The Fabelmans Movie Review

It is always fascinating (at least from my perspective) to learn how and why an artist got started.

The new film, The Fabelmans, is the semi-autobiographical story of Steven Spielberg‘s early years. Co-written by Tony Kushner ( who also co-wrote West Side Story), the tale starts in 1952 in New Jersey. Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan) is going to the movies with his parents Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano).

The Greatest Show on Earth will change Sammy’s life. As the movie shifts in time, an older Sammy (Gabrielle LaBelle) wants to make a career as a filmmaker. While his artist mother encourages him, his scientist father would prefer that his son take another path in life. When his Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsh) comes for a short visit, he also supports Sammy’s dream.

Life becomes more complicated by two moves: the first to Arizona and the second to Northern California. By the time the family settles in California, Sammy is dealing with more complications: the end of his parent’s marriage and the blunt antisemitism he is experiencing in school. Mitzi and his father’s best friend Benny (Seth Rogen) have become more than friends, adding additional pressure to everything that Sammy is going through.

Michelle Williams is going to get at the very least, an Oscar nomination for her role. I felt for her, as both a woman and an artist. As much as she loved her husband and her children, it is obvious that she had a gift for music.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 30 minutes, it goes pretty fast. But even with that pace, some scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor. That being said, it is a love letter to movies and the families we love, foibles and all.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Fabelmans is presently in theaters.

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Pam & Tommy Review

There is no more infamous 1990’s couple than model/actress Pamela Anderson and her musician ex-husband Tommy Lee. The release of their sex tape in 1995 was both a novel event and a harbinger of the upcoming change when it came to Hollywood and celebrities.

The new eight-part Hulu series, Pam and Tommy, is the story of said sex tape and the whirlwind it created. It starts with a constructor worker named Rand (Seth Rogen, rocking the ultimate 90’s mullet). Unhappy that he has not been paid for his work and drowning in debt, he sneaks back into the house and steals a safe. Among the items in the safe is a private tape of newlyweds Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan).

Selling it as both a means of revenge and paying his bills, he has no idea what he is about to unleash on the world.

The narrative type is the following: “you think you know, but you have no idea”.

I’ve only seen the first episode so far. I’m not completely hooked, but there is enough of a narrative that I am curious where the series is going. The draw so far is the lead actors. James is completely unrecognizable underneath the wig, the prosthetics, and the voice. It’s certainly an out-of-the-box role for her, but not in a way that I think will be detrimental to her career. So far, I’m impressed. Stan is not as much as a stretch, but he is certainly effective as Lee.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Pam & Tommy is available for streaming on Hulu.

Seth Rogen is Wrong About Israel

There are far too many myths and lies about Israel for my taste. The problem with these myths and lies becomes worse when they come out of the lips of my fellow Jews.

Recently, actor Seth Rogen was a guest on the podcast WTF with Marc Maron. Both Rogen and Maron are Jewish. While talking about Israel, Rogen made the following statement:

“as a Jewish person,..I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel…You know, they never tell you that […] there were people there. They make it seem like it was just sitting there.”

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how I feel about Israel. I have visited twice and hope to visit a third time at some point in the future. It is a beautiful country with warm people and delicious food. However, that does not mean that I agree with everything that is said and done over there.

The issue I take with Rogen’s comment is that it gives those with antisemitic views the permission to make a similar statement.

If Rogen does not agree with the decisions made by the Israeli government, that is one thing. He is, like all of us, entitled to his opinion. But to publicly make a general assertion without consideration of the facts is another thing entirely and just plain wrong.

We live in a world in which hate and racism have a firm hold on us. The only way to break that hold is to speak the truth and be willing to listen to one another. Unfortunately, Rogen’s declaration only added fuel to the fire that is hate and racism.

The Lion King Movie Review

Twenty five years ago, The Lion King hit theaters. To say that it was a hit was an understatement. It is a masterpiece that to this day is loved, treasured and referenced.

Yesterday, the reboot was released. Directed by Jon Favreau, the new film follows the narrative of it’s animated predecessor. Simba (voiced by Donald Glover as an adult and JD McCrary as a child) is the son and heir to Pride Rock. His parents, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, the only holdover from the original film) and Sarabi (Afre Woodard) are King and Queen, respectively.

As a young cub, as many young are, Simba is energetic, curious and doesn’t exactly follow his parent’s instructions. Unfortunately, he gets his best friend Nala (voiced by Beyonce as an adult and Shahadi Wright Joseph as a child) in trouble as well.

Neither knows that Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a chip on shoulder. Scar’s plan to remove all obstacles to the throne nearly succeeds as Simba runs from fear and shame. He is befriended by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a couple of misfits who only know freedom and a boundary-less life.

Then Simba is reminded of who he is. Can he step and be King or will he continue to run from his past?

If I had to rank all of the live action reboots that Disney has released over the past few years, this film would easily rank as #1. Favreau and his creative team had a herculean task on their hands: create a new film while showing deference to the 1994 animated film.

In my opinion, they succeeded. I felt a chill down my back as the opening number started. The animation, if it can be described as that, looked more like a documentary on the National Geographic channel than a film with a fictional narrative. I loved the cast, who, like the creative team, were able to put their own spin on their characters while showing deference to the actors who lent their voices to the 1994 film.

If I had to choose my favorite things about this film, I would choose two. The first is Nala and Sarabi. In the 1994 film, Sarabi is a glorified background character. In this film, Sarabi is more prominent and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Nala is the power behind the throne and a warrior in her own right.

The second is Timon and Pumbaa. These characters bring a lightness and a comedic element to a narrative is full of psychological symbolism and heavy with the ideas of fate and responsibility.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Lion King is presently in theaters.

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