Posted by Danielle Berrin
The hot word in Hollywood today is the news that Warner Bros. has tapped Mel Gibson to produce a movie about Judah Maccabee and the Jewish-led revolt against the Greek-Syrian army that begot Hanukkah. Is this what Gibson meant when he said the Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world?
To mitigate the Gibson effect, Joe Eszterhas (“Flashdance”, “Basic Instcint”, “Showgirls”) will pen the script.
Even though Nikki Finke, who broke the story on Deadline.com, claimed in her trademark caps that this is a “SHOCKER” it’s not all that surprising.
For starters, Mel Gibson is obviously obsessed with the Jews. Between his personal religious convictions, decades working in predominantly Jewish Hollywood and the things he seems to let out when he’s drunk make it clear that he has a deep psychic preoccupation with Judaism.
Secondly, if the movie manages to generate half as much buzz as this story, the film should do well. Let’s not forget that the last time Gibson tapped into religious “history” (or at least his version of it) with The Passion of the Christ, Americans dropped $370 million to go see it (the worldwide gross nearly doubled that figure). A Jewish boycott of that film barely registered impact.
But for Jews, what’s disconcerting about Gibson getting Maccabee is the idea that someone who has a strange pathological hatred of Jews is co-opting one of their treasured stories for all the world to see. Jews feel they’re being stolen from, like Gibson is tearing out a page of Jewish history, claiming it for himself and wearing it as a cloak.
The news has incited the ire of Jewish leaders. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance said giving Gibson the reins to this project is an insult to Jews. “Casting him as a director or perhaps as the star of Judah Maccabee is like casting Madoff to be the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Hier said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. Likewise, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman simply said, “Judah Maccabee deserves better.”
But some Hollywood Jews found humor in the creative blasphemy, many of them taking to Twitter to vent. According to THR, the L.A.-based Jewish comedienne Shawn Pelofsky tweeted, “Mel Gibson and Warner Bros are teaming up to create a film about Judah Maccabbee. It’s called ‘Thanks for ruining Hanukkah’.”
Where humor fits in is that there is something cartoonish about the nature of Gibson’s ravings. It has to be asked, ‘Is this a man to take seriously? Is this man actually dangerous?’ For Jews, the post-Holocaust answer is ‘yes’ – read the first chapter of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and know why: Because when Jews didn’t take anti-Semitism seriously, millions of Jews died.
But to be fair, it is more likely that Gibson’s madness stems from self-hatred. The kind of anger and resentment that slipped from his lips during that 2006 drunk driving arrest in Malibu can only speak to one thing: envy. Gibson is no Hitler, no statesman, no world leader, but a lonely and alienated movie star in emotional tatters (recall his loving treatment of his last girlfriend as a case in point). A guy like Gibson looks at the Jews and sees something solid, something that works, and has worked for many, many centuries. So what does he do? He looks out at this group of people, who seem to represent something he can’t have, and vacillates between lashing out at them and desperately wanting to be them.
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September 8, 2011 | 2:01 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
During a six minute trial in a French court, John Galliano blamed his “triple addition” on alcohol, Valium, and sleeping pills, according to the Daily Beast, for the anti-Semitic rant that violated French law and cost Galliano his job.
Though he escaped a possible six-month jail sentence, Galliano was found guilty of “public insults toward persons on the basis of their religion or origin” and must pay a fine of $8,500.
Back in March, Galliano was caught on video extolling Hitler and denigrating Jews in the Paris cafe, La Perle. He referred to one woman seated near him, identified as Géraldine Bloch, as a “dirty Jewish face.” Shortly thereafter, the actress Natalie Portman, who is the face of Miss Dior Cherie perfume, issued a public statement castigating the designer: “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”
Galliano was promptly fired from the top Paris fashion house.
According to The Daily Beast, five antiracism groups joined the civil case against Galliano. He reportedly called another cafe patron, Philippe Virgitti, a “f—king Asian bastard” though the court was unwilling to grant him $300,000 in alleged damages.
The court gave several reasons for its clemency: The insults were indeed public, but the “extreme publicity” they received in the world press was not Galliano’s doing…The defense produced attestations from Galliano colleagues vouching for the “values of respect and tolerance to which the defendant generally adheres” and a doctor’s certificate confirmed the couturier was pursuing treatment and was in “total and stable remission” from his addictions. It was Galliano’s first criminal offense and, the court emphasized, he apologized to the victims at trial.
Apparently, even Virgitti, one of Galliano’s accusers, said he doesn’t believe Galliano is a full-fledged anti-Semite. Whether or not that is the case, the media does seem to bear some culpability for spinning anti-Semitic statements into a PR plague, and as I’ve said before, not all anti-Semites are created equal.
Still, I’m not going to cry over the loss of Galliano, the great designer. I’d rather gloat over the delicious irony that the Jewish Marc Jacobs might replace him.
September 8, 2011 | 10:18 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Fall TV’s retro reversal in female roles is scintillating on the surface but causing a stir among critics.
TheWrap.com declared “The Return of Jiggle TV” with three shows in particular—“Pan Am”, “The Playboy Club” and the inexhaustible “Charlie’s Angel’s”—whose selling point seems to scream sex. Judging these shows by their billboards, a woman’s figure constitutes her forte.
On the surface, this obsession with an earlier era, when gender roles were more clearly defined, seems a bit nostalgic. Weren’t things glamourous then? Wasn’t air travel easier? Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who famously infiltrated the Playboy world as part of an investigative piece for Show magazine called for a boycott of the NBC drama. “Clearly ‘The Playboy Club’ is not going to be accurate,” Steinem, who went undercover as a Playboy bunny at the New York City club in 1963, told Reuters. “It was the tackiest place on earth. It was not glamorous at all.” Steinem also said, that unlike “Mad Men” which depicts the 60s with “some realism”, she thinks the fluffiness of the Playboy Club “normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender.”
“t normalizes prostitution and male dominance,” she said.
And in male-dominated Hollywood, harking back to the Cold War cool of the 60s is relief from reality. In the smoky nightclubs of Chicago, or the darkened, liquor-scented restaurants of Manhattan current anxieties about power and control brought on by the economic crisis are forgotten. Sense is dulled by the ubiquity of the sensual.
I explored some of these themes in an interview with Nancy Ganis, the co-executive producer of “Pan Am” who herself was a Pan Am stewardess in the 1960s. Rather than objectify women, Ganis said the clear-cut gender roles of the 60s set boundaries and encouraged respect.
It’s hard to tell, what with the requisite girdles, supervised weigh-ins and protocol panty hose (“not too dark; this isn’t a cabaret”), that the 1960s world depicted in “Pan Am” is supposed to be about the era’s most worldly women.
ABC-TV’s new hour-long drama, which premieres Sept. 25, is set at a lush airport popping in Pan Am’s signature blue. Stewardesses walk in a perfectly synchronized horizontal line (like at a cabaret), each leg in kick-line step as they ascend their version of a stage — the tarmac. The women talk like this: “I get to see the world,” one stewardess, Maggie (Christina Ricci), tells her boyfriend. “When was the last time you left the village?” And the men, awed by the Pan Am breed of beauty and brains, say things like: “Get your fanny to midtown, Sweetheart!”
It’s not exactly the milieu remembered by Nancy Ganis, one of the show’s creators and executive producers, who was a Pan Am stewardess more than 30 years ago. Ganis took to the skies for the first time in 1969 as a wide-eyed 21-year-old in search of the world. Back then, she said, becoming a stewardess was an indication of ambition and intelligence, and many of the women hired were well educated and from privileged backgrounds. On the show, a woman gets props for being “trilingual.”
“Pan Am hired people to be like the girl next door,” Ganis said by phone from the show’s New York set. “We were supposed to have very high moral standards. We were considered ambassadors of good will, sort of a quasi-diplomatic corps. You came to the job with certain innate skills — how to be gracious, good manners, poise.”
But, even with Ganis at the show’s helm, truth can get lost in translation.
Read the rest here.
September 6, 2011 | 11:50 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In a scene by scene analysis of Season 4’s “The Suitcase” with commentary by “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner and lead actor Jon Hamm, The Daily Beast’s Jace Lacob gives us insight into “a classic hour of TV” which has been nominated for an Emmy.
It is indicative of great art when a work can be dissected and analyzed from various angles to probe the deeper meaning presented on the surface. And while “Mad Men” may fit more squarely into the popular culture genre than the medium of great art, it is a testament to the show’s skill that it is layered enough for even the sharpest criticism, as Princeton scholar Daniel Mendelsohn demonstrated in his scathing takedown of the show last February.
If it seems an overindulgence to devote four internet pages to one “Mad Men” episode, the following is a choice excerpt. It struck me because it seems emblematic of a larger Hollywood Jewish theme which has to do with escaping identity. Weiner, of course, is Jewish and although his show is mostly about the most WASPy of gentiles, with some “casual anti-Semitism” (as he calls it) sprinkled in for good fun, there are underlying themes that seem to come straight from a Jewish psyche.
During one scene in “The Suitcase” Don Draper has the closest thing a macho, consummate womanizer can have to a breakdown. He is overwhelmed by the dissolution of his marriage, the breakdown of his family, the loss of a woman who knew his true identity and the corporate transformation of his professional life into something he feels less control over. Naturally he sobs. But what Hamm had to say about the scene, as told to Lacob and Weiner, strikes as insightful and prescient:
Hamm: [The breakdown] doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of watching the last five years of this guy’s life and how his family has imploded and his work has shifted so dramatically and his personal life is really in shambles. The one counterweight to all of that was California. Every time he went to California you could see that something changed in this guy. His hair was looser. His back wasn’t so rigid. It was just a completely different vibe when he was there. It was the one true connection to his past.
What happens when a person tries to suppress that which is integral to their identity? The sense of belonging that is deepest, truest, most ingrained. The answer Weiner is giving us is that one cannot really hide. Suppress what is true and it will percolate through your skin. Deny your identity and compromise your soul. Don is ashamed of where he comes from and thus reinvents himself as an American ideal in pursuit of an American dream. But no matter how successful he is, the further away he moves from what is true about himself, the more he crumbles.
Likewise, in the fictionalized biopic of French pop star Serge Gainsbourg, “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” the artist is haunted throughout his life by the apparition of a grotesque Jewish “mug”—an anti-Semitic rendering of the Jew in WWII France that becomes his alter-ego. Gainsbourg is taunted by this specter, and reminded in the grossest terms, what being a Jew represents. Judging by exteriors, only Gainsbourg’s name—and maybe his visage—would indicate his ethnicity, but on the inside, as the film depicts, he was tormented by the consequences of Jewish existence exacted by 1940s Europe.
The name Don Draper is less revealing than misleading, as Don is really Dick Whitman but adopts the name Draper as part of his transformation (another distinctly Hollywood Jewish trope). “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked; well apparently, everything.
September 2, 2011 | 3:42 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Here’s a striking secretary image: Brunhilde Pomsel typing away as Joseph Goebbels waxes poetic on a “Jew-free” Germany.
In a deliberately titillating story about “Nazi Secretaries” The Daily Beast reports some tidbits about the ladies who compromised their conscience for powerful men in uniform. Pomsel, for example, said she supported the Nazis because, well, it was trendy. “I joined the party in 1933—why not? Everyone did,” she told the German newspaper Gild in her first ever interview. Goebbels’s former secretary, now age 100, waited a long time before gabbing to the press. The shocking revelation of her story? Goebbels was apparently an awful guy. “You couldn’t get close to him,” Pomsel told the paper. “He never once asked me a personal question. Right up until the end I don’t think he knew my name.”
Hitler, on the other hand, was apparently a doll of an employer, according to The Daily Beast. His secretary, Traudl Junge, who transcribed his last will and testament before he killed himself in the Reich Chancellery bunker, described him as fascinating and amiable. “He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I deliberately ignored all the warning voices inside me and enjoyed the time by his side almost until the bitter end. It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said things and how he did things,” she said.
That Hitler did have a way of doing things.
Another World War II leader, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was, according to his secretaries, no picnic. Writer Andrew Roberts notes that Churchill’s wife, Clementine, wrote him in June 1940 that he should be nicer to his staff: “There is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner.”
As Roberts notes, if history were written by the secretaries, “Churchill would be the villain and Hitler the hero.”
As if real history weren’t scary enough.
Read more at The Daily Beast
September 2, 2011 | 11:30 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Hollywood Jew: The first episode you’ve ever written for television will air this Sunday. Encapsulate your episode in one sentence.
Adam Perlman: It’s about learning how to make the best of your past.
HJ: How’d you get your break writing for TV?
AP:I’d been practicing law in New York and I was the only person in world who was lucky when Lehman Brothers and the entire market collapsed because I was able to sit and write scripts. Through very good luck, I got a meeting with Josh Berman, the creator of “Drop Dead Diva” and he hired me, so I quit my job and moved out to LA.
HJ: What was the inspiration for your episode?
AP: I was happy to introduce a preacher into the show because I was very interested in the idea of somebody who was willing to break the law to do what was right, and dealing with questions about ethics and morality and ‘How can you be the best person you can be?’ The thing I’ve always been most interested in are shows that are about using the power of television to teach as well as entertain. You can get inside people far more in this medium than through news or through essays. It’s a chance to hit people right in their funny bone and right in their gut.
HJ: “Drop Dead Diva” is a show about a former model who is reincarnated in the body of plus-sized lawyer, who is also deceased. Is this positing some alternate reality?
AP: The reality is present day Los Angeles. It’s half a body switch show, where the soul, the memory, the spirit of the dead model goes into the dead lawyer. But at its core, it’s about a person getting a chance to learn and grow in ways she never did and in ways she never thought she’d have to.
HJ: How does a guy write women well?
AP: I think you have to—and this is writing anyone—really think through a character and a character’s choices and not think of them as a device for your words or plots.
HJ: Why is a show that is created in L.A. filmed in Georgia?
AP: More and more shows are being filmed outside of L.A. because it’s too expensive to produce here. In L.A. you have to chop the shooting schedule to five or five-and-a-half days and it’s really hard if you’re trying to produce an hour-long show. In Georgia, we’re able to stretch the budget to shoot in 8 days. It’s money.
HJ: What’s your dream job?
AP: This has been a phenomenal job so far; Josh Berman has put together an incredibly egalitarian [writers] room. If you didn’t know what peoples’ titles are, you’d have no idea of the pecking order; everyone has input. If you’re asking what other projects are out there, the new HBO/Aaron Sorkin journalism one seems like it could be a pretty amazing.
HJ: Who are the writers you most admire?
AP: David Kelley, Aaron Sorkin, early David Mamet; particularly the specificity of his language, the rhythms he catches. Sondheim is probably my all time favorite writer; there’s no one else who can make you laugh and cry within the same line.
HJ: Hardest lesson you’ve learned about Hollywood.
AP: How much of it really is up to luck. Talent is very important and effort is very important, but there’s a certain gigantic component of luck that people have to deny in order to enjoy their placement. You can see how much of it turns on the snip of a coin.
HJ: Best advice for aspiring writers?
AP: Write, write, write. And when your writing is strong enough, don’t be afraid to show it to people.
HJ: Biggest surprise about working in entertainment?
AP: How wonderfully grounded a lot of the people are. There are certain stereotypes about Hollywood that are true, but most people I’ve met are tremendously grounded, family-oriented, wonderful people. There is a bit of a community aspect that I’ve found and that was more than I was expecting.
HJ: Do you think that stems from the mythology of Hollywood being a Jewish place?
AP: I’ve probably never lived outside of a predominantly Jewish community in my life. I’ve always lived in a Jewish culture and always been very aware of the values it breeds; but also a sensibility, and a sensibility that tends to be very ironic, very aware of itself and its place in the world. There’s nothing so Jewish to me as a sense of humor and a way of recognizing Jews and that Jewish sensibility whether it be in New York in theater or in Los Angeles in Hollywood.
HJ: How do you think that Jewish sensibility gets articulated in your own writing?
AP: My sense of humor comes very much from that sense of being able to laugh at oneself and the absurdities of life. I always expect joy and sorrow to be mixed or balanced; for example, personally, I found out I got this great job and before I move I’m certain I’m going to get fired. There’s always that neurosis, but there’s also something wonderful and healthy about it, knowing there’s something bigger than yourself and your own concerns.
HJ: What are you doing for the high holidays?
AP: The high holidays is definitely a good time to temple shop.
“Drop Dead Diva” airs Sunday nights at 9pm on Lifetime
September 1, 2011 | 1:53 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Tired of Jerusalem-based stories getting filmed in Malta, the Israeli government passed a law in 2008 to permit tax breaks to foreign filmmakers.
Prodded by the Jerusalem Film Fund in an effort to attract international film production, Israel offered “tax breaks, terror attack insurance and handouts of up to $400,000,” according to Daniel Estrin’s report on the Huffington Post. But the attempt to attract more business hasn’t produced compelling results. According to Estrin, even with the tax breaks, Israel is competing with other Middle Eastern and North African countries who offer better incentives for film production. He cites the upcoming “World War Z” (penned by Mel Brooks progeny, Max Brooks), “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” and Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” as examples of films which contain scenes set in Jerusalem, though none of them were filmed there. Instead, producers opted for locations like Malta (Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”), Tunisia and Morocco.
According to conventional wisdom in Hollywood, Jerusalem is too volatile to ensure smooth filming on location. International insurance companies have traditionally refused to provide terrorism risk coverage, or offered it at exorbitant prices.
For a long time, it didn’t make financial sense for the producers. While Israel in the 1980s attracted such star-studded productions as Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo 3” and Chuck Norris’ “The Delta Force,” it later lost out to other countries that started giving big tax incentives to producers.
“If they think it’s expensive and dangerous, they won’t want to come,” [Yoram] Honig, [an Israeli filmmaker and head of the Jerusalem Film Fund], said.
Even Israeli producers have shied away from the city: Out of 600 some Israeli movies filmed since the country’s founding, only about 30 have been filmed in Jerusalem, Honig said. That has begun to change recently, with some of Israel’s most celebrated new films shot here with the fund’s financial support, including Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” which was awarded best screenplay at this year’s Cannes film festival.
Now the city is sweetening the pot for international filmmakers, offering cash incentives and a municipal department that will assist with filming permits and on-location logistics. Only four international productions are shot in Jerusalem each year, most of them European, Honig said.
Read the rest at the Huffington Post