Hollywood is, as I’m sure we all subconsciously know, not as much of a noun at times as it is an adjective implying a kind of attitude, style, and set of expectations we carry with us. What then can we do with these expectations when a film might subvert them so seamlessly? Well, as I watched an Italian film called Nuovomondo from 2006 (with the English title The Golden Door, as if to intentionally deny the viewer any chance at thinking they know that they’re getting into as they would have done had they translated it literally to the seemingly trite “new world”), these expectations proved refreshingly useless. It satisfies on a level that Hollywood historical epics so seldom do, perhaps because we are not shown the typical set of images and conventions we are used to, which can grow as stale and dry as a textbook teaching us the very same story, albeit much less melodramatically. I am taking the time here to write not only an analytical review of this film but to also raise a kind of commentary that I think is pertinent through it: How do foreign films make history not merely interesting again but also filled with a kind of imagination and spirit that our domestic cinema’s run-of-the-mill period fictions hardly ever do?
Redhead Review: Affluenza
Affluenza, the newest feature from Holy Rollers (2010) director Kevin Asch, is a fairly predictable, formulaic glimpse into the lives of entitled teens and their absent, equally spoiled parents living in Great Neck, Long Island during the summer preceding the 2008 financial crisis. The film centers specifically on middle-class teen Fischer Miller (Ben Rosenfield) who spends the summer there with his rich cousin Kate (Nicola Peltz) and her friends, selling weed to them and expertly photographing their partying exploits with an inherited vintage camera.
Readhead Review: Homemakers
Homemakers finds part-time Austin-based punk singer Irene McCabey, played by Rachel McKeon, off to claim her inheritance in Pittsburgh—after her grandfather passes away, she is left with an abandoned and dilapidated three-story house. She runs into a long-lost cousin (turned drinking partner) named Cam, and they attempt to restore the house together, or demolish it—it is, at least initially, troublingly unclear which, or what Irene really even wants. She says she wants to sell it, but she grows to enjoy the kind of domesticity she finds in the forgotten home.
Redhead Review: A Coffee in Berlin
This German language film, originally titled Oh Boy, won 6 German Film Academy awards last year, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Outstanding Feature Film. It follows a day in the life of Niko Fischer, played by Tom Schilling. Niko is a slacker—directionless and unmotivated, but still likable and endearing despite his sometimes frustrating passivity. But, on this particular day that the film chronicles, he has a series of encounters that are in equal parts awkward, funny, poignant, and bizarre—endlessly entertaining, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, each event illuminates aspects of Niko’s mundane existence, knocking him down in the hopes of eventually waking him up and propelling him forward.
Everyone has that one movie that changed their life first. Even if many films thereafter astound, mesmerize and enchant you, you’ll always remember the first that made you capable of even seeing other films in those kinds of ways. For me, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, released in March of 2004, is that very film. When I first saw it, I didn’t necessarily get it—I understood it to some degree, but I didn’t get it, and yes, there is a difference. But, it hooked me somehow; it hypnotized me in a way that no other film had up until that point. It begged me to watch it again, and again, and again.