The Library of Congress has just announced the 25 films that this year will be added to the National Film Registry. This brings the total to 425, and a unique and intriguing mix of films it is. As you may or may not know, the films are selected more for "importance" than for pure art. As the press release puts it:
The films we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous, but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance -- and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition.I'm not going to comment on all of the selections, or omissions (this is not meant to be a comprehensive list in any way), but I would like to comment on a few of the new inductees.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This has always been one of my absolute favorite movies. It was the first R-rated movie I ever saw (on cable, while babysitting), and I own it on DVD. There have only been two movie posters I've ever bought (though I own a few more), and I purchased them both for their diversity from each other, and also since they are two of my favorites. The first was Chinatown, and the second was Fast Times.
But there's more to it than just the fact that it is an extremely quotable movie (believe me, I know -- I can quote almost the entire thing) that featured some amazing future stars in early roles. The first film written by Cameron Crowe (based on his own book), and directed by Amy Heckerling (who in my mind is one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood), Fast Times is far more than another teen comedy. It defined its era, largely launched the '80s teen movie phenomenon (which Crowe somewhat brought to a close with his directorial debut, Say Anything, another of my faves), and was a cultural touchstone for most American male youths around when it was released. (What KISS was to kids who grew up in the '70s, like me, Fast Times was for those same kids as teens in the '80s.) The Phoebe Cates fantasy sequence is indelibly burned into the minds and memories of so many guys that it even earned her a more recent (if somewhat crude) musical tribute.
Lastly, I've always been impressed by the Spicoli character. He is the character everyone most remembers and loves from the movie, and yet he is really secondary to almost any of the major plotlines. And amazingly, the movie doesn't suffer at all for it. As I see it, the lovable goofball surfer/stoner he plays is something like Falstaff, particularly as he played out in Henry IV, Part I. He was a secondary character who is there primarily for comic relief, but in many ways provides the heart of the story and proves most memorable. Anyway, just remember: "All I need are some tasty waves, cool buzz, and I'm fine!"
Giant. As any film buff will tell you, James Dean only starred in three features in his short life. His most famous is obviously Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden is probably the best film overall of the three. But in my opinion, Giant gave us Dean's best performance as an actor, and probably his best role (at least as I remember from when I saw it). The film is flawed, particularly in its unnecessarily sprawling length, but Dean gives a great performance, and Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson are equally fabulous.
Toy Story. Okay, not the best of the Pixar films, but definitely an excellent one, and the most important as it changed the face of animated films from then on out. So much so that even stodgy old Disney has finally jumped on the digital animation bandwagon with this year's relatively successful Chicken Little. Plus, Pixar is the most important animation studio of the recent past (and probably the most successful production company period), and deserves the accolades.
Okay, this post is already longer than I had wanted it to be -- guess I had a lot to say once I got back to blogging! So just go check out the full list, and let's hear what y'all think!
Tags: National+Film+Registry, Fast+Times+at+Ridgemont+High, Amy+Heckerling, Cameron+Crowe, Giant, James+Dean, Toy+Story, Pixar