New flicks

“Choke” is a black comedy starring Sam Rockwell as Victor, a con man who pretends to choke at fancy restaurants and is “saved” by wealthy patrons. Victor then gives each “savior” a sob story and weasels cash out of them. The young Victor is played by child actor Jonah Bobo, 11. Jonah, who starred in the 2005 fantasy film “Zathura,” comes from a New York Orthodox Jewish family. His unusual last name is Egyptian Jewish in origin — his father’s ancestry is Egyptian and Syrian Jewish. (Opens Friday, Sept. 26)

Former child actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 27, has a supporting role in Spike Lee’s new film, “Miracle at St. Anna.” The film opens in 1983 and unfolds in flashback. “Miracle” begins with what seems like a cold-blooded murder in New York. The historical events that led to the murder are eventually revealed.

Gordon-Levitt plays a reporter who investigates the murder and discovers a priceless Italian artifact in the murder suspect’s apartment. This artifact leads to an almost-forgotten all-black U.S. army division that fought in Italy during World War II. (Opens Friday, Sept. 26)

“Eagle Eye” stars Shia LaBeouf, 22, as a “slacker” who returns home after the mysterious death of his successful twin brother. He and his single mother learn that they’ve been framed as terrorists, and they are threatened into becoming members of a cell assigned to kill a politician. (Opens Friday, Sept. 26)

Eli Attie, who helped write “Eagle Eye,” was Al Gore’s chief speechwriter in 2000. Attie also wrote for “The West Wing” TV series and he says that he contacted Sen. Obama’s chief aide in 2004 when he was creating the character of Matthew Santos, a Hispanic running for president. He asked the aide how the senator dealt with the issue of race and identity, and the aide’s answers help shape the way the Santos character dealt with his Hispanic identity.

Herman Wouk honored

In the words of the Washington Post, “If novelist Herman Wouk lives much longer — as, God willing, he will — the Library of Congress may run out of ways to celebrate him. Thirteen years ago, the library put together a day-long symposium as a tribute to Wouk. Eight years ago, it named him an official living legend. [On Sept. 10], it honored the 93-year-old author of ‘The Caine Mutiny,’ ‘The Winds of War’ and ‘War and Remembrance’ as the first recipient of a new award for lifetime achievement in the writing of fiction.”

Wouk, a modern Orthodox Jew, has written two books about Judaism and Jewish history. Almost all of Wouk’s plays and novels have central or prominent Jewish characters.

Journalist William Safire, pop singer Jimmy Buffett and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were among those speaking at the symposium. Ginsburg read a section of the court martial scene from the “The Caine Mutiny.” Buffett talked about how he and Wouk have been pals since they collaborated in the ’90s on the musical version of Wouk’s novel “Don’t Stop the Carnival.”

Jorma in concert

Jorma Kaukonen, 67, is most famous for having been the lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane, a group at the forefront of the San Francisco ’60s rock explosion. Even though Jorma’s mother was Jewish, he was raised secular. About three years ago, Jorma became a practicing Jew. This weekend you have two chances to see Jorma playing with the acoustic version of his group, Hot Tuna. They play the San Francisco Blues Festival on Saturday, Sept. 27 and they will be at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma on Sunday.

Columnist Nate Bloom , an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected].

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.