I Digg Puppies; My Hanukkah Wish; Stand, and More
As I’ve noted before, actor/writer DAVEED DIGGS, 38, is the son of an African-American father and a (white) Jewish mother. He was raised Jewish. In the last few years, his career has soared—a Tony for “Hamilton”; rave reviews for “Blindspotting”, a 2018 film he starred-in and co-wrote, and a big part in the 2020 Showtime series ”The Good Lord Bird”. A video he created, “Puppy for Hanukkah”, was simultaneously released (Dec. 5) on the Disney Channel and on Youtube (just search for Puppy Hanukkah and it pops up). Simply put, “Puppy” is great in so many ways. It features several Jewish children, all of whom appear to be bi-racial, singing and dancing to what I’d call “melodic hip-hop”. As you might guess, one of the kids really wants a puppy for Hanukkah. The video plays on the fact that even if you don’t get your puppy the first night of Hanukkah, you have seven more chances to get your dream gift. The music was composed by Diggs, and its voice you hear talking and singing. The kids mouth his voice, kind of like karaoke. Diggs says: "I was honored when Disney Channel approached me to come up with a fresh Hanukkah tune and embraced the opportunity to share my love of music and a little piece of my culture.”
“Puppy” is upbeat, family-oriented, entertaining, somewhat timeless, and it goes for the heart. These are also the elements of almost all the huge Christmas movie hits. The new Netflix documentary series, “The Holiday Movies That Made Us”, lays out how “Elf” (2003), a huge critical and box-office hit, had all these elements. Funny thing is that “Elf” is basically a Jewish-staffed movie project---the director is Jewish (JON FAVREAU, 54), as is the screenwriter (DANIEL BERENBAUM, 75)—and two Jewish actors have major roles (ED ASNER, now 91, as Santa, and JAMES CAAN, now 80, as the father of Buddy, the lead character). After noting that Berenbaum is Jewish, the documentary glides past any other Jewish stuff—and even implies that Favreau isn’t Jewish (his mother was Jewish and he’s a practicing Jew).
I’m not really kvetching about the documentary and I am not disturbed that Jews make great Christmas movies. Christmas is a huge market and Jewish filmmakers have to eat and support their families. Here is my kvetch: Clearly, Jews have the talent to make a full-length, big-budget Jewish holiday movie that is family-oriented, upbeat, timeless, and heart-warming. Why don’t they? Because they think that Jewish market is too small. Well, here’s my Hanukkah wish-- somebody should create a contest for a Jewish holiday script that has all the elements described above AND has a good chance of drawing in a big non-Jewish audience. Perhaps offer 250K for the script contest winner—with the money to be awarded whether the film is made or not. It doesn’t have to be “just” a Hanukkah movie—a film that followed a Jewish family at Passover and Hanukkah could work. It would just be such a RELIEF to have one “huge” Jewish holiday movie that is played “everywhere” once a year and is loved by generation after generation. On a small scale, “Puppy” did this---Disney commissioned a video and Diggs delivered a Jewish holiday video with universal, heartwarming appeal—almost a million views on Youtube and probably millions on the Disney Channel. Most viewers probably aren’t Jewish.
On Dec. 17, CBS All-Access will start streaming “The Stand”, a mini-series based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Basic plot: most of the people in the world die in a pandemic and the ones left are psychically drawn to a religiously devout African-American woman or to an evil white man who may be the devil incarnate. NAT WOLFF, 25, plays Lloyd, a mass murderer who becomes Mr. Evil’s smartest and most loyal lieutenant. (I know you are thinking, “Great, a series about a fictional pandemic on top of a real one”).
Here, once again, is “Big Bang” creator CHUCK LORRE, 68, with an amusing Covid-19 observation. This time its a question that now is a little closer to being answered with the first vaccine approval: “If and when the pandemic is over, will we continue to be tentative around each other, maintaining a safe distance, or will the entire world be thrust into a huge hugging frenzy that results in all of us being called into human resources?”