Jews in the News: Walter Isaacson, Ezra Miller and Mila Kunis

More than Minyan of Innovators


The new popular history, “How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” by WALTER ISAACSON, 62, is already a best seller. To his credit, Issacson does discuss the Jewish background of five of the most important “innovators”. But it occurred to me that one could write another book just about the “unidentified as Jewish” innovators mentioned in Isaacson’s book. The five “biggies” he notes were/are Jewish are JOHN VON NEUMANN (1903-1956), a brilliant mathematician who made essential contributions to computer programming and design; ANDREW GROVE, 78, is the engineer who turned Intel into the world’s largest maker of microprocessors; ARTHUR ROCK, 88, was a founder of Davis & Rock, a San Francisco venture capital firm that was one of the first venture capital firms in existence. It provided the seed money for Apple and Intel, among others; and SERGEY BRIN, and LARRY PAGE, both 41, who are the co-founders of Google. Here’s a few of the book’s brilliant Jews not identified as Jewish in the text: PAUL BARAN (1926-2011) was a co-inventor of packet switched network computing. STEWART BRAND, 75, is famous as the creator (1968) of the “Whole Earth Catalogue” (which Steve Jobs said was incredible important to young computer geeks)—and as a co-founder (1985) of “The Well”---one of the first virtual on-line communities; and TERRY WINOGRAD, 62, a still-active Stanford computer science professor who has been a mentor to many brilliant students, including Larry Page. Nice to note: one of his daughters is a rabbi.


Isaacson doesn’t overlook the contribution of women in this male-dominated field. There’s a nice section on the six women who were recruited, near the end of WWII, to program the first electronic general-purpose computer (“ENIAC”) for the Army. Issacson notes that two of the six were Jewish: RUTH LICHTERMAN TEITELBAUM (1924-1986) and MARILYN WESCOFF MELTZER (1922-2008). As you might have guessed, the work of these six “Rosie the Programmer (s)” was not generally known for decades.

Movie Notes

“Birdman” opened in a few theaters last week and opens in many more this Friday, Oct. 24. It stars Michael Keaton as an actor famous for playing a movie superhero (“Birdman”)---but wants “respect” as the star of a Broadway show.  I wish I could say that “Birdman,” which is already being touted for many Oscars, has many Jewish connections. But there’s only one big one---the cinematographer is the great EMMANUEL LUBEZKI, 50, a six-time Oscar nominee (won for “Gravity”). Lubezki is a Mexico born-and raised “landsman” who has long lived in America. The film’s director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, is also from Mexico.

It’s rare for a reviewer to single out a movie’s cinematography, but almost all reviews have gushed about how Lubezki's camera work and editing to give the appearance that “Birdman” was filmed in one continuous long take. The New York Times review says the following about his work on Birdman: “Mr. Iñárritu, who has staged and shot the movie so that it looks like everything that happens, from airborne beginning to end, occurs during one transporting continuous take. The camera doesn’t just move with the story and characters, it also ebbs and flows like water, soars and swoops like a bird, its movement as fluid as a natural element, as animated as a living organism.  Mr. Iñárritu’s partner in illusionism is the director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, a Houdini of fluid camera movements whose genius is for keeping you watching rather than distractedly wondering. The camerawork in 'Birdman' is an astonishment, and an argument that everything flows together, which in this movie means the cinematography, the story, the people, even time and space.”

There are credible reports that Richard Gere has signed to play J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER, the late “father of the atom bomb”. The bio-pic is being directed by Israeli JOSEPH CEDAR, 46. It’s definite that EZRA MILLER, 22, will play the title role in a movie version of the comic book character “The Flash.” I think Miller (“Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is a brilliant actor who raises the level of everything he's in.  So, this “Flash” may slow down and show us his colors.

You might have caught a story in the lesser gossip press (that was re-reported as fact in a few Jewish media outlets)---that MILA KUNIS, 31, and Ashton Kutcher had a “kabbalah welcoming party” for their newborn daughter, WYATT. The source of this story is the Brit tabloid, the Sun. Trust me, this party is just another in the Sun’s long line of tall tales.


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