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Sviatoslav Richter was one of the world’s greatest pianists of the 20th century — who was tormented by depression and an obsession: a belief that he needed his plastic lobster nearby to perform. I worked on a longterm project for The New York Times Opinion section that delved into this compulsion. As part of it, I spoke with the pianist Jeremy Denk and the author Bruno Monsaingeon, who wrote a book about Richter, about his need for a plastic lobster, and the talismans artists need to perform. Ask me anything -- about this piece, or about filmmaking in general.



Been in a 007 mood lately. My all time favorite is On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but The Spy Who Loved Me comes at a close second place. It's just so epic. Lavish filmmaking. The long run-time is jam packed with amazing stunts, sweet car chases and gloriously explosive action!

Roger Moore is just so effortlessly charming as James Bond. And Jaws... holy hell, such a great badguy. The train brawl is so damn awesome. Richard Kiel looks like a hulking giant. Terrifying presence.

A superb spy/adventure film!

RankTitleDomestic Gross (Weekend)*Worldwide Gross (Cume)Week #*Percentage ChangeBudget
1Toy Story 4$118,000,000$238,000,0001N/A$200M
2Child’s Play (2019)$14,055,540$14,055,5401N/A$10M
3Aladdin (2019)$12,200,000$810,110,1285-29.5%$183M
4Men In Black International$10,750,000$182,089,6542-64.2%$110M
5The Secret Life of Pets 2$10,290,000$194,683,5353-57.8%$80M

Notable Box Office Stories:

Toy Story 4: You live at the servitude of the mouse and you better like it. The fourth entry in this Pixar/Disney franchise came in #1 surprising no one. This is the biggest opening weekend in this franchise, and the third biggest opening this year. A beloved franchise with a RT of 98% and an “A” from CinemaScore audiences this was a good gamble in adding this chapter to the seemingly completed trilogy. But while critics and audiences did love this newest entry it doesn’t come without some “problems”, if you can call making $118M a problem. What was surprising however was that the numbers did come in lower than estimates, by as much as $20M off. In the summer of humdrums, Disney has mostly avoided it, with only Dumbo underperforming. Toy Story 4 was expected to break out of this slog that has affected all other studios in recent weeks. You have to wonder if the franchise has reached his apex as far as new audiences reach. This entry was only $8M more (TS3 110M v TS4 118M) in its opening weekend than its predecessor. The franchise that launched CGI animation to the stratosphere might have been outgrown by its audience that grew up with it. With such a great audiences score, let’s see if word of mouth helps its multiplier in the weeks to come. Please understand, it’s not a bomb by any stretch of the imagination, but this summer of under performance continues, even with surefire hits. I’m pretty sure the Disney executives are crying themselves to sleep until next week when they push Avengers: Endgame to the #1 movie of all time or until Lion King opens July 19th.

Toy Story 4: (Cont) Internationally it’s doing better than can be expected in this summer, bringing in just a little more than domestically (120 vs 118). Making it the biggest animated movie opening in history. And while final numbers are not in as of this writing, China seems to have fallen in love with the release of Spirited Away (never before officially release in this country) over Toy story 4. But please don’t worry about the mouse, the mouse is your friend, you must submit to the mouse.


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