Movie Review: These Amazing Shadows

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.

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Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Fantastic?  Incredible?  I’d say that The Amazing Spiderman truly lives up to its name.  Besides earning points for best Stan Lee cameo ever, The Amazing Spiderman takes the cake as best Marvel based film of the year, beating the thoroughly enjoyable MIB 3 and the mildly disappointing Marvel’s The Avengers.

It turns out Marc Webb wasn’t just chosen for his name.  His sensibility brought Spidey to life in the best vision ever shown, live action or animated.  Borrowing heavily from Chris Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight while retaining Sam Raimi’s horror and comedic influence,  Webb created a world for spiderman that is genuine and exciting.  Andrew Garfield matches him bringing everything to the table to creat the perfect Spiderman.  Add to him, the gifted cast including Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Denis Leary and inspired staging and visual effects and you’ve got more than a blockbuster.  It’s a true classic.

In this take, which retells Spiderman’s origin, Peter Parker wants to know why his father, a secretive scientist mysteriously disappeared.  In the process of investigating the matter, he comes in contact with some of his father’s life’s work, a radioactive spider.  gene splicing is researched in the lab to find a way to use the advantages of certain animals to heal humans.  Dr. Conner, a former colleague of Peters Dad hopes to use reptile DNA to regenerate his lost forearm… but something goes terribly wrong.  Peter’s character is much more complex and satisfying this time around, making both good and bad choices, while remaining true to his perspective as a teen with a lot of questions.

James Horner sets the mood beautifully throughout the film with his masterful score and Alvin Sargent returns as co-screenwriter to Basic, The Losers and soon to be Robocop scribe James Vanderbilt.  The film was wonderfully paced and well-balanced thanks to the remarkable work they did pre and post production to build and enhance the character of this fine story. A+