Australian cinema audiences see essentially American product, predominantly block busters, certainly studio films, with a growing smattering of independent features.
Many of those pictures fall far below and behind what I would call essential viewing unless you are a teen with the attention span of a tweet. However, the AMERICAN ESSENTIALS is a film festival that lives up to its name.
Opening night film THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS kicked the festival off in a light mood and tone. The film is a New York rom com that examines the heartbreak of breaking up and whether you can just be friends with your ex.
Spearheaded by a quirky, kooky performance by Zosia Mamet as a Brooklynite returned from Britain who unwittingly rents an apartment where her ex boyfriend, a sensitive soul who she unceremoniously dumped some years before, now lives.
This prompts an unremitting reverie from Diana and the film flashbacks to a time when their romance was warm and cosy, the world made rosy, by their togetherness.
Very much in the tradition of Ladybird and Frances Ha, THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS is a warm hearted foray into the ventricles of romance in the new millennia.
Softened up by THE BOYDOWNSTAIRS, you get a Kapow KO with a bout with the woman on the bench, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in the powerhouse portrait, RBG.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and attended Cornell, Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. In 1993, she ascended to a seat on the United States Supreme Court.
A good chunk of her career in jurisprudence was taken up with gender equality, dating back to 1971 and her agenda before and on the bench was gender equality and this film, RBG, explores with exemplary examination of the inspiring personal journey of this judicial Jedhi, whose legal legacy is as large as her appetite for justice for all.
It is a matter of mind blowing misogyny that her advocacy was needed in late 2oth century America, but there you go. Fortunately she had a supporting spouse, Marty, also a lawyer, who was an inherent equal opportunity champion.
His encouragement and her intellect combined to make RBG an awesome advocate and adversary to soar where legals dare.
From here to attorney and beyond to the bench of the United States Supreme Court, RBG is a witness to the persecution and a warrior for the prosecution of gender equality and justice.
From documentary to a fiction narrative inspired by a real event, KODACHROME is a kind of King Lear story of a fading photographer endeavouring to develop a belated relationship with his estranged son.
KODACHROME developed from an article about the discontinuation of Kodachrome film and the last machine in the world that could develop Kodachrome film – a lab in Parsons, Kansas – was being retired.
This was the perfect backdrop for a film about generational change and reconciliation.
Famous philandering photographer, Ben, is father to Matt, and fatally ill. Ben wants Matt to drive him cross country to the last place on earth that develops Kodachrome film. After some persuading from Ben’s nurse, Zooey, Matt capitulates to chauffeur the chauvinist cantankerous to the Kodachrome lab.
There’s bitching on the bitumen as recriminations and rancour ride on the road to reconciliation.
Ed Harris in his grizzly, granite like greatness is loathsome as the Leica lensing Lothario in decline.
Jason Sudeikis as Matt is super as the simmering mad as hell son jettisoned by his selfish father.
And Elizabeth Olsen as Zooey is spectacular as the peace broking nurse shielding her own fidelity discrepancies.
THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS, RBG and KODACHROME – three essential reasons to check out American Essentials