Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
25 Titles Added to National Film Registry
Films are selected to join the National Film Registry based on their “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” importance. Note the billing: in a field of three art places dead last.
This year's selections are particularly uninspired. Forrest Gump should be tossed in the National Film Ashcan, and while there's merit to be found in Hester Street, El Mariachi, and Twentieth Century, there are other titles much more deserving of the honor. (How about Preminger's In Harm's Way or Bonjour, Tristesse over his compromising adaptation of Porgy and Bess?)
Few of the documentaries, experimental, avant-garde and underground shorts that made the list have hit my rader. It would behoove the Library of Congress to put together a digitally spruced up DVD collection of the hard to see titles.
Here are this year's twenty-five additions.
An 8-minute abstract short directed by avant-garde filmmaker Jordan Belson.
Bambi joins Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, and Pinocchio as the fourth film from Disney's golden period to make the list. Shockingly, both Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story made the cut before this, one of Uncle Walt's crowning achievements.
The Big Heat (1953)
Fritz Lang's masrerful film noir most notable for Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame's dueling coffee pots.
A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
Pixar co-founder, Ed Catmull, shows us how to computer-generate a hand in sixty-seconds.
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)
Alabama Governor George Wallace's attempts to prohibit two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama are documented by Robert Drew, D.A. Pennebaker, James Lipscomb, and others.
The Cry of the Children (1912)
An unsettling indictment of child abuse in the workplace that helped bring about labor reform.
A Cure for Pokeritis (1912)
Laurence Trimble's slapstick comedy starring John Bunny.
El Mariachi (1992)
Robert Rodriguez's first feature cost a mere $7,000. It's not a bad film, but it certainly does not deserve a spot on this list.
John Cassavetes "shoot now, figure it out later" vivisection of relationships most foul.
Fake Fruit Factory (1986)
Chick Strand's avant-garde glimpse into the lives of Mexican women who make fake fruit for a living.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Arguably the worst film ever to take home a best picture Oscar. Next...
Growing Up Female (1971)
Ohio college students Julia Reichart and Jim Klein documents the lives of six women and young girls. It is said to be the first film to give voice to the modern feminist movement.
Hester Street (1975)
Joan Micklin Silver's turn of the century drama of a young Jewish immigrant joining her more modern husband in New York.
I, an Actress (1977)
A ten-minute comedy from underground filmmaker George Kuchar.
The Iron Horse (1924)
John Ford's surprisingly straightforward (and dull) "building of a railroad" history lesson. DeMille's Union Pacific would have been a better choice.
The Kid (1921)
Chaplin classic aided and abetted by a gut-wrenching performance by Jackie Coogan.
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Maybe Billy Wilder was light years ahead of his time. He directed this "just say no" booze bromide long before the term became fashionable.
The Negro Soldier (1944)
Frank Capra's World War II documentary focuses on the contributions African-Americans made to the war effort.
Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-1940s)
Home movies of the legendary tap dancing team of Fayard and Harold Nicholas. If you have never heard of The Nicholas Brothers, here's a taste:
Norma Rae (1979)
Martin Ritt's labored tale of labor unions.
Porgy and Bess (1959)
I waited decades to see this, and when it finally screened, the conditions could not have been better. MOMA brought back a pristine 35mm dye-transfer 'Scope roadshow print with walk-on and exit music in directional mag stereo! It's a set-bound bore, easily my least favorite Preminger/Shamroy collaboration, but one that has long been out of circulation due to the Gershwin estate. (Looks like I'm not the only one who doesn't loves you, Porgy.) Hopefully, this will at least bring about a TCM showing if not a full-blown DVD release.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Better Jonathan Demme's Crazy Mama than this.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
This inspiring American Playhouse production details a high school teacher's attempts to bring calculus to a bunch of Neanderthals. A little too well-intentioned for my taste.
Twentieth Century (1934)
Howard Hawks directs Carole Lombard and John Barrymore in the big screen adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's classic breakneck screwball farce.
War of the Worlds (1953)
A sci-fi masterwork. Wait...this isn't the Spielberg version?
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