At the movies
“Thank You for Your Service,” which opens in theaters on Oct. 27, follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield. Comedian Amy Schumer, 36, co-stars as the wife of one of the veterans. Schumer had a small role in one dramatic film, but this is really her debut as a dramatic actress. I expect she’ll be good; stand-up comedians often make fine dramatic actors.
“LBJ,” a biopic about President Lyndon Johnson, opens on Nov. 2. It covers the period from JFK’s assassination until the passage of the 1965 civil rights act (with some flashbacks). Woody Harrelson stars as LBJ, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, 55, in a supporting role as Lady Bird Johnson. Directed by Rob Reiner, advance reviews are so-so. Harrelson’s good, they say, but the dramatic flow is uneven. Also, Leigh, who can be great, doesn’t have much to do as Lady Bird.
Also opening Nov. 2 is “Lady Bird,” but it’s unrelated to the former first lady. It stars Saorise Ronan (“Brooklyn”) as Marion, a senior attending a Sacramento Catholic high school who is desperate to leave town for a more exciting place like New York. “Lady Bird” is a nickname she gives herself to annoy her middle-class parents. Beanie Feldstein, 24 (Jonah Hill’s sister), and Israeli American actress Odeya Rush, 20, have supporting roles. Advance notices are very good.
Streaming on Netflix
This month, Netflix began streaming the 2016 documentary “Eva Hesse.” Hesse, a German Jewish painter and sculptor who died in 1970, was noted for her use of then-unusual materials (like fiberglass and latex) and is regarded as a founder of postminimalist art. Her reputation, already strong when she died of cancer at age 34, has soared since then. Whatever you think of her art, the documentary tells a very moving Jewish story.
Hesse was born in Nazi Germany in 1936, and she and her parents and younger sister barely made it out to the States. The trauma of that time, we learn, continued to affect Eva and her family as long as she lived. Here’s two things not in the film to enhance your viewing: Her close friend, artist Sol LeWitt (1927-2007), named his first child Eva, and Sir Nicholas Serota, 71, is the Jewish director of the famous Tate Gallery and a huge fan of Hesse’s. He offers incisive commentary in the film.
If you haven’t yet seen “The Meyerowitz Stories” streaming on Netflix, you should. Directed and written by Noah Baumbach, 48, it was picked up as an original film by Netflix following its recent premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The Cannes audience gave it a four-minute standing ovation. Dustin Hoffman, 80, stars as Harold Meyerowitz, a self-absorbed sculptor with a minor reputation. Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, both 51, co-star as Harold’s very different sons. Appearing in smaller but important roles are Judd Hirsch, 80, as a sculptor friend of Harold’s, and Rebecca Miller, 55, as his daughter.
Variety said there’s a good chance Sandler will get an Oscar nomination. The New York Times said he was a “revelation” in the film. I think that’s a bit overstated. Sandler has given good dramatic performances before (“Funny People” and “Spanglish”), but those films didn’t have the satisfying dramatic arc of “Meyerowitz” and so they didn’t burst Sandler out of the “aging frat boy” box he’s been in.
Comedian Judah Friedlander, 30 (“30 Rock”), has a stand-up special that starts streaming on Netflix on Halloween, called “America Is the Greatest Country in the United States.”
Baseball in the spotlight
Two Jewish players are on the competing teams in the World Series, which opened on Oct. 24.
Alex Bregman, 23, is the Houston Astros’ third baseman. In a word, he’s “performed” since being called up in 2016. In 2017, he hit .284, with 19 home runs, 71 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. On Oct. 5, in his first postseason at-bat, he hit a first-inning home run against Red Sox ace Chris Sale in Game 1 of an American League Division Series. In Game 4, Bregman sparked a series-clinching rally with another homer off Sale. Bregman’s parents are both lawyers and members of New Mexico’s oldest synagogue. His father was a good baseball player in his youth.
Joc Pederson, 25, a Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, had a horrible 2017 season and was sent to the minors in August. He was recalled on Oct. 1 and made a brief appearance in one playoff game. He made the All-Star team in 2015, so there’s a chance he can regain his form. Pederson played for Team Israel in 2013.