"Matrix," "Tiffany's" named to National Film Registry
Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix." /Warner Brothers
WASHINGTON "The Matrix," a visionary science fiction tale that used startling visual effects to question the validity of human consciousness; "A Christmas Story," a holiday favorite about a boy's desire for a BB gun for Christmas; and the first feature motion picture for white audiences to star an African American actor are among the 25 titles added to the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress announced Wednesday.
Also among this year's additions: "Breakfast at Tiffany's," featuring Audrey Hepburn in an iconic performance as Holly Golightly; "Dirty Harry," the gritty urban crime thriller starring Clint Eastwood; "Anatomy of a Murder," an uncompromising courtroom drama starring James Stewart; the first feature produced by NFL Films, which helped changed the look and sound of sports presentations on TV; and a document of an 1897 boxing match between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, shot in widescreen and weighing in at 100 minutes long, the longest feature film yet produced.
Not simply a "best of" list, the Registry is a repository of motion pictures judged to be culturally, historically or aesthetically significant, and is meant to focus attention on movies that capture the breadth of American life. In addition to classic Hollywood studio productions like "Gone With the Wind," "Duck Soup," "Annie Hall' and "Blade Runner," the Registry includes documentaries and newsreels, experimental films and animation, movie ads, 16mm amateur films, and 8mm home movies (like Abraham Zapruder's film of the Kennedy assassination), and music videos.
Under the National Film Preservation Act that created the National Film Registry in 1989, the Library of Congress works with studios and archives to make sure copies of movies named to the Registry are safeguarded and preserved for future generations.
This is crucial because more than half of all motion pictures produced before 1950, including as much as 90 percent of films from the silent era, are lost - their negatives discarded, destroyed by fire, or deteriorated into dust. Fading color film stocks has also threatened movies from as recent as the 1970s. Also needing special attention by preservationists are "orphan" films - movies made outside the studio system which have not been kept in studio vaults, or which have fallen out of copyright, meaning there is no financial incentive for the films' creators to maintain them.
The National Film Registry highlights the importance of preserving America's film heritage, said Library of Congress James Billington. He called the selected films selected "works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation."
"3:10 to Yuma" (1957) - Building upon the trailblazing works of John Ford and Howard Hawks, the 1950s saw a slew of tough westerns - psychologically-astute tales featuring white hats and black hats who were never quite all-black or all-white. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, "3:10 to Yuma" stars Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, as a lawman trying to bring a gang leader to justice.
"Anatomy of a Murder" (1959) - Director Otto Preminger's courtroom drama, controversial in its day for its frankness about rape, is a gripping legal thriller featuring some terrific actors - James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott and Arthur O'Connell among them.
"The Augustas" (1930s-1950s) - In this amateur film of 16mm and 8mm footage traveling salesman Scott Nixon documented towns large and small - or rather, those that all happened to be named "Augusta" - in this picaresque piece of Americana.
"Born Yesterday" (1950) - Judy Holliday recreated his Broadway role in Garson Kanin's comedy, playing Emma "Billie" Dawn, a gangster's moll who receives an education in politics, influence-peddling, and double negatives from tutor William Holden. The film was directed by George Cukor, and won Holliday an Oscar for Best Actress.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) - Blake Edwards' somewhat tamed film of Truman Capote's popular novella of a Manhattan call girl might have turned out like any other tale of a young woman navigating the jungles - professional and romantic - of New York City. But then no other such tale had the incandescent Audrey Hepburn.
"A Christmas Story" (1983) - Adapted from the writing of humorist Jean Shepherd, this gentle comedy captures the earnest innocence of a young boy in 1940s Indiana and his big wish for Christmas.
"The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight" (1897) - This document of a match-up between boxers James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, at 100 minutes, was the longest movie produced up to that time.
"Dirty Harry" (1971) - Clint Eastwood starred as San Francisco cop "Dirty Harry" Callahan, a homicide detective who bends, folds, spindles and mutilates the rules in his pursuit of a serial killer.
"Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2" (1980-82) - Experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky's tone poem of the seasons.
"The Kidnappers Foil" (1930s-1950s) - Regional filmmaker Melton Barker traveled the South and Midwest recruiting young kids to star in his two-reel melodramas, which he then edited and exhibited for their ticket-buying parents. Clever!
"Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922) - Shot to demonstrate the practicality of a two-color film process, years before Technicolor's three-strip color process became the Hollywood gold standard.
"A League of Their Own" (1992) - A winning comedy-drama about women ball players starring Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna, with Tom Hanks as their apoplectic coach ("There's no crying in baseball!").
"The Matrix" (1999) - Starling visual effects characterize this blockbuster action film in which computer hackers battle alien overlords who have consumed human existence as part of a virtual world. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving (as the mysterious Agent Smith) star in this landmark action film.
"The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair" (1939) - A curious little industrial film produced by Westinghouse, with technological marvels of tomorrow, robots, and young love.
"One Survivor Remembers" (1995) - An Academy Award-winning documentary featuring Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.
"Parable" (1964) - A religious allegory in which a circus clown stands in for Jesus Christ.
"Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia" (1990) - Ellen Bruno's documentary depicts the struggle of Cambodians trying to rebuild their community out of the ashes of Pol Pot's killing fields.
"Slacker" (1991) - Richard Linklater's low-budget series of vignettes depicting the dreamers and strivers of Austin, Texas - more dreaming than striving.
"Sons of the Desert" (1933) - The immortal Laurel and Hardy in their greatest feature-length comedy, about two husbands trying to hide their trip to a fraternal order's Chicago convention from their wives.
"The Spook Who Sat by the Door" (1973) - A black man trained by the CIA leads a band of black militants in armed revolution on the streets of Chicago.
"They Call It Pro Football" (1967) - The first feature of NFL Films, whose cameramen, editors and narrators captured the games and its participants with an unprecedented drama and immediacy.
"The Times of Harvey Milk" (1984) - An Oscar-winner for Best Documentary Feature, Rob Epstein's passionate film conjures up the undaunted spirit of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected city official in San Francisco.
"Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971) - James Taylor and Dennis Wilson engage in a cross-country drag race with Warren Oates in this existential road movie.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1914) - This filming of Harriet Beecher Stowe's popular novel was the first U.S. feature film for white audiences to star a black actor in a lead role: Sam Lucas, who had played Uncle Tom on stage.
"The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England" (1914) - Director Maurice Tourneur's light comedic tale of a young Englishman seeking to prove his worth to his father and a comely young lass, with the help of a "magic" ring supplied by gypsies.
This year's additions bring the total list of Registry titles to 600.
The public is invited to make nominations for next year's registry at the National Film Preservation Board's website, at www.loc.gov/film.
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