AJFF What to Watch in July 2021

07/12/2021

Reality TV collides with the (former) ultra-Orthodox lifestyle on Netflix. Meanwhile, some AJFF alums join certified classics on streaming and Blu-ray. Plus the late, great Charles Grodin's arguable best film lands on Netflix and Amazon.

Video On Demand

My Unorthodox Life (coming to Netflix)

Julia Haart is CEO of Elite World Group, a leading conglomerate of modeling agencies. She's also formerly part of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which makes for a pretty stark juxtaposition with her current lifestyle in this buzzy new reality show. But Haart, while the anchor of the show, is not really its focus, which spends more time on the lives of her four adult kids.


The Operative (coming to Netflix)

Playing at the 2020 AJFF, this Diane Kruger headlined film dives into global espionage and global conspiracies, all centering on a Mossad agent gone rogue. Martin Freeman plays her Berlin-based former handler, Thomas, who helps her navigate a slow-burning spy thriller involving an affair with an Tehran businessman and sabotage of Iran's nuclear program.


Midnight Run (coming to Netflix and Amazon Prime)

Charles Grodin passed away in May. The Jewish-American actor was incredibly versatile, making a name for himself in films like 1972's The Heartbreak Kid, playing a shouldn't-be-but-somehow-is sympathetic Jewish husband who ditches his new bride. But arguably his best film was 1988's Midnight Run, when he co-starred with Robert De Niro as a mob accountant picked up by a bounty hunter. The film isn't slap-your-face Jewish, but Grodin's persona helped infuse Jewish humor into the role, and it's a top-notch classic regardless.

On Blu Ray

Shiva Baby

Just a few months ago, this festival darling made waves at the 2021 annual festival. Now you can own a copy when Shiva Baby hits Blu-ray this July. Originally a short film (also an AJFF alum), director Emma Seligman extended the story to feature length, with a star turn by lead actress Rachel Sennott, as a young woman anxiously juggling an accumulation of mishaps and potentially disastrous encounters at a funeral call.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

This Holocaust tragedy, centered around two 8-year-old boys (one a Jewish camp inmate, the other the son of the Nazi camp commander), is based on a novel by the same name. It drew plenty of criticism for its factual inaccuracies and arguable sympathy for the Nazi family, and it's not exactly the best Holocaust film you'll ever see. Still, the film is worth a revisit for the performances of a who's who cast featuring Asa Butterfield, Vera Farmiga, and David Thewlis.


Milk

This 2008 biopic is getting a rerelease on Blu-ray this July, which just gives us another chance to rave about Sean Penn's performance as the Jewish gay rights activist. His life was cut too short, but his mark on history has been enduring, and there's no shortage of documentaries on Harvey Milk. But Penn's portrayal remains the most gripping and a must-see. It's been out on Blu-ray for a while, but if you don't already have it in your library, use this rerelease as a reason to correct that oversight.