Every year since 1989, the United States National Film Preservation Board has chosen up to 25 movies to be included for preservation in the Library of Congress. This list of films, known as the National Film Registry, is meant to highlight movies that are deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Unlike other film awards like the Oscars, Golden Globes, or the American Film Institute Awards, the films chosen for the National Film Registry are not those that have made a big impact in a given year, only to be forgotten soon after. In fact, a film can’t even be nominated until 10 years after it was made in order to give the film some context and to verify its impact on the film industry or American society at-large. In other words, this is truly a list of films that have stood the test of time and really are important to our culture or to film as a medium. These are the great ones.
Aside from the classic status these films have earned, the types of films represented here is also significant. Ranging from feature-length Hollywood films to animated shorts to newsreel footage to home movies from everyday people like you and me, the Film Registry is a wonderful snapshot of America at a certain time, place, and mindset, doing what film does best – capturing moments.
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As someone who is interested in films, and more specifically, film’s place in our culture, my goal with this project is to see as many of the National Film Registry selections as possible. Along with actually watching the film (even if I’ve seen it before, I’m going to watch it again for this project), I’m going to do a little research on each one to gain as much background information on the production, or, if none is available, at least the context in which the film was made, and write about it here on SpaceMonkeyX. Of course I’ll also include any thoughts of my own, as there are sure to be some that I’ll like more or less than others. While the list on the project’s homepage is every film (as of 2011) in alphabetical order, I won’t necessarily be watching them in any specific order.
One reason is that not all of the films will be available all the time. Things go out of print, new DVDs are released, or something that was previously unavailable will suddenly show up on YouTube one day, ripped from a VHS copy that someone had sitting in the back of their closet. I’ll watch as many of these as I can, but there are bound to be some that are simply too difficult to get my hands on unless I actually visit the Library of Congress where these are all stored. Considering I live in St. Louis, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.
I considered trying chronological order, based upon the release date, but as new films are inducted, this timeline would inevitably be thrown off.
Besides, isn’t the beauty of creating your own course of exploration being able to discover things at your own pace and in your own direction? Creating any kind of rigid guideline to follow can lead to burnout and therefore sabotage the whole project.
So I’ll be watching and commenting on these films in whatever order my heart desires. However, I would expect there will be times I’ll become especially interested in a genre or a time period and there will be quite a few similar titles lumped together. For example, I’ll probably start with a bunch of animated films since I just finished writing a mental_floss article on many of those on the list. But I’m going to jump around quite a bit so I can keep things fresh – for readers and for myself.
To follow my progress, check out the National Film Registry Project link at the top of the page.