The Empire Strikes Back (1980) has been chosen amongst 25 other films for entry into The National Film Registry, Congress's annual and ongoing effort to preserve films that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" to the United States. But I just wonder... which version of 'Empire' is actually going into the archives? Will it be the original and superior theatrical print which nobody can deny was culturally, historically and aesthetically significant to cinema - or will it be the heavily George Lucas tinkered with SE of more recent times that is all of the above but for the wrong reasons! Presumably Lucas will insist on the latter going in as that's his 'completed vision' but the Registry must insist on the original print, as that's the film that changed cinema and not the afterthought re-working. Perhaps the answer of which cut goes into the archive is answered by the inclusion of the George Lucas student short Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB which preceded his actual feature film THX 1138. It's unusual for an artist to be recognised twice by the Registry in the same year so perhaps they included the short as a sweetener to get their hands on the original Empire. Empire's director Irvin Kershner died on November 27th this year and the list seems to have somewhat influenced by those that have passed away recently. Director Blake Edwards and actor Leslie Nielsen who we both lost this month will be revered hundreds of years from now by their respective comedy works The Pink Panther (1963, Edwards) and Airplane (1980, Nielsen). Just what audiences in 100 years will make of either comedy, which for me already feel grossly stilted, silly and outdated (sorry, but that's how I feel) is anyone's guess. The rather sentimental inclusion of films from Kershner, Edwards and Nielsen in many ways reflects the adding of John Landis and Michael Jackson's music video (the first in the archives) Thriller last year though few would deny it's worthiness. The absolute best film preserved this year is Alan J. Pakula's 1976 ode to journalism All The President's Men, which re-tells of how the Washington Post came to unravel the Watergate scandal that cost Nixon his presidency and whose due on this list has been a long time coming. Warner Home Video are releasing a Blu-ray transfer in February and my order was secured a while ago for one of my personal favourite movies of all time. Everytime I watch the film I wonder if I would have ever pursued writing as a career (if what I do can be called that?) without Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman's inspiring performances. I bet there's hundreds of journalists out there that were inspired to do what they do by this film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fLdCZm7qgs Lots more films from the greatest decade of movie-making (the 70's) have been included this year... Robert Altman's 1971 moody Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie which I can guarantee you will dig if you like The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2BSHp9oYD0 William Friedkin's 1974 classic The Exorcist, one of the more effective horror's of all time. Again I wonder which version goes in? We recently devoured the blu-ray, which you should all own. 1977's Saturday Night Fever with a dancing, jiving John Travolta. I guess the great thing about this archive is that 'culturally significant films' are worthy of consideration which allows the less obvious choices their chance for the limelight. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69VsAEafSgM and also Grey Gardens (1975) Albert and David Maysles documentary about two ex-high society socialites who are withering away in a decrepit old mansion which I've never seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mumWYU5aHBU The only film of the past 29 years included is Spike Lee's eclectic Malcolm X with a towering and memorable performance from Denzel Washington. That movie was released in 1992 and Warner Home Video are releasing the Blu-ray on January 25th, so here's another nice marketing push for their back catalogue. Maybe with the pending releases of All The President's Men and Malcolm X, WB knew of their inclusion in the archive months ago? It's worth reminding ourselves that only films that have enjoyed 10 years since their original release can be included int he Registry with the most recent being 1996's Coen Brothers classic Fargo. Congress have yet to deem any films from 1997, 1998, 1999 and now 2000 as being worthy of inclusion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbKs766Tr88 Interestingly the 1891 short Newark Athlete which according to Wikipedia 'displays a young athlete swinging Indian clubs and is roughly thirty seconds in length' and which is included in this year's list, is now the oldest film in the archive. The full list is below;
Airplane! (1980) All the Presidents Men (1976) The Bargain (1914) Cry of Jazz (1959) Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967) The Empire Strikes Back (1980) The Exorcist (1973) The Front Page (1931) Grey Gardens (1976) I Am Joaquin (1969) Its a Gift (1934) Let There Be Light (1946) Lonesome (1928) Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) Malcolm X (1992) McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) Newark Athlete (1891) Our Lady of the Sphere (1969) The Pink Panther (1964) Preservation of the Sign Language (1913) Saturday Night Fever (1977) Study of a River (1996) Tarantella (1940) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) A Trip Down Market Street (1906)You can check out the National Film Registry Official Website HERE and even vote for what films should be included next year. Wikipedia have a handy list of every film included so far.