What To Watch, Skip This Week In Jewish Entertainment

Corey Stoll is the Jewish everyman actor can sink into just about any ensemble you put him in. Hopefully you caught his amazing portrayal of a young Junior Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark on HBO Max, but he is getting a bigger role this month on Showtime.

After having a supporting role in the fifth season of the brilliant hit drama series Billions, Stoll moves into the vacated co-lead role next to Paul Giamatti ahead of the Season 6 premiere Sunday, Jan. 23. Following Damian Lewis’ departure from the show, Stoll’s Mike Prince is now the target of Attorney General Chuck Rhodes (Giamatti).

If you can’t get enough Stoll, you can of course find him in the lead role in The Strain. The four-season FX show starred Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, who teams with a Treblinka survivor named “Abraham” and others to battle vampire Nazis to save humanity.  You can find The Strain on AppleTV and Hulu. 

Missing Robin Williams, the honorary Jew

While he played more than a few Jews on film, the late comic and actor wasn’t in fact Jewish. But he was a big fan of using a Jewish theme or link, and finding something funny in it. 

He frequently dropped Yiddishisms into his stand-up comedy routines, perfecting a Yiddish accent in the process. The guy could do just about any accent in the world, but his Yiddish was strong. According to New York Jewish Week, he attended 13 bar mitzvahs during eighth grade and played a resident in a Nazi ghetto during World War II who gives false hope in “Jakob the Liar.”

Williams even called Steven Spielberg every day while the Jewish filmmaker was making “Schindler’s List,” which is downright hero friend work. Need a pick-me-up on this cold Friday, watch this clip from arguably Williams’ best performance:

Try to watch that and not be moved. It’ll fail every time. All hail, the late but one of the great honorary Jews in Hollywood history.

Care to read the new West Side Story script?

According to Deadline, you can now view and read Tony Kushner’s script for Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story.” In adapting Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein’s most celebrated works, the Jewish director wanted to make the film something for the modern-day audience, and not just for hopeless and older romantics. It’s not a bad scenario, especially if you don’t want to look at Ansel Elgort’s face for over two and a half hours. As a screenwriter, Kushner felt the message of the original still carried power.

“The story is a warning: racism and nativism and poverty are democracy’s antithesis and if not resisted and rejected, they will atomize the bonds that hold us together as a society,” says Kushner.

Do you need to binge Ray Donovan the series before watching the movie?

Yes and no. The Liev Schreiber-led show, stuffed with Jewish themes and ties, does wrap up a good chunk of the main storyline. If you went in cold without watching one episode, you would be entertained but the more emotional impact of the movie plot may not sink its teeth completely into you. The themes of childhood abandonment, sexual abuse in a Catholic church, and a father-son dynamic (he sent his old man to jail when he was a young man) reverberate for most, but watching the whole series is still the best bet.

At the very least, watch the seventh season before hitting play on the movie. But know this: It’s very good. 

What not to watch

The highly popular Netflix film Don’t Look Up, released a month ago but still surging in views and discussion, was director Adam McKay’s indictment of the current pop culture audience. The director, whose wife and daughter are Jewish and attend temple occasionally, followed up Vice with this wildly over-the-top comedy. A movie about a pair of dumbfounded astrologists who find their warnings about a deadly comet falling on deaf White House and national media ears. Pumped full of burnt-out satire and preachy renderings of our current social climate (a presidential campaign instructing you not to look up at a meteor), McKay’s film overstayed its welcome an hour in.

Just because a movie promotes a harsh reality doesn’t make it a good movie. All you need is 15-20 minutes of either CNN or Fox News in order to get what McKay is serving here. Skip it. Watch the trailer, laugh at all the funny parts, and skip the overlong movie.