2011 National Film Registry SelectionsJanuary 7th, 2012 | Posted by in Movies
The Library of Congress has selected its 25 additions to the National Film Registry for 2011, notably for their “enduring significance to American Culture.” That of course, is debatable but below are some of the highlights from this year’s picks. You can get the whole list here.
Bambi (1942) — One of Walt Disney’s timeless classics (and his own personal favorite), this animated coming-of-age tale of a wide-eyed doe’s life in the forest has enchanted generations since its debut nearly 70 years ago. Filled with iconic characters and moments, the film’s beautiful images, the result of extensive nature studies by Disney’s animators, and its realistic characters that merged human and animal qualities in the time-honored tradition of folklore and fable have enhanced the movie’s resonating, emotional power. Treasured as one of film’s most heart-rending stories of parental love, “Bambi” also has come to be recognized for its eloquent message of nature conservation.
El Mariachi (1992) — Directed, edited, co-produced, and written in two weeks by Robert Rodriguez for $7,000 while a film student at the University of Texas, “El Mariachi” proved a favorite on the film festival circuit. After Columbia Pictures picked it up for distribution, the film helped usher in the independent movie boom of the early 1990s. “El Mariachi” is an energetic, highly entertaining tale of an itinerant musician, portrayed by co-producer and Rodriguez crony Carlos Gallardo, who arrives at a Mexican border town during a drug war and is mistaken for a hit man who recently escaped from prison. The story, as film historian Charles Ramirez Berg has suggested, plays with expectations common to two popular exploitation genres-the narcotraficante film, a Mexican police genre, and the transnational warrior-action film, itself rooted in Hollywood Westerns. Rodriguez’s success derived from invigorating these genres with creative variants despite the constraints of a shoestring budget. Rodriguez has gone on to direct films for major studios, becoming, in Berg’s estimation, “arguably the most successful Latino director ever to work in Hollywood.”
Forrest Gump (1994) — As “Forrest Gump,” Tom Hanks portrays an earnest, guileless “everyman” whose open-heartedness and sense of the unexpected unwittingly draws him into some of the most iconic events of the 1960s and 1970s. A smash hit, “Forrest Gump” has been honored for its technological innovations (the digital insertion of Gump seamlessly into vintage archival footage), its resonance within the culture that has elevated Gump (and what he represents in terms of American innocence) to the status of folk hero, and its attempt to engage both playfully and seriously with contentious aspects of the era’s traumatic history. The film received six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The Kid (1921) — Charles Chaplin’s first full-length feature, the silent classic “The Kid,” is an artful melding of touching drama, social commentary and inventive comedy. The tale of a foundling (Jackie Coogan, soon to be a major child star) taken in by the Little Tramp, “The Kid” represents a high point in Chaplin’s evolving cinematic style, proving he could sustain his artistry beyond the length of his usual short subjects and could deftly elicit a variety of emotions from his audiences by skillfully blending slapstick and pathos.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) — Jodie Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and director Jonathan Demme won accolades for this chilling thriller based upon a book by Thomas Harris. Foster plays rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling who must tap into the disturbed mind of imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in order to aid her search for a murderer and torturer still at large. A film whose violence is as much psychological as graphic, “Silence of the Lambs”-winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay-has been celebrated for its superb lead performances, its blending of crime and horror genres, and its taut direction that brought to the screen one of film’s greatest villains and some of its most memorable imagery.
War of the Worlds (1953) — Released at the height of cold-war hysteria, producer George Pal’s lavishly-designed take on H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel of alien invasion was provocatively transplanted from Victorian England to a mid-twentieth century Southern California small town in this 1953 film version. Capitalizing on the apocalyptic paranoia of the atomic age, Barré Lyndon’s screenplay wryly replaces Wells’ original commentary on the British class system with religious metaphor. Directed by Byron Haskin, formerly a special effects cameraman, the critically and commercially successful film chronicles an apparent meteor crash discovered by a local scientist (Gene Barry) that turns out to be a Martian spacecraft. Gordon Jennings, who died shortly before the film’s release, avoided stereotypical flying saucer-style creations in his Academy Award-winning special effects described by reviewers as soul-chilling, hackle-raising and not for the faint of heart.