Jews in the News: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachen Platten and Carole King

At and About the Movies

Opening on July 24 is “Paper Towns,” a coming-of-age story (with comedy and drama) from John Green’s best-selling novel of the same name. Green says that he “assumed" that lead characters (Margo and Quentin) were Jewish, but only Margo is explicitly identified as Jewish in the text (a bare reference to her bat mitzvah money). Quentin Jacobsen (NAT WOLFF, 20) is a high school student who harbors an almost lifelong unrequited love for Margo Roth Speigelman, the girl next door.  The action takes off when Margo (Cara Delevinge) mysteriously disappears and Quentin follows clues that Margo may have left as to her whereabouts.  HALSTON SAGE, 22, and AUSTIN ABRAMS, 18, have big supporting roles as friends who help Quentin in his search. (By the way, the book is set in Orlando).

 “Southpaw”, which opens the same day, stars JAKE GYLLENHAAL, 34, as Billy Hope, a light-heavy weight fighter who, as the film begins, is on top of the world: he’s made it up from the streets to the championship; he has a beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and a lovely young daughter. But this all comes to an end when his wife is murdered and he goes into a personal tailspin which forces family services to take away his daughter. A principled, small-time boxing trainer (Forest Whitaker) takes Billy on and helps him clean-up his act and fight once again—with the aim of redemption and the return of his daughter. By the way, Gyllenhaal really bulked-up for the role and is almost unrecognizable.

“The Stanford Prison Experiment”, which opens in limited released on the 24th, is based on a real 1971 psychology experiment in which a small group of students played prison guards or prisoners under the supervision of Stanford professor Phillip Zimbardo. Billy Crudup plays Zimbardo, with OLIVIA THIRLBY, 28, playing Christine Maslach Zimbardo, currently a Univ. of Calif. psychology professor. When she was a grad student, Ms. Zimbardo persuaded her husband to stop the experiment early because brutality had occurred. The brutality of the “guards” led to a “prisoner” revolt, led by student Daniel Culp (played by EZRA MILLER, 22).

Because “Stanford” got so/so reviews in film festival showings, you may have to wait for the DVD/streaming version to see this film. It’s probably worth seeing, however, based on the extraordinary performance by Miller, which has been singled out by virtually every critic.  Nothing is certain, but I think it is highly probable that Miller will earn a raft of Oscar nominations in the years to come. He has a talent and intensity I have only seen in a handful of actors. He’s really something special and you should check him out in roles to date.

ROGER REES, 71, died on July 10. The Welsh-born actor’s notable roles included rich guy Robin Colcord on “Cheers”,  Frida Kahlo’s father in “Frida”, and the Sheriff of Rottingham in the MEL BROOKS’ satire, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”.  In 2011, he wed his partner of 33 years, playwright and stage producer RICK ELICE, now 58. Elice is a quite religious Jew who wanted to be cantor in his youth. The couple belonged to Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a New York Reform synagogue.  In 2013, Elice told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles about Rees’ conversion in 1983. Elice first explained that part of Rees’ reason for converting was to seek in the Jewish community a sense of belonging that had been lost with the death of all of the members of Rees’ immediate family. But the conversion was strictly Rees’ idea. Elice said, “He didn’t tell me about his conversion until he came back from the mikveh. I was so moved that I wept.”

Musical Notes

As I write this, the single “Fight Song” has reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was written and is performed by RACHEL PLATTEN, 33, who has had considerable success since her first CD was released in 2003. But a top ten single is a first for her. On July 14, she joined Taylor Swift on-stage to sing her hit. She told “People”: “I had a moment of 'Oh my gosh my dreams are coming true'. Even though it's not my own crowd yet, I felt like that was exactly the moment I'd always dreamed about."  Nice to note: In 2012, Platten married attorney KEVIN LAZAN, 34, in a traditional Jewish wedding.

Last week it was announced that musical legend CAROLE KING, 73, is one of five artists selected to receive Kennedy Center Honors this year. The awards ceremony and concert will take place in December.



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