‘4 Little Girls,’ ‘Titanic’ and ‘Die Hard’ added to Library of Congress registry

Michael O'Sullivan 12/13/2017

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has announced the addition of 25 films to the library’s National Film Registry, selections deemed worthy of preservation for their “cultural, historic and/or aesthetic” significance. This year’s collection brings the number of registry films to 725 and includes such beloved mainstream movies as the historical romance “Titanic” (1997) and “Die Hard” (1988).

Other popular works include “Dumbo” (1941), “Superman” (1978), “The Goonies” (1985), “Field of Dreams” (1989) and “Memento” (2000). Among this year’s more esoteric fare is “The Sinking of the Lusitania,” a 1918 short by cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay about the German submarine attack that contributed to the United States’ entry into World War I, and an archive of amateur home movies from the 1920s and ’30s about life in the Mexican American community of Corpus Christi, Tex.

Hayden selected the films with input from members of the National Film Preservation Board and other specialists at the library. The public also was invited to weigh in.

As timely as it may be to see this honor bestowed on “Titanic” — now celebrating its 20th anniversary — or “Die Hard” — a holiday staple — there could be no more opportune selection than “4 Little Girls.” Nominated for a best documentary feature Oscar, Spike Lee’s 1997 film about the Birmingham church bombing of Sept. 15, 1963, was met by a reopening of the long-dormant criminal case by the FBI — a case that just so happens to have been subsequently prosecuted — successfully — by an Alabama lawyer named Doug Jones. At press time, Jones was locked in a close race for the U.S. Senate with the controversial former judge Roy Moore.

On Tuesday — Election Day in Alabama — Lee phoned from New York to say that he always cherishes the National Film Registry honor. (Two of his narrative features were previously selected: “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.”) Lee also said he wanted to dedicate the film’s selection to the murdered girls: Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.

But mostly, the filmmaker took the opportunity to unleash a torrent of unfiltered invective about Moore. After making a few circumspect comments about the power of storytelling to “hold a mirror up to the ugliness that we have become,” Lee acknowledged that he was troubled by what’s happening in America today, epitomized by the Alabama election, before acknowledging that the word “troubled” was probably too mild.

But Lee said current affairs had not caused him to lose hope, as a human or as a filmmaker. “Like my man Jesse [Jackson] says, you’ve got to keep hope alive,” he said. Never modest, the cinematic bombthrower said he thinks that this latest honor may not be the last time one of his films enters the registry and that his 2006 Hurricane Katrina documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” could be the next.

Then there’s Lee’s drama “Black Klansman,” a fact-based biopic, due out next year, about a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

“Just wait until you see that one,” Lee said. “It’s set in the early 1970s, but you can’t watch it without thinking of today.”

Films selected for the 2017 National Film Registry:

Ace in the Hole (a.k.a. “Big Carnival”) (1951)

Boulevard Nights (1979)

Die Hard (1988)

Dumbo (1941)

Field of Dreams (1989)

4 Little Girls (1997)

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s and 1930s)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

The Goonies (1985)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)

La Bamba (1987)

Lives of Performers (1972)

Memento (2000)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)

Spartacus (1960)

Superman (1978)

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

Must Reads

Time and Dreams (1976)

Titanic (1997)

To Sleep With Anger (1990)

Wanda (1971)

With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938)

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