Culture View

07/26/2016 - 12:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

A rabbi, a priest and an imam are hurtling down Fifth Avenue in a taxi when it crashes, instantly killing the driver and his three passengers. As the members of the clergy are waiting impatiently on line to get to the Pearly Gates, they are astonished to see the taxi driver ushered straight into heaven with great fanfare. When they finally arrive at the head of the line, they ask the reason for the driver’s preferential treatment. “While he was doing his job, his passengers were always praying,” they are told. “But when you were doing yours, your congregants were put to sleep.”

07/05/2016 - 13:02 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

When we get into the second half of the 20th century, I tell my students in “Introduction to the Moving Image” that the default setting for feature filmmaking in the developing world is a global variation of neo-realism. Like its Italian predecessors of the 1940s, this cinema is low-budget, shoot-on-location, with most of the performances coming from ordinary people rather than trained actors. The focus is invariably on family melodrama and the tensions that rapid urbanization has wrought on working people.

06/21/2016 - 12:10 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

It was an inauspicious debut, to be sure, when I finally allowed myself to be dragged onto the stage on a recent Saturday afternoon for the Father-Daughter number in my youngest daughter, Leah’s, end-of-year dance recital in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Desperately trying to mirror the movements of the 49 other equally sheepish dads, I went down on one knee and held out my hand to a blissful 7-year-old who pirouetted, preened and posed as if she were appearing with Mikhail Baryshnikov. By the time I had to do it again that evening with her 11-year-old sister, Sarah, I felt ready to audition for “Dancing With the Stars.”

06/07/2016 - 17:53 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

I was walking through Rockefeller Center one spring afternoon about 30 years ago. There was a large knot of people in front of the NBC Building, which ordinarily wouldn’t have attracted my attention at all.

05/24/2016 - 12:56 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

Throughout Anton Chekhov’s play, “Three Sisters,” the heroines of the title dream passionately but fruitlessly of returning to Moscow, the city of their childhood. Similarly, Jude Fawley, the title character of Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” gazes on the spires of the far-off city of Christminster (a stand-in for Oxford), convinced that life there is far more exciting than in his rural village.

05/17/2016 - 15:38 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Culture View

In 1977 Irving Howe predicted the ebbing of the flood tide of great postwar Jewish-American novelists. He wrote, “There just isn’t enough left of [the immigrant] experience” to provide impetus for another generation to follow in their wake. And a splendid wake it was, churning behind Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth, but also including such unfairly neglected names as Edward Wallant (“The Pawnbroker”) and Hugh Nissenson (“The Tree of Life”), as well as the more commercial but not unworthy Herman Wouk.