Q & A    Archive
Page 90

Name: alex
E-mail: alexfrom1tm@aol.com

hey, my name is alex, i'm a student at ramapo highschool, and am looking for a film to do as my senior project, it will be shot on 16mm, distributed to festivals etc...anywayz, i was looking online for a script, and i am ABSOLUTLY IN LOVE WITH "BUDS" with your permission, i would love to go into production on this film. the only thing is, instead of 30 year olds, switching the characters to 17-19 year olds. that is my only concern. thanks ~peace, Alex

Dear Alex:

I'm glad you like it, but no you don't have the rights to shoot it, and no, you can't change the characters to teenagers. In fact, leave it alone and come up with your own story.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Okay. So I feel like God is punishing me. I put your movie in my VCR last night...and my VCR decided to mangle it. It wasn't anything personal...it killed the next two tapes that I put in as well, which means that my VCR needs to get serviced. It's not permanent damage to the tape, it's just that I can't watch it at home now, and I'm stuck only watching DVDs for the time being. So. One of these days I'll be able to watch "Hammer." I'll ask one of my friends if I can come over and watch it at their house. Perhaps I'll even get a couple of new fans for ya!

Meanwhile, I'm reading a bunch of your stories and reminding myself what a fun writer you are to read. It's like a vacation for your mind! (I'm currently referring to your 1977 hitchhiking trip to Alaska.)

Thanks,
Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Thank you for saying that, since I'm now working on my memoirs up to and including hitchhiking to Alaska. I'm hoping I can get a whole book out of it, but we'll see. Sorry to hear about your VCR. Luckily, they're pretty cheap these days. It's probably easier and cheaper to just get a new one. Once again, let me know what you think when, and if, you see it.

Josh

Name: Brian C.
E-mail: canadab@excite.com

Hey Josh,

More and more I notice that there is a widening disconnect between films that have so-called critical acclaim and a story worth watching. "Gangs of New York" would top my list for this years "waste 3+ hours of your life" award. Critics loved it but I spent a lot of time looking at my watch. I noticed that people were none to concerned about taking frequent trips to the bathroom and missing anything pivitol. Another would the "The Two Towers." This wasn't even a complete movie as far a bridge films go. Am I wrong to expect a beginning - middle - and resolution /cliffhanger? The film was nothing but foreplay with no payoff. Something must have been broken at WingNut.

Someone (indies) save us from critical acclaim before the whole industry goes down the toilet. (Insert wailing and gnashing of teeth here.)

Dear Brian:

Well, I couldn't sit through the first installment of "Lord of the Rings," I wasn't about to try and sit through the second (or the third, when that arrives). "Gangs of New York" isn't just a not-so-good film, it's a complete disaster. I daresay it's the worst film of Mr. Scorsese's career, and worse than garbage like "New York, New York," which at least has a few good songs. Indies don't seem so hot to me, either, at this time. Most of them are about a bunch of twenty-somethings bitching about life and sex. So what?

Josh

Name: Diane Steed`
E-mail: dsteed@big-d.com

Dear Josh:

So true, So true, although I have NEVER gotten any humor out of the cheap things that I have bought, I did however get quite a bit a laughter out of what you wrote. I am truly happy to know that I am not the only one who buys something at a cheap price (thinking I am getting a great deal) and having it fall apart.

But, I have also bought more expensive items and had them fall apart when I got them home also.

Have a great day.

Dear Diane:

That 99-cent store essay seems to get more response than any other I've written. I have a Colgate brand toothbrush I bought at the 99-cent store (and never used) that was manufactured by: "United Bristlers & Brushes Pvt. Ltd., Unilazer House, No. 7, Marwah Estate, Sakinaka, Mumbai."

Josh

Name: matt
E-mail: matt_hopkins@excite.com

Dear Josh:

Do you think any of those products would fall under "international anti-dumping" Regulation? and when did you write the essay? I have observed the same about 99 cent store in my area. I don't shop there anymore.

Dear Matt:

I guess I wrote it in 1998 or 1999. I don't know the international anti-dumping regulations, but I think that means something different. My understanding of "dumping" is to sell products below the cost of manufacture, thus putting the competition out of business, then raising your prices. This is what the Japanese did to the consumer electronics market in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s. That's why no electronics are manufactured in the U.S. anymore.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I just finished reading "Just Do It," in your "old stuff" section. There's a couple of things I'd like to share here. (Don't feel the need to post this, it's probably not of much interest to your fans.)

Regarding "Just Do It," and personal ads, I had an experience when I first moved to Washington, DC in October of last year. I decided to go online to Yahoo! Personals, just to make friends with people. I didn't know ANYONE in town, and everyone on the East Coast seems so cold and closed off. If I go out to a bar, men come up to me and ask for my number, etc, and I had just broken up with my boyfriend so that was out. So. I decided to make friends online. Only there's no option for "making friends" or "girls meeting girls" (except for lesbians) or anything in the personals, it's all romance. I put out an ad stating that I wanted "friends," and every single male (the only sex) who responded (something like 88 guys) stated that this was "cool." I went out with one guy, who took me out to dinner. Afterward, we hung out and watched "The Simpsons," during which I suggested that it would be funnier if we had some THC-delivery device. He was slightly offended, and told me that he "used to smoke pot," but now he just drinks alcohol, because he "grew up." By the second time we hung out, I made it clear to him that I really, actually just wanted friends, and wasn't looking for a boyfriend. He said that this was cool, that he really needed some friends, too--and never called me again.

The second guy I met said that he was interested in "weird music," so I asked him to accompany me to a Residents show. He picked me up before the concert, and said, "Uh, who is this band again?" The show, which was entirely performance-art based, and not rock n' roll at all, alienated him completely. "This is so weird," he kept saying, trying to get me to hate the band. (I thought he liked "weird" stuff, but he meant "alternative" rock and roll, like on MTV, I guess.) We also never saw one another again. No attacks occurred on either of these occasions, except to our respective self-esteem.

When I asked a friend of mine at work what was up, he said, "Lots of girls say they want 'friends,' but what they mean is that they want to get to know you first before they fuck you." Ah. Well. What a fool I was. I took myself off of the Yahoo! Personals market and have never gone back. Luckily, I got a full-time job, populated with lots of friendly 22 to 40 year olds, and now have some actual "friends."

Honestly, what I had wanted to put in my personal ad was "looking for someone to smoke a hooter with," but they wouldn't go for that. And, actually, I still have yet to find anyone of that persuasion in Virginia. They're all a bunch of tobacco smokers out here, and they love beer. Ah, well. This is what I get for leaving Northern California. Sobriety.

As for your story, it was great stuff. I'm going to go back and read some more of your eighties writing. It's fun... true stories are the best.

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Amusing tales. It sure isn't easy meeting people anymore. I tried to make friends with several of the actors in my last film, all seemingly nice folks, and the women thought I was hitting on them and the men thought I was gay. So I made no new friends. Oh well. And dating is even worse. I read the personals regularly, and almost never answer them. I don't know what the men say, but most women's interests are: cuddling, sitting by a fire, and walking hand in hand on the beach. Yikes!

Josh

Name: Darin
E-mail: none

Dear Josh:

I think I can honestly say that I've read everything on your site at least once, and a lot of the articles and reviews twice or more. I know you do the "Ask the Director" stuff almost daily, but I was wondering if you'd ever consider writing weekly (or bi-weekly)articles for Beckerfilms.com.

Any chance?

Thanks, Darin

Dear Darin:

I appreciate you'd be interested in such a thing, but since I don't make anything for doing this, there's be no good reason for me to do that. If someone else wanted my stuff and was willing to pay for it, then I'd be more than pleased to do it -- as long as I got to write whatever I wanted.

Josh

Name: Andy
E-mail:

Hey Josh:

I see you're a huge fan of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." So I bet you're very excited about the new sitcom "My Big Fat Greek Life" that the writer and cast are doing as well as the TV commercials they keep appearing in.

(Note: That was sarcasm).

Dear Andy:

Right, I could give a shit. It sounds like a truly crappy idea for a TV show. I'm not a "huge fan" of the film, either, I just enjoyed it.

Josh

Name: Tim Shadler
E-mail: tjs27@drexel.edu

Dear Josh:

On Roger Ebert's website he has a page where he answers questions about movies. On his more recent questions concerns films shot, or that appear to be shot, with one continuous shot. He failed to mention Running Time and in fact is unaware of any other movies attempting this then the few he mentions. I have provided a link below. It is the third question on this page.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/answ-man/sho-sunday-ebert09.html

Dear Tim:

I wrote in to Mr. Ebert and informed him of the existence of "Running Time." Thanks.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,
I managed to see "Wages of Fear" on the big screen last night and even though it was in black-and-white I thought it was much better than William Friedkin's remake "Sorcerer". My favourite line of the film was, "Wherever there is oil you will find Americans".
Tony

Dear Tony:

Good line. True, too. Yes, I agree, "Wages of Fear" is much better than "Sorcerer." By the time of Friedkin's remake it no longer made any sense to not use a helicopter to bring in the nitro or dynamite. I read the book (for which I traded Sam Raimi another paperback) and "Wages" is a very good adaptation. I did watch Friedkin's remake of "12 Angry Men" the other night, and it was pretty good, although nowhere near to the original. It didn't update very well, either. I also watched "The Exorcist" again the other night, and that still holds up pretty well.

Josh

Name: kevin
E-mail: smit12092000@aol.com

Dear Josh:

when i make short films i use a camcorder that takes the small vhs tapes or i use a camcorder that takes regular vhs tapes, editing is very hard using these types of camcorders. when you first started out making films what kind of camers did you use, how did you edit them and what kind of camers are used when you make 'super 8' movies
thank you,
kevin

Dear Kevin:

We used a variety of different super-8 cameras, Sankyo (your welcome), Chinon, Yashica, and some others. You'd edit on a little super-8 editor with a tape splicer. It was all very crude. What you need to do is edit digitally, like on an Apple G-4 with Final Cut Pro. Then you'd take your footage, however you shoot it, and feed it all in to the hard-drive. That way, whether you shoot VHS on either size tape, or digital video, it will all merge together in the hard-drive, and give you a consistant output. Many schools have digital editing software now so check around. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Nick
E-mail: rexniplicus@sbcglobal.net

Hey Josh,

I saw "Frailty", good movie for most of it. I saw you asked what significance the title has. I believe it has to do with the frailty of the human mind. That is, Paxton's character is fine one day, and then just overnight, he goes from a peaceful, good man to a killer, even though he believes he's doing the right thing. I read that in an interview somewhere I believe.

Recent horror movies really haven't been very good. In "Darkness Falls" they try to make the Tooth Fairy evil, or something like that. "The Ring" is about a videotape that kills. I haven't seen either one, but after hearing that, I'm not that interested in seeing them.

One horror movie I saw recently that I did like was "Dog Soldiers". Have you seen it? Very fast paced and builds likeable characters, and excellent werewolf special effects. BUT, the trailer is just like you said in one of your articles...all of a sudden, nonsensical techno music starts pounding in the background.

But, I don't watch movies for their trailers... ;-)

- Nick

Dear Nick:

That may be an explanation for the the title, "Frailty," but it's not a good one, and it's really a bad title. It should have been called something like "In the Hands of God" or "God's Hands."

Josh

Name: kevin provost
E-mail: smit12092000@aol.com

Dear Josh:

i just bought running time on vhs and i thought it was great but i did not understand 2 things
1---when the druggy [the guy who was to drive the van] pawns something i dont know what it was, i first though it was the watch buzz gave him witch would of been funny but a few sconds later bruce campbell takes the watch off his wrist, so i can only think it was the keys to the van...am i right or wrong
2 at the end of the running time vhs after the credits it shows a little bit of the credits again then a sceen from the movie, why is this
-----on a differnt note
i, like most of the people writting you am trying to be a director, i make short films with my friends but it seems they dont want to be in them and it seems no one else wants to be in movies or have anything to do with them...what should i do. i am not as lucky as you to grow up with a whole group of people who love to make movies
thank you,
kevin provost

Dear Kevin:

Yes, it's the keys to the van he's just traded the drug dealer, and he says, "It runs like a champ." That repeated scene was ostensibly the film's trailer, although another trailer has been cut since then. If your friends don't want to be in your films, try hooking up with some actors, either at school or a theater group, they'll certainly want to be in the movies. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

Oh my God! I can't believe I forgot to write to you about this. A few weeks back my friend Mikey and I were walking to the Tower Records on Sunset. There was a huge line of people waiting outside of Booksoup obviously for some kind of book signing. It turns out that Martin Scorsese was signing copies of his book about the making of "Gangs of New York". We decided to get in line and when we did a Booksoup employee handed us a flier which detailed the "rules" of the book signing. First on the list, we had to buy the book. Big "no duh" there, right? Now I hated the film and I would never in a million years spend $30 on a book about that 3 hour monstrosity. But my friend was willing to spend the money and I agreed to stand in line with him. The next big thing on the list was in bold, black capital letters. We were not to talk to Mr. Scorsese at all. If we did attempt to talk to him we would be removed from the book store immediately. Also, he would not be personalizing any of the autographs. So the only thing that the people were getting for their 30 bucks was Scorsese's big, dumb signature. We asked if he was going to be reading from the book or talking about the film or his career at all. The answer was no. We both left the line in total disgust, luckily before Mikey had a chance to purchase a copy of the book. As we were both reading the flier I blurted out "who the fuck does this guy think he is?" A guy standing in line in front of me shot me a cold look and said to me "he's Martin Scorsese, he's a legend." Like I was the asshole for not shelling out money for his piece of shit book, about his piece of shit film, to get his piece of shit autograph. The whole experience was just another example of people supporting horrible crap because of the name that is tacked onto it. It was also an example of Scorsese buying his own hype. Josh, I was once again disheartened.

Thanks,
Jean

Dear Jean:

I'm sorry that you too have to become disheartened, but it's the lot of any true movie lover now. All Scorsese's got left is his hype; his talent departed over a decade ago. I watch "Inside the Actor's Studio" regularly, and I'd say the two worst people on the show ever were Martin Scorsese and Kevin Costner. Scorsese sounded so canned, every story having been repeated a million times, so that he couldn't get through any of them with any alacrity at all, and there were obvious edits all over the place to escape from his dull stories. Costner, on the other hand, kept standing up ands stepping out to the edge of the stage so that he could regale the audience with what he just knew were hysterical anecdotes, with James Lipton sitting behind him staring at his back. Many actors that I thought I wouldn't like on that show, I turned out to enjoy quite a lot, like Richard Gere and Harrison Ford.

Josh

Name: dustin
E-mail: dustglas@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

glad you sortof enjoyed Frailty. i think bill paxton got sick of playing crappy parts so he wrote and directed one for himself. its always fun watching him play a nut or a creep or a creepy nut. i was also happy with the kids perfromances in the film in that they weren't as abnoxious as hell as per usual with kids in the industry. as for the multi twist ending, i'd bet that someone told him if he wanted to get a horror movie made it had to have a twist, no matter how silly, so it would "boggle" peoples minds like all new "horror" movies nowadays. seen session 9 yet? can't remember.

Dear Dustin:

I bailed out pretty early on "Session 9," which seemed absurd for the outset. I agree, I thought the lead kid in "Frailty" did a very good job. If the story had ended with dealing with Powers Boothe, it would have been a lot better.

Josh

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

Josh,

I was talking to my wife the other day and as she turned to leave she told me, "Farewell, and do not die!" That's a quote from one of those early-seventies kung fu movies that came out of Hong Kong. I used to watch those things on "Kung Fu Theater" on one of the local channels. Every Saturday night at eleven they would run one of those things.

That got me thinking about the other "_________ Theaters" that local channels used to show. We had a "Horror", "Combat", "Monster", "Mystery", "Comedy" and, my personal favorite, "Science Fiction Theater". You could tune in at the same time every week and watch Doug McClure or Charleton Heston or Peter Cushing doing any manner of things. It was through these "Theaters" that I watched a great many of the movies I have seen. These shows generally were late-afternoon; timed for when the kids got home from school. Now all you see at three o'clock are talk shows and infomercials. I think everyone used to get some local variants of these "Theaters" and I wonder if any local channels anywhere still do them.

Not really a question, more a heavy sigh.

John

PS. If the Meek really are going to inherit the Earth, they must be standing in line behind the Idiots.

Dear John:

It's like that brilliant sequence in "The Life of Brian," where Jesus is speaking on the mount and the camera does a huge de-zoom back to the very back of the crowd, where no one can really hear what Jesus is saying. "Blessed are the cheesemakers?" asks someone. "I believe he means the makers of all dairy products." Someone else asks, "The Greek shall inherit the Earth?" Someone else corrects, "No, the meek." Everyone nods, "Yes, the meek have had it rough." Here in Detroit we had Sir Graves Ghastley with his horror theater on weekends. Throughout the week we had Bill Kennedy as our movie host, who had been a bit actor in Hollywood for many years, and was a true film enthusiast. He has a one-line part in the Ingrid Bergman version of "Joan of Arc." He's one of the villagers burning her at the stake and his one line is, "More faggots!"

Josh

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

Hi Josh

Thanks for the info on the upcoming Xena DVD commentary. The confusion with Anchor Bay arose because Anchor have announced Herc and Xena DVD's, starting in April, with "newly re-mastered transfers of each episode including new Dolby 5.1 audio tracks, this collection will also features bonus features to be determined" (http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/future/). Various people knowing you've had film(s) released on Anchor Bay, put two and two together and came up with five.

Anyway, it'll be very interesting to see what the directors have to say about the episodes. In a way, it's a pity the disc wasn't being made 5 years ago, when it was fresh in everyone's minds.

On a related topic, I've been browsing around your website - there's a lot of it! Excellent reading, but where did last night go, all of a sudden it was 1 a.m. :) Anyway, I was amused to see your account in 'Monsterisation' of how you made Rob T kill the rewrites on Locked Up &Tied Down. Though I notice, comparing your original script for Shark Island Prison with the episode, there were some quite substantial details changed. The character of Clysemene who rescued Xena from the pit has disappeared in the filmed version. And some of the more vivid details, like Thalassa escaping from the crabs, Xena cleaning out the drains, and Xena living on bugs in the pit, have gone - rats yes, garbage and cockroaches no. Did Lucy put her foot down on that one? Still, 90% of the story and the basic structure is intact. The other detail that changed is, Thalassa didn't order double rations for the prisoners at the end. I think that might have had a credibility gap, actually, but what I did feel was missing at the end of the episode (as filmed) was some explicit indication that the brutality of the guards was going to be squashed.

I know sometimes you don't care to discuss Xena minutiae but I hope, since you wrote this one, you don't mind me bringing it up. But otherwise please forgive me and just ignore this post.

Regards

Chris

Dear Chris:

I have no problem discussing Xena on this level, which is the making of, I just never wanted to discuss "sub-text," which was like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But getting that story outline to come out 90% intact in the script was a major victory for me, and for Rob, too, even if he didn't know it at the time. It was a solid Xena story and there was no good reason to screw it up. I thought Rick Jacobson did a good job directing it, as well. I don't believe any changes were due to Lucy putting her foot down, which I never saw her do. She happily and enthusiastically did whatever was asked of her, as did Renee.

Josh

Name: Sid Enigma
E-mail: sidenigma@hotmail.com

Hey Josh,

I think you might have missed the point that Lynch was trying to make with Mulholland Drive. Lynch successfully makes a strong statement that Hollywood is a complete hell-hole, full of emptiness and despair. It is the second-most anti-Hollywood film I have seen, behind the brilliant "The Day of the Locust".

sid
adelaide, australia

Dear Sid:

I'm certainly against Hollywood, and I agree with the sentiments, but I didn't like the movie. For that matter, I didn't like the movie of "Day of the Locust," either. I did like the book, though. The idea that in the part of what's supposed to be a gorgeous seventeen-year-old starlet, they cast a thirty-five-year-old Karen Black, who never was particularly attractive to begin with, still seems like one of the worst pieces of casting ever. As always, though, the late, great Conrad Hall did a great job with the photography.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: iamjimkenney@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I don't think your theory holds up -- you yourself admired "The Straight Story", which David Lynch made a year after you made your last film! So I don't think his talent got sucked up after "Blue Velvet", even according to you!

Dear Jim:

That's true, but I think it was fluke. Generally, however, once a creative person slips to making junk, they never return. I have no faith in these older guys who have made one piece of crap after another after another, suddenly getting good again. It could happen, though, anything's possible. It's a phenomenon I've been paying attention to for a long time, and that's generally how it works. When it's over it's over. I wish it weren't so and we could legitimately hope for more masterpieces from guys like Scorsese or Coppola, but I really doubt it.

Josh

Name: TOM
E-mail:

OH MAN JOSH, SORRY I SPELLED "FRAILTY" WITHOUT A CAPTITAL. WHY DONT YOU GO QUOTE ME ON IT AND TRY TO MAKE ME LOOK DUMB. OF WAIT YOU ALREADY DID TRY THAT. YOUR THE ONE WHO SHOULD FEEL DUMB THOUGH, I MEAN, WHAT KIND OF FAIRY HAS TO SELL HIS OWN MOVIES FROM HIS HOUSE? IT'S OK THOUGH, I GOT A JOB FOR YOU IN THE MOVIE INDUSTRY. YOU CAN HOLD THE LIGHTS FOR ME WHEN I'M FILMING.

Dear Tom:

Another Rupert Pupkin. I don't have to make you look dumb, Tom, you're doing a fine job all on your own.

Josh

Name: cameron
E-mail: cameronjade21@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

hey hows it going.i am looking for a copy of the catcher and the rye 1st or 2nd edition.but i really have like no money.can you tell me is i can find one somewhere or not.cam

Dear Cameron:

I'd like a first edition of "Catcher in the Rye" for no money, too. Quite frankly, I've never seen one. I do have a first edition of J.D. Salinger's "Nine Stories," though, which I picked up for five bucks. You've just go to keep your eyes peeled.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

no i asked if you saw the ring, i dont care about frailty, you freakin troll. i hope you accidentally get ran over by a truck

Dear Tom:

You don't care about "Frailty," and I don't care about you. We're even.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Hooray! I was starting to think I was the only person in the world who hated "Mulholland Drive." Lynch himself admitted that it had no ending, and was the beginning of a TV pilot that never went anywhere, and yet all of these critics are kissing his ass because of it?? I saw it in the theater and found myself squirming about 20 minutes into it...and I have a high tolerance for David Lynch. And the famous "lesbian" scene was, like, huh? I knew most of the college-going audience (I saw it at the Cornell University Campus theater) was there only for that scene. And when it was over they said it was "hot!" and "awesome!" (It's the "Maxim" magazine takes over America attitude) And here I am, looking for story or coherence or something. What was I thinking? All a movie needs these days is hot babes, preferably kissing one another. Oh, no, wait, that's porn.

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

And Miller Lite commercials. Lynch, like other previously talented directors, had his moment in the sun from "Eraserhead" to "Blue Velvet," then, just like Ziggy Stardust, "he sucked up into his mind." And I'm sorry to be the one to inform everybody of this, but when a talented person has shot their wad, it's a done deal. Just like Scorsese, who really ought to become a TV movie host now.

Josh

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

Hi Josh

You recently said "Meanwhile, I'm going into LA next week to do commentary (on-camera) for the first season DVD release of Xena. It sounds like they're doing a nice job with the packaging and the extra added attractions."

That's great news for us Xenafans, the Anchor Bay release I mean. Please excuse the curiosity, but would your commentary just be for 'Fistful of Dinars' which I think was your only Season 1 ep, or any other eps as well? And what does 'commentary (on-camera)' mean? The only Xena commentary I know of so far is the Friend in Need Director's Cut, which had Rob, Lucy and Renee talking off-camera about the action - an extra soundtrack, in other words. And very interesting it was too. Can you give us any more details of what your commentary will involve?

Incidentally, the Xena lists are very interested in this release, since past tapes from Davis-Panzer have had quality problems. There's some hope that Anchor Bay will be better, along with much uncertainty because most fans don't know who they are.

Hope the commentary goes well - for your enjoyment and ours!

Chris

Dear Chris:

It's still Panzer-Davis, it's not Anchor Bay. It will be on-camera because they're including a whole other DVD with the set. The other directors being interviewed, from what I hear, are: Doug Leffler, Charles Siebert, Michael Levine, and T.J. Scott. And I'll discuss whatever they want to discuss. I was involved with two eps in the first season, "A Fistful of Dinars," which I directed, and "Chariots of War," for which I co-wrote the story.

Josh

Name: Sid Enigma
E-mail: sidenigma@hotmail.com

Hi Josh,

I notice you are a big fan of David Lynch's Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Elephant Man. But what do you think of his recent efforts? I will say I found Lost Highway to be a bore, but Mulholland Drive was a sensational piece of film-making. Thoughts?

sid

Dear Sid:

Yeah, I thought it was a piece of crap. The story is a convoluted mess, there's no decent characterization, the audition scene is complete nonsense, and I started to feel bad for actress Naomi Watts, who is obviously a good actor and stuck in an idiotic piece of junk. I also knew, in these prurient times, that there was no way two attractive women could star in a film without there being a perfunctory lesbian scene. It's pathetic. And I saw no interesting filmmaking anywhere in it.

Josh

Name: tom
E-mail: tomjimevans@aol.com

hey josh,

i was wondering if you've seen the previews for or if you have seen the recent movie "the ring". i hear nothing but good things on it, but i wanna hear your opinion on it, cuase you tend to have whitty remarks about those movies that i find quite humorous. indulge mne please.

Dear Tom:

Sorry, I haven't seen it. Speaking of horror films, I did see "Frailty," which had me kind of creeped out for a while. It begins to seriously unravel about halfway in, then has about three extra, needless twist endings, but I still thought it was a good attempt at making a believable, scary horror film. Why on Earth it's called "Frailty," though, I can't say.

Josh

Name: JT
E-mail: jcarroll@austin.rr.com

Hey Josh,

For the uninitiated like myself: 'fourwalling' - obvious what you're doing from the context, but whats it mean (i.e. where does this term come from?) Also, what kind of goodies do you typically include in a press kit?

JT
Austin, Texas

Dear JT:

I'm not sure where the term comes from, but I think it means you've got the whole theater, including the four walls. This is when you rent the theater yourself, then receive all of the ticket sales. It been a common practise in LA for thirty or more years to get your film elegibilty for the Oscars, which takes playing in a theater in LA for one week. The first person to bring to the concept to public attention was Tom Laughlin with "Billy Jack." After getting a piss-poor release as the second of a double-bill, Laughlin bought back the right s to the film, then four-walled it all over America and made millions of dollars. A press kit generally includes: four or five black and white 8X10 stills, bios of the director, producer, and lead actors, cast and full credit lists, a synopsis of the story, and any reviews or articles you've got.

Josh

Name: XenaHerc
E-mail: XLWH@aol.com

Hi Josh.


This is for Brad, who was looking for "Lunatics".


This website "Thomas Video" has it on their list of New and Used tapes.


The list is current as of 1-23-03.


http://www.thomasvideo.com/vhs/lusedvhs.html


Take care,

XenaHerc

Dear XenaHerc:

Thanks for the info. Thomas Video is just a few miles from here. Meanwhile, I'm going into LA next week to do commentary (on-camera) for the first season DVD release of Xena. It sounds like they're doing a nice job with the packaging and the extra added attractions.

Josh

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

Josh,

I'm looking for advice on the idea of four-walling a theatre in L.A. to show a film (more specifically, a documentary) I'm about to complete. I don't know of a single soul who has done this except for yourself with "Running Time." As a result, I consider anything you've learned from the expierence as expert advice.

How much did it ultimately cost, and did you (or would you recommend) hiring a PR? How did you get press coverage? Did people show for the screenings? Also how long does a film have to play in L.A. to be up for Oscar nominations. This may sound a bit naive, but what the hell. This is only my second feature and my first still has yet to garnish distribution of any kind.

Thanks for any advice you may have, as I've always appreciated what you've had to say in the past.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

I've actually done it twice, first with "Lunatics," then with RT. I showed them both at Laemmle Theaters, and those are probably the best folks to deal with regarding four-walling. They have the art-house in Santa monica on 2nd. St., where I showed RT, and whose name I can't recall at the moment, as well as the Sunset 5 (?) on Sunset and La Cienga, which is nice theater, and the Royal on Santa Monica Blvd., where I showed "Lunatics," which is a pretty big, old theater, though nice, too. You need to run for a week in LA for Academy Award elegibilty, at least for a feature film. It may be different for a documentary, so I'd check with the Academy first. And it was pretty expensive, like $4,000 for a week, if I recall correctly. Plus I ran ads in several of the free newspapers, like the LA Weekly. Once you've booked and paid for the theater, the Laemmle's will book the press screening for you, if you ask them, but you also have to have press kits. Do you have a 35mm print? All the newspapers showed up for both of my screenings. You'd deal with Greg or Bob Laemmle, both very nice guys, and who, BTW, are relatives of Carl Laemmle, the man who started Universal Pictures. Good luck, and if there's anything else you'd like to know, go ahead and ask.

Josh

Name: Jonas Georgio
E-mail: jonasg@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I heard that you helped work on THE DEAD NEXT STORE back in the 80's (directed by J.R Bookwalter and produced by Sam Raimi). What did you think of the film? What do you think of J.R Bookwalter and his production company Tempe Entertainment?

Dear Jonas:

Yes, I did work on it, or in it, as the case may be. I played a zombie and had a full head mold done, which was a pain. Then none of the footage I was in came out. The J.R. got all pissy because I wouldn't come back to Akron, Ohio from Detroit to reshoot all my scenes. I thought the whole endeavor was badly conceived, ineptly directed, and ultimately a complete piece of crap. And way too much money for what ended up on the screen.

Josh

Name: Brad
E-mail:

Josh,

What's a guy got to do to get somebody, anybody to release Lunatics on DVD or release it on VHS? I've never seen it, can't find it, and as a working class slob like yourself, can't afford to shell out up to 60 bucks to purchase a previously viewed rental from some smuck on Ebay. Tell me who the hell to email, threaten, beg, etc. and I'm on it.

Dear Brad:

As much as it gets you down, it gets me down worse. The film is owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by Columbia Tri-Star, which is a division of Sony. How anyone gets through to them is far beyond me. For a time there Anchor Bay was interested in re-releasing "Lunatics" on DVD and VHS and they couldn't get through to anyone in charge. It's like the scene in "Apocalypse Now," where Col. Willard asks the guy during the battle, "Who's the C.O.?" The guy says, "Ain't you?" Willard finally leaves and says, "There's no fucking C.O. here."

Josh

Name: Ann McKinnon
E-mail: ladymizm@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Just wanted to say hello and thank for your essay on being a P.A. for what almost 8 years!! Wow, do you have patience. I was feeling like shit and I feel better knowing that others have suffered as I do now.

Dear Ann:

Eight years? I was a PA for more like fourteen years. I got my first PA gig in 1978, and I did my last one in 1992. By the end there, when I was already in my thirties, it really kicked my ass. I wish you all the luck in the world.

Josh

Name: ALAN
E-mail:

Dear Josh

What is your opinion of the Spaghetti Western genre? Some of these movies are resurfacing on DVD lately and there are some classics amongst them icluding Segio Corbucci's COMPANEROS which includes what must be Ennio Morricone's catchiest score. The pick of the crop though must be the extraordinary Gothic masterpiece DJANGO KILL which must surely have been the influence for Eastwoods HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and is full of bleakness and corruption.

Dear Alan:

I haven't seen any of the Sergio Corbucci westerns. When I was a kid I saw all of the Sergio Leone westerns when they came out and liked them a lot, although I don't think they hold up very well. My biggest problem is that they're all homage to older American westerns and are intensely cliche-ridden. Not to mention that they're badly dubbed, and half the cast is speaking Italian, while the other half is speaking Spanish, and the leads are occasionally speaking English.

Josh

Name: Danielle
E-mail: d_sawicki@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Wow, that was fast. Shirley, thanks so much for the new SEARCH option.

Dear Danielle:

Our whole aim here at Beckerfilms is your satisfaction.

Josh

 

Dear Danielle,

I'm glad I finally managed to find a search engine I could put on BeckerFilms. I had given up, but looked again when you wrote, and found the one we now have. Thanks.

Shirley

Name: Patty
E-mail: patty333@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Just for your information, the 99cent Store corporation does purchases many of their items at an access overload from other orders. For instance...let's say a store such as BIGLOTS purchased a particular item and happened to have purchased too many, they will sell the acess to 99cent at a lower price. Also, they deal w/ closeouts of certain items. And somewhat minor defective merchandise that major retailers do not wish to approve and sell thru their stores. Just thought I'd let you know because I work for a company that frequently sells items to 99cent. :)

Dear Patty:

You can never know enough about 99cent stores, that's what I think. And of course they're the main supporter of slave labor in red China.

Josh

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

Josh,

What do you think about these major film festivals accepting mostly Hollywood financed films? I've been keeping up on the news on Sundance and it seems that most of the films they accepted have major stars. You can't honestly tell me that a film with Al Pacino or Kevin Spacey is an 'independent' film, thats just ridiculous. Are they really that hard up for cash that they need to book all these "low-budget" Hollywood productions? It seems like the festivals are being used as marketing devices, its just a big scam. Sundance should be booked with actors and directors we've never heard of, who are trying to break into the business by begging and borrowing. This whole "A-list independent" stuff is ridiculous.

And on another note, I couldn't agree more about this comic book invasion of the movies. The slate of upcoming comic book movies is endless, thanks no doubt to Mr. Raimi. Audiences seem to eat this shit up, I just don't get it. I see they're also making a Hot Wheels movie directed by the Charlie's Angels guy, McG. When will it end? The guy's got the Charlie's Angels franchise and the Hot Wheels franchise. Good for him. The summer trash seems to get put out earlier and left out longer each year. And comic books, I mean honestly. Maybe the studio execs just can't read.

Jim

Dear Jim:

They can't, and certainly don't want to. Executives never read scripts, that's why there's script readers. If you were going to have your company invest $150 million into a movie, why waste an entire hour reading the script? Instead, you could be using your time more wisely at the tanning salon. I saw "Biography" about Robert Redford and even he doesn't like what's become of the Sundance Festival. This has been going on for years, too. If you don't have stars, then you'd better have at least a distribution deal, preferably with Miramax or Fine Line, and know that the film is being released before sending it to Sundance or Telluride. And it's not really Sam's fault with this whole comic book thing, "Spider-Man" is pretty late in the game already. This comic book attitude has been going on for twenty-five years, starting with "Star Wars," and just getting worse every year. The A-movies have become B-movies. As my former neighbor in Oregon, LilyAnn, who's in her 70s, said after seeing "Spider-Man" on an airplane, "It's just like that shit we had to sit through as kids before the actual movie started."

Josh

Name: bruno angelini
E-mail: brunoangelini@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

What a fucked shitty site is this! How 'd you maked this crap? Have you "inserted" a hand in your ass and you've pulled it from the whole of shit you've in?

Dear Bruno:

Yes, exactly. Isn't that how everybody creates a website?

Josh

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

Josh,

I finally had time to read "Above The Line". I really enjoyed it. I actually knew a woman like Shauna once. She was abducted by a sheik in UAR while working for an oil company and walked through the desert in Saudi to escape. I wouldn't have believed it but the guy she was marrying was the GI who escorted her back(he was an old friend). The whole ordeal was just another day for her. And gorgeous?! Even my wife thought so. Anyway, I thought your whole script was hilarious, interesting and authentic. Cathy may not be entirely likable, but she's extremely believable, complex and interesting. What a great role she would be for an actress.

It seems that you have some reservations about this script but it was the easiest to read for me of any of your scripts, of dozen or so I've read. I laughed a few times out loud and easily stayed with the story even though the Stooges were on. That's not too bad.

Anyway, thanks for a good read. Maybe somebody else will comment on the script and let me know if I'm just easy to please. I rather doubt it.

John

Dear John:

Thank you. It pleases me that someone would like that script. I really caught hell from nearly everyone who read it back when I wrote it.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

I watched "On the Waterfront" last night. I hadn't seen it since I was in film class in college 12 years ago. Too cool. I remember I had such respect and admiration for Elia Kazan at the time. It was only later on that I discovered he had "ratted out" his friends during the HUAC trials. Interesting, actually, when you consider that "On the Waterfront" had a stoolie protagonist. I wonder if Kazan thought he was doing a good thing by "helping" McCarthy? Or maybe he was just saving his own ass.

At any rate...good performances, good film. I particularly dug Lee J. Cobb as Friendly. And Martin Balsam in his first film! I love that guy.

Oh, and I got your package yesterday. I'll be checking out "Hammer" in the next few days, and I'll give you my full report. I'm really looking forward to it.

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

"On the Waterfront" is very obviously about -- in Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg's opinions -- that you can be an informant and still be a good, honorable person. People act now like if they were dragged out of their house by FBI agents, put in front of a senate sub-comittee, and threatened with being put in jail for some indefinite amount of time, they'd never talk. It's all nonsense. And Kazan's case was somewhat different than most everyone else's in that he was most definitely a communist, then had a big falling out with them when they tried to dictate what he could and couldn't direct. The communists then made a serious attempt at sabotaging and ruining his career. So he became an anti-communist. Well, it wasn't that difficult for an anti-communist to speak out against them. In fact, he'd been waiting for the chance. He thought he was doing the right thing, and still contends that he has no regrets.

Josh

Name: Danielle
E-mail: d_sawicki@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Is there any way for the folks who maintain this site to create some sort of SEARCH option that would enable visitors to locate occurrences of specific words -- such as the title to a movie -- without having to laboriously sift through the enormous "Ask the Director" archives?

I'm not sure what would be involved money and labor wise, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. The amount of activity in this section of the site sometimes makes it difficult to catch up and keep up.

Thanks.

Dear Danielle:

I don't know about such things, but Shirley the webmaster does. Would you care to field this one?

Josh

 

Dear Danielle (and everyone else):

It's all set; there's now a search engine box on the main page and one on the Q&A Archives page.

Shirley

Name: Davy
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

What do ya think about those "Hulk" previews? Pretty cool, huh?

Dear Davy:

I haven't seen them, but I'm sure I'd hate it. If I never see another film based on a comic book it'll be too soon.

Josh

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

Hi Josh,

I saw "One-Eyed Jacks" on TV the other night and I must say I was very impressed, I thought it was a great story. Brando's character started out as a real meanie (when he stole that lady's ring) but when Karl Malden double-crossed him I was quickly on his side. Did you think he did a good job directing this (his only) film?
Also, what were some of your favourite TV shows when you were a kid?

Dear Tony:

I agree, I thought "One-Eyed Jacks" was a pretty good film, if a bit too long. Brando did a perfectly competent job directing. As a bit of trivia, the original director was Stanley Kubrick, who was on the project all the way through the script development and pre-production, then Brando fired him. As for TV shows of my youth, when I was young I really liked "Star Trek," "Combat," "Batman," "Lost in Space," "The Green Hornet," "Gilligan's Island," "Hogan's Heroes," the standard stuff.

Josh

Name: Cynthia E. Jones
E-mail: cynthiaejones@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Just watched "The Hustler" on Saturday afternoon, for the first time. I had been putting this off because I knew it was CinemaScope and didn't want to watch it pan and scan. At any rate...wow. What a great movie. It was definitely worth the wait. I love Paul Newman, but now I'm going to have to go back and find other Robert Rossen movies (The only other one I've seen being "The Roaring Twenties"). I understand he died in 1966, at a time when he could have made his best work. Ah, well. But Piper Laurie! She was great! Too bad she's primarily remembered as the mom in DePalma's "Carrie." (Don't get me started on DePalma.)

Also saw "Tampopo," a charming Japanese comedy from Juzo Itami. It borrowed heavily from Spaghetti Westerns, but with flair and comedy. It even seemed Fellini-esque at times, so I'm assuming the director was enchanted by Italian cinema. I'll be checking out Itami's other films too, particularly "A Taxing Woman," which I hear is great.

Keep up the good work fending off those literate missives dissing your work. I ordered "Hammer" a few days ago and will let you know what I think as soon as I see it!

--Cindy

Dear Cindy:

I thought Piper Laurie was great as Carrie's mom. I also think that "Carrie" is by far DePalma's best film. Anyway, "The Hustler" is a terrific film, and wonderfully bleak. Jackie Gleason is great as Minnesota Fats. And George C. Scott is great, too. As for Robert Rossen, I also quite like "Body and Soul," and his script for Lewis Milestone's "A Walk in the Sun." He won the Oscar for "All the King's Men," which is a pretty good B+ picture, and one of the few low-budget films to win Best Picture, but it never blew me away. Meanwhile, I saw "Tampopo" when it came out and didn't care for it. I sent out your tape yesterday.

Josh

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

Josh,

In response to Tesla's comment, until the late eighteenth century every society, irrespective of its religious structure, was a dictatorship. And still today, most people's lives are miserable. The developed world might be faring well, but the "developing world" (if indeed it is developing) is still by far in the majority and is still in misery.

On a different line, I, too, thought "Stein" was a nice little movie. Like "Greek Wedding", it was a story about people at a moment of transition in their lives. Neither movie was about universal answers, saving the world, or anything so pretentious, but both took themselves and their audiences seriously.

I don't know if you saw "About a Boy" with Hugh Grant, to whom I'm guessing you may have an aversion. Anyway, my wife rented it the other day and I was fairly impressed with it (in today's climate). It took a while to get where it was going, but it finished well. Not a great film by any means, but a nice one. Anyway, have a good one, and thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

It's on my Netflix list. Yes, "Kissing Jessica Stein" and "Greek Wedding" got me to care about the characters and the situation they're in, which to me is the whole game. If you don't get me to care, then you can put the lead character through the worst shit in the world -- like "The Pianist" -- and it still doesn't matter. I just watched Zhang Yimou's newest film, "Happy Times." I admire Yimou and like many of his films, but this one was really his worst yet. Comedy is definitely not his forte.

Josh

Name: G-Ster
E-mail: Graham.mcdonald@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Just read your comments on Traffic and wanted to congratulate you on getting it absolutly spot on!,I watched if for the first time last night on dvd and was in shock!, how could so many people get it so wrong?.
the cover had 5 stars with *****"ground breaking" or some lie to save face. I think if you buy the Vhs copy of this movie the cover should say ***** "Potentially Exellect blank tape"

Dear G-Ster:

LOL. Of course, the tape they use for VHS tapes isn't as good as the cheap ones you can buy at the drug store for $2.99.

Josh

Name: DS
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

Have you seen Chocolat? I liked it very much and was wondering what you felt by it if you had seen it?

Dear DS:

Sorry, I haven't seen it.

Josh

Name: Jeff Burr
E-mail:

Josh...was browsing through your Q&A tonight and came across some guy asking about Michael Winner. You pretty much nailed it with your comments, but you left out his best movie by far...I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name. From 1967, starring the late great Oliver Reed, very stylish and actually about something. If you are in your late 20's to mid-thirties, this movie will speak to you. I never thought I would defend Michael Winner, esp. after suffering through Death Wish Two in the theater when I was in college, but little gems like this slip through the cracks and someone has got to reach down to retrieve them, even if their hands get a little dirty. It's available on DVD, and features an interesting script by Peter Draper, who i know nothing about! Hope all is great with you and if you get a chance, check out this movie. Orson Welles is in it, giving an unaffected performance with his orginal shnozz, which was, as you know, a rarity. Jeff Burr

Dear Jeff:

I've never seen it, but I'll keep my eyes peeled. Welles playing a part without a fake nose? I thought that was against his rules. As per Leslie Halliwell, Peter Draper is a British playwright and screenwriter, born in 1925, still alive when the book was published in 1984 (I guess I should buy a new one), who wrote: "The System" (1964), "I'll Never Forget Whatshisname (1967), and "The Buttercup Chain" (1970). I hope all is going exceeding well for you, Jeff. All the best.

Josh

Name: Mike Sieger
E-mail: SGbumjacket

Mr. Becker,

you suck at directing. how can you criticize "saving Prvt. Ryan" when every movie you have made blows ass? stick to being friends with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. lousy critic. P.S. please, stop making movies. Because you suck at making them. Thanks. MS.

Dear Mike:

And it only took you seven tries to get that out (there were six blank emails with just his name on them before this one). You must be a very quick thinker. Keep up the good work.

Josh

Name: Tesla
E-mail: tesfalcon@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

"Nothing New Under the Sun"

When I told my dad about the Internet, he was curious and then laughed, "You mean you dial into a server which gives you all kinds of data? That's not new. We did that back in the 70's to connect to the mainframe?"

What's the difference between a nuclear weapon & a slush ball? Distance & devastation. (BTW, there's evidence that ancient Indians [in India] had nuclear weapons around the time of Alexander the Great during their great civil war.)

What's the difference between Karl Marx & Adam's son Cain (Gen.4): Out of envy, they sought the death of their enemy (US/capitalism or his own brother) believing their success (economically or in the eyes of God) would be guaranteed...it's not.

What's the difference between modern "personal experientialism", humanism, etc. and philosophers of Roman, Greek, & Babylonian times or before? None. Perspective is NOT truth. Movies are GREAT for FALSE experiences. A good actor & lots of CG can make you believe you witnessed the experience of anything from going back in time to Rome or the future with Aliens. I saw a movie, but is a movie truth or even reality? To say that "there is no superior or overriding truth" would be to say that there are 40-ft tall cockroaches on Earth because we saw them in "Men in Black". Is there any such thing? 2 answers: No & Don't Know. To this date, we have no record of intelligent 40-ft tall insects who can fly space ships. But there may be some out is space that we haven't met yet. To say "experience is truth" is the same deification of man as has been taught from the beginning. (Serpent to Eve: "You will be like God..." Gen.3) Some taught that all were gods. Others taught that only the ruler was god. In every case where the religion & political structure were combined, there is ALWAYS dictatorship & misery for everyone except the ruling class whether they wear the title Pharoah, Emperor, Pope, Comrade, or King.

By the way, "personal experience" changes every time you go through it. If you have the same argument with the same person every Saturday night, you begin to see a change. Subsequent arguments don't impact you as it used to. You stop seeing them or calling them every Saturday. You decide it's not worth it & stop your side of the argument so the yelling match never happens. It's like Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. It's not life that changes, but we who change in response to life. Knowledge may grow over time, but wisdom is individual. Wisdom to a 16-yr-old is embarassment to a 30-yr-old and foolishness to a 70-yr-old. ("Wanna moon the old ladies while I drive?" {cue: Beavis & Butthead laugh})

Dear Tesla:

My, my but you are waxing rhapsodic. So, as I take it from what you're saying, it's all perspective and there isn't any "good" or "bad," "better" or "worse." Which means there can't really be any movie or book or theater or art reviews, and there can be no rating of anything. But that ain't how life works, I'm sorry to say. We rate everything -- "Two thumbs up," "four- stars," "the top-of-the-line," "the best in its class," etc. We humans enjoy rating things, and we seemingly enjoy reading and hearing the opinions of others on these matters.

Josh

Name: Tesla
E-mail: tesfalcon@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Continuing my earlier thought, Ben-Hur was entirely made up and written after the author's own spiritual redemption. While Jesus is never shown in the movie, His words, actions, and teaching make a BIG impact. For being the "finest charioteer in Rome", we only see Judah race once. Why? Because the point of the story is NOT the chariot race or the physical change he endured, but the spiritual life changing experience that only Jesus can give.

Spartacus was "historical fiction" dealing with the slave/gladiator uprising. Spartacus itself was a conglomeration of all the uprisings into one story. Yes, there was a Spartacus who was a gladiator who rebelled and led "the most successful" uprising, but it wasn't as easy as the movie made it look, nor was there as much intrigue. As I said, it was a conglomerate of 5 or 6 uprisings.

Finally, we have Gladiator: your worst Roman nightmare come true.

Let's compare the three by looking at their titles first: Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Gladiator. The first 2 are titled by their principle character and deal with their relationships with other people. The last is about a profession: a very bloody, barbaric, popular profession for over 400 years of Roman history. Note that Gladiator is NOT named Maximus, Commodus, or anything else. The title is appropriate. With that in mind, we can see a BIG gulf between the first two and Gladiator. Instead of focusing on the people, their relationships, etc. the focus is on the life of a gladiator and the subtle difference between butchering and "entertainment". ("Are you not entertained?")

In the supplementary DVD, there're numerous interviews about the Roman empire of this time and leading up to this time. There is NO talk about General Maximus or Emperor Commodus. Emperor Marcus Aurelius is mentioned briefly & quoted often. Instead, it's all about the Roman army, the hard times for the people of Rome, the rise and popularity of gladiators and amphitheater combat & the comparison between gladiators and modern physical, bloody games such as football, rugby, and hockey. The people hold the story together in Gladiator. The story holds the people together in Ben-Hur & Spartacus.

Is such a thing to be deplored? Well, the 2 hours of Gladiator captured a lot more attention than a comparable 1-hour History Channel special! If you're looking for a "people" story, by all means watch Spartacus. If your looking for spiritual renewal, watch Ben-Hur. If you're looking for history or carnage, watch Gladiator, Scorpion King, Conan, or any of the modern "breasts & biceps" movies that proliferate.

-Tesla

PS: What kind of show do you call your own Hercules "Washboard" & Xena "Pop-A-Top" -TNF

Dear Tesla:

They weren't my shows, I just worked on them. I call them comic book nonsense, just like many of the movies these days. Any good story is always about people, not events. I would also certainly rather see a History Channel show about ancient Rome than have to sit through "Gladiator" again. And "Spartacus" is no more fiction than "Gladiator" is, or let's say, they're both fiction as history, or history as fiction. Nevertheless, both "Spartacus" and "Ben-Hur" are MUCH better movies than "Gladiator," and that's all I'm really talking about. Just like the Stradivarius violins, which no one has been able to equal in the three hundred since then, movies hit a peak of sophistication in the early 1970s, and have been going downhill ever since. In 1977, with "Star Wars," B-movies became the A-movies, and as yet, they haven't recovered.

Josh

Name: Tesla Falcon
E-mail: tesfalcon@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

I, too, would find Gladiator "absurd" if it weren't for the fact that except for a few name changes, the events depicted are historically accurate.

The bust of Marcus Aurelius is a replica of the actual one made of him. Marcus Aurelius' son, Commodus, was told to continue the war against the Germans. Marcus died of unknown causes: some say plague, but murder was not uncommon among the inbred Roman emperors.

Instead of obeying his dead father's last command, Commodus returned to Rome for feasting and self-indulgence allowing the Germanic tribes to regroup and eventually sack Rome itself. Commodus commonly entered the arena to challenge a gladiator. He won all of his fights since they would "let him win". He didn't kill any of them, but it was a publicity stunt more than anything else. Commodus died by murder. Thinking himself a great athlete, he accepted the challenge to wrestle a strong wrestling instructor slave who strangled him. Just in case the slave didn't win, Commodus' mistress served him a drink before the match with both a slow poison & mind-altering drugs by orders from the Senate & several other dissatisfied parties.

Maximus was a common name among generals and 3 emperors.

Memory escapes me, but one of the emperors did die in the Coliseum fighting a gladiator.

Dramatic license was taken to bring all this into one lifetime, but such is life in Hollywood.

Dear Tesla:

And it's still a shitty, badly-directed, poorly-written movie. Just because it's true doesn't make it good. "The Gong Show Movie" was true, too.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

A friend of mine just called and invited me to a screening of your buddy Bruce Campbell's film "Bubba Ho-Tep"! It's in February at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood. I think Bruce and Don Coscarelli are going to be there for a Q and A session as well. I'm excited to see Bruce play an 80 year old Elvis.

Bye!
Jean

Dear Jean:

I haven't seen it, but I hear it's funny. I kept asking Bruce to lend me the tape, but he didn't have one. Bruce said that Ossie Davis is terrific. Have fun and let us know what you think.

Josh

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

Josh,

I've seen a lot of Christmas movies lately, and all my friends are gone. Nobody to rave to.

Just watched "The Best Years of our Lives," last night on DVD, and all I can say it is the best movie I've ever seen. Prior to this, I always held "The Last Picture Show," as being the one film that affected me so personally, and so strongly. With "Best Years," I was almost moved to tears and I've never cried during a movie before. What a great performance by everyone! Mr. March played a better drunk than anyone I've ever seen, Dana andrews was perfect, as were his parents, and all the women are beautiful and strongly written and acted.

A few questions. Was actor who played Homer a real vet that lost his hands? I could see no way that it could have been faked (BTW, I thought it was a great directoral move not showing Homer below the chest when he goes to bed until the very end when Wilma does.) What other films would you recomend by William Wyler? This is the first film of his I've ever seen. (Other than Ben Her which, quite frankly, I never cared for.) I'm eager for more.

Also saw two films by indi filmmaker Jon Jost. Had always heard of him, but never saw any of his work. "Sure Fire," "All the Vermeers of New York," and "The Bed You Sleep In." I thought all three were long and a bit amaturish in spots, but then found myself thinking about them a lot over the course of several days after viewing them (partucularly "Sure Fire," and "The Bed You Sleep In.")

If you've never seen these I'd definately suggest giving them a try. They're all on DVD. Jost's definately a admirable, and unique director.

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

"Best Years" is certainly one of my very favorite films. Harold Russell lost his hands during training in the Navy and Wyler saw him in a training film about how to use the prosthetic hooks. It's a brilliant piece of casting and Russell got an Oscar for it (which he sold a few years ago). Everybody in the film is great, but I particularly love Myrna Loy, and I'm still pissed-off she wasn't even nominated for it (I've been holding a grudge since twelve years before I was born). I'd also highly recommend Wyler's films: "Friendly Persuasion," "Mrs. Miniver," "Dead End," "Dodsworth," "The Big Country," "Detective Story," and "The Heiress." Also very much worth seeing are: "Carrie" (1952), "These Three," "Counsellor-at-Law," "The Letter," "Jezebel," "Desperate Hours," "Roman Holiday," and "Funny Girl." That's nearly all his films. I think the guy was as good as they get. He really gets you to care about his characters, and i don't think there's anything else that's nearly as important. Meanwhile, I saw "All the Vermeers in New York" at the theater when it came out and just hated it. I couldn't have been more bored. Maybe Jost's other films are better, but they'd have to a lot better for me to not hate them.

Josh

Name: RichardHillman
E-mail:

Josh

Yesterday I watched Brian DePalma's OBSESSION for the first time in many years and although I enjoyed it again I did find it somewhat labored and Bernard Herrmann's music, although effective, is used far too much and overwhelms nearly every scene. If ever a movie was over-scored it was this one. What do you think of OBSESSION and what movies do you think were spoiled by being too heavily scored?

Dear Richard:

I absolutely agree with you about "Obsession," it's Herrmann's most overbearing and inappropriate score, which isn't something that could often be said about the great Bernard Herrmann. I don't think it's a very good film to begin with, however. It's just one more of DePalma's Hitchcock rip-offs. My mind simply will not focus on other over-scored films at the moment, although I've certainly seen a few. The bigger problem of late regarding music is the stupid and pointless use of pop songs. The two worst offenders are Wes Anderson and Spike Lee, both of whom will lay pop songs right over scenes for absolutely no reason. Wes Anderson seems to just grab a handful of CDs from his collection and just put them all over his films hither and thither with no rhyme or reason. Spike Lee so desperately wants to be buds with Stevie Wonder that he'll put his songs with lyrics on top of dialog scenes. Any kind of actual score is better than that inspipid approach.

Josh

Name: Chenla
E-mail: Cho@hotmail.com

Josh-

Have you seen about schmidt?
What in your opinion is the best movie this year, or rather, what sucked the least?

Dear Chenla:

I thought "About Schmidt" was a nothing. There's no story, no point, and it doesn't know if it's a comedy or a drama, and it ends up being neither. Jack Nicholson is a very watchable actor, but I don't think it's a very good role, nor is he giving that great of a performance. He also doesn't seem to know whether he's in a comedy or a drama. Ultimately, it's a highly forgettable movie. The only 2002 releases I saw that didn't seem like complete crap were "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Kissing Jessica Stein." I also liked "Hysterical Blindness," which was made for HBO so it doesn't really count.

Josh


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