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'Golden Door'

The American dream glimmers brightest sometimes in the eyes of those for whom America is only a dream. Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) and his impoverished Sicilian family in 1904 have heard that America is a place where onions grow to the size of baby carriages, where money grows on trees and rivers run with milk. No wonder they want to travel to the New World. But traveling from their earthy village for the first time to an Italian port city is like visiting another planet for them, and as they move on — to the steerage deck of a great ocean liner, then to Ellis Island — you become more and more alarmed at the prospect of their hopes being dashed. Director Emanuele Crialese is a neorealist with a touch of magical realism to him; he takes his cues from the great art films of the '60s, and from his opening shot of two men climbing a craggy cliff with stones in their mouths to show devotion to God, his gorgeous film offers up a feast of imagery to match the almost boundless optimism of its characters. (Recommended)

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.