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

The Most Complete Guide to Jewish Oscar Nominees (2024)

The Oscars will be presented on Sunday, Mar. 10 (ABC; 7PM). Jimmy Kimmel will host. The Governors’ Awards  (Honorary Oscars) were presented last November. MEL BROOKS, 97, was one of the three awardees. He gave an amusing short speech (on Youtube).

Here are the Jewish nominees in all but the ‘technical’ categories (like costumes, make-up, and sound).

This is the oddest year I’ve ever seen. No Jewish actor or actress was nominated for playing a non-Jew and five actors/actresses were nominated for playing “real” Jews. But only one of the five  has a “claim” to being Jewish.

In the best actor category, there is Cillian Murphy as physicist J.ROBERT OPPENHEIMER in “Oppenheimer” and Bradley Cooper as LEONARD BERNSTEIN in “Maestro”.

Carey Mulligan, a best actress nominee, played FELICIA MONTEALGRE BERNSTEIN (Leonard’s wife) in “Maestro”, and Jodie Foster, a supporting actress nominee, is “up” for playing BONNIE STOLL (now 71), Diana Nyad’s swim coach in “Nyad”.

That leaves ROBERT DOWNEY, Jr., 58, a supporting actor nominee. He’s “up” for playing LEWIS STRAUSS, a government official, in “Oppenheimer”. Downey’s mother was not Jewish. His paternal grandfather was Jewish and his paternal grandmother had a Jewish mother.

Downey will probably win the Oscar. So, some detail is called for. Downey’s father, the late director Robert Downey, Sr., was born Robert Elias. He took the name of his stepfather (“Downey”). In 1992, Downey, Jr. said Downey, Sr. changed his name to enlist, underage, in the army. In a 2022 documentary, Downey, Sr. said he changed his name to avoid anti-Semitism in the service. (Robert, Jr. has a tattoo that says “Elias”)

No doubt, Downey, Jr.’s ties to “Jewishness” were greatly enhanced by his (2005) marriage to SUSAN LEVIN DOWNEY, now 50. She was an important producer when they married. They wed in a Jewish ceremony. They have a son, EXTON, 12 (his middle name is “Elias”), and a daughter, AVRI (a Hebrew name). She’s 9.

Downey, Jr. always credits Susan with helping him remain sober and with revitalizing his career. He sings her praises every time he wins an award.

After their marriage, Downey, Jr. began calling himself “Jew-Bu” (Jewish and Buddhist) and, just a month ago, he was spotted wearing a “chai”. However, I don’t think he will ever be a practicing Jew. But I suspect he wouldn’t mind a bit if his children are bar/bat mitzvah.

Best Original Screenplay: “Anatomy of a Fall” (a French language, legal murder mystery film), was co-written by nominee ARTHUR HARARI, 42. Harari’s paternal Sephardi grandfather was born in Egypt and became a well-known French actor. With help, I found out that Arthur Harari’s parents are Jewish, too. 

Harari also directs and sometimes acts. Justine Triet, Harari’s life partner, is nominated as the co-writer of “Anatomy”. She directed “Anatomy” and is nominated for the directing Oscar.

Also in the original screenplay category are JOSH SINGER, 52, the co-writer of “Maestro”, and (Ms.) SAMY BURCH, 36, for co-writing “May December.” Burch’s mother is Jewish.

Best adapted screenplay: NOAH BAUMBACH, 54, is nominated for co-writing “Barbie”. His father is Jewish. The “official” Oscar nomination citation notes “Barbie” was based on characters created by the late RUTH HANDLER, the co-founder of Mattel Toys. Handler, played by RHEA PERLMAN, briefly appears in “Barbie”.

Also, in the adapted category is “Oppenheimer.” While the writers are not Jewish, the “official citation” for the screenplay nomination notes it was based on a historic study co-written by the late MARTIN J SHERWIN.

Also in the adapted screenplay category is JONATHAN GLAZER, 58, a British Jew, for “The Zone of Interest”, a film about the Holocaust (loosely based on a novel). Glazer also directed “Zone” and he’s the only Jew to be nominated, this year, for the best director Oscar.

Glazer’s great grand-parents fled Eastern Europe persecution and settled in the U.K. over a century ago. His Reform Jewish parents were not very observant Jews, but they did send Jonathan to a famous Jewish school in London and, as a teen, he spent five months on an Israeli kibbutz.

His best-known films are “Sexy Beast” (starring Ben Kingsley), “Birth” (co-starring LAUREN BACALL), and “Under My Skin” (starring SCARLETT JOHANSSON).

The Oscar for best non-English language film goes to the film’s director. “Zone” is a non-English nominee and if it wins, Glazer, who also directed “Zone”, gets the Oscar. (“Zone” largely takes place in Auschwitz. Its characters, like the “real” persons at Auschwitz, speak in German, or in Polish, or in Yiddish).

Best Score: LAURA KARPMAN, 64, for “American Fiction” and ROBBIE ROBERTSON, who died last August, for “Killers of the Flower Moon”. Robertson was famous as the “lead guy” and chief songwriter for “The Band”, a top ‘70s band.  Robertson’s mother was of a member of the Cayuga and Mohawk tribes. He was 12 when he found out that his father, who died before his birth, was Jewish. (Scorsese, the director of “Killer”, filmed the last performance of “The Band” [1976] and it’s a great rock and roll film).

Best Original Song: DIANE WARREN, 67, for “The Fire Inside” from "Flamin’ Hot”. Warren has been nominated 15 times for an Oscar, and has never won—and MARK RONSON, 48, the co-writer of “”I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie”. He won (2019) the original song Oscar as the co-writer of “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”.

The nominees for best animated (feature) films are a ‘hodgepodge’ of animators and producers. AMY PASCAL,65, a top veteran producer, is “up” for “Spiderman—"Across the Spider-Verse”. She shares the film’s nomination with four others.

“Letter of a Pig” is nominated in the short (length) animated film category. It begins with a Holocaust survivor telling a group of teen students how a pig saved his life. It then shows the story’s profound effect on one student.

The film was directed and written by TAL KANTOR, 35, an Israeli. Her co-nominee is Israeli AMIT RUSSELL GICELTER, 42, the film’s producer.

SHEILA NEVINS, 84, is one of the two nominated directors of “The ABC’s of Book Banning”. It’s a short (length) documentary Oscar nominee. It follows the banning of books in schools (especially Florida). Nevins was the head of HBO Documentary Films.

EDWARD LACHMAN, 76, is nominated for the Oscar for cinematography (“El Conde”, a black comedy/horror film). He was  previously nominated for his work on “Carol” and “Far from Heaven”. These two films were directed by TODD HAYNES, 63, as was “May December”.

The best film Oscar goes to a nominated film’s principal producers. There are 10 nominated films and a lot of producers. My practice is not to work very hard to “verify” producers almost no one outside Hollywood has heard of and probably won’t win. Here are the producer nominees I am “sure of”: FRED BERNER, 70, and STEVEN SPIELBERG, 77; “Maestro”; DAVID HEYMAN, 62 (Jewish father), “Barbie”;  and CHARLES ROVEN, 74, “Oppenheimer”.

Two more notes and an Honorable Mention: “Zone of Interest” is a best film nominee, too. But Jonathan Glazer was not a “Zone”  producer---and-- “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a best film nominee, but its screenplay wasn’t nominated. The “Killers” screenplay was based on a non-fiction study of the same name by DAVID GRANN, 56--and---Paul Giamatti, a best actor nominee (“The Holdovers”), isn’t Jewish. But his former wife is, and their only child was raised Jewish.


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