The Arty Semite

New Spielberg Film About Jewish Boy Seized by Church

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Director Steven Spielberg has several new projects in the works, including a film about the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara.

The movie will recount the true story of how in 1858 a young Italian Jewish boy was taken from his parents by authorities of the Papal States after a housemaid claimed to have given him an emergency baptism. The incident led to international attention and controversy. Many believe that the kidnapping was instrumental in convincing the public that the Papal States should be conquered, and thus ultimately helped bring about the modern Italian state.

Tony Kushner will write the screenplay as an adaption of the 1998 book, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara” by David I. Kertzer. In the past, Kushner collaborated with Spielberg on “Munich” and “Lincoln” — both of which received Oscar nominations.

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Steven Spielberg To Head Cannes Jury

By Reuters

Getty Images

U.S. director Steven Spielberg will preside over the 2013 Cannes film festival jury in May, organisers said on Thursday, an A-list casting that adds Hollywood firepower to the high-brow international festival.

Spielberg, whose presidential drama “Lincoln” took home two Oscars at Sunday’s Academy Awards, will succeed Italian director and actor Nanni Moretti, who helmed the jury for Cannes’ 65th anniversary last year.

The 12-day festival, which takes place on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France, is a major showplace for new movies from around the world that attracts top and emerging screen writers, deal-makers and hundreds of film critics.

Spielberg’s blockbuster film E.T. screened as a world premiere at Cannes in 1982, and festival President Gilles Jacob called the respected director a “regular” at the prestigious film festival.

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And the Nominees Are...

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

We all know that the Oscars race has been going on for some time now, but with today’s announcement of the 2013 Academy Awards nominees, we can consider the contest official.

Two Israeli films are among the final five nominees for Best Documentary. The first, “5 Broken Cameras,” by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, documents the first years of Burnat’s baby against the backdrop of villagers from Bil’in in the West Bank battling against Israel’s building of the security fence. The second, “The Gatekeepers,” was directed by Dror Moreh and features interviews with six former chiefs of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, who until this film had been secretive about their and their agency’s work.

Steve Spielberg’s “Lincoln” leads the Oscar race with a total of 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (by Tony Kushner) and Best Director for Spielberg himself.

Veteran actor Alan Arkin got a nod for his supporting role in Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” about the stealth rescue of a group of American embassy workers during the Iranian hostage crisis.

The inclusion of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” among the nominees for Best Picture must be hugely exciting for its young production team of Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald.

The 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place February 24, and will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane, who was surprised to be nominated for Best Original Song. He wrote the song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” for the comedy film “Ted.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Seth MacFarlane, Oscars, Lincoln, Argo, Alan Arkin, Academy Awards, 5 Broken Cameras, Steven Spielberg

The World's Top 10 Jewish Films

By Nathan Abrams

Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

After he reviewed Lawrence Baron’s “The Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema,” we asked contemporary Jewish film scholar Nathan Abrams for his choice of the best recent Jewish films. Below are his choices (in no particular order) of films over the last few decades that have made a significant impact in challenging stereotypes worldwide.

“La Haine” (France), Mathieu Kassovitz
A French goy playing a Jewish skinhead; a French Jew playing a goyish skinhead. What’s not to like?

“The Big Lebowski” (USA), Coen brothers
“I’m shomer f**kin’ shabbes.” ‘Nuff said.

“The Governess” (UK), Sandra Goldbacher
That rare creature: an excellent British Jewish film. Beautiful and lyrical with a strong female Sephardic heroine at its heart.

“Black Book” (Netherlands), Paul Verhoeven
Verhoeven does for the Jewish heroine what he did for female serial murderers in Basic Instinct.

“Inglourious Basterds” (USA), Quentin Tarantino
Not quite the “Jewish porn” Eli Roth promised it to be, but his portrait of Shoshanna is superb.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Steven Spielberg, Sandra Goldbacher, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Verhoeven, Mathieu Kassovitz, Larry Charles, Henry Bean, David Mamet, Coen brothers, Agnieszka Holland

'Homeland,' 'Midnight in Paris' Win Golden Globes

By Ezra Glinter

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Television drama “Homeland” — based on the Israeli series “Hatufim,” by Gideon Raff — took home the Golden Globe award January 15 for Best Television Series. The show stars Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison, as well as Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, Mathison’s CIA mentor.

In an interview in October with The Arty Semite, Patinkin noted that the relationship between the two characters is “a bit like the Oscar Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim father-son, student-teacher relationship. If there was a terrorist incident and her life was at risk, he would give his, given his belief that she could save millions and is his greatest hope for tikkun olam [repairing the world].”

Other winners at the Golden Globes included Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” for Best Screenplay (reviewed on The Arty Semite here and included in the Forward Fives here) and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” — which I wrote about for the Forward here — for Best Animated Feature Film.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Woody Allen, The Adventures of Tintin, Tintin, Steven Spielberg, Saul Berenson, Midnight in Paris, Mandy Patinkin, Homeland, Carrie Mathison, Golden Globes, Claire Danes, Awards

Q&A: Steven Spielberg Talks Tintin

By Dorri Olds

Steven Spielberg walked the red carpet at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theatre on December 12 like a regular guy, wearing an understated houndstooth cap, a knit scarf and wool overcoat. It was the New York City premiere of his 3D motion capture animated movie, “The Adventures of Tintin,” opening December 21.

Dorri Olds

Tintin, a cartoon journalist created by Belgian artist Hergé in 1929, is well known outside of the U.S., but Spielberg hadn’t heard of him until 1981, when a French review of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” compared Indiana Jones to Tintin. Spielberg’s 3D film is based on Hergé’s stories “The Crab with the Golden Claws” (1941), “The Secret of the Unicorn” (1942) and “Red Rackham’s Treasure” (1943).

The Arty Semite caught up with Spielberg outside the Ziegfeld to ask him about using motion capture technology, making Tintin 3D, and what Snowy should look like.

Dorri Olds: How long did it take to make this movie?

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Q&A: Jon Favreau on Spielberg, 'Iron Man' and Being a Model Actor

By Curt Schleier

Jon Favreau (right) with Daniel Craig on the set of ‘Cowboys and Aliens.’ Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Jon Favreau, director of the big summer tentpole film, “Cowboys and Aliens,” grew up in the Forest Hills section of New York, the son of a Jewish mother and an Italian/French Canadian father. He got his first break with a starring role in “Rudy,” the 1993 film about the little Notre Dame football player who could. He achieved prominence, however, as writer and star of the 1996 indie favorite, “Swingers.” Other roles followed, but like everyone in Hollywood, what he really wanted to do was direct.

Unlike many would-be directors, Favreau has been extraordinarily successful, helming films such as “Elf” and the first two “Iron Man” movies. His latest, Cowboys and Aliens, is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. It opened July 29 and tied with “Smurfs” as the number one picture of the weekend, grossing over $36 million in the U.S. Favreau spoke last week with The Arty Semite about his Jewish mother and mother-in-law, why he gave up directing the successful “Iron Man” franchise, and how intimidating it is working with Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard.

Curt Schleier: Were you raised Jewish?

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Steven Spielberg, Olivia Wilde, Jon Favreau, Iron Man, Interviews, Harrison Ford, Film, Daniel Craig, Cowboys and Aliens, Curt Schleier

Terrorist Noire

By Ishai Mooreville

It is often forgotten that before the existence of film noir, there was literary noir. The genre came to prominence in novels by James Cain, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who wrote “The Maltese Falcon” in 1930. Its origins can be found even further back, in Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent,” from 1907. It is therefore no surprise that someone has finally decided to portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of literary noir. After all, the conflict has been full of hidden motives, personal vendettas, and tragic killings.

In his novel “Limassol,” translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav, author Yishai Sarid uses the conventions of noir — the cynical, hard-boiled detective, the femme fatale, overweight gangsters and, of course, guns — to tell an emotionally wrenching story.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Secret Agent, The Maltese Falcon, Steven Spielberg, Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler, Limassol, Munich, James Cain, Joseph Conrad, Israeli Fiction, Humphrey Bogart, Ishai Morreville, Hebrew Fiction, Dashiell Hammett, Cyprus, Books, Barbara Harshav

Out and About: Spielberg Gets Wikileaks Movie; The Origins of Jewish Humor

By Ezra Glinter

Getty Images
Wikileaks leader Julian Assange

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yael Naim, Wikileaks Movie, Wikileaks, Steven Spielberg, Philip Roth, National Humanities Medal, Out and About, Moacyr Scliar, LABA, Julian Assange, Judith Coplon, Charles LeDray, Boris Pasternak

May You Be Like Jerry and Like Joseph

By Daniel F. Levin

Getty Images
January 1967: Jerry Bock enjoys a smoke of his pipe outside the theater where ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ is being performed.

Yesterday I was watching Nightly News with Brian Williams and was surprised to see that Sparky Anderson got a five-minute tribute but Jerry Bock, the beloved composer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” didn’t get a mention. I have a personal stake in this, as I write musicals and often worry about posterity. Mr. Bock leaves us 10 days after his collaborator, Joseph Stein, did, who wrote the book for “Fiddler,” based on Sholom Aleichem’s stories.

It’s hard now not to reflect a bit on this consummate Jewish musical, even if Brian Williams neglected to do so. In 2002 I served as a Steven Spielberg Fellow in Jewish Theatre Education, the goal of which, it was actually stated, was to move beyond “Fiddler on the Roof.” Ironically, I returned to the camp eight years later to direct the show. Thus I’m in the interesting position of first being sent in to destroy, and then to resurrect, “Fiddler” — not unlike Luke Skywalker with Darth Vader. And “Fiddler” was wheezing a bit when I held it this summer: My pre-teen cast didn’t know it since they hadn’t seen it on “Glee.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wedding Dance, Valley Forge, Tridition, Theater, Tevye, TRadition, Steven Spielberg, Sparky Anderson, Sholom Aleichem, Sheldon Harnick, Obituaries, Rich Girl, Nightly News, Musicals, Miracle of Miracles, Joseph Stein, If I Were a Rich Man, Luke Skywalker, Jerry Bock, Harvey Fierstein, Gwen Stefani, Deaths, Fiddler on the Roof, Darth Vader, Daniel F. Levin, Chaim Topol, Brian Williams, Alfred Molina, Zero Mostel

Fiddler in the Rough, Part Two: In the Lion's Den

By Daniel F. Levin

Daniel F. Levin is a playwright, composer and lyricist living in Brooklyn. His newest play, “Hee-Haw: It’s a Wonderful Li_e,” was called a “delightful surprise” by the New York Times; his musical, “To Paint the Earth,” about resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, won the Richard Rogers Development Award. This is the second in a series of four posts about his summer directing “Fiddler on the Roof,” crossposted from Frontier Psychiatrist. Read the first post here.

The truth is, when I learned I’d be directing “Fiddler on the Roof,” I wasn’t that upset. Wasn’t I going to camp to relax? To reconnect with the stars, have food prepared for me, swim, joke and find my peaceful mojo, away from the clatter of New York City? I didn’t need to reinvent Jewish summer camp theater with a production of “Godspell.” This didn’t have to be my Wagnerian Ring Cycle! I could phone it in. Yes, they were honored to have me back at camp, but I could live up to that by directing a decent “Fiddler,” right? I even promised myself not to care too much about the show. Caring leads to anxiety and disappointment. In Spielbergian terms, this was going to be my “Raiders,” not my “Schindler’s List.” Huzzah for an easy show!

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Vince Lombardi, Tevye, Steven Spielberg, Spiderman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, Godspell, Frontier Psychiatrist, Fiddler on the Roof, Daniel F. Levin, Batman, Aladdin

Fiddler in the Rough, Part One

By Daniel F. Levin

Daniel F. Levin is a playwright, composer and lyricist living in Brooklyn. His newest play, “Hee-Haw: It’s a Wonderful Li_e,” was called a “delightful surprise” by the New York Times; his musical, “To Paint the Earth,” about resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, won the Richard Rogers Development Award. This is the first in a series of four posts about his summer directing “Fiddler on the Roof,” crossposted from Frontier Psychiatrist.

In 2002, I was selected to be one of the highly prestigious Steven Spielberg Fellows in Jewish Theatre Education. It was very special to have Spielberg in your name. Sure there was also Jewish, theater and education, but still… Spielberg. Culled from New York’s finest out-of-work theater people, we had the task of bringing meaningful theater to Jewish summer camps, or, as the promotional materials said: not just another year of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Poor Mr. Spielberg probably never knew exactly what he was funding, or who these Fellows were, dropping his name in camps across the country. After an intense week’s training seminar in Atlanta, I was sent to a summer camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania. There, as Mr. Spielberg’s representative, I was to restore single-handedly their theater program and thereby preserve Judaism in the United States of America.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater, Summer Camp, Steven Spielberg, Frontier Pyschiatrist, Fiddler On The Roof, Daniel F. Levin

Ralph Fiennes on Playing Nazis, Holocaust Victims and Mohammed Atta

By Nathan Guttman

“Do you have to be handsome to play the role of a Nazi commander?”

That was a question that actor Ralph Fiennes was asked during a January 9 discussion, titled “The Power of Film and the Holocaust” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Fiennes didn’t have a clear answer.

The British actor, whose role as Amon Göth, SS commander of Plaszow concentration camp in “Schindler’s List” was described by director Steven Spielberg as “sexual evil,” did not rule out the part aesthetics played in the Nazi propaganda machine. He recalled his first fitting of the SS uniform in his trailer on the Krakow, Poland set of “Schindler’s List.” “The uniform is designed to have an impact,” he said.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Steven Spielberg, Schindler's List, Sara Bloomfield, Ralph Fiennes, Oscar, Mohammed Atta, Holocaust, Film, Bob Woodward, Ben Kingsley, Amon Göth, 9/11, Sunshine, Vladimir Putin, World War II




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