May is Jewish American Heritage Month. With antisemitism on the rise in frightening numbers, the easier thing would be to hide who we are. Instead, we should be loud and proud of who we are. In honor of this month, I would like to offer a small list of American Jews who have made an impact on this nation.
Quo Vadis, Aida?: This harrowing tale of one woman’s choice to save her family or save as many people as she can during the Bosnian War is as powerful as a film can get.
Mass: Two sets of parents meet after one of their sons has killed the other in a school shooting to figure what happened. Along the way, they are forced to answer questions that are painful and difficult.
Spencer: This fictional take on Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and what might have occured during Christmas in the early 1990’s is a unique take on the myth of the late royal.
Belfast: A young boy is growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s. As he starts to transition from a child to a young adult, he begins to realize that nothing is ever a simple as it seems to be.
Black Widow: After ten years, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets the movie she should have gotten. Trying to atone for her past while living in the present, she must face reality and make up for mistakes.
Framing Britney Spears: This Hulu documentary took viewers in the life and career of Britney Spears and how it has changed since her father took control over both.
West Side Story: Steven Spielberg’s adapation of this beloved musical takes it into the 21st century while retaing its message about prejudice and lack of opportunity.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain not only brings Tammy Faye Bakker back to life, she reveals the real person behind the punchline.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: This latest addition to the MCU is more than just the first all Asian cast. It is the story of a complicated father/son relationship and a young man who cannot run from his fate.
Moxie: A shy teenage girl stands up to the sexist bullshit at school and empowers her fellow female students in the process.
The Montagues and Capulets have been replaced by two warring gangs of young men, fighting to retain unofficial control of what is left of their neck of the woods. Riff (Mike Faist) is the leader of the Jets, who are all White. Bernardo (David Alvarez) is the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Though he has a career as a boxer, he is equally concerned with protecting his family and his fellow Puerto Ricans.
Their fates are changed when Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) meet at a dance. Maria is Bernardo’s younger sister. Newly arrived in NYC, she is both idealistic and stubborn. Without their parents, the only maternal influence she has is Anita (Ariana DeBose), Bernardo’s girlfriend. Anita is spicy, whip-smart, and is eager to take advantage of the opportunities that lay before her. Tony is Riff’s best friend and his former second in command. After spending a year in prison, he wants more from life than being a hoodlum.
As the two fall in love and envision a life together, their relationship is tested by the violence around them. If they could get those closest to them to find a way to get along, Maria and Tony could have a chance at a future. But as lovely as that idea is, it will take a miracle to make it happen.
The deliberate decision of seeking out and hiring performers who are from Latin America or of Latin American descent adds a feeling of authenticity that is missing from the original film. Even Rita Moreno, who is also Puerto Rican (Anita in the 1961 movie and Valentina, the co-owner of the pharmacy and widow of the late pharmacist in this adaptation) had her skin darkened.
If there is one performer who stands out, it is Rachel Zegler. In her first on-screen role ever, she shines as Maria. Her voice is absolutely stunning. Most young actors start out as background players or in small roles, slowly building up their resume. To come out of the gate in the lead role in a major movie and blow everyone away shows that she has nothing but a bright future ahead of her.
This narrative is as timely and powerful as it was sixty years ago. The problems have not changed, they just have different names and different faces. If nothing else, it reminds the audience that we have two choices. We can continue to figuratively shoot ourselves in the literal foot, or find a way to work tother.
Though it clocks in at a little over two hours, it is worth sitting through.
Among the thousands of stories that have been written throughout humanity’s history, there is a reason that some have come down through the generations while others have been forgotten. Romeo and Juliet is one of these tales.
I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but this trailer is just what I need to entice me to see the movie when it comes out in December. The colors are bright and inviting. Director Steven Spielberg was wise enough to honor the original 1961 film via some of the visual aspects and hire Rita Moreno, who played Anita. Moreno singing “Somewhere” in the trailer is the perfect link between both adaptations.
If nothing else, the release of West Side Story is timely. Given what is going on in our country and our world these days, we need a reminder that love is possible, if we are willing to do the work.
West Side Story will be in theaters December 10th, 2021.
Oskar Schindler was a complicated man. He was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi party. He was not exactly loyal to his wife. But he was also responsible for saving the lives of 1200 Jewish prisoners during The Holocaust.
If there ever was a Holocaust film, Schindler’s List is that film. Liam Neeson played the title role. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the supporting cast includes Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. Filmed in stark black and white for 99% of the film, the movie pulls no punches. It forces the audience to keep their eyes on the screen and screams out that this is what hate and prejudice leads to.
This film is hard to watch, but it is hard to watch for a reason. It is still relevant 25 years later not only because hatred, prejudice and genocide are still happening, but also because there are some who continue to deny that The Holocaust is anything but historical fact.
May this film live on for eternity, as a reminder of what human beings can do to each other and why we must find a way to accept one another, even if one is different.
We all have those television shows from our teenage years. No matter how old we get, we are always reminded of that juncture in our lives when those television shows come on.
20 years ago tomorrow, the pilot of Dawson’s Creek premiered. Set in a fictional coastal New England town, the show is about four friends who are dealing with everything that comes with being a teenager.
Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) is the movie buff/Steven Spielberg wannabe. His best friend, tomboy/girl next door Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) has been climbing up into Dawson’s bedroom and slipping into his bed since they were little. Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson) comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) is the new girl in town, shipped off from New York City to live with her grandmother.
This show was must see television when I was younger. I remember pilling into a friend’s dorm room in college every Wednesday at 8PM like clockwork. Created by Kevin Williamson, Dawson’s Creek was one of the hallmark shows of what was then known as the WB network. Created for the then teenage audience, the character arcs and narratives spoke to and spoke of what it is to be a teenager. The show also paved the way for other teenage dramas that would dot the television schedule in later years.
I can’t believe it’s been twenty years. Perhaps it’s time for another viewing.
Freedom of the press is one of our core freedoms. Without that freedom, our democracy is not a democracy.
The new movie, The Post, takes place in 1971. Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), is the owner/publisher of The Washington Post. The Vietnam War is raging on and the country is split down an ideological divide that looks impossible to cross. Kay is dealing with two equally troubling the issues: the newspaper’s financial issues and the fact that she is not just one of the few women in the newsroom, but one of the few women running a newspaper. The men around her are not exactly pleased to have to deal with on a professional level. Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is her editor who is not afraid to tell the truth. After the New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers and is called by the government for the printing, the documents get into the hands of the Washington Post. The question is, do Kay and Ben publish the papers and is freedom of the press more important than the security of the nation?
Directed by Steven Spielberg, this movie is a must see for every American citizen. It is a must see because the same arguments that the real life versions of the characters were having 46 years ago, we are still having the same arguments today. Especially with you know who in the White House. It is also a must see because without knowing it, Kay Graham was one of the women who helped to break the glass ceiling. She is still remembered today for her contributions in the arenas of both supporting the right of a free press and for the thousands of female journalists who have careers because of her.
Oskar Schindler was many things. A womanizer, a sometimes less than honest business man and a Nazi. But he was still responsible for saving the lives of Jews who were headed to the crematorium of Auschwitz.
The 1993 Oscar winning movie, Schindler’s List, starring Liam Neeson in the title role is stark, black and white and unflinching. It dares the movie going audience to not look away, to see what unchecked prejudice, hatred and murder looks like.
If there was ever a Holocaust movie, this is it. I have seen many Holocaust movies, but this one consistently ranks at the top of the list. With an incredible supporting cast that includes Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goeth) and Embethz Davidtz (Helen Hirsch), this movie leaves a mark on the audience. Steven Spielberg, as the director, leaves no stone un-turned.
This movie should be required viewing, not just for school children, but for adults all over the world.
After the Holocaust, the phrase “Never Again” became a battle cry to remember the victims. “Never Again” has happened again. This movie is a reminder of what becomes of us when we let hatred and prejudice take over.