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White Hollywood, Black Films

by Alessio Franko   IF JORDAN PEELE’S socially conscious horror film Get Out wins this year’s Best Picture Oscar, I will cringe — not because the film doesn’t deserve the win (quite the contrary), but because, in that moment, the white members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will all become versions of that […]

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The Golden Age of Cynicism

TELEVISION TAKES TWO STEPS BACKWARDS by Alessio Franko   HBO’s GAME OF THRONES is like one of its own conquering armies, an unstoppable force uniting distant tribes of TV viewers under its banner. Some watch to unpack the dense fantasy world of George R.R. Martin’s original A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Others watch […]

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2017 and Still Curbing Our Enthusiasm

by Alessio Franko   IN CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM’S eighth season, Larry David, playing his ever-thinly fictionalized self (we’ll call him “LD” and assume that the two really are separable), boards a plane to New York City, literally fleeing a tedious social obligation in Los Angeles. He eyes the drink that the woman next to him in first […]

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Can Satire Undermine Donald Trump?

THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE PRESIDENT SHOW by Alessio Franko WATCHING Donald J. Trump descend a hotel escalator in June 2015 to announce his presidential run, an ecstatic Jon Stewart called it “comedy hospice.” Stewart would glide through the final weeks of his legendary seventeen-year stint at The Daily Show, slinging jokes that practically wrote themselves about […]

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The Remarkable Humanism of “Menashe”

by Alessio Franko Discussed in this essay: Menashe, a film by Joshua Z. Weinstein WITHIN DAYS of moving to Borough Park, home to one of the largest ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City, I could tell that my neighbors had little interest in ever acknowledging my existence. I don’t wear a kippah and I don’t […]

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The Enemy Within

INTIMACY VS. COLD WAR POLITICS IN THE AMERICANS by Alessio Franko From the Summer 2017 issue of Jewish Currents “THIS MIGHT HELP you understand them a little bit, ” says Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), handing the teenaged Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor) a copy of Karl Marx’s Capital. The pastor is privy to a secret that Paige and […]

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“American Anarchist” Breaks the Wrong Rules

by Alessio Franko   EVERYTHING I KNOW about documentary film, I learned from Judy Hoffman at the University of Chicago. Her course was possibly the most information-rich I’ve ever taken, as she regaled us with insights from her prolific career in documentary, cinéma vérité, experimental video, and more. In a class session on shot composition for […]

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The Vulnerable Side of Rebellion: Cate Blanchett in “Manifesto”

by Alessio Franko WHAT DOES THE WORD “manifesto” manifest in your mind? Karl Marx or the Unabomber? Theoretical insight or idealistic impracticality? Genius or self-importance? Truth or nonsense? We parse historical manifestos in search of clues about past artistic and political movements, but attempts to take them at face value, as living texts with application to […]

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