Editorials, Film

The National Film Registry: My Nominations for 2012

– Nathan

Every year, the Library of Congress chooses 25 American films it deems “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” to be preserved in the National Film Registry. In my opinion, this is some of the most important cultural work being done in our country, as not enough emphasis is placed on the preservation, restoration, and teaching of film. While at first glance it may appear to be a cobbled-together “best movies EVERRRRRR list,” it is actually quite the opposite, as it contains not only feature films, but documentaries, shorts, news reels, public service announcements, experimental films, music videos, and almost anything else that could be considered an important “film.” The only criterion, besides the aforementioned ones, are that they have to be American and more than ten years old.

In addition to consulting experts in the field, the Library of Congress also allows for the public to have their say and nominate films, with each individual allowed 50 films per year. The deadline for nominations is the 28th of September, so I decided to go ahead and participate for the first time. I’ll get all my comments on why I selected these films out of the way, and then I’ll show you the list.

I’d like to clarify first that I have not seen all these films; however, I’ve read extensively about all of them and recognize their significance. And like I said earlier, there is a difference between “good” and “important” (just like there is a a difference between “good” and “great,” but that’s a different discussion). I don’t like Quentin Tarantino or Red Dawn, but I recognize that both caused a shift in American cinema.

I’m not going to go through all of these films and explain my reasons for choosing them, because that would get a little repetitive and tedious. Many of these films I chose because of overlapping reasons, such as documenting an important moment in American history (For All Mankind, The Times of Harvey Milk, The War Room),  representing a change in cultural trends (Superman, The Breakfast Club, Heaven’s Gate), capturing the political fervor of a specific time (Mr. Freedom, Alice’s Restaurant), or expressing, um, unique viewpoints (Red Dawn, Dirty Harry). There are also some movies I chose for no conscious reason, like The Warriors or Bad Lieutenant. Some choices just felt right, or they just came to my mind first.

My list for the most part can be split into two distinctive categories: New Hollywood and independent cinema, and cult/camp fare. I’m not exactly sure how this happened. Part of it might possibly be because I was trying to steer clear of many obvious choices and instead go for the unexpected. I chose Putney Swope, Maidstone, and Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One not only because they are important works of American underground cinema but also because they probably wouldn’t be nominated by most folks. However, I didn’t necessarily stick to this rule completely, as most suckers will probably nominate Pulp Fiction, GoodFellas, and Scarface.

The list also shows that most of my knowledge of film extends from 1960 onward, and I’d like to change that with my choices next year. Design for Living is the oldest film on this list by a wide margin, and I feel a bit bad about that. Another problem I have with my list is that I chose several films by the same director. Brian De Palma and D.A. Pennebaker both have three, and Oliver Stone and Jonathan Demme each have two. And these aren’t even some of my favorite filmmakers.

I regret a few of the choices. I don’t know exactly why I chose Alice’s Restaurant and a few others, except for the fact that the Registry’s list of “Notable Films Not Yet Nominated” sorta supplied me with them. I also don’t know if I’m allowed to nominate commercials, or if anyone would ever consider Tom Waits for No One as the second music video nominated to the registry, or if Ed Wood deserves to be preserved for humanity. I think he does. But then again, next year I’ll probably nominate The Room.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the list and proud of myself for coming up with a few of these selections. Hopefully some of these will be picked, as I’m already thinking of my selections for next year. Maybe I should make a second email address and go ahead and send them, though I don’t want to do that since I treat this as such a serious business. Or I could just get involved in nominating for the National Recording Registry, but I don’t know where I’d start with that. (I do plan on nominating WTF with Marc Maron in 2019, though). I really encourage all of our readers to get involved, because this is incredibly important work that you can have a say in. The cinema is incredibly important, and we need to further all attempts to preserve it. Anyway, without further ado, here are my nominations for the National Film Registry this year.

1984 Apple Commercial (1984)

Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Blow Out (1981)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Design for Living (1933)

Dirty Harry (1971)

Drive, He Said (1970)

F for Fake (1974)

For All Mankind (1989)

Gimme Shelter (1970)

GoodFellas (1990)

Head (1968)

Heaven’s Gate (1980)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Maidstone (1970)

Metropolitan (1990)

Monterey Pop (1968)

Mr. Freedom (1969)

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

The Naked Kiss (1964)

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Putney Swope (1969)

Red Dawn (1984)

Roger and Me (1989)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Salvador (1986)

Shampoo (1975)

Scarface (1983)

Schizopolis (1996)

Scorpio Rising (1964)

Slacker (1991)

Stop Making Sense (1984)

Superman (1978)

Swimming to Cambodia (1987)

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)

Them! (1954)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Tom Waits For No One (1979)

Two-Lane Blacktop (1973)

Wall Street (1987)

The Warriors (1979)

The War Room (1993)

Zorns Lemma (1970)

For more information on the National Film Registry, please go here. For information on nominating films, please go here.


2 thoughts on “The National Film Registry: My Nominations for 2012

  1. I know these were your nominations for last year, but ‘F for Fake’ is not eligible for inclusion in the National Film Registry as it is not an American production. Also, ‘Goodfellas’ was added to the Registry in 2000. Otherwise, great list. :)

    • Nathan Smith says:

      Yeah, I realized that about GoodFellas after I put this up, but didn’t know that about F for Fake. Anyway, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.


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