Hollywood’s Celebrity Jews – Movies and more

AT THE MOVIES
Coco is an animated film from Disney/Pixar studios. Capsule plot: Twelve-year-old Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, deceased musician Ernesto de la Cruz. However, his family has a generations-old ban on music. He ignores this and journeys to the Land of the Dead where he meets Hector, a charming “trickster,” and together they unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history (opens Nov. 22).
Hispanic actors voice all the characters. Lee Unkrich, 50, directed the film and co-wrote the story that is the basis for the screenplay. Unkrich won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2011 (Toy Story 3, which he produced and directed). He’s co-directed many other Pixar hits. Lee and his wife, Laura, are members of a San Francisco-area synagogue.
Molly’s Game, directed and written by Aaron Sorkin, 56, is based on the real experiences of Molly Bloom, now 39. When she was 26, she became the target of an FBI investigation because she ran an underground poker empire for celebrities and the Russian mob. Bloom, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, is played by Jessica Chastain. Her father, played by Kevin Costner, is a major character in the film. I know Molly’s brother, Jeremy Bloom, a top snow skier and former NFL player, identifies as a Christian. Not sure about Molly (opens Nov. 22).
The Current War tells the story of the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as to whose system will be chosen to provide electricity to homes and businesses in the late 1880s. Sounds dry — but this was a battle royal, with some really weird twists. Michael Shannon plays Edison and Benedict Cumberbatch plays Westinghouse. The original screenplay is by Michael Mitnick, 34, the author of several hit regional theater plays (opens Nov. 24).

MUSICAL NOTES
On Nov. 22, Netflix will begin streaming Barbra: The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic! This concert film was made during Barbra Streisand’s last concert tour. Streisand, 75, is joined by many celebrity guests, including Seth MacFarlane, Jamie Foxx, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Melissa McCarthy.
On Nov. 5, 60 Minutes profiled Alma Deutscher, a 12-year-old music prodigy who is charming, upbeat and insightful. She began playing piano and violin before age 5, has long been a virtuoso on both and began composing at 6. At 10, she wrote her first full-length opera, Cinderella, which premiered in Vienna last December. (The prince is a poet; Cinderella finds a poem of his and puts it to music.) It will be staged by a San Jose company next month.
Born and raised in England, Alma is the daughter of well-known Israeli linguist Guy Deutscher, 47. He’s a university professor and amateur musician in the U.K., and his British wife and Alma’s mother, Janie Steen Deutscher, is an academic (old languages) and amateur musician, as well. While I don’t know if Janie is Jewish, I do know that Alma has dual Israeli citizenship. I was charmed by a TV clip of Alma, at age 8, appearing on an educational music program in Israel. She seamlessly moved from Hebrew to English while chatting with the show’s hosts. (The 60 Minutes story can be found by googling “Alma Deutscher and 60 Minutes.” For the Israeli TV program, enter this in the YouTube search box: “Alma 8 on Intermezzo with Arik.”)

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