Jews in the News: Patricia Arquette, Hans Zimmer and Andrew Lazar

The Tribe on the Red Carpet: Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are being presented on Sunday, Feb. 22 (8:30PM, ABC). Neil Patrick Harris is the host.  Here are the Jewish nominees in all but the technical categories.

Best supporting actress: PATRICIA ARQUETTE, 46, for “Boyhood”. Here’s a little insight into Arquette’s background, as reported in 2011, by the Brit paper, The Telegraph: “The classic middle child, the mother hen, was brought up to question authority, to believe that anything was possible, even religious harmony: her father was Muslim [by conversion], her mother Jewish, and she was sent to a Catholic school. She was harshly disabused of that idea when, at the age of five or six, a teacher told her that she couldn’t take communion because ‘your mother is Jewish and she’s going to hell’. ‘You know what,’ responded the young Arquette, who until that moment had wanted to be a nun, ‘I think your Jesus and my Jesus are different.’ “(While sincerely religious/spiritual, Arquette doesn’t follow any organized religion. Her sister, ROSANNA, 55, is the most Jewish-affiliated of the acting family. She had her only child with a Jewish husband and is now married to another, religious Jewish guy).

Best director: BENNETT MILLER, 48, “Foxcatcher”; Best original screenplay, DAN FUTTERMAN, 47, “Foxcatcher” (with E. Max Frye, who isn’t Jewish). Futterman’s wife, ANYA EPSTEIN, 44, is the granddaughter of the late Philip Epstein, who was a co-winner of the 1943 screenplay Oscar for “Casablanca”, Best adapted screenplay: GRAHAM MOORE, 32, “The Imitation Game”. Moore’s mother, SUSAN SHER, 68, formerly served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and she was also White House liaison to the Jewish community.

Best documentary, feature length: John Maloof, who is Lebanese-American and not Jewish, and CHARLIE SISKEL, 44, who is Jewish (he’s the nephew of the late film critic GENE SISKIEL), for “Finding Vivian Maier”. Best Live Action Short Film:  ODED BINNUM and MIHAL BREZIS,  who are both Israeli, for the French-Israeli film, “Aya,” a film about a young woman waiting an airport who has an unexpected encounter with an arriving passenger. Reports say the filmmakers are now working on a feature length version of “Aya”.

Best original score: HANS ZIMMER, 57, “Interstellar.” This is his 9th original score nomination (he won for “The Lion King”)—and GARY YERSHON, 60, “Mr. Turner.”Yershon, an English Jewish composer, often works with MIKE LEGIH, 71, the English Jewish director/writer of “Mr. Turner”.  Yershon wrote a klezmer-infused score for Leigh’s 2005 play about Jewish family life, “Two Thousand Years.” Best original song: DIANE WARREN, 58, “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights.” This is the 7th best song Oscar nomination for Warren, a top selling pop/rock songwriter who was first nominated in 1987. One of her biggest hits, “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” (1998), also got an Oscar nomination.

Best cinematography: EMANUEL LUBEZKI , 51, “Birdman”. Born and raised in Mexico, Lubezki now lives mostly in the States. This is his 6th Oscar nomination. He won last year for “Gravity.”  Another Latin-American Jew, Argentine DAMIAN SZIFRON, 39, is the director and writer of “Wild Tales,” a Spanish language, Argentine film that is a best foreign film nominee. “Tales” is a black-comedy consisting of six discrete shorts that have all have violent, “O.Henry-like” plot twists. The last short takes place at a Jewish wedding. “Tales” is not only a critical hit, it is a worldwide box-office smash and Szifrón has been signed by a major American talent agency. Also worthy of note: “Ida”, a Polish-language, best foreign film nominee about a novice nun who discovers her parents were Jewish and died in the Holocaust and sets out to learn more.

This isn’t the first year that more than one Latin-American Jew got an Oscar nomination. In 1986, three were up for Oscars: the late AIDA BORTNIK, SUSANNA BLAUSTEIN MUNOZ, and HECTOR BABENCO, now 68. Bortnik, an Argentine, was nominated for her screenplay for “The Official Story,” the first Argentine film to win the best foreign film Oscar. It was about the brutal Argentine military dictatorship (1976-83) which disproportionately persecuted Jews. Munoz’s documentary (“The Mothers of Plaza DeMayo”) was about mothers whose adult children disappeared during the same dictatorship—and Babenco, a Brazilian whose father was Argentine, was up for best director for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (about Brazil’s military junta). I will note, with sadness, that the brutality and high-level corruption that was the subject of these now 30-year-old films has obviously never been rooted out of Argentina. Metaphorically, it seems as though the same movie, with the players slightly changed, but always with Jew-bashing a theme—plays each decade down Argentine way.

The best picture Oscar goes to the film’s principal producers.  I am sure that at least four of the eight nominated films have Jewish producers: SCOTT RUDIN, 56, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; ERIC FELLNER, 55, “The Theory of Everything”, IDO OSTROWSKY 35, and NORA GROSSMAN, 31, for “The Imitation Game”, and ANDREW LAZAR, 48, “American Sniper.” It’s worth noting that “Grand Budapest”, while written by Wes Anderson, was heavily inspired by the fiction of STEFAN ZWEIG, the late Austrian Jewish writer.



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