Jews in the News: Daniel Radcliff, Donny Deutch and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Movie and TV Notes

Opening on Wednesday, Nov. 25, was “Victor Frankenstein”, a new take on the classic horror tale. In this version, Igor (DANIEL RADCLIFFE, 26) is the brilliant protégé of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) and they share a noble vision of aiding humanity via their research into immortality.  But Victor’s experiments go horribly too far and only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation. Radcliffe, who recently got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is high on this film, promoting it in a blitz of media interviews. In these same interviews, he disclosed that the end of “Harry Potter” films led him to sow some wild oats, including drinking too much (but he’s now completely sober).

“Victor F” was written by MAX LANDIS, 30, the son of director JOHN LANDIS, 65 (“Blues Brothers”, “Animal House,” and the scary “Thriller” video). Max’s mother DEBORAH NADOOLMAN LANDIS, 62, is an Oscar-nominated costume designer. She and John have been married for 35 years.  Max’s writing credits include “Chronicle” (2012), a smallish budget sci-fi film that became a surprise box office smash.

The new comedic Netflix series, “Master of None,” was created by, and is written by, Indian-American Aziz Ansari and Chinese-American Alan Wang. The first season’s central character, Dev (Ansari), is a first generation Indian-American trying to make it as an actor.  There are interesting parallels between how Dev, a pretty assimilated American, “navigates” in the wider American world and the Jewish experience in overwhelmingly non-Jewish American society (being pretty much comfortable with the dominant culture—but still often standing outside it). 

The first season features H. JON BENJAMIN, 49, as “Benjamin,” Dev’s friend and his co-star in a movie they hope will get made; NOAH EMMERICH, 50, as the husband of a woman (Claire Danes) who Dev has a one-night stand with; and LYNN COHEN, 82, as the nice, non-racist grandma of Dev’s white girlfriend. The series has got very good reviews and Cohen, who played Miranda’s nanny, Magda, on “Sex and the City” says about the show's scripts: “This is great to see something like this. I don’t normally get stuff that’s as rich as this.”

Getting not-so-good reviews is the USA network sit-com, “Donny!,” starring top (real-life) advertising man DONNY DEUTCH, 57, as a fictional version of himself. It premiered on November 10 and probably will not get renewed. Deutch, who really has no acting experience, isn’t bad as an actor—but the show’s largely improvised writing fails him. Too bad, because I’ve liked to watch Deutch spiel on talk shows like “Morning Joe.” I recall once that ultra-conservative pundit Ann Coulter made some snarky remark about “people of faith” all hating something (I don’t recall what that “something” was). Deutch said he didn’t hate it and Coulter said “you’re a non-practicing Jew” and Deutch said, “That’s not true” (implying he practiced and was, therefore, a person of faith). This reply brought Coulter up short and, for once, she shut-up.

Nice Observation for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the best “all-American” holiday. Even though it began in ultra-WASP 17th century New England, it lends itself to being celebrated by every immigrant group and it easily incorporates differing culinary, ethnic and religious traditions. One bonus is that such different traditions often mix during the holiday. Last week, actor JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (whose parents are both Jewish) was asked on the “Today Show” how his family celebrated the holiday.  “Even though we are not Armenian”, he said, “my mother makes a very good Armenian cake because her mother, who isn’t Armenian, either, found a good recipe in an Armenian recipe book”—and—the actor added, “That’s the beauty of the United States of America, we eat Armenian cake and guacamole in my house.”

Singing as She Floats By

Last July, I reported that RACHEL PLATTEN, 34, had broken out as a star with her feminist empowerment song, “Fight Club,” which was then near the top of the charts. Since then, “Fight Club” has gone on to sell over 2 million downloads. Her follow up single, “Stand By You,” released in September, and promoted by almost “BFF” Taylor Swift, is doing very well. Her big-time success continues today as she appears as one of the musical guests featured during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC). She’ll be on a float and they will cut to her and she'll perform mostly new material. (Check NBC on-line/Youtube if you read this after the live parade broadcast).


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