Film and television are, arguably, the art forms of the 20th and early 21st century. As such, it is essential that we preserve it – which is where the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress comes in. Every year, 25 films are selected by the Librarian of Congress to be included in the National Film Registry, restored, and preserved for future generations.
The films selected for the National Film Registry are considered “cultural, artistic and historical treasures” that are essential to American culture and history. As James H. Billington, current Librarian of Congress, puts it, “These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture. Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams.” The 25 films selected this year represent a fairly wide swath of film history and genres, from Forrest Gump and
the avant garde short film “I, an Actress” to a couple that will be of interest to sci-fi fans.
The War of the Worlds (1953)
After Orson Welles terrified the nation with their radio versersion but before Spielberg turned it into a Blockbuster Tom Cruise vehicle, there was this film version of the classic alien invasion tale by HG Wells. It’s an Academy Award winning movie that translated the story from Victorian England to a small town in Southern California in the paranoid Cold War period. Instead of the original story’s critique of the British class system, the central metaphor becomes religious. The War of the Worlds (1953) was a critical and commercial success that reviewers dewscribed as “soul-chilling, hackle-raising and not for the faint of heart.”
“A Computer Animated Hand” (1972)
Computer animated characters and elements are basically standard practice in filmmaking these days, but the technology was still pretty experimental in the early 1970s. This short film by Ed Catmull (future co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios) shows a computer generated human hand opening, closing, turning, and pointing a finger, as well as . “A Computer Animated Hand” was created as a project while Catmulll was in graduate school and is only a minute long, but it was later incorporated into Futureworld (1976) and allowed Catmull to work out many of the basic concepts that would allow CGI to take over the film industry the way it has.
Other notable films on this year’s induction list include Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (1992), Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), and Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Bambi (1947). The films are selected by the Libarian of Congress in consultation with the National Film Preservation Board and the Library’s film curators from a list of films nominated by the public. 2,228 films were nominated this year and you can cast your vote for next year’s inductees at the Library of Congress website.