Thursday, December 29, 2011

Who is John Bunny and Why is These Amazing Shadows So Short?!

Comedic actor John Bunny (1863-1915).
The Library of Congress released the 2011 National Film Registry selections late in the day on Tuesday. There were a lot of great and some questionable selections, but several really caught our eye. One was A Cure for Pokeritis starring John Bunny. For a few years around 1910 he was the biggest movie star in the world. He was known for a " jolly, boisterous, and broad" onscreen presence. Today he is largely forgotten, but his career lives on thanks to youtube (see A Cure for Pokeritis below), on the National Film Registry and remembered with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (inducted February 8, 1960 - his star is located at 1719 Vine Street, Hollywood).

Other selections we really like are:
Growing Up Female
Fruit Cake Factory
The Big Heat
Stand Up and Deliver

The entire list of the 2011 National Film Registry selections can be seen at the end of this blog post.

Over the next week These Amazing Shadows will be broadcast on the PBS series, Independent Lens. We are very excited, but realize that the broadcast creates a little bit of confusion about how long is These Amazing Shadows (TAS)? Our original length is 88-minutes, which you will find on our DVD and Blu-ray. However, on Independent Lens it has been cut down to 53 minutes and 27 seconds. Most documentaries on IL have been been cutdown to conform to this length. We weren't excited about this situation, but understood the needs of the series. So if the broadcast length seems too short for you (as many reviews have said), then take comfort in knowing that you can still reach the full 88-minute promise land by watching the DVD or Blu-ray. Another thing we'd like you to know is that the formal These Amazing Shadows broadcast date of Thursday, December 29th at 10pm is not always followed by all the PBS affiliates. They are free to do what ever they want. For example, here in our home town of San Francisco the local PBS affiliate KQED will broadcast TAS at 11:00 pm on Tuesday, January 3rd and at 10:00 pm on Wednesday, January 4th (KQED Life). So, check your local listings for specific day and time.

Incidentally, before-during-after the Thursday and Sunday broadcasts we will be twittering using the hashtag #ILDocClub if you'd like to join us. Find us on twitter at @amazingshadows

The 2011 National Film Registry Selections:
Allures (1961) Director Jordan Belson was dubbed the master of “cosmic cinema” who created abstract imagery with color, light and moving patterns and objects. “Allures” is a five-minute film that Belson said “was probably the space-iest film that had been done until then. It creates a feeling of moving into the void.”
Bambi (1942) Disney’s personal favorite follows the adventures of a fawn named Bambi and his friends Flower the skunk and Thumper the bunny.
The Big Heat (1953) Fritz Lang directed this film noir starring Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame.
A Computer Animated Hand (1972) Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, created a program nearly 40 years ago to digitally animate a human hand. This one-minute film displays the animated hand.
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) Filmmaker Robert Drew and several other documentary directors including D.A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock chronicled Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s attempts to stop two African American students from enrolling at the University of Alabama and President John F. Kennedy’s response.
The Cry of Children (1912)  This silent drama about child labor helped instigate labor reform.
A Cure for Pokeritis (1912) Rotund comic John Bunny, who died in 1915, was one of the biggest comedy stars between 1910 and 1915. In this farce, he plays a henpecked husband.
El Mariachi (1992) Robert Rodriguez’s first feature, which he made for $7,000 while a film student at the University of Texas.
Faces (1968) John Cassavetes' masterwork offers a razor-sharp critique of middle-class America. Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Lynn Carlin and Seymour Cassel star.
Fruit Cake Factory (1985) Chick Strand’s documentary on young Mexican women who make ornamental papier-mache fruits and vegetables.
Forrest Gump (1994) Robert Zemeckis directed this box-office hit, which went on to win several Academy Awards including best picture, director and lead actor for Tom Hanks as a sweet everyman who encounters all the major events of the 1960s and '70s.
Growing Up Female (1971) Ohio college students Julia Reichart and Jim Klein follow six girls and women from the ages of 4 to 34 at home, work and school.
Hester Street (1975) Director Joan Micklin Silver’s feature, which was financed by her husband, looks at Eastern European Jewish life in American in the early 1900s. Carol Kane earned an Oscar nomination as an immigrant who arrives in New York to marry.
I, an Actress (1977) The late underground filmmaker George Kuchar’s comedy about his directing techniques.
The Iron Horse (1924) John Ford’s seminal western focuses on how the country was united after the Civil War with the building of the transcontinental railroad.
The Kid (1921) Charlie Chaplin’s first feature length comedy-drama, about the Little Tramp taking in a foundling (Jackie Coogan).
The Lost Weekend (1945) Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning social problem drama that examined the effects of alcoholism with a realism that hadn’t been shown on screen. Ray Milland, who was known more for his lighter roles, won an Oscar for his performance as the young writer who loses everything when he turns to alcohol. The film also won Academy Awards for best picture, director and screenplay.
The Negro Soldier (1944) Frank Capra’s World War II U.S. Army filming unit produced this film that looked at the contributions of African Americans in society as well as their heroic contributions in the war. The film was produced as a response to discrimination against African Americans who were stationed in the South during the war
Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-1940s) Legendary tap dancing brothers Fayard and Harold Nicholas, who graced such films as 1948’s “The Pirate,” also shot home movies that feature one-of-a-kind footage of Broadway, Harlem and Hollywood.
Norma Rae (1979) Sally Field won her first Oscar as a single mother working at a textile mill in the South who attempts to organize the workers. Martin Ritt directed.
Porgy and Bess (1959) Otto Preminger directed this lavish version of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s folk opera, starring Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll. There are very few prints of the film in existence, so it has rarely been seen in recent decades.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) The horror thriller based on the book by Thomas Harris swept the Academy Awards, winning best picture, director (Jonathan Demme), adapted screenplay (Ted Tally), best actress for Jodie Foster as rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling and best actor for Anthony Hopkins as the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
Stand and Deliver (1988) Edward James Olmos earned an Oscar nomination in the inspiring true story of an East Los Angeles high school teacher, Jaime Escalante.
Twentieth Century (1934) Howard Hawks directed this breathlessly funny screwball comedy adapted by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur from their Broadway play about a egomaniacal director (John Barrymore) and his temperamental leading lady (Carole Lombard).
War of the Worlds (1953) George Pal produced this lavish, Oscar-winning, special effects laden sci-fi thriller based on H.G. Wells’ novel about Martian aircraft landing on Earth. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson star in this box-office hit. 

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