Good Timing for a Sliming

This year’s list of 25 noteworthy films named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry is out, and it includes some well-known favorites: “Ghostbusters,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Top Gun,” even the original Douglas Fairbanks vehicle “Zorro.”  Films are annually named to the registry that are culturally, historically or aesthetically important; the object is preservation for posterity. Each film named must be at least 10 years old.

The many frames making up the short, historic film "The Sneeze"

The many frames making up the short, historic film “The Sneeze”

Ghostbusters – when you hear that word, do you think of marshmallows, or green slime? There’s probably some sort of Rorschach-y test there – leads this year’s subcategory that might be termed “tales of the weird.” In addition to the 1984 movie about a small business staffed by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that went around vacuuming up ectoplasms, this year’s list also includes the 1931 Spanish-language version of “Dracula” (which some reviewers consider better than the Bela Lugosi version in English) and a 1906 early special-effects movie, “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” about a man who overeats the cheesy dish known as Welsh Rarebit, then falls into a nightmare-ridden sleep. It was based on a comic strip by the famed Winsor McCay, who also created the dreamlike “Little Nemo” strip and was among the pioneers of early animation. Later in his career, he also drew editorial cartoons.

The other big subcategory this year might be titled “Heroes and Anti-Heroes.” In addition to Zorro, based on a script written and submitted by Douglas Fairbanks under a pen name when he realized his career playing leads in romantic comedies was fading, this year’s list includes the movies “Top Gun” (1986) starring Tom Cruise, “John Henry and the Inky-Poo” (1946) which animates the folktale of the steel-drivin’ man who works himself to death proving his superiority to a steel-driving machine, and “Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944), a wry comedy about a Marine driven from the service by hay fever who is forced to pretend to be a hero, because he told his mother a set of tall tales in letters he wrote home before mustering out.

The list also includes the 1979 Peter Sellers/Shirley MacLaine film “Being There,” based on a Jerzy Kosinski novel; “Black and Tan” (1929), a brief movie starring Duke Ellington and an African-American cast and set at the Cotton Club; “L.A. Confidential,” the 1997 homage to film noir starring Russell Crowe and and Kevin Spacey; “A Fool There Was” (1915), the movie that introduced the world to Theda Bara, the original “vamp”; and “The Shawshank Redemption,” the Tim Robbins/Morgan Freeman prison-friendship movie that many movie fans consider their favorite film.

There are also some historic rarities: “The Sneeze” (1894), a film made by the Edison studios and originally presented as a published sequence of photos; and “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One,” a 1968 film by African-American documentary-maker William Greaves, who also co-hosted and produced the show “Black Journal” on public TV. Greaves’ film is a movie about making a movie, and a lot more.

You can, and should, nominate films for next year’s National Film Registry: a list of films that are yet-undesignated is here.

Enjoy the movies.



Their Own Words, in Their Own Voices

To read a poem is a quiet joy. To read some authors’ prose is as wonderful as reading a poem. It’s just the poet, or the writer, and you. Right there, in black and white. What could be better? How about hearing it “in color” as a poet or author reads to you from his […]

Be Kind to Books Club

The following post is by Lucy Jakub, one of the 36 college students who participated in the Library of Congress 2015 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Jakub is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in creative nonfiction at Columbia University. Her independent work in graphic design led her to her internship with the Library’s Conservation Division, making […]

Pics of the Week: Step Right Up, Folks!

Today we bring you a trio of images from this week’s display of items found in the Library’s collections by our Library of Congress Junior Fellows–36 interns from around the nation who dig through our collections during their 10-week stays and showcase their findings at summer’s end. Chosen each year through a competitive program, the […]

Happy 215th Anniversary Library of Congress!

A Message from the Librarian Today, on the Library of Congress’s 215th anniversary, I want especially to congratulate the Library’s extraordinary staff for their work in building this amazing, one-of-a-kind institution. I am, and always will be, deeply grateful for all they do. The heart and soul of this great library always has been its […]

The Golden Fleecer

Who the devil was Soapy Smith? Some would say the devil was Soapy Smith. He was a swindler, a con artist, a bunco steerer. In the 1880s and ’90s he fleeced rubes from Denver to Skagway, Alaska and at many points in-between. He was dubbed “Soapy” because an early con involved selling overpriced soap by […]

About That Cannon in My Basement —

A few years ago – around 2001, 2002 – I had a cannon in my basement in Rockville, Maryland. You could see it through the front windows, where it was aimed. I wondered if the mailman would report us to Homeland Security. It wasn’t a real one, but it was incredibly realistic and man-o’war-size (about […]

Alan Lomax’s Legacy

(The following is a story written by Stephen Winick, folklorist and writer-editor in the American Folklife Center, for the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The issue can be read in its entirety here.) A century after his birth, folklorist Alan Lomax is remembered for his preservation of the nation’s cultural […]

The Library to the Rescue

(The following is a story in the January/February 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The Library of Congress has a long tradition of assisting other institutions in preserving their collections. Nearly a century after the Library of Congress collection was destroyed by a […]