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These Amazing Shadows Reviews

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Spencer S

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2012
A compelling and thoughtful documentary on an American system that is given little recognition or thought in our country today, the National Film Registry is a baron of treasured classics and iconoclastic materials. Starting with a brief history lesson on the origins of this national committee and its historical prowess, the film chiefly deals with the different kinds of film that are in the registry. The most obvious film choices are given enough breathing room, including showing clips from such titans as Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, and Casablanca. It talks about the historical importance of such cult classics as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. It also inspires a bit of a historian in us all with such things as home videos, documentaries, and silent films. It stresses the importance of advertisements, including the "Let's All Go to the Lobby," song we all know but can't reference with absolute certainty. It even speaks about Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and other significant pieces from American cinema history. The film also shows a decent amount of interviews with directors, actors, and movie making professionals. There are also some great interviews with board members, their reasons behind their choices, how these films, movies, shorts, anything, make them feel. One of the more interesting aspects is that they also follow preservation specialists with how they do their tedious jobs and the rewarding experience it gives them. The vaults of film reels are shown, the degraded texture and quality of films so private and beautiful; that it seems nearly implausible that they are left in such flagrant disrepair. Most of all it's a love letter to film, to our culture, and the importance of preserving it above all else. Truly a beautiful film for any film lover or American with a heartbeat.
JonathanHutchings
JonathanHutchings

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2012
In 1986, Ted Turner, the owner of the MGM film catalog, decided to take classic black and white movies and colorize them. The hue and cry from those passionate about film preservation caused the formation of the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress. Starting in 1989, the Registry began selecting 25 celluloid marvels to save and preserve each year. At 525 films and growing, filmmakers Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton tell us the story of "These Amazing Shadows."

The board was established by Congress in the late 1980s, and since 1989 has chosen 25 movies per year for inclusion in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. The films must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,'' which leaves a lot of room to move beyond the "greatest hits'' mentality of the American Film Institute and other cultural list-makers.

And in fact the most engrossing moments in "These Amazing Shadows'' focus not on "Citizen Kane'' and "The Godfather'' (or "Alien'' and "Back to the Future'') but more offbeat choices that say as much, if not more, about the movies' central place in documenting American culture for better and worse. The World War II-era "Topaz'' is actually one man's home movies of the US internment of Japanese citizens. A public-service documentary like "Duck and Cover'' portrays 1950s nuclear fears with now-campy naivete. No one needs to be told what the Zapruder film means to the national psyche.

In addition to scenes from 160 of the 550 films in the registry, "These Amazing Shadows'' rounds up an illustrious roster of talking heads: directors like Christopher Nolan, John Waters, Barbara Kopple, and Wayne Wang; film critics Mick LaSalle and Jay Carr; actors Debbie Reynolds and Tim Roth; producers (Gale Anne Hurd), cinematographers (Caleb Deschanel). An unexpectedly poignant moment comes when Gregory Peck's son, Stephen, a Vietnam veteran, espouses the horrors of war, and how films such as The Deer Hunter, The Best Years of Our Lives, etc. have captured the plight of veterans -- and the absolute necessity to preserve these messages for future generations.

The people you keep coming back to, though, are the preservationists themselves, dedicated young artisans with offbeat senses of humor and the passion to spend weeks at a time rebuilding a lost film frame by frame. George Willeman is exactly the sort of character you'd expect the Library of Congress's Nitrate Film Vault Manager to be, and he's great company as he describes the joy of discovering a pre-censorship print of the acrid 1933 Barbara Stanwyck classic Baby Face and getting it out to the world.

The importance of recovering uncensored originals and plugging the holes in America's consciousness is only one of the messages here. The documentary surveys the genres covered by the registry, praises efforts to bring attention to women and minority filmmakers, considers the movies as social glue and cultural memory, and makes an implicit plea for continued congressional funding in these draconian times.

Yet the mission of this film, the board, and the registry is summed up most simply in an offhand comment by board member and film scholar Robert Rosen: "Why would you want to save movies? I would ask, Why do we save family pictures?'' They're cultural artifacts, timestamps of bygone eras, and they transform us in a way no other medium can.
flixsterman
flixsterman

Super Reviewer

May 1, 2011
Nice documentary highlighting the important preservation work being done by the National Film Registry.
Jeff L

Super Reviewer

November 5, 2012
Interesting documentary about the importance of film preservation and the role of the National Film Registry in that process. Ironically though, the documentary feels redundant. Isn't the fact that a government funded program is preserving films a testament to the importance and widespread appreciation for film preservation?
kenscheck
January 1, 2012
This is my kind of documentary. It is all about the importance of the National Film Registry, how it came to be, and what kind of films have been selected for preservation. It talks to several people from different roles in the film industry, and how these films affected them. It is interesting to see just how many different kinds of films are in the registry, things range from big Hollywood features, to cartoons, animations, educational films, serials, and even home movies. This documentary is well made and features a subject matter that I am definitely interested in.
Thomas W.
April 8, 2014
An ever so informative piece, which focuses its lens on the National Film Registry, 'These Amazing Shadows' is a fascinating documentary that emphasizes the importance of film as not only an artform, but as an important part of history. With interviews from big-name directors, actors, and writers, 'These Amazing Shadows' might be aimed more towards film enthusiasts, but its depiction of film's importance in society, as well as the maintenance and preservation of these vital pieces of history is entertaining beyond just informational.

Final Grade: A-
April 8, 2014
An ever so informative piece, which focuses its lens on the National Film Registry, 'These Amazing Shadows' is a fascinating documentary that emphasizes the importance of film as not only an art-form, but as an important part of history. With interviews from big-name directors, actors, and writers, 'These Amazing Shadows' might be aimed more towards film enthusiasts, but its depiction of film's importance in society, as well as the maintenance and preservation of these vital pieces of history.

Final Grade: A-
October 15, 2013
These Amazing Documentary! [B+]
October 2, 2013
These Amazing Shadows is a tantalizing title. Just the provocation of thought it initiates is worthy of praise. I readily grasped the concept that films are sort of shadows of the past, but it never had occurred to me that movies literally are shadows. The documentary is an introduction to the Library of Congress's initiative to salvage and preserve films that a board of directors deems worthy of induction into the National Film Registry.

It's easy to dismiss this film as just another list production, like the stuff you find and watch on TV when nothing else is on. At times it feels like that sort of show just by its nature, but even though it looks like a bunch of people rattling off anecdotes to clips of popular and nostalgic films, it does run deeper than that. First of all, the clips (like it or not) are evocative. There is some powerful stuff that plays on our connections to the film's portrayed, the films we grew up on. Secondly there is the bigger story of the National Film Registry and why it exists.

It all started with the debate over the preservation of film as artwork when black and whites became colorized, which met with controversy. Film came to be identified as an art form, but also a crucial medium, a uniting force and a neglected diminishing archive of American history. So, the National Film Registry was Born and dedicated to the preservation of film, specifically those that have historical, cultural or aesthetic significance. The mission is interesting, but what happens when the highlight reel element meets the testimonies of board members and film makers is an examination of history led by the presence and awareness of all kinds of films that really shaped human thought and created history, as much as reflected it.

t's not a flashy movie, or the in-your-face science and logic defying "documentary" that has become so prevalent. It doesn't dare you to watch or entice you with anything really, besides a slight manipulation near the end where it goes into the destructive power of film and if "bad" films should be protected. This documentary is made for those who are interested in the place of film in American history. If you are, then These Amazing Shadows is worth watching. If you aren't, you really should be.
August 10, 2013
Entertaining, yes. Informative, yes. Purposeless, yes. Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton's documentary These Amazing Shadows is best described as a propaganda film aimed at the hearts of people who aren't fans of classic cinema. There is no coherent story being told by this film, and outside of the first fifteen minutes, it's an episodic string of descriptions and fun facts about different movies with only vague plot-points or thematic elements linking them together. In addition to that, the people they interviewed were significantly less important and interesting than other documentaries about film provide (most notably Side By Side). All of that being said, I found These Amazing Shadows to be incredibly interesting if only for the trivia knowledge gained. I agree that the National Film Registry is incredibly important, that historic cultural cinema should be preserved, and that classic films are often times incredible, but none of that makes a documentary persuasive. I doubt very seriously that anyone was swayed intellectually by this film. Bottom line, this movie doesn't fulfill the criteria of a good documentary, or even get close really, but it is a very interesting and informative propaganda film. Bottom lines, if you're a cinefile like me and love classic films, this is a must see; not for the film itself, but for the information it provides. If you're not, you should stay away from this at all costs. It's quite the polarizing documentary.
Will Mancini
July 10, 2013
An interesting idea for a documentary, and it has some great sequences, but other parts of the movie feel dull and uninteresting in comparison to some others.
June 17, 2013
The National Film Registry has been something i loved but did not know a lot about it how it came together as far as movie documentary this is very good my only problem was for all The filmmakers interview some of them i would have like too seen more of them like Rob Reiner Christopher Nolan zooey deschanel
March 23, 2013
Those shadows are pretty amazing.
zafmonkey
February 5, 2013
These Amazing Shadows never reveals much of anything new or vastly important and it jumps topics without much logical order, but it works greatly as love letter to film. The heartfelt interviews and clips make you feel the nostalgic love for cinema and its history.
Jeff L

Super Reviewer

November 5, 2012
Interesting documentary about the importance of film preservation and the role of the National Film Registry in that process. Ironically though, the documentary feels redundant. Isn't the fact that a government funded program is preserving films a testament to the importance and widespread appreciation for film preservation?
October 30, 2012
"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.
October 25, 2012
This film is a great testament to why film should be preserved. I wish it would have gone a bit deeper into the process of preservation of film. The National Film Registry is truly a gift to the nation and the world. As with most documentaries from America, it is highly patriotic and romanticizes American Film. It touches on a lot of fantastic films. In the last fifteen minutes of the film it becomes a doc about the power of film: the good and the bad. Which is brilliant, but seems to be a different doc altogether. Definitely a great watch, but a little slow.
September 22, 2012
An in depth look into the world of cinema and it's various unsolved mysterious.
September 23, 2012
These Amazing Shadows
WOW!
Just wonderful, perfect, spectacular.
The feelings of the films.
The beatifull care in the films of the years.
What really are, what we have and what we will in the future.
A beautiful documentary.
But his problem is: This documentary not have a lot of directors like Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and others... I felt a strange lump in the throat, when a person of the documentary talk about movies. Are magic.
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