Why Was Ed Asner So Grumpy?

Smart And Spicy

Trick question! He wasn't; he uses it to cover up the pussycat he really is. Surprise: Asner's beloved, not just for seven Emmy's and television roles. Turns out, Asner's quite the hero. Honored by the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival for his charity work and activism, it was non-stop praise all night. Sharon Gless, next to husband Barney Rosenzweig: "I'm here because I love Ed Asner"Gavin MacLeod: "Ed, you've gotten every award known to man, and you deserved most of them."Matthew Modine: "He's like Bogart and Spencer Tracy rolled into one." Elliott Gould, Paul Rudd, Valerie Harper, Betty White, and Ed Begley, Jr. praised Asner's good deeds in "My Friend Ed,"the opening tribute fest. Why is Asner always grumpy? Betty White: "Ed tries so hard to be a curmudgeon, but he's not. He's so generous."So what did Ed say about all this love? "I'm always happy to show up where there's popcorn."Director Sharon Baker kissed 87-year old Asner, whispering, "We'll have fun later!""Super Sex" opened, with an amusing look at the old joke (can't spoil it by telling). "We try to bring the LA community the most compelling Jewish stories," said Hilary Helstein, Festival Executive Director. * * * "The Wedding Plan" opening this weekend, had its LA premiere at LAJFF. It's charming, with a totally unrealistic premise: an attractive woman, dumped by her fiancé one month before the wedding, just keeps planning. With no groom in sight, she pays for the caterer, hires a photographer, and puts her Orthodox faith to test. She believes a groom will just happen. "I've been dating for ten years. This adds up to 490 dates with 123 guys. I'm done," she explains. "I can't see myself waiting for another date, another guy, another decade."

Will a groom appear? "I have a hall, I have a dress, it's a small task for God to find me a groom." Oddly, matchmaker-sent men actually propose, but she's discriminating. She never loses her faith, right up to the last minute. She wants love. "Anything can happen." Rama Burshtein directed. You don't really think I'll reveal how it ends, now, do you? * * * "The Women's Balcony" made me think I'd see an updated "Lysistrata," Aristophanes' play where the women withheld sex until the men negotiated for peace. Here, the battle of the sexes is sweet, and funny, with glimpses into women's roles in contemporary orthodox Jewish life. Within the confines of beliefs, the women take action, yielding surprising humor and grace. It's delightful. * * * It's great fun seeing "Harold and Lillian," in theaters now. Harold Michelson and Lillian Michelson were mainly unknown, although they worked on hundreds of films during Hollywood's golden age. He did story boards; she had her extraordinary research library. It was a shock to see how Howard visualized, then drew, exact scenes from iconic movies - before the directors framed the shots. It made me wonder how much of Hitchcock's films, as we were shown, were really envisaged by Howard and not Hitch. I asked Director Daniel Raim: Was that taking away from the director? "Fundamentally, the director makes the decision to use the story boards," Raim said. "There is always someone who does the heavy lifting when you work on a movie, even if you don't know their names. "What bothers me is that Harold and Lillian didn't get credit for their work," Raim acknowledged. * * * Two gems and a closing: "Menashe" offers a peek into Ultra-Orthodox Jewish life. Shot secretly, with the real Menashe starring, it's endearing watching as a father about to lose his child on Rabbi's orders gets his act together. Performed entirely in Yiddish, Director Joshua Weinstein said, "It's an honest take on the community; it's not trying to vilify anyone. It's about characters who choose not to leave." Mensashe had never been in a movie theater until he went to Sundance, said Weinstein. "He didn't know why anyone would want to see it. I told him people care." "Bye Bye Germany" watches a group of men post-concentration camp, ready to leave Germany. They need money to go to America, and their comical scheme to get it plays on German guilt. Throughout their stunts, the American military questions one of them, suspecting he collaborated or was a Nazi. The story's illuminating about those who chose to remain in Germany after the war. People applauded repeatedly for the closing night film, "Restoring Tomorrow." Surprisingly riveting, basically it's the story of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Senior Rabbi Steven Leder on his mission impossible to restore the 1929 building, built largely by Hollywood movie czars. You wouldn't think this could be as absorbing as it was. It was documented by Aaron Wolf, whose own grandfather was head

Rabbi of what Rabbi Leder hoped to save. "I knew we could do it; I knew the money was there," Rabbi Leder confessed in person. And therein lies the tale... In restoring the temple, they decided to help their East LA neighborhood, offering free dental, vision, mental health, and food security. The film shows the creation of, paraphrasing Gilbert and Sullivan, the very model of a modern way to bring community together, Jewish and non-Jewish. Hilary Helstein said these stories "needed to be told." I hope they'll be showing locally soon; the Jewish Film Festival was enriching, intriguing fun. ______________________________________________ ©Carole Bell 2017 Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything. You can write to her at: smartspicy1@gmail.com


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