‘Not Bad For a Goy’

For many Jews watching the 71st Academy Awards last week, the telecast surely scaled new heights of Hollywood surrealism, as the ceremony seemed to honor an unusually disproportionate preponderance of films with Jewish content and their non-Jewish creators.

Of course, you’d have to be from another planet not to notice Roberto Benigni’s in-your-face triple Oscar win for his much-dissected Holocaust tragicomedy, “Life is Beautiful,” but how many out there realized that the Steven Spielberg-produced Best Documentary Feature winner, “The Last Days,” was, in fact, directed by a Catholic-raised director, James Moll? Dancing out Ashkenazic-style to the tune of “If I Was A Rich Man” was Irving Thalberg Award winner Norman Jewison. Despite his Jewish-sounding surname, Jewison, as it turns out, is not Jewish. But adding to the confusion is the fact that among his most famous efforts was 1971’s screen adaptation of “Fiddler On the Roof.” Said Jewison with a smile upon winning his Thalberg, “Not bad for a goy!”

Meanwhile, conquering the category of Documentary Short Subject was Japanese filmmaker Keiko Ibi. Her entry, “The Personals: Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years,” is a vignette focused on Jewish senior citizens (no doubt a healthy portion of the Academy voting body).

Even the center of this year’s controversy, Life Achievement Oscar winner Elia Kazan, could not escape association with Jewish subject matter. Prominent during the montage of the non-Jewish, Greek-born director’s oeuvre was his groundbreaking 1947 screed against anti-Semitism, “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” starring Gregory Peck — ironic, since he has been derided for helping ruin the careers of (among others) several Jewish writers back in the 1950s.

But before you detect some kind of trend setting in, consider this: The very last moment of the entire Oscar broadcast was Harvey Weinstein thanking his Jewish mother, Miriam, as he accepted the Best Picture statuette for the film his company, Miramax, had produced and released — the ultimate Anglo-Saxon romance, “Shakespeare in Love.” — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor