NEW YORK — This week the Hollywood Foreign Press Agency (an organization ten times more secretive than the Mossad) made Los Angeles-based entertainment journalists drag their butts out of bed at 5:30 am to hear the nominations for the Golden Globe Awards.
The Globes are a fairly good bellwether for the forthcoming (and far more prestigious) Academy Awards. Plus, the actual ceremony, happening this January 12th, is notorious for keeping the booze flowing while movie stars congratulate themselves. This makes the telecast slightly more tolerable.
Members of the Tribe had a fair showing in the nominations. Nothing to crow about, but not a total washout, either.
Spike Jonze (whose real name is Adam Spiegel) was nominated for his original screenplay “Her,” and his Jewish-by-birth but raised New Agey leading actor Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his marvelous performance in that film.
Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” nabbed a best actress and best supporting actress nomination for its two stars Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins, though the Woodman himself was snubbed for writer and director.
Half-Jewish director David O. Russell was nominated for his con man dramedy “American Hustle.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus got two nominations – one for her role in the independent film “Enough Said,” the other for her HBO comedy “Veep.”
The Golden Globes honor television as well, and MOTs fared much better there. Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donavan”) both got nods, as did Lena Dunham, whose work on “Girls” really should be nabbing her a Nobel not one of these doofy Golden Globes.
Lastly, Michael Douglas is all but a lock to win for his performance as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s HBO film “Behind the Candelabra.”
Jonah Hill, outrageous and game-changing in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was robbed.
In other news, Ari Folman, arguably the most exciting voice in Israeli cinema today, has announced his follow-up project to the hallucinatory “The Congress.” He’ll be working on a version of the Anne Frank story, once again using his signature animation/live action technique. He has the full cooperation of the Anne Frank Foundation.
New From Hollywood
American Hustle: Half-Jewish director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) delivers his slickest picture yet, a Scorsese-like treatment of the “Abscam” FBI sting of the early 1980s. Christian Bale stars as a sympathetic crook names Irving Rosenfeld. He wears a Star of David necklasce, a fair amount of belly fat and an absurd toupee. After he and his cohort (Amy Adams) are nabbed for making fake bank loans, they are pressed into service by the FBI to take down corrupt politicians. This is a fun movie that’s also just smart enough – focusing on themes of identity and the allure of theft – to make it a must-see.
The Hobbitt: The Desolation of Smaug: As has been established J.R.R. Tolkein’s dwarves are pretty clear-cut Jewish stand-ins. This is both good (sympathy for a people reclaiming their homeland) and bad (a thirst for gold.) Even without metaphors, Peter Jackson’s fifth movie set in Middle Earth is good if you like this sort of thing. By now the films don’t have to stand on their own two feet – they just have to immerse the fans in computer generated action set pieces and feature Sir Ian McKellan in a giant hat mumbling things about doom. Warning: giant spiders. I had to turn away at that part.
Saving Mr. Banks: The Walt Disney Company has produced a movie about how awesome the Walt Disney Company is. Emma Thompson is the sharply-tongued P.L. Travers, author of “Mary Poppins,” and Tom Hanks is Uncle Walt. Travers is a woman in emotional turmoil who needs a lot of “mansplaining” to convince her to sign over the rights to her book – and thus open her heart to growth or forgiveness or something. Frankly, this movie is pretty vile and ought to enrage just about anyone who thinks about it too long. However, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, two of the finer Jewish character actors out there, are marvelous as the Sherman Brothers – the celebrated songwriting team in Disney’s factory. Their scenes are terrific.
Six Acts: Israeli director Jonathan Gurfinkel, recent TOI interview subject, delivers a top notch conversation piece in this sexually frank, but never needlessly vulgar exploration of teenagers and technology. In addition to its ambiguous and unsettling scene work, “Six Acts” (marketed as “S#x Acts” in the United States) is a terrific platform for young Israeli actress Sivan Levy. Worth checking out.
Homefront: The ubiquitous James Franco (Jewish from his mother’s side) is a low-rent meth dealer in a small Louisiana town. He sees an opportunity to advance his criminal career when he learns the identity of a new man in town, played by Jason Statham. Turns out Statham is the ex-DEA agent who ratted out the big mob boss to – oh, who cares, let’s get to the action! There’s a lot of kicking, shooting and exploding in this braindead but enjoyable picture, written by none other than Sylvester Stallone. Winona Ryder (nee Winona Horowitz) co-stars as Franco’s moll.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Is it a mooney-gooney love triangle targeting teenage girls or is it a cry for social and economic justice? Can’t it be a little of both?
This sequel to last year’s first installment in the franchise is, without question, vastly superior in every department. Better writing, better character development and a bigger budget for the action and special effects. There are also those outrageous outfits, care of fan-favorite character Cinna, played by half-Jewish musician/renaissance man Lenny Kravitz. I’m definitely hiring him next time I need a gown that can burst into flames to reveal dark bird wings beneath.
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb: Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers (both Jewish) collaborated to create the finest satirical political film of the 20th Century.
While some of their jokes may be a little dated (hunt for the Adlai Stevenson gags!) the absurdity of total destruction through nationalist hatred remains, alas, ever relevant.
The black and white photography by Gilbert Taylor is sublime, so catch this in the theater if you can. It plays at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Monday, Dec 16 at 10 pm.)