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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.
When young independent music enthusiasts descended on the antiquated Jewish resort of Kutsher’s for an international indie rock concert series in 2008, it was “kind of like ‘Cocoon’ meets ‘The Shining,’” Barry Hogan recalls in the forthcoming documentary film “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” The comment by Hogan, founder of the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival organization, exemplifies the widening generational gap that ultimately forced Kutsher’s to close in December 2013. Yet Hogan observes that the venue still had the right charm for bands and indie rock fans. Similar nostalgia, pride, and humor characterize the other interviews in “Welcome to Kutsher’s,” which is premiering Dec. 6.
Going into a World War II film, audiences expect to see 70-year-old battle scenes play out on the big screen, in sometimes gory detail. The war in David Ayer’s latest film, “Fury,” is no different. The blistering motion picture is masculine, unflinching, and uncomfortable to watch at times—in line with the nature of war. But what detracts from the film is its focus on just a small part of the larger picture of World War II, most notably its omission of the brunt of the Holocaust, writes reviewer Jason Stack.
“The Death of Klinghoffer,” which debuted at New York's Metropolitan Opera on Oct. 20, is a vehicle for tendentious reiteration of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist slurs. But when considered together with two other collaborations between composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, the opera represents something more—an ongoing prejudicial obsession with Jews, writes Myron Kaplan, a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
While this Rosh Hashanah marked the 5775th birthday of the world on the Jewish calendar, one humor-infused Jewish family of seven (including the dog) has a single year down and some serious catching up to do. On Sept. 29, 2013, co-creators Harvey Rachlin and Steven Duquette debuted an apolitical Jewish-themed comic strip, “The Menschkins,” which has been syndicated to Jewish newspapers and websites on a weekly basis by JNS.org. One year later, Rachlin reflects on the creative process. “We wanted to give readers a respite from politics and heavy issues, and to try to get them to smile or chuckle a bit with comics that hold up a mirror to Jewish life,” he says.