'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry

12:00 AM PST 12/28/2010 by Mike Barnes
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"All the President's Men," "The Exorcist" and "Malcolm X" also were chosen by the Librarian of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.

Films from esteemed directors Robert Altman, Blake Edwards, John Huston, Elia Kazan and Spike Lee and two from George Lucas are among the latest 25 motion pictures named Tuesday to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

The films, which include Hollywood classics, documentaries, innovative shorts and genres from virtually every era of American filmmaking, span the period 1891-1996. This year's selections bring the number of films in the registry to 550.

Included this time around is Altman's 1971 Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller; Edwards' The Pink Panther (1964), the first of his eight Inspector Clouseau pics; Huston's Let There Be Light, a 1946 war documentary banned for 35 years by the U.S. War Department; Lee's 1992 biopic Malcolm X; and Kazan's first feature, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

Lucas' 15-minute student film -- Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, made in 1967 at USC -- also made the list, as did The Empire Strikes Back, his much-lauded 1980 Star Wars sequel that was directed by Irvin Kershner.

In addition to The Pink Panther, Hollywood comedies also are represented by the snappy The Front Page (1931), W.C. Fields' slapstick sensation It's a Gift (1934) and the zany Airplane! (1980) starring Leslie Nielsen. Such cultural touchstones as the Depression Era's Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), the horror box-office blockbuster The Exorcist (1973), the Watergate thriller All the President's Men (1976) and the disco-infused Saturday Night Fever (1977) also were selected, as were lesser-known yet culturally vital works such as the black independent film Cry of Jazz (1959) and I Am Joaquin (1969), from Chicano groundbreaker Luis Valdez.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, the Librarian of Congress each year names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. To be preserved for all time, these are not selected as the "best" American films of all time but rather as works of enduring significance to American culture.

"As the nation's repository of American creativity, the Library of Congress -- with the support of Congress -- must ensure the preservation of America's film patrimony," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. "The National Film Registry is a reminder to the nation that the preservation of our cinematic creativity must be a priority because about half of the films produced before 1950 and as much as 90% of those made before 1920 have been lost to future generations."

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and having extensive discussions with the members of the National Film Preservation Board as well as the Library's motion picture staff. The Librarian urges the public to make nominations for next year's registry at the Film Board's website at www.loc.gov/film.

For each title named, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library's massive motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, studios and independent filmmakers.

The Packard Campus, funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute, is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation's library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings. The campus is home to more than 6 million items, including nearly 3 million sound recordings.

A list of the films named to the 2010 National Film Registry can be found on the next page.

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