December holidays bring out Jewish stars


At the movies

“Coco,” an animated film from Disney/Pixar studios, tells of 12-year-old Miguel, who dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Despite his family having a generations-old ban on music, Miguel journeys to the Land of the Dead where he meets Hector, a charming “trickster” and together they unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. (Opened Nov. 22)

 Hispanic actors voice all the characters. LEE UNKRICH, 50, directed the film and co-wrote the story that is the basis for the flick’s screenplay. Unkrich won the Oscar for best animated film in 2011 (“Toy Story 3,” which he produced and directed). 

 “Molly’s Game,” directed and written by AARON SORKIN, 56, is based on the real experiences of Molly Bloom, now 39. When she was 26, she became the target of an FBI investigation because she ran an underground poker empire for celebrities and the Russian mob. Bloom, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, is played by Jessica Chastain. Her father, played by Kevin Costner, is also a major character in the film. (Opened Nov. 22)


“The Current War” tells the story of the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as to whose system would be chosen to provide electricity to homes and businesses in the late 1880s. Sounds dry — but this was a battle royal, with some really weird twists. Michael Shannon plays Edison and Benedict Cumberbatch plays Westinghouse. The original screenplay is by MICHAEL MITNICK, 34. (Opens Nov. 24)

Musical notes

 On Nov. 22, Netflix will begin streaming “Barbra: The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic!”  This concert film was made during BARBRA STREISAND’s last concert tour.  Streisand, 75, is joined by many celebrity guests, including Seth MacFarlane, Jamie Foxx, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Melissa McCarthy.

On Nov. 5, “60 Minutes” profiled ALMA DEUTSCHER, a 12-year-old music prodigy who is charming, upbeat and insightful. She began playing piano and violin before age 5, has long been a virtuoso on both, and began composing at 6. At 10, she wrote her first full-length opera, “Cinderella,” which premiered in Vienna last December and got great reviews. 

Born and raised in England, Alma is the (amazing!) daughter of well-known Israeli linguist GUY DEUTSCHER, 47. He’s a university professor and amateur musician in the U.K. His British wife (Alma’s mother), Janie Steen Deutscher, is medieval literature professor and amateur musician, too. While I don’t know if she is Jewish, I do know that Alma has dual Israeli citizenship. I was charmed by a TV clip of Alma, at age 8, appearing on an educational music program in Israel. She seamlessly moved from Hebrew to English while chatting with the show’s hosts. 

They’re growing Jewish superheroes young

“Captain Marvel” is another blockbuster comic-based movie. It’s set to open in 2019. Basic plot: A young boy named Billy Batson is transformed into superhero Capt. Marvel when he says: “Shazam!”  Variety reports that ASHER ANGEL, 15, has been cast as Batson. You might know him as co-starring character Jonah Beck on “Andi Mack,” a hit Disney Channel series.

Last March, Arizona Jewish Life profiled the young actor. “In December 2015…Asher became a bar mitzvah at his home in Paradise Valley [Ariz.],” the publication writes. “He didn’t have time to attend Hebrew school, so his vocal coach, Michele Kahn, helped him prepare. Asher is glad he followed through and reflects on his religion. [He says]: ‘What Judaism means to me is being born to this family and it pulls them together and keeps them close.”’

Last fall, Asher and his family attended High Holiday services at a Park City, Utah synagogue (near where the show is filmed). Joining them was JOSHUA RUSH, 15. He plays Cyrus Goodman, another co-starring “Andi Mack” character.