Jews in the News: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Harvey Keitel and Carol King

At the Movies: Opening This Week

“Carol” is already the critics’ darling, winning the highest award at Cannes and five Golden Globe nods, including best film, director (TODD HAYNES, 54), and best actress (co-stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara).  The film is set in the 1950s, like Haynes’ highly-praised film, “Far From Heaven” (2002). Like “Heaven” it involves concealed gay relationships.  Carol is a high society woman, in the midst of a difficult divorce, who chances to meet a much younger store clerk (Mara). The relationship that develops gives Carol’s neglectful husband ammunition in a custody fight for their young daughter.

Quentin Tarantino’s new film, “The Hateful Eight”, is set in the Wild West, not long after the end of the Civil War. The plot is long and complex: suffice it to say it begins with a bounty hunger (Kurt Russell) taking a fugitive (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 53) to be hung. Things don’t go smoothly as they run into bad weather and, of course, a raft of “Tarantino-esque” odd-ball characters.  Leigh has received a best supporting actress Golden Globe nomination for this film (it’s her third Golden Globe nod). Leigh is low-key about her personal life, rarely talking about her late father (actor VIC MORROW) or her Oscar-nominated screenplay writer mother (BARBARA TURNER, 79). So, its no surprise that’s she’s never talked about what a personal source told me: her mother’s family was very active assisting Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s.(The two films above open on Dec. 24 in Cincinnati)

DAVID O. RUSSELL, 58, has made scored three big hits with his last three films (“The Fighter,” “American Hustle”, and “Silver Linings Playbook”). The first and third featured a family rallying together in a time of crisis. They were made more real by being so true to details like the economic problems and ethnic background of the characters.  “Silver Lining” co-stars Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper also co-star in his new film “Joy”. Lawrence stars as Joy Mangano, a real-life, working class woman who founded a big cleaning products company with the help of four generations of her family. DeNiro plays her father, with Cooper playing a "QVC"  exec who aids her. MELISSA RIVERS, 47, has a cameo playing her late mother, JOAN, who sold tons of jewelry on the QVC home shopping network. Lawrence got a Globe Globe nom (best actress) for “Joy” and the film is also up for best drama.

“Youth”, which has received lukewarm reviews, stars Michael Caine, 82, as Fred, an acclaimed composer, who vacations with his daughter (RACHEL WEISZ, 45) and his best friend, Mick (HARVEY KEITEL, 76), a famous filmmaker. Mick is still professionally active, while Fred seems happily retired. They talk about their past and what their experiences mean in the present.  I’ll probably see this film as a tribute to Michael Caine, whose down-to-earth likability is irresistible, as his embrace of diversity. Here’s Caine on his background “My father was Catholic, my mother was a Protestant, so I became Protestant because she had the upper hand. I was educated by Jews in a Jewish school because of accident of geography and the War …and I am married to a Muslim.” (His school, “Hackney Down Grocers”, wasn’t a Jewish private school, but a very good public school with a predominately Jewish student body and some Jewish teachers. It became known as the ‘Jewish Eton’ and the nursery of Britain's intellectual Jewish community.) [All the above films open 'wide' on the 25th. However, "Youth" and "Carol" will not play the Tampa area until sometime next year]

Kennedy Center Honors

Each year, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., holds a gala to honor artists for lifetime achievements. The gala was held earlier this month and will be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 29. The honorees this year are: conductor Seiji Ozawa, actress Cicely Tyson, actress and singer Rita Moreno, and singer-songwriter CAROLE KING, 73.  Reports say that Aretha Franklin’s bravura performance of King's “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” was the highlight of the awards ceremony.

Since everyone knows who Carole King is---here’s two fun facts you might not know: (1) the lyrics of “Natural Woman” and another, very ‘female’ King song, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” were actually written by the late GERRY GOFFIN,  King’s ex-husband and her writing partner from 1958-1968. King has said, in effect, that their marriage might have endured if Goffin's relations with women were as “perfect” as his “woman-friendly” lyrics. (2) King’s father, SIDNEY KLEIN, was a New York City firefighter lieutenant. He established a rural Connecticut summer vacation residence for New York City Jewish firefighters.


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