The winter holidays season is a time of many delights, despite what one’s spiritual and/or religious beliefs are.
One of our favorite events, however, is the annual announcement each December by the Library of Congress of 25 films that are being named to the National Film Registry.
Some of these films are well-known award-winning titles, some are highly respected rarely seen titles and others are landmark productions reflecting the times they were made and changes in American culture.
The 25 films just named to the registry include one dealing with alcoholism (Days of Wine and Roses), sexual norms (Brokeback Mountain), the Vietnam War (Hearts and Minds), and the emergence of African-American filmmakers.
There are musicals on the list two including Academy Award-winning best picture My Fair Lady and the Gene Kelly-Frank Sinatra film On the Town.
“Monterey Pop,” 0ne of the best rock music movies ever made, is added to the list. It took place before Woodstock and some of the concert performances filmed are vastly superior to those of the festival that happened later.
For those with a hankering for science fiction and horror films, there are two added this year: Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”
Lots of film making giants are reflected in this list including Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock), Walt Disney (Cinderella), Paul Newman (Hud), Orson Welles (The Lady from Shanghai), and Alfred Hitchcock (Rebecca).
This is the sort of list that makes one want to learn more about film, particularly about titles that aren’t widely know.
So, take a look at the list and then, if you so choose, watch some of those you don’t know much about it. We recommend it.
Films Selected for the 2018 National Film Registry (alphabetical order)
The creative teams involved in making the Best Picture winners from 1973-1977 feature “heavyweight” directors, actors, themes and, yes, even a movie about heavyweight boxers.
The heavyweight directors included Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Milos Foreman, and George Roy Hill. The actors included Allen, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Sylvester Stallone.
The Sting, 1973, directed by George Roy Hill
Many critics loved (with the exception of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) “Butch Cassidy and “The Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture.
When the actors teamed up again for director George Roy Hill’s “The Sting,” however, they won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This comic, caper film is filled with twists and turns in what in many ways is about getting revenge for a late friend.
The “sting” of a big-time racketeer pits brain against gun and brawn. The tale is told with the marvelous music of Scott Joplin and is bolstered by great acting.Others competing for the 1973 top honor included “The Exorcist,” “Cries and Whispers,” and “American Graffiti.”
The Godfather II, 1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola
For once a sequel is deserving of the honor of its predecessor. “Godfather I” won the Best Picture award and with the acting assistance of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro among others, director Francis Ford Coppola wins the honor again with this outstanding crime drama.
Of course, The Godfather movies are about more than crime. They were about families, culture and acceptance in a world that was resistant to letting them into the great American melting pot.
In this second movie, we witness a family betrayal and death, finding a way to gain political favors, the long-reach of one’s family in the old world, and revenge on the family’s perceived enemies.
Mr. Coppola truly deserved a Best Picture honor for this 200-minute epic.
Other competitors for the 1974 Best Picture honor included “Chinatown,” “The Conversation,” and “Lenny.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975, directed by Milos Forman
You would have to be “cuckoo” not to find something to like about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 winner of the Oscar for Best Picture.
Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, (who became a counter-culture hero with his Merry Pranksters), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the beneficiary of a bravura performance by Jack Nicholson
The story is about a second-rate crook who pretends to be insane in order to avoid prison and be sent to what he expects to be an easier experience in a mental hospital. He proves to be an uplifting spirit for his fellow patients, but runs into a difficult adversary in the head nurse.
The cast is outstanding with several actors on the verge of stardom. That cast includes Louise Fletcher, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd, Will Sampson, and William Redfield.
Others contenders for the 1975 Best Picture Award included “Barry Lyndon,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Jaws” and “Nashville.”
Rocky, 1976, directed by John Avildsen
“Rocky” is not only about a Philadelphia underdog boxer taking on the heavyweight champion of the world, it also is a testament to the behind-the-scenes story of unknown Sylvester Stallone getting the movie made, starring in his film and for it to win the 1976 Best Picture Oscar.
In addition to Stallone, the fine cast includes Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Carl Weathers.
This was the first real sports movie to win the Best Picture Oscar even though “On the Waterfront” had a sports backdrop. The score is an uptempo joy.
The only problem with “Rocky” is that it led to far too many sequels.
Other contenders for the 1976 honor were “All the President’s Men,” “Bound for Glory,” “Network,” and “Taxi Driver.”
Annie Hall, 1977, directed by Woody Allen
Woody Allen had completed numerous outstanding films before his “Annie Hall” won the 1977 Oscar for Best Picture.
This semi-autobiographical film about his relationship with Annie/Diane Keaton is a whimsical comedy that takes on the issues of loneliness and love, family, communications, maturity, city life, careers and even driving.It’s filled with classic scenes including one with a lobster, one with Paul Simon, and many more.
As with most of Woody Allen’s movies, “Annie Hall” has a great cast. In addition to those previously mentioned, the cast include Allen regular Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Marshall McLuhan (check out his sudden appearance while Woody is waiting in line to see a movie),
legendary interviewer Dick Cavett, Shelley Duvall, Colleen Dewhurst, Jeff Goldb added hislum, and Christopher Walken.
Another major plus for this movie was the cinematography of Gordon Willis, who also added his touch to Allen’s 1979 black and white visually and musically dazzling “Manhattan.”
The crop for Best Picture Oscar in 1977 was bountiful, but “Annie Hall” deserved the honor. Other contenders were “Star Wars,” “Julia,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Turning Point.”
Several years ago in an Indiana Science Fiction Sojourns column, I made a few suggestions for an October horror-related movie and other mediatmarathon.In case you didn’t see it, here’s what I suggested:
An Evening with Boris and Bela: Beginning in the 1930s, Universal Studios produced a multitude of classic horror movies with sound. The talents of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were what in large part made those movies great.
Check out Boris in the Frankenstein movies, 1932’s “The Mummy,” and “The Body Snatcher.” These films are all tremendously enhanced by the mysterious qualities that black and white film-making provided. For a look at Boris in his later years, watch “The Terror,” a 1962 release that co-starred the-then up and coming Jack Nicholson.
Lugosi is probably best known for his starring role in “Dracula,” a role he had played on the stage. Of almost equal note are his performances in “White Zombie” and “The Body Snatcher.”
Here’s Jack (or is it Johnny?) Night: The great career of Jack Nicholson has included a few turns in horror films such as “The Terror” as mentioned above. His performance in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is truly memorable.Who can forget him saying to Shelly Duvall as he breaks down a bathroom door, “Here’s Johnny.” And, of course, Jack once again delighted us in “The Witches of Eastwick,” a comedy, and “Wolf.” Then there’s his visit to a dentist’s office in the original “Little Shop of Horrors.”
A Hitchcock Double Feature: Alfred Hitchcock’s mysteries are among the greatest films ever made. “The Birds” and “Psycho” make a great combo of Hitchcock films that fit the horror genre. Among other things, after viewing “The Birds” many people became anxious anytime they saw a flock of birds lined up anywhere. “Psycho” scared many people away from taking a shower.
Spielberg and Friends: A Light and Dark Experience: Director/producer Steven Spielberg and his associates have given us some of the most memorable horror experiences in film, beginning in the 1970s.
Spielberg’s TV movie “The Duel” is a tale about a character (Dennis Weaver) making his way home on winding, dangerous roads, trailed by a mysterious truck driver, seemingly with murderous intent, with a vehicle belching smoke that Weaver can’t shake. The film helped ignite Spielberg’s career.
Spielberg’s “Jaws” set box office records and created the summer blockbuster.
After that, Spielberg directed or produced films with horror elements including “Poltergeist” and “Gremlins.”
On a sweeter, more positive note, Spielberg has also given us “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” which even takes place around Halloween.
“Jurassic Park” also works in this festival beginning with a marvelous sense of wonder and evolving into horror.
The It’s What You Don’t See That Gets Ya Scareathon: The scariest moments in films are about what you can’t see, but suspect is around the corner. “Psycho,” “Jaws,” and “Duel” all benefit from that approach.
“Rosemary’s Baby,” possibly my favorite among horror films, builds the terror throughout the movie as a woman, Mia Farrow, fears there is some sort of cult operating in her apartment building (filmed in the Dakota, the hotel that years later is where John Lennon lived when he was shot) and that something very strange is going on regarding her pregnancy. Never in this Roman Polanski film until the end do we clearly see what has been happening.
“Cloverfield,” which was released this year, also benefits from that approach. This J.J. Abrams’ production, directed by Matt Reeves, only gives us partial peeks for most of the film of what is attacking New York City and that has blown off the head of the Statue of Liberty. That approach adds to the terror.
It also better uses a technique used in “The Blair Witch Project.” “Cloverfield” supposedly was found by a U.S. government agency after the attack and was shot on a camcorder by people who had started out recording a going-away party of a friend.
The one unfortunate thing about this film — and this isn’t the filmmakers’ fault — is the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York gave us a good idea what it would look like if skyscrapers were destroyed. The film reflects that knowledge.
A few more quick suggestions:
Misunderstood Monsters Marathon: “King Kong,” the 1930s original and the much-longer Peter Jackson version, and “Frankenstein.”
Book, Radio and Movie Night: H.G. Wells’ great “War of the Worlds” led to the amazingly scary Orson Welles’ radio version that terrified America and the classic 1953 film version. Complete versions of Welles’ broadcast are available on CD.
Horror Comic Relief Night: “Young Frankenstein,” “Ghostbusters,” Beetlejuice,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Ed Wood.”
The Horror Favorites That Ronald Hawkins has Avoided Celebration: The “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “The Exorcist,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Omen” movies.