Sommer-Herz documentary wins Oscar

By Tom Tugend, March 3, 2014

After some fairly lean Oscar years, full or partial members of the tribe scored well at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday evening, though mainly in the less glamorous, behind-the-scenes categories.

The exception was the short documentary on 110-year old concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Sommer-Herz, “The Lady in No. 6: Music Saved My Life”, which won in its category. Ms Sommer-Herz died exactly one week before the awards ceremony.

In his acceptance speech, director Malcolm Clarke lauded Sommer-Herz’s “extraordinary capacity for joy and for forgiveness…She taught everyone on my crew to be a little more optimistic and a little bit more happy.”

Israeli-American producer (and acknowledged intelligence operative for Israel’s nuclear weapon programme) Arnon Milchan shared in the celebration for best picture winner “12 Years a Slave,” as one of the seven listed producers.

Woody Allen, a regular non-attending entry at these events, failed to win the original screenplay trophy for his “Blue Jasmine.” The honour went instead to “Her” writer Spike Jonze, born Adam Spiegel and the son of a Jewish father.

Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, born Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern, was the anticipated winner in his category for his extraordinary work on the space cliffhanger “Gravity.”

Among the five finalists for best foreign-language film honours was the Palestinian entry “Omar,” while Israel’s choice, “Bethlehem,” was eliminated early on.

Both movies pit the Israel security services against Palestinian militants, with “Omar” predictably drawing a highly unflattering portrait of the Israeli agents.

However “Omar”, like Israel’s past 10 nominations, did not garner the top prize, which went to Italy’s “The Great Beauty.”

For the first time in recent memory, the MC, Ellen DeGeneres, did not indulge in any Jewish jokes during the evening.

On the other hand, the Academy reversed its long neglect of African-American talent by featuring numerous black entertainers, presenters, award winners and the Academy’s new president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Two widely publicised movies based on the financial shenanigans of real-life Jewish con men, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” left empty-handed.

In an interesting footnote, Ms Isaacs announced that five billion movie tickets were sold worldwide in 2013.

Last updated: 9:50am, March 3 2014