It’s raining tsuris for Jewish filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. His horror/drama/ballet epic “Black Swan” nabbed Natalie Portman an Oscar and did better than expected at the box office, giving him leeway to make his longtime passion project: a film based on Noah and the Flood.
Starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and a lot of computer generated animals, the studio (in this case Paramount) is said to be getting Old Testament with the director in a fight about the film’s ending.
After a test screening in New York for Jewish audiences, another in Arizona for religious Christians, and one in The O.C. for a general audience, the world was finally blessed with something all three groups could agree on: Nobody liked this movie!
The film’s final third is said to veer off into “Lord of the Rings”-like fantasy, featuring giants with six arms. Others remarked that the film changed the Biblical figure into more of a 21st Century environmentalist zealot. The studio is understandably nervous about alienating the potentially large religious audience – but it’s not like they didn’t know what they were getting into. (Have they SEEN this guy’s movies?)
In other news, someone needs to remind Rihanna that time is money. The Barbadian beauty performed in Park Hayarkon this week, but didn’t hit the stage until somewhere between an hour to two hours late. (Exact reports are sketchy: nine million Instagram pictures we can find, but a confirmed schedule no one seems to know. That’s showbiz.) According to a Haaretz review that set off #RihannaGate, she also switch the lyrics to her song “Pour It Up,” changing “All I see is dollar signs” to “All I see is Palestine.” (The report was later retracted.) BuzzFeed breaks the “scan-dall” down here.
Shonda of the Week
Daniel Snyder, the Jewish film producer, head of Dick Clark Productions and owner of the Washington Redskins has fumbled. Snyder struck back at a grass-roots movement hoping to once and for all change the odious name of the NFL team that embarrasses America’s capital.
He says a new moniker would do a disservice to the “heritage” of (and I can’t believe this phrasing) “Redskins Nation.”
Of course, the racist nature of the Redskins name is actually a brutal sack to Jews and our heritage of being at the forefront of social justice. Touchdown!
New From Hollywood
The Counselor: Michael Fassbender plays a none-too-bright lawyer in this fascinating, albeit stagy and dense rumination on mortality, doom and inescapable fate. Whereas a Jewish lawyer tries to get rich by finding billable hours in the shower and uncovering loopholes for their clients, Fassbender decides to get involved with a Mexican drug cartel. It’s a bad idea that leaves a lot of people miserable. Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz all sink their teeth into remarkable dialogue written by novelist Cormac McCarthy in his first original screenplay. 3/5
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa: Johnny Knoxville plays Irving Zisman, who may dress like a geriatric anti-Semitic stereotype, but doesn’t act like one. Mixing the formula of candid camera buffoonery known to the “Jackass” brand with a minimal cross-country plot, Zisman is a lewd bull in a china shop and his grandson makes inappropriate comments toward women. They call this humor? N/A stars, as I did not see the film
Blue Is The Warmest Color: The Steven Spielberg-led jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival awarded the Palme D’Or to this three hour emotional workout about first love. Adele Exarchopoulis is unforgettable as a timid girl finding herself sexually and intellectually, projecting her heart and soul onto an older woman played by Lea Seydoux. The film currently has a swarm of controversy around it (its Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche and Seydoux can’t be in the same room right now) but in time all that will fade. This is a striking and true movie, rich with heart and brimming with authenticity. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so there are a lot of (very) risque sex scenes, but if Spielberg says it’s kosher it’s gotta be okay, right? 5/5
Blue Jasmine: Out-of-the-closet Zionist Woody Allen‘s 45th film as a director (but who’s counting?) is further proof that he shouldn’t think of retiring yet. Flashing backwards and forwards in time (and between New York and San Francisco) Cate Blanchett is fantastic as the hollowed-out socialite ruined by scandal and forced to move in with her working-class sister (Sally Hawkins). While the film has more than its share of funny moments, this is a remarkable and sad character piece – backstory, really, to every cracked individual you meet who seems to have once had their life put together. Look for a short but surprisingly effective supporting role from Andrew Silverstein, who you may remember as Andrew “Dice” Clay. 5/5
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Ben Foster, whom I didn’t realize was Jewish until just now, is one part of a love triangle in this moody, timeless film loaded with lush, painterly images. He plays the good guy local cop ready to take Rooney Mara (and her daughter) under his wing after her unfortunate dalliance with crime. Alas, her husband (Casey Affleck) just busted out of prison with the intent of taking her on the lam. The set-up is simple, the wait is interminable, the climax is brutal. This is an entire film set in the spaces that another movie would cut out to get to the action. Haunting and patient, this one is worth tracking down. (For you Israelites out there, it is playing this week at the Rosh Pina Cinematheque.) 4/5
Prisoners: Jewish-American Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an emotionally hollowed-out detective who will not rest until he finds two missing children in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. Hugh Jackman is a father who thinks the gears of justice move too slowly and takes matters into his own hands. A battle of what’s right vs. what-would-you-do plays out between these two, amid a gloomy, gray winter palate. Strong stuff, even if some of the whodunnit beats get a little silly. Paul Dano is all kinds of creepy as the main suspect. 4/5