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Category: Moneyball

Oscars 2012: Brad Pitt won't face himself in best picture race

January 27, 2012 |  5:15 pm

Tree of Life
Brad Pitt can relax—he won’t be competing against himself in the best picture race. At least, not as a producer.

The actor already has been nominated as a producer of “Moneyball,” in which he stars, but on Friday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not include Pitt as one of the four credited producers on the best picture selection “The Tree of Life,” in which he also stars.

When Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, the academy said the “Tree of Life” credits had not been finalized. When the film was released theatrically, five producers were listed in its credits: Pitt, his business partner Dede Gardner, director Terrence Malick’s longtime collaborator Sarah Green, financier Bill Pohlad and Grant Hill, a veteran of Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.”

The academy, following standards set by the Producers Guild of America, typically limits best picture nominees to no more than three producers, a consequence of the producer stampede when 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love” won the top Oscar statuette.

The academy’s producers branch, working in collaboration with its executive committee, said “The Tree of Life” represented a "rare and extraordinary circumstance” in which four producers could earn a credit. The academy determined that Gardner, Green, Pohlad and Hill would be eligible to collect the trophy should “Tree of Life” win.

When the nominations were announced, Pitt said he would be happy if Gardner was the sole representative from their company, Plan B Entertainment. “It’s a great problem,” he said of the potential of facing himself. “Pancakes for everybody.”

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Photo: Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merrie Wallace/Fox Searchlight.

 

 


Oscars 2012: 'The Help' has biggest box office among nominees

January 24, 2012 |  7:09 am

The Help has sold more tickets at the box office than any other best picture nominee
Of this year's best picture nominees, "The Help" has been seen by the most American moviegoers.

The civil rights drama released last August has sold $169.6 million in ticket sales -- more than double the domestic gross of any of the other eight films nominated for the top prize at the Oscars.

The Brad Pitt baseball film "Moneyball" takes the runner-up position with $75.5 million, while Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" -- a World War I epic still in many theaters nationwide -- has so far collected $72.3 million.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscar nominations

Martin Scorsese's  "Hugo" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" each have a tally of around $56 million. The family drama "The Descendants," meanwhile, just crossed the $50 million mark at the box office last weekend.

The nominees with the least commercial appeal include "The Tree of Life" ($13 million) and "The Artist" ($12 million) -- although the latter, a silent picture, has yet to expand beyond 700 theaters. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" has grossed only $10 million, but it just opened in cinemas across the country last weekend.

When the Academy Award nominations were announced in 2011, the eventual best picture winner "The King's Speech" had grossed about $57 million. The film featuring Colin Firth ended up with $138.8 million in sales. The year before, "The Hurt Locker" saw far less of a box office boost from its win, collecting an underwhelming $17 million in all.

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Pals Clooney, Pitt are rivals; ‘Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ dominate

--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Viola Davis, left, stars with Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: Walt Disney Studios


'Descendants,' 'Moneyball' among Scripter Award finalists

January 12, 2012 |  7:00 am

Dangerous

The screenwriters of "A Dangerous Method," "The Descendants," "Jane Eyre," "Moneyball" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" -- as well as the authors of the works each is based on -- are the five finalists for the 24th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award. The announcement was made Thursday morning.

Screenwriter Christopher Hampton is a finalist for "A Dangerous Method," adapted from the nonfiction book "A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein" by John Kerr and the 2002 play "The Talking Cure" by Hampton.

Alexander Pyne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were nominated for "The Descendants" screenplay, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which was an expansion of her short story "The Minor Wars."

Screenwriter Moira Buffini is a finalist for "Jane Eyre," an adaptation of the 1847 classic novel by Charlotte Bronte.

Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chevrin are finalists for their "Moneyball" screenplay, which was adapted from the  book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.

Rounding out the finalists are screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," adapted from  John le Carre's spy novel of the same name.

The Scripter Award was created by the Friends of the USC Libraries in 1988 and honors the screenwriters of the "year's most accomplished cinematic adaptation as well as the authors of the written work on which the screenplay is based."

Last year, Sorkin won the Script Award for his adaptation of "The Social Network."

The Scripter selection committee chose the five finalists from 109 eligible films. The 32-member selection committee includes Times film critic Kenneth Turan.

Paul Haggis, who won the Scripter for the 2004 drama "Million Dollar Baby," is this year's recipient of the USC Scripter Literary Achievement Award.

The awards will be handed out Feb. 18 at the Times Reference Room of USC's Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library.

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--Susan King

Photo: "A Dangerous Method" is a finalist for the Scripter Award. Credit: Liam Daniel/Sony Picture Classics


National Society of Film Critics: 'Melancholia' best of 2011

January 7, 2012 |  1:51 pm

 

Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg  in "Melancholia."

The National Society of Film Critics, which is made up of 58 the country's major film critics, rarely agrees with the choices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars. And the group probably stayed true to form with its picks for its 46th annual awards, naming Lars Von Trier's end-of-the-world drama "Melancholia" best picture Saturday.

Terrence's Malick's "The Tree of Life" came in second and the lauded Iranian drama "A Separation" placed third. "Separation" also won best foreign-language film and best screenplay for Asghar Farhadi.

Malick took best director honors with Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" coming in second and Von Trier placing third.

The annual voting, using a weighted ballot system, is held at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City; this year 48 of the 58 members participated.

Best actor went to Brad Pitt for both "Moneyball" and "The Tree of Life." Pitt also won best actor from the New York Film Critics' Circle and is nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG award and a Critics Choice award. Runner-up was Gary Oldman for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Jean Dujardin placed third for "The Artist."

Notably missing from the list was Michael Fassbender for "Shame" and George Clooney for "The Descendants."

Best actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for "Melancholia," with Yun Jung-hee for the Korean film "Poetry" coming in second. Meryl Streep's turn in "The Iron Lady" placed third.

Best supporting actor went to Albert Brooks for a his dramatic turn in "Drive." Christopher Plummer placed second for "Beginners," followed by Patton Oswalt for "Young Adult."

Best supporting actress was given to Jessica Chastain for her roles in three films: "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" and "The Help." Jeannie Berlin came in second for "Margaret" and Shailene Woodley placed third for "The Descandants."

"Tree of Life" also took home best cinematography for Emanual Lubezki with Manual Alberto Claro placing second for "Melancholia" and Robert Richardson taking third for "Hugo."

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was best nonfiction film. He also came in third place in the category for "Into the Abyss." Steve James' "The Interrupters" placed second.

In best screenplay category, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's script for "Moneyball" was second behind "A Separation" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took third.

 The Experimental Award went to Ken Jacobs for "Seeking the Monkey King."

There were also several Film Heritage honors given out:

-- BAM Cinematek for its complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective, with all titles shown in 16mm or 35mm.

-- Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon."

-- New York's Museum of Modern Art for its extensive retrospective of Weimar Cinema.

-- Flicker Alley for its box set "Landmarks of Early Soviet Film."

-- Criterion Collection for its two-disc DVD package, "The Complete Jean Vigo."

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-- Susan King

Photo: Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in "Melancholia." Credit: Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures.

 


SAG Awards: Jonah Hill is 'doing well as dramatic actor'

December 14, 2011 | 12:05 pm

Jonah Hill was nominated for a SAG Award on Wednesday

It was his serious turn in “Moneyball” that earned Jonah Hill his first-ever SAG Award nod Wednesday, but hours after receiving the news, the actor couldn’t stop laughing in astonishment over the nomination.

“This has been the most overwhelming day of my life,” the 27-year-old gushed. “To be nominated for this award is so mind-blowingly pleasing on so many levels. I can’t believe I’m actually nominated. I can’t believe I’m having this conversation right now. I’m so honored that they recognized me. It doesn’t seem real.”

Hill, best known for his roles in raunchy comedies such as “Superbad” and “Get Him to the Greek,” showed he had serious acting chops opposite Brad Pitt in the fall baseball drama “Moneyball.” The actor said his phone had been ringing off the hook as he exchanged calls and e-mails with Pitt, director Bennett Miller, producer Scott Rudin and actress Catherine Keener, who suggested him for the “Moneyball” role. His relatives had also reached out, hoping to score a date invite to the telecast.

And the congratulations didn’t stop there. The actor is currently on set filming “Neighborhood Watch” in New Orleans, where his costar Ben Stiller made sure everyone knew about Hill’s nomination. “He made an announcement saying ‘Everyone say congrats to Jonah on his SAG award nomination,' and I was embarrassed,” he said.

The actor seemed genuinely floored over scoring a nod and said he felt it served as proof that he has what it takes to be more than just a funny guy on the big screen.

"It’s totally validating, because in comedy, the money is usually the validation,” he said, referring to box-office ticket sales. "Generally comedies aren’t recognized with awards. That being said, I feel so prideful in ‘Moneyball.’ I’m getting to make a shift to an actor who does both comedies and dramas. And this is definitely a sign that I’m doing well as a dramatic actor.”

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony


New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

November 29, 2011 | 10:50 am

The artist

"The Artist," a black-and-white silent movie, was named best picture of 2011 Tuesday morning by the New York Film Critics Circle. The film's director, Michel Hazanavicius of France, also earned best director for his valentine to the early days of Hollywood.

It is the first time the critics have given its top award to a silent film. Earlier in the morning, the film earned five nominations for the Spirit Award.

Meryl Streep was named best actress for her performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," which opens in L.A. on Dec. 30. It is the fifth time the New York circle has honored Streep. The last time was two years ago for "Julie & Julia."

Brad Pitt took home best actor honors for his performances as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball" and as a stern father in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." It is his first honor from the critics' group. Steve Zallian and Aaron Sorkin won for best screenplay for "Moneyball."

This year's golden girl, Jessica Chastain, was named best supporting actress for her roles in "The Tree of LIfe," "The Help" and "Take Shelter." Albert Brooks won best supporting actor for a rare dramatic turn in the film noir "Drive."

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams' won best nonfiction film, while "Margin Call," written and directed by J.C. Chandor, was awarded best first feature. Cinematography honors went to Emmanuel Lubezki for "Tree of Life."

Foreign-language film honors went to Iran's  "A Separation," which has already won multiple awards and is the country's submission for the foreign-language film Oscar. The Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz, who died in August, got a special posthumous award.

The awards will be handed out in a ceremony in Manhattan on Jan. 9.

The New York Film Critics Circle, which was founded in 1935, is the first major critics group to announce its picks for the best of the year. The organization, made up of critics from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines and online sites, traditionally voted after the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. But in October, the 33-member group announced it would move its awards selection ahead two weeks.

The voting was supposed to have happened on Monday, but the group didn't have the chance to screen David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which opens Dec. 23, until Monday morning, so the voting was delayed until Tuesday. The film received no awards.

Over the decades, the New York critics' selections and those of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have differed. Last year, the circle chose "The Social Network" as the top film and the academy gave "The King's Speech" the best film Oscar. The two groups agreed two years ago on "The Hurt Locker."

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures announces its selections Thursday morning.

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"New York Film Critics movies awards dates to see 'Dragon Tattoo'"

-- Susan King

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


'Moneyball' author Michael Lewis: Brad Pitt hit a homer

November 11, 2011 | 12:31 pm

Brad Pitt

Michael Lewis, journalist and author of bestselling books including "Liar's Poker," "The Blind Side" and "The Big Short," specializes in writing about money and economics through a scrim of righteous anger and ironic humor. He digs into the quirks of the stock market and paints vivid portraits of the Wall Street sharks and feckless politicians who nearly busted the global economy.

With his book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," published in 2003, Lewis turned his razor-sharp reportorial eye on baseball, specifically Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane and his unorthodox strategy of stocking his team with low-paid, undervalued players who had the ability to get on base rather than with coddled millionaire superstars. Director Bennett Miller's film adaptation, starring Brad Pitt as Beane, is one of this fall's best-reviewed movies.

24 Frames' Reed Johnson spoke with Lewis about the big-screen version of "Moneyball" during a recent L.A. stopover to promote his latest book, "Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World." He shared his thoughts on the likelihood of "Moneyball" finding its way to the screen, Pitt's starring turn and the strange similarities between misvaluing players in Major League Baseball and misvaluing assets on Wall Street.

"The book ['Moneyball'] comes out in ’03. And that point I had, I don’t know, three or four books and half a dozen magazine articles bought or optioned by the movie business, including 'Liar’s Poker,' where Warner Bros. had spent several million dollars trying to get a script. And so from my point of view, the movie business was this machine for taking my stuff, paying me money for it but then burying it. And this one, if you had asked me to rank, in order of promise, movie promise, the books that had been bought up to that point, books and magazine articles, there are half a dozen that were clearly much more suited to turn into movies than 'Moneyball.' So I thought it was just another one.

"I told Billy Beane this, I said –- because he was worried, he didn’t really want a movie made -- I said, 'Don’t worry, they’ll never make it.' And the way it works is every 18 months or something they have to re-up the option. Every 18 months they’d call and a check would come in the mail, and Billy Beane would get a check. And he’d say, 'This is great, you’re right, they’re never going to make it, and they just send us checks every 18 months!' And he said, 'How long does it last?' and I said, 'Until they give up. And eventually they’re gonna give up.' And then the thing all of a sudden went live. All of a sudden it was clear that they weren’t fooling around.

Continue reading »

Jonah Hill in 'Moneyball': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

October 5, 2011 |  1:50 pm

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in 'Moneyball'
Besides baseball and Brad Pitt, there’s another reason to see "Moneyball": Jonah Hill. As the pin-striped statistical wizard helping Pitt’s Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane refine his game, Hill steps to the plate, shifting from slacker comic to serious actor.

I wondered whether he would be able to make the leap. There weren’t many clues in his early work -– "Knocked Up," "Superbad" and the like. Instead, Hill seemed destined to be relegated to slacker sidekicks.

Even in "Cyrus," as a man-child trying to derail his mom's latest romance, Hill still seemed like he was playing a variation on that "type." There were hints there might be something more when the actor played straight man to Russell Brand's comic outrages in "Get Him to the Greek," but it is with “Moneyball” that something fundamental has changed.

In this very appealing sports drama, Hill is three-piece-suit smart, going toe to toe with Beane and turning baseball's conventional wisdom on its head. Pitt is terrific. Baseball is always good for a few innings on screen. As for Hill, the new look fits him like a glove.

 

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-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo caption: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon / Columbia Pictures-Sony / Associated Press


Decoding 'Moneyball': Does the Pitt pic line up with real life?

September 26, 2011 |  3:23 pm

Pittmone

"Moneyball" was the highest-grossing new release of the weekend, with Michael Lewis' bestselling book about the unorthodox method of player analysis known as sabermetrics translating into a hit at the multiplex.

But some moments in the Brad Pitt baseball drama might puzzle even the most devoted fans of the real-life tale.

Who was that uncredited man who played stingy A's owner Stephen Schott? What happened to Beane's second wife, who was supposed to be played by "Cold Case" star Kathryn Morris? And just what was the song Pitt's Billy Beane and his daughter sang (not featured in the book, incidentally). Our handy guide for non-sabermetricians. [Warning: Spoilers below]

The female equation. In real life, Billy Beane has a second wife, Tara, with whom he has twins. But in the movie he comes across as a solo divorcee. Director Bennett Miller actually shot four scenes with "Cold Case" star Morris as Tara, and the movie even test-screened with those scenes included. But Miller and Sony wound up cutting all of them from the final film (though Pitt's Beane, oddly, still wears a wedding ring). The studio declined to comment on the move, though we can understand why they'd get slashed--showing Beane as a lonely divorcee makes a redemption story a lot more compelling.

Schott to hell. A key scene in the film has Beane lobbying the A's owner for a larger payroll. Schott turns him down unceremoniously, in a moment that sets much of the plot into motion. But you won't see the owner in the credits. So who is the mysterious miser? Bizarrely, he's Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, whom Miller decided to cast to lend more authenticity to the role of an executive. Those who have it in for the polarizing Kotick, though, might make some hay of the choice: In his day job, Kotick  has angered some game developers, and prompted lawsuits, with his controversial management decisions.

The joy of discovery. To watch the movie without reading Lewis first, you'd think Billy Beane stumbled upon sabermetrics when he met Paul DePodesta between the 2001 and 2002 seasons, which is also when he lost stars Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to free agency (and had to find a new, lower-cost approach). In reality, Beane  hired DePodesta back in 1999, while the high-priced stars were still very much on the team.

Maybe more important,  sabermetric practices didn't suddenly come to the A's with Beane just before the 2002 season--they had already begun to be implemented in 1995 under previous General Manager Sandy Alderson. Oh, and Jason Giambi's brother Jeremy, the ne'er do well who the movie says Beane brought  to replace the athlete's slugging sibling in 2001? He was already on the team with his brother.

Strummin'. Admit it -- you had post-traumatic hipster flashbacks when Beane's daughter began playing that indie-pop ditty on the guitar. What is that song that's trying too hard to sound like the Moldy Peaches' contribution to the "Juno" soundtrack, you wondered? It's called "The Show" from an Australian singer-songwriter named Lenka--and was recorded, incidentally, long after the 2002 in which the film takes place. Beane may have been a baseball visionary, but his daughter was a prophet.

Streakin'.Why is the 20-game win streak the A's mounted in the summer of 2002 the high point of the movie instead of, you know, the playoffs? Because for all the feelgood underdog vibes in the film, the A's actually lost in a five-game divisional series that year--the exact same thing that happened to them the year before. That tempers the happy ending just a bit. (To his credit, Miller at least included the postseason in some fashion, in a kind of postscript scene.)

Brand DePodesta. Former Beane right-hand man Paul DePodesta, the numbers geek who shook up the A's (and then shook down the Dodgers), is depicted by Jonah Hill as ... Peter Brand. Why did pretty much everyone, from Beane to Scott Hatteberg, allow their names to be used, but DePodesta balked? Is it privacy--or just geek-inspired weirdness? 

DePodesta answered the question in an interview with Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke. "I remember thinking how unforgiving it might be to have someone else portray you to the rest of the world," he said. "It could be great, but it also could be very unnerving, and once I read the script and realized it was a piece of fiction, then I saw no reason for my name to be attached to it."

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony Pictures


'Lion King:' Is moviegoing changing before our eyes?

September 26, 2011 |  9:02 am

Lionki

It's tempting to see in the box-office win for "The Lion King 3-D" this weekend one more depressing sign about the lack of Hollywood originality, or our appetite for same.

After all, in topping the take for "Moneyball" with $22.1 million, the 17-year-old movie didn't just defeat a late-summer dump-off. It trumped -- in its second week of re-release -- a well-reviewed, heavily marketed crowd-pleaser with one of the world's most famous celebrities (albeit a film with lower 2-D ticket prices).

The "Lion King" numbers the last two weeks ($62 million and counting) are almost a message from the universe. You thought remakes were bad? Welcome to retreads.

But under all the pessimism might lie something else: a subtle realignment of the way we consume entertainment.

It's hardly a stretch to say that the culture of moviegoing has begun to splinter and drift to other distribution platforms in recent years. Theatrical windows for both the Internet  and DVD are shrinking and video on demand is growing, while the storytelling role of cinema is being eaten at by television networks. (And that's not even getting into original Web content, which is poised in the not-too-distant future to take its own bite out of the film world.)

But unless theater owners are prepared to call for the wrecking ball, filmgoing isn't going away. And so a new order is emerging, one in which a mix of franchises, remakes and, yes, even retreads, could dominate.

Cinema can't compete with what television does narratively, not with so many shows and the possibility of so many programming hours. And it can't match the convenience of the television set or the computer laptop. So it  distinguishes itself in another way -- by serving up a communal experience that no living room can offer. And that experience, almost inevitably, is best enjoyed by viewing something familiar.

Sequels, franchises and revivals offer the most compelling pitch. Take a flier with a bunch of strangers on something I've never heard of? Maybe. Share an experience with hundreds of like-minded fans? Now you’re talking.

And so series such as "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" top the box office, while 3-D conversions of musical favorites like "Lion King" outdraw original films.

Recognizing this, Hollywood will offer more. Soon we'll see the 3-D return of epics such as "Titanic" and "Star Wars," the revival of the popular '80s comedy  "Ghostbusters" (a movie that can now, thanks to digital projection, be brought back to theaters across the country a lot more easily), and even the screening of concerts and live events, as opera simulcasts or the upcoming one-day showing of the concert-heavy doc "Pearl Jam Twenty" demonstrate.

Theatergoing in the next decade may increasingly need to concentrate not the frisson of the new but the comfort of the familiar. The more individuated thrill of discovery — which can be experienced at home as easily as in a movie theater — could be de-emphasized in favor of the communal uplift that can really only happen in a large public space.

In this sense, "The Lion King" doesn't represent a Hollywood out of ideas -- it's a movie industry responding with the best tools it has.

This adjustment may not be to everyone's taste, and of course it won't always be the case. Hollywood will still produce wholly original movies that will be consumed by the masses at a movie theater. But the economics and the technology suggest that this experience, dominant for nearly a century, could begin to make way for something else. The Lion King may only be the beginning.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "The Lion King." Credit: Walt Disney Co.


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