I like your magazine. I really, really like your magazine. It’s like a less Jewish version of The New Republic which shows that you can be culturally, ethnically, religiously Jewish while still dissociating yourself from modern Judaism’s more pernicious elements - both within the the bloody-minded ghettoizing dressed up as piety that passes for contemporary Orthodox thought, and also within the doughfaced fellow traveler decadence that passes for inclusiveness which lies behind the current resurgence of Reform Judaism (in both cases, I’ll explain what that means on days when I’ve had more sleep). Tablet Magazine stands for a Judaism which I can get behind, and so can anyone concerned with preserving the future of Judaism as something secular, liberal minded, and still distinctively Jewish.
This is why it makes me very sad to tell you that your list of the hundred greatest Jewish films has got to be one of the most trayf lists I’ve ever seen - neither great nor particularly Jewish. You’ve been officially censured by the Jewish media conspiracy this week. There is nothing about this list that demonstrates any command of what makes The Movies the single most Jewish artform there has ever been. Jews may not control the media, but the businessmen who pioneered the movie industry were mostly Jewish, the technicians who created the language of film were mostly Jews, many of the artists who gave the world the greatest movies are of the tribe, and many of the executives who are currently destroying the movies are Jews. We do not control the industry, but we do define it.
So how do we define what is Jewish in the movies? How do we define Judaism? I will do my best to define Judaism in as close to 140 characters as possible: a practical accommodation to whatever conditions life bestows, an awareness that intelligence is a better (though not a good) guarantor for survival, and a willingness to do the things to stay alive which others would view as ‘beneath them.’ Is this a good definition of Judaism or what is Jewish? F--- no. I don’t even know what it means, but it would create a hell of a lot better list of Jewish movies than yours.
So with this in mind, I’m providing a second list of a hundred films in roughly ranked order for which watchers will clearly get a better idea of what is Jewish about the movies than on your list.
1. The Producers: There is nothing in the world more Jewish than finding a way to laugh at the Holocaust.
2. Some Like It Hot: If it takes crossdressing to stay alive, it takes crossdressing to stay alive. Also, the most Jewish final line of any movie ever...just see it.
3. The Pianist: There’s nothing more goyish than lionizing Holocaust survivors. Any survivor will tell you that luck was the most important factor in survival.
4. To Be or Not To Be: The most ethically Jewish movie ever made. Tablet got this one absolutely right.
5. A Serious Man: The world is an ambiguous place full of moral choices that lead to greater or lesser levels of suffering. Outjew that!
6. Zelig: Woody’s most Jewish movie. Whatever it takes to be accepted, we will adapt!
7. Borat: Whatever your bigotry. we will find it and in the long run we will shame you.
8. Fiddler on the Roof: Self explanatory except to say that the movie, unlike the musical, does not cute up life in the ‘Pale.’
9. Pi: Only a Jew would think that a mathematical equation would explain God.
10. The Graduate: No matter how much we seem to fit in with the rest of you, we feel isolated from you, we hate you, and we’re probably sleeping with your wife, your mother, your daughter and your girlfriend.
11. Salah Shabbatti: The original hit of Israeli film. A Mizrahi Jew has to feed eight children, goes on hilarious money-making schemes. Duh.
12. My Dinner with Andre: Two Jews talking in a restaraunt. Watch Jews in their natural habitat.
13. The Social Network: A website that lets you present yourself to the world exactly as you want to be seen. Is there a more Jewish idea?
14. Superbad: In the movies, nerdy Jewish kids want to get laid by shiksas played by a one-named actress named Aviva. The defense rests.
15. An American Tail: The closest we’ve ever come to a Jewish Spielberg movie.
16. Animal House: The all-inclusive fraternity takes revenge on the country club in training WASP fraternity. It’s every Jew’s secret wish on the screen.
17. A Night at the Opera: Judaizing culture, the world’s most goyish industry.
18. Diner: “You’re dealing with a rational girl, that’s your problem!” ...is there any other ethnicity in which men would be expected to say a line like that?
19. Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, clearly a Brooklyn Jew who made it in Manhattan. Daffy Duck, clearly his brother who didn’t. Elmer Fudd, clearly a Jew going hunting for the first time.
20. Crimes and Misdemeanors: Go here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097123/quotes the most amazing compendium of Jewish quotes in the history of movies.
21. City Slickers: The only thing more Jewish than the mid-life crisis is to think that driving cattle through Colorado will solve it.
22. Husbands and Wives: There is something about Jewish marital crises that feels as though they necessitate a documentary.
23. Liberty Heights: “What? These WASPS can’t afford Formica on their furniture?”
24. I <3 Huckabees: If Jews have’t yet invented existential detectives, they will soon.
25. Vanya on 42nd Street: A bunch of New York Jewish actors (and one gorgeous shiksa) put on a play by the laureate honorary Jewish writer.
26. Young Frankenstein: every Jew has a mad scientist grandfather who reanimated corpses in his basement for fun.....No matter how much we deny our heritage....
27. Clueless: “Isn’t my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972!”
28. Wet Hot American Summer: Who’d have thought American hipsters woud find Jewish summer camp so hilarious?
29. Dr Strangelove: Atomic doomsday is hysterical. See #1.
30. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: There are chosen people whom for reasons we cannot understand are deemed fit to learn a greater truth about the Universe....
31. Exodus: Nothing cracks a turtle like Leon Uris...
32. Schindler’s List: Not at all deserving of the hatchet job Tablet gave it. Still, focusing on the good in the Holocaust is pretty goyish. But it’s the best tool we have to demonstrate that the Holocaust happened.
33. Wag the Dog: As we learned in 2003, manufacturing a war is a Jewish trait.
34. American Splendor: Why shouldn’t a shlemazl from Cleveland be as interesting as Superman?
35. Bananas: Forget the rest of the movie. Just this scene...
36. Blazing Saddles: As Tablet said, Yiddish speaking Indians. Just not enough to break the top 10 or 30.
37. Tootsie: When a Jewish actor can’t find work, he assumes the role of a shiksa actress. Whatever we have to do to survive..
38. Annie Hall: In the annals of Judaism, shiksappeal means something extremely important. Just not important enough to put it higher than Zelig.
39. What’s Up Doc: Annie Hall in reverse.
40. Angels in America: Gay people have a lot in common with Jewish people. They’re an important part of the USA, and many people think they have too much fixation on their mothers.
41. My Favorite Year: Jews depend on goyim to teach them how to get women and get better at their jobs. Goyim depend on Jews to stand up after nights of heavy drinking.
42. When Harry Met Sally: Sally’s not the first person I know to have an orgasm in Katz’s deli.
43. The Big Lebowski: Walter Sobchak is the movies’ original neoconservative. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/dvdextras/2008/09/walter_sobchak_neocon.html
44. Ghostbusters: Again, Tablet got this one pretty much right.
45. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Never has there been a movie in which so many different kinds of goyim prized something so Jewish.
46: Sunset Boulevard: There’s a metaphor somewhere in this movie about how Jews prize a dated concept of the world and sadly wait for a future that resurrects the past that will never come. But I have no idea what it is...
47. In the Garden of the Finzi-Continis: Italian Jews being all Jewey in Mussolini’s Italy.
48. Manhattan: For a year or two, Manhattan seemed like a town built by Jews, of Jews, and for Jews. Then Ed Koch became mayor...
49. Knocked Up: The contemporary Jewish conundrum. How do we operate in a world in which we’ve assimilated so much that we’re now as idiotic as the goyim?
50. Double Indemnity: What is more sexy to Jews than insurance fraud?
51. North by Northwest: Every Jew’s paranoia that the government can take away your identity happens to Cary Grant.
52. Cabaret: The musical’s better than the movie. But whether life means wholesome religion or kinky sex, it goes on in the direst circumstances.
53. Ninotchka: Extols the joys of money over the drabness of ideology.
54. Godfather II: Contrasts the Italian immigrant sensibility with the Jewish. The Corleones always reward loyalty, but Hyman Roth always made money for his partners.
55. Inglourious Basterds: Jewish revenge porn. Neither of those words are very Jewish sentiment, but if they were....
56. Jurassic Park: Dr. Ian Malcolm.
57. Take the Money and Run: Cello in a Marching Band.
58. History of the World - Part I:
59. Lost in America: See #21
60. Christopher Guest Movies: He’s made an entire career out of putting a Jewish spin on the world’s most goyish activities: heavy metal, community theater, dog shows, awards shows, folk music (okay, folk music was kind of Jewish for a while).
61. Adaptation: One can’t deny - self absorbtion is extremely Jewish.
62. Spartacus: This is a movie that used crucifixion as a bartering tool. There has to be some B’nai Brith award for that.
63. Glengarry Glen Ross: Again, do what you have to to survive.
64. Juno: Purely for the decoration on Paulie Bleeker’s door.
65. The Ten Commandments: The most goyish Jewish movie ever made. But it’s such an utterly goyish rendering of Jewish events that Jews can’t help but marvel at it.
The Zucker Brothers: Really, anything by them. Any moment in their movies. To isolate them would be a disservice.
Jeff Goldblum: Another thing Tablet got right. Whatever Jeff Goldblum is in, he makes it more Jewish.
Judd Apatow: Who should be a Jewish media conspiracy laureate simply for introducing the world to a whole new generation of Jewish comedians.
Bea Arthur: For showing that Judaism and masculinity are not mutually exclusive.
Sarah Silverman: For showing the world that Jewish girls can still be attractive beyond measurement even if they’re not funny.
Movies I Haven’t Seen that would Probably Extend The List:
The Sorrow and the Pity
Ace in the Hole
Waltz With Bashir
The Jazz Singer
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Enemies, A Love Story
The Jerry Lewis Canon (I haven’t seen a single one)