'Dirty Harry' Among Films Enshrined in National Film Registry

12:00 AM PST 12/19/2012 by Mike Barnes
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"Dirty Harry"

The Librarian of Congress picks his latest 25 films for inclusion; "A Christmas Story," "The Matrix," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Sons of the Desert," "Slacker" and "A League of Their Own" also make the list.

Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922)
This two-color (greenish blue and red) film was produced as a demonstration reel at the Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, N.J., under the direction of Kodak scientist John Capstaff. It features leading actresses, including Mae Murray, Hope Hampton and Mary Eaton, posing and miming for the camera to showcase the capability of the complex Kodachrome process to capture their translucent movie star complexions and colorful, high-fashion clothing. Hampton wears costumes designed for The Light in the Dark, the first commercial feature film to incorporate scenes filmed with the Kodachrome process. During the first three decades of motion picture history, the most practical methods for adding colors to 35mm prints filmed on black-and-white film stock had been through laborious processes by which separate colors were either painted on individual film frames by hand or added by overlaying mechanically produced stencils on prints and applying colors in sequence. While aesthetically pleasing, these color additive methods were complicated and costly. Soon after 1900, inventors in several countries began experimenting with ways to advance the chemistry of color movies and create film stocks capable of reproducing the true colors of nature. Leading the way in the U.S. were Technicolor in 1912 and Eastman Kodak, starting in 1914. The Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Test film of 1922 was the first publicly demonstrated color film to attract the general interest of the American film industry. Many feature films produced by major studios incorporated two-color sequences using Kodachrome and the rival Technicolor film stocks until three-strip Technicolor became the industry standard in the late 1930s.

A League of Their Own (1992)
Director Marshall used the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-54) as a backdrop for this heartfelt comedy-drama. A League of Their Own, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, not only illuminates this fascinating, under-reported aspect of American sports history but also effectively examines women’s changing roles during wartime. Rich with period detail and equally complex performances -- especially Davis as a team ringer and Hanks as the down-on-his-luck coach -- Marshall and her company delivered an enjoyably nostalgic film about women’s choices and solidarity during World War II that was funny as well as feminist.

The Matrix (1999)
A visionary and complex film, the sci-fi epic employed state-of-the-art special effects, production design and computer-generated animation to tell a story -- steeped in mythological, literary and philosophical references -- about mankind in revolt against a conspiratorial regime. The film’s visual style, drawing on the work of Hong Kong action film directors and Japanese anime films, altered science fiction filmmaking practices with its innovative digital techniques designed to enhance action sequences. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta (who shared an Oscar with three others for their efforts) expertly exploited a digitally enhanced simulation of variable-speed cinematography to gain ultimate control over time and movement within images. The film’s myriad special effects, however, do not undermine its fundamentally traditional, if paranoid, story of man against machine.

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939)
Produced by Westinghouse for the 1939 World’s Fair, this industrial film is a striking hourlong time capsule that documents that historic event within a moralistic narrative. Shot in Technicolor, the film follows a fictional Indiana family of five (mom, dad, son, daughter and grandma) as they venture from Grandma’s quaint house on Long Island to the fair’s popular pavilions. The whole family enjoys the gleaming sights, especially the futuristic technologies located in the Westinghouse Pavilion (including something called “television”). While the entire family is affected by the visit, none is changed so much as daughter Babs (played by a young Marjorie Lord), who eventually sours on her foreign-born, anti-capitalistic boyfriend in favor of a hometown electrical engineer who works at the fair. Both charming and heavy-handed, The Middleton Family provides latter-day audiences with a vibrant documentary record of the fair’s technological achievements and the heartland values of the age.

One Survivor Remembers (1995)
In this Academy Award-winning documentary short film by Kary Antholis, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein recounts her six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. At age 16, her comfortable life was shattered by the Nazi invasion of Poland. She and her family were sent to concentration and slave labor camps. She alone survived. Mixing footage shot in contemporary Europe at key locations of Klein’s story with interviews and personal photographs, One Survivor Remembers explores the effects that her experience had on the rest of her life. It is told with a simple yet powerful eloquence that “approaches poetry,” the Chicago Tribune observed.

Parable (1964)
In the 1930s, a number of Protestant groups, concerned about the perceived meretricious effects of Hollywood films, began producing nontheatrical motion pictures to spread the gospel of Jesus. Parable followed a filmmaking tradition that has not been recognized very often in general accounts of American film history. One of the most acclaimed and controversial films in this tradition, Parable debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 as the main attraction of the Protestant and Orthodox Center. Without aid of dialogue or subtitles, the film relies on music and an allegorical story that represents the “Circus as the World,” in the words of Rolf Forsberg, who wrote and co-directed the film with Tom Rook for the Protestant Council of New York. Parable depicts Jesus as an enigmatic, chalk-white, skull-capped circus clown who takes on the sufferings of oppressed workers, including women and minorities. The film generated great controversy even before its initial screening. The fair’s president Robert Moses sought to have it withdrawn. Other fair organizers resigned, with one exclaiming, “No one is going to make a clown out of my Jesus.” A disgruntled minister threatened to riddle the screen with shotgun holes if the film was shown. Undaunted, viewers voted overwhelmingly to keep the film running, and it became one of the fair’s most popular attractions. Newsweek proclaimed it “very probably the best film at the fair,” and Time described it as “an art film that got religion.” The Fellini- and Bergman-inspired film received the 1966 Religious Film Award of the National Catholic Theatre Conference, along with honors at the 1966 Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh film festivals. It subsequently became a popular choice for screenings in both liberal and conservative churches.

Continued on the next page.

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