assertion is not that without a God there can be no
great thinkers, only that without an absolute Universal
there can be nothing profound. If a prfound thought
is one which illuminates some aspect of a universal
truth then modern relativism works against profound
thinking. This idea isn't mine, and I'm not sure I agree
with it completely; there can be commonality in universal
independence. But it is an interesting idea and one
which attempts to answer the question of why philosophy
has suffered in recent years.
seen Keaton's "The General" of course. The
one I've rented is based on the true story of an Irish
mobster in Dublin who, I believe, developed something
of a Robin Hood identity until he was gunned down by
rivals in the early nineties. I'll let you know if I
think you should check it out. Thanks,
doesn't sound like a rational theory to me. The universal
truths remain the same, whether it's 1903 or 2003. The
names that humans stick on the concept of God may change,
but the intention is always the same. Nor is there anything
particularly unique about the present time period, other
than we're presently stuck in it. It's a concept that
Colleen McCullough explores in an interesting fashion
in her Rome books, which take place in about 200 to
100 BC. To those people, that was the modern world,
as modern as it had ever been, and all of the same issues
we have now, they had then. Other than a few technical
gadgets it's the same world, and humans have all the
same problems. Can I make a decent life for myself,
should I have kids, can I give them a decent life, will
I see any of my dreams come true, is there any point
to existence? Etc. There's nothing new under the sun.
was kinda thinking you might not really care for Donnie
Darko, but it's the kind of movie where people either
love it or hate it. No skin off my back that you didn't
like it. Like you said, it's a mostly free country although
with Ashcroft in office I feel a little less "free"
Much like tastes in John Wayne films, as I recall your
favorite is True Grit, whereas mine is The Quiet Man.
imagine the hard part of enjoying any new film is having
such a broad background of knowledge of what movies
have come before. The more expanded your worldview,
it becomes harder to find product that meets your criteria
of what consitutes "good".
Once you've had an excellent Deepdish Pizza, do you
really want to continue frequenting Little Ceasars or
recall the source; I'd read an article awhile back where
this fellow surmised that the reason most of what you
see on TV and in the movies feels regurgitated or unoriginal
is simply because todays writers are processing the
information that they grew up with.
Meaning old TV shows and Movies; plots of which are
in many cases derived from older print media/stories
(greek tragedy, etc..).
So many of today's writers are in essence producing
copies of a copy of a copy. And probably never even
read or heard of the original source.
In part why I stopped watching television 4+ years ago.
I'm probably preaching to the choir at this point (haha!)
wanted to say that I purchased Running Time awhile back
and really enjoyed the film and commentary! Only thing
that bugged me about RT is that it takes forever for
the film to actually start as the opening sequence seems
to drag on and on.
a great New Years, and kudos for taking the time to
respond to these e-mails. If nothing else appreciate
the honesty of your responses, a rare thing in todays
Grand Ledge, Mi.
takes forever for the film to start"? Yikes! This
is called Act One, and it's absolutely necessary in
telling a rational story. If I don't get the set-up
of an act one in a film, I know I'm going to be bored
in a relatively short time and will stay that way until
the end. Perhaps RT has a bad first act, but I never
thought so, and it's only about 25 minutes long, which
is perfectly standard. Regarding growing up on movies
and TV shows, that's what I grew up on, too. The point
is, what are you getting out of them? There aren't all
that many different kinds of stories to tell, but if
you're telling your version, as opposed to reguritating
someone else's version, there are and endless amount
of stories to tell. There had already been a million
westerns by the time David Webb Peoples wrote "Unforgiven,"
nor did he live in the old west, but he thought up a
new western story to tell. It's all based on how much
thought you're willing to give a story, as opposed to
being lazy and just stealing them. To repeat an old
writing adage, "If you're not directly inspired
by something, then you're just stealing." The point
is to be inspired -- which nobody seems to be -- and
not become a thief.
hate to tell you, but you probably were exceptional.
I think I'm roughly a decade behind you in age and I
think we have read many of the same books. I know that
my peer group in high school and before were not reading
those books. I think "The Joe Montana Story"
was big in my class. Still, a great many of those people
have turned out to be decent human beings and I think
the same will hold true for the current generation.
Certainly I intend my boys to be big readers and, more
to the point, critical thinkers.
I understand, you've never read "The Lord of the
Rings." I mention it because I think many of your
criticisms about modern society are touched on in LOTR.
Tolkien, I think, saw modern culture's declining ability,
or inclination for subtlety and critical thought, particularly
in philosophy. Of course, like any fairy tale does,
Tolkien masks his observations in metaphors. It's one
of the things which endear the books to me.
the broader question, one author I've recently read,
Steve Bruce, sees the decline in philosophy as a function
of the relativism which has accompanied the decline
of formal religion. The abandonment of an absolute arbiter
(God in a highly-structured interpretation) has denied
the existence of an absolute truth, without which there
can be no profundity. Without the Universal, we are
mired in the Mundane. It's an interesting notion, one
I haven't worked through entirely. Certainly, a great
deal of philosophy has assumed the absolutes which relativism
you seen "The General", about the Irish mobster?
I'm planning on watching it and wondered if you have
thoughts on it. Thanks as always,
have not seen this film called "The General."
I've seen Buster Keaton's film "The General"
many times. So, are you saying that if you don't believe
in God you can't be a great thinker? Some of our greatest
thinkers were Athiests. This country was founded by
Athiests. I don't even think there is a reduction of
religion in the world. Actually, I think it's growing.
been away for awhile, and was looking over the site.
How have things been in your part of the world?
Someone here said that patriotism sells in movies, and
I agree with that fact, repugnant though it may be.
It seems lately that every film has a flag waving in
slow motion in it, which gives me mixed emotions, for
I know it to be hypocrisy. From the end of the Viet
Nam war to the present, it had been the trend to denigrate
what this country stands for; patriotism had become
passe, something worthy of a dirty look. After September
11, it suddenly became cool to be a patriot, and flag
decals appeared in car windows everywhere. I remember
something that happened a few weeks after 9/11 which
sums this issue up for me. My National Guard unit provided
a static display for a diabetes walkathon held at a
nearby university (SCSU, to be exact). It wasn't much,
just a few soldiers and one of our tactical ambulances
beside the track where the event was held. In the short
time that we where there, three women came up and gave
me hugs, I received about twenty handshakes, and heard
"Thank you for what you're doing" and "God
bless you" about thrity times from complete strangers.
As one of these sunshine patriots walked away, my company
commander muttered to himself "Where were you for
the last sixteen years?"
The man had a point. Where were these people when there
wasn't a war? Where were they on the one day that I
had to go to the armory in uniform and took a bus there,
and was taunted and catcalled the whole way? Where were
they when you didn't see the flag on every house?
It's bad enough to hear tenable, phony patriotism from
ordinary people, but when Hollywood, that great Mecca
of half-baked politics and phony ideals, jumps on the
band wagon, it's too much. I wish they would spare me
Sorry to harangue your website with a topic that isn't
really cinema related, but I've been away for awhile
and had a fresh rant all stored up. In the meantime,
thank you as always for bothering to listen.
patriotism is as bad as religious fundamentalism, in
my opinion. I love my country and I'm proud to be an
American, but I also think this country has some very
serious problems, and some really poor leaders. The
last election made me ashamed of my nationality. That
our supreme court is so partisan and so easily bought
and sold is particularly shameful. That we know the
Saudis are the main backers of the terrorists and we
won't get out of bed with them is shameful. That we
won't make any attempt to curb our use of oil so that
we don't have to stay in grip of the Arab oil countries
is reprehensible. That we have more people in prison
than any other country in the world is disgraceful.
That I have the right to complain about all of this
without fear of reprisal is beautiful, and to be cherished.
been about two years since XENA ended but since then
Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor have done practically
nothing of note on screen nor do I see their names linked
to future projects. This seems incredible to me as supporting
actors in the series have achieved some success: Marton
Czokas was in XXX and the forthcoming TIMELINE directed
by Richard Donner, Kathryn Morris was in MINORITY REPORT
and the late Kevin Smith would have been in a Bruce
Willis movie had he lived.
Why do you think this is Josh as I would have thought
that there would have been a deluge of offers for these
two fine actresses based on the range of emotions they
portrayed in XENA but this has not been the case?
you'd have thought wrong. I know they're both good actors,
but I think Hollywood sees them both as sort of washed-up
goofy characters from a ancient canceled syndicated
TV show. Of course, Hollywood has it's head up it's
ass in most cases, and this is just one more example.
don't have agent representation. Could I use my lawyer
and a release form, if after querrying production companies,
they request my material?
If you've gotten to someone in a production company
then you've already done the agent's job. The point
of having an agent, however, is that hopefully they
can get to someone higher up in the company, someone
who may actually be able to say yes. All the development
people at the bottom can say is no. Production companies,
for the most part, turn down most of the stuff that
comes through agents; they turn down everything that
comes in unsolicited. The ugly facts.
you been across the border to Windsor, Ontario? What's
it like? A friend of mine got an MA in English from
Windsor University while Joyce Carol Oates was teaching
there. Just wanted to know if you had been there. Take
care and good luck on your Warpath treatment. Is it
in screenplay form now?
just a few pages of "Warpath" adapted to screenplay.
I really don't want to start until I get paid. I don't
want to put in the effort of writing the script until
I'm a lot more certain that the film will be financed.
I've been to Windsor any number of times in my life,
but not recently. It's a cute town and it feels quite
a bit different than Detroit, which is only a mile away.
Windsor feels more like New Zealand to me than America,
perhaps becaused they're both British Commonwealth countries.
I just like Canada, though, and I've seen quite a lot
was such a mess that I can't even gather my thoughts
on it. I was so bored watching that movie that my head
hurt. There was no focus what so ever. And I agree that
the whole revenge plot line was just weak and stupid.
Why didn't LD's character just form a rival gang in
the first place? The stuff with him becoming Bill the
Butcher's right hand man was such useless bullshit!
And the romance between Leo and Cameron Diaz was so
tacked on it was pathetic. And the score was just plain
annoying! I saw it with my Dad who is a big time epic
movie guy. I have never seen the man fidget and sigh
so much in my life. He told me that he must have checked
his watch a dozen times. I thought Day-Lewis was doing
some kind of weird DeNiro thing myself. That swaggering
sort of walk that he had was hilarious! And him actually
butchering meat and handing it out to people was pretty
comical too. What a boring and frustrating movie going
experience. My Mom said that we both looked like we
lost our best friends when we got home.
will have to try the "roll your own" Am Spirits.
My grandfather rolled his own until the day he died.
He would sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like
hours and roll the most perfect cigarettes. He would
let my brother and I help him sometimes. I feel terrible
saying this but rolling cigarettes with my grandpa was
basically how I learned how to roll a joint.
rolling cigarettes is easier than rolling joints. One
of the things I like about rolling my own is that it
takes two hands and some minor level of concentration,
so it makes reaching for a cigarette much more difficult
and intentional. I smoke less than half as much since
I began to roll my own. Meanwhile, "Gangs"
just gets worse and worse in retrospect. It begs the
question that's been troubling me for years -- how can
someone who absolutely knew what he was doing for years,
like Martin Scorsese, now seem to know nothing about
it? How could he have read that script and said, "Yes,
let's shoot it"? It deeply shocks me.
got back from the east coast for the holidays. My first
night back a group of friends and I went to a bar/pool
hall in Washington D.C. that we frequent. I was standing
there watching two of my friends play pool while drinking
a beer and smoking a cigarette and I thought I had died
and gone to heaven! I actually felt like an adult for
a change. It was great! I am so sick of this California
bullshit. I got excited on the flight to D.C. because
I knew that I was going out that night and that I was
going to be able to smoke in the bar. How pathetic is
that? By the way, have you tried American Spirit Cigarettes?
They are really good. You can smoke one of them forever.
and I saw "Gangs of New York". What a monumental
waste of time! That's all I have to say about the film.
been smoking American Spirit now for years, although
I buy the tobacco by the can and roll it myself. It's
much cheaper and better that way, BTW. I too saw "Gangs
of New York," and if I had to sum it up in two
words they would be: complete disaster. It's actually
far worse than I even suspected it might be, and I sure
wasn't hoping for much. Scorsese is the perfect example
of the old Hollywood adage, "Great directors don't
die, they become cinematographers." And everyone's
going on and on about the set (as though civilians ought
to be talking about such things), and it's not that
great of a set. Every street goes two blocks, then dead
ends, which is how they built all of the Xena and Hercules
sets. What made the old New York street sets for "The
Godfather Part II" so impressive (shot in exactly
the same place) is that they don't stop at a dead end,
but just keep going off into obscurity. It took me half
the film to figure out who Daniel Day-Lewis was imitating,
but I'm convinced he's doing a Peter Falk impression
-- "The cops in this town are morons!" I'm
not sure what accent Leonardo thinks he's doing, but
he's certainly not pulling it off. But worst of all,
it's just a flat-out terrible screenplay. The only characterization
and motivation Leonardo's character has is revenge,
which is a dull, dramatically weak motivation, and when
he doesn't kill Day-Lewis the first chance he gets,
possibly about twenty minutes into the film, everything
that comes after that is just a severe waste of time
that gets progressively worse by the second. It's more
than time for Scorsese to retire. He can stay busy by
restoring old Italian pictures.
wanted to drop by (it's been awhile) and recommend a
film you may not have seen yet.
Check out "Donnie Darko"
not a perfect film, it's one that I've enjoyed watching
multiple times. How often can you say that anymore?
It's quite funny that this film was mis-labelled as
a Horror film.
of note is "Amelie" which seemed to play forever
at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor.
Grand Ledge, Michigan
it's still a somewhat free country and we can all have
our own opinions. I thought "Donnie Darko"
was complete and utter crap. And the monster is a guy
in a bad rabbit suit. It's like they decided to make
"Harvey" into a horror film -- "Oh my
God, it's a giant rabbit!" And that kid was awful.
And every two minutes it cuts to a title like, "Tuesday,
11:03 AM," like it mattered at all. Sorry, buddy,
but that film's down at the bottom end for me. "Amelie"
was okay, in that modern, quirky, this-film-is-about-nothing
kind of way that so many movies are now. Audrey Toutou
is a good example of the cute, pouty, French, gamin,
but I never cared at all whether she fell in love or
not, and it didn't even seem like she wanted to. And
I'm supposed to care about this schmuck that works in
a porno shop? I will admit it was kind of clever, as
opposed to actually getting me to care about anything.
want to know which best actress academy award winner
won 2 oscars by age 30?
obvious answer is easy, Bette Davis, except that there
were two. The other is the nearly forgotten Luise Rainer.
Meryl Streep had two Oscars by the age of 31, but one
of them was for Best Supporting Actress. Katherine Hepburn
was a mere 26 when she got her first Oscar, then was
60 when she got her second, then got two more after
that. As my friend Rick pointed out in an article he
wrote, the average age of an actress winning an Oscar
is about 28, whereas the average age of an actor winning
an Oscar is nearer to 50.
am a student at Manchesteer Metropolitan University,
England, currently studying a BA (hons) in Design and
Art Direction. I have decided i would like to have a
bash at making a short film for my next assignment,
something which i have never embarked on before, and
am quite scared of starting. What advice could you give
me in regards to preparing myself for pressing the record
button for the first time, and is there anything i should
avoid. I understand you must be extremely busy but would
be very grateful of ANY help!!!!
certain you have a decent script, then rehearse as much
as possible. That way, when you get to the location
to shoot you won't be going at it completely cold, and
you can also have a fair amount of the blocking already
worked out. This will allow you to pay more attention
to your production. Also, plan your shots and either
make a detailed shot list or draw storyboards. One more
thing, be very circumspect about taking suggestions
from the crew. If you've made a plan, stick to it. As
your countryman, Alfred Hitchcock, said, "You never
put the camera somewhere because the camerman thinks
it's a good idea." Good luck.
the holidays are being good to you, and that Jehosus
left you something other than a lump of coal. In particular,
hope that you've had a chance to reconnect with lots
of your old Detroit cronies over eggnog and a fat doob.
watching a ton of John Wayne films last week - one of
the cable channels ran most of his later works. I was
struck by how good many of them were - not timeless
works of art by any means, but tight decent stories.
I'd forgotten how Wayne allowed himself to age in the
60's - he plays fathers and grandfathers in almost all
of them, and often comments on how he's "too old"
for one thing or another.
also occurred to me that it's more Wayne than Eastwood
that you're chanelling in "Warpath" (which,
again, I *really* liked.) I'd forgotten, for example,
how utterly tough and ruthless Wayne could be. Cole's
romance with the tough farm wife reminds me a bit of
Wayne and Geraldine Page in "Hondo," especially
with him meeting her no-good husband. Except you've
made a real character out of the husband, and the wife
is a lot more courageous. Same with Cole's observations
on the bounty for a dead man vs. a living one. Reminded
me a bit of a similar encounter Wayne had with Richard
Boone in "Big Jake." Good, archetypal stuff.
know you like Wayne in his John Ford years. Any thoughts
on any of his later work? And do keep us posted on "Warpath!"
was just talking about the Duke yesterday. John Wayne
simply had good taste in scripts and stories, much better
than Eastwood. "Hondo" is a really good script,
and Hondo is a well-written character. Since Wayne produced
that film, purchased the rights to a good Louis L'Amour
book, then hired a top-notch screenwriter, James Lee
Grant, to adapt it, as well as a very solid director
in John Farrow (Mia's dad), as well as two terrific
cinematographers, Robert Burks and Archie Stout, the
Duke knew how to put a good movie together. Since I
grew up going to the movie theater and seeing all of
those late John Wayne pictures, like "True Grit,"
"Big Jake" and "McQ," I have a particularly
warm spot in my heart for them. I really like "The
Shootist," too, which is one of the really great
and appropriate last films ever. I'll even admit that
in 1969, which was a darn good year for movies, and
the last great year for westerns, with "The Wild
Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy," I liked "True
Grit" the best. Once again, it has a very good
script, and cadence of the dialog seems more like the
1800s than most any other western.
I'm really interested in actually making a short film,
what sort of equipment would you suggest to start out
sort of equipment can you get your hands on? Digital
video is probably the cheapest and easiest route to
take, but you have to have access to editing software,
like Final Cut Pro, and learn how to use it. Otherwise,
you could shoot film, but it's more complicated, more
difficult, and more expensive. But it will look better
and you'll learn more. Can you get a hold of a 16mm
Bolex camera? It's not easy to use, but the results
can be amazing.
am a young scriptwriter (not even a teenager) I have
written about two full-length screenplays, but I feel
that they are both a bit too rushed-could you give me
that mean you're twelve? And you've written "about
two full-length screenplays"? Does that mean you
didn't finish them, or maybe you wrote a third screenplay
and don't remember doing it? The first thing you can
do is read my five essays on script structure and commit
all of the information to memory. Then you need to watch
as many movies as humanly possible, the older the better,
and read as much as humanly possible. Between all of
these movies and books you might want to try living
life as best as you can, too. The key to being a good
writer, in my humble opinion, is having something to
say. Just rehashing other people's stories is of no
value to anyone. Good luck.
me when I say that you were the exception and not the
rule when it comes to childhood interests. My husband
and I were just discussing reading the other night and
decided that it is an antisocial behavior. It has been
for a while, at least in this century. I don't mean
reading news or magazines, but full-length novels, history
books and historical documents. Kids are not encouraged
to read real books because their parents didn't/couldn't
read real books. My parents treated me like I was studying
Satanism when I retreated with historical novels. In
college, I took elective courses for supplemental reading
suggestions. No one seemed to understand that concept.
Why would a person want to read more than they HAVE
to? That's why Cliff Notes have been around for so long.
I do believe the "great thinkers" are out
there, but are unpublished, getting fired from their
teaching jobs and possibly just killing themselves.
On that note, I believe I will watch the dvd of your
Thou Shalt Not Kill . . . Except!
watch TSNKE, it'll prove I'm a deep thinker. Who else
but a deep thinker could come up with the premise of
the marines versus the Manson family? That is an interesting
explanation about not reading, that it's now considered
anti-social behavior. That playing video games isn't
treated as anti-social behavior is what's weird. As
Mario Vargas Llosa points out in his recent essay "Why
Literature," reading connects humans together as
very few other things do; it gives them a common experience,
and is much more important than playing games or watching
movies or TV.
thinkers and quotations, I have felt that, for some
time now, the sheer volume of material, be it in print
or a direct quotation, has diluted the impact of any
of it. When Churchill was making his famous, (and well-rehearsed)
ad-libs he had very little competition. Even on radio,
only a handful of the top personalities had the opportunity
to be quotable, as it were. E! television has entire
hour-long programs devoted to nothing but the best quotations
from the previous days' talk shows. The explosion in
print has even been more impressive than that of broadcast.
All of that volume will inevitably dilute the value
of any single sampling.
analogy might be a violinist. I saw a "Sixty-Minutes"
(as I recall) program about a young Asian girl who was
an accomplished violinist. And she was impressive in
her practive room. However, she performed with something
like five-hundred other violinists of roughly the same
age and ability. She didn't perform any worse than she
had before, but she was far less impressive.
is the great hope I still hold for movies. Movies are
one of the very few media not currently being swamped
by volume; I cannot actually think of another. This
means that it is still possible to produce a "classic"
movie; one which produces a lasting cultural resonance.
That doesn't mean that there aren't excellent books
or music being produced, but they will never reach enough
of an audience to produce the type of resonance that
Huxley, Keynes or Shaw were able to generate.
sure there's a sociological term or theorem for this
trend. At any rate, it is the filter through which my
perspective is filtered. Thanks,
you're right, maybe there are a lot of intelligent,
talented, quotable people out there that simply aren't
being seen or heard. On some level, though, I just don't
believe it. It's like this nonsense I'm always hearing
about how smart kids are these days because they can
turn a computer on and play video games. I'd be much
more impressed if they read a book. I've yet to be impressed
by just about any kid I've ever met. Fourteen year old
kids, if they read anything, are still reading Harry
fucking Potter books. When I was fourteen I was reading
"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" and
Ernest Hemingway. My neighbor and friend Jim and I would
get off the bus from junior high, sneak into the woods,
smoke a joint, and discuss the Marshall Plan and the
Julio-Claudians. Perhaps we were exceptional, but we
didn't feel all that exceptional, nor has either of
us moved on anywhere toward greatness. If I could find
a kid under eighteen who actually knew when WWII was,
I'd be impressed.
finally got to watch "If I Had a Hammer" (my
previous VCR died), and it was worth the wait. I won't
go into a lengthy review (yet), but will just say that
it was nice to see a movie for adults. Your two leads
(Lisa and Brett) were excellent. Any future projects
you can talk about?
glad you enjoyed it. I'm diddling around with my story
"Warpath" once again. There's a fellow who
says he's interested in putting together the financing,
but I've heard that story a thousand times before. And
since 99.99% of the folks who say they can put together
film financing flake out, I expect it sooner or later
in this case, too. That's all for the moment.
E-mail: No thanks (sick of spam:)
have a couple questions about setting up a limited partnership
for a film. Every film book I read recommends that you
set up an L.P., and they go on to say that, in most
states, you can only have 25 investors (any more and
it would be considered a public offering) and that you
have to raise the entire budget before you can spend
a dime of it.
I've read that Sam and you guys started shooting EVIL
DEAD (with a limited partnership business structure)
on $90,000 and over the course of the next couple years
found the rest of the investors and eventually the budget
got to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000.
if you're still awake :)...that leads to my first question:
Are the laws in Michigan different or something, or
have I been misunderstanding these film books?
couple acquaintances of mine made a feature for about
$80,000 and for every $800 investment, their investors
would receive 1/2% of the profits. So basically, they
could have had up to 100 investors. They didn't even
have a lawyer register this. Can this possibly be legal?!?!?
hope you don't mind answering these questions, Josh.
I'm going to visit a lawyer soon to set up an L.P.,
and I want to have some idea as to what the hell I'm
talking about before I spend $100 an hour to talk to
him. So I thought I'd ask someone who's been in the
either 25 or 35 investors, generally. So having a hundred
investors is in fact illegal. But if you don't get caught,
what the hell. Unfortunately, you now have a hundred
people you have to trust to not sue you and be part
of your scheme. Regarding "Evil Dead," the
original offering, which was a limited partnership,
was for $150,000. When $90,000 was raised, Ren Pix decided
to start shooting, so they had an addendum to the offering
written, got all of the investors to sign it, and thus
the money was released to them out of escrow. You can
put that into the offering in the first place, that
you feel you only need two-thirds or half of the money
to go start shooting. You don't necessarily have to
raise the full subscription to get the money released.
If you exceed the total amount of money you were asking
for, you also have to have an addendum to your offering
asking the investors to allow you to dilute their shares.
They'll generally go along with this sort of thing because
they know that without more money you won't finish the
movie, and if the movie's not done it's not worth anything.
I hope I've answered your questions, and feel free to
ask as many others as you'd like. Good luck.
have to disagree with Scott about there being no great
thinkers today. I think that the intellectual pursuits
at the highest end of the spectrum tend to be rather
subtle and arcane for the non-specialist. That doesn't
diminish their accomplishments, only their accesibility.
Even still, popularizers of many of the sciences abound.
Your point about intellectuals avoiding or being avoided
by Hollywood is well taken. One is known by the company
one keeps or forsakes, I suppose.
Economist has an article accusing Steven Spielberg of
being a latter-day Luddite due to his professed aversion
to digital-format movies. Like so many, the editors
at the Economist are impressed with his commercial success
(and legitimately so, I suppose, if you're an economist).
Anyway, it's not a bad article on the future of the
craft from an outside but considered perspective and
I didn't know if you'd seen it. Thanks,
suppose Spielberg is a Luddite, if you consider that
digital editing has caused many post-production people
to lose their jobs. If one's point is to do things in
an earlier fashion so as to keep more people employed,
cutting on film will most certainly achieve that. To
cut digitally all you need is one or two people at the
most. To cut on film you need a roomful of them, with
many assistants logging and keeping track of all that
film. I think Spielberg still cuts on film because that's
what he's used to. Anyway, regarding great thinkers,
though there may well be great scientists, physicists,
and mathematicians, there aren't any great philosophers
or practical thinkers. Look through any book of quotations,
no matter how new it is, and all you'll find are old
quotes. Nobody is saying anything that's worth quoting
anymore. Certainly not like Shaw, Bierce, Mencken, or
Howdy all! I've been gone some time, so lots of different
topics for my two cents' worth.
got a thoery about why our leading men are a bunch of
wusses these days. The thing is, we've painted ourselves
into a corner with science. Biologically speaking, women
no longer need us. They don't even need sperm banks
anymore since dna-splicing is now all the rage. So our
movie heroes have become less sexist, more sensitive
in an effort, on behalf of us men everywhere, to please
keep us around a while longer. We're really not so bad.
Ah well, at least there's still Sean Connery. And maybe
Kurt Russell? So unless science somehow vanishes we're
basically going to degrade from walking flesh-dildoes
who can put up curtains to the human equivalent of that
fifth toe scientists tell us we're all going to lose
have officially been told I'm old when I told one of
the kids I work with ("kids" meaning a seventeen
year-old) that "Minority Report" sucked. "Well,
you liked A.I. right?" "Nope, sucked."
And so on. I was told that I can't always use my "you
know, movie stuff" while looking at movies. I think
that meant I wasn't supposed to have any tastes or standards.
We need to form a Grouchy Old Filmwatchers' Club or
for your teaching a course, I'm definitely for it. A
dissenting voice is exactly what is needed out there.
Now we just have to convince the institute heads.
taking time to insult Josh here: That's an easy one.
It takes nothing from a person to destroy. It's the
favourite hobby of cowards. But building something takes
some guts, no matter what it is. I read somewhere a
quote by Stephen Hawkins saying that the arts are where
people who can't hack science (or the real world, or
something like that - I'm afraid I can't remember the
exact quote) end up. Maybe, I know I sucked at math.
But there's no equivalent in science to putting yourself
out on a stage, hoping you've done something people
will get something worthwhile out of, but knowing full
well that there's also a chance you're about to have
your sensitive artsy ass ripped a new one. Art is about
working in a void. If you're not sweating every bit
of your work all the way through its production, then
you're probably doing it wrong. Maybe if Hawkins had
to get up there and say Galileo was wrong, working from
his own guts and instincts, then he'd know what it was
like - same goes for these goofs who send it the hatemail.
about "president dumb-ass", anyone interested
in this stuff might want to take a look at Michael Moore's
book "Stupid White Men". The first chapter
describing how Bush Jr. gained the office is actually
frightening, especially in this climate of reduced liberties
and increased "securities".
Hawkings would probably encounter grave difficulties
in any of the performing arts, therefore I understand
his lack of respect. There's a quote in the quote section
here that goes something like, art is the greatest mode
of individual human expression that we know of. I think
that's true, too, and that's why people using the arts
in lieu of buying lottery tickets annoy me. Or using
film to aim at the lowest common denominator, which
completely negates it from the mode of personal expression.
And I've been getting that same horseshit my whole life
about -- "You know too much about movies, you don't
see things like the rest of us." That's right,
and I don't want to. Movies are the only place where
people hold knowledge and experience against you. I
also like to fall back on the G. B. Shaw quote, "If
more than ten percent of the population likes a painting,
it should be burned for it is bad."
gues if you consider directors, producers, lesser-known
actors, crew, technicians, etc., then there is no trend.
To judge the industry on the 50 most bankable actors
isn't fair, but they are the ones in the forefront of
the movie, usually. And aside from a very few monogamous
relationships, the most public figures of the industry
do have a higher relationship failure rate than the
rest of the world. Of course, the rest if the world
is in the shitcan, too. I just think it's funny that
they don't make movies where a man has to choose between
fame, fortune, and material happiness, and down-home
family lifestyle, and actually chooses the former.
fame and fortune is what everyone desperately yearns
for, isn't it? That I'm not really desperate for fame
and fortune has a tendency to freak people out and make
them think I'm a disingenuous liar. If you're judging
everyone in the film business by what the top fifty
stars are doing, you're simply watching too much E Entertainment
TV. If I was considered universally gorgeous and was
paid $3 million a picture, I don't know that I'd be
all that interested in settling down and leading a normal,
monogamous life. If every woman that met me wanted to
sleep with me, why wouldn't I want to fulfill their
fantasies for them?
you still blow smoke out of your mouth with out smoking
a thing? .. Ran across this page in a internet search..
Thought I would wish you well.
God, the things one gets known for. Yes, I still can,
just like in junior high school. If I ever stopped smoking
I suppose I'd lose this amazing ability. Greetings to
you, Ms. Gurski.
has been discussed many times that society has been
in a downward slump artistically for the past 20 years.
I think what is interesting is that it seems as if there
haven't been many great thinkers either. Where are all
the famous philosphers? Every single era in history
had at least one great thinker that was world renound.
At this juncture I can't think of anyone who is recocnized
for being a great thinker. I think Joseph Campbell was
the most recent. I know there are great thinkers out
there, but where are they? If you know of anyone let
me know. correct me if I'm wrong but I think this is
one of the first eras in history where great philosiphers
haven't emerged. I think it's quite funny that the people
whom are considered great free thinkers are these phoney
celebrities that have a "cause". An example
is the free Tibet movement. I believe over half of the
celebrities involved don't know 2 shits about Tibet's
turmoil. It is just trendy to be a social climbing whore.
If they really want a cause, stop president dumb ass,
and the republican party from starting world war III.
Campbell's been dead for twenty years, so I don't think
you can count him now. It's just like when I was writing
my book and giving examples of great playwrights over
the years. I went from Euripides to Shakespeare to Eugene
O'Neil to Tennessee Williams to Arthur Miller, then
I got stuck. Who is the great playwright of today? I
finally settled for David Mamet, but I don't believe
it, nor has he written anything of any real value in
over twenty years -- I don't think writing the scripts
for "The Untouchables" or "The Edge"
keeps him in the "great playwright" category.
So, I agree with you, we don't have any great thinkers
anymore, nor do we have any great writers, and subsequently,
no great films, either. And I don't know that I agree
with you that celebrities of any sort are considered
great thinkers. Part of the problem, I think, is that
intelligence is not a valued attribute anymore. It certainly
doesn't mean crap in Hollywood. Now I think intelligence
is looked down upon. It's cooler to be dumb. There was
a time, however, when sharp minds were all over Hollywood,
like Aldous Huxley, Chistopher Isherwood, Ayn Rand,
the Mankiewicz brothers, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan, William
Inge, Gore Vidal, Horton Foote, William Faulkner, Vincent
Minnelli, John Huston, Reginald Rose, Dudley Nichols,
Robert Riskin, Francis Marion, etc. There were even
sharp studio executives, like Darryl Zanuck, David Selznick,
and Sam Goldwyn.
was going to ask if you have ever enjoyed a movie that
was made for kids, but watchable for adults, but then
I remembered that you liked "Beauty and the Beast."
I'm guessing you're just frustrated at how extreme the
situation is today, and are worn out from the kids movies.
was curious about what it is about "Adaptation"
that makes you kind of want to see it? Also, about originality,
do you think that every story told could be retro-fitted
into some other story that was told before, even though
there really is a new perspective or message? To me,
it just becomes more of a target when they boast as
being "the most original" story ever told.
Like, if they bring too much attention to it, then we'll
prove them wrong just to keep them humble. And if we
really wanted to be picky, there are, what, three types
of story? Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself?
I know, that's an exaggeration. But people do get too
critical. Recently, "feardotcom" came out,
and I didn't see it, but I bet it sucked. The point
is, I had an idea for a story about websites and dead
people that was more of a thriller and more pertinent
to today's times. Whether or not it would end up being
a good story, I can't say, but I'd be afraid to even
think about it because people compare it to what has
guess there are three possible outcomes: A good movie
has similar aspects of a bad movie results in praise.
A bad movie after a good movie results in criticism.
And a bad movie that comes after another bad one, well,
lots of criticism.
yeah, do you think it's funny that Hollywood makes movies
like "Family Man" even though only a tiny
percentage of actors have families? It seems those behind
the cameras are less hypocritical, but it's strange
that they have so many movies about everlasting love,
but a Hollywood couple can't stay together past the
remember enjoying going to the movies, although it's
a somewhat distant memory now. When the big rush of
Christmas films arrive -- as it has now -- it reminds
me of when I would go see ten movies in row, and half
of them would be really good. I guess I ahve some interest
in "Adaptation" because that's what I do,
write screenplays. I basically don't think it's appropriate
material for a movie, but it sounds more interesting
than the other films. Regardings kid's films, there
are plenty I've liked over the years -- "Bambi,"
"Jungle Book," "Swiss Family Robinson,"
"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "The
Wizard of Oz" -- but that was mixed in with a lot
of good adult films. And my tolerance of facile, simple-minded
fare has dropped precipitously. Regarding originality,
yes there are three types of story, but there are many
stories within those three categories. Just like there's
only two types of humans -- male and female -- but there
are six billion variations on those two themes. Now,
however, originality has come to mean quirky, where
the story just takes odd turns for no apparent reason.
When "Fellini's 8 1/2" came out in 1963, there
had never been anything like it. Telling a variation
of that story does not make your story "wildly
original." To tell an original story doesn't mean
necessarily coming up with a story structure that's
never been used, it means coming up with an observation
of human behavior or the human condition that hasn't
been explored, and that can most certainly still be
done if one is perceptive and intelligent. I recently
read Phillip Roth's "American Pastoral," and
I don't feel that I've ever heard that story before.
On a basic level, the story of a long-term marriage
falling apart isn't new, it's why it's happening in
this instance. And your final observation about family-themed
movies and happy endings is just Hollywood stock and
trade. It seems to me that most people in Hollywood
are married and have kids just like everybody else.
I don't know that the divorce rate is any higher there
than anywhere else in America.
Gerald M. Ben-Ami
about after the screenplay is sold? How do you manage
the money, make sure the terms are solid and good for
you? How do you secure yourself so that the "biz"
and everyone else doesn't screw you? I see a zillion
books on writing screenplays, but I don't see many on
"Now you have sold it, what next?"
assistance, comments, etc you can offer are greatly
you for your time.
the script had been under option for four years, my
lawyer negotiated with their lawyers for several months
until we agreed on the terms, then I signed the Writer's
Guild contract and they sent a check. At that point
I had sold the rights and had no say-so in anything
they did with it thereafter. If you're dealing with
a company that's signatory to the Writer's Guild, and
you follow the guild's rules and use their contracts,
they really can't screw you because they will most certainly
have to deal with the Writer's Guild at some point in
the future. But whether they're signatory or not, no
film company in Hollywood is going into production on
a script they don't clearly and legally own the rights
to. They must have a clear "chain of title"
or they can't get insurance to release the film.
you might be interested in this. It's part of an article
about the 20 most successful films of the year here
in Australia and it totally backs up your comments about
the target audiences of films these days.
"The major cinemagoers in Australia are 13-year-old
boys, occasionally joined by their 15-year-old sisters
and their nine-year-old cousins. That is the conclusion
to be drawn from the 20 films that made most money at
the box office during 2002. The list contains 10 films
aimed directly at pubescent males, four designed for
kids under 10, and two whose primary audience is adolescent
females. Only four could squeeze into the "adult"
category - Ocean's 11, A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk
Down and The Panic Room, although many mature sentimentalists
joined the queues for My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Bend
It Like Beckham, and some teens enjoyed the action in
Ocean's 11 and Black Hawk Down."
I won't bother listing the other films because they're
all shit. I recently upset a work colleague who asked
me if I had seen the new "Lord of the Rings"
film. I told him I don't watch children's films and
he siad, "no it isn't". Then I told him I
don't watch films about goblins and warlocks and he
said, "but it has great special effects".
I told him that "Eight Legged Freaks" also
fell into that category and walked off.
I saw a James Stewart double on Sunday night for $9
(which is about 5 of yours) - "It's a Wonderful
Life" and "The Shop Around the Corner".
Now THAT'S entertainment! I had seen the former but
not the latter - what a joy the "Shop" was,
such a great story and almost all of it set in the one
place. Can't wait to see it again.
Anyway, Merry Christmas from Melbourne and I wish you
much success in 2003!
holidays to you down-under. We adults need to band together
and raise our voices to let it be known that we're worthy
of having films made for us, too. I just watched "A
Constant Forge," an excessively long documentary
(3 1/2 hours) about John Casavettes, which was very
interesting, but even still I bailed out. Anyway, Casavettes
makes several references to the "corrupting influence
of money." He also said to other filmmakers, which
I really liked (and I paraphrase), whose dreams do you
want to realize? Your's, or the money-man's? Meanwhile,
I enjoyed Ernst Lubitsch's "Shop Around the Corner"
very much, and I also found it to be completely charming.
Frank Morgan, who plays the shop-owner, as well as the
Wizard in the "The Wizard of Oz," slaughters
me. I saw the film at a sold-out screening in Paris
where the audience had a great time and really showed
it. I love the French attitude toward movies, which
is highly respectful. Far moreso than in America, where
it's a bsuiness and only a business. Check out some
of Lubitsch's other films, like "One Hour With
You," because they're almost all good. And as a
parting note to those here in the U.S. with cable TV,
one of my favorite films is on TCM today [at
8:00 PM --webmaster], Preston Sturges's "Christmas
in July," and I can't recall it ever being on TV
before. It's really terrific, and only 69 minutes long.
was discussing the 99 Cent Stores with a friend of mine
who works on another part of a large Southern California
studio lot, & as we were chatting via phone, I went
to google.com & sought to bring up all info. on
this chain of our favorite stores. Your article seemed
interesting, so I pulled it up, started to read it,
& found my self laughing my head off out loud! I
can really relate to your shopping excursion experiences
at the 99 Cent Stores. This was VERY well written. Since
this site is entitled "Ask The Director",
my question is: what else have you written & posted
on-line so I can again LOL?
kidding aside, this article was priceless (pun intended).
not priceless, then possibly worth 99 cents. There are
plenty of other essays posted here, check
them out. I'm glad you enjoyed it. What film company
do you work for, if you don't mind me asking?
night I was reading "the happy man in the town",
and around page 104 I was crying like a baby. Man, I
loved, I think you say that have something of Capra;
The Egg and me come to my mind. I think too in the legend
of King Fisher (not the movie), when a king is hurted
and the land becomes waste and dry. Here, the town lost
the office, the Pistons are losing... all becam worst.
Again, today I found a different image in tv. Beverly
Hills 90210 was on and I said "Bullshit!. There
is where the air is brown". Thank for make me cry,
sensitive guy. It pleases me greatly that my writing
could cause that strong of an emotion. As a little anecdote,
I made eighteen extra appearances on the second season
of "Beverly Hills 90210." I was there so often
that season that Luke Perry and Jason Priestly both
would smile and say hi to me when they saw me walk past.
Anyway, I'm glad you liked the script. And the air in
LA is brown.
your book list. I am reading Massie, Peter the Great.
I like: John McPhee, Barbara Tuchman. I liked Adams
and A Path Between the Seas by McCollough very much.
In fiction: Smiley, Le Carre, Leonard, Follett.
for keeping a books website. Hats off.
live in Salt Lake (non-M). I play handball, make pottery,
and work in electrical construction.
Frida this month, liked it a lot. Want to see Far from
are you reading now? What movies should I see?
the Great" was terrific. What a great man, and
tall, too. I'm reading "Best American Essays 2002"
and the three essays I've read so far have all been
very good. I recently finished "The First American"
by H. W. Brands, about Ben Franklin, and it was a great
book. Franklin was probably the greatest American that's
ever lived, and the most important of the founding fathers.
As for movies, I don't know. I'm sorta kinda interested
in seeing "Adaptation," although when filmmakers
have to revert to making films about themselves and
their travails making movies, I think they have nothing
to say, and no experience to base anything on. It does
amuse me that the reviews keep calling it "wildly
original" when it sounds like a cross between "Fellini's
8 1/2" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."
"Wildly original" now means you're stealing
from movies that are over ten years old.
a tough line to walk, security versus liberty. I agree
that we're currently walking the wrong side of that
line and will be until the oil consortium leaves office.
One would think the Supreme Court might step in but
the current line-up of Justices seems more concerned
about what cases they don't want to hear then those
they do. Then again, I don't know if a constitutional
challenge has yet been made and the Court is designed
to be a reactionary balance.
movie question of the moment might be, "Where are
the civil-liberties movies?" For all that Hollywood
likes to portray itself as unfailingly liberal, it seems
equally aware that patriotism sells. As far as the American
culture factory seems concerned, the "War on Terror",
a term I hate by the way, is such a convenient little
what movies might you recommend about the Big Brother
mentality. "1984" might have been a great
book but the movie did little for me. It seems like
parallelisms with Fascism, Communism and the like should
be out there, but I'm drawing a blank Thanks,
the most recent presidential election I think this supreme
court has proven they have no integrity, honesty, or
sense of equity. They're bought and sold, just like
modern film critics. Let's not forget that the supreme
court approved the idea of Japanese internment camps
during WWII whole-heartedly. They can keep calling this
a "War on Terror," but it's not a war, it's
simply a struggle between two different ways of life.
Every time we give up our civil rights for security,
the terrorists win. They don't like our way of life
and tried to get us to change it, and have succeeded
beautifully. If we'd left it up to them to choose the
most thoughtless, reactionary puppet of big oil to put
in the white house, they'd have chosen Bush, jr. As
for Big Brother-type movies, I can't think of any right
now (other than "1984"). I can't even think
of any politically-aware filmmakers, either. Oliver
Stone was, but he hasn't done anything of any consequence
in over ten years. Anyone else have any thoughts on
rented and watched Thou Shalt not Kill Except... for
the first time last night. Given it's budget I thougt
it was a decent flick. I will say that your commentary
though is one of the best I have heard. I like it when
the directors actually have something to say about their
movies. Anyway it sparked my intrest to check out your
other films. I will try to check out running time next
It was very easy doing the commentary tracks with Bruce.
We did "Running Time" and TSNKE right in a
row. When we got to the sound studio Werner Herzog was
just finishing his commentary for "Fitzcarraldo,"
which was kind of cool. Hope you like RT.