Thursday, December 22, 2011

“These Amazing Shadows” on PBS: Preserving the Treasures of Cinema

The Emmy Award-winning PBS series, Independent Lens, will be presenting the film, These Amazing Shadows. The hour-long documentary details the movies that have been selected each year for the National Film Registry. It was directed by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton and will be premiering on PBS next Thursday, Dec. 29th, at 10:00 pm.

In the 1980s, colorization of black-and-white films was championed publicly by the likes of Ted Turner. The process wa
s condemned by filmmakers and film historians, who believed that colorization diminished the films’ artistic merits. In retaliation, the National Film Preservation Act was passed in 1988, its purpose to identify and register films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
These Amazing Shadows includes plentiful clips of noteworthy movies that have been listed as part of the Registry. There are interviews with many directors, actors, writers, and others working in films or the study of films, such as director Christopher Nolan, producer Gale Anne Hurd, actress Debbie Reynolds, the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington, and members of the National Film Preservation Board. There are also discussions of the importance of particular movies, as well as personal stories and reminiscences, like director Wayne Wang citing Natalie Wood as a key reason for his adoration of West Side Story (1961).

The movies chosen for the Registry are not picked solely for aesthetic value or popularity. They are listed for a variety of reasons, and as such, there is much diversity. Well known classics such as Casablanca (1942), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and The Godfather (1972) are there, but so is Mel Brooks’ Wes
tern comedy Blazing Saddles (1974), James Cameron’s sci-fi actioner The Terminator (1984) and John Singleton’s urban drama Boyz n the Hood (1991). The Registry likewise has documentaries, the 1950s propaganda film, The House in the Middle – which shows you that painting your house and cleaning your yard of clutter will protect you from a nuclear detonation – and even that one advertisement that would play between movies, in which anthropomorphized refreshments would sing and dance and convince viewers to “all go to the lobby to get ourselves a treat.”
The documentary additionally highlights the impression of many films, in terms of race, gender, etc. Some of the Registry’s movies may, in retrospect, seem offensive to a particular race or creed, but they are included as they represent America’s history and the cinema’s impact on society and culture.

These Amazing Shadows should appease film buffs with an informative and entertaining presentation. Visit the film’s website to view clips, read details on the documentary, accept a trivia challenge of films in the Registry, and join the “Talkback” section for discussion among fans and enthusiasts. And don’t forget to clear your schedule or set your DVR on Dec. 29th.

PBS provided the Cafe with a preview copy of These Amazing Shadows. Photos courtesy of PBS.

1 comment:

  1. I've got this one on my calendar, Sark ... your description makes it even more intriguing. It makes sense to me that a movie like Blazing Saddles would be there -- good comedy is just as important as the good, older dramas!