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National Film Registry Year by Year


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Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)

Just prior to World War II, a rescue operation aided the youngest victims of Nazi terror when 10,000 Jewish and other children were sent from their homes and families to live with foster families and in group homes in Great Britain. This Oscar-winning film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, writer and director of another Oscar winner, "The Long Way Home," and was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, whose mother was among the children evacuated. The film examines the bond between parent and child, uncovering the anguish of the parents who reluctantly acknowledged they could no longer protect their children, but through their love saw a chance to protect them, by proxy if not proximity. Interviews with the surviving children reveal feelings of abandonment and estrangement that often took years to overcome. The film is a tribute not only to the children who survived, but to the people of England who agreed to rescue the refugees when U.S. leadership would not.

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Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Before gaining stardom a few years later in the TV series "Ugly Betty," 18-year-old America Ferrera made her film debut and gained notice from critics in this coming-of-age tale as an impossible-to-resist Latina teen trying to fulfill her dreams while navigating the transition to adulthood. Charming and funny, the film (thanks to director Patricia Cardoso) avoids heavy-handedness by taking a refreshingly subtle look at themes including mother-daughter relationships, the immigrant experience, the perception of feminine beauty and body standards.

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Decasia (2002)

Errol Morris, the director of such highly acclaimed documentary features as "The Thin Blue Line," "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control" and "Mr. Death," is noted to have sat drop-jawed watching "Decasia" and stammering, "This may be the greatest movie ever made." Created from scraps of decades-old decomposing "found film," "Decasia" hypnotizes and teases with images that fade and transform themselves right before the viewer's eyes. Culling footage from archives across the country, filmmaker Bill Morrison collected nitrate film stock on the very brink of disappearance and distilled it into a new art form capable of provoking "transports of sublime reverie amid pangs of wistful sorrow," according to New York Times writer Lawrence Weschler. Morrison wedded images to the discordant music of composer Michael Gordon—a founding member of the Bang on a Can Collective—into a fusion of sight and sound that Weschler called "ravishingly, achingly beautiful."

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/decasia.eagan.pdf

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Fog of War (2003)

In "The Fog of War," idiosyncratic documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interrogates one man, Robert Strange McNamara, who served under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as secretary of defense. Educated and trained as a systems analyst for large organizations, McNamara at age 85 reexamines his fateful role as one of the prime U.S. architects of the Vietnam War. Recounting as well the U.S. incendiary bombing campaign during World War II against 67 Japanese cities that resulted in mass civilian deaths, his role at the Ford Motor Company in implementing safety features to reduce the number of deaths, and the defusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis through an empathetic understanding of the enemy, "The Fog of War" is structured by 11 lessons Morris has drawn from McNamara's remembrances and ruminations. Historians and reviewers have both praised "The Fog of War," winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, for revealing in a riveting manner the moral complexities and unresolved nature of McNamara's understandings and criticized the film for its selective presentation of the events discussed.

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13 Lakes (2004)

James Benning's feature-length film can be seen as a series of moving landscape paintings with artistry and scope that might be compared to Claude Monet's series of water-lily paintings. Embracing the concept of "landscape as a function of time," Benning shot his film at 13 different American lakes in identical 10-minute takes. Each is a static composition: a balance of sky and water in each frame with only the very briefest suggestion of human existence. At each lake, Benning prepared a single shot, selected a single camera position and a specific moment. The climate, the weather and the season deliver a level of variation to the film, a unique play of light, despite its singularity of composition. Curators of the Rotterdam Film Festival noted, "The power of the film is that the filmmaker teaches the viewer to look better and learn to distinguish the great varieties in the landscape alongside him. [The list of lakes] alone is enough to encompass a treatise on America and its history. A treatise the film certainly encourages, but emphatically does not take part in." Benning, who studied mathematics and then film at the University of Wisconsin, currently is on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/13_lakes.pdf

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Brokeback Mountain (2005)

brokeback_mountain.jpg Courtesy of River Road / Focus Features/NBCUniversal

"Brokeback Mountain," a contemporary Western drama that won the Academy Award for best screenplay (by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) and Golden Globe awards for best drama, director (Ang Lee) and screenplay, depicts a secret and tragic love affair between two closeted gay ranch hands. They furtively pursue a 20-year relationship despite marriages and parenthood until one of them dies violently, reportedly by accident, but possibly, as the surviving lover fears, in a brutal attack. Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the short story upon which the film was based, described it as "a story of destructive rural homophobia." Haunting in its unsentimental depiction of longing, lonesomeness, pretense, sexual repression and ultimately love, "Brokeback Mountain" features Heath Ledger's remarkable performance that conveys a lifetime of self-torment through a pained demeanor, near inarticulate speech and constricted, lugubrious movements. In his review, Newsweek's David Ansen wrotes that the film was "a watershed in mainstream movies, the first gay love story with A-list Hollywood stars." "Brokeback Mountain" has become an enduring classic.

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Martha Graham Early Dance Films

Martha Graham Early Dance Films

("Heretic," 1931; "Frontier," 1936; "Lamentation," 1943; "Appalachian Spring," 1944) Universally acknowledged as the preeminent figure in the development of modern dance and one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Martha Graham formed her own dance company in 1926. It became the longest continuously operating school of dance in America. With her company's creation, Graham codified her revolutionary new dance language soon to be dubbed the "Graham Technique." Her innovations would go on to influence generations of future dancers and choreographers, including Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham. This quartet of films, all silent and all starring Graham herself, document four of the artist's most important early works. They are "Heretic," with Graham as an outcast denounced by Puritans; "Frontier," a solo piece celebrating western expansion and the American spirit; "Lamentation," a solo piece about death and mourning; and "Appalachian Spring," a multi-character dance drama, the lyrical beauty of which is retained even without the aid of Aaron Copland's famous and beloved music.

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I was interested in seeing the film The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Because of its philosophical message and the fact that this was not the first film to delve into the topic of shrinking. That would have to go to the film Dr. Cyclops (1940)

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I am hoping that maybe for the National Film Registry for this year there would be more older films from the 1890s to the 1940s. It is crucially important that these films from the early period be seen to an audience of mainstream contemporary viewers who are not familiar with these films.

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  • 10 months later...

2020

Suspense (1913)

Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)

Bread (1918)

The Battle of the Century (1927)

With Car and the Camera Around the World (1929)

Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Outrage (1950)

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

Lilies of the Field (1963)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Sweet Sweetback's Baadassssss Song (1971)

Wattstax (1973)

Grease (1978)

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Losing Ground (1982)

Illusions (1982)

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

The Devil Never Sleeps (1994)

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

The Ground (1993-2001)

Shrek (2001)

Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege (2006)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Freedom Riders (2010)

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The Battle of the Century (1927)

“Battle of the Century” is a classic Laurel and Hardy silent short comedy (2 reels, ca. 20 minutes) unseen in its entirety since its original release. The comic bits include a renowned pie-fighting sequence where the principle of “reciprocal destruction” escalates to epic proportions. “Battle” offers a stark illustration of the detective work (and luck) required to locate and preserve films from the silent era. Only excerpts from reel two of the film had survived for many years. Critic Leonard Maltin discovered a mostly complete nitrate copy of reel one at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1970s. Then in 2015, film collector and silent film accompanist Jon Mirsalis located a complete version of reel two as part of a film collection he purchased from the Estate of Gordon Berkow. The film still lacks brief scenes from reel one, but the film is now almost complete, comprising elements from MoMA, the Library of Congress, UCLA and other sources. It was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in conjunction with Jeff Joseph/SabuCat. The nearly complete film was preserved from one reel of 35mm nitrate print, one reel of a 35mm acetate dupe negative and a 16mm acetate print. Laboratory Services: The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Cineaste Restoration/Thad Komorowksi, Point 360/Joe Alloy.  Special Thanks: Jon Mirsalis, Paramount Pictures Archives, Richard W. Bann, Ray Faiola, David Gerstein.   

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The Blues Brothers (1980)

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, then both best known for their star-turns as part of the “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players” troupe on TV’s “Saturday Night Live,” took their recurring “Blues Brothers” SNL sketch to the big screen in this loving and madcap musical misadventures of Jake and Elwood Blues on a mission from God. An homage of sorts to various classic movie genres — from screwball comedy to road movie — “The Blues Brothers” serves as a tribute to the lead duo’s favorite city (Chicago) as well as a lovely paean to great soul and R&B music.  In musical cameos, such legends as Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and John Lee Hooker all ignite the screen.

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Bread (1918)

Billed as a “sociological photodrama, “Bread” tells the story of a naïve young woman in a narrow-minded town who journeys to New York to become a star but faces disillusionment when she learns that sex is demanded as the price for fame. Ida May Park, director and scenarist of “Bread,” was among more than a half-dozen prolific women directors working at the Universal Film Manufacturing Company during the period in which Los Angeles became the home of America’s movie industry. Park directed 14 feature-length films between 1917 and 1920, and her career as a scenarist lasted until 1931. She reasoned that because the majority of movie fans were women, “it follows that a member of the sex is best able to gauge their wants in the form of stories and plays.” In an essay Park contributed to the book “Careers for Women,” she stated that women were advantaged as motion picture directors because of “the superiority of their emotional and imaginative faculties.” In the two surviving reels of “Bread,” one of only three films Park directed that are currently known to exist, she displays an accomplished ability to knowingly vivify her protagonist’s plight as she fends off an attacker and places her frail hopes in a misshapen loaf of bread that has come to symbolize for her the good things in life.

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Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

“The best Wim Wenders documentary to date and an uncommonly self-effacing one, this 1999 concert movie about performance and lifestyle is comparable in some ways to ‘Latcho Drom,’ the great Gypsy documentary/musical. In 1996, musician Ry Cooder traveled to Havana to reunite some of the greatest stars of Cuban pop music from the Batista era (who were virtually forgotten after Castro came to power) with the aim of making a record, a highly successful venture that led to concerts in Amsterdam and New York. The players and their stories are as wonderful as the music, and the filmmaking is uncommonly sensitive and alert,” wrote film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

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Cabin in the Sky (1943)

“Cabin” tells the story of a man (Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) trying to make it into heaven and who is sent back to earth for one last shot at redemption. Released the same year as Fox’s “Stormy Weather,” this film adaptation of the 1940 Broadway musical marked the directing debut of renowned director Vincente Minnelli (“Meet Me in St. Louis,” “An American in Paris,” “Bad and the Beautiful,” “The Band Wagon,” and “Gigi”). Minnelli’s gift for ingeniously blending in dazzling musical numbers is on full display throughout. Lauded at the time for showcasing an all-Black cast in a major Hollywood film when many theaters in the U.S. were still segregated, the film also sadly demonstrates the limited film opportunities and acting compromises African Americans had to make during the Hollywood classic era. These notable concerns aside, “Cabin” remains a glittering cultural record of outstanding African American artistic talent of the era (Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Rex Ingram, and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.) 

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A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Though based on the book by Anthony Burgess, it certainly took an eye and a mind like director Stanley Kubrick’s to bring this film to life. Set in a not-so-distant future, that is equal parts dystopian and cartoonish, “Clockwork,” now almost 50 years after its creation, remains as it always was: disturbing, controversial and startlingly unsettling. Malcolm MacDowell (in his most legendary role) stars as Alex DeLarge, the demented, de facto leader of a gang of boys-- sporting bowler hats, canes and codpieces--who wreak havoc all over what used to be England.  But as evil as Alex is, when he’s caught and subjected to a type of state-sanctioned crime aversion therapy, his “treatment” turns out to be far more brutal than any of the crimes he’s ever committed.  

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The Dark Knight (2008)

Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s dark, enduring creation first flew onto the screen in a 1943 B-movie serial and would return to theaters several times in treatments both camp and action-oriented. But Christopher Nolan’s evocative 2008 work reinvented the already vast Batman mythos thanks in no small part to its two intense, now legendary, lead performances:  Christian Bale as the titular character and Heath Ledger, in a remarkable, Oscar-winning take on Bat super-villain “The Joker.”  Set in a dark, modern-day Gotham City, “The Dark Knight” is a visual feast of memorable set pieces, screenwriting flair, and characters and situations imbued with a soul and a conscience. “Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, “The Dark Knight” goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind,” wrote Manohla Dargis of The New York Times. The theme of a world turned upside down by fear and dystopian chaos resonates eerily well in the pandemic havoc of 2020.

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The Devil Never Sleeps (1994)

Early one Sunday morning in July, the filmmaker receives a phone call informing her that her beloved tio (uncle) Oscar Ruiz Almeida has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in Chihuahua, Mexico. His widow has declared his death a suicide. Most of his family, however, cry murder and point to a number of possible suspects: his business partner, his ranch-hand, the widow herself. In “The Devil Never Sleeps,” Lourdes Portillo returns to the land of her birth to find out exactly who her uncle was and to investigate the circumstances of his death. She explores "irrational" as well as "logical" explanations, searching for clues on both sides of the border and in the history of her family. Old tales of betrayal, passion, lust and supernatural visitation emerge as we follow the filmmaker deep into the life of a community in the homeland of Pancho Villa. “The Devil Never Sleeps” exposes the loves and hatreds of a Mexican family convulsed by the death of one of its members. The emotions that Portillo captures in her particular blend of traditional and experimental techniques bring out the nuances of Mexican social and family order. Poetic, tragic, humorous and mythic, this film crosses the borders of personal values, cultural mores and the discipline of filmmaking itself. It is a key film by a Latina filmmaker.

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Freedom Riders (2010) 

During 1961, more than 400 people from across the nation, black and white, women and men, old and young, challenged state-sanctioned segregation on buses and in bus terminals in the Deep South, segregation that continued after the Supreme Court had ruled the practice to be in violation of interstate commerce laws. Some 50 years later, “Freedom Riders,” a two-hour PBS American Experience documentary made by Stanley Nelson, charted their course in considerable depth as they faced savage retaliatory attacks and forced a reluctant federal government to back their cause. The riveting story is told without narration using archival film and stills and, most engagingly, through testimonies of the Freedom Riders themselves, journalists who followed their trail, federal, state, and local officials, white southerners, and chroniclers of the movement including Raymond Arsenault, whose book inspired the documentary. The film takes viewers through many complex twists and turns of the journey with extraordinary clarity and emotional force. The courage and conviction of the Freedom Riders, ordinary Americans willing to risk bodily harm and death to combat injustice nonviolently, will inspire later generations who watch Nelson’s eloquent film. Nearly 50 full interviews conducted for the film are now available in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at https://americanarchive.org/special_collections/freedom-riders-interviews.

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Grease (1978)

This tuneful, loving tribute to 1950s America — perhaps more romanticized than accurate — was first staged on Broadway in 1972. A huge hit, it would run for over 3,000 performances before closing in 1980. In 1978, the production was brought to the big screen with the addition of a few fresh songs and a cast including newly-minted superstar John Travolta and pop/country chanteuse Olivia Newton-John. Energetically directed by Randal Kleiser and loaded with beloved songs like “You’re the One that I Want,” “We Go Together,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Greased Lightin’,” “Grease” became the film of that year. It has never really left — becoming a staple for both local and high school productions, several Broadway revivals and even a live TV adaptation in 2016.  “Grease” is still the word.

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The Ground (1993-2001)

The films of Robert Beavers are exceptional for their visual beauty, aural texture and depth of emotional expression. Beavers’ films occupy a noble place within the history of avant-garde film, positioned at the intersection of structural and lyrical filmmaking traditions. They seem to embody the ideals of the Renaissance in their fascination with perception, psychology, literature, the natural world, architectural space, musical phrasing and aesthetic beauty. “The Ground uses seemingly simple components — the sunbaked landscape of a Greek island, the blue waters of the Aegean Sea and images of a man chiseling stone — to conjure the fundamental experience of holding something close to one’s heart.

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The Hurt Locker (2008)

That great Hollywood staple, the “war movie,” got a major reinvention in director Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 riveting and uncompromising look at contemporary warfare. Following the work of a Baghdad-based explosive ordnance disposal team, “The Hurt Locker” strips away sentiment — and politics — to  focus its camera on the rampant, second-by-second dangers and ethical dilemmas of modern-day soldiers. Jeremy Renner leads the skillful cast as a detonation expert for whom war seems a little too “normal.” Along with winning that year’s Best Picture Oscar, Bigelow was named as “Best Director” by the Academy, the first woman to receive that honor.

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Illusions (1982)

Born in New York City, Julie Dash is a filmmaker, music video and commercial director, author and website creator. Her film studies began in Harlem in 1969 but eventually led her to the American Film Institute and UCLA, where she made “The Diary of an African Nun” (1977), based on a short story by Alice Walker, which won a student award from the Directors Guild of America. Dash’s critically acclaimed short film “Illusions” (1982) later won the Jury Prize for Best Film of the Decade awarded by the Black Filmmakers Foundation. Created for her MFA thesis at UCLA, “Illusions, is set in World War II-era Hollywood and explores the nature of Hollywood racial politics, fantasy and the illusion of racial identity.

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The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Director Wayne Wang's adaptation of Amy Tan's novel tells a story of relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers.  The four mothers meet weekly to play Mahjong, tell stories and reminisce. The richly layered plot features key themes including the often complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, assimilation into a far different culture, wistfulness for aspects of former lifestyles, the intersections between past and present, and the strong bond of family ties between two generations who grew up in vastly different circumstances.  Wang’s film “Chan Is Missing” was selected to the National Film Registry in 1995.

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