Amy Winehouse, Marisa Abela and Nick Shymansky

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

Winehouse Flick Goes Sour;  A "Dark" Netflix series & a Darker True-Life Story; Comic Relief

"Back to Black", a big-budget bio-pic about the famous British jazz/rock singer AMY WINEHOUSE (1983-2011) opened in theaters on May 17. British actor MARISA ABELA, 27, whose mother is Jewish, plays Winehouse. There are six real-life Jewish characters in the film, but Abela is the only Jewish actor to play a Jew. This is typical in U.K. productions---there aren’t many English Jewish actors and UK producers will almost never import an American Jew to play “any” Jew. I suspect Abela “mostly” got her role because even the Brits could be shamed by making this film “Jew actor free.”

Five of the six Jewish characters are on the top of the credits: Amy, Amy’s parents, Amy’s paternal grandmother, and Amy’s first, important agent (NICK SHYMANSKY). Down the credits, you’ll find  Amy’s father’s sister.

“Black” opened in the U.K. last month. The Metacritic site has posted 15 reviews of “Back” by respected British film critics. Only 2 reviews were raves. Eight critics trashed the film and the rest were “on the fence”—some good things—some bad. (As I write this, the American reviews are being posted and most are quite negative).

Abela got pretty good reviews from most (she can sing). However, most critics said that the film was way too fictional. They all jumped on too-kind depictions of Amy’s father (who didn’t want Amy to go into drug rehab) and Amy’s low-life husband, who got her on heroin.

My advice is to wait to see “Back to Black” until it begins streaming. Meanwhile, you’ll find a much better biography on HBO/Max. They are now streaming the acclaimed, Oscar-winning documentary “Amy” (2015).

On May 30, Netflix will premiere “Eric”, a six-episode series. Premise: Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a puppeteer in 1980s New York whose nine-year-old son, Edgar, has gone missing. Vincent is the host of a children’s TV program (with puppets) called “Good Day Sunshine”. His son’s disappearance makes Vincent increasingly volatile and his behavior alienates him from his friends and family.

After issues with substance abuse, Vincent becomes convinced that he can reunite with Edgar with the help of his seven-foot-tall puppet, Eric.

DAN FOLGER, 47, a familiar and busy character actor, ("The Goldbergs” and “Walking Dead”), portrays Lennie Wilson, Vincent’s best friend. Lennie is also Vincent’s work colleague, and a brilliant puppeteer and maker in his own right. Lennie has a special bond with Edgar, who frequently visited the set of Good Day Sunshine before his disappearance.

“Kidnapping: The Abduction of Edgardo Mortara” opens in theaters on May 24. This Italian film got generally good reviews when it opened last year at the Cannes Film Festival and in European theaters. You’ll have to check when it opens in a theater near you. It’s emotionally a hard film to watch and I suspect that means many theaters just won’t screen it.

In 1857, the Pope still had secular control of a fairly large part of Italy, including the city of Bologna, where the Jewish MORTARA family lived. In 1857, a Catholic housekeeper told a priest that she had worked for the Mortara family and she secretly baptized EDGARDO when he became ill as a baby. She thought he would die.

This priest “ran” with this news—Papal law then held that no baptized child could be raised by Jews (unless the parents converted to Catholicism).

Edgardo was six-years-old when he was taken by the Papal police in June, 1858. Of course, his parents wanted him back. But that return never happens, despite international protests.

Much more information on the Mortara kidnapping can be found, easily, on-line. The new film, critics agree, depicts the real Mortara case events in historically accurate scenes.

“Hacks” is a very good HBO comedy series that got great reviews for its first season (2021). It features Jean Smart as Deborah, an aged popular comedian, and HANNAH EINBINDER, 28, as Ava, a struggling comedian who took a job writing funny stuff for Deborah. Einbinder is the daughter of LARAINE NEWMAN, 72, an original “SNL” cast member. Her father is also Jewish.

The second “Hacks” season (2022) had good moments, but it was clearly not as amusing as the first season. I waited to see the reviews of the third season (began May 3) before writing about “Hacks” again. Well, the critics who had access to this season’s all 9 episodes loved the 3rd season.

I’ve watched the first four episodes of this season and “Hacks” has its energy back. The first episode really sets up the very interesting and amusing second episode (each Thursday, this month, two “Hacks” episodes will be shown back-to-back—except for the one-episode finale on May 30).

Hannah and Ava have two things in common. Both are former stand-up comedians and both identify as bi-sexual (but mostly are into women). Hannah dated popular stand-up comedian ALEX EDELMAN, 35, for about a year. They broke-up in 2023.


Add Comment