Tag Archives: Director

Jew of the Week: Taika Waititi

The Next Great Film Director

Taika Waititi (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Taika David Cohen Waititi (b. 1975) was born and raised in New Zealand to a native Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Maori father and a Russian-Jewish mother. He is probably the world’s most famous “Polynesian Jew” (as he describes himself). While studying drama at Victoria University of Wellington, Waititi joined a comedy troupe called So You’re a Man and toured across New Zealand and Australia. He was later part of a successful comedy duo which won New Zealand’s Billy T Award for comedy in 1999. That same year he acted in his first film, the low-budget Scarfies. After appearances in another film and a TV show, Waititi shifted his focus to film-making. His 2005 short film Two Cars, One Night was nominated for an Oscar. He made his first full-length film in 2007, and his second in 2010. The latter, Boy, set records in New Zealand and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Meanwhile, Waititi wrote the original draft of the screenplay for Moana. His big break came in 2017 when he directed his first blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok. He also voiced the characters Surtur and Korg in the move. The film was critically acclaimed for bringing an entirely new flavour to the dying franchise, and resurrecting the series. It was so popular that a new set of Thor films was put in production, making it the first among the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have more than a trilogy. Waititi will direct the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, in which (former Jew of the WeekNatalie Portman is set to take over the title role. Waititi is also working on Star Wars: the Mandalorian, as well as an adaptation of the classic Akira. His next film, Jojo Rabbit, is generating some controversy as it is a comedic story of a Hitler Youth whose family is sheltering a Jewish child. Waititi is not only the director, but plays the youth’s imaginary Adolf Hitler. Though satirical, Waititi maintains that the film is “anti-hate” and is an “insult” to that “f*cking c**t” Hitler (see trailer here). Waititi was 2017’s New Zealander of the Year, and has been called a “visionary director”, a “comedy genius”, and a “master of suspense”. His best work is undoubtedly ahead of him.

Happy Tu b’Av!

Why Tu b’Av Is More Important Than Yom Kippur

The Kabbalah of Marriage

Words of the Week

Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.
– George Carlin

Jews of the Week: Sydney Pollack and Bruce Geller

Mission: Impossible

Bruce Geller

Baruch Bruce Geller (1930-1978) was born in New York City. Although he studied psychology at Yale University, he was far more interested in theatre, and ended up working as a screenwriter. Finding little success in New York, he moved to Hollywood and worked on a number of television shows. In 1965, Geller had an idea for a new secret agent thriller TV show, and created Mission: Impossible. The show ran from 1966 to 1973, with Geller as producer, writer, and director. The hit series went on to win 8 Emmy Awards, including two for Geller as producer and as writer. The show was resurrected in 1988 for another couple of seasons. (Its extremely popular theme song was written by former Jew of the Week Lalo Schifrin.)

Sydney Pollack

In the early 1990s, Sydney Irwin Pollack (1934-2008) began working on a film adaptation of Mission: Impossible. Starring Tom Cruise, the movie became a huge hit, and spawned five sequels, become one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time, and earning over $2.7 billion, so far. (The latest installment of the film series, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, opens tomorrow.) Pollack was born in Indiana to Russian-Jewish immigrants. After finishing high school, he moved to New York City and studied acting. Pollack served two years in the armed forces, then returned to theatre as a stage assistant. He moved to Hollywood in 1960 to coach child actors, and slowly shifted from acting to directing. Pollack first worked on television shows, then made the jump to feature films, and was hugely successful right from the start. His films went on to earn 48 nominations and 11 wins at the Oscars. Pollack eventually went back to acting, and appeared in numerous films and TV shows. He died of cancer in 2008. Both Pollack and Geller were avid pilots, and enjoyed flying their Cessnas. Sadly, Geller’s life was cut short when his plane crashed in 1978.

Tu b’Av Begins Tonight – Chag Sameach!

Why Tu b’Av Is More Important than Yom Kippur

Words of the Week

I’ve lived through Israel’s entire 70-year history and I believe it is one of the most remarkable countries in the world.
– Warren Buffett

Steven Hill in the lead role of the 1966 pilot episode of Mission: Impossible, and Tom Cruise in the lead role of the 1996 film, together with the film’s most famous (and oft-spoofed) scene.