At the movies
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which opens Friday, July 26, is a big-budget comedy-drama written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. I will avoid giving away the plot twists and changes made to “real history” in the 161-minute movie, which takes place in Los Angeles in 1969 and stars Brad Pitt as a washed-up actor who improbably gets drawn into contact with the Manson family. Though there aren’t any Jewish actors with big parts, two real Jews figure prominently in the plot: film director Roman Polanski, who’ll be 86 on Aug. 18, and late talent agent Marvin Schwartz (1927-1997). In 1969, Polanski was married to actress Sharon Tate, a target of the Manson family. Two other Jewish celebrities are portrayed, but are less important: actor and director Sam Wanamaker (1919-1993) and “Mama” Cass Elliot (1941-1974), a member of the 1960s rock group the Mamas and the Papas.
Polanski, by the way, has completed a new film, “An Officer and a Spy.” It is about the infamous Dreyfus Affair. Alfred Dreyfus was a French Jewish army captain who was falsely accused of spying for the Germans in 1894. He was convicted and imprisoned, only to be exonerated in 1906. The case divided France and stoked the fires of anti-Semitism.
Over on Netflix
The new 12-episode season of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” a talk show on wheels hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, 65, began on July 19. Guests this season include Seth Rogen, 37, and Matthew Broderick, 57. Also appearing is comedian Martin Short, who has frequently said something to the effect of “Everybody thinks I’m Jewish, but I’m not” (His ancestry is mostly Irish Catholic). Jewish or not, Short is a terrific talk show guest.
“Otherhood,” an original Netflix movie, begins streaming on Friday, Aug. 9. Capsule plot: Feeling forgotten on Mother’s Day, three longtime friends, played by Patricia Arquette, 51, Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman, drive to New York City to reconnect with their adult sons. Along the way, they realize that their sons are not the only ones whose lives need to change and they start to think about how to redefine their important relationships. The film was written and directed by Cindy Chupack, 54, the former co-head writer of “Sex and the City.”
Super Dr. Mike
Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, 29, better known as Dr. Mike, is a celebrity thanks in large part to new media. Born in Russia, he came to the United States when he was 6; his father is a doctor who had to re-earn his degree in the U.S. The future Dr. Mike became known when he Instagrammed his medical school studies and People magazine noticed — naming him the “sexiest physician alive” in 2015. YouTube fame followed (he gives medical tips), and then Dr. Mike became Super Doctor Mike when he saved a fellow passenger on a recent flight to Israel. Matt Faraco, 26, who was traveling on a Birthright trip, went into allergic shock. Dr. Mike located epinephrine in the plane’s emergency kit and injected Faraco, who quickly recovered.
Captain Kirk’s Jewish values
I recently came across William Shatner’s latest memoir, last year’s “Live Long and … What I Learned Along the Way.” Shatner, 88, relates that after “Star Trek” ended in 1969 he did a lot of summer theater to pay the bills. For several years, he drove from one theater to another in his truck and he’d sleep in his truck, too. One time, he writes, he was looking forward to leaving his last gig, in Boston, and driving home to Los Angeles to celebrate the High Holidays with his three daughters. Then a call came. Rose Kennedy (sister of President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy) wanted him to come to a party at the Kennedy family compound. Shatner agonized: Maybe, he thought, there would be a big-time producer there and he’d get a life-changing part. But he remained resolute and his final answer was, “I have to get home to my kids.”