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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Academy Awards’

Documentary on Oldest Shoah Survivor Wins Oscar a Week after Her Death

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

A documentary about the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor won an Oscar one week after she died.

Alice Herz-Sommer, who died in London on Feb. 23 at the age of 110, was the subject of “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” which won the Academy Award for documentary short Sunday night.

The Prague-born Herz-Sommer, a concert pianist, was a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

In accepting the Oscar, the film’s director, Malcolm Clarke, said that he was struck by Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy” and “amazing capacity for forgiveness.”

Exclusive: Jews Well-Represented at Academy Awards

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

After some fairly lean Oscar years, full or partial Members of the Tribe scored well at the 86th Academy Awards, though mainly in the less glamorous, behind-the-scenes categories.

Israeli-American producer Arnon Milchan, who is an acknowledged intelligence operative for Israel’s nuclear weapon program, shared in the celebration for best picture winner “12 Years a Slave” as one of the seven listed producers who won a golden statuette on Sunday night.

Woody Allen, a regular non-attending entry at the Oscars, failed to win the original screenplay trophy for his “Blue Jasmine.” However, the honor went to “Her” writer Spike Jonze, born Adam Spiegel and the son of a Jewish father.

Perhaps the most satisfying win of the evening, from a Jewish perspective, went to “The Lady in No. 6: Music Saved My Life.” The short documentary tells the story of 110-year old concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer, who died exactly one week before the award ceremony.

In his acceptance speech, director Malcolm Clarke lauded Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy and for forgiveness…She taught everyone on my crew to be a little more optimistic and a little bit more happy.”

Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, born Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern, was the anticipated winner in the best cinematography category for his extraordinary work on the space cliffhanger “Gravity.”

Among the five finalists for best foreign-language film honors was the Palestinian entry “Omar,” while Israel’s choice, “Bethlehem,” was eliminated early on.

Both movies pit the Israel security services against Palestinian militants, with “Omar” predictably drawing a highly unflattering portrait of the Israeli agents.

However “Omar,” like Israel’s past 10 nominations, did not garner the top prize, which went to Italy’s “The Great Beauty.”

Editor’s note: What a loss that was! To give you an idea, here’s a segment from a review of Omar by Richard Falk, of all people:

“The wall reinforced by the Israeli security forces, portrayed as cunning and unscrupulous, with an occupiers’ fear and loathing for those who cower under the rigors of occupation, provides an unforgettable visual metaphor that captures the daily ordeal of the Palestinian people. In a subtle touch, the rope used by Omar throughout the film to avoid the checkpoints and overcome the separation of his home from that of Tarek and Nadia also conveys an understanding that the wall is much more about humiliation and land than it is about security.”

Breathtaking.

For the first time in recent memory, the host for the evening, Ellen DeGeneres, did not indulge in any Jewish jokes during the evening. On the other hand, the Academy reversed its long neglect of African-American talent by featuring numerous black entertainers, presenters, award winners and the Academy’s new president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Two widely publicized movies based on the financial shenanigans of real-life Jewish con men, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” left empty-handed.

In an interesting footnote, Isaacs announced that five billion movie tickets were sold worldwide in 2013.

Oldest Holocaust Survivor Dies at 110

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old Holocaust survivor and concert pianist whose life was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, has died.

Herz-Sommer, who was believed to be the oldest Holocaust survivor and was still playing the piano, died Sunday morning in London.

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” the 38-minute film about her life, is up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next month.

The film showed her indomitable optimism, cheerfulness and vitality despite all the upheavals and horrors she faced in life.

“I know there is bad in the world, but I look for the good,” she told JTA in a brief telephone interview recently, and “music is my life, music is God.”

Trained as a pianist from childhood, Herz-Sommer made her concert debut as a teenager, then married and had a son.

In 1943, however, Herz-Sommer and her husband, Leopold, and their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), were transported to the Nazi model concentration camp Theresienstadt. Her husband died in the Nazi camp, but Herz-Sommer became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals while protecting her son.

Liberated in 1945, Herz-Sommer and her son returned to Prague but four years later left for Israel. There she taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed in concerts frequently attended by Golda Meir, while her son became a concert cellist.

After 37 years in Israel she followed her son to London in 1986. She remained in London even after her son died 15 years later at the age of 65.

World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Stars in Oscar-Nominated Film

Friday, February 14th, 2014

In her 110 years, Alice Herz-Sommer has been an accomplished concert pianist and teacher, a wife and mother — and a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

Now she is the star of an Oscar-nominated documentary showing her  indomitable optimism, cheerfulness and vitality despite all the upheavals and horrors she faced in the 20th century.

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” a 38-minute film up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next month, begins in her native Prague. Alice — everyone from presidents on down calls her Alice — was born on Nov. 26, 1903 into an upper-class Jewish family steeped in literature and classical music.

A friend and frequent visitor was “Uncle Franz,” surname Kafka, along with composer Gustav Mahler and other luminaries.

Trained as a pianist from childhood, Alice made her concert debut as a teenager, married, had a son and seemed destined for the pleasant, cultured life of a prosperous Middle European. But everything changed in 1939 when Hitler, casually tearing up the Munich accord of a year earlier, marched his troops into Prague and brought with him his anti-Semitic edicts.

Her public concert career was over, yet the family managed to hang on in an increasingly restrictive existence in the Czech capital.

In 1943, however, Alice and her husband, their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), and Alice’s mother were loaded on the transport to Theresienstadt. The fortress town some 30 miles from Prague was touted by Nazi propaganda as the model ghetto — “The Fuhrer’s gift to the Jews,” with its own orchestra, theater group and even soccer teams.

With the full extent of the Holocaust still largely unknown, Alice took her deportation with relative equanimity, as was typical for many European Jews.

“If they have an orchestra in Terezin, how bad can it be?” she recalled asking, using the Czech name of the town.

Alice soon found out, as her mother and husband perished there. Alice was saved by her musical gifts and became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals.

But her main focus was on Rafi, trying to make his life bearable, to escape the constant hunger and infuse him with her own hopefulness.

“What she did reminded me of Roberto Benigni in the Italian film ‘Life is Beautiful,’ “ said Malcolm Clarke, director of “The Lady in Number 6.” “He plays an Italian Jew who pretends to his young son that life in the camp is some kind of elaborate game for the boy’s special amusement.”

Liberated in 1945, Alice and Rafi returned to Prague but four years later left for Israel. There she taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed in concerts frequently attended by Golda Meir, while Rafi became a concert cellist.

Alice said she loved her 37 years living in Israel, but when Rafi, her only child, decided to move to London, she went with him. A few years later Rafi died at 65, but the mother remained in her small flat, No. 6, in a North London apartment house.

Nearly all of the film was shot over a two-year period inside the flat dominated by an old Steinway piano on which Alice played four hours each day, to the enjoyment of her neighbors.

Originally the filmmakers considered “Dancing Under the Gallows” as the film’s title before going with “The Lady in Number 6.”

It was a wise decision, for the film is anything but a grim Holocaust documentary with Alice’s unfailing affirmation of life, usually accompanied by gusts of laughter.

Her health and speech have declined in recent months, and she no longer does interviews. But in a brief phone conversation, conducted mainly in German, Alice attributed her outlook partially to having been born with optimistic genes and a positive attitude.

Has American Society Become Insanely Hypersensitive?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Around a year ago, I was lambasted on the blog for calling a girl a “girl” in a post I wrote, instead of calling her a woman, even though the other female readers of this blog freely use the pejorative “girl” for girls of the same age as the one I talked about.

In the comments I exposed that double-standard, but at the time I don’t recall mentioning the insane hypersensitivity and political correctness that drove the response.

This week I watched with amazement two other incidents (not involving me) showcasing more examples of this hypersensitivity and insane political correctness.

In the first case, Dov Hikind dressed up for Purim as a basketball player. A black basketball player, mind you. And for that he’s going to hell and his career is almost certainly damaged.

Because apparently you can dress up as anything on Halloween or Purim, except as a black man (or am I supposed to say African-American).

In the second case, Seth MacFarlane made some amusing jokes about Jews controlling the Hollywood movie industry, during the Oscar ceremonies. As a result, he was attacked for it by the Jewish watchdogs.

What?!  Are you people insane?

A comedian suddenly can’t make jokes about something that is pretty darn near close to true, or certainly used to be.

This hypersensitivity is out of control.

Neither man had any racist intent in their acts or statement. Neither were aware that what they did would be considered racist or insensitive.

And why should they have?

People don’t costume up as Hassidim? As Italian Mafiosos? As Arabs? As Rastafarians? You can get all those costumes in the store.

But a black man is off limits? Or is it that costuming as a black basketball player if off limits because it’s a stereotype. Though what kind of stereotype can it be when 78% of basketball players are black?

And look how many Hollywood producers and actors are Jewish (or of Jewish descent at least). You’ve got to be an idiot to not see that.

But apparently it’s now wrong to point that out. (Unless you’re John Stewart, in which case it’s OK, presumably because he’s Jewish).

What’s next?

Is it going to be racist to point out how many Jewish Nobel prize winners there are? Is that an offensive stereotype too?

It really is time that this hypersensitivity got toned down, and save it for real racism.

Visit The Muqata.

Argo and Benghazi

Monday, February 25th, 2013

I only recently saw Argo, which won “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards last night. As a whole, it was a decent movie, and it brought to light the true story of individual’s who took personal responsibility and risk above the call of duty and even in defiance of orders – and saved lives.

But the film’s opening narration reads like a textbook Obama must have read in college and then reread as a refresher before getting to work on the speech he gave at Cairo University at the start of his presidency.

The part of the narration that really got me was the statement, “[t]he Iranian people took to the streets outside the U.S. Embassy” to demand the U.S. give up the deposed Shah so he could be tried and hung.

No, it was not terrorists, militants, or radical Islamists who stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, but “the Iranian people.” Really? Were all Iranians there? Did they all support it?

My experience as a political activist is that large groups of people don’t spontaneously appear anywhere. Someone needs to organize it – even if it’s incredibly popular, which in the Muslim world, attacking Western embassies and other acts of barbaric murder seem to be – someone needs to tell people to show up at a certain place at a certain time. And if something else aside from a protest is going to happen, there is going to be an individual or group of individual’s intent and direction behind it. It is ludicrous to claim that an entire nation was so outraged that a mob spontaneously formed to commit acts of violence at a particular spot.

(See this article by an Iran expert describing how it was a group of radical Islamists were behind it, how the public at large were probably against it, and how the radicals used it to help seize power).

But today’s leftist-multicultural-Arabist view is that every anti-American act, including murder and terror, is the righteous anger of the an aggrieved people  as a whole, but when the American people in the righteous anger demand justice or vengeance – that is the ugly American idiot rearing his head.

So while even Carter at the time of the hostage crisis was characterizing the incident as “terror” and “blackmail” on the part of the Iranian regime,  in the new version of things, it was the people as whole behind the affairs, no matter how impractical that actually is.

When this perspective is brought to bear in current events, where the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran has since spread the rest of the region, Islamists and terrorist acts excused and legitimized. So for instance, when the American ambassador to Libya and other embassy staff were murdered today, U.S. administration officials spent about two weeks claiming this was done by some spontaneous mob outraged over an anti-Islamic video created in the United States.

And in this view, Islamists – who seek to impose Islam, and their strict form of it, on the rest of the population, and who back directly or indirectly terrorism against Western countries – are viewed as legitimate leaders to be respected if they win one election, regardless of what they did to win or how they stay in power afterwards.

This is the view that is spreading from the leftist professors to the U.S. presidency, to the various executive departments, and to the people themselves through cinema. It’s aim is to cause the U.S. to either feel too guilty to pursue and protect its interests and promote its values abroad, but that it should instead, through foreign aid, supplying weapons, extending legitimacy, assisting in regional goals, feed the beast that hungers for the extinction of the American world order.

In Hebrew: ‘Spectacular’

Monday, February 11th, 2013

מַרְהִיב

Last night I watched Academy Award Best-Picture nominee, Life of Pi.

I was more impressed with the existential, religious and deeply-human aspects of the film; nevertheless, the special effects were spectacular.

One Hebrew word for spectacular is מַרְהִיב. This active-causative הִפְעִיל verb derives from the root ר.ה.ב (r.h.b). רַהַב is the Biblical name of a Canaanite god synonymous with the sea. The great body of water is something gripping and spectacular, as one might observe at the beach (or while lost at sea), and as the ancients knew very well.

An example of מרהיב:

“חַיֵּי פַּי” הוּא סֶרֶט מַרְהִיב.
Life of Pi is a spectacular film.

Visit Ktzat Ivrit.

Two Israeli Films Harshly Critical of Israel Get Oscar Nod (+Trailers)

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The nominations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards best movies of 2012 were announced yesterday, January 10, and two Israeli films are among those nominated.

Of course, both movies portray Israel in a negative light, so calm down before kvelling.

The movies, “5 Broken Cameras,” and “The Gatekeepers,” were both nominated in the category of Best Documentary film.  Both films portray Israelis as primarily violent thugs who are intent on oppressing the Arab Palestinians.

“5 Broken Cameras” is produced and directed by an Arab Palestinian, Emad Burnat, and an Israeli Jew, Guy Davidi.  It won the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Festival.

Emad Burnat, the storyteller in “5 Broken Cameras,” is from the village of Bil’in, which is the site of a weekly protest by the villagers and numerous activists hungry for fights with Israelis.  The protests are ostensibly about the creation of Israel’s security fence – which opponents often refer to as an “Apartheid wall,” and the film documents these protests.  The 5 broken cameras in the movie’s title refer, according to Burnat, to five different cameras of his which have been broken by the Israelis in  “brutal” attempts to squash the Arabs’ “non-violent” protests.

No doubt the true story behind the death of Jawaher abu Rahma, on December 31, 2010, was not included in the movie.  But the story behind her death might do a better job of educating the world about the conflict than a movie like “5 Broken Cameras,” which simply promotes the standard, one-sided, often false, understanding of the conflict.

Abu Rahma’s death made headlines because it was claimed that the 36 year old woman was killed by tear gas thrown by Israelis who were trying to control one of the “non-violent” demonstrations at Bil’in.  As was eventually revealed only through the piecing together of information that few wanted to see the light of day, it turns out that abu Rahma was not even at the Bil’in demonstration on the day she was allegedly killed by the Israeli tear gas. Instead, it appears that she died as the result of medical malpractice at a Ramallah hospital, where she was taken for an unrelated medical issue.

It is hard to believe that “5 Broken Cameras” would have been considered for Academy Award status were it not in lock-step with the glitterati world view of the Arab-Israel conflict: Arab good and non-violent, Israeli oppressive, brutal occupiers.

The film has been used by its creators to “expose” Israel as a brutal force, and Davidi in particular seems determined to ensure as many young Israelis as possible see the film so that they, like he did, will refuse to serve in the IDF.  As the radical-left +972 site reported:

Guy Davidi has decided to take this film and use it as an educational tool to try and raise awareness among Israelis, most of whom either haven’t heard of Bil’in or don’t really know (or believe) exactly what has gone on there. The Education Ministry’s “culture basket,” which determines which films and other media and programming are introduced in Israeli schools, doesn’t take politically charged films – certainly not one like this, which exposes the darkest sides of the IDF’s violent, illegal and unethical conduct – and which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar is behind instituting Israeli school trips to occupied Hebron, and the effort to open a university in the settlement of Ariel.

Davidi is therefore launching a campaign to try and bring the movie to Israeli schools, to teenagers who are gearing up for their army service. If he cannot do it through Israel’s formal educational institutions, then he is doing it informally, through independent initiatives.

No doubt the Oscar nomination will make Davidi’s goals even easier to achieve, with star-struck Israelis and American Jews preening over an Israeli film making it to “the big time.”

The second movie selected for the Best Documentary category, “The Gatekeepers,” also presents Israel in the caricatured fashion the world has come to expect, as peopled by brutal thugs whose goal in life is to do nothing more than make the lives of the poor, non-violent Arabs as difficult as possible. This film, directed by Dror Moreh, takes interviews with all six surviving directors of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, and intersperses the interviews with newsreels and bomb sites.  “The Gatekeepers” was named the best nonfiction film of 2012 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.

The movie site, Slant, provides a fairly good example of how many people who are even slightly inclined towards seeing Israel in the worst possible light, will understand “The Gatekeepers”:

Moreh’s not so lucky. As skilled an interviewer and documentarian as he may be, he’s squaring off against intelligence officers who didn’t just execute systematic torture, abuse, and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but devised them. And even when the so-called Gatekeepers offer up damning testimony against their organization, there’s no real threat that they’ll ever be held accountable for it. Rather, their willful participation in this documentary seems to function as a form of tacit forgiveness, rendering all the un-redacted revelations contained within doubly disquieting.

What a shame that a truly lovely film by Rana Burshtein, “Fill the Void,” about the charedi world in Tel Aviv, did not make the cut in the Academy Award’s foreign language category.

 

5 Broken Cameras trailer

 

The Gatekeepers trailer

 

Fill the Void trailer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/two-israeli-films-harshly-critical-of-israel-get-oscar-nod/2013/01/11/

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