September 18, 2019

Jews get short shrift at Oscar nominations

If, as they say, a “Jewish cabal” runs Hollywood, it sure did a lousy job in promoting its own Jewish-themed films during Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations.

Whereas in past years one could at least count on Steven Spielberg or a Holocaust documentary to provide a snappy lead for a story in the Jewish media, this year the pickings were slim, indeed.

Alan (middle name Wolf) Arkin got an Oscar nomination for his role as Grandpa, the heroin-snorting, womanizing family patriarch in “Little Miss Sunshine.”

The 72-year-old actor, director, author and musician holds the distinction of having been nominated for an Oscar in his very first screen appearance in 1966 in “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.”

Two years later he was nominated again for his role in “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”

In a past interview, Arkin observed, “Well, I’ve always been a character actor, I’ve never been a leading man. It gave me an opportunity not to have to take my clothes off all the time.”

Jewish filmmakers dominated the feature-length documentary category, with fare that often tackled controversial social and political issues. The five docs nominated include Davis Guggenheim’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” about global warming, produced by activist Laurie David (wife of Larry); Amy Berg’s “Deliver Us From Evil” about pedophilia charges against the Catholic Church; and “Jesus Camp,” co-directed by Rachel Grady.

Despite a flood of shrewd publicity, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” won only one nomination for the faux journalist’s creator Sacha Baron Cohen.

The British comedian was named in the Adapted Screenplay category (who knew there even was a screenplay?), along with his co-writers Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer. The largely improvised film had previously qualified as an adapted screenplay for the Writer’s Guild Awards since it was based on the character Cohen featured on HBO’s “Da Ali G Show,” Variety reported.

And finally, there’s the real dark horse nomination of “West Bank Story” in the Short Film-Live Action category.

Director Ari Sandel tags his work as “A little singing, a little dancing, a lot of hummus.”

A review in The Journal two years ago lauded “the very funny film featuring an all-singing, all-dancing cast. In it, the Israeli boy and the Palestinian girl join hands and hearts to settle a bitter rivalry between their families’ competing West Bank falafel stands.”

The 79th annual Academy Awards airs Feb. 25 on ABC.