Friday, February 22, 2008 | return to: celebrities



by nate bloom

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Oscar time

The writers' strike is over so the Oscars will be presented in all its glitzy, red carpet glory. (On ABC, 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.) Oscar show producer Gil Cates (the uncle of actress Phoebe Cates) is undoubtedly relieved that Oscars host Jon Stewart doesn't have to write his jokes all by himself.

Here are some Jewish angles on the nominees: Joel and Ethan Coen, who scored best picture, director and adapted screenplay nominations for "No Country for Old Men," have two Jewish-themed films in their pipeline. In April they start filming "A Serious Man," which centers on a Jewish college professor in Minnesota who is going through a midlife crisis and seeks answers from a succession of rabbis. After "A Serious Man," the Coens will start making "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," from the novel by Berkeley author Michael Chabon.

Nominated for the best original screenplay Oscar is Tamara Jenkins, the writer and director of "The Savages." Jenkins, whose father was Jewish, describes her childhood as religiously "fractured," with almost random observance of Jewish and Catholic holidays. But her Italian Catholic and Jewish extended families, she says, assured, that "there was a lot of good food."

Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast") and Stephen Schwartz ("Pippin") earned three best song nominations for three tunes they wrote for the Disney film "Enchanted." Menken composed his first show as a teenager, working with his mother to write a musical for their synagogue based on letters to the Forward Yiddish newspaper. Menken is still a synagogue member.

Jason Reitman, 30, who is nominated for best director for "Juno," grew-up attending services at a Los Angeles Conservative synagogue with his parents. His father is director Ivan Reitman. Jason recently recalled that when he was 12, his father told him that he didn't like to attend the Oscars, but he would go if he was nominated. Jason asked Ivan, "Would you go if I was nominated?" Ivan said that he would, and the very proud father will be at this year's Oscars ceremony.

Awarding the righteous

British actress Helena Bonham-Carter is the daughter of a British Protestant aristocratic father and a Catholic mother with a complex family history. Her maternal grandmother, born into a rich Austrian Jewish family, converted to Catholicism to marry Helena's grandfather, Eduardo Propper de Callejn, a Spanish Catholic diplomat. Meanwhile, Helena's maternal grandmother's sister, Liliane Rothschild, "stayed Jewish" and married Baron Elie de Rothschild of the French Rothschilds.

Eduardo Propper, whose father was Jewish, has just been named "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem. Propper, who was based in Nazi-occupied France in 1940-41, defied orders and issued thousands of Spanish visas to Jewish and non-Jewish refugees (including Liliane Rothschild) so they could transit across Spain and find refuge in a third country.

Propper was punished for his good deed by being posted to North Africa and the records of his visa-issuance disappeared. Propper's son gathered testimonies from those his father helped to meet Yad Vashem's standards for "Righteous" designation. Bonham-Carter hopes to be in Jerusalem next month for the induction ceremony.

Film openings

"Charlie Bartlett," a comedy starring Anton Yelchin as a high- schooler who thinks he knows all the angles, opens Friday, Feb. 22. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman co-star as sisters who vie for the love of King Henry VIII in "The Other Boleyn Girl,"opening Feb. 29. The script is by Peter Morgan ("The Queen").

Columnist Nate Bloom , an Oaklander, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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