Skip

2008 Film Preservation picks on Internet Archive
January 6, 2009 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Each December, the United States National Film Preservation Board chooses up to 25 films they deem worthy of taking special action to preserve in the Library of Congress. It’s a new year, and that means 25 more films are welcomed in the vault of the National Film Registry. Three of the 2008 picks can be viewed on Internet Archive as well as nearly 40 picks from years past.
posted by stbalbach (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you enjoyed Disneyland Dream (1956) the Barstow's made many more home movies.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 AM on January 6, 2009


The Terminator. Really?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:05 AM on January 6, 2009


The Terminator. Yes.
posted by jettloe at 8:07 AM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]




Man that Disneyland movie is amazing. I'm going to waste a lot of time watching Home Movies now. Good day to you sir.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:26 AM on January 6, 2009


Why stop at Ellison?

Check out Charles Laughton's 'Night of the Hunter': Robert Mitchum pursues without conscience, (”nothing will stop him - he’ll keep on coming”), a young girl and boy - notice how dogs bark when he approaches -

or John Carpenter's Starman, released in the same year as the Terminator - with the same plot: Woman is captured and forced on the run by stranger with superior knowledge, they fall in love, have sex while on the run during a lull in the film, she gets pregnant, he goes away, the child will save humanity.

All work is predicated on what comes beforehand - the thing with the Terminator is that it's a model of concise plotting, brilliant production design and editing + was hugely influential re: action cinema that followed it - especially the fetishization of guns (don't forget that James Cameron wrote the 2nd Rambo picture).
posted by jettloe at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


One Week is probably my favourite Buster Keaton film. It makes me very happy to see it on the list.
posted by minifigs at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2009


Of course The Terminator. One of the criteria is that the film be culturally significant. It spawned two sequels (three?), and launched the Schwarzenegger's career, the early part of which was built around him playing a Terminator-like role in other films.

More importantly, I think Terminator is the greatest representative of its genre, that of ultra-violent action films which dominated R-rated filmmaking in the 80's. The bright-line diochotomy between good and evil that existed in those films mirrored not only the political climate at the time but the moral one as well.

Finally, one has to acknowledge that art, even pop art, that is enormously and disproportionately popular with mass audiences or that finds huge mass appeal is inherently culturally significant, and the only question for critics to ask is why. An analogy that I like to bring up is Stephen King. Are his books literature? I have no idea, because the question implies some definition of literature loaded with value judgments. Will his books be read in 100 years? Of course, some of them. He wouldn't be as popular as he is unless something is resonating with the public, and that something usually reflects some aspect of the culture and the society in which they live. It's the same with Terminator.


If people in 2040 want to understand the 1980's, they will have to watch movies like that, read books by Stephen King, digest a few sitcoms, and probably sit through a season or two of Miami Vice. Like it or not, what we make popular will in the future be used to understand and even define us.

I'd rather the Terminator be used to represent the 80's than an art house film that no one saw (or more importantly people chose not to see) but which allegedly makes some grand cultural statement that no one but the director agrees with.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's a real pruty list thar.
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Terminator. Really?

Well, yes. Why not?

Oh, and Harlan Elison sues fucking everybody. It's his thing.
posted by Artw at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


was hugely influential re: action cinema that followed it - especially the fetishization of guns (don't forget that James Cameron wrote the 2nd Rambo picture).
posted by jettloe at 11:31 AM on January 6


The fetishization of guns is a key element of those 80's action movies, though it started long before that (see Dirty Harry from 1971, and Charles Bronson's late 70's career).
posted by Pastabagel at 8:45 AM on January 6, 2009


There weren't any non-plagiarized films they could have picked?

Well, their official mission statement is to pick "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films," which doesn't mention artistic legitimacy as one of the considerations. My least favorite pick of their's would probably be Birth of a Nation, but again considering that their aims seem to be more about documenting history rather than creating a greatest films list it makes sense that they would choose it.

Really though, if they were playing fair they would pick more of the incredibly popular but critically panned films out there, because Car Wash and Saturday Night Fever are arguably more historically significant than Fargo or Annie Hall.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2009


FWIW my childhood idea of what life was like for Americans was largely established by the little bubbles of suburban existence that get set-up at the beginnings of 80s Spielberg movies (to be knocked down with enthusiasm by UFOs, ghosts, etc…) .
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2009


even pop art, that is enormously and disproportionately popular with mass audiences or that finds huge mass appeal is inherently culturally significant

I totally agree. For example: I think Die Hard and The Omen should definitely be preserved - if they're not already. But other than being Arnold's first step [well, second - if you count his Mr. Olympia victories] towards the California governor's mansion, I don't see The Terminator qualifying. Not a huge box-office hit, not groundbeaking in its effects, and so much more non-original than most that a cash settlement was necessary.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2009


I Have No Legal Representation, and I Must Sue
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:14 AM on January 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did a time traveling robot assassinate your dog?
(In order to assure a grim canine robo-future, of course)
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2009


Are his books literature? I have no idea, because the question implies some definition of literature loaded with value judgments. Will his books be read in 100 years? Of course, some of them. He wouldn't be as popular as he is unless something is resonating with the public, and that something usually reflects some aspect of the culture and the society in which they live.

You've got it ass-backward and reached the wrong conclusion. Of course popular books resonate with the public and reflect the culture and the society of the time, but for precisely that reason they tend not to last; next year or decade different books become popular and the previous batch is forgotten, because they reflected the moment all too well. Here's a list of the best-sellers of 1908:
1. Mr. Crewe's Career, Winston Churchill
2. The Barrier, Rex Beach
3. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, John Fox Jr.
4. The Lure of the Mask, Harold MacGrath
5. The Shuttle, Frances Hodgson Burnett
6. Peter, F. Hopkinson Smith
7. Lewis Rand, Mary Johnston
8. The Black Bag, Louis J. Vance
9. The Man from Brodney's, George Barr McCutcheon
10. The Weavers, Gilbert Parker
The only one of those authors who's still read is Churchill, and it ain't Mr. Crewe's Career that people read. The books that last are the ones that transcend their moment and speak to future generations as well or better as their own; that's what we call literature, and my guess is that King doesn't fall into that category, as good a storyteller as he doubtless is.

Oh, and fuck Harlan.
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I can think of a more widely read author of the 1980s, whos books are still in print and who is still a household name 20 years later (and it sure isn't because of Duma Key or Cell).
posted by Artw at 9:21 AM on January 6, 2009


Good to see Deliverance. When I see it on cable it is so washed out and fucked-up looking that I hope to God someone has a good print left to archive.
posted by docpops at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2009


The Foundation's primary mission is to save orphan films, films without owners able to pay for their preservation. The films most at-risk are newsreels, silent films, experimental works, films out of copyright protection, significant amateur footage, documentaries, and features made outside the commercial mainstream. Orphan films are the living record of the twentieth century. Hundreds of American museums, archives, libraries, universities, and historical societies care for "orphaned" original film materials of cultural value. The Foundation will work with these film preservation organizations to preserve orphan films and make them accessible to "present and future generations of Americans."
Yet the Terminator is on the list? I'm not saying it shouldn't be preserved but isn't there many much older and more deserving films to preserve at this point in time?
posted by JJ86 at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should point out that Deliverance created my idea of what the middle of America was like during my formative years.

Basically, from the Eastheading West America consisted of New York (Sesame Street, Taxi Driver, Woody Allen), surrounded by Spielberg Suburbs, then a vast expanse of Deliverence land, and then LA (where TV comes from), which would be surrounded by it’s own Spielberg Suburbs.

I'm not sure the Deliverance land bit of my conception of non-coastal America has really changed that much.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


They paid Harlan off because they thought he might sue, not because he did. They thought he might sue because, as has already been pointed out, that's his thing.

Languagehat - to be fair to Burnett, I think The Secret Garden still gets read now and again.

And just a plain old Yay! because Johnny Guitar made the list.
posted by mandal at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2009


Does the 7th Voyage of Sinbad have stop-motion skeletons? Maybe they were working a theme.
posted by Artw at 9:37 AM on January 6, 2009


The only one of those authors who's still read is Churchill, and it ain't Mr. Crewe's Career that people read.

Actually, the Winston Churchill on your list is not the Nobel Prize-winning British prime minister, but an American novelist who shared the same name.
posted by jonp72 at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2009




I'm in the middle of trying to watch all 80 films that have won the Best Picture Oscar. When I watched Marty (1956) something clicked: there's a scene very early on where Ernest Borgnine walks into a bar and just orders a beer - like that, "a beer" with no brand name - and the beer the bartender gives him is clearly a Pabst Blue Ribbon. The logo really hasn't changed at all since the film was made and living in a hipster haven like Portland Oregon I can certainly recognize it. As soon as I saw that, I realized that I knew a lot about Marty. I know enough about the brand and its blue collar roots to know what sort of guy goes to a bar to watch the Yankees play baseball and drinks PBR. Sure enough, as the movie went on, my initial hunch was proven out: from his job as a butcher to the way he treats his mom, he was exactly the type of character I thought he'd be.

Oddly enough, the movie I now associate Marty with the most is Old Boy, because of the scene where Old Boy goes into the bar and swallows a still living squid whole. The scene is probably meant to be revolting no matter what culture you're from, but its even more revolting to me than it would be to a Korean because I can barely imagine eating a still recognizable squid at all. (Calamari, maybe, but that's in chunks and so it has an abstract relationship to the animal it came from.) The more I thought about Marty, the more I realized how little I could really understand that scene in Old Boy: if Old Boy had ordered a beer before he ate that squid, a Korean would have understood what the type of beer he ordered said about him, and I'd have no clue, because not only would I not recognize the label, I wouldn't even be able to read it. The story, with its themes of revenge and the weight of the past, is something that can be universally sympathized with, but its specifics are very Korean and I probably missed a lot of subtleties while I was reading the subtitles.

It might seem odd to bring into this discussion two movies which aren't on the film preservation board's list, but I got to thinking about this while I was reading the Terminator debate. I think that the Terminator really is culturally significant, but I'm not sure that Americans can really even judge how significant it is. The Terminator is so obvious and ingrained in American pop culture now - and Arnold is so recognizable - that in some ways, thinking about it critically would be like a fish having to think about water. But since men are the sort of animals who can think about the water they swim in (so to speak), I would just like to say: one, understanding America requires us to understand - if not the Terminator in specific - at least the sort of film that the Terminator signifies, and two, the Terminator is exactly the sort of movie that only an American can wholly understand. We are, after all, the people that gave the world the bomb and then spent the next several decades giving our kids propaganda that told them to duck and cover, so it isn't surprising that we would make a movie about fearing technology that would be so complex to make that it would require the filmmakes to make radical advances in special effects technology just to film the damn thing. It is, like PBR, both part of and symbolic of our shared cultural heritage, and thus worth preserving.
posted by Kiablokirk at 9:45 AM on January 6, 2009


I think Die Hard and The Omen should definitely be preserved - if they're not already. But other than being Arnold's first step [well, second - if you count his Mr. Olympia victories] towards the California governor's mansion, I don't see The Terminator qualifying. Not a huge box-office hit, not groundbeaking in its effects, and so much more non-original than most that a cash settlement was necessary.

Die Hard is a great action film - a wonder of commercial, corporate filmmaking - and I'll to disagree with you about the Omen - but The Terminator is one of the great American films - and arguably the best/most important U.S. film of the 80's. It's propulsive, driven, cheap, (a model of low-budget filmmaking if nothing else), its protagonists exist in a world of total freedom - they are allowed to do anything because the fate of the entire human race is at stake.

It's a great work of pop art. Die Hard and the Omen are just movies.
posted by jettloe at 9:46 AM on January 6, 2009


Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel wrote "If people in 2040 want to understand the 1980's, they will have to watch movies like that"

I think people in 2040 already have a deep understanding of the 1980's, hence the time-traveling robot assassins.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, Johnny Guitar? Coincidentally recently listed by The Onion AV Club as one of the 23 best films inexplicably unavailable on Region 1 DVD. Perhaps this will change that. Now someone please get The African Queen on the Film Registry.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2009


oh snap it's already on the list. And still isn't out on DVD. Damn Hollywood litigious assholes, I want my Bogart!
posted by caution live frogs at 10:25 AM on January 6, 2009


Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead it gets elected Governor.

Sorry, fearfulsymmetry. You inspired that moment of weird.
posted by mephron at 10:32 AM on January 6, 2009


caution live frogs - Heh. No Hardware on that list of R1 DVDless films, though the awful version of The Island of Doctor Moreau is mentioned, so props to Stanley. I'd actually really like to see the B&W version.

African Queen is not available on DVD? WTF? That should be required veiwing every for at least one family holiday each year, along with The Great Escape.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on January 6, 2009


I think people in 2040 already have a deep understanding of the 1980's, hence the time-traveling robot assassins.

The film could be a good instructive tool, though. For example:

Make sure that your assassin robot has a good handle on what kinds of weapons are available in the 80's. You don't want him wasting time going around asking about phased-plasma rifles in the forty watt range.

What kinds of voice responses do you have programmed in? Sure, he can rent a cheap motel room, but can he successfully blow off the janitor when he gets nosy?

How is your assassin bot going to find the target? He's not just going to find a phonebook and kill everyone with that name who has a listed number, right? Because that would be stupid.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:43 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh come on now, everyone knows that a lot of records were (will be) destroyed during the war.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on January 6, 2009


Actually, the Winston Churchill on your list is not the Nobel Prize-winning British prime minister, but an American novelist who shared the same name.

Good catch! (And of course it reinforces my point.)
posted by languagehat at 10:53 AM on January 6, 2009


[The Terminator]'s a great work of pop art. Die Hard and the Omen are just movies.

I understand the distinction you're making - but I passionately disagree with your assessment. Die Hard created an entire sub-genre and has arguably influenced every American action film made since.

"Just a movie", he says.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2009


Languagehat:

You missed my most important point, which is that "pop art, that is enormously and disproportionately popular with mass audiences or that finds huge mass appeal is inherently culturally significant." The analysis has to be "ass-backwards" because we don't live in the future. The question is not what is being produced now that will be considered literature by future generations. Not knowing what future generations will be like, this question devolves into a subjective argument. I'm talking about what represents the culture at this time (or whatever time we are talking about).

Because there are always works of popular art (by definition some have to be more popular than others), I'm suggesting it's informative to look at those that "bubbled up" beyond the ordinary pop background noise of here-today-gone tomorrow and achieved some position of rare notoriety in their own day.

The outliers like this are how the culture in question is implicitly defining itself, and in a way that is not open to subjective opinion. Why did a $6 million movie earn ten times that at the box offce, spawn 3 sequels, and create characters and a story that were iconic? There must be something there. We can argue about what that thing is, but I think we all acknowledge it exists.

This isn't a list of "good" films, it's a list of historically relevant films.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2009


We'll have to agree to disagree ;)

Die Hard is a great action picture, a lot of fun - but it's a big Hollywood product - we know Bruce Willis, (famously paid $5 million for the part), is gonna save the day. (and yes it influenced other movies - such as Under Siege and Under Siege 2, etc. - but there would be no Die Hard without the Terminator).

The Terminator, (coming out of nowhere and with no interwebs to hype it), was, and still is, an altogether different beast.

Sitting in the cinema the audience had no idea if our heroes were going to survive or succeed - I mean who the hell are Michael Biehn or Linda Hamilton? The film is far more interesting than Die Hard - it's a compulsive piece of trash art in which the whole world is at stake - not just the life of John McClane's wife, (the film also posits that nuclear war is unavoidable - the logical extension of our reliance on technology, (hence the numerous bits with answering machines, other technology, etc.). It's a dark, feverish dream - a nightmare of it's time - in an altogether different league than Die Hard's polished John Waynesque fantasia.
posted by jettloe at 11:47 AM on January 6, 2009


Artw - agreed. I own a copy of African Queen, but it's VHS. And my VCR is currently in a box in the attic of our garage because aside from that single movie I have very little use for it.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2009


The Terminator, (coming out of nowhere and with no interwebs to hype it), was, and still is, an altogether different beast.

Sitting in the cinema the audience had no idea if our heroes were going to survive or succeed - I mean who the hell are Michael Biehn or Linda Hamilton?


Meh, I don't get your distinction either. Yes, Die Hard was a mainstream action movie, and it followed most of the established tropes, such as the good guy saving the day (and the girl) at the end.

But The Terminator followed its own tropes. It's a B-movie and a monster movie, as the New York Times pointed out when it was released. It's not uncommon in a monster movie for the monster himself to get top billing, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi made careers off of it. And Sci-fi flavored monster movies always focus on technology and its dangers. Even the sub-genre of evil robots were an established cliche by the time The Terminator came out, thanks to movies like Westworld and dozens of others.

Die Hard and The Terminator are both standouts in their respective genres, but I don't see much special about The Terminator that warrants putting it at a higher level.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:25 PM on January 6, 2009


I don't see much special about The Terminator that warrants putting it at a higher level.

You're obviously forgetting Linda Hamilton's hair.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2009


Die Hard and The Terminator are both standouts in their respective genres, but I don't see much special about The Terminator that warrants putting it at a higher level.

The Terminator is about the end of our world - Die Hard is about a man who can't deal with his wife's career.

The Terminator is not just at a 'higher level' it's in a whole different league - and don't get me wrong, I love Die Hard - but the Terminator has a compulsion to it that makes it more like a Polanski film than a standard actioner.

And sure there's been evil robots around forever - but in terms of sheer filmmaking craft, movies like Westworld, (Richard Benjamin fighting Yul Brenner? = bad, bad cinema), are limp - they're junk - compared to The Terminator. It's a work of fevered craftsmanship: the sound of flies buzzing as Arnold cuts into himself - the audience can smell the rotting flesh.

The sound of a cigarette being dunked in coffee, (the cops look like they haven't sleept in weeks), the graininess of the film stock...these add up to something far more interesting than other 'standard' genre entries.
posted by jettloe at 12:42 PM on January 6, 2009


The Librarian makes the final selection, after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and having extensive discussions with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board, as well as the Library’s motion picture staff.

somebody who is familiar with the library of congress please tell me that the librarian is not being paid a hefty salary to Metro into work and watch movies for 3 months out of every year
posted by matt755811 at 12:43 PM on January 6, 2009


burnmp3s : but I don't see much special about The Terminator that warrants putting it at a higher level.

The Terminator's HUD prompting him with the line: "Fuck you asshole".

For that alone, this film needs to be preserved for all future generations.

And Bill Paxton getting killed by being punched through the chest. That never stops being funny.
posted by quin at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Game over man!
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on January 6, 2009


Did James Cameron have some kind of weird hate for Bill Paxton or something? "Sure you can be in my movie... as a total dick!".
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on January 6, 2009


I've always took it to be a "Hey Bill, you want to be in my next really big movie? Cool... You know I'm gonna kill you right? I mean, you're going to die badly. Still want in? Excellent!"

As a big fan of Paxton, there was a while where if you saw his name in the credits, you knew he was a dead man. It was like his trademark.
posted by quin at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2009


I guess he's done better out of it than Michael Biehn.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2009


The Librarian makes the final selection, after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public...

Anyone else up for a mass write-in campaign for Weekend at Bernie's?
posted by mandal at 2:02 PM on January 6, 2009


Kiablokirk: "I'm in the middle of trying to watch all 80 films that have won the Best Picture Oscar. "

I admire your completeness, but it's probably not a worthy pursuit (unless you have some specific reason). The Academy is by nature conservative, they vote on things that worked in the past. So they often miss the truly great and revolutionary films.

You can trust the Academy to pick a "Forrest Gump" over a "Pulp Fiction," an "Ordinary People" over a "Raging Bull," a "Kramer vs. Kramer" over an "Apocalypse Now." "Doctor Dolittle" over "In Cold Blood," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Two for the Road". "In the Heat of the Night" over "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Graduate" - the best/great films are often not the Oscars. Indeed some of the Oscars are just plain bad period pieces.
posted by stbalbach at 4:42 PM on January 6, 2009


24) Water and Power

Wow. Channel 101 is really coming along.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:03 PM on January 6, 2009


"Disneyland Dream" is a great home movie and its inclusion this year turned up something interesting: Steve Martin spotted himself in the film selling guidebooks near the Main Street train station. He was all of eleven years old and had landed his first of several theme park jobs (including working at the magic shop as well as a performer over at Knott's Berry Farm.)

You can see Martin near the 20:20 mark walking from left to right in the bottom corner of the frame. Look for the top hat.
posted by Spatch at 7:04 PM on January 6, 2009


By the way, here's a copy of another 2008 Film Preservation pick, Len Lye's Free Radicals, on YouTube. It isn't all Terminator, folks. Experimental short films get some love too.
posted by jonp72 at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2009


Cheers jonp72 - the thread veered off so very quickly.:)
posted by jettloe at 8:40 PM on January 6, 2009


Every year this list comes out, the mailing list of the Association of Moving Image Archivists has discussions (mailing list format, so you have to read backwards, kind of) on what the National Film Registry really means, in terms of the role it plays in the preservation of the titles on the list. In sum, being included on the registry doesn't necessarily mean that the film has been preserved, or actually will be.
posted by estherbester at 9:02 PM on January 6, 2009


jettloe, I share your love unparalleled for Termy, but it was at least 15 years ago that Siskel & Ebert pointed out that Die Hard "increasingly looks to have redefined its genre" (or words to that effect). I don't know if that represented consensus on some pre-web film critic listserv or what, but when it was said I knew instinctively that it was true.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be preserved but isn't there many much older and more deserving films to preserve at this point in time?

The Board has always made a point of naming films from the entire lifetime of the industry. In fact, the very first list -- in 1989 -- included the original Star Wars, then a mere stripling of 12 years. The second list in 1990 added Raging Bull, on its own tenth anniversary. Films newer than Terminator already on the list include Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, Dances With Wolves, and Do the Right Thing, and that's just the first part of the alphabet.
posted by dhartung at 10:46 PM on January 6, 2009


« Older Bicycle Museums   |   Another Day, Another Dispute at Facebook Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post