What to watch, read, and know about this week in Jewish entertainment


Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Since St. Louis weather can’t make up its mind on whether it wants to be warm or cold, let’s toss out a few different things to watch, read, and know about in the world of Jewish entertainment this week.

The Incredible Elma!

“Would a person reach out with love to someone who denials your history?”

Holocaust stories are frequent again in Hollywood, but a brand-new documentary could take the warm side of the cake. “I Am Here” documents the life and times of Elma Blumenthal, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor. She isn’t your average old lady though. Elma brings a magnetic personality to her stories that dulls the sadness of her tragic backstory. Director Jordy Sank met her at a Shabbat 15 years ago, and hearing her tall and low tales left a dent in him, which led to the collaboration on this new documentary. “I Am Here” opened today in a limited release across the country. It will reach St. Louis and/or video-on-demand streaming services very soon. Here’s the trailer, which should make you laugh, cry, and generally just move you.

The thing about Elma is that she mostly kept her trauma a secret until recently. With the eruption of hate crimes across the world and the world’s consumption of it, a documentary like this sounds very appealing.

“Russian Dolls” is returning this month

Time-loop movies and shows aren’t easy to pull due to the fact that Hollywood pumps them out so often. But this twisted dark comedy from the mind of co-creator Amy Poehler that starred Natasha Lyonne had a sick mind of its own. A hilarious one that collected a cult following during its first season premiere back in 2019. Now that the pandemic is somewhat cooling off and releases are popping up right and left, it’s time for another round. “Russian Doll” centered around Lyonne’s party hound who dies unexpectedly on the night of a huge birthday party being thrown in her honor. Somehow, she keeps coming back and revisiting that night. Like any show with this hook, she becomes a detective and tries to figure it all out, or find a way out of the loop.

Unlike most shows, this one has plenty of Jewish themes. At one point in the first season, Lyonne’s Nadia Vulvokov is called “Jewishy” by another character. She refutes this and any other form of religion, even if the entrapments in her life keep reminding her of Jewish themes. While I started the show, I now have some homework to do before the second season premiere on April 20 via Netflix. It’s a different kind of comedy series, so I am in. Lyonne always makes her characters interesting and singular.

“Life And Beth” with Amy Schumer primer

With her Hulu series, co-starring Michael Cera, arriving March 18, fans of the Jewish actress should revisit a few of her greatest hits to freshen up for the show. Schumer plays the title role of Beth, a woman who suffers a freak accident and starts having flashbacks to her teen self, which makes her question the person she has become and the one she wants to still be. I would start with Jewish director Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck,” because that movie featured Schumer as a young woman who meets a man and finds her own life thrown upside down, but for good reason.

Next up would be “Snatched” with Goldie Hawn and “I Feel Pretty” with Michelle Williams. Disposable yet guilty pleasure comedies with a one track goal of derailing the mind. Schumer doesn’t stretch that often with her on screen persona, but she knows how to generate laughs.

While her new original series on Hulu shows her unique skill set (starring, writing, co-producing), it could also prove that she can carry a movie and a TV show.

Does the new Andy Warhol documentary unearth his Jewish link?

The famous artist crossed paths with many other famous people in his life, creating works of art that have lived on for decades since his death in 1987. But the rumor of a Jewish link always sits on the edge of intrigue with Warhol. At one point in his career, he was commissioned by an Israeli art buff to create ten historical Jewish paintings. Paintings that would feature a Jewish genius. “Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century” exhibit in the 1980s brought scathing reviews. People felt that he had missed the mark on paintings of Freud and Einstein, which were quite unusual. Or, they were simply “Andy.” The docuseries hit Netflix this week, and has six parts. Will they cover the Jewish geniuses? We shall see.

See you next week.