Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was excited, explaining why he and his filmmaking team were thrilled that their cornerstone feature, 2008’s “Iron Man,” was being inducted into cinematic Valhalla, the Library’s National Film Registry, in the class of 2022.
“All of our favorite movies are the ones that we watch over and over again, and that we grow up with,” he said in an interview with the Library. “Almost 15 years after the release of ‘Iron Man’… to have it join the film registry tells us it has stood the test of time and it is still meaningful to audiences around the world.”
The Library’s annual list of 25 designated for preservation for their cultural, historic or aesthetic value to the nation always brings a list of studio hits, independently made features, powerful documentaries and even home movies into the canon. This year’s inductees cover 124 years, from 1898 to 2011. It include hits such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Carrie” and “House Party”; documentaries such as “Mingus” and “Union Maids”; shot-on-a-shoestring features such as “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” and “Pariah”; and even the home movies of mid-century entertainer Cab Calloway.
“Films have become absolutely central to American culture by helping tell our national story for more than 125 years,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We’re grateful to the entire film community for collaborating with the Library of Congress to ensure these films are preserved for the future.”
The 2022 selections include at least 15 films directed or co-directed by filmmakers of color, women or LGBTQ+ filmmakers. The selections bring the number of films in the registry to 850, many of which are among the 1.7 million films in the Library’s collections.
Other highlights: The original “Hairspray” from 1988, featuring Ricki Lake and directed by John Waters; “The Ballard of Gregorio Cortez,” featuring a young Edward James Olmos; and the 1950 version of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which made José Ferrer the first Hispanic actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor. One of the first Native American films on the registry is this year’s “Itam Hakim, Hopiit” (“We/someone, the Hopi”) from Victor Masayesva Jr., Hopi director and cinematographer.
Documentary filmmaking legend Julia Reichert, who died of cancer earlier this month, learned a few weeks earlier that “Union Maids,” a 1976 documentary she co-directed, was being inducted.
“Even though ‘Union Maids’ was a black & white, super low-budget film, with interviews shot on open reel videotape to save money, the film has shown remarkable staying power,” Reichert emailed, in response to questions, days before she passed away. She co-directed the film with Jim Klein and Miles Mogulescu.
Turner Classic Movies will host a television special Tuesday, Dec. 27, starting at 8 p.m. ET to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Hayden will join TCM host, film historian and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Director and President Jacqueline Stewart, chair of the National Film Preservation Board, to discuss the films.
“I am especially proud of the way the Registry has amplified its recognition of diverse filmmakers, experiences, and a wide range of filmmaking traditions in recent years,” Stewart said. “I am grateful to the entire National Film Preservation Board, the members of the public who nominated films, and of course to Dr. Hayden for advocating so strongly for the preservation of our many film histories.”
Sissy Spacek, the star of “Carrie,” makes her third appearance on the registry, joining her earlier films “Badlands” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her role as Carrie White, the telekinetic teen misfit who is abused by her mother and taunted by her classmates, drew an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a lasting image in pop culture as a vengeful, blood-soaked prom queen.
She credits Stephen King’s novel, the basis for the film, as striking a nerve with teenagers in each generation who are desperate to fit in with their peers for the film’s lasting resonance. The other factor, she said, was a superb cast that included Piper Laurie (also nominated for an Oscar), John Travolta and Amy Irving.
“Brian De Palma was just such a wonder to work with,” she said in a recent interview, crediting the film’s director. “He would tell us exactly what he needed and then he’d say, ‘Within those parameters, you can do anything you want. That was just so wonderful.”
Several selections were defining works in their genres. Among romantic comedies, “When Harry Met Sally” from 1989 is a classic — Vanity Fair named it this year as the best American rom-com ever made — that brought together several major talents. Screenwriter Nora Ephron, director Rob Reiner, actor Billy Crystal and actress Meg Ryan all cemented their status in pop culture fame with the film.
“I just felt so plugged into the process of making the movie,” Crystal said in an interview. “…not that anything is every easy, but it was just such a joy to see it come to life.”
“Hairspray,” the quirky story of a plus-sized Baltimore teen and her friends integrating a local television dance show in the early sixties, wasn’t a huge success at first but has gone on to have a life of its own. It was remade as a Tony Award-wining musical on Broadway, a megahit musical film in 2007 and a live TV version in 2016. But in John Waters’ 1988 original, it was an 18-year-old Ricki Lake who was first tapped to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.
“I didn’t even really process that I was the star of the movie,” Lake said in a recent interview from her home in Malibu, “until the movie was made and we were seeing right before it came out. I was like, ‘Oh, WOW.”
Among Latino films, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” from 1982 is one of the key feature films from the 1980s Chicano film movement. Edward James Olmos was a working actor but not yet a star when he and several friends, meeting at what would become the Sundance Film Festival, decided to make a film about a true story of injustice from the Texas frontier days.
Shot on a tiny budget for PBS, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” accurately tells the story of a Mexican-American farmer who in 1901 was falsely accused of stealing a horse. Cortez killed the sheriff who tried to arrest him, outran a huge posse for more than a week, barely escaped lynching and was eventually sentenced to more than a decade in prison. The incident became a famous corrido, or story-song, that is still sung in Mexico and Texas.
“This film is being seen more today than it was the day we finished it,” Olmos said in an interview. “‘The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez’ is truly the best film I’ve ever been a part of in my lifetime.”
“House Party” joins the registry as a 1990 comedy landmark, as it put Black teenagers, hip-hop music and New Jack swing culture directly into the American cultural mainstream. It spawned the pop-culture careers of stars Kid ‘n Play, sequels and imitations — and the career of Reginald Hudlin, its writer and director. Hudlin is now a major player in Hollywood — but “House Party” was his first film.
“The day we shot the big dance number in ‘House Party’ is easily one of the best days of my life,” he said in a recent interview, still gushing about how much fun it all was. “We had all the enthusiasm in the world, all the commitment in the world.”
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