Cinematic posterity for Jedi and Gollum
By Sarah Bahr
It’s not just Gollum who thinks a certain ring is precious.
The first in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy of films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), is among the motion pictures chosen for preservation this year on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Also being added is the final installment of another beloved trilogy, “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi,” and the disarmingly sweet Pixar comedy “Wall-E.”
On Tuesday, the library made its annual announcement that 25 more films, from 1902 to 2008, would be honored for their historical and cultural significance and added to the registry, helping to preserve them for future generations.
The selection of “Return of the Jedi” (1983) is the culmination of a yearslong campaign by “Star Wars” fans to add the film to the registry. Hispanic lawmakers and experts this year had also pushed for the inclusion of “Selena,” Gregory Nava’s 1997 biopic of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez that starred Jennifer Lopez in her first major film role. Supporters hoped that choosing it could set an example that would help open more doors for Latinos in movies and television.
A group of notable films are also among the selections, including “Sounder,” Martin Ritt’s 1972 drama about a family of Black sharecroppers in 1930s Louisiana that earned Cicely Tyson an Oscar nomination for best actress, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic that starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.
This year’s class also includes two cult favorites: “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Robert Aldrich’s 1962 thriller about an aging child star (Bette Davis) left to care for her sister (Joan Crawford), and “Pink Flamingos,” John Waters’ 1972 underground comedy starring Divine.
The library noted that the lineup included a number of films by influential directors of color, among them “The Watermelon Woman” (1996), the first feature by Cheryl Dunye, who also starred as a young Black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about a beautiful actress; “Cooley High” (1975), Michael Schultz’s comedy about Black high school seniors in 1960s Chicago; and “Chicana” (1979), Sylvia Morales’ 22-minute documentary tracing the history of Chicana and Mexican women.
Three documentaries that address racially motivated violence against people of color have also been selected: “The Murder of Fred Hampton” (1971), Howard Alk and Mike Gray’s look at the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (Hampton was also the subject of a studio drama this year, “Judas and the Black Messiah”); “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” (1987), Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña’s examination of the fatal beating of a young Chinese American engineer by two white men in Detroit; and “Requiem-29” (1970), David Garcia’s chronicle of a brutal police attack on Chicano protesters in Los Angeles in 1970 that left journalist Ruben Salazar dead.
The lineup also honors several silent films that challenged stereotypes, including the oldest film in this year’s class, “Ringling Brothers Parade Film” (1902), a three-minute recording of a circus parade in Indianapolis that also shows a prosperous northern Black community. “The Flying Ace” (1926) is an aviation romance with an all-Black cast, and “Hellbound Train” (1930), made by the Black evangelical couple James and Eloyce Gist, was played in churches to scare sinners straight.
The Library of Congress said in a statement that these additions brought the total number of titles on its registry to 825, chosen “because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage.” Movies must be at least 10 years old to be eligible, and are picked by Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, after consulting with National Film Preservation Board members and other specialists. The library also allows the public to submit nominations at its website, loc.gov. More than 6,100 films were nominated this year, with the highest number of votes going to “Return of the Jedi.”
A television special, featuring several of these films and a conversation between Hayden and film historian Jacqueline Stewart, will be shown Friday on TCM.
Here are the latest movies chosen for the National Film Registry:
1. “Ringling Brothers Parade Film” (1902)
2. “Jubilo” (1919)
3. “The Flying Ace” (1926)
4. “Hellbound Train” (1930)
5. “Flowers and Trees” (1932)
6. “Strangers on a Train” (1951)
7. “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)
8. “Evergreen” (1965)
9. “Requiem-29” (1970)
10. “The Murder of Fred Hampton” (1971)
11. “Pink Flamingos” (1972)
12. “Sounder” (1972)
13. “The Long Goodbye” (1973)
14. “Cooley High” (1975)
15. “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert” (1979)
16. “Chicana” (1979)
17. “The Wobblies” (1979)
18. “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi” (1983)
19. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
20. “Stop Making Sense” (1984)
21. “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” (1987)
22. “The Watermelon Woman” (1996)
23. “Selena” (1997)
24. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)
25. “Wall-E” (2008)