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The old saw about academic politics that they're so vicious because the stakes are so small takes on a family dimension in this winsome Israeli comedy (a nominee for the foreign-language Oscar).
Elderly Talmud scholar Eliezer Shkolnik (Shlomo Bar-Aba) has labored on his arcane theories for decades, and his only claim to fame is being mentioned in a footnote by a revered scholar. Meanwhile, Eliezer's son Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) has eclipsed his father in honors and fame, though the elder Prof. Shkolnik thinks his son's books are unworthy as serious scholarship.
Then Eliezer gets a call from the Ministry of Education, informing him he's been picked to receive the Israel Prize, that nation's most prestigious honor. Now the rivalry, and the family tension, reaches heights of absurdity.
Writer-director Joseph Cedar (who made the 2007 Israeli military drama "Beaufort") uses quiet humor to plumb the levels of Eliezer's stubborn pride, Uriel's need to accommodate his father's wrath, and the depths of bureaucratic stupidity.
Bar-Aba (who emceed Israel's version of the improv-comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?") is particularly funny as the irascible old scholar who never forgets a slight made against him.
Opens Friday, April 20, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG for thematic elements, brief nudity, language and smoking; in Hebrew, with subtitles; 103 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.