Celluloid heroes

National Film Registry embraces fact, fantasy and film noir with annual selections

Arnold Schwarzenegger has earned a spot in the halls of Washington, but not because of his political career. Instead, the former actor's turn as a robot from the future was enshrined in the Library of Congress as the National Film Registry announced Tuesday that "The Terminator" is among the 25 films that have been selected for preservation in the Registry in 2008.

Under terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. The choices aren't necessarily considered the best American films; they are chosen by Librarian of Congress James Billington on the advice of the Film Preservation Board and the library's motion picture staff because the selections possess "enduring significance to American culture."

James Cameron's 1984 "Terminator," in which the future governor of California's cyborg utters the classic line, "I'll be back," was cited for "blending an ingenious, thoughtful script … and relentless, nonstop action."

"Terminator" was one of several fantasy features that made the 2008 list, along with James Whale's "The Invisible Man" and Ray Harryhausen's "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad."

Drawing from the broad swath of film history, the choices include such notable dramas as "Deliverance," John Boorman's study of city guys menaced by backwoods types; "In Cold Blood," Richard Brooks' adaptation of Truman Capote's book; "The Pawnbroker," Sidney Lumet's portrait of a Holocaust survivor played by Rod Steiger; "A Face in the Crowd," Elia Kazan's expose of modern media celebrity; and Howard Hawks' "Sergeant York," which brought Gary Cooper an Oscar.

The list also reaches back to the silent era, singling out such films as the 1914 serial "The Perils of Pauline" and the 1920 Buster Keaton short "One Week."

A number of films — such as the all-black 1929 musical "Hallelujah" and the Asian-cast 1961 Broadway musical adaptation "Flower Drum Song" — were chosen in part because of their sociological significance. The silent "White Fawn's Devotion" earned a spot because its director, James Young Deer, is considered the first documented movie director of Native American ancestry.

But there also was room for genre fare: crime dramas such as Robert Siodmak's "The Killers" and John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" and Nicholas Ray's Western "Johnny Guitar."

Director George Stevens and his son George Stevens Jr. are each represented. World War II footage shot by the senior Stevens as head of a motion picture unit in the Army Signal Corps made the cut, along with 1964's "The March," a doc about the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington made under the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency Motion Picture Service unit, then led by the younger Stevens.

The Registry now encompasses 500 titles. (partialdiff)
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