Oscar History

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National Film Registry. Have You Seen These Titles?

Porgy & Bess, in which Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge both lipsynched is one of the 25 inductees.The film is rarely screened, not all that well and regarded but badly in need of restoration. Is that what did it?Each year I read the press release list of the films admitted to the National Film Registry and promptly forget them. I guess I've never absorbed just what this does for the films beyond being an obviously prestigious honor. So this year rather than doing the usual read the titles and forget, I stopped, actually took a breath (a rarity on the web), wondered, and googled a bit. I stopped being lazy about it so you don't have to be either. I didn't just list titles below but actual information!

However I am still a bit confused as what the honor actually means beyond admittance into the Library of Congress. If this meant government funding to restore or preserve the films or if it meant an automatic transfer to each new medium that surfaces (VHS to DVD to Blu Ray to whatever is next) so that that film in question never disappears it would be a truly astounding honor. But it doesn't mean this.  The National Film Preservation Board which is connected to the National Film Registry  does not own the rights and can thus not distribute the films. The honor is also no guarantee of preservation. Film preservation is still a privately funded matter. Hollywood as a whole is fairly disinterested in its own history (except to mine it for remakes) and US politics has always been depressingly anti-arts funding. (Thank the Right Wing of the country for that.)

Here are the 25 new inductees in chronological order of creation. I am ashamed at how few of the I've seen. Should we watch them together?


  • The Cry Of The Children (George Nichols, 1912) a short film about child labor
  • A Cure for Pokeritis (Laurence Trimble, 1912) a short slapstick comedy
  • The Kid (Charles Chaplin, 1921) another Chaplin film for the Registry
  • The Iron Horse (1924) a long western starring George O'Brien of Sunrise fame.
  • Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s and 1940s) I assume this is the famous tap dancers?


The Nicholas Brothers

Beloved orphan fawns, globally famous serial killers, and remarkable actress faces, and more after the jump... How many have you seen?


  • Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks, 1934) a Carole Lombard romantic comedy that is frequently revived in its stage incarnation still.
  • Bambi (1942) Disney's mother-killing classic 
  • The Negro Soldier (Stuart Heisler, 1944) a documentary. The title tells it.
  • The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945) which we've already written about.
  • The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953) a noir about cops and organized crime


Gena Rowlands in "Faces". She certainly has one!


  • War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953) the HG Wells radio story made into a film
  • Porgy & Bess (Otto Preminger, 1959) Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in the dubbed adaptation of the famous Gershwin opera. I'm dying to see Audra McDonald do this on Broadway. Dying!
  • Allures (Jordan Belson, 1961) a short film
  • Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) a documentary about JFK and integration of Alabama schools. I actually have a copy of this one. I guess I should watch.
  • Faces (John Cassavettes, 1968) starring Gena Rowlands and nominated for three Oscars
  • Growing Up Female (Jim Klein and Julia Reichert, 1971) supposedly the first documentary to emerge from the women's movement. It's about female socialization.
  • A Computer Animated Hand (1972) an early computer graphics short. Here it is...


40 Year Old 3D Computer Graphics (Pixar, 1972) from Robby Ingebretsen on Vimeo.



  • Hester Street (Joan Micklin Silver, 1975) Carol Kane was best actress nominated for this film. I have always wanted to see this one and for some reason I never have. The 70s saw a few inroads made by female directors.
  • I, An Actress (George Kuchar, 1977) a short film
  • Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 1979) "UNION!!!" 
  • Fake Fruit Factory (1986) a short documentary
  • Stand and Deliver (Ramón Menéndez, 1988) was an unusually successful Latino film. Leading man Edward James Olmos, years before his Battlestar Galactica revival, was Best Actor nominated.


Remember when Anthony & Jodie reunited for this photo op?


  • The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) one of the very few modern classics that seems to have few detractors. It's a horror classic and a major Oscar winner. We've written about it.
  • El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 1992) this low budget hit was a major part of the 90s revolution in indie cinema. Remarkably, I've never seen it though I did see the significantly higher budgeted star driven sequel with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek ;)
  • Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) Ugh. I've written about my distaste for this one before.


Have you ever sought out a film from the inductee list? Want to start now?

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Reader Comments (9)

Teehee, I wrote about this list briefly today, too. It really like everyone collectively thought "Forrest Gump! Now there's a movie the public need to be reminded me", what with this *and* the Oscar poster.

Isn't that a lame photo shoot? So cheap.

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I just watched The Big Heat last week and I loooved it- super-smart dialogue and Gloria Grahame is fabulous. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth a watch.

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

From what I've seen, here's how I'd rank them:

1. The Silence of the Lambs
2. The Lost Weekend
3. Forrest Gump
4. Stand and Deliver
5. Bambi
6. The Kid
7. Faces
8. Norma Rae
9. Hester Street
10. War of the Worlds
11. The Big Heat
12. Porgy and Bess

Only the last two are movies I didn't really like, but I won't dispute their inclusion in the National Film Registry. I can't believe it took ten years to get Silence of the Lambs in there! And Lost Weekend is just making it in too!?

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSean T.

I wonder what took the National Film Registry so long to induct The Silence of the Lambs. I was looking at the list for it ten years ago when it was first eligible.

Anyways, I've seen eight of these films after watching the early computer animation film. I've never thought of watching all of them. Maybe I should start.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

They just have to float that little turd at the end there, don't they?

Really want to see those home movies. The Nicholas Brothers are amazing.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex BBats

• Twentieth Century: Haven't seen it but I believe it's sitting on my DVR.
• Bambi (1942): Saw it as a child in the theater. You don't see Disney revivals in theaters now much, they release them to DVD/Bluray instead, but in the 1960s and 1970s the "event" releases were to theaters.
• The Lost Weekend: Embarrassing, I guess, that I haven't seen it yet.
• The Big Heat: Really an unusual crime noir, in that it turns itself on its head early on. Great movie.
• War of the Worlds: Pretty good.
• Porgy & Bess: It's interesting this was chosen since it's not in distribution anymore; it's been tied up in litigation for many years. I saw it on TV in the early 1970s so I should count myself lucky.
• Growing Up Female: I might actually have seen this–I'm not sure.
• Hester Street: It's very low-key and not exactly extraordinary, but it's my actual heritage and I appreciate it a lot.
• Norma Rae: Love.
• The Silence of the Lambs: It's pretty great.
• El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 1992) this low budget hit was a major part of the 90s
• Forrest Gump: I find that most "filmy" people hate it, while it's very popular with most "regular" people. I guess I'm regular – I love it.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Oh, oops, El Mariachi is a document error -- I thought I cut that line out. Haven't seen it.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Deborah: I also saw Bambi as a kid - around 1982, I think. I also remember seeing Cinderella in the theater (probably 1987 or so). While the old Disney classics do seem to be reserved for DVD/Bluray , they have begun re-releasing the "newer" classics in theaters - in 3D, of course. We took our kids to see Lion King earlier this year, and they can't wait for next year, when Beauty and the Beast is re-released.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergwynn1984

Am still looking for Pulp Fiction come up every single year and still it didn't, instead Forest Gump took the slot, wth?

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertombeet
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