Celebrity jews

Streaming notes

“Difficult People,” a new Hulu series, stars Billy Eichner, 36, and Julie Klausner, 37, playing best friends Billy Epstein (a gay Jew) and Julie Kessler (a straight Jew). They constantly complain, are addicted to social media and pop culture and say awful things to and about everybody. This sounds pretty terrible, but the series actually is quite funny (new episodes will be available Wednesdays through Sept. 16).


At the movies

Bel Powley

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Phyllis Gloeckner, takes place in the 1970s and was shot in San Francisco, where the film is set. The central character is 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley, 23), an aspiring cartoonist who lives with her bohemian mother (Kristin Wiig). In a matter-of-fact way that has astonished critics, the film depicts Minnie’s affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Calling the film “terrific,” the Chicago Tribune says: “Movies concerned with the life, the mind, the body and the dawning self-respect of a 15-year-old girl running every sort of risk — these are rare.”

Powley, who was born and raised in England, has mostly worked on the stage and TV. Her father, Mark Powley, is a British actor. Her Jewish mother is casting agent Janis Jaffa. Also in the film is Margarita Levieva, 35, who plays a wild lesbian friend of Minnie’s.


Jesse Eisenberg

In 2008, Jesse Eisenberg, now 31, and Kristen Stewart had on-screen chemistry in “Adventureland,” a highly praised coming-of-age film. Stewart commented on that chemistry in a recent “Today” show interview about their new film, “American Ultra.” They are both nerds in real life, she said, but somehow together on screen they mesh and make one complete, pretty cool person. Eisenberg plays a hapless small-town stoner who doesn’t remember that he was secretly trained by the government to be a deadly agent — he’s a sleeper who doesn’t know he’s a sleeper.





Back where it belongs

Nina Totenberg, 71, NPR’s erudite legal correspondent, was in the news herself recently. She is one of three daughters of the late violinist Roman Totenberg, whose Stradivarius violin, today worth about $15 million, was stolen in 1980. When the widow of the suspected thief brought it in for appraisal in June, the authorities were alerted. On Aug. 6, a moving ceremony was held at the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, where the three Totenberg sisters posed with their father’s beloved instrument.


The buzz about buzz

Harry Bissinger

It’s the 25th anniversary of the publication of “Friday Night Lights” by journalist Harry “Buzz” Bissinger, 60. His cousin, actor-director Peter Berg, 51, turned the book into a hit movie and long-running TV series. In 1988, Bissinger spent a year in Odessa, Texas, where he reported on the lives of the players on a high school football team in a football-mad town. A postscript in the anniversary edition shares what happened to some of the people in the book.

In a recent NPR interview where he defends his original reporting, Bissinger also talks about his personal life and his expensive shopping addiction — mostly for tight leather clothes a woman would wear — and is candid about the clothes having a sexual element. Long married to a woman and the father of three, he says his gender questioning made him the perfect person to write the Vanity Fair feature on Caitlyn Jenner (the July profile with the now-famous Annie Leibovitz cover photo of Jenner in a revealing dress).

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.