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‘Bad Education:’ Is HBO’s New Movie Based on a True Story?

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Bad Education, airing on HBO tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

Bad Education on HBO is a very good movie based on a true story, and like any very good movie based on a true story, changes were made to ensure the whole “good” part. Still, there are still quite a few truths to the whole “true story” part, which is the story of how a superintendent of a Long Island school district, Dr. Frank A. Tassone, was at the center of a scandal that robbed Roslyn public schools of millions of dollars. Hugh Jackman stars as Tassone in one of the best roles of his career, while the always-excellent Allison Janney stars as his assistant superintendent who was also involved in the embezzlement.

Bad Education is directed by Cory Finley—his second film after 2017’s Thoroughbreds—and was written by Mike Makowsky, who was a middle school student at Roslyn when Tassone was arrested in 2004. So though changes were made to make Bad Education the slick, compelling movie that it is, trust that those changes were made intentionally, and not out of ignorance. The script is based on writer Robert Kolker’s gripping New York Magazine feature, “The Bad Superintendent,” which is definitely worth a read. But if you’re looking for the cliff notes version of how this real-life scandal went down, let’s get into the Bad Education true story, from where Frank Tassone is now, to how accurate Bad Education really is.

Is Bad Education a true story?

Yes. Bad Education is based on the true story of Dr. Frank A. Tassone and a scandal he was involved in the early 2000s.

Who is Frank Tassone? Who is Hugh Jackman’s character in Bad Education?

Frank Tassone was the superintendent of the Roslyn, Long Island, school district for 12 years. In 2006, he was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison for stealing at least $2 million from his public school district—aka stealing from the tax payer’s money.

After the scandal was exposed, members of the Roslyn community learned of Tassone’s double life—he always spoke of a dead wife, and kept her picture on his desk, but, as it turned out he lived in a Manhattan apartment with another man and also owned a house in Las Vegas with a 32-year-old male exotic dancer. (Tassone was 60 when he was sentenced for his crimes.) Though he never came out as gay, many residents had already assumed he was.

But it should be noted, as Bad Education demonstrates, Tassone was respected, admired, and even beloved as Roslyn’s superintendent before the scandal broke. He listened to concerns of parents carefully and remembered the birthdays and anniversaries of his faculty. He lived like a CEO of a private business, with sharp suits and nice car, and didn’t hide the fact that he felt other school administrators should be treated with Wall Street-levels of respect.

Hugh Jackman
Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Who is Pam Gluckin? Is Allison Janney’s character in Bad Education a real person?

Yes. Pam Gluckin was Tassone’s assistant superintendent. In 2002, she was caught stealing $250,000 from the school. As we see in the film, she really did rack up charges at hardware stores (ACE in the movie, Home Depot in real life), though according to the New York Magazine article, she mostly wrote school checks to pay off her credit card bills, rather than using a school-issued credit card.

Like Tassone, she was well-liked. And Allison Janney’s vanity license plate, “DUNENUTN?” You better believe that’s a real detail from the real Pam Gluckin’s life. Gluckin and Tassone were very close. It’s not clear whether or not she knew of Tassone’s double-life, though the film implies that she did, when Janney mentions a woman who hits on the superintendent is “not his type.”

What is the true story of Frank Tassone at Roslyn High School?

As we see in the film, the scandal began when Tassone helped cover-up Gluckin’s embezzlement in 2002. According to Kolker’s reporting, Tassone told the Roslyn school board that she was unstable, that she was mentally ill, and that she would pay back the money and resign quietly. He told the school board it would actually save the school money to have her resign immediately, rather than to keep receiving her salary for the years it would take go through the court if they pressed charges. He also, as we see Jackman do, warned that a scandal like this would hurt Roslyn’s students’ chances of getting into good colleges and bring down Roslyn property values.

But Tassone had another reason for covering up the scandal: he was stealing money, too. In early 2004, he accidentally received an anonymous letter that was a tip-off that he was embezzling money, which allowed him to launch a pre-emptive defense. When news of Gluckin’s embezzlement got out, he tried to get accountant Andrew Miller and lawyer Tom Hession to take the blame. They wouldn’t do it. Board president Bill Costigan—who was renamed Bob Spicer and played by Ray Romano in the movie—began to suspect Tassone was involved. He was right.

Throughout the film the school roof is leaking, and, as we see in a quick scene near the end, it literally falls in. That’s all true. The Roslyn High roof fell in, while Tassone was buying himself $1,800-a-night hotel rooms in London with the tax-payer money. He went to Vegas with the Roslyn High School principal and used the tax-payer money to gamble. He spent tax-payer money dry-cleaning the crisp, slick suits he was always known for wearing. Before he was arrested, he transferred $300,000 to bank accounts for his sisters.

The grand total of money stolen from Roslyn school district was estimated at $11.2 million. Tassone and Gluckin were two of six people believed to be involved in the larceny scandal, which stretched over six years and involved friends and relatives of the school administrators. Tassone was convicted of stealing only $2.2 million, and as of 2006 when he was sentenced, he had paid $1.9 million back.

Allison Janney
Photo: HBO

Where is Frank Tassone now?

After first professing his innocence, Tassone pled guilty to to grand larceny and was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison in 2006. According to Newsday, he was released from Hale Creek Correctional Facility early thanks to good behavior completing rehabilitative programs while incarcerated, in January 2010. That’s eight months shy of a four-year sentence. He is now in his 70s, and still receives an annual state pension of $173,495.04.

Roslyn teachers’ union president, Eleanor Russell, protested his release. “We really don’t understand the system of justice that would let Frank Tassone out after all the damage he has done to the Roslyn public schools, including the teachers and the community,” she told Newsday.

Who is Rachel Bhargava?

Rachel Bhargava (played by Blockers star Geraldine Viswanathan) is a fictional character based on Rebekah Rombom, who was one of two editors in chief at Roslyn’s student paper, The Hilltop Beacon, who broke the news of the embezzlement scandal. The other editor was a girl named Sam Floam, who was replaced by a new fictional character named Nick Fleischman, played by Alex Wolff. Her storyline and character is the one that deviates from real life the most.

geraldine-viswanathan
Photo: HBO

How accurate is Bad Education on HBO?

Like any good movie based on a true story, things were changed either for length or narrative effect. Names were changed: Ray Romano’s character, Bob Spicer, is Bill Costigan in real life. Rachel Bhargava is really Rebekah Rombom. Kyle Contreras (played by Rafael Casal) is really Jason Daugherty. Tom Tuggiero (played by Stephen Spinella) is really Steve Signorelli.

The timeline of events was shortened to fit the film’s two-hour runtime. In reality, it took months of reporting for Tassone’s crimes to come to light, during which Tassone spent much of his time on vacation in Las Vegas, California, Florida, and elsewhere. Some key players were cut, and others were combined, creating characters who were fictional conglomerates of real people, such as the real-life auditor Al Razzetti, and the real-life accountant Arthur Miller, who is a fictional character named Phil Metzger, played by Jeremy Shamos.

The major story change made for the film was the character of Rachel Bhargava, the student journalist. Bad Education implies that the young journalist found out about Tassone’s involvement before anyone else by visiting his secret Manhattan apartment and that she blew the story wide open, essentially bringing down Tassone immediately after publishing her story. In real life, it wasn’t nearly so narratively satisfying.

In an essay penned for The New York Times, the real Rombom told her account of how she worked together with her co-editor Sam, a girl who was cut from the film and replaced by a new character named Nick Fleischman, played by Alex Wolff in the movie. Both young reporters had heard from sources that Tassone had received an anonymous letter accusing him and other administrators of theft. Tassone had said the allegations were false. The reporters consulted their faculty advisor, unsure whether they should publish a story with so few details. The advisor said they should, so Rombom wrote the story and published it.

It is true that, as the end credits titles say, The Hilltop Beacon was the first to report on the scandal. However, that story in The Beacon was not nearly as in-depth as Bad Education implies. The real Rombom did not dig into the public records, as Bhargava does in the film. The real Rombom was also pressured by the administration to omit Gluckin’s name from her story, which she did. After the story published—after the principal reviewed it first—Rombom expected a big reaction from the student body, but none came. The students didn’t care. However, in the following weeks, Newsday and other publications reported on the story extensively. There’s no doubt Rombom engaged in some excellent reporting for a high school journalist—it just wasn’t quite as prodigy-like as the HBO film implies.

However, though details were changed to make a better movie, a former Roslyn teacher attested to the feeling of the film ringing true. “Though I interacted only a few times with Tassone himself, and never, to my memory, with Gluckin, their movie versions felt eerily spot on,” Holly Ojalvo wrote in a review for Quartz.

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Disney Plus Mulan Fails to Make an Impact

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Disney Plus’s most anticipated movie of the year was Live-Action Mulan, the infamous remake of the 1998 version of the Disney classic Mulan. With a budget of almost $200 million and alot of hard work involved, the film release’s expectations and excitement were at an all-time high. Disney’s marketing team left no stone unturned in promoting the film throughout the world as Mulan was one of the most influential female protagonists in a Disney movie. 

Mulan was known for her power and courage to take a step towards change and create a name for herself instead of becoming a burden for her family. She brought them honor but not through finding a compatible suitor, but through her bravery in fighting amongst the opposite gender when it was considered a taboo. 

But did the real Mulan walk in the footsteps of the animated one? Did it create an impact as strong as the classic version, which people love and adore even after 23 years? Sadly, no. The live-Action Mulan was nothing like the 1998 Mulan because it was not supposed to be that way. 

The old Chinese folklore inspired the Live-Action Mulan. The Balad of Mulan, which was different, more serious, and portrayed a much more feminist approach by eliminating any romantic or cartoonish elements or characters from the remake. 

The elimination of the character of Mushu came as a surprise for all the die-hard Mulan fans who were anticipating the voice-over of Eddie Murphy in a better-animated dragon who is by Mulan’s side, aiding in tough times. We did see a dragon, but it was a silent companion only coming in need. The remake also got rid of all the eventful songs which were hummed as we watched the animated version all the time.

Another setback was the mediocre release of Mulan during the Pandemic, which basically ruined the official March release. Mulan eventually made the screen on September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, a pay-to-view for $30 across the US. In contrast, countries where Covid-19 was under control, saw a theater release like China. But that hardly made 50% of the total movie budget. Disney hoped to make some dollars in China by accurately depicting the Chinese culture and actors, but that didn’t happen either. 

Viewers with access to Disney+ also did not venture enough on the Premier Access service. What further disappointed the release was Mulan’s availability on multiple torrents and platforms for free in HD quality on its release. VPN users worldwide watched the movie for free without paying a whopping amount of $30 for a single film, while the whole service along with other streaming services cost ⅓ of the price. 

Live-Action Mulan was also under scrutiny for shooting in the Xinjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims were detained and imprisoned in concentration camps. This sparked outrage over the entire social media, where Muslims worldwide protested against the Chinese government’s actions. Disney+ did not state an official apology on their platform, nor did they acknowledge their wrongdoings, probably to stay clear of the Chinese government’s atrocity. 

Meanwhile, even within China, Mulan failed to impact the Chinese audience as they have a much better take and approach to recreating any Chinese epic or myths. Their cinema is far more advanced in portraying their culture with local actors and a local production house. As we all know, China has a strict censorship policy on international content, and they have an alternate of their own. It applies here as well. 

Lastly, the ill-natured tweet of the lead actress Liu Yifei, openly supporting the Hong Kong Police’s atrocities when China was implementing new security policies on Hong Kong, claiming it as a part of the Chinese government. The Hong Kong police came under fire for mistreating peaceful protestors and using harsh means to disperse the crowd. This tweet leads to #boycottmulan across the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. 

Liu Yifei made no outright apology. 

Despite so much anticipation, live-action Mulan came under alot of controversy and failed to make a solid impression on the audience, despite holding a strong message for its feminist audience. Wrong timing and a few wrong decisions cost Disney millions of dollars and somewhat tarnished the reputation of their remake sagas. 

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5 Underrated Shows on Netflix USA You Must Watch Right Now!

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American Netflix is home to hundreds of TV shows across multiple genres. Still, it could be hard at times to find something binge-worthy on it. Now we all have that one friend that’s perfectly content with re-watching their favorite TV series, but the rest of us normies find it a tad boring. We’re on a never-ending hunt for the next big show hoping to inject some excitement into our otherwise mundane existence. However, with so much to choose from, it’s only natural that a few gems go unnoticed when scrolling through the recommendations. 

Don’t sweat it! After spending endless hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 underrated shows on Netflix USA that are definitely worth your time.

Can’t access US Netflix in your home country? There is an easy way around. Just download a Netflix VPN, connect to a US server, and start streaming. 

  1. 1994

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 5 episodes

Year of release: 2019

1994 is a modest 5-episode docu-series offering the perfect guilt-free, binge-watching experience. The show revolves around a promising presidential candidate in Mexico who stands to threaten the status quo. Seen as a threat by the powerful elite, he gets shot during one of his televised political rallies. If the events of the first episode seem unusual, then what follows is downright bizarre. 

Viewers are in store for surreal events backed by actual interviews and real-life footage that ups the ante with each passing episode. 1994 is a fascinating, informative, and rich account of one of the most turbulent times in Mexico. It not only gives viewers a glimpse of the past but also a story that follows a narrative very close to what we’re seeing in our present political climate.

  1. Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Genre: Drama

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2020

Following the wildly popular show Ertugrul—at least in the eastern part of the world—Rise of Empires: Ottoman features a historic mix of immaculate production value and dramatic re-enactment of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. A Turkish production, the show is entirely in English and revolves around the life of a young Ottoman Sultan named Mehmet. It shows how the 21-year old leader risks everything to conquer a city his father and so many others failed to take before him.

This point marked a crucial juncture in history: The fall of the Roman Empire and the transition of a local regional entity to that of a global superpower. While the show does have its set of drawbacks (such as the frequent History Channel-type flashbacks), the appeal of our protagonist is sure to have viewers in for a memorable ride. 

  1. Wild Wild Country

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 6 episodes

Year of release: 2018

The mere mention of Wild Wild Country in front of veteran Netflix viewers is sure to garner you some respect points. Based on a true story, Wild Wild Country tells the tale of an Indian cult that’s decided to relocate to Oregon. What ensues is a series of unusual events as the locals struggle to come to terms with the new inhabits and in particular, the eccentric leader of this cult: Bhagwan. This mini-series manages to capture and re-tell a significant—albeit unusual—event in American history and media and retell it in a way that’s sure to leave some viewers scratching their heads!

  1. Lenox Hill

Genre: Documentary

Season(s): 1 season; 9 episodes

Year of release: 2020

For those looking to embark on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, look no further than Lenox Hill. While we do recommend this docu-series especially if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, Lenox Hill is not your average watch. It’s a far cry from what you’d call a feel-good series as it reveals the brutal reality associated with people diagnosed with really bad things.

Set in New York, the show follows the story of an ER physician, an OB-GYN, and two brain surgeons that are part of a small-time hospital competing with bigger establishments. It lifts the curtain from the otherwise romanticized emergency-ward that we’ve grown accustomed to and accurately depicts the struggles of both patients and doctors.

This highly emotional series might not sit well with everyone but if you want to watch a story about individuals that sacrifice everything to save others then this one’s for you.

  1. Borderline

Genre: Comedy

Season(s): 2 seasons; 12 episodes

Year of release: 2016

The Office is the most viewed show on Netflix according to Chicago Tribune which is a pity because its contract is set to expire on January 1, 2021. Enter Borderline, a British comedy series and ‘mockumentary’ of sorts that follows a similar pattern and humor as The Office. Set in the fictional Northend Airport instead of an office, viewers are quickly introduced to a slew of funny and ridiculous personalities.

The best part of the series is that it has its own version of Pam, Dwight, Jim, and a Michael type-boss. It also doesn’t try too hard to resemble its more popular counterpart and a few episodes are enough to make you wonder why more people aren’t watching it!

Agree with our list? Know of some underrated shows that need more love? Let us know in the comments section below!

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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