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Jews on Film: A Serious Man and An Education; Polanski, Sellers

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 5, 2009 at 5:15AM

Jews are popping up all over. The Coens based A Serious Man, which is an affectionate yet scabrous portrait of Jewish suburban family life, on their 60s Minnesota upbringing. An Education's Nick Hornby relied on Lynn Barber's two-year old memoir and faithfully included the sleazy seducer played by Peter Sarsgaard, who is Jewish. Suffice it to say, he's a money-grubbing entrepreneur with less-than-impeccable values. Even Tim Blake Nelson includes the Jewish mafia in his midwestern comedy, Leaves of Grass, which recently played Toronto. And we must not leave out Quentin Tarantino's controversial contribution to Jewish cinema, the anti-Nazi World War II movie Inglourious Basterds, which was a sleeper summer hit. UPDATE: The NYT's A.O. Scott addresses Jewish history as interpreted by Tarantino and the Coens.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Jews are popping up all over. The Coens based A Serious Man, which is an affectionate yet scabrous portrait of Jewish suburban family life, on their 60s Minnesota upbringing. An Education's Nick Hornby relied on Lynn Barber's two-year old memoir and faithfully included the sleazy seducer played by Peter Sarsgaard, who is Jewish. Suffice it to say, he's a money-grubbing entrepreneur with less-than-impeccable values. Even Tim Blake Nelson includes the Jewish mafia in his midwestern comedy, Leaves of Grass, which recently played Toronto. And we must not leave out Quentin Tarantino's controversial contribution to Jewish cinema, the anti-Nazi World War II movie Inglourious Basterds, which was a sleeper summer hit. UPDATE: The NYT's A.O. Scott addresses Jewish history as interpreted by Tarantino and the Coens.

Some New York critics including The New Yorker's David Denby have some trouble with the latest Coens movie, starring newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg (which has earned raves in most quarters). Time's Richard Corliss does not.

And while An Education played great at Sundance, Telluride and Toronto as well as my first UCLA Sneak Preview last week, during the Q & A one man asked director Lone Scherfig, who hails from Denmark, why she included all the Jewish material. She had fielded this question before. She said the folks on the production took it very seriously. One, the movie is true to the original memoir, and two, the fact that some people in the 60s took advantage of racism to drive people out of their apartments by moving in blacks is well-documented, she said. Just because the characters played by Emma Thompson and Alfred Molina act like racists doesn't mean the film is racist, she pointed out.

Reaction to Roman Polanski's legal limbo continues to pour in.
Cokie Roberts takes it a bit far.

Chris Rock goes after Polanski on Leno:

Manager Joan Hyler makes a triumphant comeback from a near-fatal auto accident.

Ex-LAT online entertainment editor Richard Rushfield, now Gawker's west coast editor, tells it all to USC.

Eugene Hernandez reports on the "elite" NYFF.

James Schamus plans a keynote for the London Film Festival.

Peter Sellers channels Sir Laurence Olivier as Richard III as he recites The Beatles' A Hard Days Night:

[hat tip: James Urbaniak]

This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Video, Stuck In Love, Daily Read, Coens, Toronto, Telluride, Period, comedy, Romance, Critics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.