On screens big and small, and on the soccer field

By Nate Bloom, Special to the Jewish Light

At the Movies: Opening soon

 “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” is based on the true-life story of the late John Callahan (JOAQUIN PHOENIX, 48. Phoenix’s mother is Jewish and he identifies as a secular Jew). Callahan’s severe alcoholism led to a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. He gradually regains the will to live via an unlikely mentor: a rich, gay guy named Dexter (JONAH HILL, 34). Dexter sponsors John and also conducts AA-therapy sessions at his home. Callahan recovered enough to develop a talent for sardonic cartooning and he gradually became a well-known cartoonist. JACK BLACK, 48, has a big scene at the beginning and at the end of the film. Most reviews are favorable, including a rave in Variety.

You’ll see a lot of national media coverage about “Blindspotting,” which is slated to open in St. Louis on July 27. Make a mental note to see it. Advance reviews are great. It co-stars DAVEED DIGGS, 34, and Rafael Casal, as two poor guys in Oakland, Calif. It follows them as they cope with crime, police violence and gentrification.  Casal and Diggs, who are from Oakland, co-wrote the film. Diggs, the son of an African-American father and a Jewish mother, is best known for winning a 2016 best supporting actor (musical) Tony for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis De Lafayette in “Hamilton.”  His first name is based on the Hebrew pronunciation of “David” and Diggs seems comfortable in embracing both his Jewish and African-American background.

On Hulu

 The original Hulu series, “Casual,” begins streaming its fourth and final season on July 31. The series centers on three characters: Valerie (MICHAELA WATKINS, 46), a therapist; her brother, Alex, a high-tech guy; and Valerie’s teen daughter, Laura. Valerie’s office assistant, Leia (JULIE BERMAN, 34) became a pretty important character in the third season.  FRED MELAMED, 62, who played Alex’s father, was a central character in several second season episodes. The series was created by ZANDER LEHMANN, 30, and the principal director is JASON REITMAN, 40. 

“Casual” has gotten great reviews and is really worth watching. But be warned: It’s too exhausting to watch three seasons in one go. Without spoiling things, be advised that the characters evolve and you come to realize they all have severe flaws that kind of make you angry at them because they aren’t the uncomplicated “good folks” you first thought. That said, you’ll really want to know what happens in the final season if you watch the first three.


On the field

Whatever your opinion about Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, there is no denying that the Russian soccer (football) team played very well at this year’s World Cup. Russia had the only Jewish player in the matches, which were held there. The player is VLADIMIR GRANAT, 31, a defenseman who has been a pro since 2004. He’s played for the Russian national team since 2011. He also played for Russia in the 2014 World Cup. He was a member of the Russian Maccabi team and played in the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel. (Thanks to Jewish Sports Review magazine for this tip).

In memoriam

 Actor Tab Hunter, who died on July 8 at age 86, seemed the epitome of the good-looking WASP boy-next-door. However, he was born Mayo Kelm, the son of a Jewish father and a German Catholic mother. His father was reportedly abusive and his mother walked out on him when Hunter was a toddler (she renamed him Arthur Gelien). Although he was a practicing Catholic most of his life, Hunter’s male life partner of 35 years, who outlived him, is Jewish.