A gripping account of money, ambition and the movies…same as it ever was.

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THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KING

AN ALMOST EPIC TALE OF MOGULS, MOVIES, AND A COMPANY CALLED DREAMWORKS

Daily Beast contributor and former Variety reporter LaPorte penetrates the mysterious inner workings of DreamWorks, the audacious entertainment empire that promised to change Hollywood upon its inception in 1994.

The brainchild of media titans David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks positioned itself as a new kind of studio, dedicated to talent and free of the constraints of the prevailing Tinseltown corporate culture. Its true purpose, as emerges in LaPorte’s lively account, was to serve the egos of its principles: Geffen, the wrathful and distant superagent; Spielberg, resident-genius director and avuncular nice guy; and Katzenberg, the tireless, micromanaging executive, eager to re-establish himself after a disastrous falling out with Disney, where The Lion King and The Little Mermaid had made his name as the man who revived feature animation. The story here is largely Katzenberg’s, as Spielberg and Geffen preferred to hold themselves above the fray of studio politics and practical operations. Katzenberg, on the other hand, was a bear for this work—wags liked to joke that DreamWorks had been created to provide him with a job—and it was his animation projects that brought the faltering company its biggest hits (the Shrek franchise) and costliest disasters (Sinbad, The Road to El Dorado). LaPorte marshals an awesome body of research to vividly depict DreamWorks’ confused identity, the personality conflicts and ego clashes that raged behind the company’s friendly, low-key exterior and the staggering sums of money lost and won and outright wasted as the company repeatedly scaled back its grandiose plans to be all media to all people to focus on producing movies—in the process becoming just another studio. Behind-the-scenes glimpses at the productions of such signature DreamWorks films as American Beauty and Gladiator are wonderfully diverting Hollywood dirt, but the heart of the story is simple human ambition. Stories of Katzenberg’s toxic and litigious relationship with former boss and Disney honcho Michael Eisner, Geffen’s mission to destroy agent Michael Ovitz and the rivalry between DreamWorks Animation and Disney’s Pixar are fascinating for their insights into the ways petty personal issues are expressed in multibillion-dollar transactions. In Hollywood, it seems, business is always personal.

A gripping account of money, ambition and the movies…same as it ever was.

Pub Date: May 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-13470-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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