Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.
She Said, Fun at a Wedding, Tulsa, & Sammy is Jewish!
“She Said”, is a dramatic film (opens Nov. 18) about JODI KANTOR and Megan Twohey, the NY Times reporters who broke the story that big-time movie producer HARVEY WEINSTEIN, now 70, was a serial sex harasser (and, now, a convicted rapist).
Their 2017 investigative reporting was so detailed that, within weeks, Weinstein was fired by his production company and stripped of his membership in the Motion Picture Academy (which gives the Oscars). Their reporting greatly helped launch the “me too” movement. A movement that has really changed the culture.
Not surprisingly, Kantor and Twohey shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. In 2019, they wrote a book, entitled “She Said”, about the Weinstein investigation. When “She Said” came out, I quoted something Kantor, now 47, said in 2017: “I grew up around people with numbers on their arms—my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. It led me to think about the big questions we often ask in investigative journalism: ‘How could something like this have gone on? What allowed this to happen?’”
Zoe Kazan plays Kantor in the film. This is her second Jewish role in the last few years. I won’t kvetch about not casting a Jewish actor in these roles. In my mind, Zoe gets “a pass” courtesy of her grandfather, the late Elia Kazan. He directed “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (1947), the first blockbuster film about American anti-Semitism. The movie won the best pic Oscar and Kazan got the best director Oscar. Not only that, it was an unexpected big box office hit and, while its hard to measure these things, it almost certainly put a dent in anti-Semitic attitudes.
Rebecca Lenkiewicz,44, wrote the “She Said” screenplay. I’m not sure what her formal Jewish ties are. Her late stepfather, popular English painter ROBERT LENKIEWICZ, was the son of Jewish refugees from Germany. Unlike her two “full” brothers, Rebecca took Robert’s last name (adopted?). She has co-written two acclaimed Jewish-themed films (“Disobedience” and “Ida”).
“The People We Hate at the Wedding” is an original Amazon comedy film that begins streaming on November 18. Here’s the official capsule description: “Struggling American siblings Alice [Kristen Bell] and Paul [BEN PLATT, 29] reluctantly agree to attend the wedding of their estranged, wealthy half-sister in the English countryside alongside their mother, Donna [Allison Janney]. “
The trailer gives us a little more information. Platt, who has long been openly gay, plays a gay character. Donna is “okay” with Paul being gay, but is very awkward in conveying this.
“Tulsa King”, a series, began streaming on Paramount+ on Nov. 13. Sylvester Stallone (whose maternal grandfather was Jewish) stars as Dwight Manfredi, a NYC Mafia big-wig who has just finished a 25-year prison sentence. His boss sends him to Tulsa to establish a crime operation there. Not knowing anyone in Tulsa, Manfredi has to build his own “family”.
MAX CASELLA, 55, plays Armand, Manfredi’s right hand man. Casella, whose father was Jewish, had a pretty big recurring role on “The Sopranos” as gangster Benny Fazio, a Soprano Mafia family member. ANDREA SAVAGE, 49, a quite talented actress best known for her comedic roles (“Veep") has a “main cast” role as a federal ATF agent stationed in Tulsa.
Frankly, I think that the “Tulsa” premise, for too many reasons to mention here, is absurd. But maybe many viewers won’t notice.
Last week, I erred when I wrote that actor GABRIEL LABELLE, 20, isn't Jewish. Labelle plays Sammy Fabelman in “The Fabelmans” (the Steven Spielberg-like character). I’m now reliably informed that his father, character actor ROB LABELLE, 60, is Jewish. (No doubt that Robb is Jewish. But it’s still not clear how he got the name “Labelle”. It’s very hard to find info on Gabriel’s mother).
Gabriel, like his Fabelmans’ co-star, SETH ROGEN, is a Vancouver native. Before 2022, his career was limited to handful of roles in Canadian TV and a few low-budget movies. Then lightning struck: Gabriel was picked out of 2,000 actors who were invited to audition for the Sammy role. Around the same time, he got a good role in the 2022 Showtime series “Gigolo” as the “young version” of the star character Julian Kaye (the young Kaye is seen in flashbacks).
In a recent “Vulture” interview, Gabriel seems to say he identifies as Jewish. “Vulture” writes: “Labelle and Spielberg connected over the experience of growing up as the lone Jewish kid at school, wondering whether certain classmates ‘were being hateful or trying to be funny and didn’t have that empathy.’”