Coen classics, and what else watch this week in Jewish entertainment


RAISING ARIZONA, from left: Holly Hunter, Nicolas Cage, 1987

Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

The only thing talked about after last night’s 94th Academy Awards was the slap heard around the world. I won’t bore you with my take on Will Smith getting out of his seat to walk onstage and smack presenter Chris Rock after a poor taste joke directed at his wife; let’s recap a few of the Jewish links in the big awards show, and try not to get smacked by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the process.

Oscars recap

I’m sorry, folks. The Jewish Director Godfather, Steven Spielberg, didn’t take home the Best Director award for his adaptation of “West Side Story,” but co-star Ariana DeBose did win Best Supporting Actress for her role in the remake.

Jewish screenwriter Eric Roth didn’t win for his part in the adaptation of “Dune,” which starred Jewish actor, Timothee Chalamet. Jewish Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t win for her adaptation of “The Lost Daughter,” a film she also directed. The Alana Haim-starring “Licorice Pizza” predictably didn’t win anything.

The stars of Aaron Sorkin’s “Meet The Ricardos” didn’t win anything, and Joel Coen’s first foray into storytelling without his brother Ethan, “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” was shut out of its award nominations.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

It wasn’t a complete loss. “CODA,” which starred actress Marlee Matlin, who was raised Jewish, won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. She was a great part of that wonderful film, so there’s something. A little chutzpah in a night of mostly chaos or snoozing. That’s what you need to know about the Oscars. Here’s what you should watch or avoid.

Adrien Brody as Pat Riley

I plan to write more about Brody’s current resurgence in film, but his slow-burn role as the former NBA player turned head coach deserves some space. Last night’s episode marked the third episode of Adam McKay’s uproarious Lakers series starring John C. Reilly, and Brody’s Riley gets more screen time each week. If there’s one thing the Jewish actor has going for him right now, it’s versatility in film and television.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s latest movie is coming soon

Michael Bay has joined forces with the Jewish everyman actor for a new film called “Ambulance.” One shouldn’t expect nuanced material from a blow-up film freak like Bay, but Gyllenhaal will lend some grace and ferocity to the party. The film concerns a pair of old war buddies (Gyllenhaal and co-star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), one more innocent than the other, attempting a robbery that blows out of proportion. The chase goes to the streets, and the adrenaline only pumps on from there. Call it a spring action palette cleanser.

Need a good Coen Brothers movie?

How about a classic? Seeing a nice drawing of Nicolas Cage’s character from “Raising Arizona” made me want to turn on the comedy classic. Joel and Ethan won’t get this zany and proficient ever again. Cage and Holly Hunter play a couple at the end of their wits who kidnap a baby and find themselves protecting her more than worrying about any kind of ransom. The film is out-of-its-mind wacky, and marches to its own beat. It wouldn’t be a tragedy to rewatch an old Coen gem.

Ella gets a streaming release date

“I Am Here,” the story of Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal, opened earlier this month in limited cities. On May 24, it will become available on streaming services. It’s not one to miss. The story of how a South African Holocaust survivor finds the beauty in everyday life, even after enduring one stormy part of her life in the concentration camps. Blumenthal’s orbit is where the viewers spend the majority of the film. It’s an uplifting movie about finding the good in the bad and making it all good in the end. In a little less than two months, you can see her story. Mark the date.

Rachel Bloom’s next role in a Holocaust-themed short film

If there’s one story that is producing endless cinema stories, it’s World War II/Holocaust tales. You have the Blumenthal documentary already playing on the coasts. I reviewed “I’ll Find You” and “Plan B” for the Light here. Now, there’s a short film from Lara Everly about a grandmother opening up to her granddaughter about her experiences in the concentration camps. Jewish actress Bloom stars in the film, which is currently raising money for post-production costs. It’s films like this-the short tightly packed ones-that need to remain in Hollywood. I hope it finds the funding. The story looks intriguing.

See you next week.