Friday, August 31, 2012

Classic Movie Star Wood Cuts by Loren Kantor

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)
We human beings are irresistibly attracted to look at other people faces. We search them for beauty, flaws, truth, connection. Movie stars careers often depend on what we see - real or imagined. Loren Kantor's wood cuts reduce faces down to their most fundamental elements. The elements that stir the emotions that draw us to the movies.

Loren's website: Woodcuttingfool

James Cagney

Lauren Bacall

Humphrey Bogart
Gene Hackman as Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle shooting a bad guy in The French Connection.
Buster Keaton in trademark felt pork-pie hat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Night Mashup - Matrix/OfficeSpace + TaxiDriver/Disney

Neo Hides from Lumberg

The Matrix and Office Space were released in 1999 - thus eligible to be nominated to the National Film Registry. Both films have their own particular brand of rabid fans. Deservingly, these movies are mashed-up in to this funny video by Askel at MttM (Movies for the Masses).

Do you think 'The Matrix' or 'Office Space' belong on the National Film Registry? If so, send an email of support for either film (or another one that is meaningful to you) to Donna Ross at the Library of Congress:
How to nominate a film to the National Film Registry.

Walt Disney's Taxi Driver

Another funny mashup is Taxi Driver (1976) and Walt Disney by San Francisco filmmaker and photographer, Bryan Boyce.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Everyone loves Emma/She loves the movies.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in 'The Amazing Spider-Man."
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Help, Easy A) has captured America's heart and become a movie star. So now we must pay attention to what she thinks. And, honestly, I kind of really want to - not just because I am suppose to. Evidently she grew up loving the movies. She describes what movies are important to her in (Entertainment Weekly). It's a fun and charming article. You can access the article at the following link (caution - the webpage design is kind of clunky. You view the article bit by bit by clicking on the arrows located at the upper right side above the article title.):,,20483133_20607486,00.html

Here are a couple of highlights:
It's my dad's favorite movie. Laughter is what symbolizes love to me because of watching The Jerk with my dad. I think that's partially why I do comedy.

You've got to see City Lights. It's my favorite movie of all time. The last five minutes of that movie will change your life. It changed mine. I realized where every romantic comedy comes from — what everyone is trying to achieve. It's the most romantic, touching... If I think about it too long, I'll cry. It's just so simple.

Of the movies she mentions four are on the National Film Registry:
Network, City Lights, Annie Hall, and The Exorcist.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is John Ford's 'The Searchers' Racist?

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards in John Ford's 'The Searchers' (1956).
In one of our These Amazing Shadows segments we take John Ford's masterpiece, The Searchers, to task for what we perceive is its racism. On occasion we have been taken to task for our take on what is often called the best western ever made. While we believe at its heart it is racist there is no doubt that John Wayne's performance is fantastic, the photography by Winton C. Hoch is nothing less than astonishing and John Ford's direction masterful. In a huge oversight it did not receive any Oscar nominations.

One person who has a different view than ours on The Searchers is Corey Atad. After watching These Amazing Shadows he tweeted that we were unfair to The Searchers. We tweeted back asking if he would expand on his thoughts. So, he did. The following is his email unedited and in its entirety. We love exchanging ideas and talking about the movies. Thanks, Corey!

Corey is a film lover and blogger, and writer for Dork Shelf and Sound on Sight.
Corey's twitter:!/CoreyAtad


Just thought I'd respond to/expand on my tweet. I don't think that the point of view presented about The Searchers is invalid, I just think it's more complicated. The documentary follows Birth of a Nation with The Searchers and then only seriously takes into consideration the critique of the film's racist elements. This makes it seem like the film is of a piece with something like Birth of a Nation which is unquestionably a racist and historically nasty film.

I find that what makes The Searchers interesting as a film inducted into the National Registry is not that it's racist, but that it's complex with regards to its approach to race. No doubt the film is very flawed, and it does rely on nasty stereotypes and the ending has some seriously racist undertones (especially considering the true case that inspired the story had the girl refusing to give up the Comanche way of life completely.)

It's also important to consider the film in the context of its time and in John Ford's career. It came quite late in the Western craze, with earlier films being much more clearly racist and destructive over a long period of time. John Ford directed many of these films. Stagecoach, another Ford western in the Registry, could easily be criticized for the way it depicts Native Americans as little more than a faceless enemy to the white Americans.

Rather than simply fall into standard racist portrayals, The Searchers attempts to confront the racism of its main character. He's not the hero of the film by any stretch. He's a dark character and the film doesn't really promote his racist point of view. Also, the Comanche's are presented in an interesting way. They story requires them to be the villains, which is unfortunate, and their visual depiction isn't quite kosher, nor is the way they are used for comic fodder, but the brutality of their violence upon immigrant settlers is fairly true to life. Furthermore, the film actually gives the leader of the Comanches, Scar, motivation beyond being the savage Indian.

The Searchers isn't a perfect film, and it does fall into the racist trappings of the genre at the time, but it also takes them on in a manner more serious and more complex than almost any other western at the time. In this sense, the documentary making it seem of a piece with Birth of a Nation is unfortunate. Where that film is quite binary, important more for its social and technical qualities, The Searchers is an important marker in the way race was approached within its genre and American film in general. That is to say, not perfectly, but with complexity. I kind of wish These Amazing Shadows touched on this rather than just using The Searchers as a stand-in for racism in westerns.

Honestly though, that was a tiny quibble. I loved the rest of the doc. Fantastic work. Made me want to go through the National Film Registry and check out all the films I've likely missed. Particularly the shorts.

Corey Atad

Monday, June 18, 2012

Superhog vs. The National Film Registry

Screen grab detail from Superhog's user page on
As the Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington says in These Amazing Shadows, "The National Film Registry is not just another list of great films." Well, perhaps the same could be said for Superhog's list of Favorite Movies of All Times. Superhog is the nom de plume for a young fellow who is a member of, which is one of several Internet sites that allows you to post lists of your favorite (or least favorite) movies. Superhog's ratings list is up to 746 movies and (drum roll please) These Amazing Shadows ranked number 153 (between The Muppets and Cowboys and Aliens!).  Superhog rates The Empire Strikes Back as his all time favorite movie - and rates Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella as the biggest stinker of all time.

Superhog is Daniel McFadin who is a senior journalism major at Arkansas State University. You can follow him on twitter:!/danielmcfadin

We like because it was established by real film fans and one of its cool features is to calculate how many days, hours and minutes you've spent watching movies (the number is based on the number of films you rate).

Blog UPDATE: Friend of These Amazing Shadows Garry Swanson alerted us to another great film list site - Letterboxed - that has the catchy catch phrase of, "Your life in films." On Letterboxed Garry's nom de plume is gicalgary and he has watched 707 films! We love his film list he calls, "Films I sat through, but wished I didn't" that includes: This Means War, Bolero, Xanadu and a few more that you'll have to check out.

You can follow Garry on twitter (he is worth the follow):!/Garry_S!/Garry_S

Other sites to consider:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Party Like a Movie Star - Sort of...

Orson Welles Estate
 If you really want to wow your friends and family why not have your next party at the former home of an actor, director or pop star. A company called Eventup has a huge selection of properties (that is real estate lingo) that you can rent for a special occasion. Some of them once belonged to a celebrity. We don't have any connection to Eventup. We post this information just because it is kind of fun.

1) Director/writer/actor Orson Welles former Hollywood Hills home.  COST: $2000.00
Property Description: Hollywood Hills Historic Property with 16,000 Sq Ft Yard. Great for small weddings and get togethers with pool and waterfalls. City view from front and back yards.
TAS Comment: Big stinky cigars and a cape are de rigueur.

Orson's (and maybe your) view of Los Angeles.

Cary Grant and Charles Bronson's former front yard. Wonder if Cary ever mowed the lawn?
 2) Cary Grant and Charles Bronson's former home in Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. COST: $500
Property Description: Once home to Cary Grant & Charles Bronson, the Larchmont Character Fourplex is located in exclusive Hancock Park, just blocks from quaint Larchmont Village, with unique boutiques, restaurant & cafes…our “Bronson” suite features wonderful natural light, large French windows that open to beautiful Bougainvillea, a private 1 car garage, ample space & more – all while just steps to Larchmont Village, Paramount or Raleigh Studios!
TAS Comment: Can't quite picture Cary and Charles as a couple.

MM and Joltin' Joe's digs in San Francisco.
3) Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio's former home in San Francisco. COST: $1000
Property Description: On January 15, 1954, Marilyn Monroe married baseball player Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco. They lived for a time in this house in the Marina District.
TAS Comment: This is the place where Joe tried to make Marilyn into a demure housewife.

Gaga's crib in NYC.
4) Lady Gaga's former apartment in New York City. COST: $12,500
Property Description: The pop icon's former one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side is available for filming and photo shoots. On the building's ground level, there is a retail space available for events and pop-up art galleries or shops.
TAS Comment: Lady Gaga is not associated with the movies, but we include this listing because of the price - $12,500!!! for one evening!!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Internet Film Critic June Mason Speaks!

The Internet gives everyone the opportunity to express their particular point-of-view to the world. Some people choose to express opinions, but remain anonymous. That is somewhat understandable given how unpredictable the world can be. However, when you choose to unleash your views on the world you should take on the responsibility to stand behind them. Some people do - like June Mason. He is a young fellow that reviews movies. We present his charming review of These Amazing Shadows.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How did 'Back to the Future' get selected to the National Film Registry?

Our broadcast on PBS/Independent Lens was a 53-minute cut-down version from our original theatrical/DVD/Blu-ray 88-minute version. One of the segments that was not included in the PBS 53-minute version was about how Back to the Future came to be selected to the National Film Registry. Stephen Clark over at (BTTF = Back to the Future) posted that segment from our doc on his youtube channel. It is a great story of the insider (Liz Stanley) and a grass roots campaign organized by Stephen.

If you have been meaning to buy a Flux Capacitor - get it at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Room 125 Productions - Lawrence (KS) High School

These Amazing Shadows has received a lot of great reviews from traditional and new media film critics. Every so often, like every film, we will get a bad review. This week we got a real stinker. As we were briefly semi-succumbing to this particular blog critic's negative vibes ("How could this be! Why! Why!") we received an email from, Jeffrey Kuhr, who teaches film and media at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Kansas. He told us how much he loved our documentary and how useful it is to his curriculum. Mr. Kuhr has developed a great program for his students called, Room 125 Productions. The above video is one of their recent projects and is a homage to the 1985 film, The Breakfast Club. It is a lot of fun and shows the power of film/video to bring us all together to express ourselves, communicate and have fun. Go, you Lions!

Room 125 Productions YouTube Channel:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Late Night Oscar Diaries from Lois Vossen

Lobby of the formerly named Kodak Theater - now called the Hollywood and Highland Center
We pass along this fun blog post from the ITVS Beyond the Box Blog.

Independent Lens Series Producer Lois Vossen attended Sunday night’s Academy Awards in Los Angeles. She was there to support two nominated films for Best Documentary feature: Independent Lens’ Hell and Back Again and the ITVS-funded If a Tree Falls (which aired on POV). The documentary Undefeated wound up taking the prize. Still, Lois had a blast and as the evening came to a close, she phoned in (literally) this recap via the BTB hotline. Here are the highlights….

Lois Vossen looking quite glamorous - wearing...let me guess...Atelier Versace? Vera Wang?
Hi there! Well it was a great night. The debate is on whether or not Billy Crystal was funny and whether or not the show was well paced. As we were leaving, I ran into Wim Wenders who made Pina and I went over and spoke with him and he said “I’m very, very sorry that Hell and Back Again lost because it was a magnificent film and I would have been honored to have lost to Hell and Back Again, honored!” So I introduced him to Fiona Otway who edited the film.

Overall, I thought the show was fun. Maybe not the best Oscars of all time but certainly best for me, maybe because I was there! The show played quickly and seem to fly by. Tony Bennett played at the Governors ball afterwards and he sounded great.

Right now, people are scattering off to after parties at Vanity Fair and Elton John’s thing. We’re getting together back at the hotel with a friend of ours who’s a member of the Academy. Interesting to hear how it played on Television versus inside the theatre. Apparently Circque du Soleil played better in the theatre.

Also, I was right in front of Sasha Baron Cohen when he dumped the ashes on Ryan Seacrest! I thought it was really funny but apparently that pissed off a lot of people? Maybe you had to be there because watching it live was just silly and unexpected.
Of course, the women all looked fabulous!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Does "The Third Man" belong in the National Film Registry?

In London they have a charming movie treat called Secret Cinema. The premise of Secret Cinema is that you're part of a secret film organization. They announce a screening date - but not a location or name of the film. You are instructed to "tell no-one." In the announcement the descriptive language suggests a genre/theme of a classic film. You buy a ticket. Then, at the last minute before the screening date a location and the name of the film is revealed. People attend dressed up like characters or in clothing that suggests the world of the film. The location always changes - warehouses, old theatres, outdoor, indoor. They created a cyberpunk bazzar for Blade Runner and filled a venue with camels and Bedouins for Lawrence of Arabia. Again, they stress you are to "tell no-one." It's pretty cool.

Photo showing the world created for the Secret Cinema screening of The Third Man. More photos can be seen by clicking on the "posted photos" link below. 
The last Secret Cinema film screened was The Third Man. As part of setting the mood for the screening they posted photos of the world they created for the audience/participants. The Third Man is one of our favorite films and we believe it should be in the National Film Registry. However, there is the question of can one justify it as an "American" film? Two of the leads - Joseph Cotton and Orson Wells - and one of the producers - David O. Selznick (though he's uncredited) - are Americans. Orson Wells is an given uncredited co-screenwriting credit. Tough call. We say - yes. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ernest Borgnine's Birthday

Today is Ernest Borgnine's birthday (he's 95). With the Oscar nominations announced today it reminds us that Ernest won an Academy Award in 1955 for his portrayal of Marty in the movie of the same name. One of our These Amazing Shadows interview subjects, Amy Heckerling, (director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, Look Who's Talking and the most recent episode of the TV show Gossip Girl) is good friends with Ernest and in the above video talks about why the movie Marty is so important to her.

Even though Mr. Borgnine had a marvelous motion picture career he is known best to a certain generation as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale in the television show, McHale's Navy. When I was a kid - me and all my friends definitely thought he was a very cool guy in that role. It was only when I got older did I realize that he was such a fine and successful movie actor.

Marty was selected to the National Film Registry in 1994.
Mr. Borgnine also appears in the following films that are on the National Film Registry:
From Here to Eternity (selected in 2002)
Johnny Guitar (selected in 2008)
The Wild Bunch (selected in 1999)

Amy Heckerling's film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was selected to the National Film Registry in 2005.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hugo - What is Old is New Again

(upper) Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret in Martin Scorsese's Hugo and (lower) Harold Lloyd as The Boy in Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor's Safety Last!
From Turner Classic Movies:
In the 1923 silent film Safety Last! - "The clock face stunt was inspired by Bill Strothers' performance of a similar human fly act, discovered by Lloyd while walking in Los Angeles one day. Strothers' grand finale to the stunt involved him riding a bicycle along the rooftops edge and then standing on his head on a flagpole. Lloyd was deeply impressed by the event, remarking, "It made such a terrific impression on me, and stirred my emotions."

Lloyd immediately placed Strothers under contract at the Hal Roach studio, and cast him in Safety Last! as "Limpy Bill," the Boy's lovable roommate and construction worker who also has human fly capabilities.

Many of the interior scenes for Safety Last! were shot at the L.A. department store Ville de Paris, which was owned by a close friend of producer Hal Roach. Each evening when the store closed the crew would set up their equipment and then work during the midnight hours."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Favorite Movie Theaters

Mayfair Curzon Cinemas in London
Last night watching These Amazing Shadows on Independent Lens via KQED in San Francisco I was struck by how washed out the images of our interview subjects looked on my television. We took great care in the shooting and color correction of those images - but we don't always have control of what happens to our doc after it leaves our hands. Every theater screening, television broadcast and DVD/Blu-ray viewing looks different. It makes me think how precious it is to have an experience watching a film in a movie theater that cares about the projection and sound quality. Here are a couple of my favorite movie theaters:

1) ArcLight Cinemas, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
At the ArcLight I recently saw a film that I really didn't care that much for (Columbiana), but the crisp picture, rich sound, comfortable seats and good candy (chocolate almonds) made for a great experience. I just kept saying to myself, "What a beautiful picture!" (I do like Zoe Saldana so as TAS interview subject Wayne Wang says, "That helpled.") I would go see anything at that theater - the worst movie you can think of - I'm in.

2) Curzon Mayfair, 38 Curzon Street, London W1J 7TY
The Curzon Mayfair is 75 years old and is one of London's original art-house cinemas. Their distinction as the first London theater to import and screen foreign language films beginning with Max Ophuls' La Ronde (one of my favorites - the camera work by Christian Matras is beyond amazing) tells you how long they have been committed to providing a great cinematic experience. I saw The Young Victoria there and although it is not a particularly outstanding film I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Like the ArcLight, the Curzon Mayfair has a spectacular projection and sound system, very comfortable seats, perfect screen size and great candy (Galaxy Bar). What added to that particular screening was the older British audience that thrilled to the story of young Queen Victoria. I felt like I was having a true cultural experience (and, yes, Emily Blunt helped).

Photo by Tom Kessler
3) Ruth Sokolof Theater, 1340 Mike Fahay Street, Omaha, Nebraska
I've never been to the Ruth Sokolof Theater, but greatly admire everything about the vibe of this theater run by Film Streams, a non-profit organization "dedicated to enhancing the cultural environment in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area through the presentation of film as an art form." What a mission! Check out their website: Film Streams

What theater(s) do you love? Why?