Jews in the News: Josh Radnor, Ben Rappaport and Rachel Morrison

TV Series Catch-Up

Two very different TV series premiered last Tuesday at the same time (10PM). Over on NBC, there's "Rise," a musical drama based on the non-fiction book "Drama High" (2013) by MICHAEL SOKOLOVE, 61. He grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar community which has been in an economic slump for decades. But it has had at least one great thing going for it: Lou Volpe, a recently retired teacher who ran, for 45 years, a nationally acclaimed theater program at Levittown’s only high school. JOSH RADNOR, 43, stars in “Rise,” playing a character, Lou Mazzuchelli, who is based on Volpe. Radnor, the former star of “How I Met Your Mother,” is a practicing Jew and a practicing musician. Late last year, he released a CD in collaboration with Australian Jewish musician BEN LEE, 39.

“For the People” is an ABC series which focuses on new lawyers working for the prosecution and the defense as they litigate criminal cases before the Federal court in New York City. BEN RAPPAPORT, 32, plays Seth Oliver, a newly minted assistant U.S. attorney. The other tribe member in the cast, BEN SHENKMAN, 49, plays the head of the federal prosecution unit. Rappaport, a handsome fellow who grew up in a religious home in Houston, has appeared in a few recurring TV roles (including “The Good Wife”). Shenkman was a regular on the TBS comedy “Royal Pains” (Dr. Sacani) and Emmy nominated for his performance in the HBO production of “Angels in America.” 

 At the Movies: “7 Days at Entebbe”

“7 Days” is the fifth movie to dramatize the famous Israeli raid in 1976 that rescued 102 Israelis from captivity at Uganda’s Entebbe airport. The Israelis had been passengers on an Air France plane that was hijacked by four German far-left radicals and several Palestinians. The film is directed by Brazilian Jose Padilha, who is best known for hit Brazilian action pics and for directing two episodes of the Netflix series “Narcos”. I’ll cut here to the bottom line: based on many film festival reviews---don’t waste your money on a theater showing—but if you are fascinated by the raid—do rent it to get another take.

Leading reviewers (“Hollywood Reporter,” “Variety,” “The Guardian,” etc.) say that the film is curiously flat. The most controversial detail is the death of raid leader YONI NETANYAHU (the brother of the current Israeli PM) at the start of the raid and not near its climax, as many reports said—and the other films depicted. Padhila says he relied on info from Entebbe raid commandos. Most critics think the depiction of the Germans is too sympathetic. On the other hand, the Palestinians, reviews say, are not “gussied up”. The best part, all reviews agree, is the depiction of the arguments between Prime Minister YITZHAK RABIN and others about what to do. (Opens Mar. 16)

Much Better Late Than Never

A reliable source just told me that I failed to include a notable Jewish Oscar nominee in my recent coverage: RACHEL MORRISON, 39, the first woman in Oscar history to be nominated for the (best) cinematographer Oscar. Morrison was nominated for shooting “Mudbound.”  She is almost a cinch for another Oscar nomination next year: she was the cinematographer for this year’s mega-mega hit “Black Panther.”  Born and raised in Cambridge, Mass., the daughter of a doctor, Morrison didn’t have an easy childhood. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Rachel was 4 and died when she was 14.  Morrison told “Time” that she turned to photography and home movies to capture her childhood’s fleeting happy moments and freeze them in time.

Morrison said that it took her shooting 11 indie films until she was given a chance to shoot a “studio” movie. Men, she said, usually got a studio “gig” after 2 or 3 good indie films. But there’s progress, she says. Women she’s mentored now get a studio gig after 2-3 indie films, like the men.  Her breakthough film was “Fruitvale Station” (2013), a hit indie film directed by African-American Ryan Coogler. Coogler had another hit with “Creed” and had the “juice” to make “Black Panther” and to hire Morrison to shoot a big-budget comic-based spectacular. Morrison is the first woman to be the cinematographer on this type of film.  There’s a very good interview with Morrison on the Time magazine website. It includes a brief video with pics of her family.  Click here to watch.


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