Movies and TV
“Labor Day” is based on a critically acclaimed 2009 novel of the same name by Oakland resident Joyce Maynard, 60. Jason Reitman, 36, directed the film and wrote the screenplay. He says the complex drama is much different from his other films and he “just hopes he nailed it.” (His three previous films were box-office and critical hits: “Thank You for Smoking,” “Juno” and “Young Adult.”) “Labor Day” stars Kate Winslet as a reclusive woman with a 13-year-old son. Their lives change drastically when they meet and decide to harbor an escaped convict (Josh Brolin). It opens Friday, Jan. 31.
“Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust — A Bridge to Russia” premieres on Showtime at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31. This documentary recounts how Joel traveled to the former Soviet Union in 1988, becoming one of the first major Western acts to play the then-Communist nation. The film includes footage of his Soviet concerts and recollections by Joel, 64. Also on Showtime: “Quality Balls,” a documentary on the life of comedian-director David Steinberg, 71. It premieres at 9:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3. The son of a Canadian rabbi, Steinberg cooperated extensively with the filmmakers; the film also includes many clips of his work in front of and behind the camera.
At the Super Bowl
Kickoff time for this weekend’s Super Bowl is 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2 on Fox. This is the first time a Super Bowl will be played outdoors in a cold-weather city (East Rutherford, N.J.) — and no doubt the NFL is praying that another polar vortex doesn’t descend.
The game’s huge viewing audience is catnip for companies trying to promote their products. Super Bowl ads usually feature clever copy, big-name endorsers or both. SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes and markets a carbonation system that allows people to make their own sodas at home, has seen its sales rise dramatically in the last decade, but it still isn’t an American household name. So, it turned to a celebrity spokesperson — and scored a “10” by signing Scarlett Johansson, 29, to promote the product in TV ads. The first ad featuring the gorgeous actress will air during the Super Bowl. Johansson has endorsed other products, but this will be her first big TV ad campaign.
While northern New Jersey seems to be a lot more “Jewish” than Seattle or Denver, the two teams competing for the Super Bowl title, both cities have interesting Jewish ties that date back to their pioneer days. Bailey Gatzert (1829-1893), a co-founder of Seattle’s first synagogue, was elected mayor in 1875 (long before any other now major city had a Jewish mayor, unless you count Iowa City), and Denver was the home of Colorado native Dr. Florence Sabin (1871-1953), a top medical researcher and public health physician. Each state is allowed to honor two individuals with statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C., and Colorado selected Sabin as one of its two people.
If you are at all like me — a Jewish political news junkie — you may be wondering who is Jewish among the names cited in news reports about the New Jersey Bridgegate scandal(s). Here are a few: David Wildstein, 63, the former Port Authority official implicated in shutting traffic lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., allegedly as political retribution, is Jewish, according to the Forward; Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, 45, who reported that Gov. Chris Christie threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy repair funds last May, converted to Judaism a few years after marrying her Jewish husband, a prominent jeweler whose father invented the radiant cut diamond. She says Friday nights are set aside for family and “no work.” n
Mayor Steve Fulop, 36, of Jersey City, who suggested that high-level meetings were canceled last July because he did not endorse Christie, is the son of working-class Romanian Jewish immigrants. In 2003, Fulop left Goldman Sachs, his employer since college, and enlisted in the Marines. He was deployed to Iraq with his Marine Corps Reserve unit. Elected Jersey City mayor last May, he is seen as a “reform Cory Booker type” with a great future.
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.