Depending on where you are, it’s either fall or supposed to be. (New York has had a week of balmy temperatures, with turning leaves the only hint of autumn.) Oscar-contending films are being released, television shows are embarking on new seasons, and as evenings descend earlier, books are beckoning from the shelves. What better time to launch the Forward’s new weekly column on the best things to watch, read, and see? Every Wednesday, check this space; we’ll have new recommendations ready and waiting for you.
1)Watch the Season 2 Premiere of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
The CW’s hit musical comedy, brainchild of star Rachel Bloom, returns for what looks to be an extravagantly imaginative second season this Friday, October 21, at 9 pm EST. The trailer promises ping-pong, punches, and Bloom clad in a bedazzled full-body cactus suit – what more could you want?
2) Watch PBS’s “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.”
Decades before Bloom first got noticed as a YouTube star, Norman Lear was creating one of the first great American sitcoms: “All in the Family.” Lear, who came from a Jewish Connecticut family, went on to create a number of other successful sitcoms, including “The Jeffersons,” “Maude,” and “Sanford and Son.” Tuesday, October 25th, the writer and producer becomes the subject of a PBS American Masters episode. The segment will air on PBS at 9 pm EST, and will be available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD the same day.
3) See “American Pastoral.”
Ewan MacGregor’s film adaptation of the acclaimed Philip Roth novel hits theaters on Friday. The novel, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, tells the story of the downfall of a Jewish New Jersey businessman who, at one point, appears to be living the American dream.
4) Read David Remnick’s New Yorker Profile of Leonard Cohen at 82
In depicting the 82-year-old Cohen, whose dense lyrics and husky voice have been musical mainstays for half a century, Remnick begins with an evocative portrait of the singer as a young man. Barely scraping by as a poet in London, Remnick quotes a letter Cohen wrote his publisher about wishing to appeal to “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.” It’s quite the pitch, and quite the opening to a profile that lends quiet, deft insight into a complex cultural luminary.
5) Read Francine Prose’s “Mister Monkey.”
Prose’s “Mister Monkey” concerns a disastrous production of a disastrously bad musical called, you guessed it, “Mister Monkey.” The novel takes a compassionate look at the lives of people affiliated with the production, from the boy playing the titular monkey to a grandfather watching one of the show’s performances with his beloved grandson. Cathleen Schine, reviewing the book for The New York Times, called it “Chekhovian.” “It’s that good,” she wrote. “It’s that funny. It’s that sad. It’s that deceptive and deep.”
6) Read Armando Lucas Correa’s “The German Girl”
“The German Girl” is the first novel from Correa, a Cuban-born journalist. The author told the Miami Herald’s Ana Veciana-Suarez that the seeds for the novel, which he wrote in Spanish, were planted the day his grandmother told him about Cuba’s refusal to accept 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who, traveling on the SS St. Louis, attempted to enter the country in 1939. “The German Girl” takes place partly on that fateful voyage, and partly in New York and Cuba seven decades later. Veciana-Suarez called the book “a chilling, heartbreaking story about one of modern history’s most shameful moments.”
7) Check Out the East Coast Premiere of the Oldest LGBT Film, Newly Restored
Co-written by the Jewish German sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, “Different From the Others,” first released in 1919, is the oldest still-existing LGBT film. The film took a compassionate look at the difficulties of LGBT life in Germany under Paragraph 175, a law criminalizing homosexuality. Friday, October 21st, the newly restored film will screen at Manhattan’s SVA Theater with a live piano accompaniment as part of NewFest, New York’s LGBT Film Festival. A panel on the importance of “Different From the Others” in the canon of queer film will follow the screening.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture fellow. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter, @TalyaZax