The Most Complete Guide to Jewish Oscar Nominees: 2021

The Academy Awards will be presented on ABC on Sunday, April 25 (8 p.m., EDT). Again, this year there will be “no” host.


Best Picture/Actors

The best picture award goes to the film’s principal producers.  Three of the eight nominated films have a Jewish producer: ERIC ROTH, 76, “Mank”; MOLLYE ASHER, 43, “Nomandland”, and MARC PLATT, 63, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”.

---The title “Mank” refers to the nickname of HERMAN J. MANKIEWICZ and the film chronicles how he co-wrote the classic 1941 film “Citizen Kane”. (Gary Oldman, who played “Mank” is a best actor nominee). Roth is a top screenwriter himself, with an Oscar win for “Forrest Gump”.

---“Nomadland” is a gritty film about an older woman who is forced to take to the road and live in her RV after her financial supports disappear. Mollye Asher is a leading, award-winning producer of indie films. 

---Marc Platt is a leading film and Broadway stage producer.  This is his 3rd “nom” for best pic. A practicing Jew, Platt and his (Jewish) wife have five children, including well-known actor BEN PLATT, 37. 

SACHA BARON COHEN, 49, is the only Jewish thespian nominated this year. He is up for a best supporting actor Oscar for playing real-life ’60s radical ABBIE HOFFMAN in “Chicago 7”. Cohen’s UK college thesis was on the role of American Jews in the Civil Rights movement and he learned that Hoffman was a Civil Rights Freedom Rider (1963) before he was an anti-war activist (1968). So, when STEVEN SPIELBERG said (2007) he was making a “Chicago 7” movie, Cohen really wanted the Hoffman role and got it. However, the film (written by AARON SORKIN) was cancelled due to a long writer’s strike.  In 2020, the film (script by Sorkin) was finally made.


Writers, Live Action Short Film, Documentary, Music

WILL BERSON, 43ish, is nominated for co-writing the original screenplay for “Judas and the Black Messiah”. Nominated for the same Oscar is Aaron Sorkin, 59, the writer of “The Trial of the Chicago 7”.

---“Black Messiah”, a best film nominee, is based on the life of Fred Hampton, a charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader in the late ‘60s. He was heavily targeted by the FBI and a black informant (‘a Judas’) was planted in his organization.. Long story short: Berson wrote a Hampton script in 2014. By coincidence, so did two African American writers. They all joined forces with director/co-writer Shaka King and all four are Oscar nominated.

---As noted above, Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men”, “The West Wing”) wrote the “Chicago 7” script in 2007, but the production was long delayed.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, is nominated for best adapted screenplay. Nine “Moviefilm” writers are nominated. I am sure 4 of the 9 nominees, including Cohen, are Jewish: JENA FRIEDMAN, 38; DAN MAZER, 49; and DAN SWIMER, 48.

---“Nomadland” is also up for a best adapted screenplay Oscar.  The nominee is Chloe Zhao, who also directed the film. The screenplay is based on the acclaimed book “Nomadland” (2017) by veteran NY Times writer JESSICA BRUDER, 44.

“White Tiger”, directed and written by Israeli filmmaker TOMER SHUSHAN, 40ish, is nominated for best short live action film (producer SHERA HOFFMAN shares the nomination).  It’s a moving story about a Tel Avian who finds his stolen bicycle in the street. In 20 minutes, he has poignant conversations with 10 Israelis of different ethnic backgrounds.

The popular documentary “My Octopus Teacher” is nominated for best documentary feature. It was co-directed by South African PIPPA EHRLICH, 33. Here’s the capsule plot: a (real) “burned-out” documentary maker returns to South Africa and ‘heals’ via snorkeling in an ocean kelp forest, where he sort of becomes friends with an astonishingly intelligent octopus.

Including this year, JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, 69, has been nominated for seven Oscars for best score and two more for best song. He hasn’t won yet. He’s nominated this year for his score for the Tom Hanks’ film “News of the World”.  Long after his father died, Newton discovered his father was born Jewish. This led to him embracing his Jewish background and he is a practicing Reconstructionist Jew. Like Howard, DIANE WARREN, 64, is an “always a bridesmaid” story. Including this year, she has been nominated 12 times for best song and hasn’t won one. She’s nominated for co-writing the song “Seen” from the film “The Life Ahead” (about a Holocaust survivor)

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