Oscar season is afoot and Jews are in the mix, with nominations for best director (Sam Mendes for “1917”) and best actor (Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker”). Scarlett Johansson got two nominations: best actress (for “Marriage Story”) and best supporting actress (for “Jojo Rabbit”). Both of those films also garnered screenwriting nominations for Noah Baumbach and Taika Waititi, respectively. Waititi, a New Zealander who sometimes goes by his mother’s maiden name, Cohen, is actually one of the few people of color nominated in another year that looks #OscarsSoWhite.
But there will be no golden statuette handed out on Feb. 9 (5 p.m. on ABC) for “Uncut Gems,” as the diamond district thriller by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, starring Adam Sandler, was not nominated. The Safdie brothers told Variety that Sandler’s character was written as a “tough” Jew. “In this case, we wanted him to be a very strong character because a lot of time in film, the Jewish characters are a little bit nebbish or weak,” Benny Safdie told the magazine. Also in the interview, they break down the film’s seder scene, which they put in as a break from the rest of the high-stakes plot, and talk about why the plagues made the final cut but the four questions didn’t.
Not only Oscar but BAFTA nominees have been announced, and the folks at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards are also getting flack for the nominees being too white. The same crew is represented: again Mendes, Waititi, Baumbach and Johansson. Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman and Emily Halpern, part of the quartet that wrote the screenplay for “Booksmart,” also have been nominated.
In sad news, Buck Henry, known for writing “The Graduate” and “What’s Up, Doc?” and creating the TV spy spoof “Get Smart” with Mel Brooks, died Jan. 8 in Los Angeles. The comedy writer, actor and director was 89 years old.
Henry was born in New York as Henry Zuckerman, the son of actress Ruth Taylor, a silent movie star. An early interest in improv led to comedy writing and directing; he was a part of “Saturday Night Live” in its early days, and earned Oscar nominations for “Heaven Can Wait” (director) and “The Graduate” (adapted screenplay). He gave himself a tiny role in all of his films — in “The Graduate,” he’s a hotel clerk in a scene with Dustin Hoffman.
Gwyneth Paltrow knows people both love and loathe her lifestyle brand, Goop. Now she’s taking viewers behind the scenes with a new Netflix reality show, “The Goop Lab,” that purports to show her team researching some far-out health and mental wellness ideas. But it’s clear Paltrow knows exactly what kind of controversy she gets with her promotion of strange and untested methods. This is going to be a “hate watch” for a lot of people after it debuts on Jan. 24.
Everything is now a musical, including “The Nanny,” a version of the TV show — and character — made famous by Fran Drescher. She’s writing the book, with Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Adam Schlesinger (a three-time Emmy Award winner for music and lyrics) for the music. When the sitcom debuted in 1993, some people loved that there was a show with an unabashedly Jewish woman in the lead. Others found the cliché of a whiny, materialistic princess unbearable. What “The Nanny: The Musical” will look like in 2020 is anybody’s guess.
And, as a final note, famous spoon-bender Uri Geller has offered his services to the United Kingdom’s civil service after Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, published a blog post saying the service needed data scientists, researchers and also “weirdos and misfits with odd skills.” Geller, a British citizen born in Tel Aviv, said he fits the bill.