Oscars: Some Jews win, but Israel goes empty-handed

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Two Israeli documentaries in contention for the Oscar for best documentary failed to bring Israel its first coveted golden statue. “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras” lost out to the Swedish-British production “Searching for Sugar Man” when the Academy Awards were handed out Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.

Directed by Dror Moreh, “The Gatekeepers” features a series of interviews with six former leaders of Israel’s Shin Bet security service arguing that Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories is ultimately futile and self-defeating.

“5 Broken Cameras,” which was co-directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi, tells the story of a Palestinian village resisting the encroachment of a nearby Israeli settlement.

Daniel Day-Lewis became the first actor to win three Oscars for best actor with his performance as Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln,” a film that had been an early front-runner in the Oscar race but lost out to “Argo” for best film. Day-Lewis is the son of Jewish actress Jill Balcon, whose parents immigrated to Britain from Latvia and Poland.

“Lincoln” director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner went home empty-handed.

“Argo” chronicles the rescue of six American hostages during the Iranian Revolution. Grant Heslov, the picture’s co-producer with George Clooney and star Ben Affleck, accepted the golden statuette, and film editor William Goldenberg did likewise in his category.

On Oscar night, in the absence of Billy Crystal and other Jewishly attuned hosts of previous years, first-time master of ceremonies Seth MacFarlane stayed away from the typical Jewish Hollywood jokes during the introductory monologue.

But later on in the show, Ted, the X-rated stuffed teddy bear from the movie “Ted” (written by MacFarlane, who also voiced the role of the animated bear) “revealed” in a skit that his birth name was Theodore Shapiro and he actually was born Jewish, which he figured would assure his acceptance into Hollywood’s ranks. He quipped: If “you want to work in this town,” you have to be Jewish.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Anti-Defamation League both quickly issued statements expressing their distaste. —  jta and j. staff