Nostalgia at Your Fingertips During New Year
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Nostalgia at Your Fingertips During New Year

Four outstanding films and a 47-hour audio book are now all available online.

Bradley Cooper is Leonard Bernstein, prosthetic nose, and all in “Maestro,” new to Netflix.
Bradley Cooper is Leonard Bernstein, prosthetic nose, and all in “Maestro,” new to Netflix.

One of the important gifts that entertainment technology has presented to us over at least the past decade or so is the ability to return so easily to the past. Never in human history has it been so easy to explore our cultural inheritance close up than it is today. The untethering of the American mind from broadcast television and movie theater screens has brought us into a time when we have at our fingertips a veritable cornucopia of memory.

But if that almost limitless selection from the past was not enough, we have before us a selection of offerings that came out this past year, and are now online, so we can go way back when, from the comfort of our easy chair.

Consider then, that in the past year, we have had before us a selection from the Jewish past that has been almost unrivaled as prominent popular culture offerings.

“Oppenheimer,” by director Christopher Nolan

What comes to mind most quickly is the oddest and most successful double bill in recent memory, “Oppenheimer,” the three-hour-plus examination of the rise and fall of what was once one of our most important co-religionists, J. Robert Oppenheimer; although, he would deny that he worked very hard at claiming most of us as relatives. When asked what the J in his name stood for, he would often answer it stood for nothing, although he knew quite well it stood for Julius, which made his name somewhat more semitic than he was comfortable with.

If you were so inclined you could pair this serious examination of the dawn of the atomic age with all its attendant social and political consequences with a dreamlike romp in our childish psyche, “Barbie,” a creation in real life by the Handlers, Ruth and Elliot, who, right after World War II founded a toy company named Mattel.

“Barbie,” featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling

They helped shaped the female imagination for decades by allowing them, starting in 1959, to have as their childhood companion, a female doll that was totally grown up, Barbie.

A few years later, a doll that was a totally grown-up man came along as a companion. It was an idea that had generally escaped the imagination of toymakers up until then, and its successful marketing made the Handlers and their real-life children, Barbie and Ken Handler, exceedingly rich.

And what about that movie about an Israeli prime minister, who is misled about the intentions of Arabs plotting a devastating attack on the Jewish state on Yom Kippur that shakes Israeli society to its very core? No, it is not a film set in October 2023, it is “Golda,” a film that follows three weeks of anguish Golda Meir suffered in 1973 when her military advisers didn’t quite believe that the governments of Egypt and Syria were serious about their intentions to wipe Israel off the map.

Watching the film when it was previewed by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in August and watching it again after Oct. 7, brings one face-to-face with the inescapable conclusion that the general staff of the IDF never go to the movies.

“Golda,” starring Helen Mirren

When I viewed it again in early December with a group of about 30 Jewish friends, you could hear the proverbial pin drop. What were all those intelligence officers thinking in 1973 and what were they thinking forty years later, to the day, in 2023?

And while we are considering the chinks in our collective suit of armor, we have yet another film about a flawed hero, who for all his brilliance and wild success, can’t quite seem to get his life together. Of course, that is Bradley Cooper as the Jewish maestro, Leonard Bernstein, who is paired with Carrie Mulligan as his wife, Felicia. It lands on Netflix just in time for the nonstop entertainment viewing that is so much a part of the December holidays.

Barbra Streisand’s autobiography, “My Name is Barbra.”

As if all these journeys back in time were not enough, along comes one of our favorite octogenarians who has presented us with almost 1,000 pages of her fascinating life story. Surprisingly, it is an engaging, skillful retelling of all the ups and downs and ins and out of a wondrous life.

Of course, it is the long-awaited autobiography of 81-year-old Barbra Streisand, “My Name is Barbra.” She had promised us this book in 2016, but considering all the hard work she has put into this, she is excused. If you prefer the audio book with Babs, herself reading, it is also available. It runs a little over 48 hours, which makes it a good choice if you are taking a really long interstate drive.

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