By Nate Bloom
At the Movies
“The Current War: Director’s Cut” is about the corporate battle that pitted Thomas Edison (1847-1931) against George Westinghouse (1846-1914) and Westinghouse associate Nikolai Tesla (Nicholas Hoult). After inventing (1879) the first commercially viable light bulb, Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) went straight into the electric utility business. His power plants sent DC current to customers. But DC current (unlike AC current) can’t travel more than a mile, making the Edison-type plant only viable in heavily populated areas.
Westinghouse, who invented the first very good railroad brake (1873), plunged into AC transmission in the 1880s. Utilizing Tesla’s AC motor innovations, he built many AC power plants and entered into a long fight with Edison. Would AC or DC become the dominant form of transmission? This battle was often dirty, and Edison marred his great reputation with false stories about the dangers of AC.
The film was written by MICHAEL MITNICK, 36. Most of his credits are as a playwright. His fiancée is JESSICA BRICKMAN, 36ish. She’s also a writer, mostly for TV. Jessica’s father, MARSHALL BRICKMAN, 80, has worn many hats: folk musician, TV comedy writer, and co-writer of three of the best WOODY ALLEN movies: “Sleeper,” Manhattan,” and “Annie Hall.” He shared a best screenplay Oscar with Allen for “Annie Hall.” (The movie opens 10/25 in limited release. Released the same day on most pay-per-view services).
“Jo Jo Rabbit” officially opened on Oct. 18, but opens most places later. This is a controversial film and you should read long reviews before seeing it. JoJo, a lonely boy in Nazi Germany, has Hitler as his imaginary friend. JoJo has grown-up on Nazi propaganda and his imaginary friend is a wonderful guy. Then his world turns upside down when he discovers his mother (SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 34) is hiding a Jewish girl. JoJo has to reconcile his “friend” Hitler with the reality in his own home.
Director and writer TAIKA WAITITI, 44, is a New Zealander who has made good movies in many genres. Waititi (who plays Hitler in the film) is the son of a Polynesian (Maori) father, and a mother he has often described as Jewish. I recently learned that his mother is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. But my sense is that his mother identifies as Jewish and Waititi, while secular, thinks of himself as “half-Jewish.”
Briefly Noted: Kominsky, Kremer, and Silverman
The second, eight-episode season of “The Kominsky Method,” the hit Netflix comedy series, begins streaming on Oct. 25. It stars MICHAEL DOUGLAS, 75, as Sandy Kominsky, a Hollywood acting coach. ALAN ARKIN, 85, co-stars as Norman, his best friend and agent. LISA EDELSTEIN, 53, has a supporting role as Norman’s drug-addled daughter.
At the end of the first season, Sandy started getting romantic with Lisa, an acting student (played by Nancy Travis, 58. Travis isn’t Jewish; but her two sons were raised in their father’s Jewish faith). Second season “new Jewish faces” include PAUL REISER, 63, as Martin, a teacher who is dating Sandy’s daughter, who is much younger than Martin, and JANE SEYMOUR, 68, as Madelyn, an old flame of Norman’s who runs into him at a funeral and lights a fire in this widower (Seymour was born Joyce Frankenberg, the daughter of a British Jewish father and a non-Jewish Dutch mother).
As I write this, I can’t find an item in the Jewish media about Harvard professor MICHAEL KREMER, 54, one of the three winners of the 2019 Economics Nobel. He is the only Jew to win a Nobel this year. Like his co-winners, he works in an interesting area: the examination of charitable giving to alleviate poverty – especially in developing nations (i.e. what works and what doesn't). His mother, S. LILLIAN KREMER (1939-2018), specialized in Jewish and Holocaust literature. A Fulbright scholar, she lectured around the world and taught at Kansas State University, where she held the title of “Distinguished Professor.”
The original Hulu program, “I Love You, America” starring SARAH SILVERMAN, was canceled last January. It was a critical hit, and an Emmy nominee, but it never found a big audience. Now, HBO, which hosted a hit Silverman stand-up special in 2013, is offering her a new home. She’ll do a new HBO stand-up special (date uncertain) and do a pilot for a late night talk show. She described her proposed talk show this way: [I’ll be] weighing in on the mishigas of the week and taking live video calls. ... Nothing's off the table and nothing's too high or low brow for me. I mean - look at my face - I'm literally all brow.”