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Kosher Cinema: March Movie Picks For JDaters®

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Kosher Cinema
Hello again, JDaters®. Clearly some of you checked out the last column since a couple of you wrote in to point out some Jews I missed in films, including Stephen Lang in Avatar, who happens to be half-Jewish. So thanks for that.

 

If you’re reading this, you’ve managed to survive the fallow month of February and its generally poorly-rated film offerings.  But hark, what light through yonder window breaks? It is March, and along with spring, it brings you films the studios actually spent a ton of money on.  Does that mean they’ll be good?  Heck no.  But at least it means they’ll be big!

 

The Chosen Feature

With the Academy Awards wrapping up at the end of February, I thought I’d highlight the Oscar-Nominated Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, who’s probably most famous for his work on the epic teen cruise ship dramedy, Breaker High. And slightly less well known for films like The Notebook, Half Nelson, and The Ides of March.  But I digress.

Drive is the story of a nameless driver who spends his time working heist jobs for low-lifes while hanging out on the fringes of the Hollywood scene.  The film concerns a job he does for Jewish Mobsters Bernie Rose, and Nino, played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perelman, respectively.

The film was famously accused of being Anti-Semitic, and also misleadingly advertised, by a Jewish woman from Michigan who was apparently upset that it was less like a Fast and the Furious sequel, and more like a film that gets Oscar nominations.  Her reaction was clearly understandable.  I felt like suing Martin Scorsese after discovering that Hugo was nothing like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and was actually good. I hate it when that happens.

If you haven’t seen Drive, you should really check it out.  In a year filled with mediocre films, Drive somehow managed to steer its way to respectability.

 

The JScale

It’s time once again to rate the upcoming month’s films for their Jewishness.  A reminder: The JScale doesn’t tell you how good a film is, only how Jewish it’s likely to be.  That said, let’s see how many Stars of David the films of March rack up!

  • The Lorax – 2/5 Stars of David

Not much Jewishness on the creative end, but it does feature Zac Efron, and The Lorax’s message of environmentalism is timely considering we just finished celebrating Tu Bishvat.

  • Project X – 1/5 Stars of David

The mostly unknown cast of the film makes it hard to gauge, as does the mystery-shrouded house party plot.  Most of the creative folks behind it aren’t Jewish.  I’m unsure of director Nima Nourizadeh, whose name could be Persian Jewish, or just plain Persian.  If anyone knows his origins, feel free to point them out.

  • Bel Ami – 0/5 Stars of David

Europeans abound in this production of Guy de Maupassant’s classic French Novel.  And there are no Jews to be found.  With Twilight hunk, and wooden actor, Robert Pattinson in the lead, it could end up being a giant bore.  Hopefully the decent supporting cast can lift the material.

  • Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie – 1/5 Stars of David

There aren’t a lot of Jews involved in the production of the world’s first billion dollar movie (it didn’t actually cost a billion dollars), but I’m going to encourage you to see it, because co-creator Tim Heidecker once took a knife to the back to protect his elderly neighbor from her drug addled son, and that deserves some major respect.

  • Let the Bullets Fly – 0/5 Stars of David

This Chinese action-comedy doesn’t have any Jews involved in prominent roles, but if Jews respond to Chinese cinema like they do to Chinese food, there might be some Hebrews in the seats come opening night.

  • Being Flynn – 1/5 Stars of David

Writer/Director Paul Weitz is of Jewish descent, but most of his cast is not.  The biggest name here is DeNiro, which once meant something, but no longer. DeNiro had a run from the 70′s through the 90′s that was truly remarkable. He made so many great films in that era that it’s staggering. But as of late, DeNiro’s presence is often meaningless when it comes to the quality of a film. His last decade has been a little like watching Michael Jordan play for the Wizards or Willie Mays on the Mets. Here’s hoping Being Flynn is worthy of such a great, and lately wasted, talent.

  • John Carter – 1/5 Stars of David

Michael Chabon, one of the greatest Jewish authors alive, did some work on the screenplay, so John Carter gets a little cred, but beyond Chabon, there’s not much Jewish about this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Martian adventure.  Andrew Stanton is a genius when it comes to animated cinema, but it remains to be seen whether he can transition to live action as smoothly as Brad Bird did with Mission Impossible.

  • A Thousand Words – 3/5 Stars of David

Both director Brian Robbins (born Brian Levine) and screenwriter Steve Koren are Jewish, and the film’s plot in which Eddie Murphy’s smart-mouthed agent is cursed to have only 1,000 words left in his life before he dies, sounds like a sort of justice you might find in Jewish folktales.  But be warned, Robbins’ and Murphy’s last two collaborations brought the world Meet Dave and Norbit, and Koren’s last film was the abysmal Jack and Jill.

  • Seeking Justice – 0/5 Stars of David

No Jews to speak of in this latest leg of Nicholas Cage’s quest to make as many crazy action films as possible in order to restore his mansion-buying fund.

  • Friends with Kids – 3/5 Stars of David

Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed and stars in this film alongside her longtime life-partner John Hamm.  Yes ladies, Don Draper may not have stayed with the Jewish girl on Mad Men, but he goes home to one in real life.  The film’s also a Bridesmaids reunion of sorts, featuring Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph (Jew!) in supporting roles.

  • 21 Jump Street – 2/5 Stars of David

And yet another classic TV “drama” sees itself made into a comedic action movie.  Previous remakes of such classics as The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, and Miami Vice, have seen mixed results at best.  Jonah Hill’s obviously the big Jew on campus here, starring in the film, and also having co-written the screenplay.  The film also features an appearance from James Franco’s brother Dave, another member of the tribe.

  • Casa de Mi Padre – 1/5 Stars of David

Will Ferrell will attempt to be the funniest White Mexican since Ringo Starr played Ewa Aulin’s gardener in Candy.  Whether he succeeds is anyone’s guess, but what’s a fact is this movie’s pretty well devoid of Jews, other than writer Andrew Steele.

  • Jeff Who Lives at Home – 3/5 Stars of David

So the rating on this film is conditional.  I’m not sure if brothers (and writer/directors) Jay and Mark Duplass are Jewish.  There’s very little information on their ethnic background online.  If they’re not, it’s a 1. Jason Segel, was definitely raised Jewish, though.

  • Detachment – 2.5/5 Stars of David

Director Tony Kaye famously disowned his first feature film, American History X, after getting into a fight with the studio and star Ed Norton.  Kaye, who’s British, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household in England.  He’s joined in Detachment, a film examining the lives of high school staff and students through the eyes of a substitute teacher, by Adrien Brody and James Caan, both of whom are of Jewish background.

  • The Hunger Games – 2/5 Stars of David

Such is the might of The Hunger Games that it’s the only major release on March 23rd.  No one wants a piece of Katniss Everdeen and her comically ridiculous name. Helmer Gary Ross is Jewish, as are supporting actors Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz.  Kravitz’s casting in the role of stylist Cinna apparently proves that even in the dystopian future, there will be a lot of Jewish men in fashion.

  • Wrath of the Titans – *

I don’t really feel like rating Wrath of the Titans.  There aren’t many Jews involved in it, and the first film had such a crummy, anti-climactic ending.  Wrath of the Titans is a symbol of all that’s wrong in Hollywood today.  An unnecessary sequel for a grimly mediocre movie, featuring some lazy, half-hearted performances by the likes of Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. But it made a lot of money at the box office, so clearly it needed a companion piece.

  • Mirror Mirror – 1.5/5 Stars of David

Mirror Mirror features some prominent Jewish supporting actors in Armie Hammer (yes, he’s part Jewish), Mare Winningham, and Michael Lerner, but the creative minds behind it are not so Jewish.  Director Tarsem Singh and screenwriter Jason Keller are from other backgrounds.  The other screenwriter, Melissa Wallack, is a newbie, and there’s not much information out there on her. Her name sounds like it could be Jewish, but there’s just no way to tell at the moment.  This is one of two Snow White movies coming out this year, which is of course a huge coincidence, and not because studios copy ideas from each other.  See: Antz and A Bug’s Life for reference.

  • This Must Be The Place – 4/5 Stars of David

An actual Jewish movie!  This Must Be The Place is the story of an ageing European rockstar who decides to track down the Nazi who tortured his father in Auschwitz, after finding out that he’s alive and well in America.  Featuring performances from Sean Penn (Jewish grandparents), and Judd Hirsch, This Must Be The Place would have garnered 5 stars of David if not for the fact that Director and Screenwriter Paolo Sorrentino is Italian and not Jewish.  Be warned, however, reviewers have not necessarily been kind.

  • Goon – 3/5

Oddly enough, the main character of Goon, a film about Ice Hockey, would appear to be Jewish.  Though he’s played by non-Jew Seann William Scott, Doug Glatt’s parents are portrayed by Eugene Levy and Ellen David.  With a name like that, and parents like those, he seems pretty Jewish to me.  The film, written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, both of at least partial Jewish descent, also features member of the tribe Liev Schrieber.

  • Dark Tide – 0/5

Not many Jews around in this thriller starring a Halle Berry whose days as a bankable leading lady seem far behind her.  Films in which she’s played supporting roles have done decently at the box office in recent times, but in order to find a starring vehicle of hers which made good money (and no, Perfect Stranger’s barely broke-even performance doesn’t count) you’d have to go all the way back to 2003′s Gothika.

 

And that’s the wrap for this month!  How do you guys feel about Billy Crystal hosting the Academy Awards?  Think he can live up to your expectations?  Until next month, enjoy JDating®, and hopefully you’ll find the right partner for a nice night at the movies!

Jonathan Maseng is a Los Angeles based screenwriter and journalist. He is a frequent contributor to the LA Jewish Journal, and his work has appeared in publications around the globe. His mother would like him to find a nice Jewish girl — he’s still looking.
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4 Comments »

  • Film lover says:

    Your website is great! I use your “J” scale to pick out the next movie I will watch, the lower the score, the better the movie. Drive sounds like it will be epic!

  • Martin H. Leaf says:

    If you don’t see Drive as the most Jew hating film ever, you don’t really view films critically.

    Drive is anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. Every theme the Nazis stressed is in the movie. Not one is missed.

    If you study Rose (Brooks) eating at Nino’s it is all there. The gold watch and pinky ring is key. The camera always zeroes in on that, it is part of the uniform of “them” as opposed to us.

    The hatred of Jews is so detailed in Drive, it reminded me of Mein Kampf, the part where Hitler describes the Jews of Austria.

  • dee says:

    Ah, in fact, here’s a bit where the Duplasses say they’re Catholic, their parents are Catholic, and on… So that answers that question.
    http://theflickcast.com/2010/03/19/sxsw-interview-cyrus-directors-mark-and-jay-duplass/

  • dee says:

    If you were curious about Louisiana-born Mark and Jay Duplass, they went to a Catholic school, and their last name is French. Almost certainly, they’re of at least partial French Cajun background.

    It is the month of the “quarter Jew” at the movies… Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Jay Baruchel all fit that bill (Collins’ maternal grandfather was Jewish, grandmother’s background is murkier).

    Zac Efron does look like a lot of “full Jews”, though… Tony Curtis, Robby Benson, Logan Lerman… Maybe he inherited his grandfather’s look.

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