Jewish story lines at the Oscars: ‘Omar,’ Woody, ‘Her,’ three docs and ‘Hustle’ vs. ‘Wolf’


For those looking for Jewish angles at tonight’s Academy Awards, here are a few:

* Two of the best picture nominees, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” feature Jewish scam artists as their protagonists. Both are played by non-Jewish actors — Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio — who are competing for the best actor statuette. “Wolf” also garnered a best supporting actor nomination for former-shlubby-comic-actor-turned-acclaimed-dramatic-actor Jonah Hill.

* Best picture nominee “Her” (which should have been titled “Romancing the Phone” — a joke that National Review unfortunately beat me to) has a triumvirate of key players with Jewish backgrounds: director Spike Jonze (his father’s ancestry is Jewish) and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Jonze is nominated for best original screenplay.

* Amid all the newly revived allegations of sexual abuse, Woody Allen would be a shoo-in for “Most Beleaguered New York Filmmaker” if there were such an award. Instead, he will have to settle for his nomination for best original screenplay for his depressing “Blue Jasmine” (which also got best actress and supporting actress nominations for, respectively, Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins).

* The best foreign-language film category could make history if “Omar” wins. It would be the first Oscar statuette for a Palestinian film. “Omar” focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as did director Hany Abu-Assad’s previous Oscar-nominated flick, “Paradise Now.” This time though, there was less controversy about the way in which the film’s country of origin would be officially cited. The academy describes “Omar” as coming from Palestine.

* Two documentary nominees — both focused on violence and hate — come from Jewish filmmakers:

“The Act of Killing,” which is nominated for best feature-length documentary, takes a novel cinematic approach to revisiting the 1965 massacres  in Indonesia that following a coup. Joshua Oppenheimer, who is nominated for the film with Signe Byrge Sørensen, spoke with the Forward about being descended from German Jews, the lessons of the Holocaust and his criticism of Israel’s founding.

Jason Cohen’s “Facing Fear,” nominated for best short documentary, focuses on the reunion of a former skinhead and the gay man whom he brutally beat in 1981. The two later men met and reconciled at the Simone Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. San Francisco’s J. weekly had the back story.

* Finally, another short documentary nominee, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” is about the woman who was until recently the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, who just passed away last month at age 110.

Recommended from JTA