At the movies, on TV
Jonathan Gold, 60ish, is the only food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, and he’s the subject of “City of Gold,” a documentary that opened in the Bay Area last week. Gold is an expert on the immigrant food offerings of his native Los Angeles (including every style of Jewish deli as well as more exotic variations, like Yemeni Jewish fare). The film follows Gold as he combs through colorful neighborhoods in his pickup truck, looking for the hidden gem anywhere and everywhere. His razor-sharp wit and interest in people’s personal stories turn his food journalism into something quite universal.
On March 18, Netflix began streaming a new Pee-wee Herman film, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.” Herman, of course, is the famous character played (and created) by Paul Reubens, 63, a big star in the ’80s. His career was derailed by a 1991 sex scandal that seems almost quaint today in light of more serious celeb scandals. He revived the Pee-wee Herman character in 2009 in acclaimed stage appearances. “Holiday” works, in part, because Reubens has aged well, and Pee-wee’s age was never specified — so even at 63, you can accept Reubens in his signature role. By the way, Reubens’ late father, Milton Rubenfeld, served in the British and American air forces during World War II and was one of the courageous diaspora Jews who flew rickety planes during Israel’s War of Independence, playing a critical role in Israel’s survival.
Premiering last week on HBO was the documentary “Everything Is Copy” about writer-director Nora Ephron, who died in 2012 at age 71. The filmmaker is her son Jacob Bernstein, 37, a New York Times writer. His father is Ephron’s ex-husband, journalist Carl Bernstein, 72. Jacob’s brother, Max Bernstein, 36, declined to participate in the documentary. However, Jacob did get a large number of his mother’s famous friends and colleagues to participate. He even got his father, who had declined to talk about his marital infidelity before, to address this tender topic. (Carl’s philandering was the subject of the Ephron novel “Heartburn,” which became a Mike Nichols film in 1983. Nichols died last year.) First a journalist, Ephron later broke into screenwriting in a big way (“When Harry Met Sally”) and went on to write and direct hit films like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Julie & Julia.” Her friends tell very intimate stories about her — but the film’s most dramatic angle is the fact that the open-book Ephron kept her battle with leukemia a secret from all but a very few.
On April 1, Netflix will begin streaming the first 10 episodes of a comedy called “The Ranch.” Ashton Kutcher stars as a former pro football player who returns to Colorado to help run the family’s ranch. Co-stars include Danny Masterston as Kutcher’s brother, Sam Elliot (a Western movie-TV icon) as his father, and Debra Winger, 60, as the brothers’ mother. It’s possible that Kutcher and Winger talked about Israel during filming breaks. Winger, whose three children were raised Jewish, toured Israel on a teen trip and visited again in 2008. Kabbalah Centre devotee Kutcher has visited Israel at least three times for spiritual and business reasons.
Merrick Garland connection
Another Jewish note on Merrick Garland, 63: The long-serving governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, a Republican and a very big Israel supporter, also happens to be a second cousin to the Supreme Court nominee. Garland’s late father, an Iowa native, and Branstad’s late mother (who was born Jewish but later converted) were cousins. Branstad supported Garland’s appointment to the federal bench in 1997. However, he is now deferring to the decision of Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the head of the Judiciary Committee, not to hold confirmation hearings. This must be a bit awkward for Branstad, who met Garland six weeks ago when they had breakfast together in Washington, D.C.
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at email@example.com.