Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Accolades all around...

This is the time of year when organizations start handing out recognitions for achievement in the arts. A few days ago, the Kennedy Center Honors were handed out for the year, recognizing the careers and achievements of actress Shirley MacLaine, singer and songwriter Billy Joel, musician Carlos Santana, composer and performer Herbie Hancock, and opera singer Martina Arroyo. Earlier this week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that next April it will induct a new class, to include Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, and Kiss. Also recently, the Golden Globe nominations for film and television were announced.

And, today, the Library of Congress announced the addition of 25 more films to the National Film Registry. The new list, which brings the total number of films listed on the registry to 625, contains some familiar titles as well as some you've probably never heard of - certainly I've never heard of some of them. The Registry was created in 1989 by Congress to make sure that culturally important films are preserved for the future. It includes not only "movies" - feature-length films that you and I go to the theater to see or rent at Red Box or watch on cable or Netflix - but also other films. For example, the Zapruder film that documents the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 is on the Registry. So is Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video.

Part of the point of the registry is to make sure that important films are preserved. This is especially important when you consider that a recent study showed that around 70 percent of all feature-length silent-era films have already been lost. But it isn't just those very old films that are deteriorating. Not long ago, film-maker Michael Moore, whose "Roger and Me" is one of the films selected for inclusion on this year's list, discovered when a film festival requested a print to show, that no viewable original prints of the film were available because all of them have faded so badly.

The full list of films chosen this year includes:

"Bless Their Little Hearts" (1984)
"Brandy in the Wilderness" (1969)
"Cicero March" (1966)
"Daughter of Dawn" (1920)
"Decasia" (2002)
"Ella Cinders" (1926)
"Forbidden Planet" (1956)
"Gilda" (1946)
"The Hole" (1962)
"Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961)
"King of Jazz" (1930)
"The Lunch Date" (1989)
"The Magnificent Seven" (1960)
"Martha Graham Dance films (1944)
"Mary Poppins" (1964)
"Men & Dust" (1940)
"Midnight" (1939)
"Notes on the Port of St. Francis" (1951)
"Pulp Fiction" (1994)
"The Quiet Man" (1952)
"The Right Stuff" (1983)
"Roger & Me" (1989)
"A Virtuous Vamp" (1919)
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966)
"Wild Boys of the Road" (1933)

For a short description of each film on this year's list, here's a link to the Library of Congress press release announcing this year's class of included films.

Films must be at least 10 years old to be included on the Registry. Anyone can suggest a film for inclusion on the list, but the final decision of which films will be included is made by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington from a shortlist compiled from the thousands of suggestions that are made online each year.

Personally, I'm glad to see "The Right Stuff" and "Mary Poppins" added to the Registry, as they are both favorites of mine. It's also good to see some science fiction included with the addition of "Forbidden Planet" to the registry. I've never actually seen "Forbidden Planet" all the way through, or at least if I have I don't recall it; I guess this means that I need to do that. I'm sure that some people are going to complain about one of Michael Moore's films being included, just on their ideological opposition to him, but "Roger & Me" really is a good movie. So are "The Quiet Man" and "The Magnificent Seven".

But I'm also glad to see films like "Cicero March", a documentation of a civil rights march held in Cicero, Illinois on September 4, 1966, included. Available on YouTube, this 8 minute film is not pleasant to watch, but it documents how contentious the drive for civil rights for all Americans was, not just in the South, but in the Northern states as well. This is something that, as a nation, we should never forget, lest we go back those times and those attitudes in regard to ethnicity, which was the issue then, or in regard to other groups based on other criteria.

But, I'll get off my soap box now, and just say that it's a good day to see a movie.

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