The reason Iddo Goldberg is chatting with The Arty Semite is ostensibly his new film, “And While We Were Here,” opening September 13. But the conversation is less about his co-star Kate Bosworth than about his grandma Luba, who represents Judaism to him.
In the film, the Israeli star plays Leonard, a concert musician booked to play on a beautiful island off Italy’s Amalfi coast. His marriage to Jane (Bosworth), a writer, is strained. While attempting to adapt her grandmother’s World War II stories, she stumbles into a romantic affair with a younger man.
Goldberg spoke to The Arty Semite about Israel, his family and his career.
Curt Schleier: At first, Jane and Leonard seem like an ideal couple. Then there’s a hint of a death that’s never fully explained.
Iddo Goldberg: They’d been trying to have kids for a few years. The director didn’t want to be very specific, but this was the third baby that [was a miscarriage]. The couple really loved each other. But [this] was just tearing them apart. It was too painful to talk about any more. They just tried to ignore it.
This is your first big film lead. What does this mean for your career?
I’m not sure. You can never tell. Next up is a BBC 2 miniseries, “Peaky Blinders.” You should look it up on the web.
Josh Pais has been in dozens of films playing many roles, including Raphael — not the painter, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Rurtle. But for most of his career he has been a sought-after character actor in independent films.
Pais’s current effort is Lynn Shelton’s “Touchy Feely,” co-starring Rosemarie DeWitt, Ellen Page and Allison Janey. Pais and DeWitt are Paul, a dentist with a declining practice, and his sister Abby, a massage therapist with more bookings than she can handle.
But something happens. Paul suddenly finds the ability to heal Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) and his practice becomes bountiful; meanwhile, Abby can’t stand touching anyone’s skin.
Pais talked to The Arty Semite about how he learned to be invisible, the difference between independent and studio films, and his Dutch father who spent World War II working for the underground and hiding in Amsterdam.
Curt Schleier: There are two Pauls. One seems insecure and the other is confident and positive. Which one describes the real Josh Pais?
John Pais: At this point, I’m more the “after” dentist. I would say I’m quite happy in my life the majority of the time. Earlier in my life I was more questioning, overly trying to figure things out. I like this way much better. I think success is tied to it. I always worked pretty steadily. But maybe out of some kind of fear I put the brakes on letting myself be as successful as I’d like to be. More and more I’ve taken the brakes off and let whatever happens happen.
What part of yourself did you question?
Jonathan Holiff had a tough time growing up. His father was occasionally physically and always emotionally abusive. “If there was a definition of emotionally abusive in the dictionary there’d be a picture of my father next to it,” Holiff says. He quickly adds, though, “You have to put it into the context of the times.”
His father, Saul, is the subject of Jonathan’s documentary, “My Father and the Man in Black,” opening in New York and Los Angeles September 6. The Man in Black is of course country music singer Johnny Cash. Saul was associated with the superstar for 17 years, and for 13 of those as his manager.
The film starts with Saul’s suicide. Eight months later, Jonathan’s mom gives him the key to his father’s storage locker. There the younger Holiff discovers a treasure trove of material, including 60 hours of an audio diary his father recorded as well as phone calls with Cash that Saul secretly recorded, which became the main resource for the movie.
Holiff spoke to The Arty Semite about the “cathartic experience” of making the film, how the combination of Johnny and Saul was “greater than the sum of its parts” and the anti-Semitic comments by June Carter Cash that caused the rupture in their agreement.
Curt Schleier: Did you like your father?
Jonathan Holiff: I certainly didn’t like him until after he died. I had an unprecedented opportunity not many children get to know one’s father before and after he died. The audio diary and phone calls allowed me to identify with him, with his business, with his family. And suddenly what for me as a child was a two-dimensional authority figure became a richer, more complex person, albeit a tragic one.
Sigourney Weaver is set to team up again with Ridley Scott, the director who made her a star. That was in “Alien,” singular; this time there are a bunch of aliens.
Weaver will star in “Exodus.” For the record, this is not a re-imagining of the Leon Uris book that featured Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint, among others, but that other Book of Exodus.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, she will play Tuya, mother of Ramses II (Joel Edgerton). The perhaps inappropriately named Christian Bale stars as Moses, while Aaron Paul, of “Breaking Bad” fame, will be Joshua.
Filming begins in Spain, Morocco and England next month. Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) wrote the screenplay following previous versions written by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage.
New Yorker Josh Pais shines in Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” as creepy rich guy Stu Feldman. He is also starring in Lynn Shelton’s 2013 Sundance Official Selection indie, “Touchy Feely,” opening in theaters September 6.
In the movie, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a massage therapist, has a commitment-phobia that gushes out sideways. She can’t touch other people’s skin, which is awkward in her line of work. Abby’s brother Paul (Pais) is a sad, uptight, socially inept dentist with a floundering practice. Ellen Page plays his encouraging and emotionally-stunted daughter. The talented cast includes DeWitt’s real-life hubby Ron Livingston, and Allison Janney as the healer who loosens Paul up. “Touchy Feely” is about living in one’s skin, both figuratively and literally.
The Arty Semite caught up with Pais at Manhattan’s Magnolia Pictures office.
Dorri Olds: What is it like to work with the cast of Touchy Feely’?
Josh Pais: Outstanding. Everyone feels a sense of ownership in creating a Lynn Shelton movie. Lynn chooses amazing people — including the crew. Every person there is committed to making the film the best it can be. Ellen and Rosemarie and Scoot [McNairy] and Allison — everybody was just delicious.
How did you craft your character?
It’s hard to tell sometimes whether Larry David is experimental or just lazy.
Consider all of those characters playing themselves, or some version of themselves, on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”: Richard Lewis, Wanda Sykes, Larry David himself. Is that a bold blending of reality and fiction or is it all he’s got to work with?
David’s latest outing, the HBO movie “Clear History” (which aired August 10 and will be out on DVD this fall), begs the question again. The story and setting are far from the comfortable Hollywood environment of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but the character is the same “Larry David” — only this time masquerading under a different name. Is this some kind of conceptual feat, or just the inability to come up with anything new?
At the start of “Clear History” we see David, playing a character named Nathan Flomm, cruising down the California highway in a convertible, long hair and beard flowing in the wind. He’s a Silicon Valley marketing guru, working for an about-to-take-off electric car company. But thanks to a typically stubborn, “Larry David”-esque argument over the car’s name — his boss, played by Jon Hamm, wants to call it the “Howard” after both his son and the hero of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” — he quits and cashes in his stock, which turns out to be a gigantic, billion-dollar mistake.
Footage from a never-released Jerry Lewis Holocaust film buried since the early 1970s was unearthed on YouTube on Saturday. The now-87-year-old Jewish comedic actor had promised that no one would ever see what he admitted was the “bad, bad, bad” film titled, “The Day the Clown Cried.”
Seven minutes of footage from a 1972 Flemish documentary about the making of the film were uploaded to YouTube. The drama centers on a non-Jewish German circus clown, played by Lewis, who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp for making fun of Adolf Hitler in a bar. In the camp, he performs for enthusiastic Jewish children. The SS guards use the clown to help load the children onto a train to Auschwitz, but he accidentally ends up on the train. The clown is assigned to lead the children to the gas chambers, and he decides to join them in the chamber to entertain them as they are killed.
According to The Times of Israel, Lewis visited Auschwitz and lost 40 lbs. before beginning work on the movie. The behind-the-scenes and interview footage in the Flemish documentary indicate how dedicated to his craft Lewis was, and how seriously he took the making of the film.
After several disastrous test screenings, Lewis spiked the film, vowing never to let it be shown again.
Who knew that Allen Ginsberg would become such a sought-after role?
We’ve already seen James Franco play Ginsberg — that would be in 2010’s “Howl,” directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman — and now Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, is getting his shot. “Kill Your Darlings,” which premiered at Sundance and will get limited U.S. distribution in October, features Radcliffe as Ginsberg, alongside Ben Foster as fellow beat writer William Burroughs and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac. Watch the trailer below:
Before home computers, before the Internet, there was Linda Lovelace. For those who may have missed the 1970s, Lovelace starred in “Deep Throat,” the first “adult” film to receive mainstream distribution.
Typical porno flicks of the time were sleazy, hurriedly shot and poorly lit. “Deep Throat” was comparatively better, and even had an unusual comic plot. Lovelace was unable to achieve satisfaction in the traditional matter because of — how to put this? — a physical anomaly. Without going into detail, consider the film’s name.
That was humorous, perhaps. But there was nothing funny about her real life. Lovelace later revealed that she was abused by her husband and forced not only to appear in this film, but to perform acts of prostitution, as well.
Her life is the subject of a new biopic, “Lovelace,” which opens August 9 in theaters and on Video on Demand. It is directed by Rob Epstein, 58, and Jeffrey Friedman, 62. The pair are also behind such well received documentaries as “Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt” (an Academy Award winner) and “The Celluloid Closet” (for which they won a directing Emmy). Their first narrative film was “Howl,” which starred James Franco as a young Allen Ginsburg.
Epstein and Friedman spoke to The Arty Semite about tandem directing, casting “Lovelace” and how being Jewish affects their expectations.
Curt Schleier: How long have you two been working together?
Why would a brilliant woman, blessed with familial, material and career success, without any religious animus against Jews or direct experience of oppression, decide to blow herself up and murder a room full of Israeli children?
This question seems to be at the heart of “The Attack,” a beautifully built film by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, which opened in Israel this past month and in New York in June. The film follows the path of secular Israeli-Arab Amin Jaafari, a highly accomplished doctor living comfortably in Tel Aviv, as he tries to make sense of a shock that comes out of nowhere: His beloved wife, a Christian Palestinian academic named Siham, kills herself and 17 Israelis in a suicide bombing.
After being roughly interviewed by the Israeli police and rehabilitated by Jewish Israeli friends, Jaafari is caught up in his grief and his disbelief that Siham was capable of such a despicable act. His thoughts continually return to the night before the bombing, when he had received a call from Siham, supposedly visiting family in the West Bank, but he had been too busy to pick up. Siham’s suicide note, arriving by mail from Nablus, dispels all of Jaafari’s doubts, however, and he determines to go to Nablus to confront those who led Siham to her death — not to berate them for their choices, but to try and understand hers.
This is the way the story goes in the alternate timeline: “Paper Heart” (2009), the arch and quirky romantic comedy written by and starring Charlene Yi, became the next “Juno” (2007) and earned all the money at the box office. Audiences burst in anticipation for “Youth in Revolt” (2009) and swooned over its male lead’s newly revealed depth and maturity. Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010) was a smash hit. It launched a series of sequels while, paradoxically, also inspiring Hollywood to abandon sequels and superhero adaptations. In came a new era where Hollywood took risks on unknown properties and produced scripts that barely even whispered “blockbuster.”
No matter how much I admire the frenetic, original and actually clever “Scott Pilgrim,” the alternate timeline is not better, and it may even prove much worse than the status quo. There was something troubling about “Scott Pilgrim” star Michael Cera, circa 2009. He wasn’t growing as an actor — but he also wasn’t not-growing in the way that most actors not-grow. The weight of past performances makes it harder and harder to get cast in anything that isn’t a repetition of those performances. Audiences love to see their favorite actors play their favorite roles again and again. Everyone eventually becomes a character actor, even movie stars. Sandra Bullock in “The Heat” is Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality.” It’s why the movie is so popular.
Michael Cera, however, was not-growing as an actor in the worst possible way: He was trying and failing. Cera probably had another year to play the lost puppy/stunted youth. I would have happily followed Nick from “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” to Berklee College of Music. But he decided to change and to be more ambitious. Unfortunately, he was only somewhat ambitious: He took on characters that were his logical next steps and natural evolutions. He smirked 20% less. He added more angst. It was neither the radical change he needed nor the stasis we wanted. It was a disappointment, that’s all.
Now Cera’s done what he needed to do before. He’s taking on challenging roles, like the lead in “Crystal Fairy,” and he’s savaging his best-loved ones. Season 4 of “Arrested Development” contorts George Michael Bluth and “This Is the End” aggressively mocks his nice guy image. He’s getting a lot of media attention for this growth and development.
“When Comedy Went to School,” a new documentary opening in New York and Los Angeles July 31, tries too hard to be both a history of Jewish comedy and the Catskills. It’s a lot of territory to cover, but the producers made at least one right choice: The film’s narrator is Robert Klein, 71, the veteran comedian who’s covered a lot of the same territory himself.
Klein has starred on TV (he had the first-ever HBO comedy special), on Broadway (he’s a Tony nominee for “They’re Playing Our Song”) and of course at stand-up dates at night clubs, college campuses and JCCs. Oh, yes, he headlined at the Concord and Kutcher’s, too.
Klein spoke to The Arty Semite about his nostalgia for the old Catskills, changes in the comedy universe and how he saved Rodney Dangerfield’s life.
Curt Schleier: “When Comedy Went to School” made me sad. There are generations of young people who don’t know anything about the Catskills — a great era in New York Jewish life.
Robert Klein: There’s nothing there anymore. I had a club date there last summer in Loch Sheldrake [once home to many major hotels] and everything is shuttered up. It’s depressing.
You had your first taste of live comedy there, didn’t you?
Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman will direct her first feature film based on “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” a memoir by Israeli novelist Amos Oz, the author said on Wednesday.
The Israeli-American actress, who won a best actress Oscar in 2011 for her role in ballet drama “Black Swan,” will also play Oz’s mother, who committed suicide when he was 12.
“She (Portman) read ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ and asked me for the rights to make a film adaptation around five or six years ago,” Oz told Reuters by telephone.
“I agreed because of my high esteem for her work. She’s an excellent actor.”
“A Tale of Love and Darkness” recounts Oz’s childhood in war-torn Jerusalem in the 1940s and 1950s, his mother’s death and his journey through a kibbutz and Israel’s shifting politics after the birth of the nation.
Oz said that he has been helping prepare the script, and Portman was likely to come to Israel in September for film preparations and begin shooting in January.
Portman’s publicist was not immediately available to comment.
Portman, 32, was born in Jerusalem to an Israeli father and an American mother, but was raised in the United States. Her first feature film role was 1994 thriller “Léon: The Professional” and her breakout role came in her teens as Queen Padmé Amidala in “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.”
Apart from her Hollywood career, the Harvard-educated, Hebrew-speaking actress has also worked in Israeli film.
“The Romeows” is not a misspelled attempt to re-write Shakespeare. Nor does it have anything to do with cats. It is, in fact, a gentle, heart-warming film about the enduring friendship of a group of guys, members of the same Brooklyn College house plan (class of ’59). The title stands for “retired older men eating out Wednesdays.”
The group meets weekly for dinners that are part reminiscence, part philosophy and part therapy. Director Robert Sarnoff started to film them on a regular basis in 2008, as their 50th class reunion approached, and then shot them again in 2012.
There is something poignant about how they maintain their relationships (and still laugh at each other’s jokes) so many years after they first met. Clearly, the nourishment they get from these sessions fills their souls as well as their bellies.
In individual interviews and during their meals, they talk about everything from their mortality to the legacies they’ve left their children.
“The Romeows” will resonate with anyone who lived through that era, particularly New Yorkers who attended any of the tuition-free city colleges, all top ranked academically and important steps into the middle class and beyond for immigrants and their children.
Quoted in the production notes, Sarnoff said the audience attending an early screening reacted positively to the film, “but many questions led me to believe there was some confusion. Clarification was necessary.”
Jeff Garlin gets jokes.
Garlin is probably best known for his work with Larry David on the HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But he’s also done stand up and will have his own TV show, “The Goldbergs,” this fall on ABC.
The sitcom is about a mid-‘80s, loving Jewish family — a family like any other, just with a lot more yelling. It also stars George Segal as Garlin’s father-in-law, Al (Pops) Solomon.
That would be reason enough for an interview, but Garlin is really promoting “Dealin’ With Idiots,” his second film as writer, director and star. “DWI” is a funny portrayal of parents at their children’s Little League games. It is also at times moving, as Garlin tries to help his son navigate a world where winning is everything and not everyone has the skills to win.
Garlin spoke to The Arty Semite about his movie, his recent arrest, and his Jewish upbringing.
Curt Schleier: You’ve got this film. You have your own TV show in the fall. Are you planning on telling Larry David that you’re sick of his misanthropic attitude and you want nothing more to do with him?
Believe it or not, there is something worse than being trapped in a friend’s living room while he unspools a year’s worth of home movies.
What is that? Going to a theater and paying to watch home movies.
That’s the prospect facing audiences at “Israel: A Home Movie,” an Israeli film by Eliav Lilti that made its U.S. debut in New York on July 10.
Here’s the basic problem: These are home movies, and no matter how you frame them, they have the same problems all home movies do. You get often blurry shots of people posing or waving or walking into water or at a wedding or doing the things people do when a family member points a camera at them. It generally isn’t interesting.
It is also at times sloppily edited, with the same scene shown repeatedly. (Count how many times you see Cousin Danny twirling the propeller of what looks like a Piper Cub.)
That’s not to say there are no interesting segments. Some vacationers got footage of an Egyptian MIG streaking over the border into Israel at the start of the Yom Kippur War, and then footage of it being shot down by an Israeli jet as it fled the country.
“I watch this movie maybe once every two weeks,” my friend Jamie said to me, giggling, as we found our seats for a screening of “Funny Girl.” The Museum of Jewish Heritage was screening the film as a part of their ongoing “Hello, Gorgeous!” Film Festival, in which they’re showing a different Barbra Streisand movie for free every week during the summer. She was so excited to see Barbra on the big screen.
The theater was filled with a decent amount of people for a 6:30 p.m. screen time in the Financial District. Many of them were women with white or graying hair, plus the occasional younger ones like Jamie and myself. I had seen the movie many times, of course, and I knew the songs without even trying, but I came to see it tonight mostly because I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my friend who adores the film so much she sat next to me reciting lines from memory. As we watched, I remembered how I felt the first times I saw “Funny Girl,” when I was in elementary school.
When I was in fifth grade, I gave a “Living History” presentation on Fanny Brice. I knew about Fanny because my mother, a lover of movie musicals and of Barbra Streisand, had introduced me to “Funny Girl.” Entranced by Streisand’s comedy and singing and fabulous eyeliner, I wanted to learn about the woman she portrayed. Was she really as funny and noisy and boisterous as Barbra? I wanted to be like both of them!
Lynda Obst is a Hollywood insider but not a fan of what she sees happening in Tinseltown. A former editor of The New York Times Magazine, she became a successful producer, with such films as “The Fisher King” and “Sleepless in Seattle” to her credit.
But at some point, Obst realized that she wasn’t in Kansas anymore — or suburban New York, where she grew up. She was finding it increasingly difficult to get her kind of films made. Hollywood execs, she claims, became less interested in movies with staying power than in films that open wide (in 3,000 or so theaters) and have big initial weekends. This take-the-money-and-run philosophy meant making films that attract teenage boys: They dominate the first weekend audience, which is why you’re as likely to find your favorite superhero on the silver screen as in a comic book.
In 1996, Obst wrote “Hello, He Lied,” about her experiences in the modern studio system. She’s followed that — a sequel, in movie speak — with the just published “Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business” (Simon & Schuster).
Obst spoke to The Arty Semite about feeling “lost in translation” when she first arrived on the Left Coast, the changing landscape of the film business and dinner table arguments between the religious and secular branches of her family while she was growing up.
Curt Schleier: Let’s start with a chicken-or-egg question: What came first, older people not going to the movies, or the film business not making movies that interest the older crowd?
Just because Rush Limbaugh says it’s raining doesn’t mean it’s a sunny day.
Admittedly, his assertion that Camp Kinderland — a summer camp in the Berkshires — is a hotbed of Communist indoctrination doesn’t have much traction in 2013. But consider the camp’s backdrop for sports, music, drama, and arts and crafts. The theater is dubbed The Paul Robeson Playhouse and the athletic center is known as the Roberto Clemente Sports Shack. Bunks bear such iconic names as Harriet Tubman, Joe Hill, Hannah Senesh, and Anne Frank.
In “Commie Camp,” filmmaker Katie Halper, who attended Camp Kinderland, revisits the old stomping grounds to document what it’s like today and to illustrate just what a nitwit Rush Limbaugh is. The problem is that she sometimes proves his point.
Founded in Tolland, Mass., in 1923 by secular Jewish socialists and communists, Camp Kinderland offered a summer respite to the children of poor and working class Jewish immigrants. It was unabashedly leftist and continues to be, though the tone has softened and the issues evolved. Environmentalism, marriage equality, and reproductive rights are among the hot topics today.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Late one evening, unable to sleep, I was channel surfing when I happened on a documentary about Hudson River bricks. Lest you think, as I did at first, that the subject would put me to sleep in no time at all, I found myself utterly engrossed — and wide awake.
The documentary, “Hudson River Brick Makers,” looks at an industry that once animated the Hudson River Valley, gainfully employing thousands of workers, many of them immigrants, and transforming any number of sleepy river towns into lively commercial centers. Who knew?
But that wasn’t the only revelation in store. What made the history of the Hudson River brick industry especially fascinating was that its products were destined for New York City. As it turned out, the rise and fall of the Hudson River Valley was tied up with the literal rise of the Empire City, whose face was lined with bricks. When, as a result of changing tastes and the advent of new technologies, the demand for this building material faded, so, too, did the fortunes of its manufacturers, distributors and everyone else involved in its creation and circulation.