August 19, 2019

Jewish talent shines in unexpected categories at Golden Globes

It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times for Jewish talent at the Golden Globe awards ceremony Jan. 8 at the Beverly Hilton.

The most prominent Jewish nominees, including such respected and decorated actors as Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, Winona Ryder and Jeffrey Tambor, did not make it to the winner’s spotlight.

It was left to a few artists, hardly mentioned in the advance Jewish tip sheets, to uphold the tribal honor, buttressed by one young director who might be classified as an “honorary” Jew.

Justin Hurwitz’s musical gifts contributed immeasurably to the success of “La La Land,” the record-setting, seven-time winner in the musical or comedy film category. Hurwitz was rewarded with trophies for the movie’s original score and for the original song “City of Stars.”

Hurwitz is 31, as is Damien Chazelle, the film’s director, and the two were roommates as undergraduates at Harvard. Chazelle, who won Golden Globes as director and screenwriter of “La La Land,” was raised by his two Catholic parents.

But, as Chazelle told the Journal’s Naomi Pfefferman last year, his parents were dissatisfied with their son’s education at a church Sunday school, so they enrolled him in the Hebrew school of a liberal synagogue.

Over the next four years, Chazelle recalled, “I had that period of my life where I was very, very into Hebrew and the Old Testament, and then I went with my class to Israel when we were in the sixth grade.

“I don’t think they even knew I wasn’t Jewish; I was, like, ‘passing.’ ”

 Veteran French star Isabelle Huppert won in the lead actress in a drama category for her role in the French film “Elle,” which also received a Golden Globe in the foreign-language film category.

Huppert, who plays the role of a successful businesswoman who plots an elaborate revenge on the home intruder who raped her, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Her parents married while France was under Nazi occupation, with his father hiding his Jewish roots.

Another ethnically mixed performer, Tracee Ellis Ross, was a winner as lead  actress in a musical or comedy TV series, playing the biracial anesthesiologist in the sitcom “Black-ish.” She is the daughter of Motown singer Diana Ross and music executive Robert Ellis Silberstein.

Britain’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the supporting actor award for his role as the fictional leader of a vicious criminal gang in the drama-thriller “Nocturnal Animals.”

The evening’s big loser at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills was absent President-elect Donald Trump, who was the target of a number of jibes and denunciations, though without actually being mentioned by name.

Most outspoken was actress Meryl Streep, who received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.

After denouncing the unnamed Trump for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter and after asking the audience to back the Committee to Support Journalists, Streep ended with a strong warning.

“Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence,” she said. “And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Trump responded immediately by telling The New York Times that such words would have no impact on attendance at his upcoming inauguration.

“We are going to have an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout for the inauguration and there will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars,” Trump said. “All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.”