Culture View

A Swerve In Israeli Cinema

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

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.

George Robinson

What Happened To Jewish Dance?

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

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.”

Ted Merwin

Ali’s Ring Cycle

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

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.

George Robinson

Those Little-Town Blues

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

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.

Ted Merwin

The New Suburban Auteurs

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

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.

George Robinson

Men In Black

04/19/2016 - 15:27
Special To The Jewish Week

Several years ago, on a bus ride across Iowa on my way to giving a lecture at a university, I noticed a tall man in the seat behind me; he had a craggy face, long beard, black hat, and glossy black coat.

Ted Merwin

Mother Lodes

04/05/2016 - 13:19
Special To The Jewish Week

It may be said that there are two constants in Jewish life: death and laughter. Three actually: death, laughter and tsuris. Oh, and family.

George Robinson

All In The Genetic Family

03/22/2016 - 10:27
Special To The Jewish Week

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died last month, much was made in the media about his longtime friendship with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While the two oldest justices on the court occupied opposite ends of the political spectrum, they surprised many by being, as Derrick Wang’s new opera, “Scalia/Ginsburg,” has them sing, “best buddies.”

Ted Merwin

Filming The Inexplicable

03/15/2016 - 13:26
Special To The Jewish Week

Leo Baeck divided human knowledge into three groups: those phenomena that we understand, those that we do not understand but that science will eventually explain, and “that which is impenetrable.” To my mind, the impenetrable is the most appealing part of religious thought.

George Robinson

Decluttering Judaism

02/23/2016 - 12:16
Special To The Jewish Week

It may be sacrilegious to admit it, but my favorite day of the week is not Saturday.

Ted Merwin
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