Golden Globes 2011: The Jewish nominees

“The King’s Speech”—which today snagged seven Golden Globe Awards nominations, the most of any contending film – is the brainchild of British screenwriter and nominee David Seidler, whose flight from the Nazis and Jewish family trauma partly inspired the movie.  Other frontrunners include the Mark Zuckerberg-Facebook saga “The Social Network,” tied with “The Fighter” with six nods; and Darren Aronofsky’s lushly photographed, intense ballet drama, “Black Swan,” with four nominations.

Kevin Spacey, who plays disgraced Orthodox former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in “Casino Jack,” is up for best actor in a musical or comedy, as is Paul Giamatti of “Barney’s Version,” based on a novel by Canadian-Jewish author Mordecai Richler.  Meanwhile, Jesse Eisenberg (Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”) will compete in the dramatic category with performers such as “127 Hours’” James Franco, who recently spoke to the Journal about combining his film work with doctoral studies in English at Yale and even his desire to become bar mitzvah.

On the TV side, nods went to shows such as “Glee,” “30 Rock,” “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Hung” and “Modern Family.”

“The King’s Speech,” which is nominated for best picture and best screenplay, and is considered a frontrunner for the Oscars – tells of how England’s King George VI, a severe stutterer, overcame his crippling debilitation with the help of an unorthodox speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush, nominated for best supporting actor).

In a Journal interview with Arts & Entertainment Editor Naomi Pfefferman, the 73-year-old Seidler described how he fled the Blitz with his family just before the age of 3, arriving in New York a stutterer due to the turmoil.  But wartime radio broadcasts by England’s King George VI — who himself overcame stuttering— gave Seidler hope.  “He was a childhood hero of mine,” the screenwriter explained.

The accolades lavished upon the film have thrilled Seidler, whose previous efforts have been more modest endeavors in television and film.  In fact the movie’s brilliant premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival “was one of those magical moments,” Seidler said.  “It was a big theater – at least 2,000 people – and when the film ended 2,000 people rose to their feet.  It was pretty overwhelming.  I was just suddenly struck very forcefully that my voice had truly been heard; stutterers often feel that no one wants to hear them speak.  Then they turned the spotlight on and there I was with mucus coming out of my nose and tears pouring down.” 

Seidler believes viewers relate to the film because “It’s not just about being a king or a stutterer.  It’s about any kind of marginalization.  And when we’re talking about marginalization from society,” he added, “this is something that certainly resonates with the Jewish community.” 

In another interview with The Journal, Eisenberg, ever the meticulous artist, recounted how he prepared for the role of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:  “I read everything I could about him, and watched every video.”  Did Eisenberg like his controversial character?  “Very much so,” he said, “because I spent six months, 14 hours a day thinking about him, and so I developed a great affection, as you do with any role you play that you like.  You develop a great affection for the character and it really takes up a special emotional place.” 

The film’s other nominees include screenwriter Aaron Sorkin; Andrew Garfield in the best supporting actor category for his portrayal of Zuckerberg’s best friend and Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin; and director David Fincher.

Another competitor is director Aronofky, whose “Black Swan” spotlights a dancer’s descent into madness under horrific pressure to achieve artistic perfection. Those who remember Aronofsky’s Jewish characters in the Kabalistic thriller “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” may perceive some Tribal dynamics in “Black Swan,” whose four female actresses – including nominees Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis – hail from Jewish backgrounds. “What Aronofsky serves up, whether intentional or not, is an uncommonly well-wrought portrait of the classic push-pull of Jewish mothers and daughters: You’re perfect, but not perfect enough,” Tablet noted. “Their relationship curdles under the pressure of smothering closeness, but that doesn’t make it any less engrossing, just more complex: Nina might routinely hit “ignore” when her cell phone flashes “Mom” on caller ID, but when she finds out she will be the next Swan Queen, the first thing she does is lock herself in a bathroom stall to call home and report the news: “He picked me, Mommy!”

Also of interest to Journal readers: Radu Mihaileanu’s “The Concert” is up for best foreign film for its tale of a celebrated conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra, Andrei Filipov, who was ostracized for refusing to fire his Jewish friends. Melanie Laurent, who played the vengeful Jewess of “Inglourious Basterds” stars as an enigmatic French violinist.

The 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be broadcast nationwide live on NBC, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 from 5:00-8:00 (PST)/8:00-11:00 (EST) from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.