At the Movies or Streamin’
“Mary Poppins Returns” opened “wide” on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Everyone has seen the classic 1964 “Mary Poppins” film featuring a great performance by Julie Andrews and a super musical score by ROBERT SHERMAN (1925-2012) and his brother RICHARD, now 90. Critics say that Emily Blunt, in the title role, is almost as delightful as Andrews and the score, by MARC SHAIMAN, 59 (“Hairspray”) is very good. Shaiman’s score has brief musical references to the Sherman brothers’ score and Richard was a film consultant. British Jewish actor DAVID WARNER, 77, has a memorable supporting role in "Returns" as Admiral Boom.
“Bumblebee” is the 6th entry in the “Transformers” series of films and advance reviews say it is the best film in the series. The title character is a “good” transformer scout on the run from bad guys from another planet. The scout transforms himself into a yellow VW Bug and hides in a scrap yard. There he is found by Charlie, a teen girl (HAILEE STEINFELD, 23). She “adopts” him, gives him the name “Bumbleebee”, and helps him as he battles the bad guys. PAMELA ADLON, 52, and JASON DRUCKER, 13, have big supporting roles as, respectively, Charlie’s mother and Charlie’s brother. (Opens Dec. 21)
Also opening on the 21st is “Second Act” a comedy starring Jennifer Lopez as Maya, a 40-year old woman who feels stymied by unfulfilled dreams and low-pay jobs. Things turn around when Maya is mistaken for a top consultant and is given a chance to make a major business deal. The supporting cast includes DAN BUCATINSKY, 53, and LARRY MILLER, 65. The film was directed by PETER SEGAL, 56 (“Anger Management”, “50 First Dates”).
The film “Bird Box” premieres on Netflix on Friday, Dec. 21. It stars Sandra Bullock as a woman trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The film was directed by SUSANNE BIER, 58, a Danish Jew who helmed the Oscar-winning “In a Better World” (2010; best foreign language film) and the Emmy-winning “The Night Manager” (2016; best mini-series). Like most Danish Jews, Bier’s parents survived the Nazi occupation because small Danish boats took them, in 1943, to neutral Sweden just before the Nazis planned a nation-wide round-up.
“Bird Box” is based on a novel of the same name by JOSH MALERMAN, 43. Malerman is also known as the singer/songwriter of High Strung, a Detroit-based rock band. Malmerman wrote, and his band recorded, the song “The Luck You Got.” It has been the theme song of the hit Showtime TV series “Shameless” since 2011.
Kennedy Center Honors
The annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony for excellence in the arts took place on Dec. 2. CBS will broadcast the ceremony on Dec. 26 at 8PM. Honorees this year include avant-garde composer PHILIP GLASS, 81. Pop singer ADAM LAMBERT, 36, took the stage to honor Cher, another Center honoree and he was reportedly “terrific.”
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) is not only a great Christmas movie, it’s an easy movie for a Jew to like---a charming tale of how a little girl comes to believe a Macy’s Santa is really Santa Claus---and maybe she’s right. Recently, I became aware of the background of George Seaton (1911-1979), who got an Oscar for writing the “Miracle” screenplay. Seaton, a Catholic-by-birth, grew-up in a mostly Jewish Detroit neighborhood. His buddies were mostly Orthodox Jews and he was their “Shabbos goy.” For example, he bought his friends their movie tickets on Shabbos. He hung out near their synagogue so much that the rabbi invited him in to take classes, which he did. He never converted to Judaism, however.
Fast forward to the late ‘40s, and Seaton is a very successful Hollywood screenwriter and producer. His producing partner is Jewish. He goes to two prominent Los Angeles-area country clubs intending to join, but asks first: “Are you restricted?” (i.e., no Jews allowed). They say they are and he walks away. He then applies for membership at the Hillcrest Country Club. All the Jewish entertainment biggies belonged to the Hillcrest, including GROUCHO MARX, a great friend of Seaton. The Hillcrest board said they would give him non-member privileges (play golf, eat there, etc.), but wouldn’t admit him as a member because he wasn’t Jewish. Seaton said, “Full membership or nothing.” A furor erupted at the Hillcrest that didn’t end until the Board reversed itself and Seaton became the first non-Jewish member. Call it “the Miracle at the Hillcrest” or, maybe, “Be a Mensch: Admit a Mensch.”