Jews in the News: Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Amy Winehouse

The Tribe at the Oscars, 2016

The big megillah, the Oscars, are being presented on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 4PM (ABC). Here are the verified Jewish nominees in all but the technical categories. Non-Jewish nominees are in lower case letters.

Best Picture—This Oscar goes to the film’s principal producers, but never more than three per film---“The Big Short”, JEREMY KLEINER, 39; “Bridge of Spies”,  STEVEN SPIELBERG, 69, and MARC PLATT, 58; “The Martian”, SIMON KINBERG, 42, “The Revenant”; ARNON MILCHAN, 71, and STEVE GOLIN, 52; “Spotlight”, MICHAEL SUGAR, 51, NICOLE ROCKLIN, 36, and STEVE GOLIN.

Best Supporting Actress: JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, 54, “The Hateful Eight”; Best director: LENNY ABRAHAMSON, 49, “Room”; Best Original Screenplay: JOEL COEN, 61, and ETHAN COEN, 58 (and Martin Charman) , “Bridge of Spies”: AND-- “Spotlight”, Tom McCarthy and JOSH SINGER, 43; AND—“Straight Out of Compton”, JONATHAN HERMAN, 55, and ANDREA BELOFF, 34; Best Animated Film: “Anomalisa”, CHARLIE KAUFMAN, 57 (and Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran); Best Foreign Language film: “Son of Saul (Hungary), LASZLO NEMES, 38; Best Documentary (Feature) “The Look of Silence”, JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER, 41 ; AND-- “What Happened, Miss Simone? – LIZ GARBUS, 45; AND, “Cartel Land,” MATTHEW HEINEMAN, 51, and TOM YELLIN, 63; Best Documentary (Short): “Last Day of Freedom,” NOMI TALISMAN, 48 (with Dee Hibbert Jones)  Best Original Song: "Simple Song #3" from “Youth” – music and lyric by DAVID LANG, 59; AND--- "Til It Happens to You" from “The Hunting Ground” – music and lyric by DIANE WARREN, 59, and Lady Gaga. Best Cinematography: ED LACHMAN, 77, “Carol”, AND-- EMMANUEL LUBEZKI, 51, “The Revenant”.

Interesting Facts about Some Nominees: Producer MARC PLATT (“Bridge of Spies”) is the father of actor BEN PLATT, 22, a star of the “Pitch Perfect” movies.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH is still friends with actress PHOEBE CATES, 52. Both had breakthrough roles in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Cates came out of virtual retirement to co-star in "The Anniversary Party" (2001), a very good flick which Leigh co-directed and co-wrote. Leigh’s maternal grandparents assisted many Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

JONATHAN HERMAN’s nomination for writing the hit film, “Straight Out of Compton”, about African-American rap musicians, has garnered controversy. No black actors in the film got nominated and no black actors got Oscar nominated for any 2015 film. Herman agrees it’s odd that he, a self-described white, gay, Jewish guy, co-wrote “Compton”. He explains that everyone thought the existing script was a mess and he simply did what he was asked to do: fix it.

Jewish-Connected Corner: Two documentary films about famous Jews are Oscar nominated: ”Amy” and “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”. Their respective nominated filmmakers, Asif Kapidia, and Adam Benzine, aren’t Jewish.  “Amy” is about the late British singer AMY WINEHOUSE. LANZMANN, 90, is a French documentary maker most famous for his Holocaust film, “Shoah”. Inspired by “Shoah” is the dramatic film, “Son of Saul”. It’s about a Jewish death camp inmate trying to provide a religious burial for the body of a boy he believes is his son. Director Laszlo Nemes said about “Saul”: “I made this film to talk about this lost [Jewish] civilization and this lost world, and also because I’m angry that this happened, and Europe never really understood that.”

International Tribe Corner: Director LENNY ABRAHAMSON (“Room”) is an Irish Jew, LASZLO NEMES is a Hungarian Jew who lives in France, producer ARNON MILCHAN (“Bridge of Spies”) is an Israeli, EMMANUEL LUBEZKI (“The Revenant”) is a Mexican Jew, now resident in the States, and Nomi Talisman (“Last Day of Freedom”) is an Israeli who lives in San Francisco.  My favorite Abrahamson quote: “I am an unusual Irishman. I’m probably Ireland’s third most famous Jewish son. First is Chaim Herzog [the late President of Israel], who grew up on the same street and played with my mother. Then there’s Leopold Bloom from “Ulysses,” and me. The Irish Jewish community is only about 1,500 to 2,000 people.”

Interesting Non-Jewish Corner: Kate Winslet is the favorite to win the best supporting actress Oscar for playing JOANNA HOFFMAN, 60, a real-life Apple executive in “Steve Jobs”; Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, co-nominees for their adapted screenplay for “The Big Short” are both married to Jewish women in showbiz (respectively, Israeli actress MILI AVITAL, 43, and director SHIRA PIVEN, 54, the sister of actor JEREMY PIVEN). Both showbiz couples are raising their children Jewish.

Just One More: I recognized the name of one “technical” category nominee, ARTHUR MAX, 69, from an old profile in a Jewish paper and if he wins, I’ll feel bad about not noting him. Max, a production designer, is nominated for “The Martian.” This is his third nomination for production design. His first was for “Gladiator” (2000), which was partially filmed in Jerusalem. In 2005, he said about “Gladiator”, "People told me not to go almost everywhere [in Jerusalem because of the first Intifada], but I went everywhere. Some of the Old City was closed off for security reasons, but I went to the Western Wall.. And I stood on top of the Jaffa Gate and I looked out over what to me always had been a name, and suddenly I felt connected to my heritage, a close connection to all the Jewish history I had studied as a bar mitzvah.”


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