Every year, the National Film Registry announces 25 films that it will toss gently into its vault for safe keeping. This year, they’ve chosen a hell of a list, but (like every year), the movies saved act as a reminder that even in a digital world where it seems unfathomable that we’d lose art, we’re still losing art.
The task of actively preserving films is an honorable, laudable one, and it’s in all of our best interests to see movies like these kept safe so that future generations (and those attending Butt-Numb-a-Thon 55) will be able to screen them as they were meant to be seen.
So what 25 movies made the cut this year? Let’s explore:
Allures (1961) – The short from director Jordan Belson was abstract, like all of his work. Belson passed away in September of this year, and it’s a great thing to see his trippy work preserved.
Bambi (1942) - Disney’s 5th animated feature film, it needs no introduction. Like many classics, it lost money upon its initial release (because it came out in the middle of WWII), but it’s since endured to nearly peerless success.
The Big Heat (1953) - A boiling film noir from Fritz Lang that features a homicide detective (Glenn Ford) who takes on a criminal mob who has too much power to go against. It also features an early appearance by Lee Marvin.
A Computer Animated Hand (1972) - Pioneering Pixar:
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) - The Robert Drew-directed documentary on the tension between Governor George Wallace of Alabama and President John F. Kennedy as Wallace tried to impede two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.
The Cry of the Children (1912) – The George O. Nichols film used real footage of children working in a mill and acted as a catalyst to stop the practice legally.
A Cure for Pokeritis (1912) - John Bunny was a massive star of the silent era, and here, he plays a character addicted to poker whose wife seeks to (comically) rid him of the problem.
El Mariachi (1992) –
Faces (1968) - A must-see John Cassavetes work, nominated for three Oscars, it follows a man who leaves his wife for a younger woman, and his wife who soon takes a younger lover as well. It’s a brilliant exploration/critique of middle class American life in the style only Cassavetes could muster.
Fruit Cake Factory (1986) - A short documentary from Chick Strand focusing on Mexican women who build fake, decorative fruits and vegetables.
Forrest Gump (1994) - The Robert Zemeckis movie that swept the Oscars and inspired a nation to yell “Run, Forrest, Run!” anytime anyone started running (including Tyler Durden).
Growing Up Female (1971) - Directors Julia Reichart and Jim Klein were pioneers during the Women’s Movement, and their work here is a cross-sectional study of 6 different women of varying ages and varying lives.
Hester Street (1975) - The study of Eastern European Jewish, turn-of-the-century life in America garnered an Oscar nomination for Carol Kane.
I, An Actress (1977) - Master of underground filmmaking George Kuchar (Hold Me While I’m Naked and a billion other movies) takes on his own directorial style with this short.
The Iron Horse (1924) - John Ford‘s silent western celebrating the first transcontinental railroad. Few filmmakers can make slamming in a spike transcendent, and it demands to be seen (especially as early proof of Ford’s illustriousness).
The Kid (1921) - More genius from Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp.
The Lost Weekend (1945) - Nominated for 7 Oscars, winning 4 (including Best Picture), this masterpiece from masterpiece-maker Billy Wilder doesn’t sugarcoat its gutter ball exploration of an alcoholic (Ray Milland in a bit of unconventional casting) drinking his life away for four days straight.
The Negro Soldier (1944) - Frank Capra made films for the Army during WWII (alongside Dr. Seuss). While some of it is unquestionably propaganda, this documentary which he produced takes a look at black fighters’ contributions to freedom and the cause.
Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-1940s) - The personal home movies from tap dancing royalty Fayard and Harold Nicholas. The films were chosen for their unique depictions of Broadway, Harlem, and Hollywood.
Norma Rae (1979) - The film that nabbed Sally Field her first Oscar and chronicled a woman organizing workers in a textile mill, working under terrible conditions.
Porgy and Bess (1959) - One of the most famous musicals, this version was from larger-than-life director Otto Preminger who populated the Gershwin & Heyward operetta with the powerful talent of Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Pearl Bailey.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) -
Stand and Deliver (1988) - But how can I reach these kids? Writer/director Ramon Menendez put the spotlight on Edward James Olmos portraying the real-life LA high school teacher Jaime Escalante dealing with students who were more likely to pull a knife than recite “O! Captain, My Captain.”
Twentieth Century (1934) - John Barrymore plays a crazed director (shocking) in this Howard Hawks comedy, and while he’s a comic wonder here, a bulk of the laughs from the undeniable presence of Carole Lombard as a fussy, bitchy lead actress.
War of the Worlds (1953) -
Which films are your favorites?