About The Schmooze

Natalie Portman Compares Anne Frank To Current Migrants Hiding From Ice

In 1997, novelist and cultural critic Cynthia Ozick wrote an article for the New Yorker criticizing the “distortion” of the historical and literary figure of Anne Frank.

“Complicit in this shallowly upbeat view,” she wrote, are two unlikely confederates — Frank’s father Otto, and a promising child actress named Natalie Portman.

Portman starred on Broadway in a revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that same year as a 16-year-old, and the comment she made about Frank’s diary that damned her to Ozick was this: “It’s funny, it’s hopeful, and she’s a happy person.”

On Tuesday, Portman, now 38 and one of the most famous actors alive, posted on Instagram about studying the role of Frank, comparing the experience of Frank and her family hiding in the Secret Annex to that of migrants hiding from Immigration And Custom Enforcement agents.

“When I was 16 I visited Anne Frank’s house with Miep Gies, the woman who bravely hid Anne and her family when the Nazis were rounding up Jews in Amsterdam and much of Europe,” Portman captioned a snapshot of herself as a teen, standing in front of the trick-staircase that opened the door to the annex. “Today, I shudder at the thought of a young girl hiding somewhere in my own country, afraid to turn on her light or make a noise or play outside lest she get rounded up by our government.” She added the hashtags, “notinmyname” and “notinmycountry.”

The Trump administration moved forward over the weekend with plans to target and remove undocumented immigrants who have received final orders for deportation. Several publications have reported on migrants who cannot afford to miss work yet are terrified to leave their houses, wary of being picked up by ICE and never seeing their homes again. Portman may have been indirectly referencing the story of Liza, a teenager in Passaic, New Jersey, who told the New York Times that she and her family huddled in their house with the lights off as ICE agents waited outside. Elena, a 41-year-old housekeeper in Miami, told BuzzFeed that she and her teenage daughter and husband leave the lights off even when they are home, fearing that ICE officers will seize them and send them to Nicaragua, even though her daughter is an American citizen who has never spent time in that country.

Portman draws a direct parallel between those women women — literally in the dark, crammed into small spaces with their family members, trying to stay quiet and undiscovered — and Anne Frank, in hiding during the Holocaust.

One has to wonder what Ozick, now in her 90s, would think of this. Portman obviously didn’t forget the lessons she learned while portraying Frank, but she did universalize them in a way that has become massively controversial among Jews and non-Jews, especially under the Trump administration. Portman’s voice adds glamour to the chorus of the young Jews of the “Never Again Is Now” movement, and non-Jews like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who compared detention centers where migrants are being held in inhumane conditions to concentration camps.

Portman tagged a series of non-profit groups that aid immigrants and refugees, including the International Rescue Committee, Families Together, Together Rising, the ACLU, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services of Texas, encouraging her followers to help out.

One inspiration might come from the words of Miep Gies herself, the Dutch woman who helped shelter the Franks and their compatriots, died in 2010, thirteen years after she took Portman on a tour of the Annex. When she was alive, she liked to say of her decision, “I want everyone to know that I am a very common and cautious woman and definitely not a genius or dare-devil. I did help like so many others who ran the same or more risk than me.”

“It was necessary,” she said. “So I helped.”

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story "Natalie Portman Compares Anne Frank To Current Migrants" was written by Jenny Singer.

Alyssa Milano, Jason Mraz, Nicole Richie Offer Tentative Support To Mariane Williamson

“You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out,” Marianne Williamson declared in the first round of presidential debate, addressing President Donald Trump.

A handful of celebrities of slightly dubious standing have heard that call — TV star and activist Alyssa Milano, it-gal Nicole Richie, and pop-folk artist Jason Mraz.

Public records of all candidates’ individual donors are available online; a cursory glance at Williamson’s shows an overwhelming number of yoga teachers, life coaches, psychiatrists, and, yes, the occasional NASA engineer.

Milano, who has become a public fixture in the glittery liberal resistance against the Trump administration, informed her Twitter followers on Tuesday that she is exploring supporting Williamson for the Democratic bid. “I’m going to my first fundraiser of the election cycle” she wrote, tagging Williamson. “I know. I know. But she’s the only candidate talking about the collective, soulful ache of the nation & I think that’s an important discussion to have.”

Milano added, “And as I’ve said before, I’m not committing to anyone yet. I’m going to support everyone if given the opportunity until the choice is crystal clear.”

Milano’s tweets were not popular with her audience, receiving more comments than likes. Science writer Erin Biba responded to the tweet, writing, “You’re supporting an anti-Vaxxer.” Biba went on, charging Milano with “supporting a woman” who has, Biba claimed, pushed pseudo-science on people suffering from AIDS and post-traumatic depression, and shamed fat women. It’s true that Williamson has been critical of mandatory vaccination, though it’s not clear if those critiques have risen to the level of being an “anti-Vaxxer.”

More quietly, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, best known for his hit song “I’m Yours,” donated $500 to Williamson. Actress and it-girl Nicole Richie gave $1000. Radha Agrawal, the entrepreneur who co-founded the period underwear company Thinx and founded the dance party Daybreaker, gave the maximum $2,800. Dave Navarro, former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and frontman of Jane’s Addiction also gave, as did Broadway actress Jayne Houdyshell, and sixteen-time Vogue cover model Amber Valletta.

Williamson’s cache has long included the support of celebrities, most prominently Oprah Winfrey. When Williamson ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California’s 33rd district, she was endorsed by an A-list that included Sarah Silverman, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry. Alanis Morissette wrote her a campaign song.

We’re not endorsing anybody, but we’d like to see Jason Mraz and Nicole Richie cook up a tune for Williamson.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story "Alyssa Milano, Jason Mraz Support Mariane Williamson" was written by Jenny Singer.

A Prestige ‘Gossip Girl’ Reboot Is Coming To Television

Guess who’s back, back? Back again-gain?

The tweens and teens who watch the reboot of “Gossip Girl” when it airs on WarnerMedia’s new streaming service won’t know that reference, that’s for sure.

“Gossip Girl,” the teen soap opera about fabulously wealthy, criminally under-parented Upper East Side high schoolers and their tragically upper middle class friends, enjoyed a six-season run on the CW network. After a splashy ending in 2012, a number of the show’s principles went on to stardom — Blake Lively and Penn Badgley, most notably — and all went on to have excellent hair.

Now, the popular show, based on a series by the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar and created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, will make a triumphant return, according to Hollywood Reporter, like a gorgeous blonde high schooler returning to Manhattan in the wake of a tragic, drug-related death (spoiler, sorry). Joshua Safran, who served as “Gossip Girl” showrunner for the drama’s final seasons, will write and executive produce the ten-episode season, with Schwartz and Savage on board to executive produce. Safran has refused to say whether familiar characters and actors will appear. Probably best to count on two things only: girls, and gossip.

Hoist your headbands high — budget is unlikely to be an object on “Gossip Girl” redux. The show is to be part of the rollout of WarnerMedia’s gigantic streaming effort, the confusingly titled HBO Max, which Thrillist explains plans to offer “a gargantuan amount of TV shows and movies from companies falling under the WarnerMedia umbrella — including HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim — along with new original content.” The service is set to launch Spring 2020, though it’s not clear if “Gossip Girl” will be one of the initial offerings.

Technology, entertainment, and our country’s leadership would be unrecognizable to the girls and guys on the Upper East Side whom we said goodbye to eight years ago. It’s nice to know that our appetites for watching preternaturally beautiful minors spend money will never abate.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story "‘Gossip Girl’ Is Coming Back To TV, On WarnerMedia" was written by Jenny Singer.

Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach To Write Warner Bros. ‘Barbie’ Movie…About Solipsism?

Life in plastic is fantastic. Life in a muted, almost under-water environment where rich people with treatable psychiatric problems live lives of attractive nihilism is also very good.

Such we shall likely see in the long-awaited “Barbie” movie, which signed filmmakers Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach as co-writers this week, The Hollywood Reporter announced this week.

Gerwig and Baumbach are creative and romantic partners and longtime critical darlings — she was nominated for Academy Awards for her writing and directing of the 2017 “Lady Bird” and is in post-production for her prestigious adaptation of the novel “Little Women,” which she also directed. He is also Oscar-nominated, for “The Squid and the Whale” in 2005, and was recently celebrated for writing and directing “The Meyerowitz Stories” for Netflix in 2017. The naturalistic, low-budget style of their many independent films has led Gerwig and Baumbach separately and the two together to be considered part of the “mumblecore” film movement.

It’s not a style one might associate with a live-action movie from Warner Bros. about a plastic fashion doll. The high-budget movie is set to star Margot Robbie doing her best impression of ethylene-vinyl acetate, PVC, and hard vinyl (yes, that’s what they’re made out of). Amy Schumer had originally signed on to the role but dropped out, while “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins had been in talks to helm the movie, which now may be directed by Gerwig.

We’ll likely see a new side of Barbie, the unnaturally buxom, body fat-free doll designed by Jewish entrepreneur Ruth Handler in 1959, in the Gerwig-Baumbach movie. Perhaps Barbie will have a speech impediment and an unrealistic artistic dream. Maybe her apparent carefree attitude will belie an inner darkness that she self-medicates by vaping CBD and searching for her birth-mother.

And maybe, she’ll be brunette.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story "Greta Gerwig, Baumbach To Write Solipsistic Barbie FIlm" was written by Jenny Singer.

From ‘GoT’ To ‘Maisel’ To ‘Kominsky,’ Jews Dominate The 2019 Emmy Nominations

The golden age of television continues to beat down on us mercilessly, like the sun on a particularly glorious day of global warming. The comedy is cutting-edge, the drama is devastating, and the darkly comic, Talmudic, Kabbalist-influenced prestige series is…popular?

A veritable kehillah of Jewish creators, actors, and more are up for awards at the 71st annual Emmy Awards as of the announcements this Tuesday morning.

Categories for the Emmys are more exhaustive than those for The Oscars — there are enough categories that “Game Of Thrones” leads with 137 nominations, for example. Dan Weiss and David Benioff are nominated for writing the controversial “Game of Thrones” series finale, “The Iron Throne.”

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is next with a whopping 20 nominations. And a surprise competitor comes from father-and-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy’s beloved comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” which nabbed six nominations. “The Kominsky Method” and “Barry” also did well.

Big snubs targeted talented Jewish divas, including Rachel Bloom, creator and star of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Pamela Adlon, creator and star of “Better Things,” and Tracee Ellis Ross, star of “Blackish.”

“Broad City” remains un-nominated despite being the most likely of the entire bunch to be taught in Hebrew school and college Jewish sociology classes in the future (yeah that’s right, we don’t care if “Maisel” and “Kominsky” hear us saying that).

One Jew-heavy category you won’t see reviewed on many lists is Outstanding Short Form Variety Series, which will see Jewish comedian Billy Eichner facing off against Jewish comic-impresario Randy Rainbow.

Let’s take a look at the tribe members and tribe-adjacent folks who are up for prizes in the main categories at the 71st annual Emmy Awards as of the announcements this Tuesday morning. You can watch them win, lose, and schmooze on September 22 on Fox.

Drama Series

“Better Call Saul” This AMC show, a spinoff of the superlatively popular “Breaking Bad,” centers a lawyer who has fashioned himself “Saul Goodman,” to seem more trustworthy and better at business. Hasn’t always worked for us (ever heard of Natalie Hershlag?) but you do you, Saul. Beyond this premise and a few producers, that’s the extent of the Jewish street cred here.

“Bodyguard” There is little-to-nothing that is Jewish about this BBC show about a British policeman struggling with PTSD. But we did like this description of the show from Haaretz’s Adrian Hennigan: “At its best, it’s a tense thriller that grips like a gecko. At its worst, it’s less plausible than a Brett Kavanaugh testimony and has more holes than even President Donald Trump might consider reasonable on a weekend.” You can watch it on Netflix.

“Game of Thrones” “Game” has much more of a Jewish lineage than people admit — read about the boychiks behind the massive HBO hit here.

“Killing Eve” Unless you count anything that seems to nod to biblical characters as Jewish, there is absolutely nothing for us to claim about this riveting psychological thriller from BBC.

“Ozark” Jewish actresses Jordana Spiro and Julia Garner star in “Ozark,” a Netflix show featuring Jason Bateman as the unwilling linchpin of a Mexican drug cartel.

“Pose” The super-buzzy Ryan Murphy FX show about the New York City drag-scene of the late 1980s was co-created, like most of Murphy’s work, with Bryan Falchuk, husband to Gwyneth Paltrow and, more importantly, the scion of Hadassah leadership. The show, which brilliantly celebrates the primarily African-American and Latinx characters in that movement, also stars Jewish actress Sandra Bernhardt.

“Succession” Jesse Armstrong, the creator of the HBO hit about a family brawling over a media empire, is not Jewish, but one of his earlier works, “No Kaddish In Carmarthen,” is about a teenager who becomes obsessed with Woody Allen and pretends to be Jewish. Jewish actor Peter Friedman stars alongside the ensemble cast.

“This Is Us” The feel-bad NBC show was created by Jewish auteur Dan Fogelman, and features a near-minyan of Jewish producers.

Comedy Series

“Barry” Who could forget Jewish actor Henry Winkler joyously accepting his first ever Emmy award in a decades-long career for last year’s first season of “Barry,” HBO’s dark comedy about vocation and assassination. Co-created by Jewish “Seinfeld” writer Alec Berg and actor Bill Hader (not ours, sadly), the show also stars Jewish actors Sarah Goldberg and Glenn Fleshler.

“Fleabag” There is exactly one Jewish thing about the exquisite BBC series “Fleabag,” and that is Jewish actor Brett Gelman, who plays the protagonist’s vile brother-in-law. In fact, the show’s demonically brilliant recent second season centers around the story of a Catholic priest. But it’s so deeply, vitally demanding about questions of faith that the Amazon Prime show should be required viewing for all religious people. It’s that good.

“The Good Place” The brilliant Michael Shur, creator of NBC’s “The Good Place,” is one of ours — and his show is not about religion, but it is about morality, finding funny and touching ways to ask how people should live, and what we owe to one another.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” We believe the Jewishness of Amazon Prime’s “Mrs. Maisel” is self-evident.

“Russian Doll” “The show’s themes are undeniably Jewish,” wrote PJ Grisar for the Forward, of Natasha Lyonne’s eerie Netflix piece about death. In the space of just a few episodes, the Orthodox-raised actress and show-creator invokes Jewish numerology, Talmudic quotes, rabbis, yeshivas, Freud, therapists, and angels.

“Schitt’s Creek” Unexpected but nevertheless delightful is the slow-rising mass-obsession over the schticky Canadian comedy show developed by longtime comedy fixture Eugene Levy and his son Dan Levy.

“Veep” The HBO political satire that tends to sweep awards season stars Jew-ish phenom Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Limited Series

“Chernobyl” The celebrated HBO mini-series was created by Craig Mazin, the Jewish screenwriter who also has the distinction of being Senator Ted Cruz’s former college roommate.

“Escape at Dannemora” The electrifying Showtime drama was created by Jewish actor Ben Stiller, and stars Jewish actress Patricia Arquette.

“Fosse/Verdon” FX’s biographical story of dance visionaries Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon (not ours, folks!) also portrays real-life Jewish celebrities and intellectuals Neil Simon, Joel Grey, Hal Prince, Jerry Orbach, Paddy Chayefsky, Michael Kidd, and Dustin Hoffman.

“Sharp Objects” The eerie HBO show about mothers and daughters was created by Jewish hit-maker Marti Noxon.

“When They See Us” A Jewish character plays a major role in this Netflix mini-series, but maybe not in the way you would like — Felicity Huffman plays Linda Fairstein in the story of the Central Park Five from Ava DuVernay.

Interestingly, no Jewish actors are up for awards in Outstanding Lead Actors or Actresses in a Drama Series. When it comes to the comedy categories, that changes.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

Jewish actors Michael Douglas, for “The Kominsky Method” and Eugene Levy, for “Schitt’s Creek” are nominated alongside Anthony Anderson for “Black-ish, “Don Cheadle for “Black Monday,” Ted Danson for “The Good Place,” and Bill Hader for “Barry.”

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

It’s Selina Meyer’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) last ride through award season, and the Jew-ish actress, who is the winner of the more Emmy awards than any actor or actress in history. But hot on her heels are Rachel Brosnahan, who has already collected a handful of statuettes for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and beloved newcomer to the category Natasha Lyonne, for “Russian Doll.” The rest of the ladies are just as formidable:

Christina Applegate for “Dead to Me,” Catherine O’Hara for “Schitt’s Creek,” and Phoebe Waller-Bridge for “Fleabag.” It’s been said often, but never felt truer — all of these artists are outstanding. There is simply no need to pick a “best.”

In less-central categories, Adam Sandler got a nod for his Saturday Night Live hosting gig, Maya Rudolph was nominated for guest-starring as God (essentially) on “The Good Place,” Julia Garner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama for “Ozark,” and the immensely lovely Alex Bornstein, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with Sarah Goldberg nominated for “Barry” in the same category. Alan Arkin and Henry Winkler will face off for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy for “The Kominsky Method” and “Barry,” respectively. Jewish-ish Forward-favorite Trevor Noah is nominated for Outstanding Variety/Talk Series for his show “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and the dependable warmhearted genius Sarah Silverman got a nom for Outstanding Variety/Sketch Series for “I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman.”

Can you believe people still have the nerve to be anti-Semitic, what with these glorious talents? Not that we think it should work that way, but come on! We’ll see our best friends Sarah, Billy, Eugene, Brad, Marti, Henry, and Natasha in just a few weeks.

Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

This story "All The Jews Nominated For Major Emmy Awards In 2019" was written by Jenny Singer.

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