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Photo courtesy of the Ruderman Family Foundation

It’s not exactly Brooklyn down here, but Texas has a few claims to Jewish food fame. An original TV series, Jewish Foodie, explores some of those Southwestern-Semitic phenomena in a two-episode arc dedicated just to Texas.

The 10-episode series by the Ruderman Family Foundation — with dual missions to advocate for disabled Jews and connect all Jewish community members with their Isreali cultural heritage — was made to be viewed bidirectionally. While American Jews learn about their roots, Israelis are encouraged to learn about less-discussed Jewish communities in the United States. Hosted by Israeli actor and comedian Ori Laizerouvich, it promises “a colorful tour from shakshuka to breakfast tacos to burgers.”

Both episodes are dedicated to Jewish life in Austin, one of which dedicates all its screen time to “Jewish Cowboy” Jonathan Hochman, an ex-professional bull rider who teaches Laizerouvich to make shakshuka-style huevos rancheros. Hochman makes a subtle shift to vegetable oil from olive oil to mellow the Mediterranean taste and make it work in a Tex-Mex style.

The other episode does more exploring, led by Rabbi Neil Blumofe, senior rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin. He and Laizerouvich travel to Biderman’s Deli, known for its bagels and sandwiches, for breakfast tacos with pastrami served by owner Zach Biderman. Then they make perhaps the most obvious stop, JewBoy Burgers, for burgers topped with latkes, and a talk about stereotypes with owner Mo Pittle. He explains the somewhat controversial name as having more in line with the nickname “homeboy” than an anti-Semitic slur.

“‘This is my story. You don’t have to like it, but I ask that you respect my opinion and my story,’” Pittle says in the show. “‘Communication is everything. Food, culture — the more we talk, the better things will be.’”

The series makes a point — or several — to discuss the diversity of “American Jewry,” never more evident than in Austin, where its examples reflected not just Texas, but further cultural overlap with the East Coast and Mexico.

“I know that a lot of people, a lot of Israelis, don’t think about Austin other than maybe the music,” quotes the press release of Rabbi Blumofe. “But there’s a really thriving Jewish community here as well. … People ask me why I stay in Austin. It’s because it’s a really wonderful family and a great place to continue to grow and dream.”

The multilingual series, subtitled in English, also makes stops in Arkansas, New York, Tennessee, and Wyoming. It is available to watch for free on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia

7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco

Royal revelation

“Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV’s Fixer Upper. This time, it wasn't the home owners waiting outside a first glimpse at their home makeover; it was a small group of tourists gathered on the porch, ready to step inside the Gaineses’ most ambitious renovation project yet — a century-old castle in Waco.

For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show.

Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this three-story, 6,700-square-foot residence was started in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaineses purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal flip that will be featured on an eight-episode special called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The Castle, beginning October 14.

They plan to sell it in the fall. But before a home sale comes an open house, and for three months only — through October 29 — the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.

Hour-long castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook, and cranny — from turret to toilettes. Knowledgeable guides dispense history, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories from Chip and Jo that may or may not make it on TV.

For Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia maniacs, and Gaines gangs, it's worth a drive up I-35 to Waco to experience the castle transformation in real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a 10-foot-tall, 400-pound, solid-oak door) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo reno.

Without revealing too much, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.

1. History meets homey. A castle museum, this is not.

“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces but also make it more practical for the modern family that’s going to live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the beginning of the tour.

While many original features — including seven fireplaces — were restored, the castle has been fixed up as a home for the future, not a shrine to the past. One-of-a-kind and collected antiques (such as the kingly dining room table from Round Top, Texas) blend with pieces from the Gaineses’ own Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design elements and products and where to buy them. And in the ultimate modern touch — a branding tie-in — a forthcoming “Colors of the Castle” paint collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.

2. Sweet nods to the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the foyer is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed construction in 1913. It talks of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ all seasons of the year.”

On the center of the dining room fireplace mantel is Abeel’s family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Next to it, children’s heights are recorded from the 1930s to the early 2000s, the last time a family lived here.

3. A cozy nook in the turret. The original design was modeled after a small castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and there is one tower turret. A space historically used (in “real” castles) for military defense has, here, been turned into one of the coziest corners of the house. Tucked into a corner next to the winding staircase, two comfy chairs sit under an antique-y light fixture from Austria. It's the perfect place to curl up with a book from the library upstairs.

4. Rooms with storylines. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna had when they bought the castle was, there was no one, really, they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “So they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”

Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom,” and “girl’s bedroom.” The storylines are that the future homeowner’s son would come back from college and stay in his childhood bedroom, and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while hanging out at the grandparents’ house.

The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decor, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink,” a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.

5. Bodacious bathrooms. There are three-and-a-half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they’re some of the prettiest spaces, mixing metals, woods, and tiles; even original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom — which (tease!) will be fully revealed on the show.

6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle, they take place in the dungeon — er, basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights sits next to the family room, which houses the only TV in the castle. The guest bedroom’s also in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former wine cellar now left “blank” for the new owners to reimagine.

7. Behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits. Fixer Upper devotees will devour the charming and quirky tidbits about the Gaineses shared throughout the tour. There are a few design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a fun story about what Chip did when they found bones — yes, bones — in the basement. And, the prime selfie spot for Fixer Upper fans is a large mirror that, the tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup during the filming of the show.

Castle tour tickets, $50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting The Cove nonprofit organization. (Note that the home does not have an elevator and requires guests’ ability to access three staircases.)

Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage in Waco:
Shop: No castle jaunt would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and on the roof before the crowds (and the heat) arrive. Hint: August is a “slower” month at the Silos, and Tuesday through Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets are $25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.

Eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe stays busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab to-go items like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter flight, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches, and enjoy them on a table outside (if it's not too hot).

Stay: Availability at Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to come by, but watch the website for nights to pop open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay at the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go solo and book the darling Hillcrest Cottage, the Gaineses’ newest and smallest lodging, which opened in fall 2021. A forthcoming Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Shrine building downtown, is slated to open in 2024.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Texas doctor dives into Shark Tank with invention that stops hiccups

Shark bait

Humans are weird. Take, as a perfect example, the phenomenon of hiccups — the sudden and involuntary spasm of the diaphragm muscle between regular breaths. All humans experience them, and so do other mammals and even amphibians. But we’re guessing other animals don’t approach treating hiccups in the wacky ways humans do.

For instance, some less-than-successful hiccup remedies of lore include sipping water upside down (and subsequently trying to not drown), holding one’s breath for a long time (and often hiccupping throughout the hold anyway), sucking on a peppermint, gagging oneself or pulling on the tongue, and even gobbling up a spoonful of peanut butter to help change the breathing and swallowing pattern.

The truth is those ideas are mostly a waste of breath. Luckily, one Texas doctor has invented a device that supposedly instantly relieves hiccups — and his invention is getting so much attention that he’s even hooked a chance to pitch the product on a new episode of ABC’s entrepreneurial-focused reality show, Shark Tank.

Dr. Ali Seifi, a neurointensivist at UT Health San Antonio and the inventor of the aptly named HiccAway, will appear on an episode of Shark Tank that airs Friday, January 21 at 7 pm. (If you miss the live show, you can catch up with it on the ABC website, which streams Shark Tank episodes after they air. So does Hulu.)

HiccAway, a straw-like device that a hiccup sufferer uses to sip water through, is likely to wow the sharks — maybe even take their breath away? — as it is the world’s first scientifically proven medical product that safely relieves hiccups.

In fact, HiccAway was recently the subject of an article in JAMA Network Open, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association Network. The article addresses a four-month cross-sectional study of 249 participants from multiple countries that found that HiccAway stopped hiccups in almost 92 percent of cases and was rated a heck of a lot more favorably than home remedies.

“I believe that the science behind our product is what makes our product trustworthy and reliable. There are many hiccup remedies that are all hit and miss with no exact science to them,” Seifi says. “Some healthcare products claim they can cure a medical condition, but they don’t have scientific backup to support the product. I can confidently state that HiccAway is one of the few products on Shark Tank so far with a strong published research study as a backup.”

While hiccups are simply an annoyance for most of us, they can also be chronic for patients with cancer, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain or thoracic injury, and even for patients who have had surgery that requires anesthesia.

“After I witnessed my own neurology patients suffering from hiccups without an effective treatment, I was inspired to develop a safe and effective device that would be simple to use and easily available to all people,” Seifi says. “When you forcefully sip water through the device, it keeps the phrenic and vagus nerves occupied, so they don’t have enough time to cause unwanted spasms in the diaphragm. This interruption stops the hiccups.”

While the HiccAway device is already available to purchase through hiccaway.com and on Amazon, as well as at walmart.com and even in H-E-B stores throughout South Texas and at heb.com, Shark Tank (which boasts a viewing audience of about 7 million) could propel HiccAway and Seifi into a new realm of entrepreneurial success.

“For me, the experience was surreal,” says Victor Fehlberg, president and CEO of Higher Innovations Inc., which manufactures and distributes HiccAway from the Denver area. “It took so long to prepare, so much time was spent waiting, that when the pitch and appearance were finally recorded, it went too fast. It was like I was dreaming because it had been so long in the making.”

The Shark Tank appearance is likely a dream come true for Seifi and the HiccAway team — and a total breath of fresh air for the hiccup-suffering public.

5 Fab Five-approved local businesses featured on Queer Eye’s new Austin season

Queer Eye for the Austin guy — and gal

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve heard that the Fab Five have left their mark on Austin.

That’s right, the new season of Queer Eye was filmed in our fair city and features 10 episodes highlighting Austinites whose lives were changed by the Fab Five: Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Antoni Porowski (and Porowski’s Austin Pets Alive!-adopted dog, Neon).

Netflix announced production had begun on the Austin-based sixth season of the show in March 2020, and we all know what happened shortly thereafter. But after some production delays and what felt like a lifetime of waiting patiently, the new season finally premiered on December 31, just in time to fulfill your New Year’s resolution of crying happy tears while glued to a heartwarming television show.

The Fab Five visited many classic and otherwise beloved Austin locales — the Broken Spoke, Austin Motel, Swedish Hill Bakery, Easy Tiger — but they also highlighted a few local businesses off the beaten path that you may not know about.

Here are five cool Austin spots the Fab Five visited that you — and every other diehard Queer Eye fan in town — will definitely want to add to your 2022 must-visit list.

OMG Squee
The owner of this East Austin dessert shop, Sarah Lim, is the featured hero in episode nine, “A Legend in the Baking.” And OMG Squee is just as cute as the name implies, offering Asian American desserts like mochi doughnuts, bubble tea, macarons, and more. And it’s all gluten-free. Not only are the desserts delicious, but they’re so cute that you might not even want to eat them. (We said “might,” people.) Just look at this adorable Hello Kitty doughnut!

At one point in the OMG Squee episode, Lim even accompanies Porowski and France to Sour Duck Market to teach them how to decorate baked goods (and teaches us all a lesson in relinquishing control and delegating tasks — because, you know, Queer Eye is all about hiding secret life wisdom in the guise of piping glazed doughnuts to look like cute teddy bears).

As you can imagine, OMG Squee is “busier than ever,” as Lim told Bustle in December, but you can pre-order your tasty baked goods online and pick them up from the store.

Damn, Glam!
If you haven’t heard of Austin’s hottest new beauty salon, good luck getting an appointment now that founder and CEO Tiffany Hunter is deservedly in the center of the Queer Eye spotlight.

Featured in episode six of the new season as hero Jereka Thomas embraces her natural hair, Damn, Glam! is a full-service hair and nail salon in an East Austin studio space you’ll want to hang out in all day long.

Bloomers and Frocks Vintage Store
Bloomers and Frocks is also featured in Sarah Lim’s episode as France teaches the baker how to use sustainable fashion to feel confident in her own skin. The South First Street vintage shop specializes in one-of-a-kind finds from the 1910s to the 1980s, but its specialty is classic dresses from the 1960s and earlier. You can even sell your vintage clothes there, too.

Liberation Barbell Club
Featured in episode two, 22-year-old athlete and Olympic weightlifting coach Angel Flores learns to find confidence as a trans woman with the help of the Fab Five, and by training at Liberation Barbell Club. (Her coach at the gym even nominated her for the show.)

A no-frills strength-training gym in Southeast Austin, Liberation Barbell Club offers powerlifting classes, Olympic weightlifting classes (taught by Flores herself), and open gym hours for both the public and gym members.

Garden Seventeen
You may not have heard of this garden center that opened during the height of the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, but if you’re planning your spring gardening strategy (or if you’re a wannabe plant parent unsure where to start), you’ll want to check out Garden Seventeen.

The garden center not only sells indoor and outdoor plants, but also plans to offer classes for plant enthusiasts (stay tuned to the website for details).

Garden Seventeen was also featured in episode six, when Berk visited with Thomas and her son, Carter, to provide fountains, plants, and pots for her home and medical practice. Garden Seventeen’s sister company, Native Edge, provided landscaping for Thomas’ home.

Waco’s favorite fixer uppers finally debut their Magnolia Network

Holy Shiplap

Are y’all ready to see a lot of Fixer Upper? Cruise on over to Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new Magnolia Network, which finally just premiered on cable TV, taking over the old DIY Network and building the Waco-based couple’s entertainment empire even bigger.

The new station, which the Gaineses announced way back in 2018, stealthily jumped from streaming platform (Discovery+) to cable world overnight on January 5, then aired an entire day’s worth of Fixer Upper reruns before officially making its official launch official at 8 pm ... with Fixer Upper: Welcome Home.

The Waco TV stars had promised more than themselves, though. And they made good on it. By day two, viewers got a marathon of Maine Cabin Masters and the introduction of The Lost Kitchen, one of Magnolia’s new original shows. Then more Fixer Upper.

As reported by People magazine, in addition to five seasons’ worth of Fixer Upper, the Gaineses are launching the network with “a huge slate of original programming throughout the month of January,” including Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, Restoration Road with Clint Harp, Home Work, Family Dinner, The Johnnyswim Show, Mind for Design, and Zoë Bakes.

Next month, two more original series will premiere, the magazine says — Super Dad and The Lost Kitchen — as well as season 2 of Magnolia Table. In March, season 3 of Magnolia Table will drop, they say, along with three more series: Ranch to Table, Inn the Works, and Homegrown.

Missing from that three-month planner is Self Employed, the Magnolia original series starring Texas entrepreneur Jonathan Morris.

In the show, Morris travels around the country meeting inspiring small-business owners, who share stories of success, challenge, and resilience — along with lessons and best practices to inspire other entrepreneurs. The series debuted last summer, with all eight episodes now available to subscribers of the Magnolia App and Discovery+.

Given the grave omission of Self Employed from the Magnolia lineup, CultureMap reached out to a network spokesperson to find out when the show might make its TV debut, and whether another season was coming.

“We do not have a cable premiere date for Self Employed yet, as our original shows will premiere throughout the year,” spokesperson Taylor Griffin said by email. “No news yet on a season 2 either, but will keep you posted.”

In a December news release, the Gaineses said, “We’ve been amazed by the stories and storytellers we’ve found, people whose lives are living proof that our world is full of beauty, hope, courage, and curiosity. We can’t wait to see these stories brought to life on cable this January, and we’re hopeful about the impact it might have — to help reclaim the best of what television can be.”

Magnolia Network is available now for cable subscribers who previously had DIY Network.

New Braunfels beekeeper generates buzz with new nationwide PBS reality show

TV hive

A local beekeeper is about to generate some national buzz.

Charlie Bee Company, a reality TV show starring New Braunfels beekeeper and bee removal specialist Charlie Agar, is scheduled to debut January 8 on KLRU, Austin’s PBS affiliate. This spring, the series is set to air nationwide on PBS stations.

The eight one-hour episodes of Charlie Bee Company track Agar as he goes about his work along the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

“People are just now beginning to understand how important bees are to the ecosystem, and I’m so excited to share my love for all things bees and beekeeping,” Agar says in a news release. “We had an absolute blast making this show.”

Austin-based Iniosante Studios developed the series. The genesis of the show was a 2017 meeting between Agar and wildlife documentary filmmaker Ashley Scott Davison, executive producer at Iniosante.

“The first time we followed Charlie on one of his bee removals, I got stung more than 20 times,” Davison recalls. “I was literally pulling stingers out of my leg. I knew right there we had a show that people would be glued to.”

Davison and his crew followed Agar for more than a year. Aside from Agar’s exploits, the show includes interviews with university researchers, behind-the-scenes looks at commercial beekeeping operations, and the rescue of a bee hive during a Texas Gulf Coast hurricane.

“What we like about the show is that it’s educational and there is a message about protecting pollinators, but it’s also just downright fun and entertaining,” says David Lauderman, director of programming at KLRU.

To watch a preview of the series, visit the Vimeo website.

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26 Austin restaurants and bars that are giving back on GivingTuesday

Tastes Good

Even Austinites who love to give time and funds on a regular basis — weekly volunteering, donating in friends' names for birthdays, participating in crowdfunding when it comes up — it’s a lot to keep track of. Especially during the holiday season, shopping for friends, family, and busy-time-of-the-year incidentals, a lot of our good intentions fade to the background.

There is a worldwide holiday to keep people on track: GivingTuesday, a recent addition to the Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday pipeline, asks people to take a step back from the consumerist shuffle and think about what they can give outside of their usual habits.

This year, it falls on November 29, and local nonprofit I Live Here, I Give Here (ILHIGH) has a long cheat sheet for Austinites looking to make a difference, including a roster of 26 food and drink businesses donating a portion of proceeds from November 26 to December 2.

GivingTuesday is split into regions, by country and then further by city. ILHIGH, the organization that founded Amplify Austin Day in 2013, is going into its sixth GivingTuesday as the official leader of the Central Texas region, offering a searchable, categorized list of Austin nonprofits that would love some help. The restaurant portion is a little different; organized in partnership with Good Work Austin, a restaurant industry support system that also works against food insecurity, the initiative gets Austinites familiar with local restaurants while knowing their tab is going to a good cause.

The 26 restaurants participating in ILHIGH’s GivingTuesday initiative are:

  • North Austin: Barrett's Coffee, Black Star Co-op, Brentwood Social House, Casey's New Orleans Snowballs, Eldorado Cafe, Epoch Coffee, Little Ola's Biscuits, West Pecan Coffee + Beer (Pflugerville)
  • Northeast Austin: L'Oca d'Oro, Southern Soul Bowl, Taterque, Tso Chinese
  • East Austin: Bento Picnic, Dai Due, Flitch Coffee, Greater Goods Coffee, Hillside Farmacy, The Cavalier
  • Downtown: Little Wu, Olamaie, Swift's Attic, Wu Chow
  • South Austin: Maie Day, Patika, Tso Chinese, House Wine
  • West Austin: Chez Zee, Epoch Coffee

Interested donors who can’t make it for a meal can use amplifyatx.org to donate to ILHIGH directly, or to donate to another organization, to which they may add an additional contribution to the ILHIGH fund before checkout.

More information about the GivingTuesday campaign is available at ilivehereigivehere.org, and on the organization’s social media.

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans