Jews in the News: Daniel Day-Lewis, Aaron Sorkin and Hans Zimmer

The Tribe at the Oscars: 2018 Edition

The 90th Oscars ceremony takes place on Sunday, March 4. It begins at 5PM on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel will host. The following is a list of “confirmed” Jewish Oscar nominees. My practice is not to include the technical categories. The number of Jewish nominees is smaller than some years, but still substantial.

Best Leading actor: TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, 24, “Call Me by My Name”. He competes in this category with DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, who starred in “The Phantom Thread.” Chalamet is the break-out actor of 2017. Besides starring in “Call Me,” a best picture nominee, he had a biggish supporting role in “Lady Bird,” another best picture nominee. He grew-up in Manhattan, the son of an American Jewish mother (a former Broadway dancer) and a French Protestant father (a UNICEF editor). He’s referred to himself as Jewish. In “Call Me,” he plays a 17-year-old Jewish man living in Italy who has a brief same-sex affair with a visiting American Jewish student.

Day-Lewis, 60, is the only actor to win three best actor Oscars. His father, famous poet Cecil Day-Lewis, was of Irish Protestant background, while his mother, the late actress JILL BALCON, was Jewish. Jill’s father, Sir MICHAEL BALCON, was a founder of the British film industry. Daniel has always been secular. He says “Phantom Thread,” in which he plays a fashion designer, will be his last film.

No Jewish actresses are nominated, no Jewish actors got a supporting nomination, and no Jewish writers are nominated for an original screenplay. However, a number of Jewish writers are nominated for best adapted screenplay. “The Disaster Artist,” a comedy about a terrible real movie, was written by SCOTT NEUSTATDER and MICHAEL H. WEBER, both 40. They adapted a memoir. They have been a writing team since 1999. Neustader grew-up on Long Island and Weber in Atlantic City. Both had a bar mitzvah and like to schmooze about Jews in the movies. Their break-out film was “500 Days of Summer” (2006), a clever original romantic comedy/drama. 

Also in this category: “Logan,” which was co-written by SCOTT FRANK, 57, James Mangold, and MICHAEL GREEN, 45. “Logan” is the first comic-book based movie to get a best screenplay Oscar nomination. His credits include writing “Out of Sight,” for which he got an Oscar nomination. He also wrote and directed “Godless,” a recent Netflix series. Green, 44, grew-up in a New York City suburb where his religious, Israel-born mother insisted he attend a yeshiva. He became more secular as he grew older. Also: AARON SORKIN, 56, for “Molly’s Game,” a film from a memoir by Molly Bloom (whose father is Jewish) about running high stakes poker games. Sorkin became famous with his 1989 play “A Few Good Men”. It became a hit movie in 1992.

LEE UNKRICH, 50, was the co-director and co-producer of “Coco,” a best feature-length animated movie nominee. He directed “Toy Story 3”, which won the Oscar in 2011 and he’s the heavy favorite to win this year. Unkrich lives near this writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and I'm happy to tell you that the bar/bat mitzvah notices of his 3 children, with his wife, LAURA, have appeared in the San Francisco Jewish paper.

FRANK STIEFEL, 60ish, is nominated for best documentary short subject (“Heaven is a Traffic Jam”). It’s about MINDY ALPER, 58, a talented artist who has battled mental health problems. Stiefel made a short movie, “Ingelore” (2009), about how his mother, a deaf teen, escaped Nazi Germany.

BRYAN FOGEL, 40ish, wrote and co-starred in “Icarus,” a best feature length documentary nominee. Fogel, a very serious bicyclist, blew the lid off Russian athlete doping in his film. Before “Icarus,” he was best known for “Jewtopia,” a comedic play/film. His parents, who belong to a Denver Orthodox synagogue, will accompany him to the Oscars. Fogel is a good, if not certain bet, to win.

DIANE WARREN, 61, is nominated for best song, “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall”. This is her 9th best song nomination. She competes with BENJ PASEK, 32, and Justin Paul, who wrote “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” 

HANS ZIMMER, 60, is nominated for best musical score for “Dunkirk.” He’s been Oscar nominated 11 times, winning in 1995 (“The Lion King”).

The best picture nomination goes to the film’s producers. Nine movies are nominated. The following have “confirmed” Jewish producers: “The Darkest Hour” (ERIC FELLNER, 58); The Post” (AMY PASCAL, 59, and STEVEN SPIELBERG, 71. Spielberg directed “The Post”, but wasn’t nominated for best director this year); Call Me by My Name” (PETER SPEARS, 52); and “Lady Bird” (SCOTT RUDIN, 59. The film’s director/writer, Greta Gerwig, recently said that she wanted to use some excerpts from a STEPHEN SONDHEIM musical in “Lady Bird.” Fortunately, she said, Rudin was friends with Sondheim, 87, and he secured Sondheim’s okay).


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