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.
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.