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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George Burns

George Burns (Naftaly — later Nathan — Birnbaum) was born in New York City on this date in 1896 to a family that had immigrated from what is now southeastern Poland. He quit school in the fourth grade to become an entertainer. Burns’ vaudeville career was floundering until he met Gracie Allen in 1923 (they would […]

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Lebanese Filmmaker Rises above BDS

by Ralph Seliger Discussed in this essay: The Insult, a drama by filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, 2017, 112 minutes.   AT THE CENTER of The Insult, directed and co-written by Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, are the enduring passions and grievances from the civil war that consumed his homeland from 1975 until 1990, killing an estimated 150,000 and […]

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One Young Goat

Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon (Ferenc Hoffmann), who maintained a column, “Had Gadyo” (“One Young Goat”) in Maariv for thirty years, for twenty of them on nearly a daily basis, was born in Hungary on this date in 1924. He narrowly survived in several Nazi concentration camps before escaping en route to Sobibor, after which he passed himself […]

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Writing Bogie’s Best Lines

The twin screenwriters Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, who with Howard Koch co-authored the screenplay for the 1942 classic film Casablanca,for which they won an Academy Award, were born in New York on this date in 1909. After attending Penn State together, Philip became an actor and Julius a boxer (they both boxed at Penn State) […]

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Disney’s Composer

Alan Menken, composer of scores for Walt Disney animations including The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995), as well as for films and Broadway musicals that include  Little Shop of Horrors (1982 on Broadway, ’86 on film), Newsies (1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), and Sister Act (2009), […]

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Exploring Volcanoes

Haroun Tazieff, a volcanologist who became one of France’s most popular scientists through his films and television documentaries, was born in Warsaw to a Jewish mother and Tatar father on this date in 1914. Tazieff was transplanted to Belgium during his early childhood, and during World War II he served in the Belgian army and […]

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Adrien Brody, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Two prominent Gen-X actors were born on this date in New York: Adrien Brody, whose Oscar-winning performance in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) brought to life the chaos and cruelty of life in the Warsaw Ghetto, was born in Woodhaven, Queens, in 1973; Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known as television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Homage to a Great Bad Writer

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Farewell to Europe, a film directed by Maria Schrader. THE PAST FEW YEARS have been posthumous good ones for the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). Once one the world’s best-known writers, his stock had fallen greatly, his novels and stories of Hapsburg Vienna viewed as inconsequential confections, his […]

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