Asner, Trust Me: A Good Holidays Movie, and Best of Summer
I feel I have to note the passing of ED ASNER, age 91, even though there are good “Jewish-themed” obits in many sources, including the JTA and the Forward newspaper. I enjoyed his acting, admired his activism, and was in awe as decade-after-decade he stayed busy in film, TV, and stage roles. Every year, this column mentioned Asner at least once because he was always in something new—and I knew he would be good in it.
I can suggest you read two (free, on-line) articles for a better sense of the man. On August 26, the Hollywood Reporter posted an interview they did with Asner on Aug. 16, just 13 days before his death. Simply search for “Ed Asner Reflects on the Golden Age” and “Hollywood Reporter” and you’ll find it (or click here: Ed Asner Reflects on Golden Age of TV, Date With Mary Tyler Moore – The Hollywood Reporter)
The questions are good and each stage of his life is covered (youth, college, time in the army, career milestones). It reads like a mini-autobiography and you can “hear” Asner’s voice as you read it. His wry sense of humor is on display from the first question on. That first question is about how his birth name, Itzhak, “morphed” into Edward—and Asner makes a slightly risqué Yiddish joke about his name.
Later in the interview, Asner relates how he got the Lou Grant role. The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-creator, JAMES L. BROOKS, didn’t like the way Asner read his audition lines. He told Asner, “We want you to read it all-out, like a crazy, wild, meshuga, nutso.” Asner did it that way and got the part.
Also check out the “Variety” article entitled “James L. Brooks pays Tribute to Ed Asner”. Brooks, a 3-time Oscar winner, described Asner as a team player who helped set a harmonious and respectful tone for the work environment and always kept his eye on what was good for the show. Brooks, now 81, said: “He was a beautiful actor. He was just as deeply a good guy as everybody sensed he was.” (Click here: Ed Asner Remembered as 'Beautiful' Actor by James L. Brooks - Variety)
“Arrangement” (2007) is a little-known film that I just watched and enjoyed a great deal. It’s a feel-good, very Jewish story that fits in, I think, with the joyful spirit of the High Holidays. ZOE LISTER-JONES, now 38, stars as a 22-year-old Orthodox woman who has just begun teaching at a Brooklyn public school. She becomes friends with another teacher, a religious American-born Muslim woman about her age. Both accept that their marriages will be arranged, but they want the right guy. (The film isn’t “touchy-feely” and doesn’t ignore Muslim/Jewish tension).
Necessary spoiler: the ending is happy and that’s nice for the Holidays. Neither woman breaks with their community. They deftly use all the “openings” available to them to get what they want. (On Amazon Prime, free with ads; also free on the Tubi film app and on the Kanopy app).
The Washington Post recently published a list of “The 7 Best Shows of Summer”. Six of the praise-worthy have a Jewish connection: (1) “Blindspotting” is a Starz original series that is based on the critically-acclaimed 2018 film of the same name. The film followed 2 friends, one black (DAVEED DIGGS, 39) and one white (Rafael Casal), as they coped with many things, including gentrification. Diggs and Casal co-wrote the film. Diggs doesn’t act in the series, but helps write the scripts. The series follows Casal’s mixed-race family. (2) “Dave”, an FX series available on Hulu, stars DAVE BURD, 33, as a Jewish “novelty act" rapper trying to jump start a career. Now in its 2nd season, it’s a surprise hit, with its “soulfulness” widely praised; (3) “Evil” is now streaming on Paramount Plus. It is a “demon-of-the-week” series. It was co-created by Robert and MICHELLE KING, 63 (“The Good Wife”). (4) “Reservation Dogs”, a comedy on FX (Hulu), is the first series about present-day Native Americans whose entire cast is Native American. The creator is famous director/writer Taiki Waititi (“Jo Jo Rabbit”). He calls himself “half Jewish”, although his ancestry is less than half. (5) “The Other Two” began last year on the Comedy Channel, but just moved over (2nd season) to HBO Max. It follows an adult sister and brother struggling to make it in show-biz as their 13-year-old brother becomes an overnight internet singing sensation. This dramedy series was co-created by former SNL head writer SARAH SCHNEIDER, 37; and (6) “White Lotus” on HBO. As previously noted, FRED HECHINGER, 23, had a big role in the first season of this dramedy.