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With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two major action films coming up in 2015—“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the “Fantastic Four” series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East Side to create the superheroes in “Fantastic Four” and “Captain America.” (The “Captain America” protagonist appears in “The Avengers.”) Born Jacob Kurtzberg to Austrian Jewish immigrants, Jack Kirby became an iconic American comic book artist and writer. But his road to the throne of comics wasn’t an easy one. Experts reflect on Kirby's legacy, and on how his Jewish background influenced his work, in interviews with JNS.org.
What is a Jewish film? In 2011, Tablet Magazine topped its "100 Greatest Jewish Films" list with the surprising choice of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the story of the little alien who made Cindy Sher fall in love with movies in the first place. According to Tablet, the “E.T.” themes of home, love, family, friendship, and enchantment make it a beautiful choice for the quintessential Jewish movie. Any film professor worth her salt would find it great food for thought to think about what makes a film Jewish or even what makes a decent film in general, but the joy of movies doesn’t have to be proven like a mathematical equation, writes Sher, the executive editor of Chicago’s JUF News.
Theater directors across the country condemned Ari Roth’s ouster as artistic director of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Theater J, calling the move a blow against freedom of expression. In fact, Roth's chronic productions of anti-Israel boilerplate amounted to personal license. Theater J is now free to be broadly creative—and representative—in Jewish-themed programs, writes Eric Rozenman, Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. Marshall Weiss recaps nine decades of Moses at the movies, including the most recent iteration—Christian Bale in the newly released “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
In “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” Ridley Scott’s attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable, namely an awkward experiment with trying to rationalize supernatural events like the Ten Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. “Exodus” is a competent film with epic intentions and scale, but doesn’t live up to its potential, writes reviewer Jason Stack.
The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind,” which was marked Dec. 15, presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed Jewish producer, David O. Selznick, and trickles down to fired director George Cukor and cast member Leslie Howard. “[Jewish film industry giants like Selznick] had been very nervous of there being an anti-Semitic reaction to their success and to the film business,” said David Thomson, author of the book “Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick.”
It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga., the “Sheriff of Mars” fled the aggressive U.S. music scene for a tranquil life on a farm in Bordeaux, France. Over the last 40 years, he has written nearly 500 songs. Now, his music is being shared with the world for the first time through a new documentary and music album.
From Tevye the dairyman to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine to “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel, Jews have always been at the forefront of the music scene. Burt Sugarman and Mark Goodman are no different. As one of the pre-eminent television and film producers in history, Sugarman’s rolodex of connections would make any A-lister blush. Goodman, one of the first on-air personalities for the MTV network, had his finger on the pulse of pop music for years. The two industry icons spoke to JNS.org about the recent release of a collector’s edition DVD set of Sugarman’s pioneering television program “Midnight Special” by StarVista Entertainment/Time Life.