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:
Mel Gibson wont be making his movie about the Maccabees. In related news, Rick Santorum is no longer attached to ‘Milk 2′
— Cooper,DB (@DoranSimmons) April 11, 2012
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.
Until then, us Jews will have to make do with this:
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