Jews in the News: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joshua Levine and Jerry Seinfeld

Good Time: Make a Note

I confess, I had barely heard of filmmaker brothers JOSH and BEN SAFDIE before reading the amazingly good reviews for their new film “Good Time” (opens Friday, August 11 in limited release). Born and raised in New York, they are distantly related to famous Israeli architect MOSHE SAFDIE, 78. The Safdies are independent filmmakers who previously have made two low-budget feature films and one documentary. Those films also got very good notices. “Good Time” may be their breakthrough film and make a note to see it (theater or home) if you can handle its harrowing subject matter.

Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”) gives what “Variety calls a “career high in [a] nervy thriller.”  He plays Conny, a scuzzy career criminal.  A botched bank robbery he participated in lands his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (played by Ben Safadie, 31), in jail. Over the course of one long night, Conny delves into the underworld and engages in spasms of violence in a desperate and dangerous attempt to get his brother out of jail. The supporting cast is equally praised by “Variety”, including JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 55, Conny’s “incandescently wasted girlfriend.”

Josh, 33, and Ben directed the film, and Josh and RONALD BRONSTEIN, 43, wrote the screenplay. My guess is that Hollywood has finally noticed the brothers and is now trying to get them to direct somewhat more popular material. Time will tell.

Summer Hits: Jewish Connections

The surprise comedy hit of this summer is “Girls Trip,” a genuinely funny film with finely crafted characters. It’s about four lifelong African American female friends who renew their sisterhood during a trip to New Orleans. Every critic agrees the breakthrough star of this film is Tiffany Haddish, 37. She’s best known as a stand-up comedian. Haddish, who had an incredibly hard childhood, says her life was saved when a social worker sent to her to “Comedy Camp,” a free summer comedy performance workshop for underprivileged children at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles. Now in its 32nd year, the camp was founded by the club’s owner, JAMIE MASADA, now 67, a Persian Jew. (Masada also puts on free High Holiday services at his club).

Haddish’s father left shortly after her birth because the police were after him for selling fake green cards. She found her father, Tsihaye Reda Haddish, living in Virginia in 2008. Tshihaye told Tiffany he was an Eritrean Jew (Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia). If her father was telling the truth, Tiffany is now the most famous American of Ethiopian/Eritrean Jewish ancestry.

The summer’s dramatic hit is, of course, “Dunkirk.” Director Christopher Nolan also wrote the screenplay, but he gives great credit to historian JOSHUA LEVINE, 45ish, who wrote the companion book to the film, “Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture.” Nolan and Levine interviewed Dunkirk veterans for several years before the film began production. Levine was born in the Bahamas, became an English barrister, and then chucked that for a short-lived acting career and, finally, a career as an independent historian. Since 2006, he’s written three other books on aspects of WWII history, as well as other works. In an Aug. 2 interview with, Levine succinctly summed up what the miracle of Dunkirk meant to Jews and to every European enemy of Hitler: “I’m Jewish. If the British had come to terms with Hitler, well, you know I wouldn’t be here today. Effectively, the whole of Europe would have been Nazified. All the freedoms, all the liberties, everything that we take for granted in this country [Britain] would have been bled away.”

The “Dunkirk” score was written by frequent Nolan collaborator HANS ZIMMER, 59. Nolan says: “Hans’ unique score drives the visceral sense of action the film needs to put the audience right into the story, using images, sound, and music.”

Jerry’s Favorite Joke and See Icarus

JERRY SEINFELD, 63, recently appeared on comedian Norm MacDonald’s podcast. He told MacDonald that he would tell him the “best Jew joke of all-time” but that MacDonald and other non-Jews probably wouldn’t get it. The joke: “Two Gentile businessmen meet on the street. One of them says, ‘How’s business?’ The other one says, “Great.” As Jerry predicted, MacDonald did not understand it.

“Icarus,” a smash at the Sundance Film Festival, premiered on August 4 on Netflix. It’s a documentary about doping in sports (especially in Russia). The director and on-camera star of “Icarus” is BRYAN FOGEL, 43. You might know him as the author of the comedy play “Jewtopia.”


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