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The Other December Holiday
by Spotlight Mike

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The Celebration of Chanukah

The Celebration of Chanukah

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Peace on Earth Goodwill to Men, Chestnuts Roasting, etc., etc., etc. All of us make the best of the very best time of the year, through music and dance, and all sorts of Christmas delights.

If you're Christian.

There is another, equally important celebration that occurs in December, and that is the celebration of the Festival of Lights, Chanukah. Though not the most sacred time in the Jewish Faith, it is nonetheless an important season in their Religion. It celebrates the Maccabees victoriously reclaiming the temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah. In the temple they found only enough purified oil to kindle the temple light for a single day. But miraculously, the light continued to burn for eight days. The holiday, or holi-WEEK, as I refer to it (the Jewish people have the right idea - Christmas is only one lousy day; they take a whole week!) is commemorated by the lighting of the Menorah, a nine-branch candle stick. Here's something I didn't know - though Chanukah is only eight evenings, the Menorah has nine candles - the ninth candle is used to light the others, therefore the first day of Chanukah is always commemorated with two candles being lit, then one each successive evening.

But this is not a column on the history and celebrations of the Jewish Faith - we want the Entertainment!

As Christians are deluged with Holiday-themed entertainment - that seem to start around June these days - Chanukah-themed entertainment, though not as omnipresent, is out there and available in larger venues and religious-theme boutiques. I actually had to hunt down this list; some I've heard of, others were a surprise. There were even a few that, like Christmas, stretch the boundaries of good taste and thus were not included in this list (Note: they were not anti-Semitic; just not kosher). So, with that, here, in no particular order, are the Top Ten Chanukah-themed movies that are readily available in most outlets:

The HEBREW HAMMER
He's hip, he's fly, and he never mixes meat with dairy - he's the world's first Jewish private eye, and he's out to save the world in this satiric comedy. Mordechai Jefferson Carver (played by comedian Adam Goldberg) is a super-cool Jewish detective who takes no mess and is always ready to do the right thing for his Torah-reading brothers. But Carver is a lone wolf, and he isn't so sure he's interested in taking an assignment from Police Chief Bloomenbergansteinthal (veteran actor Peter Coyote) of the Jewish Justice League -- or at least not until he meets the Police Chief's gorgeous daughter, Esther Bloomenbergansteinthal (Judy Greer). It seems a mysterious stranger named
The First Kosher Hero Fighting Against THE MAN

The First Kosher Hero Fighting Against THE MAN
Damien (Andy Dick) has made it his business to persuade Jewish children to abandon their faith in favor of celebrating Christmas, and it's Carver's job to put an end to Damien's campaign while urging kids to be proud of their Semitic heritage. The HEBREW HAMMER also features Nora Dunn as Carver's kvetching mother, and a cameo appearance by Melvin Van Peebles as outlaw blaxploitation icon Sweetback.


Side Note: While we're talking about Jewish superheroes, I'd like to make a shameless plug for a friend of mine from Philly, Al Weisner, who created the Kosher Krusader, Shloman. Al has been a fixture in Artist's Row at Comic-Con and last year was a featured artist with a discussion period of his own.

A RUGRATS CHANUKAH
On Chanukah, Grandma Minkus reads a book about the meaning of the holiday to the babies Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil. The babies imagine that they are the story's characters; Judah (Tommy) is outraged by King "Antonica" (Angelica), who has taken over the Jewish kingdom and forced Greek culture on its inhabitants. Judah leads an army of Jewish Maccabees to war against Antonica's Seleucid Empire, emerging victorious. When the Maccabees rededicate the Holy Temple, they discover there is only enough olive oil to light the Temple's eternal flame for one day; miraculously, it remains lit for eight.
Meanwhile, Grandpa Boris learns that Schlomo, a rival from his youth in Russia, will be playing the Greek king in the local synagogue's Chanukah play. Boris is furious, having played the part in previous years and now being cast as Judah. The Pickles, a functional, American family, fear that Boris's rivalry with Schlomo will ruin the play. When the babies finish hearing the story, they find out about Schlomo and form the impression that he truly is the Greek king, whom they dub the "Meany of Chanukah". They go onto the stage during the play and light the Menorah, hoping to defeat the "Meany". The sentiment inadvertently leads Boris and Schlomo to remember the true meaning of Chanukah and reconcile.

LAMBCHOP'S CHANUKAH
Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah is a whimsical musical celebration of the holidays for the entire family. Children's Ventriloquist and TV Star Shari Lewis and her ever-present sock puppet companion, Lamb Chop tell the story of Chanukah and it's traditions, from potato latkes to a computer savvy Charlie Horse searching for the best online superhero. Join Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop as they affirm the spirit of this joyous holiday with celebrity friends, "Happy Days'"

The First Kosher Superhero - Shaloman

The First Kosher Superhero - Shaloman
href="http://www.matchflick.com/people/4650">Pat Morita and Alan Thicke in a celebration of learning and Jewish culture.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING as a CHANUKAH BUSH, SANDY GOLDSTEIN
Christmas is the worst time of year for Robin. That's because she has to face the same question again: Does her being Jewish really mean she can't have a Christmas tree and be a part of all the excitement around her? It doesn't help at all that her classmate, Sandy Goldstein, has a Chanukah bush; it only makes her non-Jewish friends ask Robin more questions. But help does come—from unexpected sources: Robin's grandfather and a Christmas party!

CHANUKAH at BUBBE'S
Kids of all ages will find pure enjoyment celebrating Chanukah (everybody's beloved grandmother). Join in a joyful romp with a host of colorful muppet-like characters. There is Anton the bully, who insists on having things his way, Rhino, who "horns" in before he understands the situation, Chester, who tries too hard, practical Zachary and adorable Muffin.

While this delightful group prepares for the holiday feast, we witness the past as Bubbe relates the story of Chanukah - the fight between the Greeks and the Maccabees - the miracle of the burning oil - the importance of religious freedom for all people.

LIGHTS: the MIRACLE of CHANUKAH
This movie magically takes you back to an exciting time in Jewish history. But this is much more than a retelling of the Chanukah story. This is a fascinating fantasy adventure that delivers a universal and always relevant message about the right to be different -- everyone's inalienable right to stand up for what they believe. Entertaining and enlightening, the Festival of Lights comes to life through rich animation, lush set design and the powerful narrative of Judd Hirsch (TV's "Taxi," ORDINARY PEOPLE).
Also featured are the voices of Leonard Nimoy ("Star Trek's" Mr. Spock) and Paul Michael Glaser (TV's "Starsky and Hutch").

CHANUKAH on PLANET MATZAH BALL
The Jewish inhabitants of a faraway planet made entirely of Matzah have lost touch with tradition, but when a wandering menorah crash lands on their remote planet, a nine-year-old boy named Oogy is determined to find out just what the strange object means as animation, puppetry, and music combine to offer a fun introduction to the story of Chanukah. Upon looking through his high-powered telescope, Oogy spies three Jewish children partaking in a Chanukah party on far-away planet Earth. As the festive activities unfold before his very eyes, Oogy learns about everything from potato pancakes to what it means to
The Latest Entry for the Chanukah Season

The Latest Entry for the Chanukah Season
eat a kosher meal. Now if he can just find out what to do with the menorah before the eighth night of Chanukah he can tell his entire planet about his exciting new discovery.

LOVELY BUTTERFLY: CHANUKAH
Part of the Parpar Nechmad series, this video will enable children to learn about Chanukah and its traditions through games, familiar songs, and the puppet characters, Butz and Uza. Together with their friends Ronnie and Effi, they tell stories about the Festival of Lights and sing songs, while they participate in a kindergarten Chanukah party, spin the Driedel, and learn how to make latkes.

SHALOM SESAME CHANUKAH SPECIAL
In this "Shalom Sesame" holiday special kids join the Sesame gang for a Chanukah celebration they'll never forget. Jeremy Miller ("Growing Pains") takes a trip down memory lane to beautiful Modi'in and the land of the Maccabees. Elsewhere, Levana White hosts everyone's favorite game show, "Dreidel of Fortune," and the grouchy gourmet, Moishe Oofnik, cooks up delicious jellyfish doughnuts! Plus, Joan Rivers, Alan King, and Nell Carter pay tribute to a famous Chanukah hero in a very special "This Is Your Life!"

EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS
Adam Sandler invites you to share some holiday cheer in the new, no-holds-barred musical comedy ADAM SANDLER'S EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS.. Davey Stone, a 33-year old party animal, finds himself in trouble with the law after his wild ways go too far. In keeping with the holiday spirit, the judge gives Davey one last chance at redemption-spend the holiday performing community service as the assistant referee for the youth basketball league or go to jail. Davey thinks he's gotten off easy until he meets Whitey Duvall, the eccentric, elf-like head referee. The mismatch between Whitey's good heart and never-ending optimism and Davey's constant troublemaking soon have them both wondering if going to jail wouldn't have been easier! In this new, full-length animated feature about basketball, old girlfriends, holiday spirits, and the mall, Adam Sandler voices the three lead characters of Whitey, Davey, and Whitey's fraternal twin sister, Eleanore.

So there you have it! If I missed a popular Chanukah movie, I apologize; drop me a line either through the comments area below, my Matchflick email above or on the Forum.

From sunny San Diego, I wish you the best of holiday celebrations, no matter what your persuasion may be.
Although I should get in touch with this eight-day holiday business!

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Jon
Dec 1, 2010 8:23 AM
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Loved it, Mike. Chanukah is a universal holiday. Man's never-ending quest for freedom from tyranny, still occuring today. It's not a "Jewish Christmas" by any stretch. My daughters Karen and Leigh received small gifts as kids. Now just one large present will suffice. Have a wonderful holiday season, Mike. You and your writings have earned it.
Mike Thomas
Dec 1, 2010 12:07 PM
[X] delete
Thanks, Jon.

I tried to make sure I didn't make it sound like "Jewish Christmas." I worked for a while with a Jewish theater group, and they were quite sensitive about any comparisons, which is why I named the column "The Other Holiday."

You have a wonderful Chanukah.

Enjoy your Holi-week!



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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.


Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer

Celebrity

Wishes

All Columns


Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.



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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.


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