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WASHINGTON — My work here is done. Well, to paraphrase Miracle Max: It’s mostly done. If it were all done, we’d have no hope. There’s a big difference between mostly done and all done. Mostly done is slightly undone. With all done, well, with all done there’s usually only one thing you can do. Give up.
No, that would not suit my idiom, or idiocy. I shall renew my quest. The modern businessman calls it repurposing.
Last week a grave injustice was corrected. Not that I’d ever take credit for righting a wrong. But in 2004 and 2005, in this very space, I argued for the inclusion of the Mel Brooks classic “Blazing Saddles” in the National Film Registry. Well, last week the Library of Congress finally heard the clarion call and included the film in its selection for the list. There was much rejoicing.
I asked National Film Preservation Board staffer Steve Leggett, known as “the Keeper of the List,” why the board and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington decided to include the film this time around.
“It was more a case of Mel Brooks having to wait a couple of years,” he explained. “We’ve selected a couple of his films in the past, but there was a lot of support for ‘Blazing Saddles’ and it seems we’re always kind of short on westerns. We’ve got some of John Ford’s on the list, and they wanted a different kind of western. That’s about as different as you can get.”
Don’t let the fact that the Keeper didn’t mention the heroic efforts of a certain journalist fool you. We know what really happened. It can happen again.
So now, let us turn to another film that the board has, shall we say, overlooked, an icon of cinematic hilarity: “Caddyshack.” While there may be a dearth of westerns, the National Film Preservation Board’s ignorance of the sports-movie genre knows no bounds.
Of the 450 films on the list, there are six sports movies. Now that might be because most sports movies, well — how do I put this delicately? — suck. There are six sports movies on the list. They are “Raging Bull,” “The Hustler,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Hoosiers,” “Knute Rockne All American” and now “Rocky.”
So if we take the Keeper of the List’s explanation at face value, then the board ought to look more seriously at sports movies. There ought to be a place for “Follow the Sun” or “Bull Durham” or “The Longest Yard” or the most-quoted sports movie of all time: “Caddyshack.”
I’m not the only one who’s watched someone’s drive soar off into the wild blue and land on the verdant veldt — what Scottish caddies call “a real stoter” — and reverently say: “Big hitter. The Lama. Long.”
I mean, come on, the only reason “Knute Rockne” is on the list is because it starred a second-tier actor who went on to be president. OK, that’s a good reason, but if the archive was set up to preserve American films that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant, then it should include “Caddyshack.”
The board can be influenced. When Indianapolis Star critic Bonnie Britton mentioned that nominations were open and Hoosiers everywhere should tell the Library to include “Hoosiers,” it worked. Schoolchildren from all over the state wrote letters to Billington.
I can’t possibly get schoolchildren to advocate “Caddyshack,” so I’m appealing to you and your inner Rodney Dangerfield. Go to www.loc.gov/film/vote.html and tell the Librarian: “Oh Billy, Billy, Billy … don’t let me down, Billy.”
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