NEW YORK — “Omar,” the Palestinian nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar finally gets released in the United States. As a film, the work by Hany Abu-Assad (who carries Israeli citizenship and spent much of his young adult years in the Netherlands) is undeniably good.
The mustache-twirling Jews, however, and their border fences really are a thorn in the side to these noble, freedom-fighters. Okay, okay, so I’m being a tad flip about a very serious topic, but there needs to be a little pushback.
One could argue that Abu-Assad’s previous film, the controversial “Paradise Now,” made efforts to tell the story of two would-be suicide bombers in an observational manner, with no agenda. Hard to make the case with this one.
This is a political film. A well-made film, sure, but biased and, I suspect, one that most Israelis, Zionists or people with a wider understanding of history may take umbrage with.
It was just last week when we predicted smooth sailing for Darren Aronofsky and his film “Noah.” Oh, we should have known not to be so naïve when it came to this particular rainswept Jew.
A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”
In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.
It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.
For 40 days and 40 nights we’ve been reading about possible outrage over this movie, but no one has actually seen the thing. (Believe me, I’m trying.)
In other news, a bunch of new images hit the web for Jewish-American director Bryan Singer’s newest adaptation of the “X-Men” saga, “X-Men: Days of Future Passed.” Even though the most complex Jewish figure in all of comic books, Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto, is being played by two different actors (time travel, don’t ask) neither of them are Jewish.
But Michael Fassbender and Sir Ian McKellan are no joke! Each have done a terrific job in previous installments of giving the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants the nuance and pathos he deserves. When Magento, a Holocaust survivor, shouted “Never Again!” at the end of the last “X-Men” movie, it further cemented this tale of rubber-suited superheroes as more than just kid stuff.
New From Hollywood
Just a few more weeks until spring, when Hollywood starts to release some decent product. Till then, bear with us just a few more weeks as we slog through the first quarter doldrums.
Pompeii: Hot lava and hot men. Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones” gets his first starring role with this one. (Kit Harrington is the guy’s real name, but that sounds just as fake as Jon Snow.) Well, to be fair, computer generated mayhem is the star, not any actor, and while a forced romance wants to turn this into “Titanic in an Old Town,” it’s just too loud and dopey-looking for that. Director Paul W.S. Anderson relies more on special effects than the sleek action set-pieces found in his “Resident Evil” franchise which, shocking though it may seem, are far superior by comparison. I can discover no Jewish connection in its cast and crew, so nobody can blame us for this one.
3 Days to Kill: A mish-mash of “Taken” and, in a way, “Breaking Bad,” “3 Days to Kill” stars Kevin Costner as an international spy who takes one last assignment in exchange for getting his hands on a potentially life-saving experimental drug. But what starts as running around Serbia soon turns into… a heartfelt rapprochement with his daughter, Jewish-American actress Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld was standout in her debut with the Coen Brothers, “True Grit.” She was able to rise above the bland-as-heck “Ender’s Game,” too. Let’s hope she gets some better material soon.
Currently in Theaters
Winter’s Tale: Jewish-American screenwriter Akiva Goldsman makes his directorial debut adapting New York-born Israeli citizen Mark Helprin’s magical realist novel “Winter’s Tale.” The result is a disaster, one of the worst movies in years. Colin Farrell plays a thief with a bad wig and a flying horse and Russell Crowe is the minion of Satan off to destroy him. Jewish actress Jennifer Connelly plays a food critic who doesn’t blink when confronted with time travel, and a 108 year old woman is the editor of the New York Times. When I summarize it this way it sounds like it might be so-bad-it’s-good, but, believe me, it isn’t.
RoboCop: In 1987, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven took what seemed like a dumb B movie and turned it into great satire as well as a next-level action picture. Now, years later, the vulture-like movie studios have seized upon its good name for a lifeless – although not terrible – remake. It’s the same story with some minor tweaks, like Samuel L. Jackson as a Glenn Beck-like TV host and Jewish-Canadian comedian Jay Baruchel as a whiz kid marketing genius. To quote the film, you can buy this one for a dollar – but I wouldn’t spend much more!
The LEGO Movie: Wait, so they’re expecting us to pay to watch a giant toy commercial? Well, a little, yes, but you’ve got to trust me when I say that this is one of the funniest and most clever kids’ films – strike that, film of ANY stripe – to come out of Hollywood for quite some time. It isn’t just loaded with zings, but the design work, which blends state of the art computer generated images with handcrafted stop motion, is absolutely top notch. Jewish actors like Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie and (again!) Jonah Hill provide voice-over work alongside Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett.
The Producers: Who among us can say we’ve never worn a cardboard belt? Maybe not physically, but metaphorically. Max Bialystock isn’t a character, he’s a state of mind. And while he now lives on in musical theater, it was on film, via Zero Mostel’s performance opposite Gene Wilder’s Leo Bloom under the direction of Mel Brooks, where he was born. “The Producers” is one of the most important Jewish movies ever made, and if you haven’t seen it you are a shonda. Luckily, you’ll have an opportunity to catch it at the Jerusalem Cinematheque this Saturday the 22nd at 8 pm. Most of my grandmother’s immediate family was killed in the camps and even she thought “Springtime For Hitler” was funny. It’s okay to laugh.
La Chinoise: Genius filmmaker Jean Luc-Godard may be slouching toward casual anti-Semitism in his old age, but that doesn’t mean his early films aren’t a string of masterpieces. His 1967 look at young radicals, “La Chinoise,” might be my favorite, and that’s some tough company against “Alphaville” and “Breathless.” It is slick and cool and fashion still hasn’t caught up to it. It is also rather funny, and features a hep pop tune ode to Chairman Mao. It is also something of an early send-up of the current trend of “slacktivism” — kids who want to seem like revolutionaries, but are in it mostly for the benefits. There isn’t much of a Jewish connection here, but anyone involved in contentious politics (and what Jew isn’t?) ought to give it a look. It screens at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Sunday the 23 at 6 pm. Warning: you may feel compelled to drink coffee and smoke afterwards.