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JewTh!nk’s Year in Review

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Given that we only launched in July, this will have to be a half-year review. Here is our roundup of the top five films, television shows and books of (the second half of) 2020.

Films

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Was this the best Jewish film of the year? Technically and aesthetically, probably not but in terms of speaking to the zeitgeist and its hard-hitting exposure of antisemitism and Holocaust humour, it wins top place.

The Trial of the Chicago Seven

Another film featuring Sacha Baron Cohen, but this time in a more serious role (even if Abbie Hoffman loved to play the clown). Again, like Borat, it is timely, making a key intervention before Trump leaves office.

Mank

Beautifully shot and acted, this would win the award for aesthetic and technical prowess. It sheds light on the Jewishness lurking behind the classic and about time, too. Read our two reviews here and here.

Joker

Is this a Jewish film? Yes, according to our review, which unpicks how the performance and other factors give it pride of place in this year’s top Jewish films.

An American Pickle

Not a great film at all and not one that either of our reviewers liked very much. But for being Seth Rogen’s most openly Jewish movie and for the lively debate it sparked, it deserves a mention.

Television

Schitt’s Creek

This delightful Canadian-Jewish comedy has ended, unfortunately, but it brings the out-of-place Roses to a town full of thorns and plenty of culture clash humour with it. Read our full review here.

Mrs. America

A show recreating true events in the struggle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment which is chock full of Jews and Jewishness. It introduced many of us to the verb ‘to bagel‘.

The Plot Against America

Another show based on history but this time counterfactual. A timely adaptation of the Philip Roth novel of the same name, it threw up terrifying parallels for our reviewer.

A Place to Call Home

Another historical show, although this time entirely fictional, this one deals with a family saga. But because it’s Australian, it is the ‘fantastic show’ you have never heard of, according to our reviewer. Until now.

The Queen’s Gambit

Less explicitly Jewy, this beautifully shot show about chess is Jewish at heart not least because of its female underdog protagonist who learns to play and beat the best at chess — a very Jewish sport. Read our full review here.

Books

Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann

The amazing story of the rise and fall of Adam Neumann and his start-up WeWork which went from nothing to 20 billion and then back to nothing. The story is full of Jewishness, Kabbalah and intrigue. Read the full review here.

Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn

It would not be a round-up of the year (or half-year) without a book about the Labour Party and antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn so we had to include this. The book, as our reviewer, points out revealed the cult of personality surrounding the leader and his office.

Agent Sonya: Lover, Mother, Soldier, Spy

Another story of an amazing individual, the spy Ursula Kuczynski. Known as Agent Sonya, she evaded the intelligence services of multiple countries, including the one she worked for. Her gender allowed her to hide in plain sight. Read the full review here.

West Side Story: The Jets, the Sharks, and the making of a classic

Everyone’s favourite musical? Maybe not but this book could have been subtitled, ‘The Jews, the Sharks, and the Making of a Classic’. A behind-the-scenes look at the Jews behind this movie which will soon get the Spielberg treatment. Read our full review here.

To Be Someone

In a Jewish public sphere dominated by ex-Haberdasher’s boys, it’s a refreshing change to have someone who made it despite having attended JFS. It’s also a refreshing look at British Jewry from a working-class and non-intellectual perspective, as well as a timely reminder of just how shit the 1980s really were. Read our full review here.

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