Yesterday the Library of Congress announced the 25 films selected by the U.S. National Film Preservation Board for inclusion in the National Film Registry. One of which, judging by online reaction, was a bit of a surprise:
The Oscar-winning "Forrest Gump," Walt Disney's 1942 classic animated film "Bambi," Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length comedy "The Kid" and a 1912 silent comedy "A Cure for Pokeritis" (starring cinema's earliest comedy superstar, John Bunny) are among the 25 movies that have been selected to be preserved as cultural, artistic and historical treasures in the National Registry of the Library of Congress. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington made the selections.
With this year's selections, there are 575 films in the registry. Movies are selected to the National Film Registry because they are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" important. "These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture," Billington said in a statement. "Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams."
Bambi yet no Bambi vs. Godzilla? An outrage, says I.
Films must be at least ten years old to be eligible, and are nominated by the public. Questions of historical and aesthetic importance are decided by the Film Preservation Board, meaning the inclusion of Gump leaves plenty of blame to be shared around. My concerns about the film's inclusion are of a more...practical nature.
I won't lie, I despise Forrest Gump as much as I can anything that doesn't really have a direct impact on my existence. So no, I'm not particularly happy to hear of its inclusion. Not because it's "right-wing propaganda," as some have said. I mean, it is, but so's The Birth of a Nation, and it was voted into the Registry in 1992 (and was also, not so ironically, referenced in Forrest Gump). I came to grips long ago with the fact that the movie is a barely veiled assault on the various protest movements of the 1960s that celebrates conformity and masquerades as an Important Film. My solution? Don't watch it.
But the bigger problem is that the films selected for the Registry are presumably those that will be preserved against disaster, neglect or giant mutant bug invasion, leaving everything else to the ravages of time (or mutant bugs). Meaning these 575 films will be all that's available to the remnants of humanity as we huddle in our decrepit space transports drifting through the cosmos in search of another planet to settle.
Let me just say, by and large I have no beef with the films currently on the Registry. Many of my all-time favorites are represented. But look at it from the perspective of humanity brought low by some calamity. The films we've preserved might be our only key to survival or defeating our as-yet unknown enemies, and frankly Forrest Gump doesn't have much of anything to tell us, except about how life is like a box of chocolates. Or chocolate-flavored laxatives. We're talking about the potential end of civilization, after all.
For example, what if we've been invaded by Eurotrash? Or the intergalactic equivalent? One might think the actions of a certain John McLane would be informative. Well, too bad, because Die Hard won't be around to help. And there's no guaranteeing anyone will be left alive who cleverly remembers how to attach a .45 to his back with packaging tape. Gump will teach us how to run. A talent of limited utility to a nation straining upper BMI limits.
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And if rude and unrefined aliens have descended upon us, hoping to learn the ways of polite society? They'll soon realize their mistake, incinerating us with plasma beams, because we never bothered to add My Fair Lady. Gump wouldn't be any help, setting the example of showing our buttocks to heads of state and telling them we "have to go pee."
Finally, if mankind is brought to the edge of extinction by those sinister Irish spirits, the banshees? We'll be pretty much SOL, because we didn't have the foresight to preserve Darby O'Gill and the Little People. We may be better off if invaded by giant shrimp, but it's a long shot.
The entire list of movies not named to the National Film Registry can be found here. Basically what I'm saying is any of them would be a better selection than Forrest Gump.
Yes, even U-571.