“Not Fade Away,” the first feature film by David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” opened in San Francisco on Dec. 28. Like the hit HBO series, the film is set in New Jersey and features an Italian-American family — and, once again, James Gandolfini plays the father. But unlike the TV show, the film is set in 1964 and the family is a normal, blue-collar one. The central character is Doug, a teenager who, inspired by a Rolling Stones performance of “Not Fade Away,” forms a rock band with two buddies. John Magaro, 29, who has done many TV guest shots and has had a few lead film parts, plays Doug. Magaro is the son of two teachers and was raised Jewish. His mother is Jewish and his father is Italian Catholic.
Magaro looks much like a young Bob Dylan in the film. This is appropriate, since the film explores how rock music (made by innovators like Dylan) was a big part of a cultural revolution that rocked mid-’60s society and often separated fathers and sons, like Doug and his father. The film opens in Berkeley on Friday, Jan. 4.
Two violent movies, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Gangster Squad,” open on Jan. 11. “Zero” purports to tell how an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret, tracked down Osama bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal, 39, previously made the critically acclaimed “The Hurt Locker” about the Iraq war; the film won six Oscars in 2009, including for best director, best original screenplay and best picture. “Zero” has created a storm of controversy. While there is consensus that it is exciting and well made, some critics say the film endorses the view that torture was critical to obtaining info on bin Laden’s location. Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Carl Levin of Michigan have weighed in, saying the classified info they’ve seen shows that torture was even counterproductive in finding bin Laden.
“Gangster Squad” stars Sean Penn, 52, as real-life gangster Mickey Cohen (1913-1976). Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel came to Los Angeles in the late ’30s to make money (mostly through gambling) for the East Coast mob. Cohen was his chief enforcer. When Siegel was murdered in 1947, Cohen took over his rackets. In the late ’40s, the Los Angeles Police Department assembled a small group of officers into the “Gangster Squad” to try and stop Cohen and others. The movie is loosely based on a 2008 series of articles in the L.A. Times. It focuses on two squad members, played by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling, who try and get Cohen “by any means necessary.” In real life, they never got Cohen, but the feds did: In 1961, he was sent to Alcatraz for tax evasion. “Squad” is directed by Ruben Fleischer, 38 (“Zombieland”). Emma Stone, who co-starred in “Zombieland,” plays Cohen’s “moll.”
The Golden Globes ceremony will be broadcast on NBC at 5 p.m. Jan. 13. Here are the Jewish nominees in the acting and directing categories. Best actor (drama film): Joaquin Phoenix, 38, “The Master,” and Daniel Day-Lewis, 55, “Lincoln.” (His late mother was Jewish, though he is secular.) Best actress (drama): Rachel Weisz, 42, “The Deep Blue Sea.” Best actor (comedy/musical film): Jack Black, 43, “Bernie.” Supporting actor (film): Alan Arkin, 78, “Argo.” Supporting actress (film): Helen Hunt, 49, whose paternal grandmother was Jewish, for playing Berkeley therapist Cheryl Cohen-Greene in “The Sessions.” Best director (film): Steven Spielberg, 66, “Lincoln.” Best film screenplay: Tony Kushner, 56, “Lincoln,” David O. Russell, 54, “Silver Linings Playbook,” and Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty.” Best lead actress (TV drama): Julianna Margulies, 46, “The Good Wife.” Best lead actress (TV comedy): Lena Dunham, 26, “Girls.” Best supporting actor (TV series/movie): Max Greenfield, 32, “New Girl,” and Mandy Patinkin, 60, “Homeland.”
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at email@example.com.