Celebrity Jews

‘Men in Black’ redux

Barry Sonnenfeld

The first two “Men in Black” movies (1997 and 2002) were huge box-office hits. So, of course, they’ve made another — this time in 3-D. “Men in Black 3,” which opens today, begins with Agent J (Will Smith) learning that the life of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and the future of Earth are at risk. J must time-travel to 1969 to stop an alien criminal named Boris and change the course of history. J has only 24 hours before he is trapped in the past forever.

Barry Sonnenfeld, 59, who directed the first two movies, helms this one, too. He began as a cinematographer and was tapped in 1991 to direct the first two “Addams Family” movies. They were hits, as was his next film, “Get Shorty” (1995). Steven Spielberg, 65, then asked Sonnenfeld to direct the first “MIB” movie. (Spielberg has been executive producer on all three.)


Literary luminaries

The HBO original movie “Hemingway & Gellhorn” premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, May 28. The press material gives the essential plot: “This biographical drama recounts one of the greatest romances of the last century — the passionate love affair (1936-39) and tumultuous marriage (1940-45) of literary master Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and trailblazing war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) — as it follows the adventurous writers through the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and beyond. As she grew in reputation and stature, Gellhorn stood toe-to-toe with Hemingway, mirroring his heroic spirit and putting his famous bravado and iconic style to the test.”

Gellhorn (1908-98) had three Jewish grandparents and was raised secular in St. Louis. She was among the first journalists to reach the liberated Dachau concentration camp at the end of World War II, and the experience changed her. She embraced her Jewish background and became a passionate and lifelong supporter of Israel. A supporting (real-life) character in the film is photographer Robert Capa (1913-54). A Hungarian Jew, he took iconic photos of the Spanish Civil War and, later, the Israeli War of Independence.

Marin resident Peter Coyote, 70, plays Max Perkins, Hemingway’s literary editor. The film is directed by San Franciscan Philip Kaufman, 75. The film was shot almost entirely in San Francisco, San Rafael and Livermore; for example, Ross Alley in Chinatown stands in for a Shanghai street. All of the locations are listed on IMDB.com under the film’s title. Print it out and have fun “spotting” as you watch the flick.


Rashida Jones’ fascinating story

Rashida Jones

The NBC celebrity roots show “Who Do You Think You Are?” has one annoying feature. It does not announce which celebrity will be profiled until a week or so before the air date. That’s why I didn’t clue you in to the May 4 episode featuring actress Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”) in advance. The good news is that the episode can be viewed online (http://bit.ly/IUBxG5), and the website version includes a couple of deleted scenes, family photos and a written recap.

Jones is the daughter of Jewish actress Peggy Lipton, known for the ’60s series “Mod Squad,” and her ex-husband, composer and producer Quincy Jones (a very classy guy). Rashida was raised Jewish and firmly identifies as Jewish.

She already knew a lot about her father’s African-American ancestry, so she opted to explore her maternal grandmother’s life and ancestry. Her grandmother was born into the small but vibrant Irish Jewish community, and Jones traveled first to Ireland. She learned that her Irish Jewish ancestors originally were from Latvia, so she traveled there to learn more. The whole episode was fascinating, but the ending, which I won’t reveal, was extraordinarily moving.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.