Annette Bening plays Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the "The Report." (Amazon Studios/Atsushi Nishijima)
Annette Bening plays Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the "The Report." (Amazon Studios/Atsushi Nishijima)

Annette Bening plays Dianne Feinstein; Jewish director takes on Mr. Rogers; etc.


A Mister Rogers anecdote

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which opened Nov. 22 and is still in theaters, is about Fred Rogers, the late children’s program host. Tom Hanks, often referred to as the nicest man in showbiz, plays Rogers, a wonderful and caring man. Rogers’ story is told through the eyes of a journalist (Matthew Rhys) who is assigned to write a magazine profile of Rogers.

While Mister Rogers lived in the neighborhood of “Make-Believe,” the real Fred Rogers lived for a time in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which is where his TV shows were made. Squirrel Hill, the site of the Tree of Life synagogue that was attacked in 2018, has always had a large Jewish population and Rogers, an ordained minister, was on great terms with his Jewish neighbors.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” was filmed in Pittsburgh, just before the Tree of Life shooting. The film was directed by Marielle Heller, 40, who was born in Marin and grew up in Alameda, where she attended St. Joseph Notre Dame High school.

A few weeks after the synagogue shooting, Heller told a podcaster that it was “weird” to get to know a city so well “and feel like it was our new home and then leave and have this horrible tragedy happen … what got me so much about it was knowing how much I love that city and then to see that disease kind of make its way there. My family is Jewish. I obviously feel very connected … It’s upsetting for every single person in the world but it felt particularly personal.”

Heller’s previous films include “Diary of a Teenage Girl” (2015) and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (2018). After Heller was signed to direct “Neighborhood,” the producers told her their dream was to get Tom Hanks for the lead. Well, Heller knew Hanks (who also grew up in the Bay Area), and he liked her work, and after one brief meeting he signed on. Heller is married to Jorma Taccone, is one-third of the comedy troupe along with two fellow Berkeley natives, Andy Samberg, 41, and Akiva Schaffer, 41.


My report on ‘Report’

“The Report,” which opened in limited theater release on Nov. 15, has made its way to Amazon Prime starting on Nov. 29. Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, who was an investigator on the staff of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 86, from 2009 to early 2015, when she was the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jones investigated the CIA’s use of torture following the 9/11 attacks, and the film follows the investigation itself as well as the efforts by many to heavily redact the public version of Jones’ final report. Feinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle that she liked the film and was flattered to have Annette Bening, 61, play her.

Ted Levine, 62, Corey Stoll, 43, and Tim Blake Nelson, 55,  have large supporting roles.

Reviews are mixed, which is surprising to me. The director and screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, 56, has received raves for his recent scripts for director Steven Soderbergh (“Contagion” and “The Laundromat”). Burns grew up in a Minneapolis suburb, where he looked up to the Coen brothers, who lived in a neighboring suburb. When he met them, after his own career took off, they talked about local rabbis and schools, Burns said.


‘Knives’ and ‘Alaska’

“Knives Out,” which opens Nov. 29, has been described as a “witty and stylish whodunit guaranteed to keep audiences guessing.” The suspects are played by an all-star cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, 61, as the daughter of a famous crime novelist who is murdered right after his 85th birthday.

“Looking for Alaska” is an original Hulu series that critics are saying is a real Emmy contender. Its eight episodes are based on a best-selling young adult novel of the same name. Josh Schwartz, 43, who created the hit TV show “The O.C.,” has managed to craft a very good series from a novel that many tried (but failed) to adapt. The show is about teens at a coed boarding school, and Alaska is the first name of a star character.

Nate Bloom

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