Among its other benefits, the Israel Film Festival takes even those of us familiar with the country to places and people we know only superficially, or not at all.
Writer and actor B.J. Novak (“The Office,” “Inglourious Basterds”) shares original pieces of comedic fiction in advance of an upcoming collection. Co-star, writer and producer of “The Office,” Novak has a sensibility that draws on a range of influences, from “Saturday Night Live” and “Monty Python” to Woody Allen and the notable anthology “The Big Book of Jewish Humor,” which was co-edited by his father. Sat. 10 p.m. $10. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 908-8702. losangeles.ucbtheatre.com.
Two documentary films, each touching the Holocaust era and celebrating the courage and devotion of non-Jews, are screening in Los Angeles. The first is about Leopold Engleitner, bright-eyed and lucid at 107, who spent 11 years in and out of prisons and Nazi concentration camps, and, after a flight from Vienna to Los Angeles, is ready for his personal appearance tour.
When Israeli documentary filmmaker David Fisher discovers the memoir of his late father, a Holocaust survivor who was interned in Gusen and Gunskirchen, Austria, Fisher decides to retrace his father’s footsteps.
Television icon Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") hosts tonight's nostalgic celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, which honors Hollywood's oldest major studio. Led by conductor and acclaimed film composer David Newman ("Anastasia," "Ice Age"), the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performs scores from Paramount's rich history, including "Wings," the first Academy Award winner for best picture, "The Godfather" trilogy, "Titanic," action-thriller "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and many others.
The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony celebrates its 18th, or Chai, anniversary at the Ford Amphitheatre.
Of the more than 25 dramas, documentaries, comedies and shorts at 13 venues from Pasadena to Beverly Hills, highlights at the seventh annual festival include tonight’s star-studded celebration and gala reception with a premiere viewing of documentary “Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom”; Penelope Ann Miller, co-star of “The Artist,” hosting a viewing of the Michael Curtiz silent classic “The Moon of Israel” (May 6); “Wunderkinder,” the Holocaust drama from the producers of “Europa Europa” (May 5-6); the Los Angeles premiere of “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story” (May 9), with Consul General of Israel David Siegel and Israeli government officials attending; and “Dorfman,” the closing-night film by director Bradley Leung and writer Wendy Kout, starring Elliott Gould (May 10). A program of The Jewish Journal. Thu. Through May 10. Various times. $40 (opening gala), $6-$12 (films), $12-$15 (closing night). Various locations. (800) 838-3006. lajfilmfest.org.
In a small Israeli jail cell, a 17-year-old settler hears the air raid siren that signals the beginning of the Sabbath. From her pocket, she pulls out two travel-friendly candles. When the last of the matches in her small box breaks, her cellmate, a vegan left-wing activist who was on the other side of that morning’s protest, hands the young religious girl her lighter.
When Israel fought its War of Independence, embedded TV cameramen were unknown and even combat newsreel photographers were practically non-existent. The newly created state had more important matters to worry about. More surprisingly, there have been hardly any movies celebrating the near miraculous victories of 1948-49, and later of the Six-Day War in 1967.
Hollywood and the movies still cling to the image of the Jew-as-victim, while in the world beyond Blu-ray the reality is much more ... complicated.
The majority of Americans no longer believe that Jews control Hollywood. This is the news from a new poll released by the Anti-Defamation League that also suggests there remains a widespread conviction that there is an organized campaign by Hollywood and the national media to undermine religious values.
Before the 33-year-old Hochner made "Antarctica," he shot his award-winning "Good Boys," for $500; and founded Tel Aviv's first gay and lesbian film festival.
I decided to watch every film adapted from Philip Roth's work. My mission started simply enough: a search on imdb.com turned up eight works on film and TV, stretching back to the 1950s. Some had never been released on video, some are only in VHS, some were available at the local video store, some had to be tracked down in specialty shops or in university or museum archives. My quest led me across Los Angeles and afforded me the pleasure of visiting some of the city's most beautiful libraries and research facilities, as well as some of its best-stocked video stores.
The creative team behind "Don't Mess With the Zohan" insists that there is a somewhat serious message of coexistence to be gleaned from the Adam Sandler send-up about an Israeli commando-turned-New York hairstylist
The era of Jewish boxers -- tough guys from the ghettos, like Benny Leonard and Barney Ross -- is over. For that matter, the era of boxing itself, once king of all American sports, has passed, as well. In that regard, Dmitriy Salita is doubly a throwback, being both Jewish and a boxer, with an added twist: As a practicing Orthodox Jew, he does not fight on the Sabbath. What normally might be a potentially fatal limitation for a boxer (many fights are scheduled for weekend nights) has proved to be a public relations bonanza for this undefeated junior welterweight, now the star of Jason Hutt's documentary film, "Orthodox Stance," opening April 11 in Los Angeles.
Jason Alexander, Taylor Negron and Minnie Driver on stage! (No, not together and not at the same time).
Whereas in past years one could at least count on Steven Spielberg or a Holocaust documentary to provide a snappy lead for a story in the Jewish media, this year the pickings were slim, indeed.
In the new Austrian film, "Zorro's Bar Mitzvah," Jewish party documenter Andre describes the addictive nature of his video extravaganzas.
Eric Roth's impressive resume as a Hollywood screenwriter includes an Oscar (for adapting "Forrest Gump") and a string of reality-based screenplays about the difficulties important people face choosing between realpolitik and personal morality.
Hoof it downtown to the George and Skaye Aratani/Japan America Theatre this evening for Rhapsody in Taps' 25th Anniversary Concert.
Alexandra More's fabulous Celebrity Staged Play Readings series is back for another season with this weekend's "Benya the King," a comedy inspired by the story of Benya in Isaac Babel's "Tales of Odessa.
"Playwright Howard Barker's humanizing portrait of the biblical heroine Judith is produced at Theatre of NOTE starting this week. "Judith: A Parting from the Body," delves into the apocryphal story of the wealthy Hebrew widow who saved her people by bedding the enemy Assyrian general Holofernes and decapitating him.
Let Gibson beg for chastisement, let him call and beg to be told he's been a bad boy, a very bad boy, who needs to be stripped in public and whipped. I'll never give in.
Looping is plugging in background sound for movies after they are shot so they sound more realistic. I had done some looping sessions before, but they were all in English. While this movie was also in English, there were plenty of scenes with Hebrew and Arabic in them. My Hebrew is far from perfect, but I can still pull off the Israeli accent so I was pretty sure I could do the job.
Bryan Singer's first real understanding of evil came when, as a boy of 9 or 10, he dressed up as a Nazi one day while playing a World War II game with his German neighbors in Princeton Junction, N.J. He came home wearing a swastika.
Singer's mother admonished him, but it wasn't until a few years later, when his junior high school teacher, Miss Fiscarelli, taught an entire unit in social studies on the Holocaust, that he gained a greater understanding as to why his mother had been so troubled. That class changed Singer's "whole perception of what people are capable of anywhere," he said.
The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival runs April 1-6 at a variety of venues around town. Below are the reviews for two of the films.
Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain laughs when asked where she gets her finely honed sense of ironic humor. It comes with being Jewish, she explains -- a group whose number constitutes just one-quarter of 1 percent of the human race and thus makes getting along with others paramount.
"I have a warped idea about my worth, my abilities as an artist, my intelligence," Jessica Shokrian says in her video installation at the Skirball Cultural Center. "For much of my life, I've been extremely concerned with how I look and how I think I look to other people. It's definitely been a sad obsession."
It's little more than a week to the airdate, March 28, and Ofra Bikel is still putting the final touches on her hourlong documentary, "Israel: The Unexpected Candidate."
That's not like Bikel, a meticulous professional, described by critic Howard Rosenberg in the Los Angeles Times as "one of television's premier documentary filmmakers ... whose camera wields the power to mobilize public opinion through exposure."
"Usually, I take seven to eight months to make a documentary, but in this case I had only six weeks," Bikel said in an hourlong phone call from Tel Aviv, her speech a medley of Israeli, French and American accents.
Natalie Portman has probably populated more fanboy fantasies than anyone this side of Jessica Alba.
Besides presiding over the recent "Star Wars" films as Queen Amidala, she plays a bald, beautiful and badass revolutionary in "V For Vendetta," opening March 17, the latest film from "Matrix" masterminds Andy and Larry Wachowski. As the missing link between the universes of George Lucas and the Wachowski Brothers, Portman holds a unique place in geek-movie history
"Munich" and "Paradise Now," two films subjected to considerable controversy in the American Jewish community and Israel, came up empty-handed at Sunday evening's Academy Awards ceremonies.
Not at all controversial was the selection of Rachel Weisz as best supporting actress in "The Constant Gardner," in which she plays a passionate activist fighting an international pharmaceutical company.
Filmmaker Michele Ohayon's career previously highlighted serious (and politically correct) subjects, such as oppressed Palestinians and homeless women. She won a 1997 Oscar nomination for "Colors Straight Up," her profile of urban youth in the aftermath of the L.A. riots.
At the Sundance wintertime festival, which began Jan. 19 and runs through Jan. 29, Jewish viewers can check out a blizzard of flicks.
Martin Scorsese has famously influenced a whole generation of American filmmakers, from Abel Ferrara and Quentin Tarantino to Rob Weiss and Nick Gomez. But his influence is not limited to filmmakers in this country.
One thing that stands out is this: Hollywood is making Westerns again, but this time, the Indians are Arab.
I'm not talking about the early Hollywood Indian -- a cartoon bad guy or buffoon who spoke pigeon English and was played by a white guy.
Even the annual Oscar competition can't stay clear of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This year, the brouhaha is about "Private," a film centering on a Palestinian West Bank family whose home is temporarily taken over by a squad of Israeli soldiers.
"Private," the work of Italian director Saverio Costanzo, was shot by an Italian crew and was selected as Italy's official entry in the foreign language film Oscar category.
It was promptly rejected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which accepted entries from 57 other countries, including Israel and the not-yet nation of Palestine.
Taking part in a local Jewish history conference came with a perk, the chance to tour the Autry National Center after closing. I circled twice through the current exhibit on the films of Sergio Leone, creator of the spaghetti Western. His films informed my fantasy life from the early 1970s until, say, marriage, and getting some alone time with Clint and his squint was priceless.
The weekly listing of arts events in the Los Angeles region for the week of December 3rd through 9th, 2005.
In "Janem, Janem," Aldi (Danny Rytenberg), a 40-year-old high school teacher, heads south to an enclave of foreign workers who reside in small, crowded hovels in the no-man's land of the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. It is there among construction workers from Romania, Turkey and Russia that Aldi -- without language, family and identity -- finds true love and meaning for his life.
In the film "What a Wonderful Place," ex-cop Franco (Israeli Oscar winner Uri Gavriel) has to work for a cruel and shady underground boss, but he finds kinship with an illegal Ukranian worker who teaches him to swim while he protects her from immigration officers.
Both films will screen in Los Angeles at the 21st annual Israel Film Festival.
Summing up her experience, Schramm observes, "If we look at the headlines, we see generalities. But when we look at one individual, we see more deeply.
7 Days in the Arts
During the period he lived in New York and worked odd jobs, Charlie Kaufman once had a conversation with a colleague about Jews and height.
When Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999 during the post-production of his final film, "Eyes Wide Shut," he left behind several pet projects he had been working on for decades. These included a science-fiction riff on "Pinocchio" (later finished by Steven Spielberg as "A.I."), a historical biopic of the life of Napoleon and a Holocaust project with the working title "Aryan Papers."
Summer nights are almost over. Head to Topanga Canyon this evening to take in one more night under the stars.
There are plenty of guys with crushes on Drew Barrymore, the actress who began as a child ingénue at age 6 in "E.T." and who captivates as an adult in sexier roles like her turn as one of "Charlie's Angels."
In his grossout-doofus comedies, Rob Schneider plays the ultimate schlimazel.
Yitzhak Edward Asner vocally opposes the war in Iraq, a position that has probably angered some fans of the 76-year-old actor. But that's nothing new for Asner, whose political activism, years earlier, may have cost him the best acting job he ever had -- the role of journalist Lou Grant in two separate award-winning television series.
Asner's unshrinking activism, his willingness to use his fame as a platform for causes he considers vital, made him a logical choice for Women's American ORT's Tikkun Olam Award to be presented at a luncheon on Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Beverly Hilton. The goal of the award is recognize those who honor the concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
"Our Tikkun Olam Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated commitment to strengthening the community," said Judy Menikoff, the charitable organization's national president. "Ed Asner has consistently dedicated himself to the rights of the working performer and labor rights issues, as well as advocating for human rights, world peace and political freedom. We feel he represents our ideals and commitments."
"Walk on Water" has become the highest-grossing Israeli film in the United States, with box office receipts topping $2.1 million.
At first I thought the Cannes Shabbat dinner was another clever networking angle. Religion is big at the box office these days. And what better way for a couple of young producers to rub shoulders with some of Hollywood's big movers and shakers than to invite them to a Shabbat dinner?
Location, location, location is the secret to many people’s success. But for Meir Fenigstein, founder of the Israel Film Festival, timing is the key.
>"People call me a provocateur," filmmaker Todd Solondz said. "I'd say that's fair." Peering out from his oversized thick green glasses, dressed in rose-colored pants, a nubbly gray sweater and yellow sneakers, Solondz looks the part of independent cinema's presiding nerd incendiary.