National Film Registry Adds 25 Films
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced recently hisannual selection of 25 motion pictures to be added to the National FilmRegistry (see list below). This group of titles brings the total numberof films placed on the registry to 350.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year theLibrarian of Congress names 25 "culturally, historically oraesthetically" significant motion pictures to the registry. The list isdesigned to reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's filmheritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of Americancinema and the need for its preservation. As Billington said, "Our filmheritage is America's living past. It celebrates the creativity andinventiveness of diverse communities and our nation as a whole. Bypreserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of ourcultural history."
This year's selections span the 20th century from 1901 to 1991, andencompass films ranging from Hollywood classics to lesser-known, butstill vital, works. Among films named this year: "Alien," theinfluential, spine-tingling, sci-fi film where one learns that "inspace no one can hear you scream"; "All My Babies," George Stoney'slandmark educational film used to educate midwives in Georgia andthroughout the South; "The Bad and the Beautiful," featuring KirkDouglas as a ruthless film producer in one of Hollywood's mostmemorable examinations of its culture; "The Black Stallion," CarrollBallard's evocative and visually stunning children's classic; "EndlessSummer," Bruce Brown's droll documentary of two surfers and theiraround-the-world quest for the "Perfect Wave" that made millionsdespite an unorthodox distribution strategy; "From Stump to Ship," aonce-forgotten 1930 logging film that has become a touchstone ofcultural identity for Maine residents; "Fuji," Robert Breer'savant-garde replication (blending techniques of rotoscope, live-actionimagery and line drawing) of a train ride past Mt. Fuji; theelectrifying 1967 social drama "In the Heat of the Night," where SidneyPoitier as "Mister Tibbs" solves a crime his way; "Melody Ranch," oneof the best vehicles for Gene Autry as the first singing cowboy; "ThePearl," a landmark among English-language Mexican classics released forHispanic audiences in the United States, which features breathtakingcinematography by Gabriel Figueroa; "The Star Theatre," a dazzling 1901time-lapse special effects film showing demolition of a New York Citytheater; "Theodore Case Sound Tests: Gus Visser and his Duck" and "Thisis Cinerama," two films illustrating technical innovation in cinema, inaddition to being highly entertaining; "This is Spinal Tap," RobReiner's "mockumentary" parody of a fictitious, touring heavy metalband that places its faith in "the amplifier which goes to 11 ";"Through Navajo Eyes," a pioneering series of anthropological films;"Why Man Creates," an animated paean to the concept of creativity bylegendary film title sequence designer Saul Bass; and "Wild and Wooly,"one of the films which created Douglas Fairbanks' film persona, in thisfilm showcasing his hilarious personal odyssey from effete Easterner tocourageous, virile Man of the West.
Following intensive discussions with the National Film PreservationBoard, the Librarian chose this year's titles after evaluating nearly1,000 films nominated by the public. Billington consults with thedistinguished members of his advisory board on registry film selectionand national film preservation policy, along with the Library's ownMotion Picture Division staff.
Billington lauded recent landmark developments in the filmpreservation field, including the continuing development of theNational Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., being builtwith generous support from the Packard Humanities Institute, which willopen in 2005 as possibly the world's pre-eminent audio-visualpreservation and research facility; and the Moving Image Collections(MIC), a joint project of the Library of Congress, Association ofMoving Image Archivists, Rutgers University, Georgia Tech, Universityof Washington and numerous other institutions. This project recentlyreceived a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to begincreation of the nation's first online integrated catalog of movingimages, a Web-based gateway to invaluable moving images held atarchives throughout the world.
Noted film critic and historian Leonard Maltin remarked, "Filmresearchers, archivists and buffs around the world have been eagerlyawaiting the day when one could determine, easily and definitively,which films exist and where. It's high time for this project to come tofruition."
Regarding the National Film Registry, Billington observed, "Thefilms we choose are not necessarily either the 'best' American filmsever made or the most famous. But they are films that continue to havecultural, historical, or aesthetic significance-and in many casesrepresent countless other films also deserving of recognition. Theselection of a film, I stress, is not an endorsement of its ideology orcontent, but rather a recognition of the film's importance to Americanfilm and cultural history and to history in general."
"Taken together, the 350 films in the National Film Registryrepresent a stunning range of American filmmaking-including Hollywoodfeatures, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films ofregional interest, ethnic, animated, and short film subjects-alldeserving recognition, preservation and access by future generations.As we begin this new millennium, the registry stands among the finestsummations of American cinema's wondrous first century," he added.
This key component of American cultural history, however, remains alegacy with much already lost or in peril. Billington added: "In spiteof the heroic efforts of archives, the motion picture industry andothers, America's film heritage, by any measure, is an endangeredspecies. Fifty percent of the films produced before 1950 and 80-90percent made before 1920 have disappeared forever. Sadly, ourenthusiasm for watching films has proved far greater than ourcommitment to preserving them. And, ominously, more films are lost eachyear-through the ravages of nitrate deterioration, color-fading and therecently discovered 'vinegar syndrome,' which threatens theacetate-based (safety) film stock on which the vast majority of motionpictures, past and present, have been reproduced."
For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress worksto ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through theLibrary's massive motion picture preservation program or throughcollaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios, andindependent filmmakers. The Library of Congress contains the largestcollections of film and television in the world, from the earliestsurviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest featurereleases.
For more information, consult the National Film Preservation BoardWeb site: www.loc.gov/film.
Films Selected to The National Film Registry Library of Congress,2002:
1. Alien (1979)
2. All My Babies (1953)
3. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
5. The Black Stallion (1979)
6. Boyz N the Hood (1991)
7. Theodore Case Sound Tests: Gus Visser and His Singing Duck(1925)
8. The Endless Summer (1966)
9. From Here to Eternity (1953)cg with the Library's own MotionPic
10. From Stump to Ship (1930)
11. Fuji (1974)
12. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
13. Lady Windermere's Fan (1925)
14. Melody Ranch (1938)
15. The Pearl (1948)
16. Punch Drunks (1934)
17. Sabrina (1954)
18. Star Theatre (1901)
19. Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
20. This Is Cinerama (1952)
21. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
22. Through Navajo Eyes (series) (1966)
23. Why Man Creates (1968)
24. Wild and Wooly (1917)
25. Wild River (1960)