Posted by Danielle Berrin
Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," a film about the passage of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, garnered the most Academy Award nominations of any film this year, including Best Picture as well as nods in three major acting categories, achievement in directing for Spielberg and best adapted screenplay for playwright Tony Kushner.
Upsets this year centered mainly in the directing category, with "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow, "Django Unchained's" Quentin Tarantino and "Argo's" Ben Affleck notably left out.
But don't shed too many tears for the jilted directors: "Zero Dark" and "Argo" still scored Best Picture nods and Tarantino was nominated in the original screenplay category for his "Django" script (all three films, in fact, scored writing nods).
Also worth noting is love for "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the little film that could about a 6-year-old girl and her father as they struggle to survive in the storm-riddled, under-developed Louisiana bayou. Benh Zeitlin, the film's 30-year-old director and co-writer seems to be at the beginning of a promising career, as does his star, the 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, who this morning became the youngest actress ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
In the documentary category, "The Invisible War," a searing investigation into the US military's epidemic of sexual assault, received a well-deserved nomination. Producer Amy Ziering is a Los Angeles native.
In an interview last year, she told The Jewish Journal that, as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she has particular empathy for victims of violence. “I think my father’s Holocaust background has always made me acutely interested in, and sensitive to, trauma and second-degree trauma, and working through trauma, and what all that means, so that has been an influence on my life and my preoccupations in work," she said.
The film "5 Broken Cameras," a Palestinian-Israeli co-production, continues to win acclaim. Co-directed by Palestian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi, it is an unflinching portrait of life in the West Bank village Bilin shot entirely from the perspective of a Palestinian farmer (Burnat) who lives there.
So far, "Lincoln" looks to be the favorite on Oscar night with its easy moral and contemporary political currency. The film's focus on the politics involved in the passage of a bill -- to say nothing of that bill's definitional significance in enforcing the ultimate American value -- has given a distant period piece added cultural relevance.
Will this year reward the story of a small triumph or a large one?
Tune in to the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24 on ABC to find out...
Full Nominations List:
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"
Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
Denzel Washington in "Flight"
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in "Argo"
Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"
Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "The Master"
Sally Field in "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables"
Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"
Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best animated feature film of the year
"Brave" Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
"Frankenweenie" Tim Burton
"ParaNorman" Sam Fell and Chris Butler
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" Peter Lord
"Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore
Achievement in cinematography
"Anna Karenina" Seamus McGarvey
"Django Unchained" Robert Richardson
"Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda
"Lincoln" Janusz Kaminski
"Skyfall" Roger Deakins
"Argo" Screenplay by Chris Terrio
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
"Life of Pi" Screenplay by David Magee
"Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner
"Silver Linings Playbook" Screenplay by David O. Russell
"Amour" Written by Michael Haneke
"Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino
"Flight" Written by John Gatins
"Moonrise Kingdom" Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
"Zero Dark Thirty" Written by Mark Boal
Achievement in directing
"Amour" Michael Haneke
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Benh Zeitlin
"Life of Pi" Ang Lee
"Lincoln" Steven Spielberg
"Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell
Best motion picture of the year
"Amour" Nominees to be determined
"Argo" Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
"Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
"Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
"Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
"Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
"Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
"Zero Dark Thirty" Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Achievement in costume design
"Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran
"Les Misérables" Paco Delgado
"Lincoln" Joanna Johnston
"Mirror Mirror" Eiko Ishioka
"Snow White and the Huntsman" Colleen Atwood
Best documentary feature
"5 Broken Cameras"
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
Nominees to be determined
"How to Survive a Plague"
Nominees to be determined
"The Invisible War"
Nominees to be determined
"Searching for Sugar Man"
Nominees to be determined
Best documentary short subject
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
"Mondays at Racine"
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
Achievement in film editing
"Argo" William Goldenberg
"Life of Pi" Tim Squyres
"Lincoln" Michael Kahn
"Silver Linings Playbook" Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
"Zero Dark Thirty" Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Best foreign language film of the year
"A Royal Affair" Denmark
"War Witch" Canada
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Anna Karenina" Dario Marianelli
"Argo" Alexandre Desplat
"Life of Pi" Mychael Danna
"Lincoln" John Williams
"Skyfall" Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted"
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
"Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
"Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
"Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
Achievement in production design
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
"Life of Pi"
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
Best animated short film
"Adam and Dog" Minkyu Lee
"Fresh Guacamole" PES
"Head over Heels" Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
"Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"" David Silverman
"Paperman" John Kahrs
Best live action short film
"Asad" Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
"Buzkashi Boys" Sam French and Ariel Nasr
"Curfew" Shawn Christensen
"Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)" Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
"Henry" Yan England
Achievement in sound editing
"Argo" Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
"Django Unchained" Wylie Stateman
"Life of Pi" Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
"Skyfall" Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
"Zero Dark Thirty" Paul N.J. Ottosson
Achievement in sound mixing
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
"Life of Pi"
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Achievement in visual effects
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
"Life of Pi"
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
"Marvel's The Avengers"
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
"Snow White and the Huntsman"
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
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January 9, 2013 | 1:16 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
So what if the Les Mis cast of characers are thoroughly Christian and utterly French -- there's still Torah to be found in Victor Hugo's epic tale of redemption, writes Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, a liberal-minded Orthodox rabbi in West Los Angeles. "[A]lthough Jean Valjean’s fall and rise is a great Christian drama of grace and self-sacrifice, Jews can easily enough transpose it into a story of profound teshuva, repentance. The sort of teshuva that Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik described as 'redemptive,'" Kanefsky writes.
After tackling Hugo's epic novel and seeing its latest incarnation on screen, Kanefsky penned a lovely note on the Jewish lesson he encountered in the Christian tale, but alas, one that didn't make the Oscar-hopeful's final cut. He writes of a scene early in the story when a bishop treats Jean Valjean with incredible grace, allowing him to keep candlesticks he had stolen before being caught by the French police. Instead of prosecuting the desperate man, the bishop sends him on his way, telling him he is good and that his soul belongs to God. But moments later, Valjean finds himself torn between good and evil yet again, when a destitute child drops a coin and Valjean stomps upon the lucre, ignoring the child's pleas to have it back. Soon enough, remorse overwhelms him...
Jean Valjean searches frantically for the child, screaming his name like a wildman and asking every passer-by if they had seen him. But all this proves futile, and the child is nowhere to be found.
"…his legs suddenly gave way beneath him as if an invisible power had suddenly bowled him over with the weight of his guilty conscience. He dropped, exhausted, onto a big slab of rock, his hands balled into fists and buried in his hair, his head propped on his knees, And he cried, “I am a miserable bastard”.
He burst into tears. It was the first time he had cried in nineteen years."
And the story of course pivots right there. This is teshuva’s primal essence.
All of us have felt regret over particular deeds that we’ve done. But how often do we part the clouds and see that it’s not the deeds, but the doer that is twisted and corrupt. How often does our introspection and reflection bore through the layer of specific actions we wish we could retrieve, and touch the heart the matter, the person who we are?
January 3, 2013 | 1:34 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In retrospect it was a gross misnomer and an audacious assumption to call the Titanic “unsinkable.” But in theory, the notion that such a designation should apply to a water vessel is rather basic and logical, and can probably trace its origins to the biblical story of Noah.
When God promises to bring flood waters upon the earth so vanquishing they will “destroy all flesh under the sky,” he instructs Noah to build an ark to withstand it.
Said ark is made of gopher wood, various compartments, and according to God’s instruction, measures about 450 ft x 75 ft x 45 ft. It is completely enclosed, saved for “an opening for daylight” and in fact weathers the calamitous storm intended by God to reset life on earth.
For remarkable feats to occur in the Bible, though, is really unremarkable. It often seems the bible’s very purpose is to imbue the many miserable conditions of human life with a sense that the miraculous is possible. In reality, for anything to be as “unsinkable” as Noah’s Ark would require both superlative (or supernatural) design and the unintended (or preordained?) kindness of nature.
In no small feat of irony, a Hollywood film about Noah and his Ark had the right mix of the aforementioned blessings. The Darren Aronofsky-directed movie which stars Russell Crowe as Noah was filming on location in Oyster Bay, Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit last November. The actress Emma Watson, who also stars in the film, then tweeted: “I take it that the irony of a massive storm holding up the production of Noah is not lost.”
According to the New Yorker, who reported from the set in late November, “Aronofsky’s ark stood fast against the winds of Hurricane Sandy, even as they ripped up more than three hundred trees from the surrounding arboretum."
Perhaps that’s because, as production designer Mark Friedberg explained to the magazine, the crew closely followed the biblical dictates. As the New Yorker’s Julian Sancton noted, the ark looked like a “gigantic windowless log cabin crudely slathered in pitch.”
“The Bible itself lays out the dimensions of what this thing is,” Friedberg told him.
Per Genesis, Friedberg built the ark with three levels: one each for birds, reptiles, and mammals. Insects will bunk with the reptiles. “At first there weren’t going to be insects, for budget reasons, Friedberg said, “but Darren decided, ‘We can’t not have insects.’” (Friedberg made cheap bugs out of Lucky Charms cereal, bulgur wheat, and coffee beans.) Instead of the Biblically prescribed gopher wood, which appears nowhere else in the Scriptures or in any botanical almanac, Friedberg’s team used pine and carved foam.
At a time when the ark could have been rendered digitally, Aronofsky’s insistence on a life-size set was equated as a “Herzogian extravagance,” but the filmmakers aspired to as much verisimilitude as possible. And also: artistry.
According to the article, the ark’s design is influenced by the German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, who is not Jewish, but whose work is said to bear the influences of Jewish mysticism, the Old Testament and especially the German history of the Holocaust, among others.
Aronofsky, who is Jewish, has said that making this film is the realization of a lifelong dream. Last July, when he first laid eyes upon his modern-art-modern-ark, he tweeted: “I dreamt about this since I was 13. And now it's a reality. Genesis 6:14.”
December 6, 2012 | 10:15 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
When Stevie Wonder backed out of a planned appearance at a Dec. 6 gala to benefit the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the reasons given for his decision were varied.
Many news articles focused on the thousands of signatures on a letter and online petitions urging Wonder not to appear at the event. As has been reported previously on this blog, the FIDF’s initial explanation for Wonder’s cancellation mentioned that some individuals associated with the United Nations had pushed Wonder, who was appointed a U.N. Messenger of Peace in December 2009, to drop out.
But in addition to these efforts, voices from within the African American community in Los Angeles and beyond also put significant pressure on Wonder to abandon his planned appearance.
“The first level, which has been popularized, is the petition campaigns,” said Dedon Kamathi, a producer of Freedom Now, a radio show about “pan-African political and cultural” subjects that airs weekly on KPFK. “I think that the real, within-the-family pressure came from a number of black community organizations.”
Kamathi, who first heard about Wonder’s planned appearance from Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman from Atlanta, said that leaders within the black community told Wonder’s staff that if he didn’t drop the FIDF benefit appearance, they would picket in front of KJLH, the Los Angeles-based R&B and Gospel radio station owned by Wonder, as well as at Wonder’s annual House Full of Toys benefit concert, set to take place at the Nokia Theater in L.A. later this month.
“They said they would protest at KJLH because we take personal responsibility for people like Bob Marley, people like B.B. King, people like Stevie Wonder, people like Public Enemy,” Kamathi said, standing on the sidewalk outside the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on Thursday evening, about an hour before the FIDF gala was scheduled to start. “We gave them life, they live in our communities.”
For the approximately 130 protesters who gathered along with Kamathi outside the hotel in Century City on Thursday afternoon, the fact that Wonder would not be playing inside made the moment not just one for protest, but also for celebration.
“We are here to celebrate our brother Stevie Wonder for standing up on a principle, the principle that the Palestinians of today are the South Africans of yesterday,” said Shakeel Syed, a member of the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “He had the courage and principle to defy the oppressors and defend the oppressed.”
Although the protesters were quick to claim Wonder as a fellow activist for their cause -- one man held a sign with Stevie Wonder’s face and the words, “Thank You!” painted on it – in a statement posted on the KJLH Web site, Wonder did not choose sides.
"Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala on December 6th,” Wonder said in the statement. “I am respectfully withdrawing my participation from this year's event to avoid the appearance of partiality. As a Messenger of Peace, I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere. In consistently keeping with my spirit of giving, I will make a personal contribution to organizations that support Israeli and Palestinian children with disabilities.”
The protest started at 4:30, an hour and a half before the FIDF dinner was set to begin in the hotel’s ballroom. During a brief press conference, a number of speakers denounced Israel, the IDF, and the FIDF.
“I am here to admit that I was a member of the terrorist organization,” said Miko Peled, an Israeli activist on behalf of Palestinian rights, referring to his time in the IDF. “Yes, they have tanks, commanders and fancy fundraisers and this hotel, but it is no more than a brutal terrorist organization."
The son of an Israeli general, Peled, who lives in San Diego, has written a book about his becoming a pro-Palestinian activist. His own son, Eitan Peled, was at the protest as well, a Palestinian flag draped like a cape over his shoulders.
“I grew up with friends in Palestine before I knew I was supposed to be enemies with them,” the 18-year-old UCLA freshman said.
After a few speeches, the smaller-than-expected crowd waved Palestinian flags and conducted a candle-lit funereal march along the pavement, complete with a tiny flag-draped casket.
An online invitation for the protest on Facebook had garnered more than 1,000 positive RSVPs, and the Los Angeles Police Department had come ready for a crowd of that size. According to the commanding officer on the scene, Commander Dennis Kato, 60 officers had been mobilized from two different bureaus.
At about 5:40, around two dozen of those officers could be seen still standing by their cars at a remote staging location behind the hotel.
“Now that we’ve seen the crowd, we’ve released a number of units already,” Kato said just as the first of the cars of people arriving for the dinner began arriving on Thursday evening, around 5:45 p.m.
While the cars, most of them luxury imported European models, drove past, the protesters shouted slogans -- “Shame on you!” “Stop killing children!” “Israel is a Racist state!” – and waved their flags.
“These groups have been very cooperative, which makes it easier for all involved,” Kato said. “We don’t want to disrupt either side. It’s America, they get a chance to exercise their rights and say what they want to and we’ll let them have that opportunity as long as they abide by rules.”
December 4, 2012 | 3:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
An unusual silence has blanketed the circumstances leading up to music icon Stevie Wonder’s canceled performance at the Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala on Dec. 6 at the Hyatt Regency in Century City.
The 25-time Grammy winner was set to appear for an expected 1,200 FIDF supporters, including dignitaries from the United States and Israel as well as friends in Hollywood, when he suddenly canceled on Nov. 29. A press release issued by the FIDF national office last week reported “representatives of the performer cited a recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw his participation given Wonder’s involvement with the organization.” The release also included a statement from Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, FIDF’s national director and CEO, that said, “We regret the fact that Stevie Wonder has decided to cancel his performance at an important community event of the FIDF, an American organization supporting the educational, cultural, and wellbeing needs of Israel’s soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen soldiers.
“FIDF is a non-political organization that provides much-needed humanitarian support regardless of religion, political affiliation, or military activity.”
Not mentioned was the fact that an online campaign entreating Wonder to cancel his performance in protest of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians had garnered thousands of signatures. Members of that same coalition are also planning to protest outside the event; as of press time, according to the event’s Facebook page “Protest Dec. 6 at LA Fundraiser Supporting Israel’s War Crimes,” more than 1,000 had said they would show up.
Wonder was appointed a U.N. Messenger of Peace in December 2009 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. His cancellation came on the same day that the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian territories to a non-member observer state through an overwhelming majority vote of 138 to 9, with 41 countries abstaining
The Messenger of Peace role is a largely ceremonial post held by distinguished figures in the fields of art, literature, music and sports who agree to use their celebrity to bring attention to U.N. concerns and causes. Other messengers include author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, actor and activist George Clooney and world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
That FIDF officials did not condemn Wonder, however, may have its root in the fact that FIDF Western Region dinner chairs, media mogul Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, also have close ties to the United Nations. In September, President Barack Obama appointed Cheryl to the post of U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly.
The Internet campaign calling for a boycott of the FIDF event only targeted Wonder, however. Cheryl Saban’s longstanding support of Israel and the FIDF, along with her husband, distinguishes her from Wonder, who in 1995 performed in Israel and met with Israeli and Palestinian officials, but has not performed there since.
The Web site endtheoccupation.org, an arm of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement — the international group that advocates for the use of economic, political and cultural pressure on Israel “until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights,” according to one of the movement’s major Web sites — featured a letter with more than 4,000 electronic signatories pressing Wonder to abandon his FIDF plans.
“We are a diverse group of people of conscience and social justice organizations around the world, saddened by the announcement that you will be performing and helping to raise money for the Israeli army,” the letter said. It also draws parallels between South African apartheid and Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, and says a performance by Wonder at the FIDF gala would show support for those practices.
Another letter, posted on the Web site change.org, which listed 4,570 signatories on the day of Wonder’s cancellation, made a more direct address: “We call on Stevie Wonder, as a conscientious American advocate for human rights and dignity not to support the Israeli Defense Force by performing at their gala fundraiser ... The IDF is an institution which promotes, enables, and protects Israel’s Apartheid regime.”
Moments after Wonder made his announcement, endtheoccupation.org wrote that they were celebrating a “victory.”
The targeting of high-profile celebrities who express plans to perform in or on behalf of the State of Israel is not uncommon. In response to such efforts, a group of music industry executives established the nonprofit Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) to privately and publicly counter artist boycotts of Israel. The group’s co-founder, former Universal Music Group CEO David Renzer, now president of music ventures at Saban Capital Group, has, in the past, spoken out against such intimidation but declined to comment for this article.
However, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel was quick to point fingers at the BDS movement, referring to a press release issued by the consulate that specifically condemns the BDS movement as a “front for a campaign aimed at delegitimizing the very existence of the State of Israel.”
“BDS is not about peace,” Siegel said during a phone interview on Dec. 3. “It’s about vilifying Israel.”
Asked if he thought the FIDF’s U.N. explanation might be intended to deflect attention from an effective boycott by Wonder of one of the largest Israel fundraisers in the country, Siegel said, “I don’t know. We weren’t involved in the whole FIDF thing. But the BDS effort is very significant; we know that.”
When asked how or why he had made the connection between Wonder’s cancellation and BDS when the FIDF was offering a different account, Siegel said, “I didn’t mean to make any connection like that. What we’re talking about is BDS in general; there are attempts to enact a cultural boycott, which we think is counterproductive. That’s a general statement. It doesn’t relate to Stevie Wonder.”
A coalition of self-described L.A. “peace activists” had promised, however, to stage a large demonstration outside the Hyatt, where they planned to enact a mock funeral procession with a “child’s casket” on the night of the gala. The protest also was to include participants donning placards with the names and ages of civilians killed during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last month.
In a press release, the coalition of two dozen groups and a half-dozen individuals claims credit for Wonder’s cancellation is due to “thousands of activists around the world using social media, e-mail and phone calls.”
A collection of speakers from both secular and religious organizations say they will appear, including Israeli-American activist Miko Peled, son of an Israeli general and author of “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.”
As of press time on Dec. 4, the Western Region FIDF had not announced plans for a prominent musical replacement, though, as in past years, Grammy winner David Foster & Friends will perform, and “Seinfeld” veteran Jason Alexander will reprise his role as emcee. The absence of a major headliner stands out because the gala is known for bringing in rarified, glamorous musical acts. Past years have featured musical legends such as Barbra Streisand and the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
But Haim Saban, known for dazzling surprises, insisted on Dec. 3 that the gala will go on with its usual splendor, undeterred.
“Life is good,” he wrote in an e-mail, “and we’ll have the best gala YET.”
November 29, 2012 | 5:10 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Earlier this week, I asked political commentator and comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" to weigh in on the outcome of the 2012 election and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Below is the uncut, uncensored interview in which he talks about America's number one political priority, the negative edification of the Bible and what his (Jewish) mother taught him about anti-Semitism.
Hollywood Jew: What was your big takeaway from the election this year?
Bill Maher: It’s the year Obama won. I was for that, so you know, I’m very happy about it. I’m more relieved than I even thought I would be.
HJ: Any lessons from a historic campaign that cost nearly $1.5 billion?
BM: After the election, Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page that Romney lost because early money in the swing states defined him, and that’s the whole reason I made my contribution to the Obama PAC. That’s what the Democratic strategists thought, and it kinda worked, because those numbers really never budged throughout the whole campaign. The media went through hoops covering all the ups and downs but people just basically made up their minds pretty early.
HJ: What do you think will be the single most important issue facing the American people in the next decade?
BM: The environment. Because if we don’t fix that, there are no other issues.
HJ: What are your favored sources for news and commentary? Or what book or writer influenced you the most? I know it wasn’t the Bible.
BM: (laughs) Well, it could be -- in a negative sense. Actually I took a bible course in college. It’s funny, making the movie “Religulous,” what I found out is that people who are religious have no idea about their own religion. They are completely clueless; they do not know what’s in the Bible. You could quote them something and say it was from the Bible and they would nod their head. I think if they read the bible, especially the Old Testament, I think they would be appalled. If you just told them it was something else, if you just said, ‘Read this story,’ you know, about this God – let’s call him Spor -- and how he’s wiping these people out and ethnically cleaning them for no apparent reason, how he does things on a whim and how he’s jealous; They’d go, ‘This is terrible.’
HJ: It’s no secret you’re not a great admirer of religion. But I’ve seen your live stand-up show and it seemed to me the religion you poke fun of the least is Judaism. Why is that?
BM: We do poke fun of it quite a bit in “Religulous” but I mean it’s certainly not as dangerous as Islam and Christianity. Those are warlike religions. The Muslim world was conquered in a century. Mohammad died in 632; by 732, they were at the gates of France, they were in the Pyrenees. Jesus Christ, I mean, you don’t do that by handing out pamphlets and singing ‘Cumbaya.’ They conquered by the sword.
HJ: So, in your opinion, Judaism is not as bad because it’s not as violent?
BM: There’s a lot to be made fun of in any religion, and that includes Buddhism, by the way. A lot of my Hollywood friends think ‘Oh, Buddhism is a philosophy, it’s not a religion.’ It’s a religion because it includes crazy whack shit that doesn’t exist, that somebody made up, like reincarnation. OK. But I mean, Judaism, we had a lot of fun when we did “Religulous” [because] we went to the institute where they invent devices that allow people on the Sabbath who cannot use electricity to take an elevator or ride in a wheelchair.
HJ: The Shabbes Elevator
BM. The Shabbes Elevator. Stuff like that is just insane and it’s funny but it doesn’t really threaten anybody’s life. I did a joke in my act about, ‘I’d like to see Joe Lieberman as President because he doesn’t use electricity on Friday night and so if there’s a nuclear attack, he gets a Shabbes goy to launch our nuclear missiles.’
HJ: I know you’ve been to Israel and that you’re part Jewish. What’s your view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How optimistic are you that they’ll find a two-state solution?
BM: I’m optimistic that it’ll get worked out in the same way I’m optimistic that Marijuana will be legal all across the country; perhaps not in my lifetime, but at some point. But I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t think it’s a conflict where both sides are equally guilty. I’m more on the side of the Israelis; that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu did my show a few years ago, before he was Prime Minister.
HJ: Why are you more on the side of Israelis?
BM: Take this conflict; here, everyone in the newspapers, the pundits, they talk about it like it’s very complicated. It’s not that complicated: Stop firing rockets into Israel and perhaps they won’t annihilate you. I mean, it’s so crazy when you look at these images on TV. Ok, they just had a little war. It lasted a week like most Israeli wars do; the Israelis lost a handful of people, shot down most of the rockets, and the neighborhoods in Gaza are devastated. They’re rubble. They lost over 1,000 people and yet somehow Palestinians are celebrating in the streets? I don’t get this celebrating when you just totally got your ass kicked.
HJ: The Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out that many in the media tend to point out the disproportionate casualty count between Israelis and Palestinians, and he wisely wondered if there is a moral difference between attempted murder and successful murder.
BM: It’s obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don’t doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They’d use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don’t.
HJ: There was a big debate this week in the Jewish world that arose from a dispute between two rabbis about whether Judaism should be more universal and humane or more tribal and self interested. But it is widely felt that the Israeli army conducts itself with deep concern for the humanity of the people they are fighting.
BM: Let’s not forget the other side of this issue, which is, the Palestinians do have gripes, and most Israelis do not agree with the Netanyahu government on the settlement issue. [Israelis] want a two state solution. I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna be happy or the conflict will ever end before that happens and as many writers have pointed out, Israel faces the problem of becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country if they allow this to keep going. There has to be some solution. In a lot of ways, what we see in Israel is their government has been taken over by the equivalent of what would be the Tea Party in this country. If you talk to most people in Tel Aviv, I don’t think they’re for what the government is doing, but when it comes to self-defense -- Obama himself said the other day: There’s just not another country in the world that would allow missiles to be rained down on them without fighting back. What I find so ironic is that after World War II, everybody said, ‘I don’t understand the Jews. How could they have just gone to their slaughter like that?’ OK, and then when they fight back: ‘I don’t understand the Jews. Why can’t they just go to their slaughter?’ It’s like, ‘You know what? We did that once. It’s not gonna happen again. You’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that Jews now defend themselves -- and by the way, defend themselves better. I mean, this is a country, after all, that is surrounded by far greater numbers than their own [and] they are like two generations ahead in the military technology they have.
HJ: Considering the reality of an unstable Middle East, an Iranian nuclear threat, a stalled peace process and a civil war in Syria, what’s the best thing Israel can do to engender moral support from the international community?
BM: I think they’re over worrying about international goodwill. I hope they are, because it’s great to have but it doesn’t really feed the bulldog, you know? As my Jewish mother used to say, whenever there was a problem in the world, she would go, ‘Oh I know they’re gonna get around to blaming the Jews.’ [Laughs] And it’s kinda true. I mean, you know, it’s like somebody who’s always worrying whether everyone’s gonna like them -- Obama kinda had that problem in his first term -- but at a certain point you learn: You know what? A lot of people are not gonna like you no matter what you do, so just do what you’re gonna do. Just be yourself. And do what you think is right. And if they condemn you or hate you, that’s really kinda their problem.
November 29, 2012 | 11:35 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Pop music icon Stevie Wonder has cancelled his performance scheduled for the Dec. 6 FIDF Gala in Los Angeles saluting IDF Soldiers. The event is sponsored by philanthropists Haim and Cheryl Saban.
The 25-time Grammy winner was to appear for an expected 1,200 FIDF supporters, including dignitaries from the U.S. and Israel, at the FIDF Western Region Gala, which is also scheduled to feature Grammy Winner David Foster & Friends with “Seinfeld” veteran Jason Alexander as Emcee.
According to a press release issued on the morning of Nov. 29: “Representatives of the performer cited a recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw his participation given Wonder’s involvement with the organization. FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon: ‘We regret the fact that Stevie Wonder has decided to cancel his performance at an important community event of the FIDF, an American organization supporting the educational, cultural, and wellbeing needs of Israel’s soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen soldiers. FIDF is a non-political organization that provides much-needed humanitarian support regardless of religion, political affiliation, or military activity.’”
Representatives at both the national and local FIDF offices declined to comment further on the reason for Wonder's pullout, but it appears there was a substantial online campaign calling for Wonder's withdrawal from the event.
The Website endtheoccupation.org, ostensibly a part of the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is celebrating a "victory" after posting a letter to Wonder pressuring him to cancel.
"We are a diverse group of people of conscience and social justice organizations around the world, saddened by the announcement that you will be performing and helping to raise money for the Israeli army," the letter said. It went on to draw parallels between South African apatheid and Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and clocked more than 4,000 signatures the morning of the cancellation, according to their Website.
Another online petition, at the Website Change.org posted by a woman from Italy and with 4,570 signatories stated: "We call on Stevie Wonder, as a conscientious American advocate for human rights and dignity not to support the Israeli Defense Force by performing at their gala fundraiser... The IDF is an institution which promotes, enables, and protects Israel's Apartheid regime."
This targeting of high profile celebrities who express plans to perform in or on behalf of the State of Israel is not uncommon. In recent years, a group of music industry executives established the nonprofit Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) to privately and publicly counter artist boycotts of Israel.
Earlier today, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that a source who had read emails between Wonder's reps and FIDF organizers said Wonder would pull out and play dumb: "[He would] claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a U.N. 'Messenger of Peace.'"
It is hard to believe a music legend such as Stevie Wonder, who has been in the business for decades, would not pay closer attention to the organizations for whom he agrees to perform (in this case, the purpose of the organization is evident in the name of the organization). It is harder still to believe this would occur under host Haim Saban's watch, since he is a devoted music fan and has in the past secured the entertainment acts himself. Last year, for example, Saban's good friend Barbra Streisand performed at the banquet, and the year prior, Andrea Bocelli included one of Saban's favorite songs, "Besame Mucho," in his 6-song set.
But what's a favor to a friend in the face of political fearmongering?
November 6, 2012 | 10:14 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Comedian Elon Gold’s election night fantasy would have been “going to Clooney’s for a dinner party, where me, Brad [Pitt], Matt [Damon], Ben [Affleck] and 50 supermodels -- one per state -- watch the election unfold.” But instead, he stayed home with his four children “trying to explain the electoral college system and why it sucks!”
For Hollywood, a noted bastion of support for the Democratic party, election night celebrations were demonstrably subdued. Rather than glamorous red-carpet parties, many opted for small gatherings with friends or a night at home in front of the television -- because, let’s face it, this isn’t the Oscars.
Media mogul Haim Saban, a stalwart Democrat and close friend of the Clintons, admitted that with his wife, Cheryl (a newly minted ambassador to the United Nations), out of town, he would probably watch the election results with his in-laws.
Around 8:50 p.m., when it became clear President Obama was the favorite to win, Saban had popped over to a friend’s to celebrate.
“I’m in a very good mood and having a good time looking at Karl Rove splitting hair and calculating and debating his own colors on Fox News,” Saban said wryly. An outspoken advocate for Obama -- he declared his support in a Sept. 4 op-ed for the New York Times -- Saban said he was confident Obama is the right friend for Israel.
“The bottom line is, I know what Obama has done for Israel and I don’t know who Romney is at any level, including what he says about Israel. He’s a flip-flopper, that has, on matters of the utmost importance, gone from left to right, from right back to left, to the center, back to the right -- I don’t know who he is and the world is in such a state that we cannot afford to elect someone who we don’t know.”
Another avowed Democrat, producer Harvey Weinstein, who hosted a $38,500-a-plate fundraiser for Obama at his Westport Conn.. home last August, said he had cancelled his New York soiree in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and traveled to Los Angeles instead. At a quarter to 9 on election night, with his candidate on the verge of victory, he emailed that he was “celebrating with friends, exhausted and happy.”
While in Los Angeles, Weinstein will reportedly screen Quentin Tarantino’s latest, “Django Unchained,” which may prove more eventful for the director than election night. “The Hollywood politicos get together to watch the returns a la ‘Shampoo,’” Tarantino wrote, referring to the 1975 film starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn. “But I'll be watching CNN, “The Daily Show,” and Charlie Rose on my couch.”
Likewise for Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, who called from New York just before polls were closing on the East Coast. “I’m a Democrat,” he said, “but whoever wins this election, I hope and assume they’ll focus on the economy, healthcare and employment.”
Indeed, the Hollywood emphasis on a business and work ethic moved some to campaign up until polls closed. Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, whose drug-war documentary “The House I Live In” is now in theaters, spent much of election day pressing for support for California’s Prop 36, an amendment to the Three Strikes Law that would reduce the severity of the life-in-prison penalty should the “third strike” fall short of a violent crime.
“I’m not from here, but I traveled here because that prop is not limited to implications just for the state of California,” Jarecki said by phone Tuesday night. “The value is that it is a message of justice that can resonate on both humanistic levels and practical levels across the country. As goes California, so goes the nation.”
Eli Attie, a writer for “The West Wing” and “House”, who was also, in his former life, Al Gore’s chief White House and campaign speechwriter, said he spent election night at a dinner party with TV-writer friends. “It’s just a bunch of TV people fretting and checking Twitter and mostly not even talking to each other while tweeting to their friends exactly what was just on television.”
He was almost as delighted about an Obama victory as he was about “the loss of Wisconsin to Paul Ryan’s political future.”
“I think he is a cancer on American politics,” Attie said by phone on election night, adding that he hoped the economy would turnaround so that the country could experience a more activist government. “That’s when Obama really gets to govern again; his approval goes up, his popularity goes up, his leverage in Congress goes up -- whereas right now he’s facing a tough grind. He has to whack away at a massive deficit which will be grim for the whole country.”
Things were hardly grim, however, at Electus CEO Ben Silverman’s house, where approximately 150 people gathered for all American cuisine -- fried chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs -- to celebrate the American electorate in style. The celebration was, of course, non-partisan, with various rooms in the house broadcasting different networks; Fox, CNN and MSNBC had equal representation.
“I went from room to room,” admitted Howard Gordon, creator of the Emmy-winning series “Homeland,” based on an Israeli show. Even though Gordon’s production deal is at 20th Century Fox, he claims no loyalty to any one network.
But he has some expert insight into American politics, since both his shows “24” and “Homeland” focus on issues of national security and government.
“I hope that America can take its place as a leader among nations,” Gordon said minutes before Romney’s concession speech. “The world feels more volatile than ever; the global economy is challenging, and there are a stew of social issues that need attention. The world has never needed American leadership as deeply as it does now -- we have a prerogative to stand up for values.”
He sure sounded Jewish.