Greeting, JDaters®! Summer’s here, the 4th of July is nearly upon us, and if you saw Prometheus, you’re probably wondering what the hell happened. June was filled with some big hits like Snow White, Prometheus, and Brave. However, it was also filled with some notable misfires like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, That’s My Boy, and Rock of Ages. In retrospect, who knew that hiring a bunch of actors who can’t really sing to star in a musical wouldn’t be a good idea?

July offers some huge openings, including the return of Spider Man and Batman to the big screen. Isn’t it incredible that two characters named after critters people pay money to have removed from their homes are the most popular superheroes in cinema? Following that logic, you wannabe screenwriters out there should be developing your pitches for the Insatiable Cockroach Man.

The Chosen Feature

The Chosen Feature for the month of June is Guy Ritchie’s magnificent gangster film, Snatch. Once upon a time, before he made the Sherlock Holmes series, Guy Ritchie was known for directing British gangster films. Some of them were good, and some, like the Kabbalistically-influenced Revolver, were not so good. However, Snatch may have been the gem of the bunch, and it’s certainly the most accessible of his early films.

The plot is a caper involving some stolen diamonds, which are snatched up by men dressed as Orthodox Jews. The film may have inspired a bizarre 2010 incident in which two men dressed as Orthodox Jews and “stole” four million dollars worth of their own diamonds in an insurance fraud scheme. The film features Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, and Brad Pitt in perhaps his most memorable performance, as a strange gypsy boxer who speaks barely intelligible English.

There’s quite bit of Jewish material in the movie, and much of it’s very funny. Be warned though, it’s definitely an adult picture. Mostly due to the large amounts of cursing in the film. If you haven’t seen it, and you’re a fan of the Sherlock Holmes films, Brad Pitt, or Jason Statham, it’s worth checking out.

The JScale

The Amazing Spider Man – 2.5/5 Stars of David

Ladies and gentlemen, Spider Man is Jewish. Andrew Garfield, most famous for his turn as Mark Zuckerberg’s screwed-over partner in The Social Network, will be donning the tights in this reboot of the Spider Man franchise, and he’s certified Kosher. Spider Man was created by Stan Lee (originally Lieber) and Steve Ditko (not Jewish). And it’s produced by Israeli-American film executive Avi Arad, so there are quite a few Jews involved in bringing everybody’s favorite web-head back to the screen.  To top it off, Spider Man’s central story (the story about being something of the other, the outcast, orphaned, unpopular, even hated) is quite the metaphor for the Jewish struggle throughout much of the past.

Katy Perry: Part of Me – 0/5 Stars of David

This 3D concert documentary of Katy Perry’s tour, and the aftermath of her breakup from Russel Brand, promises to deliver bubblegum pop aplenty, but very little in the way of Jewishness. Perry started off her career as a Christian pop singer. Her father, a reverend, famously once asked during a sermon, “You know how to make the Jews jealous? Have some money, honey.” It should be noted that Perry refused to comment on her father’s words, and rather than taking the chance to make a strong statement against anti-Semitism, remained silent.

Savages – 0/5 Stars of David

Oliver Stone returns to the big screen with this crime tale centering around Marijuana growers. No Jews to speak of in the cast. It should also be noted that Oliver Stone, though born to a Jewish father, has made glaringly anti-Semitic comments in the past about Jews controlling the media, and about the Holocaust being overexposed. He has also been a strong supporter of Hugo Chavez whose policies against the Jews of Venezuela have resulted in the ransacking of synagogues and Jewish community centers. Normally it’s hard to criticize a filmmaker for their personal beliefs and politics, but when it’s a man like Stone (who so freely brings those beliefs into his film making), I feel it’s fair game. So give him your money if you must, but I can’t support the guy.

Ice Age: Continental Drift – 2/5 Stars of David

Back to the lighter fare! With some Jewish screenwriters, and the vocal talents of Hebraically-inclined cast members like Josh Gad, Drake, and Alain Chabat, Ice Age IV (yes, four!) got the JScale to tick up a bit. How good a movie whose plot centers around the ultimate MacGuffin – an acorn – will be, is another story entirely.

The Dark Knight Rises – 2/5 Stars of David

And here’s the big release of the month, the follow-up to the box office juggernaut, The Dark Knight.  Can the end of the trilogy deliver the biggest box office results yet? Or, will it fall short of its predecessor which benefited from people’s desire to see Heath Ledger’s final completed film? Batman was created by Bob Kane, who was Jewish, and as I found out a few years ago when I found pictures of them together on vacation, a friend of my grandfather’s. This installment of Christopher Nolan’s run on the Bat-Franchise includes the talents of Jew, and Zooey Deschanel cuteness amplifier, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It also had some story input from David S. Goyer. Advance press has been good. Here’s hoping Batman goes out with a bang.

Ruby Sparks – 1/5 Stars of David

This movie about a struggling novelist whose literary character comes to life is written by Zoe Kazan, the granddaughter of the famed director (and communist outer) Elia Kazan. Kazan was not Jewish, but he did direct one of the most important films about Jews ever made, Gentleman’s Agreement, which took on the country-club anti-Semitism of post WWII America. Ruby Sparks does feature Elliot Gould in a supporting role, and he’s about as Jewish as you can get.

The Watch – 4/5 Stars of David

Jews, Jews everywhere! This alien invasion comedy may not be thematically Jewish, but the cast and crew is like a giant Jew convention. The film stars Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill, is directed by Akiva Schaffer, written by Seth Rogen, Jared Stern, and Evan Goldberg, and even produced by Shawn Levy. It is simply chock full of Jews.

Step Up Revolution – 1/5 Stars of David

Sigh. Yes, this is the inevitable production which I have chosen to call Flash Mob: The Movie. Sigh again. I have to give this at least one Star of David because Adam Shankman helped write the screenplay, but I really don’t want to. When the preview for this movie played recently in a theater I was in, people laughed, and not in a good way. It looks that stupid. It will likely feature some very cool dancing, so if you’re into that, have fun. However, if you’re looking for depth of plot or gravitas, you’re probably better off seeing The Watch.

Killer Joe – 2/5 Stars of David

William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection, returns to the screen with this crime drama about a young man who wants to hire a hitman to kill his mother. I recently saw Friedkin speak at the Arclight about The Exorcist, and he delivered a rather rambling (but often entertaining) talk about the film, including how it was all about Jesus. I’m not sure how, but according to him, it was. He then made it clear that while he, himself, was Jewish, he put Jesus into every frame of the movie. The film also features Gina Gershon in the cast, and Gershon is a member of the tribe.  This is Matthew McConaughey’s second movie of the summer, and the one in which he does not play a stripper. It remains to be seen if he will remove his shirt.

And that’s the wrap for this month, folks! Good luck with your dates. And have a happy 4th of July!

Jonathan Maseng is a Los Angeles based screenwriter and journalist. He is a frequent contributor to the LA Jewish Journal, and his work has appeared in publications around the globe. His mother would like him to find a nice Jewish girl — he’s still looking.
One Comment
  1. Spider-Man had very good odds on being Jewish this time around, with names like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anton Yelchin, Alden Ehrenreich, and Logan Lerman being bandied about as possible contenders (with Lerman being the frontrunner for a long time, allegedly).

    Although apparently the final three were Garfield, Jamie Bell (not Jewish), and Josh Hutcherson (no).

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