Q & A    Archive
Page 94

Name: Dan
E-mail: reboyd65@yahoo.com

Josh,

What does the shutter on a movie camera do? Why would a 170 degree shutter be better than any other one? I'm new to moviemaking, and I'm talking my dad into getting me a 16mm camera and we're looking at one with a 170 degree shutter. They are charging a lot more for this, so I guess it is important.

I am 15, but not one of these spoiled brat kids like you have been talking about. I have been saving my money and will pay for half of it. I don't even play video games!

I loved Running Time and I hope you make more movies with Bruce in the future.

Dan

Dear Dan:

The shutter opens the film gate to the light coming through the lens, allowing the film to expose for about a 50th of a second, then the shutter closes as the film is clawed past the film gate. If you have the ability to manipulate the shutter sideways, moving of its 180 degree film plane (the same plane the film is moving on), you can change exposures while the film is running. You can also turn the shutter away from the film plane, thus letting a small amount of light to leak in, thus giving you the "Saving Private Ryan," "Band of Brothers," "Three Kings" effect, where it's all a bit overexposed and strobing, which I already think is a cliched, overused effect. Quite frankly, I think it unnecessary. I guess today is the day for the bright kids to write in and make my disparaging remarks about kids look foolish. Keep doing it, I don't mind. The more bright kids the better.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I went and saw "The Pianist" the other night. I found it to be a harrowing experience, something that continues to haunt me days after having seen it. It's a movie about Poland in World War II, and there are no black and white little girls in red coats, or Casper the Friendly Nazis anywhere to be seen (although there is one momentary glimpse of humanity toward the end). It was depressing, disheartening, and moved me to tears at the thought that evil could be perpetuated for so long by so many. It's essentially a dialogue-free one-man-show about survival, and I recommend it if you get a chance. Adrien Brody's performance is above and beyond what I've come to expect from modern cinema.

A friend at work asked, "Was it bad? Disturbing? Like 'Schindler's List?'" I said, "This made 'Schindler's List' look like the Spinning Teacups at Disneyland." It has no Spielberg gloss...it's all pain. I think movies about war should be disturbing, since war is disturbing, but I wasn't unhappy that I saw it. (I was much unhappier when I saw "13 Conversations about One Thing." Avoid that one.)

As for kids today...yeah. If/when I have a kid, he's not going anywhere near any god damned psychotropic medication, that's for sure. I'll make him play outside and climb trees and 'get out of the house' like my mom did when I was driving her crazy. And no helmets, neither.

Take care,
Cindy

Dear Cindy:

Certainly "The Pianist" is one of the best films of 2003, and it's a fucking masterpiece compared to "Schindler's List," but I didn't think it was all that good of a movie. I think it's missing all of act one, where we get to know the character before the horror begins, as well as his family. However, the film begins with the Nazis attacking, so when his family was taken away I barely knew who they were, and I certainly didn't care. I never cared what the Adrien Brody character was going through, and it was pretty awful, which I found a testament to poor writing -- that without the proper set-up it doesn't matter what you put a character through, it just doesn't matter. By the time it got to his relationship with the Nazi officer and him hiding up in the attic, I didn't care at all. I also wish it had an act three, to see how he dealt with all this misery. It's a very professionally produced film, but it should almost be shown to screenwriting classes as an example of incorrect screenplay structrure. And Adrien Brody gives it the old collge try, but he's really only asked to go from Misery Level #1, to Misery Level #2, to Misery Level #3, etc. and I ultimately found it boring. But it was absolutely better than "Chicago," "About Schmitt" or "The Gangs of New York" (I haven't yet seen "The Hours").

Josh

Name: a.s.a
E-mail: baracca@satyam.net.in

Hi.

I am an Indian and I am 10 years old. I want to make movies. I had a couple of doubts.

1) Do you think the movies might die? You know get replaced by some other medium like virtual reality or something?

2) The two-shot is dead isn't it? I mean a mid shot of two people talking. Nowadays everybody just uses and over shoulder shot. I don't think any T.V show or movie uses a two shot. Why do you think this is so?

3) You said you don't think that Eisenstein is a genius. I beg to differ. Don't you think he contributed significantly to cross cutting between an action and another similar action to show what exactly the original action is like? You know like he cuts between a man being killed and an animal being slaugtered. Reading your article I understood that you have based your whole argument on the fact the genius is extraordinary intellectual power. That may be so but it is not all. Genius is also "exceptional natural ability, tendency or creative power". What I mean to say is that for the time being if I accept your opinion that Steven Spielberg is not a genius because he has not displayed any intellectual merit then what do you say regarding this defenition from Microsoft Encarta. Has he not displayed an exceptional natural ability? Has not David Lean showed exceptional creative power. Has he not captured the epic scale as well as the smallest nuance? Lawrence of Arabia is a work of a genius...and of an artist. A man has to give a lot of himself to cinema to create something so exceptional. One more thing. Genius cannot be exhausted because it is not a quantity. It is a quality. As I said it is a natural tendency. And anything natural does not get exhausted. Only its time passes. In India we have a saying. Geniuses cannot be made they are born. What I meant to say is that you have implied that it is the way that makes the man great. That is not true. It is the man that makes the way great.

And in many ways all the filmmakers you mentioned. Kazan, Lean, Cameron all may be influencing future generations of directors. How can you say its not happening?

Dear a.s.a:

You're ten years old? Get outta town! I think you're pulling my leg. I think non-geniuses, a group I'm undoubtedly amongst, try very hard to quantify genius, like it's innate, or it's learned. I think it's a combination of both. I think Elia Kazan and David Lean were top-notch craftsmen, and achieved artistry in their work, but I'm saying genius is something above and beyond mere artistry or craftsmanship. That's what I say, and if you want to pit me against Microsoft Encarta, then fine, I'll take 'em on barehanded. The James Cameron reference I'll just ignore. As for Sergi Eisenstein, I just think that what he's given credit for was being done regularly before him by Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Allan Dwan, Raoul Walsh, and many others. Eisenstein just did it in a much more obvious, pretentious fashion, which I ultimately find less effective. None of his films move me, either. Meanwhile, I like two-shots and I still use them. I agree with you, though, that they are in less and less use. The reason for this is control. If you only get a scene in a two-shot you can't cut it, or cut anything out. With two close-ups or over-the-shoulder shots you can create your own rhythm in the editing room, speed things up, and lose what you don't like. As for movies dying, I don't think so. Whether they continue to be recorded on celluloid 35mm motion picture film is doubtful, but they'll continue to be made. Humans love the narrative form, and love losing themselves in stories, and that won't change. Thanks for the interesting questions.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

Thanks for the answer. Sorry to assume that you were an only child, but you are the only boy such as myself. I can relate!

The helmet story is funny. I remember growing up, I was an adventurous kid like most boys. I still am. I enjoyed climbing trees and all the cool stuff you do when you are a boy. It allowed me to appreciate nature far greater than kids today and I am much better off for that.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that many kids have weight problems and are consumed by amusement , however, living in New York, I come across many kids who are pretty sharp and some of those kids come from lower middle class families.

These kids have to be sharp, since their margin for fucking up is far greater than that of a kid who is handed everything and "coddled" to in their life.

As for the smoking thing, I agree that smokers are being discriminated against and it is not fair. I think these laws are unconstitutional.

Everyone has the right to choose their own life. My father is 59 and he has smoked since he was 16. When was I younger I never thought he would not live into his 40's. He is still hanging in there, although he is not the healthiest guy in the world and he has had the smoker's cough for as long as I can remember.

He tried to quit a couple times, but he could not do it, however, my mother quit cold turkey about 15 years ago and never looked back.

As for me, I mentioned earlier that I don't smoke, but I have a few friends that smoke, some on a social basis and some everyday.

One of my friends back home in Michigan has smoked a lot for about 18 years and he had a mild heart attack at the age of 37 last year. He is a big guy , but not overweight. It was a wake up call to him and he quit in one week and started running and exercising everyday.

I am fortunate that I never have had the craving for smoking. I tried pot three times and it was fun the 3rd time, but I don't really care for it.

Quite a few of my friends also smoke pot and even that I am not a smoker, I believe that the fight against legalizing it is just plain stupid, although, if it were legal, then maybe there would be other problems. What do you think?

I think the problem with the US is that we have so many double standards and the idea that we are our free is a falsehood.

Scott

Dear Scott:

I believe that all drugs should be legalized. The problem would be that it would clean out at least 33% of the prisons and create unemployment for the prison staffs, and God knows we wouldn't want to do that. This country is rife with double-standards and hypocrisy. We are "the land of the free," but we have more people incarcerated than any other country in the world. We attacked Iraq the first time for invading a "sovereign" country, but that's just what we did now. We say things like "we don't target heads of state," but that's in fact been our foreign policy for fifty years. The U.S. government tried to assassinate Fidel Castro a half dozen times, and did assassinate the head of Chile's army, Rene Schneider, (and ultimately killed the president, Allende, too), as well as bringing down the governments of Iran, Guatemala and many other countries. We bombed the living hell out of Cambodia for years, even though we weren't at war with them and Nixon never got Congress's approval -- not that they approved this last war, either. But Congress did all get together recently and sing "God Bless America" and wave around little flags. And how about those government-sponsored commercials saying "Drugs support terrorism"? Is it important that our government spend our tax money on commercials that are blatant lies. If I bag a bag of weed from a guy in Detroit who grew it in his basement, how do the terrorists get any of that money? Of course, the U.S. doing business with Saudi Arabia certainly supports terrorism, but hey, that's business.

Josh

Name: Darin
E-mail: none

Hey.

A little addition to all this talk of protecting the children. I graduated high school in 2000 and just came back to my home town after dropping out of college. I drove by my old elementary school and noticed that all the playground equipment from when I was a kid has been removed. The slides, the jungle gym, the merry-go-round, and a huge slide. All this has been replaced by a plastic play-school looking thing. The ironic thing was, we only had one major accident on that equipment that I can think of, when a classmate of mine fell off the slide and landed on his head. (he walked away from it)
Most of the injuries during recess were when some poor kid got trampled playing soccer or football.
They also removed the sand and replaced it with old rubber tire shreddings, which they thought would be safer. I was told that after the first summer all that rubber sort of fused together into a weird, hard matting.

When I was talking to my friend about the playground equipment, he asked me where all the honor students were. You'd think there would have been enough of them to keep this world in order. That turned out to be really ironic, because now at my current job, night stocking at a grocery store, I work with the valedictorian of my high school class, who has also recently dropped out of college.

I'll also say, in response to the kid's parents who said he wasn't being challenged, I wasn't really chalenged in school either, because now school has to be dumbed down and repeated for the dumbest, or least caring, child. I got all B's and A's in high school because I would read ahead in class and then not pay attention for weeks, until the teacher began the chapter reviews, when she would blatantly tell us what questions were going to be on the test. Some kids still failed, and I have no idea how. Then, of course, the kid's parents would blame the teacher, which started the dumbing down in the first place.

It's a sad, sad world.

Darin

Dear Darin:

For whatever it's worth, me, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell all dropped out of college. Sam's probably making more money now than the entire graduating class of your college will ever make. Of course, college doesn't get anyone into the film business, if that's where you want to go. You write pretty well, maybe you should follow up on it. Good luck.

Josh

Name: Brad
E-mail:

Josh,

I don't expect you to remember me as I appear to be about 1 or 100 or so people who have asked you how to get a copy of Lunatics recently. Anyway, I finally got a beat up copy from Ebay (amazing how a few static bars and a cut case can scare bidders away) at a reasonable price. I don't have whatever channel Sony has pimped your film out to, so this was my best bet. I just wanted to say I highly enjoyed the film. I work with individuals with psychiatric disabilities and thought you did a great job portraying Ted and Deborah's issues. Typically films use such disabilities as nothing but the butt of mindless jokes. I thought your film created characters with dignity, not just stereotypes. Sure, some of the situations were funny, and rightly so. If we didn't laugh at the ridiculousness of our problems sometimes, we'd all be very miserable people. Two other compliments to share. I thought this was the best performance Deb Foreman has done to date. I noticed she appears to be semi-retired since this film and that is a real shame. Also, I thought the stop motion effects were very good. Sadly, you don't see those much today in an age where everything is computerized. Thanks for the experience and keep the films rolling.

Brad

Dear Brad:

Thanks for going to the trouble of getting the film, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree that stop-motion effects are more fun than digital effects -- they still retain movie magic, whereas digital effects, at least to me, don't seem particularly magical. I also used an effect in "Lunatics" that hasn't been used in many years, which is projecting a miniature stop-motion creature on a rear-screen and having the live-action character in front of it. This technique was used a lot in "King Kong" and "Mighty Joe Young," but not much since then. I also agree that Debbie Foreman was quite good in the film, and very attractive. I saw a photo of her in a recent DGA Magazine where she attended a reunion of the "Valley Girl" cast (excluding Nicholas Cage. Martha Coolidge, the director, is now the president of the Director's Guild), and she looked terrific.

Josh

Name: Kim
E-mail: mrsdagle@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

About the smoking bans, you'd be surprised to know that there are quite a few smokers that support those laws. It would be one thing if your assessment were true and smoking bans are a product of mob rule. The reality is worse. People don't want to take responsibility for themselves, they want Big Brother to tell them to quit smoking. Anti-smokers take advantage of this. The assinine part is that NO ONE considers these bans an issue of rights or personal freedoms. I don't smoke, I hate smoke, but what I hate worse is a Law that outlaws smoking in a private establishment, "for the good of my health".
To the topic of film. You have listed MASH as a favorite movie. I love this one too and I bought the dvd w/ director's commentary a while back. One thing is interesting is that there seems to be not one plot. Robert Altman even admits that the PA voiceovers were an afterthought during post-production because of the lack of cohesion.
My question is; do you agree there is no single story in MASH? Is it evidence of a lack in structure? Or is it structured storytelling in another form?
Thanks,
Kim

Dear Kim:

No, it's a lack of structure and focus in the story. This is a film I liked far better when it opened than I do now, but I still respect it's attitude and the way it kind of moved cinema in a different direction, albeit not a great direction. But every time that story veers off into a new one, like it goes into the long sub-plot of Painless dying, which isn't very interesting, or the entire third act, which is a comedy football game, I think it's failing at being a really good film. Altman was doing kind of interesting stuff for a short time, but I don't really think much of it holds up, nor do I think he's a great filmmaker by any means.

Josh

Name: H. Festa
E-mail: hf4th@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

It's not often you get box office golden letters dropped in your lap like this. Help me out. 99/9 of films suck today because Gen-X gets off on dreck. So it shouldn't matter that I'm a former adult actor. No Boogie Nights stereotype, I was first published as a writer when I was 21, have done voiceovers and could probably do a better Sinatra than the soundalike in LUNATICS. Back in the mid 90s, I had a sports film treatment almost ripped off by a major studio. But that's a long story we don't have time to get into. In the late 90s I married into a nice Jewish family related to The 3 Stooges with 8 brothers who fought the Nazis in WW2. Also no joke, true story. I have a script I'm working on called the Yenta &the Porn Star. Since this site is the property of BeckerFilms, you could easily rip me off. But do it the right way and hire me as a writer so we can win an Oscar together.

If you need any writers, my life story reads like Forest Gump minus the dumb luck. It gets even juicier. And I can list more things here that would simply blow you away. Indeed, my life reads like a screenplay waiting to be ripped off. Help me write it instead...

H. Festa
Studio City, CA

Dear H:

I don't want your idea. I have plenty of my own I can't get made. And if you're frightened of people stealing your idea, don't tell it to anyone. You may or may not have noticed that I have twenty of my screenplays posted on this site, as well as many treatments and stories. My plate is full story and idea-wise. My plate is empty financing-wise, though. Every non-writer out there thinks their life is a great story and worthy of an Oscar, which of course is utter nonsense. As Laurence Olivier so aptly put it, "You think you're an artist, prove it." So, did you marry in the Maurer family, the Horowitz family, or the Fine family?

Josh

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

Josh,

I'll have to check out doc-day, assuming it is on Bravo (no sundance channel on our NJ comcast). Its sadly the case that docs are the smartest movies made anymore. I'm not a huge fan of documentaries and would take a great fiction film over them any day, but what are you gonna do. unfortunately, the local video stores have a small selection so I'll have to look for these on tv. Last time I checked the doc section at West Coast I remember seeing a couple Michael Moore's, something about breasts, and a bio of Bruce Vilanch. There are many great docs being made but very few get decent distribution.

And regarding this neverending discussion of bad
fiction films, I think it has more to do with everyone's disatisfaction with the culture in general. It seems kind of small-minded to bitch about bad movies all the time, but they are just a representation of the blandness in our entire society. At least, that makes me feel better about my bitching. What disturbs me the most is how "adults" will go out of their way to defend most of the movies that come out. I read a review by one critic that compared comic book movies to "impressionist" paintings in the sense that they are just a different style of great art. If the Michael Bay and Brian Singer are the Monet and Picasso of the movie world then I honestly give up.

Jim

Dear Jim:

Yeah, it's part of the dumbass argument I've heard many times that movies have moved to "a new place." That place is called the shit-hole. I've got news for everybody, the dramatic storytelling form is over 2500 years old and isn't going anywhere. Movies, plays, TV, radio shows, it's all the same thing -- tell me a story I'm interested in, that I care about -- and the techniques to do that haven't changed at all. I know this particularly aggravates some people, but nevertheless, I've sat in front of a typewriter, computer, and a pad of paper for over thirty years working on and thinking about stories. When I encounter bad writing, as I do in almost everything these days, it sticks out like a big sore thumb to me, and I know exactly where the writer is in their learning curve, because I've been there. Movies are not in a new place, they're in a very thoughtless place.

Josh

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

Josh,

For the most part, I agree with you and Jean; We're making the world (of our kids) too safe for democracy. Parks don't even have merry-go-'rounds anymore. We used to spend hours trying to spin one another off of those things. Now, nobody wants to face the legal liability should someone happen to fall down. Even swingsets suck these days. Growing up you could always find those twenty-foot tall suckers. My brother broke his arm jumping off one of those things, something he remembers with pride. Now the swings are eight-feet high and have half a forest's worth of mulch under them.

That having been said, I know a surprising number of good, active, well-adjusted kids. I play basketball six or seven times a week and often with college-aged kids. I realize that that isn't exactly a representative demographic, but it gives me hope for the future.

Personally, I am a non-smoker and will do what I can to prevent my kids from smoking, but I oppose the sorts of public-smoking bans that are so prevelant these days. When I go to a restaurant they ask me my preference, smoking or non, and that seems reasonable to ne. Certainly bars should have the right to decide for themselves how they're going to handle smoking. Bars are about ambiance; people can drink at home if all they want to do is drink. It strikes me that the smoking-non-smoking option works pretty well. These total bans are about a handful of nosy people wanting to feel important.

I haven't yet seen "A Mighty Wind" but I had some thoughts about your comments to me earlier. If you recall, you said that "Spinal Tap" was a satire of a living movement while "Wind" is a satire of a movement which no longer has relevent life. I watched an interview with Levy on one of the late-night shows, Leno I think, and he implied that part of what they were satiring was his generation's claim to a moral, social conscience superior to any other generation's. I know your knowledge of the folk movement is deeper than most. I feel that in the mid to late sixties the folk movement reached a peak of fashionability, even while the movement itself was speeding to irrelevence. Ostentation is always a sound subject for satire.

It might seem obvious but I just want to say how much I really appreciate this forum. If the movies could address issues as honestly and critically as happens here our discussions would be in a vastly different vein. Your list of movies from the year prior to "Star Wars" was just a brilliant illustration of movies' decline and should be included with every motion picture camera sold or rented.

John

Dear John:

"A Mighty Wind" could be good, although we've already heard otherwise. They certainly are funny people. But a reunion of a folk band just seems incredibly irrelevant. Ultimately, I have great faith in the motion picture medium, and I honestly do believe that films will get better, and possibly even better than they've ever been. I'm just trying to keep a standard alive because I think someone has to. Everybody else has fallen beneath the wheel, thrown their hands in the air, and just accepts low-quality films. I won't do that. This may make me sound like an old fogey stick-in-the-mud, but so be it. Until people begin again to really put an effort into the films they're making, they'll continue to suck. My rant against rap is another side of my rant against modern movies -- they're both shallow and unsophisticated. Music and movies can both handle as deep a level of thinking as anyone can put them to, they're just not trying. I still believe this is all due to sheer laziness. Why struggle to come up with a new melody when you can just use a rap beat and not have to put in any effort? Why not attempt to take motion pictures to a new, deeper, more meaningful place, as opposed to just getting out there and winging it? It's about effort and serious thought, and somebody has to promote these ideas. Since no one else will, I choose me.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

I hear you about this generation of kids. A friend of mine is a 4th grade teacher in San Diego and she has plenty of gripes about the kids in her class. The most disturbing one being that there is an increasing amount of over-weight children in her school. She said that it's because they go home after school and sit on their asses playing video games for hours. When she takes the kids outside for recess the inactive kids sit in a circle and play this card game called Magic. She has tried several times to get her entire class to participate in soccer games during recess but she said most of them just whine about being too tired to play. Furthermore, she said that whenever a kid has a behavior problem the parents blame it on A.D.D and say that she is not properly challenging their child in the classroom. Whatever that means. It's a shame because she is very passionate about teaching but she is burning out at a pretty fast rate. My theory is that parents pander to their kids these days to a point where it arrests their development. My parents always treated my brother and I like intelligent people even when we were kids but we always knew who was in charge. When we would fuck up and our parents would discipline us it had an impact on our character because my parents knew that we knew better. There were no excuses and we always had to take responsibility for what we had done. It's like no one wants to be pissed off at their kids because it may hurt their feelings. And don't let the kids out of the house without helmets and knee pads because, God forbid, they may get hurt playing outside! I guess we have a generation of pussies to look forward to.

Best,
Jean

Dear Jean:

I think so. My friend who has three kids just made the same observation about the helmets. All these kids all running around with geeky-looking helmets because their parents are all mortified they might fall boom boom and hurt themselves. Jesus! My sister's 12-year-old son won't do any physical activities (and he's overweight) because they're either "too jumpy," "too runny," or "too sweaty." As you say, it's the Pussy-Generation coming up.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

As a non-smoker living in NYC, I agree with you that bar owners should be allowed to make their own decsions when it comes to the smoking law.

A bar is a place to drink and smoke if one desires and I think any intelligent person understands this. I don't think this law will last to long here in NYC when it comes to the bars, but I do agree that is practical in a restaurant to give people an option.

Personally, I criticize many smokers for being a little selfish when it comes to smoking around others and I don't think this has a lot to do with me wanting an antiseptic world, it has more to do with manners and respect for others.

I think it is polite when someone asks "do you mind if I smoke?" Instead of assuming that the smoke from their smoking will not bother people.

I think your attitude towards this is too far one way, but you are a smoker, so you have vested interest in that, but I still feel there is a middle ground there.

To me, smoking is a habit much like drinking and that is fine if you are the only one that is being effected by it, however, like drinking, smoking can have negative effects others too, so I think that a smoker should be responsible for the backlash if they assume they are the only people on earth who will consume their smoke.

As for children being "coddled" as you say, well two of my sisters have children and I was around children a great deal when I was a teenager, since my mother ran day care from our home.

I find that people raise their kids in different ways and not all children are spoiled, video game and entertainment "junkies" now.

Many kids are smarter about life than you think, and how much experience have you had around children? I have a feeling that you may be an only child by your reactions to many things on this site, but I might be wrong.

I volunteer with kids here in NYC and I see a variety of different attitudes and educational backgrounds, and it is as it always has been with children, some are going to get it and some won't but all one can do is try and educate them about the world.

You act as being a sensitive child in this world is wrong and I don't belive that at all. The world is tough yes, and I think it is up to the adults of the world to show kids how to handle life, but that can be difficult when many adults don't know how to do it themselves, however, it is easy to be an armchair parent when you have never had kids.

I also believe that giving kids the benefit of the doubt sometimes will really surprise you.

I just finished watching "The Candidate" last night and the thing I realize is that society has been dealing with the same issues for centuries and things really don't change that much when it comes down to it. It is just like a different outfit with the same old hat.

Art has always struggled in the world. Van Gogh was a recluse and Da Vinci intergrated into the world and was successful. These are examples of two wonderful artists who followed different paths.

If art truly reflects life then it follows the same patterns as life. It is cyclic, meaning there will be times of greatness and times of slump. I still feel we will see more times of greatness just not in the way it was 20 or 30 years ago, since that already happened.

Regards,
Scott

Dear Scott:

I'm one of three children. I have two sisters, one older, one younger. The children I know are the children of my friends, some of whom have kids in their twenties. My observations are just from my own, single, middle-aged, curmudgeonly point of view. And as for being a smoker, and having spent an enormous amount of time in non-smoking places, like L.A., then Oregon, I haven't been allowed to be to be impolite about smoking in a very long time. The fact that I can once again smoke in bars and restaurants here in Michigan seems like a tremendous freedom and luxury, and I'm just sorry for the New York smokers who have just been marginalized and had some of their rights removed. I think it sucks.

Josh

Name: Jean
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

How is everything going? Anything new on your plate? I don't really have anything to talk about. I have not been to see a movie in months. I'm embarrassed to say that the last flick that I saw in the theater was "Bringing Down the House". I had to see it for work purposes and I had a miserable time even though I was stoned out of my gourd! That's how much it sucked. It was so sad to see Steve Martin in such a horrible piece of shit. I was totally depressed after the screening. My parents got a DVD player a few months ago and my Dad said that he now has absolutely no reason to see movies in the theater anymore. Can't say I blame him.

The bars in NYC are now smoke-free. What the fuck!?

Best,
Jean

Dear Jean:

Yeah, it's horrible. The fucking asshole non-smokers are forcing us all to live in an antiseptic world, where we'll all eventually be wearing face masks and rubber gloves. I think it's so unconstitutional to not allow bar-owners to make up their own minds about smoking that it makes me sick. It's one more aspect of this child-oriented world we're living in that I can't stand. "But what about the children?" Fuck them! It's a tough world and you'd better start getting used to it young. Kids are so fucking coddled now it's ridiculous. 12-year-olds act like 6-year-olds. If things are bad now, you just wait until these kids take over; they're all immature, amusement-junkies that can't form a cohesive thought. Yuk!

Josh

Name: Bill Shepard
E-mail: wtshepard@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

HI from the UP of Mich...

Just saw "Lunatics: A Love Story" on IFC and thought it was terrific. I wish you good fortune with your future projects.

Bill Shepard

Dear Bill:

You're an Upper, eh? I'm glad you enjoyed it, but it wasn't on IFC, it was on Starz. "Running Time" will be starting on IFC soon, though. And just as correction, all of these top-notch documentaries I've been watching have been on The Sundance Channel, not IFC. Independent documentaries are SO much better than indie fiction films it's a joke. The documentary form is flourishing, while all the rest goes swirling down the crapper.

Josh

Name: John Rambo
E-mail: thisisjohnrambo@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Cool. Anyways I thought that episode was great sorry u didnt think it turned out all that great.

Anyways here's what I was wondering. When u wrote that ep for Herc did u have that arrow scene in there? Like when they took it out? Or was that something u added for Xena?

Thanx,

John J. Rambo

Dear John:

I don't even remember an arrow scene. I barely remember that episode, which I wrote in 1995, eight years ago. When I was recently being interviewed for the Xena DVD release, I couldn't remember what that first episode of Xena I directed was about to save my life. Luckily, a girl on the crew had seen it and remembered the plot, otherwise I'd have been completely stuck. The plots of those shows don't stand out in my mind at all. I do recall the ending of that ep being completely botched. The little girl hasn't been able to speak since her mother was killed. When Xena leaves at the end I had the little girl finally speak saying, "Goodbye, Xena," and her father smiles and hugs her. The way it was shot, she says "Goodbye, Xena," and her father says, "Not now, we're talking," and ignores her. But I'm glad you liked it.

Josh

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

Josh,

Thanks for the response. I'm referring to putting someone in a movie, and being afraid of getting sued somewhere down the line. Using union contracts as a basis for non-union projects sounds like a good idea. At least they'll cover everything--compensation, model release (or whatever it's called), and so forth.

About religion, I'll say fair enough and leave it at that. The thought of a religious discussion between you and me reminds me of that Dr. Suess story about the two creatures who stood there while a city was built around them.

Thanks again.

Ben

Dear Ben:

I think Dr. Seuss is a terrific example, which I kept flashing on as I watched this recent documentary about the genocide in Rawanda ("The Last Just Man," which was quite good). The Hutus and the Tutsis in Rawanda can't even tell each other apart except by their ID cards, but one side felt the need to exterminate over 800,000 of the other side. It's just like "The Sneetches on the Beaches," where some of the Sneetches have stars on their bellies, while other don't. Of course, having a star makes you superior to those without them. It's also just like the "Star Trek" episode with Frank Gorshin, where he's an alien that's half black, half white and fighting another black & white alien aboard the Enterprise. No one can tell the difference until they tell us that one is black on the left side, the other black on the right side. World conflict boiled down to popular culture references.

Meanwhile, I think you might be able to download many of those union contracts from their various websites.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I just saw your answer to my last post, and am responding. We're in Kuwait now, but a few people brought laptops, so we're watching the same sort of movies we watched at Fort Drum. Surprisingly, no one brought THE LONGEST DAY. Everyone seems to be craving escapism(understandably), so action movies and contemporary stuff are the order of the day. To my everlasting shame, I even went down to the main PX and bought GHOST SHIP on dvd (mainly 'cause that Italian night club singer takes her clothes off in it). There have been a few high-water marks, though: we've been watching an episode a night of BAND OF BROTHERS, for instance.
Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to swear off decent movies for the next year, just like beer (a no-go in Muslim countries) and decent food (I literally would kill right about now for a slice of pizza from Pepe's in New Haven, or at least a decent dish of baked ziti). What we have now are the cinematic equivalent of MRE's: they'll keep you alive, but they're nothing to write home about.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Bruce's brother Don just returned from eight months in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and was able to get beer. The U.S. military base in Riyadh, BTW, was built by the Bin Laden family. Well, luckily there's no shooting in Kuwait, so you're safe for the time being. That's until Operation Syrian Freedom begins, that is. Good luck to you, and don't go crazy watching bad movies. Of course, that's what we're stuck with here, too, so we all commiserate.

Josh

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

Josh,

I don't suppose people were as litigious back when you started filmmaking, and now, you probably have legal considerations up the wazoo, but what are the basic safeguards for a low budget filmmaker? Are there any online sources for forms that you know of?

And in regard to Jim's comment, I realize that many priests in the post-1970 Catholic church have brought much scandal into the issue, but it's unfortunate that "priests are bad" is now lumped in with all of the other universally bad things when there's a large group of traditional-minded priests who are what priests should be.

Thanks.
Ben

Dear Ben:

I'm not sure what you're asking. You need to have contracts with the people you hire, and if you're working with union people then you use the union contracts, like SAG, DGA or WGA. If it's non-union then you make up your own contracts, or have a lawyer do it for you. You can also use union contracts as the basis for non-union contracts. What are you specifically referring to?

And since I truly believe that all fundamentalists of every religion are evil, and anyone that goes into the clery is undoubtedly a fundamentalist, then there are only bad clergy people. Beneath their kindly exteriors lies evil dogma meant to make the world a worse place, to make their religion or denomination look good, and all other religions and demoninations look bad.

Josh

Name: Tommy Jr.
E-mail: thancher_jr@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Wow Josh, did your site become talk for rap(or should I say crap)..Haha.. Just kidding. But anyways, I enjoyed watching Running Time when I got it back in '99. It's one of my favorite movies... And yea, I wouldn't want you to jinx on making a movie with Bruce. Good Luck with that if that happens...

BTW, have you ever watched Xanadu? I picked that up the other day. I haven't seen that since '82 when I was like...6.. But it brought me back memories when thing were better in the old days. Why does movie's today have to suck so bad like music. Well anyway's, take care Josh.

Dear Tommy:

"Xanadau"? Good God that was a miserable picture. The only thing good about it was that they shot at the Pan Pacific Auditorium, a cool art-deco auditorium in LA that was torn down soon after the film was shot, because God forbid there should be any cool old buildings left in LA. I personally don't look at the 1980s as the good old days in the movies. They were probably better than the '90s, but that's not saying much. Look at the year immediately before "Star Wars" ruined the film business, 1976. The nominees for Best Picture were: "All the President's Men," "Bound for Glory," "Network," "Rocky" and "Taxi Driver." Also released that year were: "Carrie" (the best Stephen King film adaptation), "Face to Face," "Marathon Man," "Seven Beauties," "The Front," "The Shootist," "Silver Streak," "The Omen," "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" (arguably the best "Pink Panther" film), "Harlan County, U.S.A.," "Black and White in Color," "The Wild Party," "The Tenant," "Small Change," "Robin and Marion," "The Man Who Fell to Earth," "The Last Tycoon," "The Bad News Bears." And it's not like anyone at the time thought it was a particularly good year for film, but there were probably more good and great film that year than all of the 1990s. It's a sad, pathetic state we're presently in.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I am aware that Vonnegut is still alive and well. Actually, I was out in the Hamptons in the winter staying at someone's summer home (Don't ask, I hate the Hamptons, but it is nice to be there off season), and there is a local arts and literary publication from there which had an interesting article with Vonnegut and the author Robert A. Caro who had written an entire series of books on the life of Lyndon B. Johnson which consumed most of his life.

The article consisted of them interviewing each other and the difference in their work and their subject matter while relaxing at Vonegut's home in the Hamptons. It was a great article and you really get and interesting view of the differences in their works and lives as writers in a very relaxed dialogue.

In regards to George Roy Hill's film version of "Slaughterhouse Five", yes I have seen it and yes I agree it is a fantastic film version of the book. I had seen the film for the first time back in 1989 at college. That book, film and "Welcome to the Monkey House" was where I started getting into him.

I think Vonnegut has a knack for making "Science Fiction" much more believable then any other. Actually, when I have read his books, I never, they never feel like science fiction because he writes in a somewhat lighthearted way about seroius subjects with regards to the human condition.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Vonnegut's alive, but I think he's every bit as frustrated with society now as I am. A big part of "Timequake" is about the fact that people don't seem to give a crap about reading books anymore. He says that when he was young writing really had meaning, and people cared about it and discussed it. Now no one gives a damn. This too shall change, but it's difficult getting through it. Another pretty good Vonnegut-to-film adaptation is Mark Robson's "Happy Birthday, Wanda June," which is rather stage-bound as a film, but catches the right tone and is very well-cast, with Rod Steiger, Don Murray, and William Hickey. It's definitely worth seeing, particularly in light of how badly filmmakers have screwed his stuff up since then.

Josh

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

Josh,

I was listening to the commentary for Three Kings the other day and one of the producers made an interesting point. He basically said that the studios nowadays commonly reject scripts that are not part of their short list of "commercial" genres. As in, a "political" film, or a satire. I don't recall the whole list, but it amused me because these were all the genres that I miss seeing at the movies. How long has it been since a real political film was made by the studios? I thought Three Kings was pretty much a mess, but it did have a few good ideas and had the balls to be slightly ambiguous. Its funny to me how the "smartest" Hollywood films these days do nothing but state the obvious: slavery is bad, the holocaust was bad, priests are bad, drugs are bad, homophobes are bad. Its these softballs down the middle that drive me nuts because they add nothing new to the conversation. They simply tell us what we already know and act like that's enough. Unfortunately, I don't see much coming from the independent filmmakers either. Everything feels very test-marketed to me, like the filmmakers wrote the script with box office always in the back of their mind. I look at a film like Hammer and it feels like an original to me. I like it when a film gives me a unique perspective on something that I don't know much about. It feels like I know exactly what to expect before I see a movie these days. Everything feels so couched in commercial safeness, political correctness, whatever you want to call it. I feel redundant because I've made these comments a million times before, but it was just frustrating to hear from a Hollywood producer how the studios will just immediately reject a script, no matter how great it is, simply because it fits into an "uncommercial" genre.

Jim

Dear Jim:

It's very frustrating, I agree. If this forum is nothing else, it's a place to bitch about this subject, because it needs bitching about. With each passing year the list of "commercial" genres shrinks, until all that will remain are films based on comic books with a $100 million worth of special effects. "Three Kings" could have been an interesting film, but I think it used up its welcome within about five minutes. As a little note, the lead Iraqi character that shows them around for most of the film is Cliff Curtis, who's actually Maori from New Zealand and played the centaur in the Hercules films and show. He's a terrific actor, and I shot all of the original centaur effects with him. As Walter Burley Griffen said in the documentary "City of Dreams," which I saw last night, to be an artist you are forced into either being a parasite, a panderer, or a recluse. I've ended up as the last, but most folks fall prey to the second, they all become panderers, which sums up all of Hollywood. And if you really want to get ahead there, then you must become both a panderer and a parasite. Original, provocative ideas do not come from pandering parasites. Meanwhile, I saw three good documentaries last night on IFC (Mondays are now "Docdays" on IFC, but I think they should show them all the time, they're much better than the fiction films). I saw: "Shalom Y'all," about Jews in the south, which was very interesting and well-made, though it owes a lot to Ross McElwee and "Sherman's March;" "My Friend Paul," also a personal, first-person documentary about a guy from Long Island and his one fuck-up friend that ended up in jail; and "City of Dreams," an Australian film about an American couple, Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffen, who were architects in the beginning of the 20th century who started off working for Frank Lloyd Wright, then moved to Australia to design the capitol city, Canaberra, which was a beautiful, thoughtful design that ultimately got changed for no good reason. Perhaps because documentaries are so much cheaper they can still be made with intelligence and quality.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Josh,

I have laid this rap thing to rest and I won't mention it again on your site, since I agree that we spent far too much time discussing it.

I loved that book by Kurt Vonegut, in fact, he is one of my favorite writers ever. I also know where you are coming from when you talk of working again with Sam and Bruce again.

Three years before I moved to New York, I also had a close knit group of friends and we made quite a few films together, and sadly we all live in different places now and everyone is doing something in the industry, but we all miss making films together. Someday soon I think we will get together make another one. I miss it. Actually, I miss shooting as a DP. As you know, I am an editor by trade.

Those were some of the best times of my life and we all miss it, but I know what you mean by things "getting serious". We all have paying jobs, but the beauty of those days was that we were not making it for money, we were making it to create and we were having a blast even if we did get on each others nerves from time to time. We challenged each other and had fun doing it and that is something that is surely lacking with filmmaking and music when you set out to make it for the money.

On a different note, I went to see "A Mighty Wind" over the weekend and it wasn't that bad, but I agree with you that that group has run out of ideas. The best part of the film was Eugene Levy's and Catherine O'hara's characters and relationship. Also Fred Willard was pretty funny in the film too.

Cheers,
Scott

Dear Scott:

If you haven't yet read Vonnegut's final novel -- he said he wasn't writing anymore, not that he's died -- "Timequake," I thought it was pretty good, and his best novel in about twenty years. It's a real shame what they did to "Mother Night" and "Breakfast of Champions." Have you watched George Roy Hill's brilliant version of "Slaughterhouse-Five" lately? It really is terrific.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc66@mac.com

Hi Josh,

Sorry for making such a scene with this rap thing, but I agree with you about the state of the arts and people's interests in life now. It is quite depressing to me. I feel as if Entertainment is becoming what we consider reality and the lines are very thin there.

This one is for "The Abominable". I have listened to rap and I don't hate all of it like Josh, in fact, I quite liked "Public Enemy" and I enjoyed some of the "Beastie Boys" more developed songs, however, they play their own instruments, so I would consider them musicians. As for "Blackalicious" and "The Roots", I have also listened to both of these groups, since my roomate is really into "The Roots". I had actually seen the rapper "Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze" live here in NYC. He opened for a great Canadian band called "The New Deal" which had nothing to do with Rap, but they were fantastic for a three piece band.

Anyhow, I could get through two of his songs even with his impressive gimmick of imitating beats with his mouth and singing over them at the same time. It was fun and it was like watching a circus act, however, the technique could not sustain my attention for more than two songs and that is the same way I feel about the Roots album as a whole. Actually, I made it through half the album only because the band plays their own instruments and the bass player is excellent. Though, the lyrics are stupid and I agree with Josh on the so called poetry in Rap music.

Lastly, as for "Blackalicious" doing a song with Gil-Scott Heron, well I have heard that too and it is not bad, but again, I could not get through the whole album and the best song on the album is by far the song with Gil-Scott Heron because he is a poet.

What I believe is that Rap music is substantial for single releases, however, it can never sustain a whole album's worth of listening and if it remains a popular form of music, this is all it can offer in my opinion, since this is all it could ever offer. Most Rap is crap.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Rap is unworthy of as much space and thought as we've given it here. It's a refuge for the untalented, which is what movies have become, too. What's scary is that there are talented musicians and filmmakers around, but unless they give up their individuality and work in the "money" forms, they don't work at all. Art is now entirely about money and nothing else. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron," where in the future everyone must be equal. If you're a great dancer then you must wear sandbags around your waist so you're not lighter on your feet than anyone else, and if you're too smart you have to waer a hearing aid that gives a a shrill, high-pitched beep every few seconds so you can't form thoughts. We've arrived at that future and we've handicapped ourselves without sandbags and beepers.

Josh

Name: The Abominable
E-mail: MC_RYDE@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Why do y'all always use Eminem and P Diddy as examples? That really shows me you haven't been exposed to any of the rap artists I mentioned. It would be the same as if I came here dissed rock using Limp Bizkit as an example...Y'all would be like what the hell is this guy saying, he doesn't know ish, and you would call me ignorant. Anyways, I never claimed rap is better than rock, in my opinion they aren't comparable. As far as no rappers not being able to read or write music, that's not true. The Roots are a band. Mos Def can play and write music, so can Pharrell Williams. But I never see any rappers claim to be muscicians or whatever. For real if the only rap you know is P. Diddy and Eminem, I see why you can call it stupid and unintelligent but listen to a Common or Blacklicious album and you will see it's not what you say it is. My friend, the one who showed me this site, used to say the exact same thing about rap until I told him to check out certain acts, and now he doesn't think it's so stupid anymore.

oh and this is a verse from Slug(Atmosphere)...

"Individually wrapped, placed in neat little rows
Becoming A piece, of everything that grows
Some numbers, A name, to indicate you played the game
Came empty handed and left the same
A soul is A soul and A shell is A shell
The border in between is full of everything you felt
Some cling to A cross because they're tired and lost
They leave it up to the weather to measure the cost
And everytime I look within I recognize the darkness
Familiar to the image of the artist
Staring at the bathroom mirror in A strangers apartment
Can't remember her name, don't remember how I got here
But here I am, thinking about death again
Humbles out the stress, helps the breath get in
I need to check my friends as well as my next of kin
To let them know I love them all to the end
And when the soul begins to reap, I think she'll know me from the sleep
I keep caught in the corner of my bloodshot eyes
And if she has the nerve, to let me dump a few last words
I'm gonna turn to the earth and scream "Love your life!"
Love your life, quite cliche but I guess thats me
A ball of pop culture with some arms and feet
As discrete as I've tried to keep the drama and cancer
It's no secret I hunger for someone to feed the answers
I never expected a bowl of cherries
I'm just a virgo trying to find my own version of the virgin mary
And when I let them carry me to a cemetary
I wanna be buried with a pocket full of clarity"

Dear A:

Using Emminem and P. Diddy as examples wasn't difficult to arrive at, they're the biggest in the field. And if that's your idea of good rap lyrics, you can have them. It's like half-assed high school poetry. Rap is so ridiculously unsophisticated it gives me a pain. Since I am unconvincable on the subject, perhaps we should drop it.

Josh

Name: The Abominable
E-mail: MC_RYDE@hotmail.com

Oh and this is for Scott,

Rap has progressed, a whole lot...I already explained myself in a previous post. And you if you like Gil-Scott Heron I suggest you check out the Blackalicious song "First in Flight" which he features in and check out the Train of Thought album by Reflection Eternal, he has a little skit on there saying he urges everyone to get a ticket and hop on the train of thought. He doesn't seem to find rap so stupid...

Dear A:

Yeah, I don't give a crap what he thinks. And I won't check out anything regarding rap. I don't have to be reasonable about it, nor do I intend to be. Every rap song I've heard for twenty years has been shit and I won't give the form any more chances. I hate it, and neither you nor anyone else can convince me otherwise. Shit, my friend, is shit and it will never be anything but shit. In the history of music, rap won't even be a footnote.

Josh

Name: Brian
E-mail: KumiteENT@aol.com

Hey Josh,

I was just wondering, how does one go about trying to pitch an idea for a show to a network. Would you have to have an agent? Obviously not just anybody can go in and make an appointment..or can they? It seems that way with all the shitty shows on tv now, but its like you said that entertainment is in an artistic slum (i know I'm not quoting it right). Anyways hope your holiday weekend goes well.

Dear Brian:

You don't just pitch an idea for a show. You have to have the script for the pilot episode, as well as several other episodes, a detailed list of the plots of many of the other episodes in the first season, a "bible" that states all of the rules and regulations of the show, and you need an agent to get you in.

Josh

Name: Scott
E-mail: sspnyc@mac.com

Hey Josh,

As you know I am an avid listener of music and I am an ok guitar player and a pretty good drummer. Recently I have been reading the posts about rap music and I have some comments.

Rap music used to be a very subculture thing in music and it did originate from the inner city streets. I live in NYC, so I can understand where this music comes from, however, I do not like it myself. I feel that it is an artform and it is an expression which one cannot deny.

The problem that I have with most rap music is that much of it consists of tearing down other rappers or artists instead of just being fun or making some intelligent statements. Much of the more aggressive stuff revolves around complaining about life and talking about how much better the rapper is from everyone else.

Of course there is some good old fashion sex themes and a great deal aggressive language to get the point across, but what you find is that there really is no point. I think this is where I agree with you that it is "lunkheaded" and boring to me.

All of us have struggles in life and some of us are luckier than others, but to turn to ignorance and just bad lyrics to express your inner turmoil is boring and I feel there are more constructive ways to get your message across.

Most Rap artists are not musicians and anyone who would like to argue that point with me can go ahead, but only a few could actually compose a song without sampling someone elses popular riff

They have great producers who can assemble rhythms and samples for them to rap over, but that is the extent of musical knowldege that is required for becoming a Rapper.

I think the most appalling thing to me is when watching something like the MTV music awards and hearing how unintelligent most rappers are when they actually speak to an audience it is embarrasing.

It proves how little it takes to rhyme a bunch of phrases and have the masses buy it.

Hey, "Eminem" is from near my hometown and quite frankly, I don't really care to hear how much he hates this and hates that and how much better he is than other rappers blah, blah, blah... I 've been there too dude, stop crying and lighten up. life is too short!

I also worked in a CD shop for quite a longtime when I was younger and it would make me laugh when I would hear white suburban kids trying to talk like they were from the Bronx or Brooklyn. It is pathetic.

I was so taken back by this kid one day that I said to him " Look in the mirror kid, you are a white middle class suburban kid" get over it, but I guess I was wrong back then because now we are graced with Eminem's presence

I have never heard a rap album with the exception of a few Public Enemy albums which could actually sustain a whole album's worth of music. The songs just blend into each other and become repetitive and boring.

Maybe, in the future, rap will become the new version of elevator music and Eminem will be playing Vegas.

As you said Josh, Rock &Roll progressed and it may be in a stagnant period, however, Rap has never progressed musically, nor has the message really changed and I have heard years of it.

If you really want some great urban poety and music listen to some Gil-Scott Heron albums and you would be better off! Great musican and poet and great music.

Scott

Dear Scott:

Wow, you're really reaching back with Gil-Scott Heron and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." Of course, he had something to say. I barely think that rap is a worthy topic of discussion. There's almost nothing there to talk about. As I've said, it is a perfect representation of these times, though, because it's dull, boring, and not challenging, just like everything in the arts these days. There are no plays, movies or music really worth discussing or thinking about. Society is in a huge artistic slump. Nobody wants to create interesting, challenging art, they just want to make money, and if that's your motivation then you'll just spew out the same crap you've already seen and heard. Nobody is even particularly political anymore, and if world events of the moment don't upset you and get you thinking, nothing will.

Josh

Name: Tommy Jr.
E-mail:

Dear Josh:

I just wanted to say to MC whatever his name is, those are some of the best hip hop artist's. I like some rap, but I don't disrespect Josh for hating rap. I hate most rap, cause it has turned to CRAP. But anyways, I still respect you Josh and your movie's. Even though you don't like rap. But anyways....


I finally got a hold of the "Evil Dead:Companion" book, and I was glad to see your mentioned in the book Josh. I hope you all(Bruce,Sam,Ted,etc..) can make films together again. It would be nice to see you all just having fun making film's (even though it was torchure). Well anyway's, best wishes Josh. I'm looking forward to see" If I Had a Hammer" soon. Late

Dear Tommy:

I can't really see all of us making movies together and having fun anymore. It's all gotten too serious for some of us. Bruce and I had a terrific time making "Running Time" and the two episodes of "Jack of All Trades" we did together. We're trying to put something else together now, but I won't even mention it because I'll just jinx it.

Josh

Name: John Rambo
E-mail: thisisjohnrambo@yahoo.com

Dear Josh,

Cool man! Sorry about that director writer thing. So u wrote it as a Herc episode and then u changed it to Xena. But did u have to change any other stuff in it? I mean like when it was a Herc episode was it just like Herc getting shot with arrows too? Or was that part different?

So anyways I guess it was filmed before Sins of the Past. Cool man! So like was that battle scene with Xena like the first scene ever with Xena?

Anyways man I thought that episode was really cool.

Thanx,

John J Rambo

Dear John:

I don't know which scene they shot first because I wasn't there. I think the first thing up was the chariot race stuff, which was shot 2nd unit. I personally didn't think the episode turned out all that well.

Josh

Name: A.J. Parker
E-mail: na

Dear Josh,

I hope this isn't a dumb question (and I've been a little squeamish about asking this, seeing how merciless you are toward people who ask dumb questions:), but...

I'm going to film a scene where a character is watching a news broadcast on TV which is relevant to the story. Anyway, I have some connections at a local PBS station, and I was planning on shooting it on video in their studio and then filming it off the TV on 16mm.

Well, my D.P. is now telling me that since video is 30 fps and I'm shooting on film at 24 fps (if you'll allow me to insult your intelligence for just a second here), I might have problems. Now, honestly, this never occurred to me. Although I've shot plenty of Super-8 and a fair amount of 16, I've never filmed off of a TV like this. Does my D.P. know what the hell he's talking about?

By the way, thank you for your rant against rap. Amen. One thing that irritates me to no end is how rap's defenders will accuse you of being racist if you criticize their "music" (for lack of a better word). Never mind that I respect and/or love virtually every other form of "black music." I'm racist because I can see that rap is crap.

And yes, I agree with the last guy. Rap will always be around, just like pornography. Anything that appeals to the lowest common denominator will never go out of style.

Thanks in advance,
A.J.

Dear A.J.:

Am I that merciless? If anyone asks a straight-forward question I honestly try to answer it. Anyway, your DP is correct. Shooting off a TV set will cause you problems, but they can be lived with and you've seen them before. You'll get bands scrolling across the screen. These bands can be minimized by adjusting your shutter, but you may not be able to do that. They can be entirely eliminated by running the TV off a DC source, like a generator, and synchronizing it with the camera's shutter, but that's a big deal. Ultimately, though, it's just going to look kind of funky and you'll have to just live with it. I have a number of scenes with TVs playing in "Hammer" and I got the scrolling bands on all of them. Good luck and don't be so afraid, I don't bite. I just don't like rap.

Josh

Name: Abominable Flow Man
E-mail: MC_RYDE@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

I don't have a question, I have a comment. One of my friends, copy/pasted the comments on rap...He told me if I replied I would get "bitched out"...Whatever. I just wanna say that the take on rap written was the most ignorant thing I ever read. It was just a repetition of the stereotypical view on rap by someone who clearly doesn't know or has never really listened to rap music. Your perception has been tainted by the image portrayed by media. I'll agree there is rap music that contains stupid and sensless lyrics, but there is just as much rap that has clever and positive lyrics. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Blackalicious, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Gang Starr, J-Live, Atmosphere, De La Soul...to name a few...And as far as rap music not evolving and it being the same, that couldn't be further from the truth. Listen to a BDP album from the 80's and then play a Blackalicious album from 2002. And the comparison to Rock n Roll in terms of progress is just plain stupid. Rock n Roll started way before rap. Hip Hop is still relatively young, artists who are considered old school are stil younger than my dad.

If you don't like rap, that's cool. But please stop making ignorant statements about a great culture with misinformed opinions.

Dear Abominable:

As it' s still a free country, at least to some extent and for the time being, I'll make as many comments as I care to, misinformed or not. I appreciate that you like rap, and that you're willing to stand up and defend it. I still think it's audio garbage. My comparison to rock & roll, which you clearly didn't understand, didn't insinuate that rap is as old as rock, it's that when rock had been around as long as rap has, which is over twenty years now, it had gone through a lot more interesting changes than rap has. The important people in rock & roll were serious musicians, rappers aren't musicians at all. They're half-assed (def) poets that know nothing about poetry, let alone music. Do you actually believe that someone like M&M or P. Diddy can sit down and write music? Can they work anywhere outside their own form? Many rock artists are terrific musicians, like Keith Emerson, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, all the Beatles, all of the Rolling Stones, etc. I'd be very surprised to find any rappers that can read music, let alone write it. It's a stupid, lunkheaded form that perfectly represents a stupid, lunkheaded time in history, and I hate it.

Josh

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

Josh,

I agree with your take on rap entirely. Some people say they find it offensive because of the lyrics; I find it offensive because it is completely mindless and utterly gratuitous. People who say that it "speaks for the 'Hood" are full of crap. The lyrics in rap say nothing. Only the ongoing existence of this "entertainment form" makes any sort of statement. I, too, would celebrate its demise but I doubt it will happen. There seems to be an insatiable appetite for mindless stupidity and rap is mindless stupidity in its purest form.

On a more positive note, there's finally a movie coming out I hope to see. I just read the Time article on "A Mighty Wind". Christopher Guest emphasizes the importance of structure in the second answer he gives to the interviewer. Of course, I'm a huge fan of Eugene Levy. I would think that folk music would be an excellent comedy vehicle as well. "Hammer" certainly took advantage of it. Anyway, that'll be one to see in the theater if it actually shows up. Wichita is a bit off the beaten path sometimes. Later,

John

Dear John:

It's clearly the folk version of "This is Spinal Tap." Making fun of rockers in a world full of rock & roll made that film pertinent, whereas making fun of folkies that don't even exist anymore seems pretty weak, at least from the trailers. I certainly hope it's good, but it sure doesn't look like it to me. It appears like those guys are shit out of ideas, just like everybody else.

Josh

Name: Nicholas Proctor
E-mail: Lbolander916

Dear Josh:

do you know if quinn had a son who was kidnapped and missing for years i believe his face was badly burned and contusion on right side of his head

Dear Nicholas:

I never heard that. One of his sons, Francesco, was down in New Zealand for a few days during the shooting of "Hercules." He's in "Platoon." I did hear that Quinn lost a son, but I don't know how.

Josh

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

Josh,

I happened to catch "Lunatics" the other night. I own it and have watched it several times but it was easily the best thing on so I watched it on satellite. In watching it I came to the conclusion, yet again, that Ted needs to be in more, and more substantial, roles. He, like Bruce, is a guy who could carry a movie about eating toast.

Something which struck me about the film itself, however, was the rap group. Don't get me wrong; I think it was a great manifestation of Hank's delusions, but it occurred to me that a rap group should have been the last thing to expect in a Josh Becker film. It wasn't too long ago that you described Hip Hop as a bankrupt medium, or words to that effect. It prompted me to wonder how that element came into the film. Thanks as always,

John

Dear John:

That film was shot in 1989, and even then rap just seemed ridiculous to me. I honestly worried that rap would be totally out of style by the time the film was completed in 1990. And it's perfect proof that you need no musical talent at all to write a rap song. As I was explaining to my father recently, rock & roll went through a big change in its first ten years of existence, so that a Chuck Berry or a Buddy Holly song from the fifties doesn't sound anything like The Yardbirds or The Beatles, or Motown, and then rock & roll went through another total change in its next ten years with the advent of Creem, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, then went through yet another complete change with New Wave and Punk, and during that time you even had other rock & roll like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Moody Blues that didn't sound anything like anything else. Rap hasn't changed at all in twenty years. It's a completely stagnant form, and is just waiting for something else to shove into the dustbin of musical history, like disco, which is a much more lively form than rap. While I'm on a rant here, aside from the fact that rap has no melody, and therefore isn't music in my opinion, and always has the same rhymn scheme, there's no metaphor, there's no allegory, everybody just says exactly what they mean -- Kill the cops, my woman's a bitch, the ghetto's ugly. Big fucking deal! It's not music and it's lame, bad poetry. I can't wait for rap to wither up and blow away.

Josh

Name: John Rambo
E-mail: thisisjohnrambo@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

How's it going man? This is a really cool site u know.

Anyways I was wondering about one of those episodes u directed I think it was "Chariots of War". What was that like? Cuz that was really cool! Do you remember anything about how that episode was like to direct and stuff?

Thanx,

John J Rambo

Dear John:

I didn't direct that episode, I wrote the story. I initially wrote it as a Hercules episode, which no one was interested in. Then the order for the first Xena episodes came through, so I changed Hercules to Xena, and him to her, and they bought it. It was also the very first Xena episode to go into production, although it ended up as ep #2.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I agree with what you said. We created Saddam Hussein, or at least allowed him the opportunity to dominate the Ba'ath party and ultimately, Iraq. Our civilization depends on fossil fuels, and we put a megalomaniac in a position to potentially dominate the world's largest supply of them; now we have to pay the price. If anything good has come out of this war, it is the liberation of the Iraqi people from that strutting dickhead; no matter what the reason we went there, that is a mark in our favor. I just hope we don't screw it up and put some puppet regime in power just to protect our gas prices.
Speaking of hypocrisy, I noticed that France and Germany shut up their protests against the war pretty quickly once we found that they were trading weapons and weapons parts to Iraq for oil. At least Russia was clear that they didn't want a war because Saddam Hussein owed them money, while France and Germany feigned moral indignation over the use of force. One thing is true throughout history: in the end, it always comes down to money.

Bored to tears at Fort Purgatory,
Darryl

Dear Darryl:

Ultimately, this is Bush, Sr.'s fault. We already went to war with Saddam Hussein once, then left him in power. It might have taken an extra week to get the guy the first time. So what movies do they show you there at Fort Purgatory? Do they show "The Longest Day" over and over?

Josh

Name: Mike
E-mail: scarymike@prontomail.com

Hey Josh,

A quick question, but one about which I am genuinely curious. As a person with a strong opinion on all things filmic, are there any DPs from the pre-80s that you particularly like and admire? Are there any who are currently out there whose work you appreciate? That's it for now.

Thanks!

Mike

Dear John:

There are many DPs I admire. The late Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, Vittorio Storaro, Guiseppe Rottuno, Ghislain Cloquet, Greg Toland, John Alton, Bert Glennon, Ernest Haller, Robert Surtees, Bruce Surtees, Jack Green, Daniel Fapp, Freddie Young, Joe McDonald, Gordon Willis, Joseph Walker, Sol Polito, Miroslav Ondricek, Douglas Slocombe, Nestor Almendros, Geoffrey Unsworth, Michael Chapman, William Fraker, Vilmos Zsigmond, Laszlo Kovacks, Owen Roizman, Ernest Laszlo, Richard Kline, Bill Butler, James Wong Howe, John Alcott, Joseph Biroc, John Alonzo, Sven Nykvist, Pasqualino De Santis, Burnett Guffey, Ted McCord, Robert Burks, Gabriel Figueroa, Russell Metty, Freddie Francis . . . on and on.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I appreciate your well-wishes. This has to be a unique experience in American history. A huge slice of our population is against this war, yet unlike the Vietnam War, no one seems to be blaming the soldiers for it. Indeed, everyone has been incredibly supportive of us, which we all appreciate (except for the Girl Scout cookies: really, how many damn Tagalongs and Somoas do you think we can eat...just kidding!). I'm a bit divided: on one hand, no one relishes the idea of going into harm's way, but on the other hand, the later we go, the more likely we'll get the drudgery of occupation duty. Everyone here is anxious to just go and get it over with.
Anyway, I read your comments on James Cromwell, and forward the opinion that he's an underappreciated actor for his talent. He was indeed good in RKO 291, as well as in THE GREEN MILE. As for Kim Basinger...well, she IS pretty hot, even if she does suck (or is that BECAUSE she sucks....hmmmm). I last saw her in 8-MILE, where she plays Eminem's trailer trash mom. It was an interesting contrast, if nothing else.

Darryl

Dear Darryl:

The American public seems to have matured somewhat since Vietnam and can now seperate the government's policies from a soldier's duty. If you're in the military, you go where they send you. And everyone else, including me, has to be damn happy and appreciative it wasn't us. I do think this war is the single worst piece of foreign relations in our history. I don't think we could have intentionally found a better way to galvanize the entire world against us. And the one number that is never spoken is how many Iraqi soldiers have been killed? I've heard estimates of over a hundred thousand already, which certainly isn't surprising given there have been over a thousand bombing sorties a day for a month. One of the seriously distressing parts of this is seeing just how slanted and biased American news coverage is. As Michael Moore pointed out in a recent letter on his website, the American news services immediately jumped on the Dixie Chicks after they came out against the war, saying their album sales were down, as were their concert ticket sales, but in reality their album went from #4 to #1 and all of the tickets for their concerts are sold-out. I feel like we don't have any real reporters anymore, nor would any news service allow a real, opinionated reporter work for them. Reporter's jobs are now to read the government statements without comment. The idea that the U.N. has "lost it's moral authority," a statement I've heard many times on the news, because they don't agree with us and didn't want to go to war for false reasons is particularly insulting. And clearly this war has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, not that I ever thought it did, mind you. America toppled Iran's government in 1953 in a CIA coup, after they'd gone to a lot of trouble to remove the Shah, then we stuck them with 25 more years of the tyrannical asshole, and that was entirely over oil. Then we backed Iraq against Iran. Then we turned on our own allies (after supplying them with most of the weapons they now have) when they "invaded a sovereign country," which is exactly what we're doing now. I just watched two good documentaries, "The Trials of Henry Kissinger" and "Waco: Rules of Engagement" and it appears that the U.S. government does nothing but lie to the public. But it's certainly not the soldiers' faults, they just do their jobs. Once again, good luck and stay safe, even if it's just occupation work.

Josh

Name: mellie
E-mail: milcmaid@charter.net

Dear Josh:

Just stumbled across your 99cent rant and i have to say that i loved it! All too true, as my husband and I are avid 99 cent / dollar store shoppers. We've spent as much as $35 at a time, and about $10 of it turned out to be useless! But I don't have the nerve to return any of it! LOL Thanks for sharing your insight to the 99cent stores.

Dear Mellie:

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Mellie is what Scarlett called Melanie in "Gone With the Wind." "Oh, Mellie is so mealy-mouthed." But I don't mean you.

Josh

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

Dear Josh,

I don't know if you'll remember me; it's been about four months since I last logged onto the site. Things have been pretty busy. My National Guard unit has been activated, and I'm in Fort Drum, NY, waiting to go over to the big sandbox.
Anyway, I was curious to know what you thought of a film that I bought recently, called LA CONFIDENTIAL. I found it to be refreshingly sophisticated, and not convoluted like the other whodunits that Hollywood churns out nowadays. Also, the performances were very good, most particularly those of Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell (who excels in playing authority figures and villains; hard to believe that he was Robert Carradine's father in REVENGE OF THE NERDS).
Well, have to go (there's a line forming for the computer). I'll log on tomorrow and see your response.

Long time no see,
Darryl

P.S. I remember you saying that you liked MRE's. I'll be sure to save some of my extras and send them to you when this deployment is over.

Dear Darryl:

Yeah, long time no hear. It sounds like you'll get there after the war's over, which is very good. Stay safe. I did like most of "LA Confidential," although I wasn't pleased with the finale, when suddenly they were shooting hundreds of bullets at each other. That sequence felt like the one bit of pandering to a modern audience. Otherwise, it was pretty good. Not great, mind you, because I didn't find it particularly memorable, and I've seen it twice. As for Kim Bassinger getting an Oscar, as Bruce put it, "They gave her an Oscar because it was the first time she didn't completely suck." I also don't think you can do that gag of "That's really Lana Turner," when, of course, it wasn't really Lana Turner. But as far as modern movies go, it's pretty good. I particularly liked James Cromwell as William Randolph Hearst in "RKO 187." Once again, be safe and good luck.

Josh


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