Greeting JDaters®, and welcome to, Kosher Cinema. We all know that Jews are not exactly hard to find in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean Judaism’s easy to find on the screen. While I’m hardly the most ethnocentric Jew on the block, we all know that it’s fun to play the “did you know so-and-so was Jewish” game. And let’s face it, movies and dating are inextricably linked.
The Chosen Feature
Every month I’ll be highlighting a film here that you might consider renting next time you and your JDate sweetheart decide to spend a night in rather than hitting the town. Don’t worry, this space isn’t going to be filled with holocaust movies or obviously Jewish films like Fiddler on the Roof. I’ll be trying to clue you in to some classics and some more recent fare that have serious Jewish themes or background mixed in.
For those of you who rushed to the theater around the holidays to check out David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (and if box office receipts are any indication, it’s less of you than the studio hoped for), I’ve got a Chosen Feature for you.
If you’re ready to look ahead in Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, you might want to see the Swedish version of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Wait, there are Jews in a Swedish movie? Yes indeed. Not only does The Girl Who Played With Fire feature a Jewish character in Detective Jan Bublanski, but when we first meet him, he’s sitting in Synagogue and his cell phone rings, angering the other congregants. Apparently this problem is a worldwide issue, and not only endemic to Los Angeles temples. Officer Bubbles, as he’s known to colleagues, is a proud Jew, and eagle-eyed viewers will spot a menorah on his shelf at work.
While the Swedish films are hardly as stylish or star-studded as Fincher’s version, they’re good fun, and more than satisfying for a Millennium fan.
Introducing the JScale!
So what is the JScale? It’s a way of rating how Jewish a film is, based on how many Jews were involved in creating it, acting it out and bringing it to the screen, as well as whether the film contains any overtly Jewish themes, and how well its plot reflects Jewish values as a whole.
For example, a film like A Serious Man, written and directed by the Coen Brothers (Jews), starring Michael Stuhlbarg (Jew), Adam Arkin (Jew), and Richard Kind (Jew), with an overtly Jewish plot, would rate 5 out of 5 Stars of David on the JScale. A film like Avatar, written and directed by James Cameron (non-Jew), starring Sam Worthington, Giovanni Ribisi, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang (nary a Jew among them), with a sci-fi, vaguely pagan religious plot, would rate 0 out of 5. Pandora may be beautiful, but it ain’t Kosher.
So will the JScale tell you if a film’s good? Nope. Just whether it’s Jew-ish.
- The Woman in Black – 2/5 Stars of David
This British Horror film may not seem very Jewish on the surface, but it comes from the pen of Jane Goldman, and features everyone’s favorite Jewish boy-wizard, Daniel Radcliffe.
- Chronicle – 2/5 Stars of David
A super-hero found-footage film penned by Max Landis (son of film-maker John), and directed by Josh Trank, Chronicle is of dubious Jewish heritage. The young, mostly unknown cast has no obvious Hebrews. Landis is of Jewish background though, as is Trank, I believe.
- The Innkeepers – 1/5 Stars of David
This horror film from writer/director Ti West features a surprising Jew in the very blonde Sarah Paxton. Beyond that though, not much to see here.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (in 3D!) – N/A
I don’t care how many Jews were in this piece of garbage. Unless you’re thrilled by the thought of seeing Jar Jar Binks in 3D, the less said about this, the better. What have you done Natalie Portman!? I hereby excommunicate this movie from the JScale!
- The Vow – 1/5 Stars of David
I’m pretty sure any romance about amnesia starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum is about as goyish as it gets, though this one does come from the minds of (several) Jewish writers.
- Safe House – 0/5 Stars of David
Denzel Washington stars with Ryan Reynolds in this tale of a CIA Agent on a mission to protect an asset. A Swedish director, a writer of unknown origin, and a cast featuring nary a Jew in sight make this film a great argument that Jews only control 95% of Hollywood.
- Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – 0/5 Stars of David
This Jewless (and likely joyless) sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth only features one returning cast member in Josh Hutcherson. When Brendan Fraser has “scheduling conflicts,” you might want to head in the opposite direction, especially if you saw his replacement The Rock’s last foray into the Kids Movie genre, Tooth Fairy.
- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – 1/5 Stars of David
With Avi Arad and David S. Goyer involved, the film has a little Jewish cred. The flaming-skulled biker from hell plot, however, is not culled from the Talmud.
- The Secret World of Arrietty – 1/5 Stars of David
It’s a Japanese animated film based on a novel by a non-Jew. Nothing Jewish here, though the story of outsiders who must hide from society is one that might speak to Jews.
- This Means War – 1/5 Stars of David
Remember when Reese Witherspoon used to do good films like Walk the Line and not just mediocre rom-coms? This only gets one star because it features everyone’s favorite vodka-swilling Morjew (Mormon mom, Jewish dad), Chelsea Handler.
- Wanderlust – 3/5 Stars of David
This film from Jewish writer/director David Wain also features Member of the Tribe Paul Rudd. No, co-star Alan Alda is not Jewish. I know, crazy, right? But the plot, which centers around a Manhattan couple who decide to try living on a commune, seems primed for Jewish influence.
- Gone – 0/5 Stars of David
If you’re looking for Jewishness in this Amanda Seyfried serial killer flick, look elsewhere.
- Good Deeds – 0/5 Stars of David
Last I checked, Tyler Perry is not Jewish. Neither are any of the actors in this art imitates life film in which Tyler Perry plays a really rich Black guy.
And that’s the roundup for February. Pretty dismal on the JScale front, with only Wanderlust breaking the 3 Stars of David barrier. But look on the bright side – the Academy Awards® are on the 26th, and Billy Crystal’s back! Let’s hope he represents the Children of Israel better than James Franco did.