The 2011 awards season is heating up! Three actors playing Jewish characters have been nominated for Golden Globes: Jesse Eisenberg as “Mark Zuckerberg” in The Social Network (a loose adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s non-fiction best seller The Accidental Billionaires); Paul Giamatti as “Barney Panofsky” in Barney’s Version (based on Mordecai Richler’s last novel); and Kevin Spacey as “Jack Abramoff” in Casino Jack (a comic riff on America’s most infamous lobbyist).
All three of these feature films should be playing in local theatres when this issue hits your mail box. Also, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (one of the documentaries on this year’s Oscar shortlist) will have its Chicago premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center beginning Jan 14.
As I write, several critics groups have already named The Social Network as their Top Pick for 2010, but I’m frankly not sure why—the depiction of Zuckerberg as a pushy Jewish geek reaching for the next rung isn’t exactly groundbreaking. The Spitzer doc (Client 9) bogs down in conspiracy theories, and the Abramoff story (Casino Jack) is a bit too farcical for my taste.
So of these four, the film I most enjoyed was Barney’s Version. Dustin Hoffman (as Barney’s father “Izzy”) and Rosamund Pike (as Barney’s wife “Miriam”) provide Giamatti with excellent foils, and the plot ripens nicely as Barney ages (although the filmmakers make no attempt to capture the specific medical complications described by Richler in his novel).
Saturday Jan 15, the KFAR Jewish Arts Center kicks off its 2011 calendar with a visit from New York-based Klezmer band Golem. Although I’ve never heard them play live, I have three Golem CDs in my collection (Citizen Boris, Fresh Off Boat, and Homesick Songs), and I love them all.
“Bold and bawdy, Golem is at the forefront of young Jewish artists breathing life into the cultural creativity of this generation,” says KFAR Director Adam Davis. Their raucous folk tunes are a “giddy amalgam” of styles and languages. Bits of Hebrew and Russian are mixed into traditional Yiddish numbers, and newly-composed English tunes contain smatterings of Polish and Ukrainian. Golem’s “musical romp” through Eastern Europe is a perfect blend of old and new.
To purchase tickets for the Jan 15 show at Martyrs on North Lincoln Avenue, visit: www.KfarCenter.org.
Did you know that much of the funding for the original Hull-House campus came from Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald (either through donations and/or matching grants)? Did you know that Rosenwald also played a personal role in helping Jane Addams become the first American woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize?
With all the local hoopla surrounding Jane Addams’ 150th Birthday (celebrated last September), no one has specifically focused yet on her relationships with members of Chicago’s Jewish community. So on Sunday Jan 9, Peter Ascoli and I will present a program at KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park. I will play Jane Addams and Peter will play Julius Rosenwald (his grandfather).
For more details, visit the KAM website: www.kamii.org.
The film version of Leon Uris’ epic novel Exodus premiered in New York on December 15, 1960. Fifty years later, Exodus still influences current debates as evident in two recently published books, biographer Ira Nadel’s Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller, and pollster James Zogby’s Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why It Matters.
Through Zogby’s eyes: “…Exodus transferred the American cultural mythology of brave pioneers and cowboys confronted by hostile, savage Indians to the Middle East conflict…” But Arabs are not the main enemy in Exodus; over 80% of its exhaustive 207 minute runtime is devoted to Jews battling the British (first in Cyprus, then in Jerusalem, and finally in Acco).
Ignoring the Jewish fight for independence from the British so clearly depicted in Exodus is part of an attempt to define Israel as a “colonial entity” given to Jews in the Balfour Declaration. (For example, see Gilbert Achcar’s new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.) But in Exodus, we see Jews becoming Israelis by taking up arms against their colonial masters. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, watching Exodus always fills my heart with pride.
Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) is an award-winning Chicago critic/columnist. Visit Jan’s new blog, www.SecondCityTzivi.com, for a complete online archive of all JUF News columns plus additional interviews and reviews. Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to Tzivi@msn.com.