Wednesday, December 28, 2011

They Really Want Us to Remember Forrest Gump

The yearly announcement by the Library of Congress National Film Registry of what films have been deemed "culturally significant" is always an interesting moment for cinephiles. This year's list of 25 films were selected by "Librarian of Congress" (how's that for a title on your resumé?) James H Billington and covers a wide variety of films from as early as 1912 to as late as 1994 and includes well known classics and titles that I, personally, had never even heard of. In between the wonderful selections of The Silence of the Lambs, The Big Heat, The Kid and Bambi are eye-raisers like El Mariachi and The Negro Soldier. However, it's the inclusion of Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump that made me most disappointed. Little more than an extended trip down memory lane with nifty special effects, Zemeckis' film is one of those curious films that so many people seem to remember as being an amazing classic, and yet I can't help but wonder if they've even watched it lately. It has not aged well.

The entire list of films are:

1. Allures (1961)
2. Bambi (1942)
3. The Big Heat (1953)
4. A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
5. Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment (1963)
6. The Cry of the Children (1912)
7. A Cure for Pokeritis (1912)
8. El Mariachi (1992)
9. Faces (1968)
10. Fake Fruit Factory (1986)
11. Forrest Gump (1994)
12. Growing Up Female (1971)
13. Hester Street (1975)
14. I, an Actress (1977)
15. The Iron Horse (1924)
16. The Kid (1921)
17. The Lost Weekend (1945)
18. The Negro Soldier (1944)
19. Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-40s)
20. Norma Rae (1979)
21. Porgy and Bess (1959)
22. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
23. Stand and Deliver (1988)
24. Twentieth Century (1934)
25. War of the Worlds (1953)

Still, all of that would be fine if on the same day as the Library of Congress announced their selections the Academy released their annual poster for the upcoming Academy Awards. Witness:

Trust me, dear Academy, movies like Forrest Gump (and Driving Miss Daisy for that matter) are not the ones you should be reminding us of. Hell, to take another Library of Congress title, Silence of the Lambs would be a far better and more evocative film to remind viewers and audiences that you're still capable of making choices that aren't in the typified wheelhouse of "Oscar bait". If this poster is any indication then they're certainly expecting War Horse to take the gold, but if - as the pundits suggest - Michel Hazanavicius' black and white silent romance, The Artist, is the one to beat then I would think a poster alluding to some of the more eclectic, forward thinking winners would have been the way to go. But, then again, you can't be seen as predicting your own awards (unlike critics organisations, ahem). Curious though that they include George Stevens' 1956 epic Giant on there as opposed to the actual Best Picture winner of that year... Around the World in Eighty Days. Retroactive awardage, accident or genuine innocent and simple case of the famous movie taking precedence? Curious to note that Giant was added to the National Film Registry some six years ago, a feat that Around the World... hasn't garnered. Yet.

1 comment:

Bradley J. Dixon said...

Personally I'm amazed that it took this long for 'A Computer Generated Hand' to be selected for preservation. Remember that the main purpose of the National Film Registry is to determine which films are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant enough to be preserved in the Library of Congress; I would have thought the very first computer-generated film would be a lock.

As great as 'Fargo' is, there are a ton of important films from the early 20th century which not only deserve to be selected, but really need the boost in awareness that comes with inclusion in the registry. For every 'Forrest Gump' that gets selected, as much as I love that film, there's a silent or experimental film which has to wait at least another year for its own inclusion, and we know how fragile and delicate celluloid can be. But not only that, the longer we move away from the early 1900s, the more likely it is that the truly groundbreaking films of that era are simply forgotten. That'll never happen to 'Fargo' or 'Back to the Future', so why the rush to have them preserved in Congress?