Jews in the News: Oscar Time!

JEFFREY KATZENBERG, 62, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation studio, will receive the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The award, which is not given every year, is given to an individual whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the movie industry. Katzenberg and his wife of 37 years, MARILYN SIEGEL KATZENBERG, have given many millions of dollars to educational, medical, and Jewish charities.  


Acting categories


Best actor: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, 55, "Lincoln"; and JOAQUIN PHOENIX, 38, "The Master." Both these actors are the sons of Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers; both are secular as adults; and, to be frank, their Jewish ties are not a significant part of their lives.


Best supporting actor: ALAN ARKIN, 78, "Argo." This is Arkin's 4th Oscar nomination (two for best actor in the '60s, and a win for best supporting actor in 2006 for "Little Miss Sunshine.") His Oscar win was, as with many older actors, in the nature of a lifetime achievement award and that sentimental momentum isn't with him this time.


Best supporting actress: Helen Hunt, 49, "The Sessions." Hunt's paternal grandmother was Jewish. She's nominated for playing (real life) sex therapist CHERYL COHEN-GREENE, 68, a convert to Judaism.  Last October, and again last week, I spoke to Greene. She couldn't be happier with the film. Her whirlwind life since the movie's release includes recently meeting a "hero" of her's, Dr. RUTH WESTHEIMER, 84, the famous sex advice expert and---this may surprise many--a combat veteran of the Israeli War of Independence. Greene described Dr. Ruth as "a real sweetie."


Directing, Music, Screenplay, Documentaries, Animated, Best Picture


Best director: BENH ZEITLIN, "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Zeitlin, who is only 30, and was a bar mitzvah, made his fantasy film for less than 2 million dollars and is the 'dark horse wunderkind' of this year's Oscars. Both his parents are folklorists (his father is Jewish; his mother raised Protestant) and his father has written several compilations of Jewish stories, folk wisdom, and mythology. The funeral scene in "Beasts" was influenced by Jewish thought, Zeitlin recently said — specifically the midrash of two ships, one leaving the harbor as another heads for shore, which suggests that one should rejoice over the returning ship, just as one should celebrate the death of a righteous man.



Best director: STEVEN SPIELBERG, 66, "Lincoln."  After this film, previous screen depictions of Lincoln now seem like unrealistic exercises in hero worship. Spielberg's Lincoln is a very human-sized man who deftly worked our often sordid political system to end slavery forever and he emerges more heroic than ever before because we know what real-life skill and determination it took to accomplish what he did. Likewise, before "Schindler's List," there was no feature film that captured the scope and detail of the Holocaust----and before Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," no film really captured the terror and heroism of the D-Day landings. 


Best director: DAVID O. RUSSELL, 54, "Silver Linings Playbook." Russell, who was raised secular, is the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother.


Best original song: "Suddenly" from "Les Misérables." Music by CLAUDE-MICHEL SCHONBERG, 67; Lyric by HERBERT KRETZMER, 87, and ALAIN BOUBIL, 72. Schonberg and Boubil are French Jews who wrote the original stage version of "Les Misérables." Kretzmer, an English Jew, wrote the lyrics for the English-language version of the stage show. All three wrote a new (now-nominated) song for the film version; 


Best adapted screenplay: Zeitlin ("Beasts.."); TONY KUSHNER, 56, "Lincoln"; Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook". 


Best original screenplay: MARK BOAL, 39, "Zero Dark Thirty."


Documentary (feature length): "Five Broken Cameras," about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, co-directed by Israeli GUY DAVID, 34; "The Gatekeepers": interviews with six former heads of Mossad; directed by Israeli DROR MOREH, 52; and "The Invisible War," about sexual assault in the American military; produced by AMY ZIERING, 50. 


Documentary (short length): "Kings Point," about (mostly) Jewish seniors in Florida; directed by SARI GILMAN, 47.


Best animated short film: "The Longest Daycare," DAVID SILVERMAN, 55. Silverman has been the top animator for "The Simpsons" TV show since it began. He also directed "The Simpsons Movie" and co-directed "Monsters, Inc." "Daycare" features child character Maggie Simpson. It shows how she ultimately overcomes bullying. There is no dialogue in this four-minute film, which was universally praised by critics as harkening back to the tender human emotions found in the early seasons of "The Simpsons."


The best picture Oscar goes to a film's principal producers. Here are the best pic nominees with a "confirmed" Jewish producer:  GRANT HESLOV, 47, "Argo"; ERIC FELLNER, 53, Les Misérables"; Spielberg, "Lincoln"; Boal, "Zero Dark Thirty";  and STACEY SHER, 50,"Django Unchained." 


Honorable mention:  Best supporting actor nominee Christoph Walz, 56, ("Django Unchained"), an Austrian, was previously married to an American Jewish woman and, at last report, their son was studying to be a rabbi in Israel. Walz's grandfather, a prominent non-Jewish Austrian psychiatrist, came to the States in 1935. He left behind two ex-wives in Austria. One was not Jewish (Walz's grandmother) and one was Jewish. The Jewish ex-wife was hidden in a cellar by her daughter, Walz's "half-aunt," for four years during the Holocaust and she survived the Nazis.


Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Most of the items in Bloom’s weekly newspaper column differ from the items in his bi-weekly column on interfaith celebrities for If you wish to contact Nate Bloom, e-mail him at  .  The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.



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