Dirtbunny is known for three things: Running her mouth, an unseemly obsession with food, and sitting on her big butt. Butt-wise, I need something to do with my brain while I’m knitting, so I listen to podcasts or watch futbol or movies. There are a lot of crap movies out there that I don’t want to see, so I was doing a little research and came across my very favoritist thing in the whole world: LISTS! I am a compulsive list-maker and nothing appeals to me more than a list of something that someone else thinks I should do. 1001 Movies to See Before You Die? Hell yeahs. I probably won’t live long enough to finish that one, plus it contains some highly upsetting films that are so awful that, for example, they can’t find anyone to back a commercial release or they’ve gotten banned somewhere. Think about that for a minute. In a world where horror movies like Hostel are considered standard entertainment fare, just how bad does it have to be to get banned? As a progressive, I am bound by our code of honor to spew something about the first amendment and censorship and then, because I’m a lawyer, I’d have to rant a correction at myself because the first amendment doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Anyway, the point being if it’s controversial, it must be Art! and therefore it Must Be Seen by Serious People. As neurotic as I am, I am not going to force myself to see something that I’ll ever be able to get over. I will not provide examples. I read a few plot summaries and have a few mental images I wish I didn’t have. If you’re into that kind of thing, you know how to seek it out for yourself. *shudder*
You know who doesn’t put that kind of movie on a list? The United States Government, that’s who. Which leads me to the Library of Congress and the National Film Registry, whose mission is to preserve American films deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Here is the official website. It’s a pretty sad little page, lamer than usual for Uncle Sam, so here are some other sources. Wiki article. National Film Preservation Foundation The NFPF has a few collections of rarities it has compiled on DVD and if you want to buy me a present, get me any of the “Treasures of the American Film Archives” series, and especially the original one. It’s out of print, so have fun.
What kind of stuff is on the NFR? Fabulous commercial films like High Noon, documentaries like The Thin Blue Line, a handful of amateur films like the Zapruder film, things that reflect something important about the time, or old stuff that reflects something about the history and evolution of filmmaking. Plus Blazing Saddles. They may be feds with a pathetic website that’s difficult if not impossible to find via the Library of Congress (which is its parent, for crying out loud) but there are no sticks up butts.
So I’m looking at NFR films and intend to report on some of them here from time to time, including what I discover about how to find them. Cos Citizen Kane is no so hard to find, but The Bargain, a western from 1914, not so much.
First up, because I just now watched it and the links are handy and available: Inside Nazi Germany, Black and White, The March of Time newsreel series, volume 4, number 6 (1938), 16 minutes, added to the NFR in 1993. Wikipedia stub. IMDB link. Watch online: Inside Nazi Germany, part 1, part 2. If you’re squeamish about Nazis, there’s nothing gross here except a man picking up a pig by the tail and a dissident getting prepared for the guillotine. There are vague references to all of the terrible things going on behind the public facade that the Nazis presented to the outside world, but mostly it’s all bucolic field workers, boys in shorts performing calisthenics in formation, marching girls in pinafores and matching haircuts, and happy domestic scenes, the point being that the Nazis had already “cleansed” things to keep its oppression of dissenters, weirdos, communists, Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberals, gays, the disabled, intellectuals, political opponents, whistleblowers, sex criminals, trade unionists, alcoholics, pacifists, etc.—in short, people like me and most of the sort of people I’d like to know—out of the world’s public view.
Far be it for me to have anything original to say about the Nazis, and I’d rather say nothing than say something idiotically banal, but I got something out of The Final Days of Sophie Scholl, which looked at the oppression of peaceful resistance agitators. I got a tiny taste of the flavor of the time in a way that I identified with.
Next, because it may well be the complete opposite of everything Nazi : Gertie the Dinosaur, Black and White, 1914, 12 minutes, avalable for watching online through its Wikipedia entry here. The first part is sooooo boring, but when the animation finally starts, oh boy! Please note the stacks of individual drawings on the work table. Now I’m an idiot, but is it not the case that, when animating something via series of individual images, it’s really important that the images are in a particular order? Watch how the assistant just picks up random stacks of drawings and piles them up in no particular sequence. I call bullshit. That problem, however, is completely offset by the sea monster. Added to the NFR in 1991.
Today’s third entry is Frankenstein, 1931, 71 minutes, Black and White. Wikipedia entry. IMDB link. TCM Database. This one is available on Netflix, and it airs from time to time on Turner Classic Movies, or as I call it, channel 890, which is where I caught it. I hate contemporary horror movies, and I don’t like scary things or pointlessly gory things, but I thought it would be a good part of my cultural education to see the old originals, so, yeah. There are many versions of the Frankenstein story. Some have the monster as nothing but a monster, some develop his humanity and innocence. This one is somewhere in the middle. Boris Karloff is a star, Dr. Frankenstein’s famous “It’s Alive!” line didn’t jazz me like it probably should have, Baron von Frankenstein (the mad doctor’s daddy) was delightfully plummy, “Igor” was called “Fritz,” The Chick, Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to get married because, you know, what else is she going to do?, and there’s a sidekick named “Victor” who serves no particular purpose besides escorting Elizabeth through the storm (there’s always a storm) to visit the laBORatory. Still, this was not the first Frankenstein movie *goes off to fact-check self*, but it created the standard for the iconic look of the monster and the goofy electrical gadgets in the lab, and the whole thing is pretty spooky. I got a kick out of the strong vertical visual lines throughout the interior sets, which blurred the separation between the amoral experimentation and the daily life in the fancy baronial castle. One is as creepy as the other. So there. I’ve seen it and I can’t say that I regret it. Added to the NFR in 1991.
I taught myself how to can food last weekend because I needed something to do with the concord grapes I got in my farm box. Today I spent the afternoon turning old pears into pear preserves, beets that will not be eaten this week into pickled beets, and cauliflower and summer squash into mustard pickles. More of this adventure later, but I want to mention Mr. D skeptically looking over the jars and turning up his nose at the very thought of pickled beets. Whatever, philistine. While I’m enjoying my creations, you can fix yourself a baloney sandwich. Also, I made Lucy a wubbie and reclaimed mine.