Jews in the News: Steven Spielberg, Haille Steinfeld and Norman Lear

At the Movies

All these films, except “The Greatest Showman,” open on Dec. 22. “Showman,” a musical, opened on the 20th. It’s the story of P.T. Barnum, the 19th century popular entertainment entrepreneur. Hugh Jackman plays Barnum.

The film’s ten songs were written by the team of Justin Paul and BENJ PASEK, both 32. They are on a hot streak, with their show, “Dear Evan Hansen,” sweeping this year’s Tony musical categories. They also co-won the best song Oscar this year. Three “Showman” songs were released in October and one, “This is Me,” is turning into a big hit. It’s been nominated for the Golden Globe for best original song.

“The Post” is an historical drama about the role of the “Washington Post” newspaper in support of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The papers were secret government reports on the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep stars as Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Post (Graham’s father was Jewish; but she was raised in her mother’s Christian faith).Tom Hanks plays “Post” chief editor Ben Bradlee. Appearing in big supporting roles are ALISON BRIE, 34, as Lally, Graham’s journalist daughter; DAVID CROSS, 53, as top “Post” reporter Phil Gayelin; and MICHAEL STUHLBARG, 49, as ABE ROSENTHAL (1922-2006), the chief editor of “The New York Times.” 

Daniel Ellsberg (played by Matthew Rhys) was the military expert who gave the Pentagon Papers to The NY Times and portions to the Washington Post. It’s often assumed that Ellsberg, now 86, is Jewish. His parents were born Jewish, but converted to Christian Science and Ellsberg was raised in that faith. 

The film was directed by STEVE SPIELBERG, 71, and co-written by JOSH SINGER, 44 (co-winner of the screenplay Oscar for “Spotlight”).  Spielberg and Singer just received Golden Globe nominations for “The Post” (director and screenwriter, respectively).

“Bright” posits a world where mythical creatures (elfs, etc.) really exist. Capsule plot: Human LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is paired with Orc Deputy Nick Jacoby( Joel Edgerton). “Orcs” are troll-like beings. The pair finds an ancient magic wand with incredible power. IKE BARINHOLTZ, 40, plays another human cop. The original screenplay is by MAX LANDIS, 32, the son of director JOHN LANDIS, 67 (“Blues Brothers”, “Animal House”) and John’s wife of 37 years, top costume designer DEBORAH NADOOLMAN LANDIS, 65.

“Father Figures” focuses on fraternal twin brothers (Owen Wilson, Ed Helms) whose eccentric mother (Glenn Close) raised them to believe their father died when they were young. When they discover this is a lie, they set out to find their father and learn much about their mother. The supporting cast includes Oscar-nominee JUNE SQUIBB, 87, and HARRY SHEARER, 73. This film marks the directing debut of LAWRENCE SHER, 47. He’s long been one of the best comedy film cinematographers around (“The Hangover” and many others). 

“Pitch Perfect 3” follows the new adventures of the Bellas, a female a cappela singing group.  Now all college grads, they reunite for an overseas USO Tour. HAILLE STEINFELD, 21, returns as singer Emily Junk. The “singing guys” aren’t in this sequel, so we won’t see 2016 Tony Award winner BEN PLATT, 24, romancing Emily again.

Kennedy Center Honors

The Kennedy Center Honors, for lifetime achievement in the arts, were presented on Dec. 3 and CBS will show a tape of the gala awards ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at 9PM. The honorees this year are dancer/ choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, singer Gloria Estefan, hip hop artist LL Cool J, musician/singer Lionel Richie, and legendary TV writer/producer NORMAN LEAR, 95 (creator of “All in the Family” and many more hit series). Here’s one little known footnote: Lear is probably the last WWII vet the Center will honor. He flew 52 missions as a gunner/radio operator on a bomber plane and was highly decorated.

Fun and Gelt

Listen, a Jew has to make a living and if most of America is toy-buying crazy in December, well why not try and sell them a toy?  This year’s hottest selling toy was invented by a Jew. It’s “L.O.L” Big Surprise!”  A group of toys come packed in a ball-like package and kids really have to work to get all the toys out. The concept is based on the huge popularity of Youtube videos of kids opening presents and “LOL” has only been advertised on Youtube. The inventor, ISAAC LARIAN, 63, a Persian Jew, came to this country (1971) virtually broke. The Power Ranger figures and Bratz dolls have made him a billionaire.


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