7 Jewish Films to Watch Before (And After) the Oscars

Shiran Lugashi
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Amy Winehouse at her home in Camden, London in 2004.
Amy Winehouse at her home in Camden, London in 2004.Credit: JTA/Mark Okoh-Contemporary Jewish Museum
Shiran Lugashi

JTA - Hollywood’s biggest night of the year is Sunday, and quite a few talented Jews should be practicing their Academy Awards acceptance speeches.

If you didn’t catch all 57 of this year’s nominated films in theaters, there’s still time to do some Jewish Oscar prep online. Just grab your laptop, a Wi-Fi connection and Netflix and Amazon Prime logins.

These Jewish films are worth streaming before the stars hit the red carpet — and even after.

1. “Ida”

Ida trailerCredit: YouTube

Possibly the biggest Jewish story of this year’s Oscars is “Son of Saul,” a haunting Hungarian film about a Sonderkommando charged with disposing of the dead at Auschwitz. If the film meets award expectations, this will be the second year in a row that an unconventional take on the Holocaust wins best foreign film. Last year’s winner, “Ida,” is about a young would-be Polish nun who, before taking her vows, must explore her family’s dark Jewish past.

Available on: Netflix

2. “Inglourious Basterds”

Michael Fassbender is nominated for best actor for his title role in “Steve Jobs.” He plays an equally ruthless hero in 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s gory World War II revenge fantasy. A suave British soldier, he’s sent to help a troop of American Jewish soldiers see through their ultimate mission: assassinating Adolf Hitler, and any other Nazi in their path.

Available on: Netflix

3. “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”

Best animated film nominee “Anomalisa” proves once and for all that Charlie Kaufman isn’t afraid to take puppets having sex seriously. In “Confessions of Dangerous Mind,” from 2002, Kaufman drops early hints as to his capacity for bizarre inventiveness. Written by him and directed by George Clooney, the black comedy follows Chuck Barris as he navigates his double life as a Jewish gameshow host and CIA assassin. Though the plot reaches absurd heights, Kaufman was reigned in by the fact that he was telling a true story.

Available on: Netflix, Amazon

4. “Greenberg”

Greenberg trailer.Credit: YouTube

Jewish best actress nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a killer you love to hate in “The Hateful Eight.” Fans of her work in the the Tarantino Western may appreciate “Greenberg,” which she co-stars in and, with then-husband, director Noah Baumbach, wrote. The 2010 film features similarly well-drawn and unlikeable characters — only with more Jews and less bloodshed. The gore is all internal. Stick around for a cameo by Brie Larson, the favorite to win best actress this year.

Available on: Netflix

5. “Amy”

Amy trailer.Credit: YouTube

 “Amy” does something unexpected: It takes a tragic and troubled singer and turns her into the Jewish girl next door. Using previously unreleased footage and music, the best documentary favorite looks beyond Amy Winehouse’s trademark hairdo and tabloid misadventures for a tender and unflinching examination of her personal life and inner demons. Also streamable is “Amy” competitor for best documentary “Winter on Fire,” a Russian-Israeli directed film about Ukraine’s revolution on Netflix.

Available on: Amazon

6. “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Before directing this year’s best film nominee “The Martian,” Ridley Scott took on one of the most Jewish stories of all time: Exodus. Christian Bale (now a best actor nominee for “The Big Short”) plays Moses in 2014’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” — an epic that seeks to recapture the magic of old-Hollywood classics like “The Ten Commandments” and “Spartacus.” Written by “Schindler’s List” scribe Steve Zaillian, the film gained some notoriety for its cast of nearly all white actors, a controversy that should be familiar to anyone following the 2016 Oscar race.

Available on: Amazon

7. “Barton Fink”

Barton Fink trailer.Credit: YouTube

Joel and Ethan Coen could win their third best film Oscar for this year’s “Bridge Of Spies.” If you want to know why that’s ironic, watch “Barton Fink.” The 1991 film follows a Jewish playwright who gets a horrifying insider look at the Hollywood machine he never really wanted to be a part of. As this year’s Oscars rattle into their third hour, you may find yourself empathizing with young Barton.

Available on: Amazon

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