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These Amazing Shadows: The Movies that Make America

19 Oct


These Amazing Shadows is a straight forward documentary that demonstrates the importance of the National Film Registry and its impact on film preservation. There were several enlightening interviews from some of America’s greatest filmmakers, as well as clips from America’s most memorable films, as well as a list of some not so popular choices that shows off the diversity of the selection committee. Directors Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton guide audience into the vault and reveal some important contributors to film history, especially the often ignored women directors from Old Hollywood. The documentary shares the old and the new, but more importantly the film inspires audiences to revisit  and watch our countries favorite films again.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

A Streetcar Named Desire is the king around here

26 Jan


Rarely do I use the word masterpiece to describe anything, but Elia Kazan’s film production of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire is closest thing to that word. The main cast provides some of the most talked about and studied performances in film history. The unforgettable name, “Stella!” continues to be part of American popular culture. Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) and Vivien Leigh (Blance Dubois) electrify the screen with their commanding performances while Karl Malden (Mitch) and Kim Hunter (Stella) hold their own in the face of an intimidating and domineering Stanley. The film touches upon several subjects, patriarchy, marriage, mental illness, domestic violence, homophobia, and alcoholism in a way that has left an imprint on audiences both young and old.

The film set the standard for several generations to come in several filmmaking categories. A Streetcar Named Desire has proved it is “the king around here and don’t you forget it.”


Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+

This Film Is Not Yet Rated because THEY said so

11 Jan


In 1966, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) replaced the out-of-date Hays code with a new rating system that has evolved into our current understanding of the familiar letter grades.  Most artists understand the rating system’s purpose, but many disagree with the committee’s subjective censorship policies in regards to sex and nudity.

One of the ways to protect the MPAA’s rating board from outside influence is to keep their names anonymous from the public. Filmmaker Kirby Dick wants to know who these people are and their qualifications for such a powerful position. Dick hires a private investigator to track down these people’s identities while he inserts interviews with several prominent directors and clips from their films. His research reveals a prejudice against homosexuality and the female gender in particular, but a high tolerance for violence. The documentary is one-sided, but reveals some interesting facts about the movie business that have been kept in the “closet” for too long.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Django Unchained is a saucy spaghetti western.

26 Dec


Honestly, it is difficult to determine whether Quentin Tarantino is making a bold artistic statement with his latest film, Django Unchained, or simply trying to see what he can get away with in Hollywood. This film takes place during America’s most shameful time period and there are moments when Tarantino addresses the gravity of the situation with great importance, but then there are other times you wonder what he is thinking. For the most part, the film is a success because Tarantino accomplishes everything he set out do, but I would not consider this film his best work by a longshot. Although, Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz have a great chemistry together and Leonardo DiCaprio rises to the occasion as an egotistical and diabolical slave owner, Tarantino’s “so-called” style gets in the way of the film when it comes to the ultra-violence because it really becomes distracting, and in my opinion hurts the film from meeting its full potential.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B+

Hugo detours into early film history

29 Nov

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a homage to early film history. It is not surprising that Scorsese would be interested in working on such a project. He is an advocate of film preservation and his efforts have has saved over 500 films, including some of the earliest films ever made.

The story follows a young orphan named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who lives in the walls of train station in Paris 1931. His only keepsake of his father is a strange looking automaton that needs a key to unlock a secret message. Hugo befriends Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), the god-daughter of bitter shop owner, (Ben Kingsley) that knows something about Hugo’s machine.

Visually, the film is gorgeous, but its 128minute run time may turn off some audiences because this film detours from Hugo and delves into the history and life of the bitter shop owner. Film lovers will find this movie fascinating, but average audiences may not be as excited about the finished product.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Hitchcock is the master of suspense

26 Nov

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the greatest directors Hollywood has ever seen, but ironically, he has never won an Oscar for his efforts.  This year’s Academy Awards will have plenty of nominations for the recent biopic starring Anthony Hopkins as the “corpulent” and aging filmmaker trying to make Psycho. Hollywood loves films about the movie business and this one delivers a poignant look at director’s creative genius, the movie studio’s stupidity, and Hitchcock’s career long relationship with his wife and partner,  Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), who has a prominent role in the success of the film.

The power of the film comes from his Hopkins and Mirren’s relationship finding itself at an emotional crossroads, but like most biopics, a darker side of the character must be explored to keep it from becoming a docudrama. In Hitchcock, the filmmaker’s not-so secret obsession with his blonde leading ladies is respectfully introduced to audiences, but kept under control by director Sacha Gervasi.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Nickelodeon takes us back

13 Sep

Nickelodeon takes audiences back to the early days when small independent film companies were trying to circumvent the Patents Company’s monopoly over the movie business.  Peter Bogdanovich creates a heartfelt comedy about a young writer/director learning how to make movies on the go with a Keystone-like cast of misfits in the unpopulated plains of California. The cast includes Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds (with and without a mustache), John Ritter, Stella Stevens, and a young Tatum O’Neal.

The film is a tribute to early filmmakers making the transition from hired help to artists. There are many “inside” references to the business throughout the film, but I believe the film’s humor can stand on its own without audiences having knowledge of people like D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. I admit there are times when Bogdanovich could have shorten scenes to help with the film’s pacing, but I can forgive those moments because he is paying tribute to our cinema’s wonderful history.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C-