At the movies
“Winter’s Tale,” a 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, 66, is often listed among the best American novels of the 20th century. It may be the crown jewel in Helprin’s literary career — which includes novels, short stories, 20 years of New Yorker columns and, sometimes, pro-Israel polemics. Helprin, an American, is a veteran of the Israeli air force and infantry.
The film version of Helprin’s novel, also called “Winter’s Tale,” opens on Friday, Feb. 14. The official description of the film is short and vague: “Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, ‘Winter’s Tale’ is a story of miracles, crossed destinies and the age-old battle between good and evil.”
This is as good a short description as any. The novel is a 700-page opus, with scores of characters, and even reviewers who loved the book were unable to write a concise plot summary. Still, almost all reviews agreed that Helprin pulled off a rare trick: writing a sprawling fantasy novel that is literary art.
Now critics will judge whether Akiva Goldsman, 51, who adapted the novel for the screen and directed the film, has been able to turn literary art into film art. Two positive signs: Goldsman did manage to turn the life of a Princeton mathematician into a highly dramatic film (“A Beautiful Mind”) and win an Oscar for his script — and he coaxed an all-star cast to appear in “Tale” for less than their usual star salaries (Colin Farrell, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint and “Beautiful Mind” co-stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, 43).
The Winter Olympics continue through Feb. 23. Israel is represented by a five-member team, though none is expected to medal: Evgeni Krasnapolsky, 25, and Andrea Davidovich, 16, pairs figure skating; Alexei Bychenko, 25, figure skating; Virgile Vandeput, 24, Alpine skiing; and Vladislav Bykanov, short-track speed skating.
I know of two Jewish athletes on the American team and one on the Canadian team.
A relative unknown, American Jason Brown, 19, earned a spot on the U.S. men’s figure skating team with an upset performance at the Olympic trials, where he finished second. Brown celebrated his bar mitzvah in 2007 and grew up in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb.
The other American is figure skater Simon Shnapir, 26, who has competed in pairs skating with his partner, Marissa Castelli, 26, since 2006. The duo won the 2013 and 2014 U.S. championships in their event. Shnapir was born in Moscow but immigrated to the States with his parents when he was a baby.
The Canadian is figure skater Dylan Moskovitch, 29, a native of Toronto (his partner is Kirsten Moore-Towers, 21). The duo has won several international competitions.
For the first time this year, the scores in figure skating events, including pairs, were used to determine the medals for national team skating.
Shnapir and Castelli placed fourth on Feb. 8 in pairs free skate, helping to lead the U.S. to a team bronze medal. Moscovitch and Moore-Towers placed second in the pairs free skate, helping to clinch the silver medal for the Canadian team.
In case you’re wondering: American figure skater Gracie Gold isn’t Jewish. U.S. Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin has one Jewish grandparent (her paternal grandpa), but she doesn’t identify as Jewish. Also, in 2010, I reported that American pairs’ figure skater Charlie White had a Jewish mother based on what seemed to be a very reliable source. That source, I learned after the games, was in error.
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at email@example.com.