AJFF What to Watch: Remembering Carl Reiner


Veteran Jewish comedian, writer, and director, Carl Reiner has passed away at the age of 98. We've rounded up films formerly featured at AJFF's annual festival with the legendary talent. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch. To read more about Reiner and his career, we encourage you to read The New York Times, CNN, and more.

The Bronx, USA
Seinfeld producer George Shapiro visits fond memories of old stomping grounds in this star-studded, humorous, nostalgic ode to New York’s northernmost borough. Decades after launching a successful showbiz career, Shapiro returns to the Bronx, walking the streets with childhood friends who kibitz about the glories of their immigrant neighborhood. The so-called Bronx Boys also visit their high school alma mater for an endearing encounter between the class of ’49 and students of today. Notable Bronxite interviews include Carl Reiner, Gen. Colin Powell, Robert Klein, Alan Alda and Chazz Palminteri. This hopeful, heartwarming walk down memory lane celebrates the American spirit that still unites people of diverse generations and backgrounds. Featured at the 2020 AJFF.

GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II
A profound salute to patriotism and perseverance, this documentary, featured at the 2018 AJFF, honors the hitherto overlooked half a million Jews who defended the country despite bigotry in their ranks. As America entered the war, no one had a greater interest than its Jewish population, which joined every military branch to defeat Hitler and save their European brethren. Yet, as they put their lives on the line, Jewish Americans faced anti-Semitic slurs and violence from fellow soldiers. From the terror of the front lines to the heartbreak of liberating concentration camps, these events redefined Jewish identification with American democratic ideals. Rank and file veterans, and famous ones—Mel Brooks, Henry Kissinger, Carl Reiner—share tales of physical, emotional and spiritual transformation.

If You're Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast
Irrepressible comic legend Carl Reiner and other celebrity nonagenarians regard the secret of vitality and longevity, in this documentary featured at the 2018 AJFF. This Hollywood reunion-like collection of delightful, freewheeling conversations challenges notions about aging. Joining the camaraderie are Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Kirk Douglas, Norman Lear and Betty White, and non-showbiz cohorts who still greet each morning raring to go. Offering years of insights and anecdotes, these spry seniors are as sharp, vigorous and engaged as ever, demonstrating there is still plenty of life to live after 90. Bookended by swinging performances of "The Best is Yet to Come" by Tony Bennett, and Oscar-winning composer Alan Bergman’s "Just Getting Started," this inspirational, genial gem shows how the twilight years can truly be the happiest and most rewarding.

The Last Laugh
The world's foremost comedians debate the outer limits of comedy and subjective taste in this documentary, an exploration of the taboo topic of Holocaust humor and the implications for free speech. Is a tragedy on the scale of the Holocaust ever an appropriate subject for comedy? Filmmaker Ferne Pearlstein puts the question to a pantheon of funny people, including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Gilbert Gottfried, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock and Harry Shearer, as well as Holocaust survivors and prominent Jewish leaders. Mixing levity with deeply philosophical themes, an intriguing conversation emerges over where to draw the line when it comes to jokes about the Holocaust and other so-called untouchable subjects. Interviews are augmented with movie clips, comedic stage acts, as well as seized Nazi footage of cabarets performed by prisoners inside concentration camps. Featured at the 2017 AJFF.

An ode to the Golden Age of film and television, this fly-on-the-wall comedy feast follows an affable group of famous showbiz scribes who meet for lunch, swapping jokes, ruminating on their health, and kibitzing about their careers. Twice-monthly for the past 40 years, the likes of Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Monty Hall, Arthur Hiller and other Hollywood old-timers have gathered for an invitation-only, ceremonial nosh at a Sherman Oaks deli, bantering for hours over heaping portions of matzo balls and brisket, as their longtime waitress Valerie inevitably appears just in time to step on their punch lines. Filmmaker Donna Kanter (daughter of the late comedy writer Hal Kanter) circles the lunch table to capture the priceless camaraderie of these fabled funnymen, as well as one-on-one interviews that fill in their remarkable biographies. Featured at the 2013 AJFF.

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
Participating for the first time in a biography about his own astonishing 60 years in show business, Mel Brooks puts his zany comedic genius on display in this loving profile, featured at the 2014 AJFF. Now an octogenarian, Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky) is as energetic as ever, playfully joking and jousting his way through an extended interview about his life. From the early beginnings of live television with Sid Caesar, to the ingeniously skewed film satires Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety, and late-career resurgence with the smash Broadway musical The Producers, this multi-hyphenate talent has earned more major awards than any other living entertainer. Less known are his creative risks and occasional misfires, as well as uncredited efforts to support such film artists as David Lynch and David Cronenberg. There are also wonderful glimpses into Brooks's personal life, from intimate reflections on his Brooklyn childhood, to longtime marriage to actress Anne Bancroft. Interspersed are priceless anecdotes from a gaggle of sit-downs with Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Tracey Ullman, Rob Reiner, and others.