Alison Brie, Dave Franco and Fred Melamed

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.


Coup “Fun”; Do I Like You ‘That Way’?; Caine, Redux


“Freelance” and “Cat Person” are films that open in theaters on Oct. 6. "Freelance" is a comedic action film. Here’s the basic plot: Former Special Forces operator Mason Pettit (John Cena) takes a job providing security for journalist Claire Wellington (ALISON BRIE, 40) as she interviews Juan Venegas, the president of the (fictional) country of Paldonia.

A military coup breaks out as the interview is happening. The three are forced to escape into the jungle together.

Brie’s credits include starring roles in the TV series “Community” and “GLOW”. Brie’s father is not Jewish. Her mother is Jewish. She’s been married to actor DAVE FRANCO since 2017. Franco, 38, has the exact same background as Brie.

“Cat Person” is based on 2017 New Yorker short story that got a huge response. Basic plot: Margot (Emilia Jones), a college sophomore, works at a movie snacks counter. Robert (Nicholas Braun), a regular moviegoer, asks for her number. He’s about 35.

Margot likes the witty and funny texts that Robert sends her and he frequently mentions his cats.  Finally, they go out on a “real date” and—well, I won’t “really spoil” things---like telling you how their date goes. One hint: this is a drama, not a romantic comedy.

FRED MELAMED,67, has a supporting role as a psychiatrist. The film was directed by SUSANNE FOGEL, 41. She directed “A Small Light”, a 2023 Disney series about ANNE FRANK, her family, and those who helped the FRANK family. Fogel got an Emmy nomination (2021) for writing an episode of "The Flight Attendant" (HBO), and she wrote the hit movie “Booksmart” (2021).

Also opening on the 6th is “Exorcist: Believer”, a sequel to “The Exorcist” (1973), a huge box-office hit.  Ellen Burstyn, 90, who played the mother of a “possessed” child in the original, plays the same character—this time she’s a kind of “exorcism consultant”.  

Burstyn isn’t Jewish, as many think. Her 2nd husband, actor NEIL BURSTYN (1939-78), was Jewish. He suffered from schizophrenia and that destroyed their marriage.

The director of the original "Exorcist" film, WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, died last August, age 87. Critics, and others, said that Friedkin’s two big hits—“Exorcist” and “The French Connection” (1971) were innovative masterpieces.

On Oct. 6, Showtime will premiere “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial”, an original new film. The director is William Friedkin. Advance reviews of the Showtime film are mostly good, but some respected critics gave it a “thumbs-down”.

“The Caine Mutiny” began as a 1952 novel by HERMAN WOUK (1915-2019!!). “Caine” was a best-seller and Pulitzer Prize winner. In 1954, Wouk, a religious Jew who had served on a WWII US Navy mine-sweeper ship, turned his novel into a Broadway play. The same year, a hit film called “The Caine Mutiny” opened. Humphrey Bogart gave a great performance as the captain of the Caine, a WWII US Navy mine-sweeper.

Barney Greenwald, a (Jewish) U.S, Navy fighter pilot who was a hot-shot civilian lawyer, is a major “Caine” character. The Navy mutiny members were tried right after WWIl ended and Greenwald was assigned as their Navy defense lawyer. The 1954 movie left out the “facts” that Greenwald was a fighter pilot and that he was Jewish.

Non-Jewish actors played Greenwald in the ’54 movie, in a 1988 TV movie, and in the Showtime film. At the end of the original novel, and the Broadway play, Greenwald references the (recent) Holocaust. I doubt that reference will be in the Showtime film: the “time period” has been moved from WWII to the Persian Gulf War.

I was surprised that Friedkin directed the Showtime film. He was quite old and he didn’t have a box office hit after “The Exorcist”. However, he had two things “in his favor”: (1) He directed a well-received (TV) re-make of “12 Angry Men” (1997), a courtroom drama, and (2) Friedkin’s wife, SHERRY LANSING, 77, was the very successful head of Paramount (1992-2004) and Paramount owns Showtime. She probably put in a “word”.  

I always wondered why Friedkin’s career crashed after “Exorcist”. I heard he was often very abrasive and always sure he was right. Then I came across a two-minute Youtube video entitled William Friedkin and the Birth of a Nation  Friedkin defended “Birth”, a 1915 film which showed the 1860’s Klan in a good light. “Birth” helped revive the Klan in the 1920s.

I nearly gagged when Friedkin repeated the racist myth that Klan’s mission was to protect women from recently freed black slaves. You could sense that Friedkin viewed, with contempt, anyone who had another opinion.


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