|Index||9 reviews in total|
I saw this film twice at Sundance in sold out theaters, and the audiences loved it. It has something for everyone who loves movies. It is funny and sad and fascinating with great film clips and interviews. These Amazing Shadows uses the National Film Registry as a platform to show how important films are as a reflection of the our culture and heritage. Twenty-five films are selected each year to the registry for preservation, and we see clips of everything from the music video "Thriller" to "The Rocky Horror Show" to the Zapruder film. I was especially moved by the section on Topaz, the "home movie" about the Japanese internment camps. A movie everyone should see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite not having enough of Christopher Nolan and Tim Roth interview to show and the movie feeling longer than it was this is a pure gem for movie lovers like myself. This docu tells the interesting story of the national film registry and how films are picked as well as showing a variety of clips from those movies that have been picked and have made an impact on other people in the business. We get plenty of great interviews from people in the business such as famous director John Singleton and John Lasseter, as well as studio executives, and people who are part of the committee that votes on the films to be put into the registry. We get insight into the job of someone who works hours on end to help preserve films that are extremely old and were not designed to stand the test of time. Knowing that certain films dating back before the 1950s were neglected due to the studios having no use for them once they did their job in making money is quite disturbing and makes me appreciate those films from a long time ago that are available for our viewing pleasures. If you are someone who is addicted to watching movies and remembers when watching movies didn't mean picking out the good from the bad and just being awed by whatever lay on screen or are interesting in going into the business, this is worth watching and is a sure contender for best documentary if the Academy allows it.
"These Amazing Shadows" is a very inspiring film. You cannot watch it
without feeling a strong sense of the importance of film preservation
and film as an important part of our history. However, the film suffers
from trying to do WAY too much in much to short a time. I could easily
see several films or even a series come out of this material and felt
the film just went way too fast.
The beginning of the film talks about the fragile nature of nitrate film stock (the standard for movies until the mid-1950s). You see how the film tends to stick together or turn to powder--though this is a bit rushed, as they never really talked about how combustible these old films are as well. And then you get to hear some film preservationists from the Library of Congress talk about their love of their work. I LOVED this part of the film and really wished they had just focused on this or perhaps done so a bit longer.
The next portion of the film is the biggest problem. A sampling of SOME of the films on the National Film Registry is given and folks say a few blurbs about them and what stands out about these films. Well, considering how important and great these films are, they certainly deserved MUCH more about why they were chosen and why they are so unique. It felt like someone trying to encapsulate the entire Bible or American History in 90 minutes or less! Overall, this is a nice introduction into film preservation and the National Registry, but better films on similar subjects have been made--ones that are more thorough and less episodic--such as "Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque". Well worth seeing nevertheless.
Tells the history and importance of The National Film Registry, a roll
call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film,
and indeed the American experience itself.
I was not aware of the history of the registry or how films were chosen to appear on it. Obviously, it makes sense that "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca" were on there, but I found it much more interesting how the obscure and offbeat get on there. And films from the 1990s, which had relatively little time to become historic...
After seeing this, I have a new-found respect for the list and will have to make a point in tracking down the titles on it. While I have made a point of looking for old Oscar winners, this might be more representative of real American cinema history.
These Amazing Shadows (2011)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Wonderfully entertaining documentary taking a look at the National Film Registry, its history and what the group hopes to happen going forward. A brief history is given at the start of the movie but basically in the 1980s Ted Turner bought the MGM library and immediately started colorizing movies. Various Hollywood types including Woody Allen and James Stewart went to Congress to talk about the importance of movies and in 1989 this registry was formed so that we can save future generations movies. The only real negative thing that can be said about this film is that it's way too short even at 92-minutes. I think the most fascinating stuff happens early on when we see the history of the registry and we even get to hear how the twenty-five movies are selected each year. I think this here is the greatest part of the movie because we get to see what type of movies they're looking for and what it takes to get in. There's also an interesting topic going over preservation and why this here is so important and especially when you consider that 80% of silent movies are now lost. Rob Reiner, Christopher Nolan, John Waters, George Takei and Tim Roth are just a few of the famous faces on hand talking about preservation. Many others including people on the board are also interviewed and they talk about some of their favorite films as well as films that they got into the registry. We also have a section devoted to some of the controversial movies including THE BIRTH OF A NATION and THE SEARCHERS. Overall, this is a very entertaining documentary that film buffs are going to love and if you're new to classic cinema this will be a very good place to get some great recommendations.
For many people, motion pictures are not "just" an entertainment
medium. Instead, they are not unlike any other form of artistic
expression, filled with the realities (good or bad, perceived or real)
of the time period in which they were made. In essence, films can be
considered to be kind of a "time capsule" for the human condition, told
in the form of scripted tales. As such, many such works of art deserved
to be saved, which is exactly what this documentary focuses on.
For a basic plot summary, "These Shadows" describes how certain films (voted on by a panel of motion picture luminaries) are currently being preserved in the Library of Congress (or our "national library") for future posterity. However, problems often exist in restoring the original negatives of even such classic pictures as "Gone With The Wind" or "The Wizard of Oz".
"These Shadows" takes very much of a "big picture" look at film preservation. While it could have spent hours on the fascinating topic of the physical restoration process itself, the filmmakers instead give an overview of the entire Library of Congress process, from its beginning (aka finding the funding) to which movies are selected and finally to how the overall scheme of things will proceed into the future. Any one of these areas could have been focused on in their own documentaries, but here they are condensed into the overall narrative of the project.
Overall, then, this is a fun little documentary that introduces us to the very concept of preserving motion pictures as we would other works of art or historic culture. Anyone who enjoys the film arts will likely agree that its place in our own national culture is very deserving.
I understand the need to preserve great old movies, and the national
registry seems like a great thing for doing this. Will help us remember
the way people dressed, and their mannerisms... to see old cars, and
street views...for that these old movies are priceless...
But then.... this documentary goes into how movies will remind us of our past history... What?.... wrong! Nice try Hollywood, but, anyone with half a brain should understand that movies are movies... Fake, false.... even the ones that say they are based on fact are not factual, or as Hollywood would put it in the credits, "this film was enhanced for dramatic effect".
Then it gets worse... this documentary tries to say that because someone made movies exploiting women, that was the culture of our time. Because someone made a movie that was blatantly racist, that was the culture of our time...it falls to diversification for the sake of diversification. No longer able to base it's own judgment on good vs bad, but more on what's good for specific minority groups.
For example, they have an American Indian man they are interviewing that is appalled at the way Indians were depicted in the movies of the 50's and 60's... Well I have news for him, read your history books, because American Indians were a lot worse than the movies depict. They scalped people... kept the scalps as trophies. You don't hear anything like that today that isn't related to some serial killer. Sorry we took your land, but, check your history books for something in this world called "conquered people". You'll find your weren't the first, and weren't the last either.
If you want to find out what history was like, take a course, read a book, or watch a documentary blessed by a good historian. Don't ever look to Hollywood movies for more than anything but a way to waste a couple hours, you'll never get back.
"These Amazing Shadows" Is A Film For Cinephiles And Those Concerned With The History Of Culture. The Film Explores Cinema History And Why Exactly Movies Are As Culturally Significant As They Are. The Movie Features Interviews With Christopher Nolan, Rob Reiner, Tim Roth, John Waters, Leonard Maltin, Julie Dash, John Singleton, And Many More. "These Amazing Shadows" Discusses Films As Diverse As "Blade Runner" And "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" And "Star Wars" And "Citizen Kane". The Film Features An Inside Look At Film Preservation And Delivers A Convincing Case For The Preservation Of Our Greatest Films. "These Amazing Shadows" Tends To Skip From Film To Film Without Ever Gaining Much Depth. The Movie Tries To Cover The Entire History Of Cinema In Just 88 Minutes, But It Feels Rushed And Unsatisfying. Overall, The Film Is A Moving And Passionate Study Of Cinema History And How It Relates To Our Future As A Culture.
These Amazing Shadows takes an in-depth look at an underrated
organization that is dedicated to preserving and maintaining films in
their current form. The National Film Registry was founded in 1988,
coinciding with the passing of the National Film Preservation Act,
after a suit at MGM threatened to colorize classic black and white
pictures after his purchase of the company. The NFR has been devoted to
preserving films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically
significant." Since '88 they have preserved over five-hundred films,
along with quite a few short films and minor, culturally significant
I'd rather spend this time discussing my thoughts on the registry rather than the documentary itself. There isn't a whole lot to say about the film, but there's a plethora to discuss about the registry itself. First off, let me say this is an organization that needs to exist. It may seem pointless to some; an organization that collects movies? What's the point? Speaking more as a common-man than an avid film reviewer, it is important to preserve an art form so we can not only gain knowledge of the thing itself, but gain knowledge of the time period it is portraying or when it was made. Here's a good question to ponder for those still unconvinced; why do we have history textbooks? There are a plethora of films in the registry now that absolutely deserve to be in there, and several still waiting to be recognized (my main recommendations would be De Niro's underrated and unsung A Bronx Tale and Scorsese's masterpiece Casino). Films like Citizen Kane, Close Encounters, Do the Right Thing, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Godfather, Goodfellas, Malcolm X, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show exist in the registry, all serving a unique and valid purpose.
What I love about the organization is that it isn't biased. If the NFR had an attitude like the MPAA, if I proposed the inclusion of Rocky Horror, it would most likely be met with sneers and laughs. I had the same reaction to its placement as did another member. If it can have a run at midnight showings all across the country, with people dressing up as characters, playing games, and having fun, it must speak to people in some way. For that reason, it is culturally, historically, and aesthetically different. And boy is it more than aesthetically different.
I was fascinated by the inclusion of many short films as well. There is a short film in the registry called H20, directed by Ralph Steiner. The short is thirteen minutes, and involves shots of flowing water that gradually become closer and closer to the point where it becomes almost unrecognizable. "You forget it's water" says a woman working in the registry. The short is captivating in every sense of the word and can be found on Youtube to this day. People can't see themselves enjoying such a flimsy, basic idea, but anyone with an open mind and a strong appreciation for cinema will definitely be entranced.
Another short I desperately would like to see is called Topaz, depicting life in the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah during World War II. We are shown brief shots of the film, but to my knowledge, it is not commercially available, most likely because it was shot illegally. Another short I'd like to see is called Cologne: From the Diary of Ray and Esther. The short depicted life with the German-American community with the approach of World War II in sight. Unfortunately, like Topaz, it is not commercially available. Another charming short on the list was an old ad played at theaters to hopefully have a run on concession stand items; Let's All Go to the Lobby.
As far as the documentary These Amazing Shadows goes, it is nothing shy of wonderful. Eighty-eight minutes races by as we are shown the painstaking process of preserving a film, a room full of cold, well-kept film reels, and the concept of how films are elected in the registry (they are in a very democratic procedure by voting online). This is a must see documentary for those concerned with film's future and where it stands today.
Starring: Christopher Nolan, John Waters, Barbara Kopple, Tim Roth, John Lasseter, Wayne Wang, and Julie Dash. Directed by: Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton.
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