On December 7, the Library of Congress will observe the 77th anniversary of the surprise military strike against the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor that led to the United States’ entry into World War II with a screening of Pearl Harbor, the epic film from 2001. The on-going series of films directed by contemporary women film directors continues with Gina Prince-Bythewood’s first feature Love and Basketball, while the selection for the “Masterpieces of World Cinema” series pays tribute to the centenary of legendary director Ingmar Bergman with his1957 masterpiece The Seventh Seal.
A Pre-code double feature showcasing 35mm film prints produced by the Library of Congress Film Preservation Lab is scheduled for December 15 with screenings of William A. Wellman’s The Star Witness, followed by the rarely-seen crime drama Those Who Dance.
The last half of December is devoted to Christmas movies and television with the 2004 animated adventure The Polar Express, the charming romance Last Holiday starring Queen Latifa, perennial favorites A Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life, and a specially curated program from The Library of Congress’ video collection of holiday highlights from NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Programs are free and open to the public, but children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Seating at the screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis unless otherwise noted. Short films may be shown before some features. For general Packard Campus Theater information, call (540) 827-1079 ext. 79994 or (202) 707-9994. For further information on the theater and film series, visit //www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/schedule.html
Saturday, December 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Love and Basketball (New Line Cinema, 2000)
A young African-American couple navigates the tricky paths of romance and athletics in this sports drama. Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) grow up next door to each other playing basketball, fighting and eventually falling in love. As they struggle to make their relationship work, they follow separate career paths through high school and college basketball, each hoping for stardom in big-league professional ball. Love & Basketball was the first feature film written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, who went on to direct The Secret Life of Bees (2008) and Beyond the Lights (2014). She is a mentor with the Writers’ Lab, for women screenwriters over 40. Love and Basketball was developed at the Sundance Institute’s Directing and Writing Lab and went on to win the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. The film also received Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best First feature and Best Female Lead for Sanaa Lathan. Rated PG-13. 35mm archival film print, 124 min.
Thursday, December 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Mr. Sardonicus (Columbia, 1961)
Prolific and innovative filmmaker William Castle, best known for his promotional gimmicks in a string of popular low-budget thrillers such as House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler (both 1959) and Homicidal (1961), made a departure from his usual horror formula with Mr. Sardonicus, a serious Gothic tale set in Europe during the 19th Century. Castle assembled a mostly European cast for the film including British actor Guy Rolfe as the title character, a man whose face becomes frozen in a horrifying grin while robbing his father’s grave to obtain a winning lottery ticket. Sardonicus becomes a cruel man in his search for a cure, primarily to London physician Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) who he has summoned to his castle. In its original release, audiences were given the opportunity to participate in a “Punishment Poll” near the end of the film, which would decide the fate of Sardonicus. 35mm archival film print, 89 min.
Friday, December 7 (7:30 p.m.)
Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista Pictures, 2001)
Set during the events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the fictional story follows two lifelong friends Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), both first lieutenants under the command of Major Jimmy Doolittle, and their relationship with nurse Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale). Directed by Michael Bay, the epic romantic drama features a large supporting cast including Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin and Japanese actor Mako as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. The film won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing and received Oscar nominations for Best Sound, Best Visual Effects and Best Song (“There You’ll Be”). Rated PG-13. Digital presentation, 183 min.
Saturday, December 8 (7:30 p.m.)
The Blues Brothers (Universal, 1980)
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star as Jake and Elwood Blues, characters they developed on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. The story, scripted by Aykroyd and director John Landis, is a tale of redemption as the paroled convict brothers set out to save the Catholic orphanage where they were both raised from foreclosure by reuniting their former band for a charity gig, wreaking havoc on the city of Chicago along the way. The film features supporting performances by Carrie Fisher and John Candy with musical numbers by James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. In spite of costly delays and destructive car chase scenes that made the film one of the most expensive comedies ever produced (103 cars wrecked), it was a financial and critical success and has become a cult classic. 35mm archival film print, 133 min. Rated R, no one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.
Thursday, December 13 (7:30 p.m.)
Pre-Code Double Feature
The Star Witness (Warner Bros.,1931)
William A. Wellman directed this gritty tale of a family who witnesses a gangland battle and is terrorized to prevent them from testifying in court. Walter Huston has star billing as the hard driving district attorney threatening the family with perjury if they don’t back up their identification of the killer at the trial, while Chic Sale is a standout as the Civil War veteran grandfather who insists upon doing his civic duty and fighting back against the criminals, no matter the cost. The film, which was Oscar nominated for Best Writing, Original Story by Lucien Hubbard, was inspired by a real life incident of a gang shooting in Harlem in which several children were shot and police were unable to convince witnesses to talk in the case. Warner Bros. rushed the film into theatres while agreeing to turn over all proceeds from the first two screenings of The Star Witness to the families of five children injured by gang bullets. 35mm film print produced by the Library of Congress Film Preservation lab in 2013. 68 min.
Those Who Dance (Warner Bros.,1930)
Nora Brady (Lila Lee) comes up with a scheme to prove that her brother, accused of murder, is innocent. She is helped by a cop, Daniel (Monte Blue), who poses as a gangster in order to get the goods on the real killer. William Beaudine directed this rarely-seen crime drama that also features William “Stage” Boyd, William Janney and Betty Compson in the cast. The story, written by George Kibbe Turner, was based on events which actually took place among gangsters in Chicago and was previously filmed as a silent picture in 1924. 35mm film print produced by the Library of Congress Film Preservation lab in 2014. 75 min.
Friday, December 14 (7:30 p.m.)
The Seventh Seal (Janus, 1957)
Disillusioned and exhausted after a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death on a desolate beach and challenges the Grim Reaper to a fateful game of chess. Much studied, imitated, even parodied, but never outdone, Ingmar Bergman’s stunning allegory of man’s search for meaning, The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet), was one of the benchmark foreign imports of America’s 1950s art-house heyday, pushing cinema’s boundaries and ushering in a new era of movie going. The Seventh Seal won the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. In Swedish with English subtitles. 35mm film print on loan from Janus Films. 96 min.
Saturday, December 15 (2 p.m.)
The Polar Express (Warner Bros., 2004)
A young boy’s faith in the holiday spirit is revived after he makes his way by a magical train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve in this warm-hearted fantasy based on Chris Van Allsburg’s award-winning 1985 children’s book. Written, produced, and directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film features human characters animated by live action motion capture including Tom Hanks as the Conductor and in five other roles. The soundtrack features a mix of old standard Christmas songs including Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas,” and new ones written by Alan Silvestri who also composed the score for the film. The song “Believe,” written by Silvestri and Glen Ballard and performed by Josh Groban was Oscar nominated for Best Original Song. Rated G. 35mm archival film print. 100 min.
Saturday, December 15 (7:30 p.m.)
Last Holiday (Paramount, 2006)
Queen Latifah in one of her best roles, stars in this romantic comedy-drama set during the Christmas holidays as the reticent Georgia Byrd, who just manages to get by on her department store clerk salary. At home alone in the evenings, she prepares elaborate gourmet dishes, while watching TV cooking shows and training herself to be a great chef, but eats lonely frozen dinners because she’s on a diet. When Georgia is told she has only a few weeks to live, she cashes in her 401-K and travels to a luxury resort near Prague where her idol, Chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu), rules the kitchen. Directed by Wayne Wang, the film, which also stars LL Cool J, was loosely adapted from the 1950 British film of the same name starring Alec Guinness. Latifah’s performance was universally praised with critic Roger Ebert writing, “The film takes advantage of the great good nature and warmth of Queen Latifah, and uses it to transform a creaky old formula into a comedy that is just plain lovable.” Rated PG. 35mm archival film print, 112 min.
Thursday, December 20 (7:30 p.m.)
Saturday Night Live Celebrates the Holidays (NBC)
Featuring comedy sketches and musical performances that both spoof and celebrate the holidays, this unique program of clips from NBC’s long-running late-night live variety show was specially curated for this screening from the Library of Congress’ television collection. Beginning with the original 1975 cast through the present decade, the show will include guests Steve Martin, Candace Bergen, Adam Sandler, Alec Baldwin, William Shatner, John Malkovich, Robert De Niro and many more. Digital presentation, approximately 90 min.
Friday, December 21 (7:30 p.m.)
A Christmas Story (MGM, 1983)
Humorist Jean Shepherd narrates this memoir of growing up in Hammond, Indiana, during the 1940s when his greatest ambition was to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The film is based in part on Shepherd’s 1966 compilation of short stories titled “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” which originated on his radio and television programs. Writer-director Bob Clark had long dreamed of making a movie based on Shepherd’s work and his reverence for the material shows through as detail after nostalgic detail rings true with period flavor. Dozens of small but expertly realized moments reflect an astute understanding of human nature. Peter Billingsley – with his cherubic cheeks, oversized glasses and giddy grin – portrays Shepherd as a boy. Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon are his harried-yet-lovable parents. A Christmas Story was added to the National Film Registry in 2012. Rated PG. 35mm archival film print, 94 min.
Saturday, December 22 (7:30 p.m.)
It’s a Wonderful Life (RKO, 1946)
Director Frank Capra created a holiday favorite with this story of a once ambitious young man George Bailey (James Stewart) who sacrifices personal adventure to stand up against the despot Mr. Potter who tyrannizes his small hometown (Lionel Barrymore). When it looks like Potter has finally beaten him, George wishes he’d never been born and an apprentice angel (Henry Travers) grants his wish by showing him the bleak parallel universe that might have been. Suggested by a short story written as a Christmas card by author and historian Philip Van Doren Stern, Capra and writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett crafted the screenplay for this film which has become synonymous with Christmas. The film – named to the National Film Registry in 1990 – also stars Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell and Beulah Bondi. 35mm film print produced by the Library of Congress Film Preservation lab, 130 min.