Jews in the News: Andrew Garfield, Natalie Portman and Kenneth Lonergan

The Tribe Goes to the Oscars, 2017

 The 89th Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC starting at 8:30PM. Jimmy Kimmel will host. Documentary filmmaker FREDERICK WISEMAN, 87, received an Honorary Oscar at a November, 2016 ceremony.

Best Picture

Here are the Best Picture nominees with a “confirmed” Jewish producer:  “Arrival” (SHAWN LEVY, 48, and DAVID LINDE, 56); “Fences” (SCOTT RUDIN, 58); “Hacksaw Ridge” (DAVID PERMUT, 62); “Hell or High Water” (JULIE YORN, 50); “La La Land” (MARC PLATT, 58—and GARY GILBERT, 52) and “Moonlight” (JEREMY KLEINERS, 41).

Acting Categories

Lead actor: ANDREW GARFIELD, 33, “Hacksaw Ridge.” As noted in my column, Garfield’s father is Jewish and his mother isn’t. In 2016, Garfield firmly established himself as an “A-list” dramatic actor (“Hacksaw” and the Scorsese film, “Silence”) and we’ll be seeing him in top films for a long time to come. 

Lead actress: NATALIE PORTMAN, 35, “Jackie”. It’s unlikely Portman, who won the lead actress Oscar in 2011 (“Black Swan”) will win the year. The big favorite is French actress Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”). Like Portman, she was in every scene in her film. Unlike Portman, she has never won an Oscar and she’s 63. Voters likely figure it’s high time to honor this universally acclaimed actress. As noted in my column, Huppert had a Jewish father and has a Jewish husband, but was raised Catholic and is loath to talk about her father’s background. Plain and simple: it’s bogus “alternative facts” to include her in a list of “Jewish nominees” without at least noting the real facts in my previous sentence.

 Musical Categories

The best original score nominees are: NICHOLAS BRITELL, 36, “Moonlight” and JUSTIN HURWITZ, 32, “La La Land.” Britell, 36, is a Julliard graduate, whose first film work was an original composition for Natalie Portman’s first directorial effort, the short film “Eve” (2008). Since then, he contributed considerable original music to “12 Years a Slave,” scored Portman’s first full length film (the Israel-set “Tales of Love and Darkness”); scored “The Big Short,” and produced the short and long film versions  of, “Whiplash.” Ironically, “Whiplash” (2014) made director/writer Damien Chazelle a star who could get financing for “La La Land” and that film will almost certainly rule the musical categories.

Hurwitz met Chazelle while both attended Harvard and there they helped formed Chester French, a successful rock band. He scored Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” He also composed the music for the two “La La” songs nominated for best original song: “City of Stars,” which won the Golden Globe, and “Audition.” The lyrics for those songs were written by nominees BENJ PASEK, 31, and Justin Paul. Pasek met Paul at college. Both come from religious families of different faiths (Pasek is Jewish and Paul is Christian). Their works include a hit Broadway version of “A Christmas Story” (words & music). I recently interviewed Hurwitz’s mother and will relay the highlights of that interview in my next column.

All Other Categories

Director/Original Screenplay: KENNETH LONERGAN, 56, is the only Jewish nominee in these categories (“Manchester-By-The-Sea”). He was raised in Manhattan by his Jewish stepfather and Jewish mother. Both were secular and both were psychoanalysts. His late father was Irish Catholic. Lonergan (who says he’s an atheist) told “The New Yorker” that he was about 8 years old when he finally realized that everyone wasn’t Jewish. He grew up an affluent (but not super rich) world of mostly liberal, mostly Jewish professional folk and their offspring. Not surprisingly, most of his works have featured mostly Jewish or “half Jewish” people from this milieu (The 1996 play, “This Is Our Youth,” and the films “Margaret” and “You Can Count on Me”). It’s strange that no critical piece I’ve read notes that “Manchester” is his “Irish-side” film. The central character, Lee, is Irish Catholic, and his life is virtually destroyed by alcohol—the so-called curse of the Irish. “Manchester” is Lonergan’s breakthrough film and I hope it prompts, finally, a film version of “Youth.”

Animated Film, Feature Length: OSNAT SHURER (“Moana”). Shurer, 46, the film’s producer, was born and raised in Israel and served in an IDF intelligence unit. Documentary, Short Length: “Joe’s Violin” (directed by KAHANE COOPERMAN, 52). Cooperman, long a JON STEWART “Daily Show” producer, became head of The New Yorker magazine’s video wing (“Screening Room”) a few years ago. She heard a 2014 radio story about a Holocaust survivor who had responded to a radio station appeal to donate his used instrument. Cooperman tracked down the survivor, JOSEPH FEINGOLD, now 92, and made a New Yorker film about his life and the life of the poor Bronx girl who received his violin. (Can be seen, now, on Youtube. Just enter the title). Also in this category: DAN KRAUSS, 40ish, the director of “Extremis,” a Netflix original film about the grim realities of end-of-life care that was filmed in a California hospital.


Add Comment