The Film Registry turns 30.

It seems impossible that the Library of Congress National Film Registry is 30 years old. Yesterday, they released their annual selections for the National Film Registry. It’s important to note the criteria: films must be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Some films that are less than aesthetically significant may nonetheless be culturally important — the Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example. It’s a terrible movie, but there are a great many Americans of my age who have at one time or another sat in a theater throwing rice at the screen during the wedding scene. (Of course, Animal House has both cultural and aesthetic value.)

As far as aesthetic importance, I really don’t think Brokeback Mountain is of more than middling quality (altough very many people disagree with me), but it did become part of a larger dialog about the representation of homosexuality in film.

Okay, Jurassic Park. It’s scary. It’s very scary. It’s by Spielberg. Eh.

Wait, the LOC is just now getting around to naming Hearts and Minds to the registry? The definitive documentary about the Vietnam War (at least until Ken Burns came along)? But they named Brokeback Mountain only three years after it was eligible? These people are more inscrutable than the folks who decide who enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The musicals… I adore My Fair Lady (I have watched it all the way through probably a dozen times in the last year, and many more times I have seen the first twenty minutes — it’s one of my insomnia cures). Still, I am not completely surprised it wasn’t inducted earlier.

On the Town, though…. In addition to songs and story by Comden and Green, the movie boasts a wonderful jazzy score by Leonard Bernstein. How did it take them so long on this one?

I’m very glad Bad Day at Black Rock is going on the list. A film noir wrapped up in a sun-swamped Western, this is Spencer Tracy at his best.

I’m DVRing Monterey Pop. It makes a nice companion to my director’s cut of Woodstock. I was amused by the chief of police in Monterey worried about getting 50,000 people at the festival. He worried about violence (“I’ve heard the Hell’s Angels are coming down”) and he worried about food supplies, foreseeing that the crowds would buy out everything edible. Contrast that to a year later, when Woodstock organizers blithely predicted 200, 000 attendees, with inadequate food, water, and sanitation. That could be the reason that the Monterey Pop Festival is known for its music, while Woodstock is known for (in addition to its music) as being a complete clusterf***.

Cinderella surprises me. I thought all the Disney animations were in there.

Movies I have heard of but never seen: The Shining, Smoke Signals, Broadcast News, among several. Don’t email me and tell me how I absolutely have to see The Shining. I am a fan of neither Jack Nicholson nor Stanley Kubrick, (I am a fan of Stephen King, but from I’ve read he didn’t like the movie) so no, I’m not interested.

Most of the rest are movies I’ve never heard of or seen before. Last night on TCM, Leonard Maltin and Librarian of Congress (how cool a job title is that?) Carla Hayden showed a number of the newly added films. My favorite is “Something Good — Negro Kiss” from 1898. Every film buff has seen the earliest kiss on film, but this is equally important. Every second is also joyous and caring. TCM followed that up with an animated short calledHair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People from 1984.

Okay, that’s it for this year. Time to go back to my lobbying effort for The Blues Brothers. I figure I can’t lose. After all, I’m on a mission from God.


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2 Responses to The Film Registry turns 30.

  1. Sarah says:

    Nothing to say about the Shining, but Smoke Signals is high on my list of personally important movies – highly recommended.

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