Jack Antonoff, Michael Pollack and Billy Joel

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


The Grammys;  New Jewish Film “Wows” Critics


The Grammy awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 4 (8PM, CBS and Paramount+). There are so many Grammy categories that only the Grammys in the most popular (i.e., sales) categories are given to winners during the Grammy TV broadcast. Here are most of the “TV worthy” Jewish nominees.  

JACK ANTONOFF, 39, and MICHAEL POLLACK, 29, are the most prominent Jewish nominees this year. Both are musicians who are also record producers and songwriters.

Pollack is a “Record of the Year” nominee. This award is given to the producers of the record. The record he co-produced, which was sung by Miley Cyrus, is “Flowers”. This song is also a “Song of the Year” nominee and that award goes to the songwriters. Pollack co-wrote “Flowers” with Cyrus. It was a monster hit and broke the record for most paid-for streams in a week.

“Flowers” appeared on “Endless Summer Vacation”, a Cyrus album which is nominated for “Album of the Year”. Pollack is one of the nominees for this Grammy, too.

Pollack grew-up in a wealthy, heavily Jewish Long Island suburb. Growing up, his hero was BILLY JOEL, now 74 (Joel will perform at this year’s Grammys).

Ten years ago, Joel gave Pollack a “Cinderella moment”. Joel, who grew up in a working-class, Long Island suburb, appeared at Pollack’s college and took questions from the audience.  Pollack’s friend was “picked” and told Joel his friend was a great pianist. Joel called Pollack to the stage and Pollack played a Billy Joel tune. Joel liked what he heard and sang along. A video of the “duo” went viral and Pollack appeared on many TV shows, including “Today”. After college, Pollack moved to Los Angeles and quickly began writing songs for top musical acts.

Antonoff, who went to a Jewish elementary school, is a New Jersey native. To date, he’s won 8 Grammys. A guitarist, he has been the “front man” for several bands, and his first two Grammys were for music he wrote for his band.

This year, he’s nominated for five Grammys-- co-producer of “Record of the Year” (“Anti-Hero”, a Taylor Swift record); co-producer of the Album the Year (“Midnights”, Taylor Swift); and, in the same category, “Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” (singer Lana Del Rey album);  and co-writer of the Song of the Year—“A&W” (with Lana Del Rey).

Antonoff is also up for “Producer of the Year” (Non-Classical).

Antonoff dated SCARLETT JOHANSSON in high school. He was in a long relationship with actress/writer LENA DUNHAM (“Girls”). In 2023, he married Margaret Qualley, a talented actress. The wedding was private and I don’t know if it was a Jewish ceremony.

MARK RONSON, 48, has won seven Grammy awards and this year he is nominated for the soundtrack he co-wrote for “Barbie”, the hit film. One “Barbie song he co-wrote (“Dance the Night”) is a Song of the Year nominee—and he’s a 2024 best song Oscar nominee.

Others: JACK GITELMAN, 41, is up for a Record of the Year Grammy (Co-producer of “On My Mama”, sung by R&B artist Victoria Monet). Gitelman’s family fled the former Soviet Union in 1991;  RAMI JAFFEE, 54, is a member of the Foo Fighters, a very popular rock band.  The band is up for best rock performance and Best Rock Song (“Rescued”); and there’s DRAKE, “always” a Grammy nominee. He’s up for four awards in the rap music categories. He’s already won five Grammys. Born (1986), Aubrey Drake Graham, he’s the son of an African-American father and a Canadian (white) Jewish mother. He strongly identifies as Jewish.

I have put aside, for next week, some interesting items I had ready in favor of a film that “blew me away”. “Between the Temples”, a comedy-drama, made its worldwide premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18. Every review was a rave---Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline, Vulture.

This film appears to be that elusive thing---an independent film that is “very Jewish”, but completely works in many, many ways. JASON SCHWARTZMAN, 41, plays a cantor who is devasted by his wife’s death. He doesn’t lose his faith, but is very depressed and stops being an active cantor. Then he runs into his former music teacher (CAROL KANE, 71). He tutors her for her late-in-life bat mitzvah. He also has an intimate relationship with her. Somehow this “odd couple” works.

Their relationship doesn’t please the cantor’s two (gay) Jewish mothers. They have “a nice Jewish girl” about the cantor’s age who they want him to date.

Do read the reviews If you want to know more about the plot and why the critics loved this film. I’ve never seen reviews like this for a “little” Jewish movie.


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