At the Movies: Opening Friday, Nov. 3 (with an aside)
“Thor: Ragnarok” is a Marvel Studios flick based on the Thor comic book character. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in a race to save his whole civilization from his evil sister, the goddess Hela (Cate Blanchett). JEFF GOLDBLUM, 65, has a big supporting part as the Grandmaster, an “Elder of the Universe” who enjoys manipulating others. The film’s director, TAIKIA WAITITI, 42, gave Goldblum some license to improvise “to make the character his own.” Grandmaster has blue skin in the comics. However, Waititi opted to not use blue skin make-up so that more of Goldblum’s personality came through.
Waititi, a New Zealander, is the son of a Maori (native Polynesian) father and a Jewish mother (for a time, the director used “Cohen,” his mother’s maiden name, as his last name). “Thor” represents Waititi’s move into big-money, big-time filmmaking. A 2004 short film he made attracted notice and this was followed by him helming three small-budget feature films that got great reviews. Almost as important to Hollywood: all three films earned five times what they cost to make.
By coincidence, last week the UK “Jewish Chronicle” profiled actor COOPER ANDREWS, 30ish, another Jew with South Pacific roots. He plays Jerry, a big axe-wielding bodyguard on the hit TV series “The Walking Dead.” His American Jewish mother, a Peace Corps volunteer, had a brief relationship with his Samoan father while stationed in Samoa. He was raised on Long Island by his mother.
“Wonderstruck” is based on an acclaimed juvenile fiction novel of the same name by BRIAN SELZNICK, 51. He also wrote the “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which was adapted into a hit film. The film version of “Wonderstruck,” like the book, follows a deaf young girl in 1927 and a boy suddenly struck deaf in 1977. Eventually the two stories are tied-up. The cast includes Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. (Limited release on Nov. 3, wide release Nov. 10)
The director is TODD HAYNES, 56 (“Carol”, “Certain Women”). Haynes’ mother is Jewish and, while he is secular, he identifies as Jewish.
On Oct. 24, superstar rapper DRAKE celebrated his 31st birthday via what he called a “Re-bar mitzvah.” Before the party, Drake hinted at what was to come by posting to Instagram a photo of a board at his real bar mitzvah (a cardboard board with pasted photos of him as a baby and toddler which bar mitzvah guests signed). The “Re-bar mitzvah” was really just a big party—but it included touches like pizza boxes with a photo of Drake, age 13—and red plastic Solo cups imprinted with the words, “Aubrey’s Re-Bar Mitzvah.” Aubrey Drake Graham is Drake’s birth name.
Last month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the nominees for induction in 2018. You have until Dec. 5 to vote for nominees. Just “Google” “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vote” and you’ll quickly find the vote page. It’s easy to vote.
The Jewish nominees this year are: DAVID BRYAN, 55, keyboardist (as a member of the band “Bon Jovi”); ELLIOT EASTON, 63, lead guitarist (as a member of the band “The Cars”); BRAD WILK, 49, drummer (as a member of the band “Rage Against the Machine”) and the J. Geils Band. Everybody in the J. Geils band except for the late J.Geils, himself, is Jewish: PETER WOLF, 71, lead singer/songwriter; SETH JUSTMAN, 66, keyboardist; DANNY KLEIN, 71, bass guitar; “Magic” DICK SALWITZ, 71, harmonica; and STEPHEN JO BLADD, 75, drummer.
I have to say something about Mark Knopfler and his brother, Dave Knopfler, who are nominated as members of the famous band Dire Straits. Mark really was the center of Dire Straits and it’s likely they will get into the Hall. The brothers’ father was Jewish by birth, but defined himself as a “Marxist.” In every interview I’ve seen, Mark (who I don’t think is religious) has resisted having the description “Jewish” or “half Jewish” applied to him. When asked, he mentions his father’s politics and moves on quickly.
Honorable mention goes to the English band Radiohead, which is immensely popular in Israel having played there 8 times since 1993. This past summer, Radiohead defied calls to boycott Israel and played there again. Lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood (a Hall of Fame nominee as a member of the band) is married to Israel-born artist SHARONA KATAN and he has professionally collaborated with Israeli musicians. Greenwood and Katan’s kids all have Hebrew names: TAMIR, OMRI, and ZOHAR.