Library of Congress goes to Hollywood

As a film buff, it’s always a trip to see what movies the Library of Congress selects to live on.

Out of the millions of films that have been made since the dawn of cinema, twenty five get picked to be in the Library of Congress, and among this year’s picks are Silence of the Lambs, Bambi, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, A Computer Animated Hand (more on this in a second), El Mariachi, Forrest Gump, War of the Worlds, and more.

A Computer Animated Hand, which I had never heard of before, was created by Ed Catmull, who is the co-founder of Pixar, and according to Deadline, it was a program that animated a hand digitally, and it was a grad student project that was one of the first ever examples of 3D computer animation.

It’s only a one minute demo of an animated hand, and was actually used in Futureworld, the 1976 sequel to Westworld. The historical significance of this, even though it’s only a minute long, is obvious.

It’s also great to see Charlie Chaplin on the list because a lot of people to this day still don’t realize he was an auteur, a total filmmaker, who did everything on his films, even writing the music. Many still think of Chaplin as just a comedian with the funny mustache and the cane, but if you go back and watch his masterpiece Modern Times, it’s remarkable what command he had over the medium of film before we had so many modern advances in movie technology. (Modern Times still holds up, and today’s audiences would probably be amazed that the messages at the core of the film are still relevant today).

El Mariachi was of course the debut of Robert Rodriguez, which reportedly was shot for $7,000, quite a remarkable accomplishment indeed. Of course, most people who havemade movies or have worked in the business will tell you even if you get everything done for free, it’s practically impossible to make a feature length movie for that price. Nevertheless, Rodriguez’s ingenuity is clear, and many lament that once he became part of the Hollywood machine his later work simply didn’t have the same spirit.

As we recently reported on TG, Disney just had a birthday, he would have been 110 if he were around today, and Bambi’s now in the Library of Congress. Watching Disney’s classic animation today, when everything was hand drawn and painted, it’s amazing what an artist Disney was and the scope of his vision. (Not to mention how lifelike his animation is to this day.) And being a horror fan, it’s nice to see Silence of the Lambs on the list too.

Silence isn’t the only horror classic that made the film registry, Halloween was inducted some years back, yet Silence is the only horror film in history to sweep the Academy Awards with five wins, including Best Picture. Then again, Silence was the perfect example of a movie where the planets totally aligned with cast, script and director. Jonathan Demme was a great left of center choice to direct that paid off big time, and Anthony Hopkins finally got the big breakthrough role he always deserved.

Although there are other films on the list, I’ll end with Forrest Gump, which I never really got, although Gump is indeed a well made film. It was certainly intriguing how Robert Zemeckis made Tom Hanks a Zelig style figure, popping in and out during many important moments in history. 

Zemeckis did a similar idea for his first film, 1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand, where a group of fictional characters are trying to get in to see The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and like Gump, we see the characters moving about against real events without the aid of CGI. It was a very clever first film, and Zemeckis took the same idea to blockbuster status and major Academy Award wins years later with Gump.