All I Want for Hanukkah (repost)

The following post appeared on TechnologyTell’s Entertainment section on December 7, 2012. With Hanukkah a day away, and due to much of the TechnologyTell archive appearing  to have disappeared from the Internet in the last couple of days, I reproduce it here: 

Essay: All I Want For Hanukkah is A Great Hanukkah Movie

Saturday marks the first night of Hanukkah. After eating latkes, lighting candles and giving the kids their presents, I plan to sit down in the living room with my family to watch a classic Hanukkah movie.

Except that last part is impossible. Because there aren’t any. 

Yes, that’s right. Despite Jewish people not exactly being underrepresented among the ranks of Hollywood decision-makers in the last hundred years or so, there is not a single classic movie associated with Hanukkah. And that really needs to change.

This list of  the top ten Hanukkah movies is comprised mostly of obscure TV specials and forgettable direct-to-video affairs. The only ones that were released in theaters are “The Hebrew Hammer”- which is only partially about Hanukkah- and Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights,” a little-seen animated movie adaptation of Sandler’s famous “Hanukkah Song.” Neither is anything close to a holiday classic.

While it’s not the most religiously significant holiday on the Jewish calendar, the Hanukkah story is one of heroism, adventure and miracles- just about the most cinematic thing I can imagine. However, cinema has been slow to embrace the Maccabees.

Why not a Maccabees movie? Steven Spielberg never felt like this was a project worth pursuing?  Harvey Weinstein has been running movie studios for more than two decades- why didn’t he ever make a Maccabees/Hanukkah film? It would fit right in with the recent “Munich”/”Defiance”/”Inglorious Basterds” mini-genre of “Jews kicking ass.”

Such a film would also become a point of cultural pride for young Jews the world over, while also serving as a holiday television staple. After all, the last time Hollywood made an epic motion picture about the biblical origin of a Jewish holiday- 1956’s “The Ten Commandments”- it remained a TV staple for six decades.

Of course, there was a plan in place, just last spring in fact, for a movie about the Maccabees, from a director who’s an Oscar winner, a proven box office draw, and even had directed a previous religious epic. But unfortunately, I’m not sure such a film would become the point of Jewish pride I have in mind, were Mel Gibson’s name attached to it.

Then again, the news of Gibson’s departure from the Maccabees project led to both a memorable Ebook from collaborator Joe Eszterhas and to one of the best tweets of the year, from Doran Simmons:

So come on, Hollywood, get on this. Imagine the tie-in opportunities: Commemorative dreidels! Hannukkah gelt! A video game, in which the goal is to make the oil burn for eight days!

My two boys’ gentile friends will always have “A Christmas Story.” I want my kids to have a constantly looping holiday classic of their own.


My 20 Favorite Things I Wrote in 2016

A personal ranking of my favorite published writings this year:

1. “The Ga-ga Saga”- Tablet. A piece 30 years in the making, as I trace the question of where, exactly, the summer camp sport of Ga-ga came from.

2. “Phillies Fans Cheered Chase Utley- and There’s Nothing Soft About It”– CSNPhilly. I defend the majority of Philly fans against the sports radio hordes who demanded they boo longtime a longtime Phillies hero when he came back to town with the Dodgers.

3. “Sam Hinkie is Gone- But the Hinkie Wars Rage On” (The Cauldron)– My overview of the Hinkie wars, post-Sam Hinkie- and I still can’t believe my byline appeared on  

4. “Protesting Clinton’s Crime Record” (Splice Today) My report from the campaign rally when former President Bill Clinton and an activist yelled at each other- the coverage of which led to the back and side of my head appearing on multiple network newscasts as well as Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed documentary 13th.  

5. “Brandeis University Hosts Historic Lenny Bruce Conference” (Tablet) I returned to my alma mater to report on the most cursing-and-Yiddish-filled academic conference in recent history.  

6. “Bernie or Bust at the DNC” (Splice Today) On a ridiculously hot day I reported from the streets outside the Democratic National Convention, where I saw everything from a 90-foot joint to a Christian cult that chased Bernie Sanders into the Philadelphia Convention Center, and also met Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.  

7. “Politicalfest DNC Exhibitions” (Broad Street Review) Also at the DNC, I reported on a series of political exhibits, and drew from them a valuable lesson about the meaning of politics. 

8. “PC Isn’t Strangling Comedy” (Splice Today). I reviewed the anti-PC documentary Can We Take a Joke, and objected in full its premise.  

9. “It’s Always Sunny in La La Land” (Broad Street Review). I reviewed my favorite movie of the year, as it opened the Philadelphia Film Festival.

10. “Kimmel Center in Talks For Philly Run of Hamilton” (Philly Voice) In my first Philly Voice piece I broke the story that everyone’s favorite revolutionary musical may be heading to town.

11. “20 Years a Critic” (this blog) My commemoration of my 20th anniversary as a film critic

12. “My Family’s Bridge to Brooklyn” (Tablet) I tell the story of my family’s decades-long relationship with the long-defunct TV series Brooklyn Bridge; for this story I interviewed Happy Days’ Marion Ross.

13. “No, Tim Kaine Did Not Hold a Rally With Only 30 People” (Blasting News.) I wrote a lot of debunkings of silly campaign stories this year; this was probably the one that the most people read.

14. “Batman v. Superman is a Disaster” (Splice Today) I went all the way to San Francisco to see one of the worst superhero movies ever made.

15. “Fans Petition to Shut Down Rotten Tomatoes Over DC Movie Reviews” (Screenrant) And not because I’m on the take from Disney or Marvel…

16. “Midnight For Midtown II: Scenes From a Restaurant’s Final Day” (The Lightning Strike) I reported from the final day in business for Philadelphia’s Midtown II Diner.

17. “A New Low: The Gross Tabloid Attack on Malia Obama” (Blasting News.) Defending the right of the First Daughter to go to Lollapalooza.

18. “No, Jon Stewart Couldn’t Have Stopped Donald Trump” (Medium) There were lot of bad conservative talking points this year; here’s a rebuttal to a pretty dumb liberal one

19. “Pederson Will Be Eagles Coach” (Fox29) There’s not a lot about my brief, unhappy tenure in local TV news that I look back on with pride, but I did help the station become the first in town with the news of the new Eagles coach.

20.  Prince, Music Legend and Oscar Winner, Dies at 57” (Screenrant); “My Thoughts on Prince” (this blog.) Prince was so important that I wrote two different obits of him.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

The Week in Silver: Life Will Go On Edition

I tend to be an optimist. In life, in sports fandom, and even in political junkiedom. My team loses? We’ll get ‘em next time. Bad day today? Tomorrow is another day. I even remember reacting to George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 by hoping (correctly, it turned out) that the next Democrat for president would be better than John Kerry.

Even after last Tuesday, my first instinct was to write a column about how there are silver linings in Trump’s victory.

But even so: This is bad. This is really bad. This is former-publisher-of-a-white-nationalist-white-as-top-advisor-to-the-president bad. 17 people ran for president on the Republican side this year- and the worst of them all ended up elected president. Well, second-worst, because I just remembered  Mike Huckabee.

I want to say it’s going to be all right, that GOP infighting will prevent Trump from getting much done, that Obama achievements like Obamacare and the Iran deal will prove too difficult to undo, and that Trump’s presidency will be occasioned primarily by the chief executive slowly, inevitably, destroying himself. That is, I repeat, the best-case scenario.

But I don’t know that I could look a Muslim-American, or an undocumented immigrant, in the eye and tell them that it’s all going to be all right. And I’m certainly not going to get on my high horse and tell people not to protest. Since the election, supporters of one side have protested, supporters of the other have committed a whole bunch of hate crimes. I know which one I find more- what’s the word- deplorable?

America is strong. It has survived tyrants before, and ugly as things get, we’ll survive this one too. Journalists will do great work. So will activists, and so will artists. All deserve our support.

There’s a lot of blame to go around for Tuesday’s result, some small measure of it even belonging to people besides Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. But the important thing now, for people who care about this country, is to fight Trump, and resist him, and ultimately consign Trumpism into what one former president called “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.”


As I mentioned last time, I started a new job last month with Frank Recruitment Group, and I’m really loving things so far. I especially love the team I’m working with- I know it was a good group by the end of the first week, when I quoted “Avenue Q” and everyone sitting near me got the reference.

I’m the social media and marketing manager for Anderson Frank, which handles recruitment for NetSuite developers, consultants and other professionals. You can help me out by following Anderson Frank on Twitter, liking it on Facebook and adding it on LinkedIn.

You can also read my first two blog posts: One is about NetSuite’s acquisition by Oracle, and the other an earlier preview of SuiteWorld.

Right before I started at FRG, I went up to Brandeis for the conference on the legacy of Lenny Bruce. Here’s my report, for Tablet magazine.

At Splice Today, I reviewed Moonlight Arrival and Loving and Doctor Strange.

For Medium, I wrote about some irresponsible reporting on Teddy Bridgewater’s injury:

At Blasting News:

And at Screenrant:

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver. 


The Week in Silver: Back to Work Edition

I’m happy to report the news that I am returning to full-time work next week, in a new role as Social Media and Content Marketing Executive at Frank Recruitment Group. It’s a global recruiting firm, based in the UK and focused on the tech industry, although I’ll be on the web and social media side.

Some people say they hate working in an office, but I love it, and I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the energy and camaraderie of working closely with other people, and I’m excited to do that again starting Monday. I’ll also be right in Center City, at 18th and Market, so I’m free to meet those nearby for lunch. Anything I write that’s customer-facing will be shared here as well.

Luckily, the timing of my new job worked out perfectly, as I was able to attend more of the Philadelphia Film Festival than usual, while later this week I’ll be back at my alma mater, Brandeis, Thursday and Friday for the Comedy and the Constitution: The Legacy of Lenny Bruce” conference. Look for full coverage of both of those in the next week or two. And yes, with the new job I am planning to continue all of my outside writing, movie reviews included.

It was quite a long and at times agonizing job search, ever since I parted ways with Fox 29 back in February. There was the promising job that I went to New York to interview for and found out I didn’t get before I was even out of New Jersey. There was the really great-sounding position that I got all the way to the offer stage with before I was told, at the last minute, that it was unpaid. And there was the one I applied to, before I figured out that it was the publications arm of a cult. But anyway, thank you so much, everyone, for your support during my time out of work.

Here are some links to recent published writing:

Speaking of PFF: I previewed the lineup at Then, I reviewed the wondrous opening film, La La Land, as well as four more films at the festival, at Broad Street Review.

At Splice Today, I reviewed The Accountant, as well as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

At Blasting News:

– On the unintentionally hilarious “Wet Works” conspiracy theory, claiming that John Podesta had Justice Antonin Scalia murdered.

– Why your individual pet peeves aren’t to blame for the NFL’s ratings drop.

– Why lawn signs don’t matter.

– Disproving that myth about the “Tim Kaine rally with 30 people.”

And at Screenrant:

A video previewing the return of Twin Peaks. 

Why there shouldn’t be a HIMYM reunion.

The Coen Brothers are working on a movie called Dark Web.

On the marketing of Deadpool.

The last Spider-man, Andrew Garfield, is excited about the new one.

Andrew Lincoln talked about the Walking Dead premiere.

Joe Manganiello says The Batman starts filming in the spring.

And Adam West wants to be in the new movie.

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver. 

The Week in Silver: “As the Father of Sons…” Edition

Last week, when the tape surfaced from 2005 of Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush in rather disgusting terms about his behavior with women- from pursuing married women to sharing his tendency to “grab them by the pussy,” much was made of a couple of things: One, it’s probably the killshot that ends Trump’s presidential campaign. And two, many, many people couldn’t interpret Trump’s comments in any way other than pointing out that they have daughters.

A whole lot of denouncements of Trump included the phrase “as the father of daughters,” while many others described potential victims of the crotch grabbing, or sex crimes in general, as “somebody’s daughter,” or “somebody’s sister” or “somebody’s wife.” The more accurate description, I’d say, is simply “somebody.” That such a thing was actually pointed out, on television and other prominent media outlets, by many people is perhaps a sign that political correctness has done more good than harm.

I was as disgusted by Trump’s comments as everyone else, albeit not especially surprised; this isn’t exactly one of those caught-on-tape scandals that exposes someone as the opposite of what they otherwise claimed to be. Trump’s raging misogyny is been glaringly obvious not only since the start of his campaign, but really for his entire 40-some-odd years as a public figure. No one backing away from Trump only after the Billy Bush tapes has any excuse for not realizing that until now.

In reacting to Trump, I’m not able to play the “as the father of daughters” card, as I only have sons. But I have noticed I’ve been paying attention to, and thinking about, issues related to gender, sexism and feminism a whole lot more in the last few years than I ever did before.

Part of the reason is that these issues are out there at the forefront culturally a whole lot in past 4 or 5 years, and part of it is what I’ve been choosing to read. Some of it is the presidential race between a raving woman-hater and the probable first female president of the United States. But a lot of it also has to do with thinking a lot about my sons, and what type of men I wish and hope for them to one day become.

All of this has led me to notice a lot of things that I probably should have a long time earlier: That a lot of things I know and love in life, from the NFL to the movie criticism world to politics, have huge, endemic problems related to toxic masculinity. That way, way too many people in the world tend to reduce everything from sports to business to political campaigns down to who is a “real man” and “tough” and who is “soft” and “a pussy.” And that women go through and deal with things in life on an everyday basis- from workplace sexual harassment to strange men telling them to smile to serious pressures related to weight and body image- that men in most cases have the luxury of not even needing to think about.

Not to be that faux-woke guy who falsely quotes his precocious kids on Twitter, but I have said to my children, on more than one occasion, to watch the behavior of Donald Trump and always do the exact opposite. I know they’re young, and I know there will be many, many discussions in the future about many more difficult issues than that, but it’s a start. And good advice for us all: Don’t act anything like Donald Trump. And don’t vote for him, either.

On to the links, and a big one this week: My first-ever piece for’s The Cauldron, about the state of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Process Wars, following the departure of Sam Hinkie.

For Splice Today, I reviewed Deepwater Horizon and Masterminds, and then The Birth of a Nation and Girl on the Train.

For, I previewed some local screenings of Robert Altman’s The Player. 

At Screenrant:

Virtual reality is coming to The Simpsons.

Tony Almeida will return on the 24 spinoff.

Christopher Nolan is Hollywood’s highest-paid director.

Netflix makes a deal to help with Oscar eligibility of its films. 

Game of Thrones location news.

… and some casting.

They’re already working on a John Wick 3.

And a Bad Moms spinoff called Bad Dads.

And a movie that sounds like a remake of Oz: The Great and Powerful.

The Shooter TV series is coming in November.

And at Blasting News:

On topic of the above: Why Donald Trump’s viciousness towards women will be his undoing. 

If you’re voting for Trump because you think he’ll “put a stop to” your pet peeves, don’t.

SNL may be off to a great start this year, but they won’t “take down” Trump on their own.

Thoughts on the second presidential debate.

Why I don’t believe the killer clowns are real.

No, Kim Kardashian did not fake her robbery.

On the “Junket Censorship Crisis.”

Why it’s wrong to use Jose Fernandez’s death against Colin Kaepernick. 

Shanah tovah to those celebrating, and as always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

The Week in Silver: 20 Years a Critic Edition

Today, September 27, represents the 20th anniversary of the release of Extreme Measures, the Hugh Grant/Gene Hackman medical thriller, directed by Michael Apted, from 1996. This anniversary has gone completely un-remarked upon on movie sites and Film Twitter, and for good reason- it’s a totally forgettable movie with a generic title, which took a half-hearted stab at caring about medical ethics but was otherwise a nondescript flop. If it’s remembered at all, it’s as not one of the better films in the career catalog of its director or either of its stars.

I remember Extreme Measures for another reason: It was the first movie I ever reviewed in print.

It was my freshman year of college at Brandeis, and after taking a stab at writing sports articles for the student newspaper, The Justice and realizing that that entailed writing profiles of track and field competitors and game stories about volleyball, I decided to try the arts section instead, and was made aware for the first time of a wonderful thing called “press screenings.” I went into Boston, saw the screening — at the old Copley Place theater, I think — and reviewed it for the Justice that week (the archive of the actual review is lost to multiple server upgrades and thus to history, although I probably have the paper copy somewhere in either my basement or my parents’.)

It’s been 20 years and I never really stopped. I reviewed another movie and then another, and soon I was an arts columnist and later arts editor of the Justice. As years passed, my movie reviews would appear, in addition to The Justice and my own various blogs, at Hot Movie Ticket, American Dreamer Filmworks, The Trend/Trend Leader, Patch, EntertainmentTell/TechnologyTell, Patch again, Fox 29, Broad Street Review and Splice Today.

Reviewing movies has never been my primary job — there aren’t a lot of people left who can say that it is — but I do consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to do it, and quite an accomplishment that I’ve been able to convince multiple for-profit enterprises, including AOL and News Corp., to pay me money to see and write about movies. I’ve thankfully been able to continue doing this into adulthood, and through marriage and fatherhood as well.

So thank you so much to everyone who’s been reading all this time, or even for part of this time. Here’s to 20 more years, and if I ever get to the point where I’m no longer appreciative that I get to do this, then I’ll stop. But not until then. You can read all of my reviews since 2008-  all the ones with live links, anyway- at my Rotten Tomatoes page.

Speaking of movie reviews: I reviewed Snowden and Bridget Jones’ Baby, as well as Author: The JT Leroy Story and Eight Days a Week, all for Splice Today. The Leroy story includes some quotes from an interview I did with the director.

At Farm Dog Productions, I wrote about the new Raiders! documentary, which showed at two Philly theaters last week. And I also wrote about the recent Blue Velvet anniversary showing.

Going from film to food, I wrote for Broad Street Review about a pair of new books about Jewish food, and an author talk about them at the Gershman Y.

And at Screenrant:

I eulogize director Curtis Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential. 

Another obituary, for Radio Raheem himself, Bill Nunn.

People are going to die on the next Game of Thrones season.

Margot Robbie is hosting the SNL season premiere.

Jared Leto will join the long list of actors playing Andy Warhol in biopics- except this time it’s an actual biopic of Warhol as opposed to one of his associates.

Michael Giacchino is going to score Rogue One.

Preview of the Ice Cube/Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight.

Spike Lee is reviving She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix.

Jack Bauer could return- but only for a movie that will probably never be made.

And at Blasting News:

– No, that “Brock Turner speaking tour” story isn’t true.

– No, this isn’t the end of the birther controversy.

– Why it’s wrong to use the death of Jose Fernandez to attack Colin Kaepernick.

– Why Keith Olbermann’s return is welcome- but he’s not going to singlehandedly defeat Trump.

The West Wing cast isn’t going to either.

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

The Week in Silver: Barack on the Parkway Edition

On Tuesday I went to go see the president of the United States speak, at a rally for Hillary Clinton at Eakins Oval near the Art Museum. It was actually my first time seeing Obama speak in person since he did a rally, also in Philly, back during the 2008 primaries.

It was a usual Obama speech- he had the crowd rapt at attention and eating out of his hand the entire time, chanting various things and cheering the entire 40 minutes he was on stage. The speech made news when Obama said some pointed things about Donald Trump, and also when he praised Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and said that Vice President/Eagles fan Joe Biden had tried to persuade him to “get on the Wentz Wagon.”

It just sort of reenforces what I’ve long felt about the president: He IS the Democrats’ Ronald Reagan. In the sense that, for probably the next 25 years he’ll be the measuring stick by which all other Democratic presidential candidates are measured, and chances are most if not all of the others will come up short. And it’s for many of the same reasons Reagan is beloved by Republicans: His presidency has been successful. He’s a great speaker and orator. He assembled a very specific winning coalition that had been elusive for his party for a long time before he came along. And both his failures and deviations from political orthodoxy have a good chance of being de-emphasized with the passage of time.

This isn’t to say that Hillary Clinton won’t win the election- I assume she will (I HOPE she will!) But Obama is a once-in-a-generation political talent, the likes of whom won’t be seen anytime again soon.

On to the links…

My big story this week is for Tablet magazine’s The Scroll, in honor of the 25th anniversary of my family’s TV show Brooklyn Bridge. I spoke to the legendary Marion Ross, and dug out the letters between my father and the show’s creator, the late Gary David Goldberg. I have no defense or explanation for why I’m wearing a teal Florida Marlins hat in the picture from ’93.

My only complaint about the Obama speech? They didn’t have him ascend the Art Museum steps like Rocky and speak from the top. Sure, the museum made a nice backdrop, but come on! Speaking of Rocky, they’re showing it in Philly (well, Bryn Mawr) on September 21, and I previewed it at Farmdog.

I reviewed Sully at Splice Today.

At Mapquest’s Parachute, a list of Philly’s best venues for local music- aka “Places I’m Too Old to Ever Go to Anymore.”

At Blasting News:

Why “Basket of Deplorables” is actually brilliant politics.

Seven answers to seven questions about Hillary Clinton’s health.

What was off about Ann Coulter’s Comedy Central roast appearance.

And at Screenrant:

I eulogized the late Alexis Arquette. Did you know Arquette played the guy in the bathroom with the gun in Pulp Fiction? I didn’t until this week.

Previewing season 2 of the great Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Can’t wait for this one- Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan and Michelle MacLaren are working on an HBO miniseries about Jonestown.

Looking at Star Trek’s official 50th-anniversary video.

Tenacious D writes a tribute song for Jon Snow.

For old time’s sake I wrote up the latest iPhone announcement.

Could the Walking Dead premiere have more than one death?

And it’s the trailer for Collateral Beauty, which could be the laughingstock film of fall.

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver