I've been getting through a lot of books this summer. It's been a blast. I have gone a bit Luddite and started to read more hard copies of books. I really enjoy visiting LA's most amazing bookstore to buy them.
Here are a few I've recently finished, including some magazine and video recommendations as well.
Younger people have little idea how impactful the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was when it first came out in 1968. It inspired a whole generation of filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron. The film is visually sumptuous, employing cutting edge special effects, many of which were pioneered by Stanley Kubrick and his team. This book is a wonderful romp through the making of the epic, revolutionary film. It provides so much wonderful detail about Kubrick's obsessiveness, his attention to scientific detail and his often-times tyrannical style of directing. I loved every moment of it, and right after finishing the book, I watched the film again. The book opened my eyes to many details I had missed the first (and second and third) time around watching it. I confess I even learned a lot more about the plot, which was very confusing to me at times: man evolves from apes thanks to aliens made of light, learns to kill, but also advances technologically and then becomes a super-being thanks to those same aliens. Ok, kind of strange, but also fun to contemplate. Anyway, it's an excellent summer read.
I moved back to LA about two and a half years ago, and, having grown up in SoCal, I nonetheless knew very little about Hollywood and how it works. Although this book is exhaustively long (it took me months to read), it provides some fascinating insight into how Hollywood functions, particularly during the 80s with the rise of Michael Ovitz and CAA. The book explains how the powerful, but oftentimes dodgy, world of Hollywood agents works and features interviews with many top Hollywood stars, many of whom owe their careers to Ovitz and the agency. It may not be for everyone, especially because the style is a bit odd (the entire narrative is oral history), but if you are interested in Hollywood, it's a worthy read.
Fire in Cardboard City: The Screening Room, The New Yorker
This insanely clever and well-done short film completely surprised me. Animated and directed by Phil Brough, it is the story of a massive fire that engulfs Auckland, New Zealand (which I had the pleasure of visiting last March). It is fast-paced, funny and remarkably well-done.
Are Things Getting Better or Worse? - The New Yorker
The idea that the world is a far better place than it has ever been has long intrigued me. I've never been much of a pessimist, but the news these days often leaves me feeling worried that we're headed towards some kind of demise. Years ago, I read with great interest Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which largely confirmed that, despite two world wars and the Holocaust, life in the human race has become astonishingly less violent. Going beyond just violence, however, when you actually look at the data, life as a whole, by almost every measure, has gotten much, much better. This article by Joshua Rothman discusses several books that seek to explain our baffling fixation with pessimism. I particularly enjoyed a line from Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now: a truly evenhanded newspaper “could have run the headline number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday every day for the last twenty-five years.”