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Natalie Portman-Narrated Documentary ‘Eating Animals’ Cuts Right to the Bone

Three streaming recommendations for the weekend, plus a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news

Amazon Video/Eating Animals

This post originally appeared on November 2, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

I hope you had a Halloween that was filled with candy, costumes, and spooky surprises (if you’re into that sort of stuff). Here are notes on three things to watch this weekend — a documentary, a drama, and a great slice of late night TV — plus a roundup of the week’s major food-related entertainment news.


A food documentary that bites back

Amazon Video/Eating Aniamsl

If you are a true meat lover, the new documentary Eating Animals probably won’t turn you into a vegetarian. But there’s a good chance that after watching this film, you’ll think twice about buying any product from one of America’s “big ag” companies like Perdue or Tyson.

Christopher Quinn’s short, powerful documentary is based on Jonathan Safran-Foer’s 2009 book of the same name. The author is on board as a producer, and so is his pen pal Natalie Portman, who also supplies narration. The key to Eating Animals’ success is that instead of simply focusing on the atrocities of factory farming, the film shines the spotlight on the organic farmers and whistleblowers whose lives are inextricably linked to the movements of those big companies.

A lot of the screen time in Eating Animals is devoted to the plight of Frank Reese, a heritage poultry farmer in Lindsborg, Kansas whose livelihood is constantly being undermined by the corporate meat titans. Beyond turning a profit, Reese believes he should be able to continue a way of life that for centuries was an essential part of the American experience — not just running a small business, but doing so with a sense of decency. He loves his animals, and wants them to live happy lives before they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. At one point, Reese explains his motivation for keeping the farm going, and helping others with their agricultural efforts too: “It’s a love for the birds, but it’s also a love for that whole personal system of people fighting to keep something alive.”

Eating Animals contains some footage that might make your stomach churn — especially the scenes of USDA experiments on cattle and pigs — but Quinn wisely avoids framing his film as an exposé about the horrors of big ag. Instead, by focusing on farmers like Reese and also touching upon work being done in the realm of plant-based meat substitutes, the filmmaker offers some inspiring information to temper all the bad news.

Although it’s not as engaging as a scandal-obsessed food doc like Rotten, Eating Animals is definitely a good film to watch and absorb before you go shopping for those big meals this holiday season.The documentary is now streaming on Amazon Video and iTunes.


Streaming recommendations du jour

Amazon Prime/The Romanoffs

The Romanoffs, “Expectation”

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

The gist: One of the maddening things about The Romanoffs, the new Amazon series from Matthew Weiner, is that it keeps failing to deliver on the promise of his previous blockbuster TV show, Mad Men. But this episode featuring John Slattery — the actor who played Roger Sterling on Mad Men — as well as the always-excellent Amanda Peet is the one that comes closest to matching the older show’s energy and sophisticated New York vibe.

This hour-long story focuses on brownstone Brooklyn-dwelling social worker Julia (Peet) whose adult daughter Emily (Ella Hopkins) is about to give birth while her husband is out of town. Julia’s old flame, Daniel (Slattery), wants to be at the hospital too, since he has a clandestine relationship with the mom-to-be. Peet and Slattery are great sparring partners, and, like all good Mad Men episodes, this installment of The Romanoffs features scenes filmed at several storied Manhattan restaurants, including the Russian Tea Room, Daniel, and the seventh floor cafe at Bergdorf’s overlooking Central Park.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, “Ina Garten”

Watch it on: YouTube

The gist: Food Network megastar Ina Garten stopped by the Ed Sullivan Theater last week to show Stephen Colbert how to make three recipes from her new book, Cook Like a Pro: daiquiris, tomato panzanella, and a chocolate meringue torte. Although they’ve never met before, Colbert is clearly an Ina fan, and when they talk about getting together in the Hamptons for dinner, it sounds like that might actually happen someday. Garten maintains a cheerful, easy-going demeanor during this busy bit, and Colbert proves, once again, that he’s the best of the late-night hosts at these cooking segments.


In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for a snack to prepare while you dig into all that TV, perhaps consider making the best hummus ever from this recipe courtesy of chef Einat Admony.

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