to load the camera is useful" is another form of ignorance. It's just like saying that you can design and build a house anytime you want, but knowing how to load bricks in a wheel barrow is useful. Sure it is, but knowing what you're doing is way more important. Feature films are an extension of theater which is an extension of plain old storytelling. If you haven't got a story to tell, you haven't got a film to make.

Josh

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

Josh,

I was wondering, having just watched "Taras Bulba", what you thought of the decline of the "cast of thousands". It seems that any more the tendency is towards computer-animated fillers. I prefer real people, but I prefer models to animation as well. Both seem more authentic to me. I've been trying to remember "Hercules and the Minotaur"; I can't recall if that installment had a large battle scene or not. At any rate, it seems that it would be easy to find people from the SCA who would volunteer to do reenactments for a film. Computer animation is still so expensive that I'm amazed that directors/producers opt for it. I say that, but now that I think of it XWP/HTLJ did use computer-interpositioning to increase the size of their crowds so, from what I understand of Mr. Rob Tapert, it must have been the economical solution.

So what do you think of the "cast of thousands" and what was the largest such scene that you've been involved in? Assuming that it was fairly sizable, was it chaotic? Thanks as always.

John

Dear John:

Making fifty extras into five hundred extras is a thing digital effects can do well, and fairly cheaply. I've personally never directed a scene with more than about fifty people in it. I was an extra (or Fake Shemp, as I'm credited) in ED2 and AOD, where there were over a hundred extras, horses, stuntmen, etc. and it's very chaotic. I thought I was going to get run down by horses all the time. My biggest scenes in "Hammer" have forty dress-extras (meaning we dressed them and made them up) and perhaps ten or fifteen actors, too. It took a lot of wrangling. I'm sure something like "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Taras Bulba" were very difficult to make.

Josh

Name: Garret Harkawik
E-mail: funktaisia@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I just saw Lunatics: A Love Story on movieplex (quite possibly the only good movie they've ever shown) and I was really impressed.

Anyway, I was jsut wondering what you thought of the following directors:
David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith, David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam.

Also, any plans for your next film?

Dear Garret:

I'm glad you liked the film. At this point I don't care about any of those directors. Lynch made some good films at the beginning of his career, like "Elephant Man" and "Blue Velvet," but he hasn't made a decent film in over fifteen years. I liked Gilliam when he was with Mony Python, but really can't stand any of his films since. We Anderson is a complete bore. Kevin Smith is utterly inept. And is Cronenberg still working?

Josh

Name: Eric Lee
E-mail: eric.r.lee@wellsfargo.com

Dear Josh:

Just saw your film the other night on Encore. FABULOUS!!!! Hopefully one day you will have this wonderful title on DVD.

Dear Eric:

Thanks. Hopefully someday it will be. If you liked "Lunatics," you'll love "If I Had a Hammer." Buy your copy now.

Josh

Name: Jeff Quest
E-mail: Wonkyj@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Knowing what you think of remakes and what you think of William Wyler, I was curious as to your opinion on These Three, directed by Wyler and The Children's hour, Wyler's remake of his own film, twenty-some years later.

Dear Jeff:

I think the remake kind of blows. It's got a good cast, but by 1961 Lillian Hellman's play seems severely dated and the whole thing sits there like a ton of lead. I understand why Wyler wanted to remake it all those years, having to cut all the homosexual innuendo in the 1936 version, but "These Three" is a much better film.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I saw Coppola's "The Conversation" on the big screen the other night (brand new 35mm print) and I was interested to know your thoughts on the films (it being one of your favourites) and how it stacks up against Coppola's other films. On a personal note, I thought it was a fantastic film - the irony at the end when Harry, the so-called "best in the business", fails to find the bug in his apartment was excellent. Also the fact that he was an incredibly private person who made his living and reputation from delving into other people's lives was superbly ironic.
Thanks again,
Tony

Dear Tony:

It's a strong picture with a lot of irony. If someone hires you to bug somebody, then they use that information as a reason to kill them, are you partially responsible? I always loved the sequence of Harry Caul (Hackman) cleaning up the tapes of the bugging, pulling out all of the extra noise, and finally able to hear what they're saying. Coppola was on this incredible run at that point, having gone from co-writing "Patton" (and winning an Oscar), to directing and co-writing "The Godfather" (and winning another Oscar), to "The Conversation," which was nominated for Best Picture, to "The Godfather Part II," for which he won everything, and was the same year as "The Conversation." Five years later he came out with "Apocalypse Now," which has its problems, and that's the end of the deal. Everything since then has been crap.

Josh

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

Josh,

I really enjoyed "Taras Bulba" though I agree with you that Tony Curtis probably bore a close resemblance to the Bulba's milkman. I was struck by how many scenes I recognized from later movies. I was also struck by the fact that Cossacks in the sixteenth century were calling for more vodka, a drink not known in Russia for another two and a half centuries. There were also an awful lot of trees for the Asian Steppe, but I loved the scenes in Kiev and the fortified town. Best of all was the set up in the relationship between Curtis and Brynner. Without that set up the ending would not have had the power it did.

No real question this time. Thanks.

John

Dear John:

I love the ting! sound effect of the bullet going through the armor.

Josh

Name: Gord
E-mail: gordzajac@earthlink.net

Hi Josh,

Any chance I can talk you into writing about your experiences with the almighty pitching process? Perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek "How to" diatribe?

I truly enjoy reading about your filmmaking experiences and am simply dying to read more.

Keep fighting the good fight,

Gord

Dear Gord:

I actually already wrote that essay, and it's lurking around somewhere. Finding it is the issue. On a basic level, one ought make their pitch as short and snappy as possible. You're trying to intrgue someone into reading your script, which there's a very good chance they won't do. I'm convinced, however, that no movies ever get made from writers coming in and pitching executives. The execs that listen to pitches are the low-end execs whose only power is to say no. None of them are anywhere close to being able to say yes. It's futile, and a certain level of hell.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I'll put Cukor's LITTLE WOMEN on my Netflix list, if they have it. Did he also direct THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET, or am I mistaken?
I happened to watch some of your old Super 8 shorts the other day, along with a few of Sam Raimi's, and I noticed that you have acting credits in several shorts. In THE SAPPY SAP, is that you fiddling with the parking meter, so that it looks like you're unbuttoning the girl's dress? Also, in TORRO, TORRO, TORRO, are you the guy with the goatee sitting next to the colonel's table ("My, the colonel's fallen on his brass")? I was curious about those two in particular, as well as THE BLIND WAITER, where I confess I can't pick out what role you played. The credits in those films weren't specific as to who played who, so I was hoping that you could shed some light on the subject.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Both the 1934 and the 1957 versions of "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" were directed by Sidney Franklin, who was big shot director/producer at MGM in the 1930s and 40s. He directed "The Good Earth," and he produced "Mrs. Miniver" for William Wyler (who was on loan to MGM from Sam Goldwyn). Regarding the short films, yes that's me diddling with the parking meter in "The Sappy Sap," and yes that's me in "Torro." I'm not in "The Blind Waiter" because I was busy running the camera the whole time.

Josh

Name:
E-mail:

Dear josh,

Great site. i just stumbled on it, and i am glad i did. i was wonderin what u thought on a couple of films that i like and enjoy watching. they are:

-cronenberg's "crash"
-scorcese's "last temptation of christ"

i bet u hated theem, but i just wanted to make sure cuz u never talk about them.

and one last thing: are there any recent films that you would recommend to me (besides "monsters Ball")?

Dear _____:

I haven't seen "Crash," but sure sounds like a dumb idea -- people screwing while crashing their cars to have bigger orgasms. Right. I didn't like "Last Temptation." It's like watching the cast of "The Sopranos" pretend they're biblical characters. "Jesus, you mook!" The basic premise of the film seems to be, what if Jesus was a creepy asshole? David Bowie was good as Pilate. I just saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and it was cute, lightweight fluff, and just at the point my interest was seriously flagging, it ended, so that's good.

Josh


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