Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.
More on "Rye"/"Sessions", Awkward Bar Mitzvah, Big Movie, Two TV Series
Here’s some follow-up info on my previous “all about Hanukkah” column. First, due to bad advance publicity, I said that singer LISA LOEB, 54, played the romantic female lead in the Hallmark Hall of Fame film “Hanukkah Rye” (premiered Dec. 18). YAEL GROBGLAS, 38, played the love interest of JEREMY JORDAN, also 38. Groglas grew-up in Israel. She’s a very good actress.
Overall, “Rye” was surprisingly good. It’s schmaltzy, as holiday movies almost always are, but it was often moving, too.
Yes, much of the plot was familiar. But that’s okay. “Rye” was a re-telling of an oft told “Jewish” story. In 1940, there was the hit film “Shop Around the Corner” which “begat” the hit film musical “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949) and the hit stage musical “She Loves Me” (1963). These three begat the hit Tom Hanks' film “You’ve Got Mail” (1999). All of these “re-makes” stem from an original 1937 Hungarian play by (the Jewish) MIKLOS LASZLO. Jews wrote the scripts and the songs for all these “re-makes”, including “Rye”.
Problem: the Hallmark Movie Channel (HMC) streamed “Rye” once on Dec. 18 and I can’t find it on the site/app (on-demand). However, Peacock has it prominently displayed among its on-demand offerings.
On the plus side, I did discover “Love, Lights, Hanukkah”, a 2020 dramatic film on HMC. It's not nearly as good as Rye, but not horrible. It stars MIA KIRSHNER, 47 (The "L" Word). Next week, I will relate a very good news “secret” about Kirshner that I stumbled on because of this film. If you can view “Love” do so.
As predicted last week: the "Hanukkah Sessions" on Youtube feature rock stars who were recorded at a Dec. 5 concert.
Weird news: On Dec. 17, MASON DISICK celebrated his bar mitzvah. His father is SCOTT DISICK, 39, a "reality" TV series star and the ex-husband of Mason's mother, Kourtney Kardasian. Kourtney's sister, Kim, was formerly married to Kanye West. I imagine Kayne didn't get an invitation.
Damien Chazelle has had a very good record as a writer and director. His films include “Whiplash” --a modest box office hit which critics loved--and “La La Land”, which everyone loved. Chazelle got the best director Oscar for “La La” and the film won five more. (Fun Fact: while Chazelle was raised Catholic, he went to a Jewish day school for four years. His parents thought it was the best local school.)
Chazelle is the director and writer of “Babylon”, which opens in theaters on Dec. 23. The film is about the transition to talking films in the 1920s. It stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. JEFF GARLIN, 60, has an important supporting role. IRVING THALBERG, the head of MGM film production in the ‘20s and early ‘30s, is a character in the film. (Warning: this film is very long).
The film’s score is by JUSTIN HURWITZ, 37. He won an Oscar for best score for “La La Land”. He and Chazelle were Harvard roommates.
“Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over” is a special CNN documentary that will air, live, on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 9PM. It will be available, on-demand, starting on Jan. 2. Of course, it is about the legendary singer who had a long string of popular hits in the ‘60s through the ‘80s. She is still performing.
Many celebrities will appear on the special, including songwriter BURT BACHARACH, 94, and CLIVE DAVIS, 90, a truly legendary record producer and record company head who is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Three hit songs sung by Warwick are in the Grammy Hall of Fame (“Walk on By”, “Alfie”, and “Don’t Make Me Over”). All three were written by Bacharach (music) and the late HAL DAVID (lyrics).
By 1979, Warwick’s career had stalled. It was revived when she signed (1979) with Arista Records, a new-ish record company founded by, and ran by Davis. Davis personally guided her career and she quickly had another big hit, “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.”
“Finding Your Roots”, the PBS celebrity ancestry show, returns for a 10th season on Jan. 3 (check local listings for time. Also on PBS app/website). The “big” name guests include Carol Burnett, Julia Roberts, Jeff Daniels, and DAVID DUCHOVNY, 62 (he’s the secular son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother). Also profiled is veteran character actor RICHARD KIND, 66 (trust me, you know his face).