- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
When Harry Met Sally …, Iron Man, The Little Mermaid, Hairspray, House Party and Carrie are among the 25 cinematic gems chosen this year for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, it was announced Wednesday.
Also voted in: Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), which made José Ferrer the first Hispanic actor to win the Oscar for best actor; Stanley Donen‘s Charade (1963), starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant; the documentaries Titicut Follies (1967) from Frederick Wiseman and Union Maids (1976) from the recently deceased Julia Reichert; Super Fly (1972), the blaxploitation classic starring Ron O’Neal; and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982), starring Edward James Olmos.
The latest selections span the years 1898 (a film about a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans) to 2011 (Pariah, directed by Dee Rees) and include at least 15 films directed or co-directed by filmmakers of color, women or LGBTQ+ filmmakers.
TCM will screen some of the inductees starting at 5 p.m. PST on Dec. 27, with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden joining Academy Museum director and president Jacqueline Stewart to discuss the films.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, the librarian each year names 25 motion pictures at least 10 years old that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. There are now 850 films in the registry.
Hayden confers with members of the National Film Preservation Board and others before making the selections, and 6,825 titles that were nominated by the public also were considered. Nominations for 2023 will be accepted through Aug. 15 here.
When Harry Met Sally … (1989), directed by Rob Reiner, written by Nora Ephron and starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, was named the best romantic comedy in American film history by Vanity Fair this year.
“The movie is beautiful and simple and appropriate, and every shot is just right,” Crystal said in a statement. “The timing, which is in the hands of Rob, who is, for this movie, a modern-day Billy Wilder … and it’s New York, it’s the fall, it’s the music.”
Iron Man, helmed by Jon Favreau, “was the very first film Marvel Studios independently produced,” studio president Kevin Feige noted. “It was the first film that we had all of the creative control and oversight on, and it was really make or break for the studio.”
The Little Mermaid (1989), featuring songs from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, kicked off Disney’s renaissance of animated musical films, while John Waters’ Hairspray (1988) spawned a Tony-winning musical, a musical film and a live TV adaptation.
House Party (1990) was written and directed by Reginald Hudlin. “The day we shot the big dance number in House Party is easily one of the best days of my life,” he said. “We had all the enthusiasm in the world, all the commitment in the world.”
Reichert, who co-directed Union Maids, about three female workers in conflict with corporations in the 1930s, died Dec. 1. She was notified a few days earlier that her the Oscar-nominated documentary had a place in the coveted registry.
“For the longest time, women’s voices, especially working-class women’s voices, were not respected, let alone heard,” she wrote the Library of Congress in an email. “Documentaries presented men as the experts, the historians, the authorities. We hoped this film would just show you how vital, wise, funny and essential these women’s voices were and are to the struggles of working people to get a better deal.”
Here’s a look at the 2022 inductees in alphabetical order, with descriptions supplied by the Library of Congress:
Americans have often ignored somewhat out-of-sight perversions of the American dream: inequality, race relations, conditions at mental hospitals and prisons. These issues only gain the spotlight with coverage of a horrific situation. The September 1971 Attica prison uprising is the deadliest prison riot in U.S. history. To protest living conditions, inmates took over the facility, held hostages, issued a manifesto demanding better treatment and then engaged in four days of fruitless negotiations. On Day 5, state troopers and prison authorities retook the prison in a brutal assault, leaving 43 inmates and hostages dead. Cinda Firestone’s outstanding investigation of the tragedy takes us through the event, what caused it and the aftermath. She uses first-hand interviews with prisoners, families and guards, assembled surveillance and news camera footage and video from the McKay Commission hearings on the massacre. An ex-inmate ends the film with a quote hoping to shake public lethargy on the need for prison reform: “Wake up, because nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream.”
The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
Acknowledged as one of the key features from the burgeoning 1980s Chicano film movement, this was based on folklorist Américo Paredes’ acclaimed account of “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez,” a key work of the Chicano Studies movement. The ballad from the borderlands of Texas and Mexico explored the creation through song of the folk hero Gregorio Cortez, a poor Tejano farmer accused in 1901 of killing a sheriff who had shot Cortez’s brother during a poorly translated interrogation. A posse of some 600 Texas Rangers pursued Cortez for 11 days before his capture, as widespread newspaper accounts of the chase and subsequent trial spurred the creation of the ballad. Relying on the prodigious talents of director Robert M. Young, lead actor and co-producer Olmos, cinematographer Ray Villalobos and producer Moctesuma Esparza, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, shot on a tiny budget for PBS, employed narrative devices common to such classic films as Citizen Kane, Rashomon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to tell its complicated story in a nonlinear fashion. While some characters speak in Spanish and others in English, the filmmakers decided not to use subtitles to replicate in audiences the experience of borderland characters caught up in the unfolding tragedy.
“This film is being seen more today than it was the day we finished it,” Olmos said. “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is truly the best film I’ve ever been a part of in my lifetime.”
Behind Every Good Man (1967)
This flirtatious, heartbreaking, pre-Stonewall UCLA student short by Nikolai Ursin offers a stunning early portrait of Black gender fluidity in Los Angeles and the quest for love and acceptance. Following playful street scene vignettes accompanied by a wistful, baritone voice-over narration, the film lingers tenderly on our protagonist, who prepares for a date who never arrives.
Betty Tells Her Story (1972)
Liane Brandon’s classic documentary explores the layers of storytelling and memory — how telling a story again can reveal previously hidden details and context. In this poignant tale of beauty, identity and a dress, the filmmaker turns the storytelling power over to the subject. Deceptively simple in its approach, the director in two separate takes films Betty recalling her search for the perfect dress for a special occasion. During the first take, Betty describes in delightful detail how she found just the right one, spent more than she could afford, felt absolutely transformed … and never got to wear it. Brandon then asks her to tell the story again, and this time her account becomes more nuanced, personal and emotional, revealing her underlying feelings. Though the facts remain the same, the story is strikingly different. Betty Tells Her Story was the first independent documentary of the women’s movement to explore the ways in which clothing and appearance affect a woman’s identity. It is used in film studies, psychology, sociology, women’s studies and many other academic disciplines as a perceptive look at how our culture views women in the context of body image, self-worth and beauty in American culture. The film was restored with a grant from New York Women in Film & Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. This is “a groundbreaking classic of feminist filmmaking and a subtle and heartbreaking parable about disillusionment, the oppression of imposed gender roles and the workings of memory,” wrote Peter Keough of The Boston Globe.
Bush Mama (1979)
A member of the L.A. Rebellion group of filmmakers, Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima was inspired to make this film after seeing a Black Chicago woman evicted from her home during winter. Serving as Gerima’s UCLA thesis project, the film was released in 1979 though made in 1975. Shot on a small budget, the film was directed, produced and edited by Gerima with cinematography by Roderick Young and Charles Burnett. Bush Mama is the story of Dorothy, a woman facing another pregnancy and drowning in the oppressive red tape of a system that put her Vietnam veteran lover in prison for a crime he did not commit. Portrayed by the riveting, frequent L.A. Rebellion collaborator Barbara O, Dorothy persists through frustrations and exhaustion in her attempts to navigate a callous system that denies her the benefits needed to support her family. Brutally real and experimentally lyrical in its narrative strategies, the film resonates as a haunting look at inner city poverty amid damning indictments of police brutality and the welfare, judicial and penal systems.
Cab Calloway Home Movies (1948-51)
Shot in 16mm, black and white and color, the Cabell “Cab” Calloway III Collection includes handsome footage of the legendary singer, bandleader and actor and his family and friends. Filmed with his wife, Nuffie, they document their home life in Long Beach, New York, and their travels throughout North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
De Palma stands as an icon of the new wave of filmmakers who remade Hollywood and its filmmaking conventions beginning in the 1960s and ’70s. After some intriguing independent efforts, De Palma burst onto the national spotlight with this film. Never one to feature subtlety in his work, De Palma mixes up a stylish cauldron of horrific scenes in Carrie, adapted from the Stephen King novel. Combine a teen outcast with telekinetic powers facing abuse from cruel classmates and a domineering religious mother, and you have a breeding ground for revenge, with the comeuppance delivered in a no-holds barred prom massacre. Its flamboyant visual flair and use of countless cinema techniques may occasionally seem overdone, but its influence remains undeniable to this day, often cited by other critics and filmmakers for its impact on the horror genre.
With this romantic comic thriller, Donen gave audiences their first and only opportunity to enjoy the delicious onscreen chemistry of Grant and Hepburn, two of Hollywood’s most elegant and sophisticated actors. Despite a noticeable difference in age, the pairing worked delightfully, sparking stylish scenes of wit, charm and silliness, once Grant convinced Donen and writer Peter Stone to make Hepburn’s character, rather than Grant’s, the aggressor to avoid a feared unseemly effect. Drawing on a persona Grant created with Alfred Hitchcock that introduced elements of uncertainty and deceit into a developing romance, Stone and Donen, an admirer of North by Northwest‘s “wonderful story of the mistaken identity of the leading man,” made the true identity of Grant’s character a secret to Hepburn’s and the audience until the final scene. “Working with Cary is so easy,” Hepburn remarked. “He does all the acting, and I just react.” Though Grant proclaimed, “All I want for Christmas is another movie with Audrey Hepburn,” they never worked together again. Set in picture-postcard Paris, Charade has grown in regard over the years, appreciated at its 50th anniversary as “the last sparkle of Hollywood” by cultural historian and film critic Michael Newton.
Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
Produced by Stanley Kramer and directed by Michael Gordon, this was the first U.S. film version of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play, and the screenplay used a 1923 English blank verse translation by Brian Hooker. Though critics felt the film suffered from its low budget and appearance as a stage production, Ferrer’s star-making performance received much acclaim. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Ferrer plays Cyrano in a style that is in the theatrical tradition of gesture and eloquence. He speaks the poetry of Rostand with richness and clarity such as only a few other actors have managed on the screen.
Sometimes described as affectionate yet mildly subversive, this is Waters’ most mainstream film, an irresistible look at Baltimore’s teen dance scene in 1962 and a moving plea for racial integration. Waters received his first PG-rating for this New Line Cinema release, and it’s performed in school productions. Featuring Waters regulars Divine and Mink Stole, it also stars Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller, Sonny Bono and Josh Charles, with appearances by Ric Ocasek, Waters and Pia Zadora. No film by Waters fits neatly into a cut-and-dried mold, not even a film gaining a wider audience like this one.
House Party (1990)
This stars Kid (Christopher Reid) and Play (Christopher Martin) of the popular hip hop duo Kid ‘n Play. With his parents out of town, Play announces to his friends that he is hosting an epic party at his house. His best friend, Kid, is the most eager to attend, knowing that his high school crush will be there. After Kid gets into a fight at school, his father punishes him and bans him from going to the party, yet Kid makes his way to the biggest and most memorable party of the school year with some hilarious stops along the way. House Party also stars Paul Anthony, Bow-Legged Lou and B-Fine (from the musical group Full Force), plus Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, A.J. Johnson and John Witherspoon. Funk music legend George Clinton makes a cameo. Filled with imagination and infectious optimism, the film became a box office hit and launched a thriving franchise.
Iron Man (2008)
Marvel Studios enthralled audiences with this superhero film, which transcends and elevates the genre. Key factors in its success include the eclectic direction of Favreau, superb special effects and production design and excellent performances from Gwyneth Paltrow as the sidekick and Robert Downey Jr. as the brooding, conflicted hero out to make amends for his career as an armaments mogul. Critics sometimes love to take shots at superhero movies, but many recognized Iron Man for its unexpected excellence. Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal wrote, “The gadgetry is absolutely dazzling, the action is mostly exhilarating, the comedy is scintillating and the whole enormous enterprise, spawned by Marvel comics, throbs with dramatic energy because the man inside the shiny red robotic rig is a daring choice for an action hero, and an inspired one.” Richard Corliss in Time noted the film’s place in a uniquely American tradition: “Some of us know that there’s an American style — best displayed in the big, smart, kid-friendly epic — that few other cinemas even aspire to, and none can touch. When it works, as it does here, it rekindles even a cynic’s movie love.”
Itam Hakim, Hopiit (1984)
Victor Masayesva Jr., Hopi director and the cinematographer on this video, once wrote, “If film is about imagined time and space, it is borne from the imagination of people each of whom have constructed those times and spaces differently.” In Itam Hakim, Hopiit (We/someone, the Hopi), Masayesva imaginatively translates Hopi Native oral traditions into video art. Complexly constructed of four stories conveyed to Hopi children by elder Hopi historian Ross Macaya, who died shortly after the film’s release, and accompanied by imagery documenting Hopi life, often in non-confrontational close-ups of details or revealed by a non-intruding and slowly moving camera, this moves from the personal to the mythological to the historical, ending up in prophesy. Trained as a still photographer and active as a poet, Masayesva masterly employed color posterization accompanied by Spanish military music and a Vivaldi concerto to introduce a section on Spanish conquest; fast motion to distort a harvest dance; contemplative long shots of landscapes; blurred videography; and silence for emphatic effect. “For me,” he wrote, “photography is a way of imagining life’s complexity. It provides an analogy for philosophical comprehension.” At the conclusion, Macaya announces the importance of the video for the Hopi people: “I have told you a lot. You have learned a lot from me and learned the stories. These stories are going to be put down so the children will remember them. The children will be seeing this and improving on it. This is what will happen. This will not end anywhere.”
The Little Mermaid (1989)
When you combine a beloved Hans Christian Andersen tale with the beauty and heart of truly remarkable Disney magic, you end up with an animated film for the ages. Ariel, the titular mermaid, lives under the sea but longs to be human. She is able to live her dream with a little help from some adorable underwater friends and despite the devious efforts of a sea witch named Ursula (a recent addition to Disney’s peerless rogue’s gallery of cartoon villains). Menken composed the memorable score and collaborated with Ashman on songs that have become modern standards such as “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Kiss the Girl.” Adding to the film’s irresistible charm is a fantastic array of voice artists including Jodi Benson, Buddy Hackett, Pat Carroll and Kenneth Mars. An extraordinary success — artistically and commercially — at the time of its release, Mermaid proved a touchstone film during the “The Disney Renaissance” of the 1980s and ’90s.
Robert Nakamura created this documentary as a student at UCLA Film School’s Ethno-Communications Program. During his childhood, he had “lived” in the central California Japanese American internment camp of Manzanar. He recollects his childhood experiences at Manzanar (“feelings, smells, sounds”), the FBI taking away his next door neighbor active in judo and kendo, the stark surroundings, his parents maintaining a cheerful front, going to the camp bathroom and not remembering which of the similar-looking barracks he lived in. The film serves as a pensive meditation on how his time there as a child has affected his adult life. Japanese music serves as a commentary on the images, and the shaky hand-held camera footage attests to the disjointed and stressful nature of his childhood at Manzanar.
Mardi Gras Carnival (1898)
In 2013, the Library of Congress issued a detailed report showing that more than 70 percent of silent era American features have been completely lost. Many of these titles perished in nitrate fires, while copyright owners often melted down the films for their silver content once their theatrical runs ended, feeling they no longer had any commercial value. Luckily, hundreds of “lost” American silents have been rediscovered in foreign archives, carefully preserved by archivists in those nations. American cinema has always had a worldwide audience, and the copies sent for overseas distribution often found permanent homes in archives in the U.K., France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia and Scandinavian countries. The Eye Filmmuseum in the Netherlands has been one of the leading rescuers, recently recovering films such as Shoes by Lois Weber, Beyond the Rocks (Swanson and Valentino), His Birthright (Hayakawa), The Floor Below (Mabel Normand), Lucky Star by Borzage, a silent version of Capra’s Submarine and numerous Vitagraph films from the 1910s. Mardi Gras Carnival is another of their finds and is the earliest film known to exist of the carnival parade in New Orleans, showing dazzling floats, paraders and spectators (almost all wearing hats).
This raw portrait of the legendary composer and bassist Charles Mingus is an invaluable, at times sad and harrowing, document of one of the great American composers, the jazz scene in New York in the late 1960s, life in Harlem and Mingus’ eviction from his apartment. In interviews with director Thomas Reichmann, Mingus riffs with bemused but knowing frankness on issues including racism, his place as a jazz musician in a white-dominated American society, politics during the civil rights era and women. Mingus also features rare and remarkable footage of the artist performing in clubs.
The roster of Black women who have been given a chance to direct features is criminally small, and artists such as Rees show the originality and vibrant creativity that the industry should be supporting. In a 2018 conversation at the Toronto Film Festival, Rees recalled being inspired to write Pariah when she moved to Brooklyn as an adult and was in the process of coming out. Rees encountered a group of teenagers who had come out and confidently knew their sexual identities at an early age; she wondered how difficult such a reveal was for the teens while they were still dependent on others. To her, writing Pariah was “my first expression, the kind of thing I had to do first, for everything else to come.” She describes how difficult it was to obtain financing given she would be in a meeting and describe the film as “Black, lesbian, coming of age,” and they would say, “OK, let’s validate your parking and get you out of here.” Audiences found the film raw, authentic and illuminating a world some have traversed and the need for empathy from those who have not.
Scorpio Rising (1963)
Critics too often apply the word “essential” to works of art, but no one can dispute the status of the Kenneth Anger film as one of the key works in avant garde/experimental cinema. The subject of attempted censorship during its release, Scorpio Rising is a mesmerizing collage of songs from early 1960s pop artists (Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Martha and the Vandellas, the Crystals, Bobby Vinton, The Angels), a paean to rebel heroes (James Dean, Marlon Brando) and a one-of-kind, rapid-fire exploration and juxtaposition of symbolism and ideas about religion, Nazism, biker subculture, mystique of the underground, gay life and more.
Super Fly (1972)
This film, directed by Gordon Parks Jr., serves as a classic of the sometimes escapist Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s and as a searing commentary on the American dream. The film revolves around a Harlem drug pusher with style (O’Neal) who aims to make one final big score and then leave the business; criminals and corrupt police have other ideas. Some criticized the film as glorifying drug dealers, given O’Neal’s charismatic performance, and for reinforcing what they saw as lifestyle stereotypes in films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft. Curtis Mayfield’s political and soulful score, however, received universal acclaim for its dynamic sound and for challenging drug culture in its lyrics. The son of renowned photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks, Parks Jr. died in 1979 at age 44 in an airplane crash in Kenya while on location making a film.
Titicut Follies (1967)
As with all the nearly 50 observational documentaries he has made since this, Wiseman drops his audience into the goings-on at a public institution and challenges them to “figure their own way out without any help from me,” he once explained. Shot at the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts, Titicut Follies — Titicut is the Native American name for the area surrounding the institution — begins and ends with an annual variety show of that name performed by inmates and guards. In between, the film confronts the viewer with a mosaic of scenes recorded unobtrusively and presented with no voiced narration of inmates undergoing strip searches, repetitive psychiatric questioning, force-feeding and finally burial in a dehumanized world revealed through the film as callous, indifferent and inescapable. “It is as grotesque a vision of human cruelty and suffering, of naked fear and loneliness, as art has ever produced,” wrote film curator Joshua Siegel. Wiseman stated that his documentaries focus on the relationship between the individual and the state, “especially in an age in which religion functions less.” With Titicut Follies, the state, in the guise of Supreme Court of Massachusetts, initially ordered the film banned and its negatives and prints destroyed. That ruling, later revised to allow only professionals in the fields of law, medicine and social services to see it, was not overturned until 1991.
Tongues Untied (1989)
Marlon Riggs’ brilliant 1989 video essay is a riveting combination of interviews, performance, stock footage, autobiography, poetry and dance that elucidates the revolutionary potential of Black men loving Black men. The words of gay poets, personal testimony, rap tableaux, dramatic sequences and archival footage are woven together with a seductive palette of video effects. Riggs was diagnosed with HIV while making this but continued to advocate for gay rights both on- and offscreen.
Union Maids (1976)
Reichert, Jim Klein and Miles Mogulescu directed this seminal labor documentary on the attempt to create industrial unions during the tumultuous 1930s. Crafted in the form of an oral history interspersed with footage from the National Archives, the film interviews three Chicago women, Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki and Sylvia Woods, who served as labor organizers during that period. The best documentaries let the subjects speak for themselves, and Union Maids benefits greatly from the passion of these three remarkable women whose moving recollections vividly re-create the era. An exemplary example of “history from the bottom up” filmmaking, it resonates as both a plea for union rights but also equality for women taking part in often male-dominated unions. The film had a theatrical run in nearly 20 cities.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
This came in the middle of a remarkable decade-long run of films by Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride and A Few Good Men.) With sparkling chemistry between Crystal and Ryan and a spicy script courtesy of Ephron, the film is a paean to the theory of love will find a way, no matter what. Addressing the age-old question of whether men and women can stay friends without being romantically involved, it remains one of the most quoted films of the 1980s, with lines such as “I’ll have what she’s having” and “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (1977)
Directed by a collective of six queer filmmakers known as the Mariposa Film Group, this had a profound impact on audiences and became a landmark in the emerging gay rights movement of the ’70s. The film is composed as a mosaic of interviews with more than two dozen men and women of many ages, races and backgrounds, who talk about their lives as gay men and lesbians. As Peter Adair, one of the film’s directors noted, the goal was to erase their invisibility in American society. Word Is Out remains a groundbreaking film of that era, when coming out was an act of courage and depictions of gay men and women as everyday people was extremely rare.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day