Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao announced Wednesday the annual selection of 25 motion pictures to be named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. These films, which epitomize the diversity and richness of the nation’s cinematic heritage, have been identified as motion pictures that deserve to be preserved because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance.
“Selecting a film for the National Film Registry recognizes its importance to cinema and America’s cultural and artistic history,” said Mao. “The registry is an invaluable way to advance public awareness of the richness, creativity and variety of our nation’s film heritage.”
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board and Library film staff, as well as considering thousands of public nominations. The public is urged to nominate titles for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website (www.loc.gov/film).
In addition to advising the Librarian of Congress on the annual selection of titles to the National Film Registry, the board also provides counsel on national preservation planning policy. “The National Film Preservation Board focused much of its attention this year on the recognition of photochemical film as a distinct medium. Emerging digital technologies offer many alternative opportunities, but the board encourages the preservation of film on film. Film remains the best existing archival medium and the board encourages archives and rights-holders to continue to preserve titles on film as they have done in the past,” NFPB issued in a statement.
Spanning the period 1894-1997, the films named to the registry include Hollywood blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation, shorts, independent and experimental motion pictures. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 675, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.3 million items.
The 2015 registry includes such iconic movies as the 1997 film-noir crime classic “L.A. Confidential,” starring Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey; “Top Gun,” the 1986 adrenaline-charged Navy drama, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis; the 1959 melodrama “Imitation of Life,” starring Lana Turner; and director Ivan Reitman’s 1984 horror comedy “Ghostbusters,” starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
“Making ‘Ghostbusters’ was one of the great joys of my life,” said Reitman. “It’s an honor to know that a movie that begins with a ghost in a library, now has a spot on the shelves of the Library of Congress. It’s humbling to be part of a collection of extraordinary films that I have loved all my life.”
One of the more contemporary films on this year’s list is director Frank Darabont’s 1994 movie based on a Stephen King novella. “I can think of no greater honor than for ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ to be considered part of our country’s cinematic legacy,” said Darabont. “I express my deepest thanks to all those who chose it for inclusion in the National Film Registry. …and most of all to the audiences who embraced our movie and have kept it alive all these years.”
Also on the list of significant films is one of the earliest film recordings and the oldest surviving copyrighted motion picture, which was produced by Thomas Edison’s team of inventors. Recorded in 1894, “The Sneeze” became synonymous with the invention of movies. Other films on the list that feature pioneering cinematic techniques are the 1906 “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” and Disney’s 1937 “The Old Mill.”
The documentaries and shorts named to the registry include “Portrait of Jason,” an exploration of a gay hustler’s life in his own words; Su Friedrich’s 1990 autobiographical tale about the schism between a daughter and her father, “Sink or Swim”; and “The Story of Menstruation,” a 1946 Disney-produced film seen by nearly 93 million women and girls over two decades.
The silent films selected this year include “A Fool There Was” (1915), starring one of cinema’s first vamps, Theda Bara; Douglas Fairbanks 1920 swashbuckler “The Mark of Zorro”; “Humoresque,” the 1920 story of the rise of a Jewish immigrant to violin virtuoso.
Also included is the Spanish-language version of Dracula from 1931. In recent years, the Spanish version of the film, which is 20 minutes longer, has been lauded as superior in many ways to the English one, some theorizing that the Spanish-language crew had the advantage of watching the English dailies and improving on camera angles and making more effective use of lighting. Directed by George Melford (best known for the Valentino sensation “The Sheik”), the Spanish version starred Carlos Villarías (billed as Carlos Villar) as Conde Drácula, Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward, Barry Norton as Juan Harker and Pablo Alvarez Rubio as Renfield.
Also included is Being There (1979), a passion project for Peter Sellers that featured the cetified genius as Chance, a simple-minded gardener (Peter Sellers) whose only contact with the outside world is through television, becomes the toast of the town following a series of misunderstandings. Forced outside his protected environment by the death of his wealthy boss, Chance subsumes his late employer’s persona, including the man’s cultured walk, talk and even his expensive clothes, and is mistaken as “Chauncey Gardner,” whose simple adages are interpreted as profound insights. He becomes the confidant of a dying billionaire industrialist (Melvyn Douglas, in an Academy Award-winning performance) who happens to be a close adviser to the U.S. president (Jack Warden). Chance’s gardening advice is interpreted as metaphors for political policy and life in general. Jerzy Kosinski, assisted by award-winning screenwriter Robert C. Jones, adapted his 1971 novel for the screenplay which Hal Ashby directed with an understatement to match the subtlety and precision of Sellers’ Academy Award-nominated performance. Shirley MacLaine also stars as Douglas’s wife, then widow, who sees Chauncey as a romantic prospect. Film critic Robert Ebert said he admired the film for “having the guts to take this totally weird conceit and push it to its ultimate comic conclusion.” That conclusion is a philosophically complex film that has remained fresh and relevant.
A complete list of Films Selected for the 2015 National Film Registry includes:
Being There (1979)
Black and Tan (1929)
Dracula (Spanish language version) (1931)
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975)
Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)
A Fool There Was (1915)
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
Imitation of Life (1959)
The Inner World of Aphasia (1968)
John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
The Old Mill (1937)
Our Daily Bread (1934)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Sink or Swim (1990)
The Story of Menstruation (1946)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)
Top Gun (1986)
Winchester ’73 (1950)