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WASHINGTON — I’m beginning to empathize with Don Quixote. While the man from la Mancha had his windmills, I have the Film List. Each year, the Library of Congress designates 25 films for The List, formally known as the National Film Registry. It’s up to 475 films now, and my quest to get “Caddyshack” on The List has failed again.
I was reminded of my futility by my friend, who I will identify only as a pollster named Larry Harris. He called me from his winter vacation on the sunny coast of South Carolina.
“How can ‘Back to the Future’ get on The List?” he asked. I gave him the usual spiel about the selections: The movies aren’t meant to be the best, or the most popular or even the most significant. The films are chosen because they are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant, I told him.
“Caddyshack” is “culturally, historically or aesthetically” more significant than ‘Back to the Future,’ ” he shot back.
“I don’t know anyone who quotes lines from ‘Back to the Future,’ ” he said.
I thought of my good friend’s somewhat chromish dome and reminded him that out of sympathy to his feelings, I would never quote to him my favorite “BTTF” line: “Thank god, I’ve got my hair.”
What did “BTTF” have that “Shack” doesn’t? A guy named Stephen Clark, that’s what. While librarian James H. Billington makes the final selections, the National Film Preservation Board is the real power behind the throne, and they can be influenced.
Clark fell in love with the film and never fell out. He started BTTF.com dedicated to the movie. The Web site got enough traffic to start a small business dedicated to the film.
When I started writing my story about this year’s selections, I called him. When I was dialing the number, I thought: “I’m the only Hollywood Reporter reader who can find Athens without a map.” That’s the one in Alabama, not the cradle of Greek democracy.
I spent a lot of my life in North Alabama. My first daily newspaper job was in Decatur. I worked for the Florence Times/Daily just down the river, and I’m a big fan of the Drive-By Truckers.
It was kind of like going home when I heard Clark speak in the accent that characterizes the area. The accent of the Tennessee Valley is different from other Southern accents. It’s as distinct from the accent of Mobile as the Bostonian’s accent is from the New Yorker’s.
Clark said the idea for getting “BTTF” on The List came after reading an article in The Hollywood Reporter. (OK, there are two guys who read The Hollywood Reporter who can find Athens, Ala., without a map.)
“I read an article in The Hollywood Reporter about ‘Caddyshack,'” he told me in an interview. “The guy wanted to get that in the Film List. I thought, ‘So that’s how it works.'”
The Library staff told me that they had more requests for “BTTF” than for all the other movies combined.
My jaw dropped. The “article” he read was a Think Tank column, and “the guy” was me. On the surface, I was all bonhomie, but inside was a sea of turmoil.
Here in my new friend from old North Alabama was the cold, hard evidence that my column is actually a success! Yet it wasn’t the success I craved.
Clark’s revelation was like a slap in the face with a Lake Wilson bass. His movie was in. Mine wasn’t.
Discouraged? Sure. But like Quixote, I take lance in hand once more.
Loyal readers, please E-mail The Keeper of the List at www.loc.gov/film/vote.html.
Tell ’em Brooks sent you.
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