Posted by Danielle Berrin
Israel is at war with terrorists. The U.S. economy is headed for the deepest economic depression since 1929, and, a few weeks ago, Bernie Madoff swindled $50 billion from investors who trusted him, crippling families, foundations and non-profit organizations around the world. This in mind, it comes as little surprise that few people have tolerance (or any interest in) the looming actors’ strike. When millions of people around the country are losing their jobs, why should we care about the majority of the 110,000 Screen Actors Guild members who claim they can’t afford health insurance?
SAG is arguing that just because the economy is in tatters doesn’t mean actors should accept insufficient contracts. And, as the NY Times Carpetbagger reported a few weeks ago, there is internal division among actors as to whether or not to even authorize a strike. Movie stars George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Charlize Theron have vocally opposed the movement. But Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen and Ed Harris are ready to brawl. To be fair, the tiny minority of celebrities in SAG do not share the same concerns as the majority of under- or unemployed actors who are more dependent on pushing this forward. But still, if the SAG family can’t even agree on where to head, how can they expect our support?
Because we need our actors. It is precisely during dark times that we need the entertainment they offer, the most. Imagine enduring the daily barrage of depressing headlines without the promise of escape entertainers guarantee us. How much worse would war or economic recession seem without the possibility of being set free in a dark theater—where India’s “slumdogs” can become millionaires, and Jewish brothers defy Nazis (who, in other films, look like Kate Winslet), where people fall in love, and “Revolutionary Road” is there to remind you your marriage isn’t that bad after all.
Actors are the image people, the ones we see, who most closely reflect us. It is their heartrending portrayals that can bring us out of our own pain and into a world where hope is still possible.
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January 6, 2009 | 9:23 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I like Joel Stein. He makes me laugh. But I seriously question the motive for his recent column “How Jewish is Hollywood?” in which he facetiously declares that Jews unequivocally and absolutely control the media. And that, well, “as a proud Jew,” he’d like to keep it that way.
Joel Stein, a proud Jew? Here’s an example of his utter identification:
JJ: What’s Jewish about you?
JS: My name, my face….
JJ: Do you ever go to temple?
JS: No, I never go to temple. My life is short. I don’t want to spend it being bored so I can feel like a better person for something I don’t believe in. I’m a strong atheist. I don’t go to temple ‘cause they talk about the Bible, and I just don’t get anything out of that.
JJ: So you’re not a fan of the Bible?
JS: I just think it’s really kind of violent and mean and selfish and tribal.
JJ: Maybe you’re not reading it with the right lenses.
JS: Dude, I could read ‘Mein Kampf’ with the right lenses on and find something nice about it. You shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to find something nice about a text. I understand the context: You turn around and pity a people being killed, and, like, you turn to salt; God kills your first-born baby; God asks you to kill your child? I know you could come up with counter examples, but there’s enough slavery and murder in that thing ... I’d rather read ‘Finnegan’s Wake.’
While I appreciate—and quite agree—with Stein’s stipulation that a disproportionate number of Jews sit on the highest thrones in the entertainment and media industries (as opposed to Abe Foxman’s rhetorical dodge that people who control Hollywood “happen to be Jewish”), I’m trying to figure out what Stein’s definition of “Jew” actually is. To be fair, Stein’s Judaism is probably much like the Judaism of the people who purportedly run Hollywood. Yet, as a modern, practicing Jewess, I have to wonder how someone who degrades Judaism’s most sacred value (the Torah) could be so unabashedly happy that the title conferred on its followers means there’s any calculated Jewish substance in Hollywood.
Sadly, this reminds me of those wannabe literati who discuss classic literature because they know the titles, but have never read the books. And since I KNOW Joel Stein has read “Finnegan’s Wake” (a work I might add, that is arguably more opaque than Torah) I know he’s capable of plumbing the depths, complexity and humanity implicit in its text. And after all that, he really would be proud that instead of enduring “David and Goliath” re-runs, he now gets to watch “Mad Men.”
January 5, 2009 | 1:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
As last Friday’s LA Times pointed out, even Hollywood – the emblem of glamour and excess – cannot avoid the economic slump. It is expected that more layoffs will follow recent job cutbacks across all media, from networks to studios to smaller independent outfits. Not to mention, fewer and fewer films are being made. That, coupled with ongoing speculation that “new media” will triumphantly overtake traditional modes means one of America’s (and the world’s) best-loved and influential industries is headed for fundamental change.
Jeff Silver, producer of “300” and the forthcoming (hopefully final) “Terminator” starring Christian Bale, suggested that less filmmaking might put more of a premium on creativity. As he put it, “Right now, there’s a lack of ideas in Hollywood. People are recycling ideas not reinventing them.”
Does that mean the pending industry reformation might return film to the 30s and 40s classicism known as the Golden Age of Hollywood? Then, the financial success of The Jazz Singer enabled Warner Bros. to buy up movie theaters. Or, will audiences get to once again enjoy the irreverent non-conformism of the New Hollywood movie brats like Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola and Lucas who elevated commercialism to auteurism?
Dreamy as it sounds for us cinephiles, the reality is harsher. The once plush Wall Street well that pumped hundreds of millions from hedge funds into creative independent filmmaking has run dry. And a looming actor’s strike, which “House M.D.” writer/producer Eli Attie said is “stupid” to implement during a recession, may prove even more disastrous to an industry still desperately recovering losses from last year’s writer’s strike. All things considered, studio execs and movie stars, though aggravated by the drama, will still be sitting pretty when it’s mostly unemployed or under-working actors calling out for help.
January 5, 2009 | 2:51 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Israel’s “Waltz with Bashir” received another major boost when the cream of American movie critics picked the path-breaking animated film for top honors.
The National Society of Film Critics named “Waltz” as the best picture of 2008 at its annual meeting on Saturday (1/3) in New York.
In its review of the film last October, The Journal reported that the film “combines state-of-the-art animation, an anti-war documentary theme, and a psychoanalytical approach to recover the memory of a traumatized Israeli soldier.
“The mixture may sound odd, but it all comes together as an integrated and haunting biographical movie. Director Ari Folman is also its central character as a 20-year old infantryman, whose unit spearheaded the Israeli advance into Lebanon in June 1982, with the announced goal of stopping incursions and rocket attacks on northern Galilee towns by the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
Israel’s current incursion into the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas rocket attacks gives “Waltz” an added relevance.
The top pick by the national critics, although rarely emulated by the Academy’s Oscar voters, does add further laurels to “Waltz,” earned at international film festivals, by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., and the Golden Globes nominating committee.
As The Journal predicted three months ago, the picture may well become the very first Israeli film to waltz off with an Oscar.
January 2, 2009 | 6:19 pm
Posted by The Web Guy
We already knew she wasn’t funny after we walked out on her disgusting routine about her vagina which marred an otherwise excellent benefit show organized by Sarah Silverman for Israel’s Arava Institute, but we didn’t realize how ignorant she was until now.
From Roseanne’s blog:
December 30, 2008
i told my friend don’t go!
I said Israel will attack any boat carrying doctors and medical supplies—they have turned away the red cross already and all medical and food assistance. Israel is a NAZI state. The Jewish Soul is being tortured in Israel. The destruction of the jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in gaza. Hamas is the street gangs—-this is equivilent to los angeles attacking and launching war on the people of watts to attempt to kill the bloods and the crips.
Posted at 3:35 AM
Say goodnight, Gracie.
December 17, 2008 | 4:45 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
There is little doubt in my mind that Kate Winslet is one of Hollywood’s most talented screen gems. It was she, as much as Leo, that kept me going back to see Titanic over and over and over again. Amidst all the melodrama sinking into the sea, it was Winslet that kept the film afloat with her deep and determined yearning for a different life. How could she drown when she was already dead, just coming alive?
Winslet is also the redemptive quality in the screen adaptation of Bernard Schlink’s The Reader, though her brilliant performance isn’t enough to save the film from a cold, hard death. The Reader tells the story of 16-year-old Michael Berg who has an affair with Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), an illiterate German woman twice his age. Years later as a law student, Berg encounters Schmitz in a German court where she is being tried as an SS officer for the slaughter of 300 Jews. The first half of the film is rife with sex, love and Winslet, naked and moaning. The latter part is heavy with Holocaust courtroom-drama—horrifying survivor stories, guilty Nazis squirming, public crimes brought to a public reckoning. Yet even with so provocative a subject, the film never elicits the wrenching emotional response the subject matter demands.
Perhaps Winslet is too pretty for the kind of sordid and desperate Pedophilia the film posits as “love.” In fact it isn’t until Schmitz is serving a 20-year prison sentence, her face wizened, blemished and discolored that the two lead characters even act as if they care for each other; Ralph Fiennes plays an older Berg, who sends her tapes of himself dictating her favorite novels. As young lovers, Schmitz is drawn to the boy but vulnerable in the face of his education; he is her senior when it comes to knowledge, and his real powers of seduction reside more in his ability to read than his skill with raw flesh.
Still, the chemistry between the two fizzles and their lack of emotional intimacy makes it difficult for the audience to care when they need to. As a weak and lonely Schmitz confesses to murderous crimes, there is less a feeling of betrayal and more, an air of tragedy. Intellectually, we know Schmitz has committed an egregious offense, but there is no outcry, no anguish, not even anger. A dumbfounded Berg skips class and court to brood and smoke cigarettes instead of grieving. His reaction is as passionless as Winslet’s face is terrified.
What is left isn’t much, so for those who read the book and know the ending, it comes as no surprise.
December 9, 2008 | 10:57 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Once a dedicated Clinton supporter, good ‘ol Babs now has eyes only for Obama. To her credit, the Democratic switch hitter had a ready endorsement for the President elect as soon as he won victory in the primary, and her devotion hasn’t wavered.
Honored for lifetime achievement in performing arts at the Kennedy Center this past weekend, Streisand said she wished Obama was there, watching from the balcony. The White House substitute was Condoleeza Rice, who hosted the six honorees—which also included Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Twyla Tharp and Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of the Who—at a private dinner at the State Department.
The gala will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 30.
Read more in The New York Times
December 8, 2008 | 6:35 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
What hard times?
The economic recession proved no barrier to fundraising for The Saban Free Clinic among Hollywood’s elite on Nov. 24 at the Beverly Hilton. Among those who helped raise $1.3 million for the affordable health care clinic with four locations across the city were: CBS CEO Les Moonves and wife, CBS news anchor Julie Chen, Wes Craven, Garry Marshall, Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. television. and of course, the clinic’s namesakes, Cheryl and Haim Saban, who had previously donated $10 million to The Los Angeles Free Clinic, which was subsequently renamed.
Cheryl Saban has a special relationship to the clinic, the place where she and her two children received medical care more than 25 years ago, as Brad Greenberg wrote in March 2008. Back then, Saban was a divorced mother with a low-paying job and no health care. When she married Egyptian-born media billionaire Haim Saban, the clinic became a philanthropic priority.
In the meantime, before Washington can get their plan straight, Hollywood is heaping healthcare upon the underserved communities of Los Angeles.
Plus, there’s nothing like Barry Manilow’s a capella to inspire the box office bosses to give.
Besides raising $1.3 million for the Saban Free Clinic, the BevHilton dinner Nov. 24 answered the question: Can Barry Manilow sing a cappella? He could indeed, to loud applause after his piano was found to be unplayable.
Though the piano malfunctioned, other parts of the evening including remarks from Cheryl Saban, Tom and Ellen Hoberman, Bob Saget, Dana Walden, and a touching video tribute intro’d by Norm Crosby to the late Bernie Brillstein, went smoothly.
The evening also drew many TV honchos including Leslie Moonves, Kevin Reilly and honoree Warner TV prexy Bruce Rosenblum.