Oscar night for the Jews

From left to right: Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco, Natalie Portman

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Oscar night for the Jews

Sunday night is Oscar time and I’m not talking Mayer. Nope, it’s strictly Hebrew National in honor of the large number of Jewish (or half-Jewish) nominees. Whereas Jews usually figure prominently into the writing and producing (best film) categories, this year’s crop not only shows well there, but is also represented across many of the major award fields.

Let’s start with the best film category where at least half of the 10 nominated include Jews listed as top producers (meaning if their film wins, they likely will be on stage to collect the award). The five are “Black Swan” (Mike Medavoy); “The Fighter” (David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman); “True Grit” (Scott Rudin and Joel and Ethan Coen); “The Social Network” (Rudin) and “The Kids Are Alright” (Gary Gilbert).

Among the top acting categories, Jesse Eisenberg is nominated for his turn as Facebook founder (and fellow Jew) Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and James Franco, whose mother is Jewish, is nominated as a stranded hiker who saves himself by cutting off his hand in “127 Hours.” Meanwhile, Israeli-born Jew Natalie Portman is the odds-on favorite to win best lead actress for her role as the unglued ballerina in “The Black Swan.”

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Two of the five best supporting actresses come from Jewish parentage: The father of 14-year-old Hailee Steinfield of “True Grit” is Jewish and the maternal grandmother of Helena Bonham Carter, nominated for “The King’s Speech,” was Jewish. Interestingly, Carter’s maternal grandfather, who was a Spanish diplomat and whose father had been Jewish, saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.

Director Darren Aronofsky, who is nominated in that field for “Black Swan,” is Jewish as are Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of “True Grit.” David O. Russell, who is also nominated as best director for “The Fighter,” is half Jewish. According to Sharon Waxman, who included Russell in her book “Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System,” Russell’s father was Bernard Markovski, the name of the main character in his film “I (Heart) Huckabees.”

No big surprise that many of the nominees in both the adapted and original screenplay categories are Jewish. The adapted category boasts Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”), Joel and Ethan Coen (“True Grit”) and Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”) and the original has David Seidler (“The King’s Speech”) and Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are Alright”).

Even original song includes a Jewish composer in the mix: Alan Menken for the animated film “Tangled.”

Although the Oscar race is void of Holocaust-themed films, Israel did score a nomination for the short documentary “Strangers No More,” which is set in Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin School, and was made by American filmmakers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman. And Susanne Bier, a fervent Jewish director who took home a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, also got an Oscar nod in this category for Denmark’s “In a Better World” (she and the film are profiled on page 12).

So load up on the bagels and lox (or Hebrew Nationals) and get ready for the telecast at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC (Channel 30). I’ll be tweeting throughout the show (www.twitter.com/ellenfutterman) and you can also catch the St. Louis Beacon’s movie critic Harper Barnes along with Bob Cohn and myself discussing this year’s nominees on video at www.stljewishlight.com.

Pitcher this

Mazel tov to St. Louis native Matt Kramer, who was recently signed to play baseball with the Boston Red Sox. Kramer was a catcher at Harvard University, where he graduated in 2008, though the Sox plan to convert him to a pitcher.

Website Boxscore News reports that Kramer’s throwing sessions for the BoSox since last fall have produced excellent results. Last week in Fort Meyers he was hitting 93-94 mph consistently with his fastball, touching 95 and showing an 87 mph slider.

In the year he graduated Harvard, Kramer played independent (i.e., unaffiliated with a major league organization) ball with Harlingen, Texas, but after only eight games the Atlanta Braves purchased his contract. He spent the rest of the ‘09 campaign and part of 2010 in the Braves’ organization. He then performed admirably for another “indy” team in Sioux City, Iowa, batting .346 with three homers and five doubles in 20 games.

Kramer, who graduated from MICDS, is the son of Dr. Robert Kramer, an orthopedic surgeon and Judy Kramer, president of the local chapter of Hadassah. Matt studied biochemistry at Harvard, and had intended to go on to medical school but baseball beckoned.

And while Judy fully supports Matt’s decision to pursue baseball, she says he may eventually go to medical school. Regardless, she jokes, at least one of her sons will be a Jewish doctor. Second son Michael Kramer is studying medicine at the University of California at San Diego.

Bravo’s Andy Cohen to visit hometown

Bravo network senior vice president and TV personality Andy Cohen, who grew up in St. Louis (Clayton High School, Class of ’89), will be the special guest at COCA’s annual fundraiser, “COCAcabana” on Friday, April 29. Tickets range in price from $100 to $1,000. For more information, go to www.cocastl.org.

Last year, Cohen won an Emmy Award as executive producer of Bravo’s “Top Chef” in the category of outstanding reality-competition series.

Cycle out cancer

Exercise and support a good cause by joining St. Louis’ Cycle for Survival from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday, March 6 at the JCC’s Staenberg Family Complex in Creve Coeur. Think of this indoor cycling fundraiser as a one-hour spin session. Participants are asked to raise as much money as possible by seeking pledges in advance.

The inspiration for this event is Meira Bresler Riemer, a 28-year-old mother and native St. Louisan who is currently fighting a rare cancer called synovial sarcoma. She graduated from Block Yeshiva High School and earned a master’s from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University.

For more information, call Allison Zaromb at 314-863-0679 or go to http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/cyclestl.