Looking back over the entire history of American cinema, the Library of Congress, having conferred with the National Film Preservation Board and a few of its own specialists, has selected twenty-five titles to add to the National Film Registry. Selection to the registry, which turns thirty this year, ensures that the Library will see to it, either on its own or in cooperation with other archives, studios, and filmmakers, that “these films will be preserved for all time.”
As always, the registry’s selection makes for an eclectic list, reflecting the range of over a century of moviemaking in the country. The oldest film in this year’s round dates back to 1898 and runs all of twenty-nine seconds. Something Good – Negro Kiss is one of several “kissing films” made in the early days of the medium aimed at attracting curious audiences, and it features vaudeville actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown in what Allyson Nadia Field of the University of Chicago calls “a seemingly improvised performance” that makes for “a significant counter to the racist portrayal of African Americans otherwise seen in the cinema of its time.” The youngest addition, and in fact, the newest film of all 750 now added to the registry, is Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005). In a statement, Lee expresses his surprise that this love story between two cowboys “ended up striking a deep chord with audiences; the movie became a part of the culture, a reflection of the darkness and light—of violent prejudice and enduring love—in the rocky landscape of the American heart.”
Naturally, we’re pleased to see a number of titles in the Criterion Collection among the twenty-five: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (1953), Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), and two landmark documentaries, D. A. Pennebaker’s 1968 concert film Monterey Pop and Peter Davis’s fiery 1974 polemic against the war in Vietnam, Hearts and Minds. The selection also includes popular favorites such as Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Hollywood classics like Orson Welles’s The Lady From Shanghai (1947) and John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven (1945), the animated films Cinderella (1950) from Disney and Ayoka Chenzira’s 1984 short Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People, and independent films such as Kasi Lemmons’s Eve’s Bayou (1997) and Chris Eyre’s Smoke Signals (1998).
Best of 2018
Snapping back to the present fleeting moment, Sight & Sound has polled 164 international critics and curators and Film Comment has tallied votes from its editors and contributors to come up with two somewhat surprisingly divergent lists of the twenty best films of 2018. There is some overlap, of course. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, the clear critical favorite so far this year, tops the S&S list but comes in at #4 on FC’s, where we find Lucrecia Martel’s Zama at #1 (and at #9 on the S&S list). Lee Chang-dong’s Burning scores well on both lists (#2 for FC, #3 on the S&S list) as does Paul Schrader’s First Reformed (#3 for FC, #5 for S&S).