Jews in the News: Maya Rudolph, Noah Emmerich and Nat Faxon

Native American Thriller, Givin’ Away Billions, and Something Wilder“Dark Winds” is an eight-episode psychological thriller that began streaming on AMC and AMC+ on June 12. It is based on a series of best-selling, and critically acclaimed novels written by the late Tony Hillerman. The books, and AMC series, center on two Native American reservation police officers. NOAH EMMERICH, 57, has a major supporting role in “Dark Winds” as Whitover, a burned-out FBI agent whose career is dying.

It’s nice to note that “Dark Winds” is a big critical hit. Earlier this year, Emmerich played another FBI agent in the Apple+ mystery/thriller series “Suspicion”. The first episode was interesting, and the acting was fine. However, I joined most critics in thinking that it didn’t provide enough clever twists to justify watching 8, one-hour episodes.  

“Loot” is a 10-episode comedy that begins streaming on Apple+ on June 24. Molly Novak (MAYA RUDOLPH, 47) lives a dream-like, luxurious life. She is married to a super-duper-rich high-tech billionaire (played by Adam Scott).

Her life crashes when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. She goes into a major depression that is hardly relieved when she snares a world-record 87-billion-dollar divorce settlement.

Molly is brought out of her blues when she gets a call from Sofia, an employee of Molly’s charitable foundation—a foundation Molly didn’t even know she had. Molly latches on to Sofia, and the Foundation staff, as a lifeline out of her depression.

Molly’s new life purpose is to help others with her riches. Of course, there’s a lot of humor contrasting the rich cocoon that Molly has long lived-in with “the real world.”

NAT FAXON, 46, has a co-starring, “main cast” role. He plays Arthur, an accountant. Faxon has many comedy series acting credits and he was the co-winner of a best screenplay Oscar (“The Descendants”, 2011). Faxon’s mother is Jewish and he’s secular. His maternal grandfather fled Nazi Germany in 1938.

Another refugee from the Nazis, the truly amazing director/writer BILLY WILDER (1906-2002), is going to be the subject of an upcoming, “sort-of” bio-pic. I was excited when the film was announced a couple of weeks ago. Then details about the film came out, and I’m not so happy.  I think the planned film probably won’t be of interest to anyone except the “really arty”.

Who was Wilder?  Well, many say he was the greatest “all-around” film creator of the 20th century—the depth and breadth of his talents is astonishing. There is really no way to briefly convey his incredible life and his works. But I’ll try to make you curious enough to read a long bio on-line.

He was born Shmuel Vild to middle-class Polish Jewish parents.  The whole family moved to Vienna around 1920. Wilder was a journalist in Vienna, before moving to Berlin in 1926. By 1929, he was a screenwriter.  The hit German films he wrote or co-write ushered in a new era of realism in German cinema.

He fled from the Nazis in 1933 and settled in America. He learned English by listening to the radio hour-after-hour for several months. Months after he learned English, he began writing really good American (English) movie scripts for Hollywood studios.  His first big hit (as a writer) was the great comedy “Ninotchka” (1939). He co-wrote more hits, and was given a chance to direct in 1942. The 3rd film he directed (and co-wrote) was the classic film-noir “Double Indemnity” (1944).

He went on to direct and co-write classic-after-classic. Some were dramas, and many were comedies. Here are the biggest hits: “Sunset Boulevard”, “Stalag 17”, “Lost Weekend”, “Sabrina”, “The Seven Year Itch”, “Some Like It Hot”, “The Apartment”, and “The Fortune Cookie”. He won six Oscars (2 for directing, four for screenplays).

The film about Wilder is based on a novel by Brit writer Jonathan Coe about the making of “Fedora” (1978), a Wilder film that got mostly bad reviews when it opened and flopped at the box office. Its reputation has really rose over the years.

STEPHEN FREARS, 80, a top British director, will helm the bio-pic. Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, a Vienna native, will play Wilder. Both have Jewish ties—Frear’s mother was Jewish and his wife is Jewish. Waltz’s first wife was Jewish—and their 3 children were raised Jewish.

In interviews, Wilder was a funny, smart man with an infectious joy-of-life personality. I think a film about Wilder making a very hard-to-make film that flopped almost can’t help but “bury” the “delightful” Wilder I’ve seen myself.  I hope I am wrong.


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