Posted by Tom Tugend
Mazal Tov to Joseph Cedar, the talented Israeli director, on his election to membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With a total of four feature films to his credit, two have made the final cut of five nominees for the Oscar in the foreign language film category.
They are the gritty “Beaufort,” based on the New York-born director’s own Lebanon War experiences, and this year’s “Footnote,” probing the rivalry of two Talmudic scholars who are also father and son.
There is no doubt in my mind that one day Cedar will be raising up his own Oscar statuette.
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June 2, 2012 | 1:26 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
One of the most reliable movie plots has a bunch of losers (klutzes/ Dead End Kids/ prisoners) straighten out and fly right under the inspirational guidance of a gruff but kind-hearted (priest/teacher/prison warden).
In a kosher variation of this theme, “The Yankles” features a group of Yeshiva rabbis and students, fully outfitted with talaysim and flying payess, setting their hearts on competing In baseball’s college world series. But who will be the coach among the pious rabbis?
As luck would have it, major leaguer Charlie Jones (Brian Wimmer) has just been sentenced to 120 hours of community service after his third DUI arrest, and worse, dropping an easy fly ball in the deciding game of the (real) World Series.
Working with rotund Rabbi Meyer ( Kenneth F. Brown) as his assistant and Yiddish translator, and with Elliott (Michael Buster), a semi-pro player turned yeshiva bocher, Charlie miraculously whips the lads into shape.
In his spare time, Charlie romances Deborah (Susanne Sutchy), and though she reciprocates his affection, tells him that as a nice Jewish girl she cannot marry anyone outside the tribe.
But back to the real action – despite the machinations of an anti-Semitic league official, who sounds and looks a lot like Rush Limbaugh and schedules the deciding game on a Saturday, the Yankles make it to the championship playoff.
All right, it’s now the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankles trail by one run, have two out and two on base, slugger Elliott at the plate has two strikes against him, here comes the pitch, Elliott swings…..
For the final score you’ll have to pick up a “Yankles” Blue-Ray or DVD at a retailer or through amazon.com.
Co-producers and directors are brothers David and Zev Brooks.
June 1, 2012 | 11:14 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
There is no more archetypical American story than that of the greenhorn immigrant, who first ekes out a living by the sweat of his brow, works his way up and kvells as his children and grandchildren become 100 percent American doctors or lawyers – or writers.
Such is the story of “The Immigrant,” Mark Herelik’s play about his grandfather, Haskell Harelik, who left pogrom-ridden Russia in 1909 to settle as a fruit peddler in Hamilton, a small farming town on the Texas plains.
Dressed in black, with tallit and yarmulke and trying desperately to sell his bunch of bananas in Yiddish, Haskell couldn’t appear stranger to small-town WASPS if he had been a Martian time-traveler with antennas sticking out of his head.
Yet he finds an unexpected welcome in the home of Milton Perry, the town banker, and especially by the warm-hearted Ima, Perry’s wife.
At Ima’s urging, the Perrys even rent a room in the house to Haskell and the banker loans money to the peddler so he can open his own fruit store.
The odd but gradually ripening friendship is threatened when Haskell decides to bring his bride Leah over from the old country, who produces three children to enliven the once quiet and uncrowded home.
At the same time, the two couples discover that despite all good will, it is difficult to shake old stereotypes and expressions. Perry, signing a loan contract, assures Haskell that “I won’t Jew you down if you don’t Jew me down,” and Leah point out to Ima that, after all, “the Jews are God’s chosen people,”
One the other hand, there is no denying that Leah prepares a great Shabbes dinner, to which the Perrys are invited, but in the only attempt at interfaith dialogue, all hell breaks loose.
With Hitler saber-rattling in Europe and war looming on the horizon, Haskell argues passionately that the United States should open its borders to refugees. Perry counters just as fervently that Europe’s troubles are none of America’s business, and as the dispute gets louder, Perry storms out of the house.
“The Immigrant” ends of a bittersweet note and is carried, under Howard Teichman’s direction, by convincing performances in the current production by the West Coast Jewish Theatre through July 15 at the Pico Playhouse in West Los Angeles.
The fine cast consists of Gary Patent as Haskell, Anthony Gruppuso as Perry, Cheryl David – a special delight – as Ima, and Dana Shaw as Leah.
“The Immigrant” bowed at the Taper Forum in 1991 as a regular play, but reprises now in a different incarnation as a musical, in which the actors/singers carry the plot forward through a kind of singing narrative.
All the principals have strong voices, but we found the musical addition more distracting than inspiring,
For tickets and information, phone (323) 860-6620 or visit www.wcjt.org.