Jews in the News: Ben Stiller, Stan Lee and Scott Glenn

At the Movies

“The Longest Ride”, which opens of Friday, April 10, is based on a 2013 novel of the same name by Nicholas "The Notebook" Sparks. Basic plot: after being trapped in an isolated car crash, the life of 91-year-old Jewish widower, Ira Levinson, becomes entwined with that of young college student, Sophia Danko (Brit Robertson) and the cowboy whom she loves, named Luke (played by Scott Eastwood, son of Clint). Ira recalls his past life with his Jewish wife, Ruth, as he waits to be rescued

Ira and Ruth were the first Jewish characters that Sparks created. In a 2013 interview, Sparks said that as wrote his novel, he drew from his memories of the Jews, some of whom were his friends, who lived in New Bern, North Carolina. He said, “It was something I hadn’t done before [Jewish characters] and I thought people would like it. Also, not a lot of people know there are Jewish people in the South. We all know there are a lot of Jewish people in New York and other big cities. Not a lot of people realize how prominent they are in the history of the South. New Bern, my hometown, is the home of the first synagogue in North Carolina.”

Sparks' Levinson is proud to be a Southerner and proud to be Jewish. Ruth's background is much different: she came to North Carolina as a teen refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria. The film/novel follows Ira and Ruth as the fall in love almost the minute she enters Ira's father's small clothing store. Then we see them court while going to synagogue together. Later, we follow them as they share a passion for modern art and weather the dark days of WWII.

Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie) plays the young Ruth with Jack Huston (grandson of John Huston, nephew of Angelica) as the young Ira. By the way, Huston, who played a disfigured WWI vet on “Boardwalk Empire,” has some remote Jewish ancestry: his maternal grandfather was the son of Marchioness Sybil Sassoon, of the famously wealthy and accomplished Iraqi Jewish/British Sassoon family. Alan Alda, 79, plays the elderly Ira. Alda, who is not Jewish, has been married to a Jewish woman, ARLENE WEISS ALDA, 82, for 58 years and their three now-adult daughters were raised Jewish.

Director and writer NOAH BAUMBACH, 45, has explored the lives of sophisticated urbanites in generally well-received films starting with “The Squid and the Whale” (2005). Critics are saying that his new film, “While We’re Young,” is his most fully realized and satisfying work to date. BEN STILLER, 49 (who starred in Baumbach’s 2010 film, “Greenberg”), plays Josh, a Brooklynite who can never seem to finish his documentary. Cornelia (Naomi Watts), his wife, is the daughter of a legendary documentary maker (CHARLES GRODIN, 79). Cornelia and Josh, who can’t have children, drift away from their best friends, a couple their age who’ve just had a baby, and become friends with an energetic couple who are twenty years younger (Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver of “Girls” fame). The contrast in styles and world view of these two age-disparate couples is often amusing and usually thought provoking. Appearing in supporting roles are ADAM “Beastie Boy” HOROVITZ, 48, as the male half of Josh’s ‘old couple’ friends, and PETER YARROW, 76 (Peter, Paul, and Mary) as a left wing intellectual. (Opening dates vary around the country. In many cities, it is April 3 or April 10.)

Daredevil Streaming-In

“Daredevil,” a new Netflix series is set to premiere on April 10, and per Netflix practice, the entire first season will be released on that date. I’m pretty sure that most of you interested in watching it already know that it is based on the Marvel Comics character first created by STAN LEE, now 92, in 1964.  Here’s the basic plot: Lawyer-by-day Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) uses his heightened senses from being blinded as a young boy to fight crime at night on the streets of New York City's Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood as Daredevil.

One of the Daredevil’s main adversaries is Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin. He’s a powerful businessman in the same neighborhood. Fisk is played by Vincent D’Onofrio (Goren on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”). Fisk’s love interest, Vanessa Marianna, is played by Israeli actress AYELET ZURER, 45. Her past co-starring roles include Vittoria Vetra in “Angels and Demons” and Lara, Superman’s mother in “Man of Steel” (2013). Veteran actor SCOTT GLENN, 74, has a recurring role as "Stick," a mysterious marital arts expert who is Murdock's mentor.


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