Jill Soloway’s pitch for matriarchy


When “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway ascended to the stage at the Emmys last Sunday to accept her award for directing, she seized the opportunity to make a statement.

“People ask me if it’s hard to be a director, and I tell them ‘no,’ ” she said to the audience. “Life is very hard; being a good partner, being a good mother. Being a good person is hard. Being a director is so f—— easy.”

Her words reminded me of something Soloway told The New Yorker’s Ariel Levy last December, when she was interviewed about the award-winning series that tells the story of a Jewish family patriarch who chooses to transition to become a matriarch. Soloway was explaining why she felt women are well-suited to the profession of directing, even though so few of them are given the opportunity.

“We all know how to do it,” she said. “We f—— grew up doing it! It’s dolls. How did men make us think we weren’t good at this? It’s dolls and feelings. And women are fighting to become directors? What the f— happened?”

Soloway is known for delivering feminist messages from the microphone. In fact, the more successful she becomes, it seems, the more outspoken she is. At the Emmys, she concluded her speech with an exuberant and audacious call to “topple the patriarchy” as she waved her golden statuette like a sword before battle — in front of an industry notorious for its leadership of middle-aged, white men. “Top-ple the pat-ri-ar-chy!” she cried. 

What’s interesting about Soloway’s statement-making is not simply that it reflects her gendered point of view, but a more meaningful, deep-seated belief that her success as a director emanates directly from her lived experience as a caretaker. Being a director, she tells us, is just like playing house. It’s pretend; it’s fun. But what makes her good at it is that she’s had real preparation stemming from the inbuilt qualities of being a woman. It is not motherhood itself, but, rather, the facility for motherhood that equips women with skills for leadership.

I was especially struck by this thought, because earlier on the day of the Emmys, I had attended a friend’s baby shower, where for several hours I was thoroughly immersed in the world of womanhood, motherhood, the Divine Feminine and the Shekhinah. A handful of the women who attended were pregnant, and several others were nursing. More than one spoke of her love for her child as something so transcendent and overwhelming, no other love could compare. “You think you know what love is before you have a baby?” one woman said. “You don’t.”

While I am sure I will feel that way should I be blessed to have a child of my own, I refrain from the assumption that those who choose not to have children, or who cannot have children, are not capable of real and deep love in their lives. But it is interesting that so many of the women at the shower felt the need to proclaim the greatness of motherhood. I suspect this is because it was important for them to affirm what society does not sufficiently acknowledge — that the role of a parent (a good parent) is of enormous value. Instead, we often hear people boast of professional and public achievements, rather than that they are good parents.

Enter Soloway, whose words later that same day affirmed the skills of women whose “professions” as parents have no economic value. She reminded us that we are still a society that values professional accomplishment more than personal accomplishment, and which celebrates the acquisition of capital more than the art of caregiving. And yet, she is also saying that it is precisely the feminine penchant for care over control that has made her a successful professional. “It’s dolls and feelings.”

Because I am not yet a parent, I offered my expectant friend the wisdom of my mother, who parented as capably and lovingly as is possible in that role. My mother was also a professional, a woman who built and ran her own business, and who went on to a second career, counseling high school students from low-income and inner-city neighborhoods. 

Even though my mother could be admired for building her own business, what most impacted my life, and the lives of my siblings, is the way she parented. When I remember her, I think less of what she accomplished or what she materially provided and more about the sensitivity and skill with which she raised us. Recently, a friend of my mother’s visited me in Los Angeles, and after a long conversation, took my hand, looked into my eyes, and said, “Your mother prepared you so well for life.”


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Golden moments at the Emmys


Emmy took a shine to Jewish talent Sunday evening as the prime-time television awards unfolded at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

“Transparent,” the comedy series about a Jewish family whose father comes out as transgender, won trophies for director Jill Soloway and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor.

Jeffrey Tambor holds his award for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series for “Transparent”  on Sept. 18, 2016. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who does not say she is Jewish but who is the daughter of Jewish billionaire Gerard Louis-Dreyfus and a relative of Alfred Dreyfus of the Dreyfus affair, was the winner as lead actress in a comedy series for her role in “Veep.” It was the fifth consecutive Emmy for the “Seinfeld” veteran, and her sixth in the category, a record. She now has eight Emmys. The actress announced in a tearful acceptance speech at the ceremony that her father had died only two days before.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus poses backstage with her awards for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for her role in HBO's “Veep” at the Emmy Awards on Sept. 18. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn won the prize for supporting actor in a drama series (“Bloodlines”). He is the descendent of an old Prussian-Jewish family on his father’s side.

David Benioff and Daniel B. Weiss were honored for writing for the “Game of Thrones” episode “Battle of the Bastards.”

The Emmy went to Hank Azaria as guest actor in the drama series “Ray Donovan.”

Susanne Bier took top spot as director of “The Night Manager” in the limited series, movie or dramatic special category.

Among the evening’s disappointments was a strikeout for Amy Schumer, who had been nominated for four acting and writing awards, and the slighting of Larry David’s hilarious impression of Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live.”

Nominees for the Emmy Awards


Following is a list of nominations in key categories for the Primetime Emmy Awards, the highest honors in U.S. television, announced on Thursday.

The Emmys are awarded by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and will be handed out in a ceremony in Los Angeles on Sept. 20.

BEST DRAMA SERIES

“Better Call Saul”

“Downton Abbey”

“Game of Thrones”

“Homeland”

“House of Cards”

“Mad Men”

“Orange Is the New Black”

BEST COMEDY SERIES

“Louie”

“Modern Family”

“Parks and Recreation”

“Silicon Valley”

“Transparent”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

“Veep”

ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”

Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Viola Davis, “How To Get Away With Murder”

Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Louis C.K., “Louie”

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”

Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

VARIETY TALK SERIES

“The Colbert Report”

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

“The Late Show with David Letterman”

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM

“The Amazing Race”

“Dancing with the Stars”

“Project Runway”

“So You Think You Can Dance”

“Top Chef”

“The Voice”

LIMITED SERIES

“American Crime”

“American Horror Story: Freak Show”

“The Honorable Woman”

“Olive Kitteridge”

“Wolf Hall”

ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Timothy Hutton, “American Crime”

Ricky Gervais, “Derek”

Adrien Brody, “Houdini”

David Oyelowo, “Nightingale”

Richard Jenkins, “Olive Kitteridge”

Mark Rylance, “Wolf Hall”

ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR TV MOVIE

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Queen Latifah, “Bessie”

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman”

Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”

Emma Thompson, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street”

Sarah Silverman wins Emmy, thanks her Jews


Comedian Sarah Silverman broke out a Jewish joke as she took home a trophy at the 2014 Emmy Awards.

Silverman won for Best Writing for a Variety Show for her HBO comedy special “Sarah Silverman: We are Miracles.” Upon being announced as the winner, she dashed onto the stage barefoot and thanked her agents, saying, “Thank you to my Jews at CAA.”

Prior to Monday night’s ceremony, Silverman set the Internet abuzz when she announced in an interview on the red carpet that she had brought with her a vaporizer with liquid pot.

Another Jewish winner was Julianna Margulies, who took home the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her role as Alicia Florrick on CBS’s “The Good Wife.” It was the third Emmy for Margulies, who had won earlier for “The Good Wife” as well as for “ER.”

The Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie went to HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” based on the 1985 play by Larry Kramer, a Jewish writer and AIDS activist. Kramer’s screenplay lost to Noah Hawley for “Fargo.”

 

Watch Billy Crystal’s beautiful tribute to Robin Williams


Emmys comedy race takes edgy turn as cable outnumbers networks


When ABC's “Modern Family” vies for its fifth consecutive best comedy Emmy award on Monday, not only will it battle the beloved geeks of CBS' “The Big Bang Theory” but also a bunch of irreverent, foul-mouthed characters from cable and Netflix.

For the first time in Emmy history, networks are outnumbered by cable and online streaming outlets in the coveted best comedy series category, a sign of a growing appetite for comedy free from the confines of network TV.

“Modern Family” made waves when its contemporary family dynamic and gay couple appeared on Walt Disney Co's ABC in 2010. But today, along with CBS Corp's “The Big Bang Theory,” it would be considered a safe choice for Emmy voters.

The network stalwarts are joined by two previous cable nominees: the dark and sometimes melancholy comedy “Louie” on Twenty-First Century Fox's basic cable FX, and HBO's “Veep,” a political satire rich with curse words from U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer.

And then there are the newcomers, like HBO's technology satire, “Silicon Valley,” where startup culture gets a dose of gross-out humor.

“In order to get people to love a show, you need to alienate some people, whereas network shows in general have a business model where they have to go for the middle,” said Alec Berg, executive producer and writer for “Silicon Valley,” nominated in its first season.

“They need to get the most people, but unfortunately that costs you the people who are super passionate.”

The other new kid in the comedy race is “Orange Is the New Black,” the darling of Netflix's original summer programming. The series is based on a real-life story about a women's prison, with situations that often stray far from laughs.

To date, HBO's sexually explicit female-driven “Sex and the City,” which won the best comedy Emmy in 2002, is the only cable show to do so.

A FRESH 'ORANGE'

Much of the difference between a broadcast network comedy and a cable show comes down to advertiser interests, which networks must cater to, but premium cable channels such as HBO and ad-free streaming platform Netflix can avoid. This leads to content that pushes the boundaries, said Berg.

“People are getting more used to watching things in places where there are no FCC (Federal Communications Commission) guidelines, there are no censors and there are no standards and practices people sitting around,” Berg said. “Those (guidelines) are starting to feel very antiquated.”

For Netflix, which entered the Emmy race just last year and has a total of 31 nominations this year, “Orange” may just be its “Sex and the City,” after scooping up 12 nods.

“'Orange' has the dramatic element, it has the feel of its time and it has a strong ensemble of women,” said Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times. “It feels fresh.”

“Orange” may also have benefited from the buzz surrounding its second season release in June, which coincided with the Emmy voting period.

But “Modern Family” still holds its place as a frontrunner for many awards predictors, who believe the ABC show will win its fifth best comedy Emmy on Monday as it continues to reflect contemporary family dynamics and featured a gay wedding in its latest season. Whipp said traditionally, Emmy voters tend to select more conservative choices within the comedy field.

“The show is just going to be hugely appealing to voters because it makes a social statement, but it is done in an audience-friendly way,” said Whipp. “It is both a critical and a commercial, popular success.”

Editing by Mary Milliken and Tom Brown

Your guide to Jews and the Emmys


Mayim Bialik–Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy (The Big Bang Theory)

Image via Wikipedia

Jenji Kohan–Showrunner for best comedy series nominee, (Orange is the New Black)

Image via Getty Images

Julianna Margulies–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (The Good Wife)

Image via Wikipedia

Lizzy Caplan–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (Masters of Sex)

Image via Getty Images

Lena Dunham–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Girls)

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Veep)

Image via Wikipedia

Mandy Patinkin–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (Homeland)

Image via Wikipedia

Josh Charles–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (The Good Wife)

Image via Getty Images

Matthew Weiner (writer)–Outstanding drama series (Mad Men)

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Jon Stewart–Outstanding variety series (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

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Bill Maher–Outstanding variety series (Real Time with Bill Maher)

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Sarah Silverman–Outstanding varietal special (We are Miracles)

Image via Wikipedia

Billy Crystal–Outstanding varietal special (700 Sundays)

File Photo

Nathan Lane–Outstanding guest actor in a comedy series (Modern Family)

Image via Wikipedia

Anthony Bourdain–Outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program (Parts Unknown)

File Photo

Carrie Brownstein–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Portlandia)

Image via Getty Images

Amy Schumer–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Inside Amy Schumer)

Image via Wikipedia

Jerry Seinfeld–Outstanding short-format nonfiction program (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)

Image via Wikipedia

Matthew Weiner on ‘Mad Men’ and male friendships


As the creator of “Mad Men,” AMC Networks' period TV drama and its brooding, dysfunctional ad man Don Draper, Matthew Weiner has had some experience in exploring the male psyche.

In his directorial feature film debut “Are You Here,” in theaters on Friday, Weiner wanted to tackle the reality of a male friendship through actors Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, showing two grown men in a state of arrested development.

Weiner, 49, spoke to Reuters in his Los Angeles office, decked out with props from “Mad Men,” about concluding Don's journey, the Emmy awards and his future plans.

Reuters: What did you want to explore about the “bromance” through two childhood friends in “Are You Here”?

Matthew Weiner: They think they're in a stoner comedy together, and then all of a sudden you realize Owen's character has a substance abuse problem and Zach's character is mentally ill. As the reality starts to sink in, it's not like there's no jokes throughout it, but you get stripped away to what I hope is a more poignant and slightly emotional examination of what holds us together.

R: Why choose comedy staples Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler for this much darker take on life?

MW: You can't teach people to be funny, they either are or they aren't. And these are three deeply funny people to the bone, and the fact that they could use that and change the tone, you feel the poignancy because you feel them losing something.

R: With “Mad Men” wrapping up, are you looking at more movie projects?

MW: I'm not withdrawing from show business, but I am using this period, at least until the show goes off the air, to replenish and find out what's on my mind. I know I'm allowed that, but there's also the thing where you're like, 'Will everybody forget you? Will you be scrambling when you get back to work?' … You don't want to disappear.

R: How do you feel about “Mad Men” nominated for four Emmys next week, including best drama again?

MW: I am thrilled that we are included in this again. The fact that none of the actors on our show (have won), I have all of the chauvinism I can possibly have about the fact that these are, and I think will remain recognized, as some of the great performances of their era and this era in television.

They are nominated, it's not like they're being ignored and the show has been recognized, but every year there's a story about why Jon Hamm was beaten by someone else, or about Elisabeth Moss and why she wasn't nominated. You just don't want the lack of recognition to be a reflection on the quality.

R: Fans are already discussing how Don's journey will end next year. Does that put pressure on you?

MW: I am constantly interested in the audience, I want them to work a little bit because they get pleasure out of putting things together … but when it comes to the ending of the show, the audience has so many voices and it changes over time. I keep my solicitation of opinions to my wife, my incredible writing staff, the people I work with and the actors. They are the audience that I am interested in pleasing, and none of them have ever withheld honesty from me.

R: You showcased New York in “Mad Men,” but you grew up in Los Angeles. Would you explore L.A.'s history in future projects?

MW: I don't even know if I know yet what Los Angeles is necessarily. Los Angeles to me, the best version of it is “Chinatown.” I'm a little bit intimidated by the concept of it, it's hard, it doesn't reveal itself immediately, it has to be looked for, and maybe that's something to think about. Maybe you gave me an idea!

Editing by Eric Kelsey and G Crosse

Mike Wallace: A dissent


Praise for Mike Wallace as a probing investigative reporter saturated news media immediately after his death April 7 at age 93. Virtually all tributes omitted the fact that when it came to anti-Israeli tyrants, terrorists and oppressors of Jewish minorities, Wallace son of Russian Jewish immigrants usually pitched softballs and parroted propaganda.

Wallace spent parts or all of seven decades in journalism, 38 as a correspondent on CBS Televisions 60 Minutes. He won 21 Emmys. This makes his record of failure when it came to covering Israel and Jews noteworthy and peculiar. Among the many examples:

* In a 1975 segment on a terrorized minority in Syria, Wallace reported that today, life for Syrias Jews is better than it was in years past. He described Syrias brutal dictator, Hafez al-Assad, as cool, strong, austere and independent.

* In 1984, a Wallace 60 Minutes segment rehearsed Syrias line about its regional interests. One thing Syria wants in Lebanon is a government representative of all the peoples of that country, he intoned, as if Damascus then recognized Lebanese sovereignty and sought a multi-party democracy there rather than imposed a police state occupation. Regarding Israel, Wallace said Syria wanted the Golan Heights back. He did not explain that Israel gained the Golan in self-defense in 1967 and retained it similarly in 1973.

* In 1987, Wallace glossed over oppression of Russian Jewry the way he had Syrias treatment of its Jews. He reported that the fact remains that one and a-half million Soviets identified as Jews apparently live more or less satisfying lives there. And theirs has been a story largely untold. This just before, under Mikhail Gorbachev, hundreds of thousands of Jews would emigrate, most going to Israel. In this segment Wallace suggested that the Jewish Siberian region of Birobidzhan where Jews were a small minority could be home for Soviets seeking a life of Jewish culture.

* In 1988, 60 Minutes examined pro-Israel activism in the United States, focusing on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Wallace claimed there are many who charge that AIPAC, with its sights set only on Israel, is just too demanding of U.S. politicians. Among other tilts in the segment, Wallace quoted George Ball, a former undersecretary of state known for his anti-Israel stance, but not George Shultz, the incumbent secretary of state. This even though Shultz had said that U.S. support for Israel shouldnt be called foreign aid because this money goes for our security first of all. It helps us that Israel is strong.

* In a 1989 interview of Yasser Arafat, Wallace failed to challenge, among other things, the Palestine Liberation Organization leaders misrepresentation of terrorism as resistance or his insistence that a PLO group intercepted by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon had been on its way to attack troops, not civilians. The late David Bar-Illan, then executive editor of The Jerusalem Post, wrote of the interview that had he treated America politicians this way, [Wallace] would have been drummed out of the profession.

* In 1990, Wallace probed an outbreak of violence on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He aired interviews with seven Arab eyewitnesses but only one Jew, and cast doubt on the latters statements; skipped over the cause of the fighting efforts by Fatah and Hamas to reignite the first intifada; and did not interview the main Israeli investigators. Wallace referred to Temple Mount as Islams third most holy place but did not mention it is Judaisms most holy site.

* In 1992, Wallace returned for a 60 Minutes segment on Israels absorption of the 400,000-plus Soviet Jews who had arrived in the previous three years. Their unemployment rate was 11 percent and many worked at jobs beneath their level of education and training. Prominent refusenik immigrant Natan Sharansky painted a more positive picture, but his comments were cut. Wallace wrongly implied that a U.S. loan guarantee to assist Israel absorb the immigrant wave was a grant and that it would help Israel annex the West Bank, something the government did not plan.

* In 2006, Wallace fawned over another dictator, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Boston Globes Jeff Jacoby summarized the interview this way: Wallace let Ahmadinejad brush him off with inanities and lies he would have pounced on had they been uttered by a business executive or an American politician.

The lionizing of Mike Wallace epitomizes news media refusal to describe accurately, warts and all, those they hold out as journalistic exemplars.


The author is Washington director of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. 

And the Primetime Emmy Award winners are…


Here is the list of winners of Primetime Emmy Awards that aired on Sept. 19:
   
BEST DRAMA SERIES
“Mad Men”
   
ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”
   
ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
   
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
   
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Margo Martindale, “Justified”
   
BEST COMEDY SERIES
“Modern Family”
   
ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
   
ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”
   
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
   
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”
   
BEST MINISERIES OR TV MOVIE
“Downton Abbey”

ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Barry Pepper, “The Kennedys”
   
ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Kate Winslet, “Mildred Pierce”
 
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Guy Pearce, “Mildred Pierce”
   
SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
 
BEST REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM
“The Amazing Race”

BEST VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”

DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Michael Spiller, “Modern Family”

WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Steve Levitan & Jeffrey Richman, “Modern Family”

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Martin Scorsese, “Boardwalk Empire”

WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Jason Katims, “Friday Night Lights”

DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES
Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live”
   
WRITING FOR A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES
Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Wyatt Cenac, Hallie Haglund, JR Havlan, Elliott Kalan, Josh Lieb, Sam Means, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
   
DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Brian Percival, “Downton Abbey”
   
WRITING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Julian Fellowes, “Downton Abbey”