Our story picks of the week, featuring the Hollywood Reporter, New York magazine, Wired, Oxford American and the New York Review of Books, with a guest pick by Teddy Worcester.
An investigation reveals that the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit at the end of movies has come to mean almost nothing, and the American Humane Association has faced complaints about its lack of oversight:
“Last week we almost f—king killed King in the water tank," American Humane Association monitor Gina Johnson confided in an email to a colleague on April 7, 2011, about the star tiger in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. While many scenes featuring “Richard Parker,” the Bengal tiger who shares a lifeboat with a boy lost at sea, were created using CGI technology, King, very much a real animal, was employed when the digital version wouldn’t suffice. “This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side,” Johnson wrote. “Damn near drowned.”
King’s trainer eventually snagged him with a catch rope and dragged him to one side of the tank, where he scrambled out to safety.
“I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!” Johnson continued in the email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “I have downplayed the f— out of it.”
PUBLISHED: Nov. 26, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7075 words)
Hurwitz offers serious advice on creativity and writing, as well as a brief history of how he came to cast actors like Jason Bateman and Michael Cera:
“And Michael Cera, I had seen him in a pilot and I reached out through the casting director, like, ‘there was this kid in this pilot, can you please try to track him down.’ Two weeks went by, and we’d seen all these — you know, kid actors in Hollywood, a lot of them come up through that Disney channel, or through — back then it was Barney. So you get really, like, these hammy kids. Precocious, you know. So I’m waiting to hear, and finally the casting director says to me, ‘great news, Michael Cera likes the script.’ And I’m like, ‘who’s Michael Cera?’ ‘The kid that you wanted us to get.’ ‘That was Michael Cera? We’ve been waiting to see whether this 12-year-old likes the material? Good, uh, I’m glad he likes the material.’ And, you know, that’s Michael Cera — you know what I mean? Only Michael Cera would be as a 12-year-old, ‘Yeah, I like this. This is good.’ It’s such an important part — television is so much about continuing to work with people, and I mean, that was just fortune. All of them.”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 23, 2013
LENGTH: 39 minutes (9861 words)
The story of Harry Belafonte:
"Belafonte was first. First black man to win a Tony; one of the first to star in an all-black Hollywood hit (Carmen Jones, 1954); first to star in a noir (Odds Against Tomorrow, 1959—'best heist-gone-wrong movie ever made,' says James Ellroy); first to turn down starring roles (To Sir, With Love ; Lilies of the Field ; Porgy and Bess ; Shaft) because, he said, he’d play no part that put a black man on his knees or made of him a cartoon. We’re here in this screening room to watch a forgotten hour of television for which he won the first Emmy awarded to a black man for production, for being in charge.
"When I found the show in the archive, I thought it would be more of what I believed I already knew about Belafonte. The albums I’d bought were labeled 'easy listening' or 'folk,' as in harmonizing trios who wore matching sweaters. Then I watched. My eyes went wide. I started shaking my head in disbelief. I think I gasped. I was wearing the archive’s cheap headphones, sitting at a monitor in a dark room. Other researchers hunched over screens, all our faces flickering blue. I laughed. I slapped the desk. My eyes watered. Goddamn. I felt like I was watching a different past, one in which the revolution had been televised. Goddamn. As if that was what TV was for. A signal. This, I thought, this."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8283 words)
Dan P. Lee profiles director Alfonso Cuarón and the difficult journey making his new film Gravity:
"When Cuarón first dreamed up Gravity, he thought that he’d essentially hacked the Hollywood system: Here was a potentially audience-friendly adventure movie, and as long as they landed an A-list actor, production would fall into place. He and Jonas wrote the screenplay at lightning speed. They attracted immediate interest from studios, and, crucially, Angelina Jolie. They began preparing for a shoot. 'And then very soon we find out that the film was not going to be achievable with the existing technology,' Cuarón said.
"So, I wondered, what did he do next?
"He laughed, smiled broadly. 'Waste four years of my life.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6018 words)
Screenwriter-producer Damon Lindelof reveals the formula—and challenges—facing big Hollywood movies: How do you escalate with any shred of originality?
"'Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world,' explains Lindelof. 'And when you start there, and basically say, I have to construct a MacGuffin based on if they shut off this, or they close this portal, or they deactivate this bomb, or they come up with this cure, it will save the world—you are very limited in terms of how you execute that. And in many ways, you can become a slave to it and, again, I make no excuses, I’m just saying you kind of have to start there. In the old days, it was just as satisfying that all Superman has to do was basically save Lois from this earthquake in California. The stakes in that movie are that the San Andreas Fault line opens up and half of California is going to fall in the ocean. That felt big enough, but there is a sense of bigger, better, faster, seen it before, done that.'"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 6, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3391 words)
The writer reflects on the 1992 murder of his brother, incorporating the stories of his friends and family members:
"Dad said he often thinks about how things might’ve been if only my brother was less naïve, better prepared for confrontation. Armed.
"'I still think that,' he said quietly on the phone. 'And I think: Damn.'
"The line was silent for five long seconds.
PUBLISHED: July 27, 2013
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8328 words)
A 10-week investigation into Carissa Carpenter, a self-described entertainment executive who has proposed building a $2.8 billion movie studio in a small farming town in Northern California:
"So who is Carissa Carpenter?
"Those who have encountered the California native – in City Council chambers and in the courts – have widely divergent views, with descriptions ranging from visionary to fanciful dreamer to fraud.
"This much is clear: Carpenter's quest to raise millions for a movie studio in Dixon is the sixth time in 16 years that she has embarked on a similar fundraising mission in Northern California, with an additional pitch in South Carolina.
"Former investors and past business associates describe a distinctive pattern: lots of initial hype, promises of a big money stream from unnamed investors, enthusiasm among local officials – then missed deadlines, delays and, ultimately, failure."
PUBLISHED: June 2, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4873 words)
A look back the actor's career—and his shirtless ping-pong photos:
"Redford comes into the shop where homely Streisand works, and she’s all, 'Look who’s here, America the Beautiful,' and you’re all, YES, TRUER WORDS HAVE NEVER BEEN SAID. But then you get suckerpunched by how effectively this movie convinces you that Redford would fall for Streisand, with all her spunk and unruliness and radicalism. The essential message of this movie is that Hot Guys Like Brains and Sass. The secondary message is that Your Romance Will Then Be Plundered By Asshole Red Mongerers."
PUBLISHED: May 22, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3971 words)