It’s Oscar time
The Academy Awards air live at 4 p.m. this Sunday, March 2, with Ellen DeGeneres hosting on ABC. The following are “confirmed” Jewish nominees or those with a Jewish connection.
Jonah Hill, 29, is up for best supporting actor for his performance as Donny Azoff, the main assistant to (Jewish) swindler Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Belfort, is nominated as best actor.)
Unlike Belfort, the Azoff character is fictional, although some plot details do track a real-life (Jewish) Belfort associate.
Christian Bale is nominated as best actor for playing a character modeled after another Jewish con man, in “American Hustle.” The film is loosely based on the 1970s FBI sting Abscam. To help carry out that operation, the FBI recruited Melvin Weinberg, now 89, who had the skills to convince bribe-prone members of Congress to take the bait.
In “Hustle,” Weinberg (called Irving Rosenfeld) ensnares local New Jersey politicians.
Another Jewish Oscar nominee is June Squibb, 84, a veteran character actress who is nominated as best supporting actress for playing the ornery, plain-spoken wife of best actor nominee Bruce Dern in “Nebraska.” The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles reported last week: “Squibb converted to Judaism before marrying her first husband … in the 1950s; she said she fell in love with the religion, was fascinated by the laws of kashrut and forged a strong friendship with the Reform rabbi who supervised her conversion. Even though that marriage ended in divorce some years later, Squibb continues to identify as Jewish and celebrates many of the holidays with Jewish friends.”
“American Hustle” director David O. Russell, 55, is nominated as best director and is co-nominated for original screenplay. This is the third directing nomination for Russell, who is the secular son of a Jewish father and an Italian Catholic mother. “Hustle” was co-written by first-time nominee Eric Warren Singer, 46. He’s a native of Beverly Hills, where his grandparents helped found the first synagogue.
Competing with Singer and Russell for best original screenplay Oscar is Woody Allen, 78, for “Blue Jasmine.” This is Allen’s 24th Oscar nomination. Also competing in this category is Spike Jonze, who wrote and directed “Her,” about the relationship between a computer operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson, 29, and a human being.
Jonze, 44, was born Adam Spiegel. The secular son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, Jonze is also nominated for best original song — a tune he co-wrote for “Her.”
Billy Ray, 39, is nominated for best adapted screenplay for “Captain Phillips,” based on a true story about the capture of an American merchant ship by Somali pirates.
Emmanuel Lubezki, 50, has long been one of the top cinemato-graphers in Hollywood, and this year he’s nominated for his work on “Gravity.” He’s been nominated six times, and I’ve got a feeling this is his year. Lubezki was born and raised in Mexico City.
“Facing Fear” earned Berkeley filmmaker Jason Cohen, 42, a nomination for best documentary short subject. It’s about a reconciliation between a gay man and the former white supremacist who assaulted him more than 25 years ago. (Read J.’s interview with Cohen at www.tinyurl.com/jweekly-facing-fear.)
In the best picture category, here are the nominees with a Jewish connection: “American Hustle” (Russell/Singer); “Captain Phillips” (Scott Rudin, 55, producer, Ray, writer); “Her” (Jonze, director/producer); “Philomena” (Stephen Frears, 72, director); “Gravity” (David Heyman, 52, producer); and “Dallas Buyers Club” (Rachel Winter and Robbie Brenner, both 42, producers).
Columnist Nate Bloom , an Oaklander, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.