Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News
The Most Complete Guide to Jewish Oscar Nominees
The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 12, at 7PM (ABC). Jimmy Kimmel will host. The ceremony is produced by GLENN WEISS, 61, and his professional partner, RICKY KIRSHNER, 60.
Rihanna will sing at the ceremony, as will DIANE WARREN, 66. Warren and Sofia Carson will perform “Applause”, a contender this year for the best song Oscar. Warren wrote it. She has been previously nominated 13 times for this Oscar and has never won.
Warren was given an Honorary Oscar last November. At the ceremony, she exclaimed from the stage: “I’ve waited 34 years to say this. “I’d like to thank the academy!”
Here are the “verified” Jewish nominees in all but the technical categories, and one “honorable mention”.
Michelle Williams (honorable mention) is nominated (lead actress) for playing Mitzi Fabelman, a Jewish woman, in “The Fabelmans”, a semi-autobiographical film directed and co-written by STEVEN SPIELBERG, 76.
In a recent interview, Williams said that her two young children with theater director THOMAS KAIL 45, would be raised Jewish and that she was studying Judaism herself. Williams added that Jewish families lived on both sides of her childhood home and she “adored being in their homes… the discourse at the tables and the deep sense of belonging that tradition fosters.”
In the same article, Spielberg praised Williams. “[He] sensed a soul in her that connected to his childhood memories…’She felt more like my mom that I could have imagined.”’
I had a similar emotion when I saw “Me Without You” (2001), a film directed by and written by SANDRA GOLDBACHER, an English Jew. Williams played (age 16-24) an English Jewish girl from a warm, observant Jewish home. I didn’t know if Williams was Jewish in 2001. But I knew she was “spot-on” in this role.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS, 62, is nominated for best supporting actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” This interesting sci-fi film posited that a person could exist in different universes and have differing personalities in each universe. So, Curtis’ character varied greatly depending on the universe she came from.
Some good sources say that Curtis has a good shot at winning. Others say the opposite. She now has some momentum, having just won the SAG award for supporting actress.
Jaime is the secular daughter of the late actors TONY CURTIS and Janet Leigh. Tony was an absent father, and a hard guy to be around, period. But Jamie managed to maintain ties to him.
Together, they helped restore synagogues in Hungary, where Tony’s parents came from. Recently, she condemned Kanye West’s comments. Her husband of 39-years is actor/writer CHRISTOPHER GUEST, 74. His parents, he says, were “Jewish atheists.”
JUDD HIRSCH, 87, is frankly, a “miracle”. He has the look and energy of a man 20-years younger.
In a recent “CBS Sunday Morning” segment (on Youtube), Hirsch detailed his early life, which included the expectation that he would settle for a “safe” job. Instead, he ditched a college engineering degree program with one semester to go and plunged into acting. He was 43 when he got his first hit TV role (“Taxi”, of course) and since then he has never stopped giving great TV and film performances (often playing Jews).
In 1980, he showed he had “big screen chops” with his performance as a psychiatrist in “Ordinary People” and he snared a best supporting Oscar nomination. He now holds the record for the biggest gap between Oscar nominations.( A few sources make Hirsch an “Oscar favorite”, but most don’t.)
In “The Fablemans”, Hirsch brought wacko, poignant, unexpected energy to the film as he played (for 10 minutes) the family’s only adult in showbiz. Hirsch, and a few scenes of teenage Sammy Fabelman making mini-movies, were high-energy highlights. The rest of “The Fabelmans” was, frankly, kind of a “downer” and that helped make it a box-office flop.
Hirsch has three children with his (Jewish) ex-wife.
Directing, Screenplays, and Music
STEVEN SPIELBERG, 76, is the only Jewish nominee in the director category (“The Fabelmans”) and Spielberg and TONY KUSHNER, 66 (“Fabelmans”) are the only Jewish nominees for the original screenplay Oscar.
ERIC WARREN SINGER, 54, shares the nomination for adapted screenplay with four other “Top Gun: Maverick” writers. He was previously nominated (2013) for his original script for “American Hustle” (with director DAVID O. RUSSELL). .
Diane Warren, as noted above, is a up for a best song Oscar and JUSTIN HURWITZ, 38 (“Babylon”) is an original score nominee. He previously won this Oscar for “La La Land” (2016).
Documentaries: Feature and Short (Length)
“All that Breathes” is about two Indian Muslim brothers who feed and nurse sick kites (a bird of prey). The kites, in big numbers, are dying. The cause is New Delhi’s terrible air pollution.
Shaunak Sen, the director, is nominated, as is producer TEDDY LEIFER, 40, an English Jew. Leifer is the founder and head of Rise, a hot indie film company. His brother, SAM, 43, is the head of the Rise comedy division. Sam was profiled in a U.K. Jewish paper in 2013. He had just made a short comic film about a newly-married Orthodox Jewish couple. It was inspired by Sam’s recent Jewish wedding.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” chronicles the opioid addiction of famous photographer NAN GOLDIN, 69, her sobriety, and her campaign to “bring to justice” the SACKLER family, the owners of Purdue Pharma. (Purdue flooded the market with an opioid pill). The director is Laura Poitras. She shares her nomination with the producers, which include Goldin.
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” is an original Netflix film about how Mitchell, the wife of Nixon’s attorney general, was “gaslighted” about what she knew about the Watergate scandal. BETH LEVISON, 52, the producer, shares her nomination with the film’s director. Levison directed the Peabody-award documentary “Storm Lake” (2021).
“Stranger at the Gate” is about a former Marine who planned to bomb a small Indiana mosque. Meeting actual mosque members changed his whole worldview.
JOSH SEFTEL, 54, the director, is nominated. He’s had an amazing career, with a “finger’ in many genres (film, radio, TV). I can’t give him justice in a short bio. In this one case, I have to refer you to his extensive Wikipedia bio.
“How Do You Measure a Year?” is about a father (nominated director JAY ROSENBLATT, 67) who makes home movies of his (real) daughter every year on her birthday. We follow her as she grows into adulthood.
There are 10 nominated films. The Oscar goes to the film’s principal producers. Here are six best picture nominees with a “verified” Jewish producer(s).
“Avatar: The Way of the Water”, was co-produced by JON LANDAU, 62. Landau is either freakishly lucky or a kind of genius. He’s only produced 9 films, including the three Avatar movies (“Avatar 3” to be released in 2024). But these nine include “Titanic” (over $2.2 billion grossed) and the two released Avatar films (together, grossed about $6 billion).
Jon’s late parents, ELY and EDIE LANDAU, were top producers who made scores of films and TV shows.
Tár, a strong drama, stars Cate Blanchett, as Lydia Tár, a top classical conductor. The producers include ALEXANDRA MILCHAN, 51, the daughter of ARON MILCHAN, 78, an Israeli billionaire who is a prolific film producer. Her mother, a former French model, is a convert to Judaism.
“Top Gun: Maverick”, a hit action sequel, was co-produced by veteran “uber-producer” JERRY BRUCKHEIMER, 79. “Maverick” is his first best pic nomination.
“The Fabelmans”: Spielberg and Kushner also produced this film.
“Elvis” is about the real Elvis, not an imitator. The producers include GAIL BERMAN, 66, long a Hollywood big-time player, and SCHUYLER WEISS, 40. “Elvis” is first big hit.
“Women Talking” is about female members of an Amish-like religious sect who stand up against sexual abuse by male members. The producers include JEREMY KLEINER, 43. This film was directed and written by Sarah Polley (her screenplay is nominated). As I have wrote before, she found out as an adult that her biological father is Jewish.