From ‘Bucket List’ to ‘Beaufort’

Quick Trip From Everest to Lebanon

In less than 48 hours, I visited Mount Everest, on the border between Nepal and Tibet, and Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon. The unlikely juxtaposition was the result of attending screenings of quite different films: the flashy Hollywood premiere of “The Bucket List,” followed by an understated private screening of indie Israeli film, “Beaufort.”

Indeed, the two films span the full spectrum of cinematic possibility — one being a big-budget, formulaic Hollywood star-vehicle lavished with an opulent premiere party, and the other a provocative meditation on war and Israel Defense Forces soldierhood, which played to a sparse crowd in ICM’s lush screening room at the MGM Tower.

I won’t deny the excitement curling my toes as I walked into the Arclight’s Cinerama Dome on Dec. 16 for the premiere of “The Bucket List,” a film about two aging men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who are dying of cancer and decide that in their final year of life, they are going to do everything they never did — i.e., have a few thrills, which for them meant: flying in private jets, visiting the Taj Mahal, scouting Egyptian pyramids and climbing Mount Everest. Thrill for me: unlimited free popcorn.

Whispers, handshakes and hugs trumped using the BlackBerry — because you know, everyone is here and apparently, the important people like to sit in the back. Screenwriter Justin Zackham had manager David Faigenblum to thank for believing in his script, which eventually attracted the likes of Nicholson and Freeman, sitting just a few rows apart for the duration of the dismal comedy.

Director Rob Reiner introduced the film, cracked about the challenge of selling a $45 million movie about “two old guys dying of cancer” and delivered a long list of thanks to the film’s contributors, including producers Craig Zadan, Neil Meron and Alan Greisman.

The evening also doubled as a benefit for the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Center for Cancer Research, and guests moved on to Boulevard 3 on the Sunset Strip, which was framed by stretch limos with black-suited men guarding the gate. Trim trees sparkling with pink lights lined the entryway to the chichi soiree, where ladies greeted guests at the door, wine trays in hand (in Hollywood no one has to move more than a few inches before pressing a glass between their fingers).

Inside a concrete warehouse, multiple buffet stations encircled an open atrium, where industry people crushed together. John Mayer huddled in a booth with the ever-bespectacled Jack, and that moment was the first and last glimpse most of us got of the stars at the party.

By contrast, a slim crowd of invitation-only guests slumped into couch-like leather seats for a screening of “Beaufort,” the Israeli film contentiously vying with “The Band’s Visit” for a foreign-language film Oscar nomination. (See Tom Tugend’s story at L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan sat in for the lengthy but loaded film, whose ominous sonic score foisted a foreboding mood upon the crowd.

Fraught with tension, violence and fear, the film challenges the bureaucracy of Israel’s politicians and its army. Director Joseph Cedar’s penetrating portrayal of Israeli soldiers camped at an outpost in Lebanon was poignant but painful — not the kind of material that makes you itch for an afterparty, but certainly the kind that leaves you with an afterthought.

Chanukah Bash Heats Up Winter

Chanukah lights seemed to dispel the sudden chill of winter for The Federation’s Young Leadership Division (YLD) holiday party at X Bar Dec. 1, where 430 people milled about the swank Hyatt Regency Century Plaza’s venue, tucked into booths, lined up at the bar or crushed together on the dance floor, swinging to the hip-hop music of the DJ. Outside, a fire pit and tall heaters warmed the air, as the party got more and more crowded.

“With the attendees leaving the event not just thrilled about attending a very cool event, but proud to be a part of the young Jewish community … the event facilitated bringing the young professional, young Jewish community together,” YLD incoming chair Eric Erenstoft said.

The party collected 100 new unwrapped toys to be donated to children at Aviva Family & Children’s Services and for Jewish Family Service’s Adopt-a-Family Program and Chai Lifeline.

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor