Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.
Cokey, the Bear; Levy Travels the World, Barinholtz News, More
“Cocaine Bear”, a black comedy-thriller, opens in theaters on Feb. 24. It is based on a real story. In 1985, a pilot working for drug dealers dumped tons of cocaine over a Georgia forest. Later, a forest bear was found dead. It had eaten about 75 pounds of cocaine. The “real” bear didn’t scare or hurt anyone. In the new film, the bear goes on a murderous rampage.
ALDEN EHRENREICH, 33, has a co-starring role. He was “discovered” (about age 13) when STEVEN SPIELBERG watched--at a bat mitzvah--a short comedy film that Ehrenreich made. Overall, his career has been “unlucky”. Two “big” films he starred-in, which were supposed to be big hits, flopped (“Beautiful Creatures” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story”.)
The only hit film he’s been in is “Hail, Caesar!” (2019), another black comedy. Ehrenreich turned in a good performance in this COEN brothers’ film.
“Cocaine Bear” was directed by Elizabeth Banks, 48. She is best known as an actress (“Hunger Games” and “Spider-Man” films. Many others). “Bear” is Banks’ third film as a director (“Pitch Perfect 2” and “Charlie’s Angels”).
Banks married (2003) her (Jewish) husband before a rabbi and they now have two sons. Around the time of the wedding, credible sources said that Banks had converted to Judaism and I reported that until 2013.
In 2013, Banks said that she studied Judaism before marrying, practices Judaism, but didn’t quite formally convert (“all but the mikveh”, she said). There have been no conversion “updates” since 2013 and Banks may have taken that ‘dip’ in the last decade. (If there is an ‘update’, I’ll let you know).
“The Reluctant Traveler”, an eight-part “globe-trotting” series, premieres on Apple+ on Sunday, Feb. 26. EUGENE LEVY, 75, is the host. The show’s publicity says “we follow Levy as he visits some of the world’s most beautiful destinations in Costa Rica, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Maldives, Portugal, South Africa, and the U.S.A.”
Levy was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. Few know that his father was of Sephardi ancestry (Bulgaria). His mother was born and raised in Scotland, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants.
Levy became well-known for his roles on “SCTV”, a Canadian/American sketch comedy (1976-84). His fame exploded when he co-starred as a Jewish dad in the mega-hit teen comedy “American Pie” (1999). In 2015, he co-created “Schitt’s Creek”, his biggest hit. This TV series ran until 2020 and it found a worldwide following on Netflix. In 2020, Levy, who was a “Schitt’s” co-star, won the Emmy for best lead performance in a comedy.
Do watch “Waiting for Guffman”, a 1996 “mockumentary” co-written by Levy that got great reviews. Levy plays a Jewish dentist in a small Missouri town who wants to entertain people. Another Canadian, LINDA KASH, now 62, is “perfect” as his Jewish wife. It is now streaming on HBO Max. Trust me, you’ll laugh.
In case you haven’t heard, on Feb. 2, IKE BARINHOLTZ, 45, won the Celebrity Jeopardy tournament and earned a million dollars for his designated charity.
Beyond him being Jewish, I didn’t know any “Jewish details” about Barinholtz. Well, that ended last week when I read an interview with David Stassen (not Jewish). He is the co-writer, with MEL BROOKS, of “History of the World, Part 2”.
“Part 2” begins streaming on Hulu on March 6 and I will cover it next week. Meanwhile, do watch the hilarious “Part 2”’ trailer (Youtube, etc.)
Stassen said that Barinholtz (who will be in “Part 2”) is often his writing partner and that they have been best friends since they were 7-years-old. Stassen also mentioned that Barinholtz attended a Chicago Jewish day school until he transferred to the (secular) high school that Stassen went to.
ANDREW ZIMMERN, 61, is best known as the star and host of several “Bizarre Foods” series on the Travel Channel. In 2021, he launched a “more normal” show---called “Family Dinner”—about food that regular folks eat. It premiered on the little-seen Magnolia Network.
Recently, major streaming channels realized how good “Family Dinner” is and picked it up. All the series’ episodes (3 seasons) are now available on HBO Max and the first season can be streamed on Amazon Prime.
Zimmern grew-up in a middle-class Brooklyn Jewish home. He graduated from college, but mental problems led him to drug and alcohol abuse. He even did jail time. But he found help at a Minnesota treatment center. He learned to cook and he opened a very successful restaurant in Minnesota—and then showbiz came calling.