January 23, 2019

Oscar honors Jewish talent but bypasses Israel

Given that there were no world famous Jewish names among nominees for the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday night, the tribe did fairly well.

“The Great Budapest Hotel” tied with “Birdman” for the most Oscars, with four each, though the latter walked off with the best picture Oscar.

“Budapest Hotel” was inspired by the writings of Austrian-Jewish novelist Stefan Zweig, with Scott Rudin as the film’s Jewish producer.

“Ida” won as best foreign-language film, confounding predictions that movies with Holocaust or Nazi era themes were passé. The intense Polish entry focused on a young novitiate about to take her vows as a nun, when she discovers that she is the daughter of Jewish parents killed by the Nazis. Much of the film is devoted to retracing her origins.

The film’s director, Pawel Pawlikowski, whose paternal grandmoster was Jewish and was killed in Auschwitz, was asked during a backstage interview whether he considers the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people as one aspect of post World War II Poland.
Pawlikowski, in his response, tried to shift the emphasis.

“Of course, Polish-Jewish relations are difficult,” he said. “And the two lead characters, Ida and [her aunt] Wanda, who are Jewish, but or me they are Polish. I don’t like people who attack the film from various sides and say ‘Oh, it’s about Jews and Poles and stuff,’

“For me, [the film] is about different versions of Polishness, but it wasn’t about that. The film is about all sort of things, it’s about faith, identity, sense of guilt, it’s about Stalinism, too, and about ideals — lost ideals.”

Israel’s streak of being a frequent (nominated) bridesmaid but never an (Oscar-winning) bride continued with “Aya”, starring Israeli actress Sara Adler, which had made the finalists list for short films.

There was some consolation in the list of Jewish winners, including:

  •             Patricia Arquette, daughter of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, who hoisted the Oscar statuette for best supporting actress in the film “Boyhood.”
  •             Graham Moore won as writer for “The Imitation game” in the adapted screenplay category, who made a plea for gay rights in his acceptance speech. His mother, Susan Sher, served as President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community, following a stint as chief of staff for the First Lady.
  •             Mexican-Jewish cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki accepted the Academy Award for “Birdman,” repeating his victory last year for “Gravity.”
  •             Host Neil Patrick Harris, the complete Anglo-Saxon, skipped the Jewish jokes favored by some of his predecessors. However, he is not complete devoid of tribal connections since he essayed the role of Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in his high school production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
  •             During the evening’s In Memoriam segment, devoted to film industry notables who passed away in 2014, the Academy paid its respects to Israeli filmmaker Menachem Golan.