This year’s entries to the Library of Congress National Film Registry, 25 in all (bringing the grand total of films of cultural, historic or aesthetic value to be preserved for posterity to 700), will fulfill many of our reasons for going to the pictures:
- “I go to the movies to be terrified.” – Well, we’re going to scare the feathers off you with Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” This 1963 horror show, starring Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, presses home the idea that there’s nothing more frightening than nature suddenly turning unnatural. A special shout-out to crew member Ray Berwick, who trained the birds of “The Birds.”
- “I go to the movies to imagine the impossible.” – This year’s selections include “Lost Horizon,” (1937) which transported its cast, including Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe, to a Shangri-La of amazing sets; “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” (1916) the first picture to show undersea footage to a movie-house audience; and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” (1988) which commingled film footage with animation and was the last time Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
- “I go to the movies to escape.” – You can escape into an inconceivably zany fairy tale such as “The Princess Bride” (1987) or you can go a little grittier and run off with “Thelma & Louise” (1991).
- “I go to the movies to hum along.” – That’s easy to do with the Barbra Streisand vehicle “Funny Girl” (1968), a biopic about Ziegfeld Follies star Fannie Brice, or with Disney’s beloved animated musical “The Lion King” (1994).
- “I go to the movies to learn things.” – This year’s registry offerings include “Atomic Café,” (1982) which samples TV and film resources of the post-WWII era to take a look at America’s obsession with nuclear annihilation; “The Decline of Western Civilization,” which documents the rise of LA’s punk-rock scene in the 1980s; “Paris is Burning,” which documents the gay/transgender/drag scene in New York in the 1980s; and the Solomon Sir Jones films, a collection of home movies shot in the late 1920s by an African American clergyman and businessman, documenting his community’s vast range of everyday activities.
- “I go to the movies to remember what it is I’d like to forget.” – The decidedly non-PC cult classic “Putney Swope”(1969) is on this year’s list. The premise is promising – an African American is suddenly catapulted to the helm of a major Madison Avenue ad firm – but some of the preposterous ads and groaner ethnic jokes in this flick remind us why we made a beeline away from the cultural schtick of the ‘60s. For those of you who slunk through high school, there’s “The Breakfast Club” (1985), John Hughes’ salute to the kids with the ‘tudes.
Whatever you go to the movies for, enjoy this year’s entries in the Library of Congress National Film Registry – and don’t forget to nominate movies for next year’s list.