These Amazing Shadows Reviews
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.
Final Grade: A-
Final Grade: A-
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.
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.