The Hebrew name of the Festival Of Lights literally means “dedication,” so this Hanukkah, dedicate eight days to streaming movies that celebrate all things Jewish.
Is it possible to get through Hanukkah without Adam Sandler? Doubtful, so dive in with this on-the-nose animated musical comedy. Davey the town alcoholic delinquent gets one last chance to redeem himself by helping out the youth basketball league over the holidays or face jail. Grandma should sit this one out.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Netflix)
Did you know that you can thank 1940s leading lady Hedy Lamarr for Bluetooth technology? Alexander Dean takes a deep dive into the Austrian actress’s career, six marriages, and landmark invention. You better recognize.
This 1980 remake of the Al Jolson original showcases Jewish excellence in the flared-pant shape of Neil Diamond backed up by the considerable acting chops of one Laurence Olivier. The soundtrack went multi-platinum, as fifth-generation cantor Yussel Rabinovitchg (Diamond) decides that he’d rather rock than reserve his voice for god. A good idea — as opposed to the absolutely nope that is his brief flirtation with black face.
Full-Court Miracle (Disney+)
Also filed under Jewish excellence is the true story of University Of Virginia student Cavaliers basketball star Lamont Carr. After injury dashes his own NBA dreams, Lamont reluctantly agrees to coach a group of young Jewish basketball players at Philadelphia Hewbrew Academy as they prep for the Liberty Tournament. What follows is a feel-good Hanukkah miracle.
An American Tail (Netflix)
Don Bluth and Stephen Spielberg’s animated tale is perhaps the cutest and definitely the highest-grossing ($84 million worldwide!) take on the Jewish diaspora story. A young Russian mouse migrates with his family to a “land without cats,” but is forced to negotiate the mean streets of New York alone after becoming separated from them. And hello, there are cats.
The Meyerowitz Stories (Netflix)
Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story, The Squid And The Whale) writes and directs this comedy-drama about dysfunctional siblings who come together after their father falls seriously ill. Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, and Emma Thompson duke it for most lovable screw up, from the latter’s “gentle alcoholism” to wrecked marriages and suppressed rage all round.
Barbara Streisand’s most iconic movie is now more than half a century old, but has still aged considerably better than Meet The Fockers (which you’ll probably watch over the holidays too). It’s loosely based on the life of Broadway star Fanny Brice and her gambler husband Nicky Arnstein, with Streisand reprising her Broadway role with ease.
A Serious Man (Netflix)
The Coen brothers’ 2009 black comedy has some serious Hanukkah chops. The story of Larry Gopnik, a Minnesota Jewish man whose life and faith falls apart, is a literal retelling of the Book of Job — had Job been an insecure Midwestern professor in the 1960s. As indignity after indignity befalls him, he consults his family and rabbis resulting in some of the best Coen brothers jokes so far and a new Jewish parable.