Jews in the News: Ben Foster, Barry Levinson and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ben Foster in Two New Films, Zelenskyy is Back on Netflix, CNN+ Premieres

BEN FOSTER, 41, is an excellent actor who you might know from “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006); “3:10 to Yuma” (2007); and “Hell and High Water” (2016). By coincidence, Foster has lead roles in two new movies opening this month: “The Contractor” (opened last week) and “The Survivor”, an original HBO Max film (premieres April 27).

 Foster was raised in his father’s Jewish faith and was a bar mitzvah. His wife, LAURA PREPON, 41 (Donna on “That ‘70s Show”), also is the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother.

 “Contractor” is an action film about James Harper, a former special forces soldier (Chris Pine) who goes to work for a private company along with his best friend, Mike (Foster). Harper needs friends when he takes on a very dangerous overseas mission.

 “The Survivor” is based on the true story of HARRY HAFT (1925-2007). Haft, a Polish Jew, was just 16 when he was sent to Auschwitz. His strong build prompted the SS to train him to be a boxer. The SS found it “entertaining” to force prisoners to box to the death before military personnel. Haft survived 76 such matches. (Foster stars as Haft).

There are quite a few Jewish characters, but Foster and Israeli model and actress DAR ZUZOVKSKY, 31, are the only Jewish actors who play a Jew. Vicky Krieps, who plays Miriam, Haft’s (real) Jewish girlfriend, isn’t Jewish—but I give Krieps a “pass” because her real-life grandfather was an anti-Nazi resistance leader. The film was directed by Oscar-winner BARRY LEVINSON, 79.

 Frankly, I think this-- I don’t like seeing Jews beat other Jews to death. Also consider the reception to “Triumph of the Spirit” (1989), a true-life film about SALOMO AROUCH, a Greek Jew forced to fight in Auschwitz.

Critics panned “Triumph”, despite a good performance by Willhem Dafoe as Arouch. The late, great critic Roger Ebert pointed-out the film’s main flaw—a flaw that may bedevil “The Survivor”, too. Ebert felt that by focusing on the fights, and expecting viewers to root for Arouch, the filmmakers in effect forced audiences to behave no differently from the Nazis in the story.

 Another real life “fighting Jew”, Ukrainian President ZELENSKYY, is back on Netflix. A couple of years ago, they streamed his hit Ukrainian comedy series, ‘Servant of the People”, and, for obvious reasons, Netflix recently brought it back. It originally aired in the Ukraine in 2015-2019.

Capsule Plot: After a Ukrainian high school teacher's tirade against government corruption goes viral on social media, he finds himself the country's new president. Clearly, life imitated art when Zelenskyy was elected the (real) President of Ukraine in 2019.

 CNN+ began streaming on March 29. This new subscription service says it is “a completely distinct experience…offering live news reporting and new original features.” It appears that service features boil down to these: (1) Some interactive live news programs where viewers can ask (live) questions of the reporters. ‘Regular” CNN anchors WOLF BLITZER, 74, and DANA BASH, 50, are already set to host at least some of these live interactive programs (2) Interview programs, like the new “Jake Tapper Book Club”. The first episode of “Book Club” streamed on March 29. TAPPER, 53, talked to Dolly Parton and James Patterson about their new books. Also, look for the new interview program hosted by former Fox anchor CHRIS WALLACE, 74 Wallace (yes, he is Jewish). It’s called “Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?”  (3) There’s some traditional straight news reporting. Wolf Blitzer will go from his late afternoon (regular) CNN broadcast to the CNN+ studio and host an evening “straight news of the day” program.  and (4) Some programs and original films that first ran on “regular” CNN will be available, on-demand, via CNN+. This includes ANTHONY BOURDAIN’s “Parts Unknown” and “RBG”, a bio-film about the late Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG.

If you subscribe on or before April 26, you get a 50% discount on the regular subscription price (regular price is $6.00 per month). This discount is “lifetime” if you act by April 26. “Early subscribers” will  get half-off the regular price if, and when, they raise the CNN+ subscription price (i.e., if they raise it to $8.00—you’ll pay $4.00) You can get CNN+ via cable or satellite, on most interactive devices, like smart phones, and on Amazon Fire. It’s not yet available on Roku.


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