Jon Robin Baitz, Max Winkler and Richard Avedon

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.


Catching Up on Feud, Einstein Documentary, Winehouse: Sour?


“Feud: Capote Versus the Swans” is an 8-episode series. The first two episodes were released on Jan. 31 (on FX) and Feb. 1 (on Hulu). The remaining episodes stream one-per-week. I’ve seen three episodes. I thought the first two were very good. I’ll continue watching, but the 3rd episode turned me off.

Here’s the capsule plot: famous author Truman Capote (Tom Hollander), who is gay, is a close, confidential friend to six very attractive older women who move in the top of New York society. They are the “Swans”. Then, in 1975, “Esquire” publishes a Capote story that reveals nasty, mostly true stories about most of them---names are changed, but “everybody knows” who he is writing about. Most of the “Swans” never talk to him again. Their reaction fuels Capote’s personal and professional decline. (All the “Swans” are now deceased, as are the real Jewish characters mentioned below) .

Here are the “Jewish angles”: JON ROBIN BAITZ, 62, wrote the screenplays for all the episodes. He adapted a non-fiction book about Capote and the “Swans”. Baitz’s first “big play” (later a 1996 film) was “Substance of Fire”,  about a Holocaust survivor.

MAX WINKLER, 41, Henry’s son, directed the 5th episode. Famous photographer RICHARD AVEDON is a character in this episode.

Naomi Watts plays Barbara ‘Babe’ Paley, Capote’s favorite Swan. Her husband was BILL PALEY (Treat Williams), the founder and owner of CBS. He constantly “cheats” on Babe and Babe seeks solace from Capote. Bill Paley is the most seen male character after Capote.

Mega-producer DAVID SELZNICK (“Gone with the Wind”), and famous documentary makers ALBERT and DAVID MAYSLES, are described as “recurring” characters. But I don’t think they have much screen time. Selznick, like Paley, had a cultured, beautiful, WASP “trophy” wife (actress Jennifer Jones). In the very first episode, Selznick and Jones introduce Capote to Babe and Bill Paley.

The Maysles brothers’ most famous films are streaming on HBO/Max (“Salesman”, “Gimme Shelter”, and “Grey Gardens”). In 1966, they made a 30-minute film in which they interviewed Capote about his best-seller “In Cold Blood” (1965). In “Feud”, the Maysles brothers are depicted following Capote for weeks (1966)-- filming him and the "Swans”. The brothers come off as intrusive jerks who capture really private moments. The main director of “Feud” recently disclosed this was all made-up. The Maysles never followed and filmed Capote and the Swans.

“Oppenheimer”, the mega-hit film, began streaming on Peacock on the 15th. It’s worth paying $6 (for the basic Peacock “sub”) to see the film. Meanwhile, “not by coincidence”, Netflix moved its premiere of the BBC docu-drama “Einstein and the Bomb” from the 19th to the 15th. Netflix, like the BBC, is just cashing in on the success of “Oppenheimer”. The BBC rounded up a group of virtually unknown, not Jewish, English actors to play mostly Jewish scientists who were Americans by birth or choice. The BBC always goes cheap and rarely imports an American actor to play an American character. The BBC knows there aren’t many English Jewish actors, but they won’t import American Jewish actors even if the character is Jewish (American or English).

Capsule plot: Einstein writes a letter to Pres. Roosevelt warning him that the Nazis could make “the bomb”. Einstein has regrets after the war and says that he might not have written the letter if he knew how behind Nazi scientists were in “the bomb race”.

This “state of affairs” is exemplified by the upcoming film “Back to Black”, a bio-pic about the late English Jewish singer AMY WINEHOUSE (opens in May in the U.S.)  Her English Jewish parents are played by British non-Jews. A not Jewish, almost unknown Canadian actor plays MARK RONSON, now 48. He's the American producer of Winehouse’s most famous album.

But, by U.K. standards they “went all out”. They hired Sam Taylor-Johnson to direct. Her husband is AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON, 33, an English Jewish actor. (By the way, he could have played Ronson)

They cast MARISA ABELA, 27, who has made a bit of splash in some British TV series, as Winehouse. Her father is Maltese, and not Jewish. She probably got the star role because her mother is Jewish. Even the Brits realize that without Abela it would be another completely “Jew-free” project about a Jew.

A trailer has been released. The good news is that Abela actually sings Winehouse’s songs in her own voice and she sings very well. But many fans said they otherwise hated the trailer. Web pages were full of comments about the trailer like “felt like a parody of Amy’s life” and “feels very exploitive.” (Oy vey).


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