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National Film Registry Selects 25 Films for Preservation

As Susan King reports in today’s LA Times, “A gripping western, a beloved holiday film, a 115-year-old movie capturing a famous boxing match, a memoir of a Holocaust survivor and a visionary science-fiction thriller in which Keanu Reeves utters the word ‘whoa’ are among the 25 films selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Congress established the National Film Registry in 1989 to highlight the need to preserve U.S. film heritage. Under the conditions of the National Film Preservation Act, the librarian of Congress names 25 films yearly that are ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.’ The films must be at least 10 years old. The films selected for 2012 are:

3:10 to Yuma (1957): Delmer Daves directed this western based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959): Otto Preminger directed this courtroom thriller that made headlines for its frankness in language and adult themes.

The Augustas (1930s-1950s): A 16-minute film by traveling salesman Scott Nixon, who was a member of the Amateur Cinema League, chronicling some 38 streets, storefronts and cities named Augusta.

Born Yesterday (1950): Judy Holliday won a best actress Oscar as not-so-dumb-blonde Billie Dawn in this political satire directed by George Cukor.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Audrey Hepburn plays one of her quintessential roles — the quirky Manhattan call girl Holly Golighty — in this romantic dramedy based on Truman Capote’s novella.

A Christmas Story (1983): Humorist Jean Shepherd narrates this classic holiday comedy based on his memoirs of growing up in Indiana and hoping to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight (1897): Chronicle of the famed boxing match between James J. Corbett — aka “Gentleman Jim” — and Bob Fitzsimmons that was held on St. Patrick’s Day in Carson City, Nev.

Dirty Harry (1971): Clint Eastwood introduced his iconic role as maverick San Francisco Det. Harry Callahan in Don Siegel’s influential action-thriller.

Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82) : Experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky’s silent tone poem.

The Kidnappers Foil (1930s-1950s): Dallas native Melton Barker traveled through the South and Midwest for three decades filming local kids acting, singing and dancing in two-reel films he called The Kidnappers Foil. A few weeks after shooting, the townspeople would get a copy of the film for screening at the local theater.

Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922): The two-color (greenish blue and red) film was the first publicly demonstrated color film to attract the attention of the film industry.

A League of Their Own (1992): Penny Marshall’s box office hit comedy about the All American-Girls Professional Softball League of the 1940s and early 1950s.

The Matrix (1999): Andy and Lana — then known as Larry — Wachowski directed this visually groundbreaking sci-fi thriller starring Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburne.

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939): Technicolor industrial film produced for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

One Survivor Remembers (1995): Oscar-winning documentary short about Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.

Parable (1964): The Protestant Council of New York produced this controversial, acclaimed silent allegorical Christian film for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Samsara: Death and Rebirth of Cambodia (1990): Ellen Bruno’s Stanford University master’s thesis documents the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild their shattered society after Pol Pot’s killing fields.

Slacker (1991): Richard Linklater’s indie comedy follows a group of diverse characters over the course of one day in Austin, Texas.

Sons of the Desert (1933): Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star in one of their funniest vehicles.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973): Ivan Dixon directed this controversial thriller about an African American who infiltrates the CIA in order to create a black nationalist revolution.

They Call It Pro Football (1967): The first feature from NFL Films utilized Telephoto lens and slow-motion to offer a primer on the game.

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984): Academy Award-winning documentary about San Francisco’s first openly gay elected city official who was slain in 1978.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971): Director Monte Hellman’s existential road picture.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1914): This silent adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark 1852 anti-slavery novel is said to be the first feature-length film that starred an African American actor — Sam Lucas, who had appeared in the 1878 stage version.

The Wishing Ring; An Idyll of Old England (1914): Maurice Tourneur’s charming cross-class romance.”

I’m particularly happy to see Nick Dorsky included, not only because he’s a friend, but also because more attention needs to be paid to experimental films in general. But this is a really interesting cross-section of films; a great series of essential works.

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Headshot of Wheeler Winston Dixon Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

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