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The 25 Films Added to the National Film Registry in 2012

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Getty Images

By Scott Meslow

Every year since 1989, the Library of Congress has selected 25 films to preserve in the National Film Registry, a 600-film (and counting) collection of some of America's most important achievements in filmmaking. The movies, according to Librarian of Congress James M. Billington, are not necessarily "the best American films of all time," but the films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" to the American people. This year's eclectic crop spans more than a century of filmmaking, from a taped boxing match to a film that revolutionized American action cinema. Which 25 films made the cut in 2012, and why? A guide:

1. The Corbett-Fitzsimmons title fight

A 100-minute film that captured all 14 rounds of a championship boxing match. It was the longest film of its era, and it generated $750,000 over the several years that it remained in distribution.

2. Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe's legendary anti-slavery novel was published in 1852, and was frequently adapted in the early days of American film — but until this version, the character of Uncle Tom was always played by a white actor. The 1914 film, with vaudevillian Sam Lucas in the title role, is thought to be the first feature-length American film to star a black actor.

3. The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England

This light-hearted silent romance was thought lost for decades until film historian Kevin Brownlow discovered a print of the film in Northern England. Since its discovery, silent film experts have deemed it an early cinematic masterpiece, praising its use of camera work, lighting, and editing.

4. Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests

The first publicly demonstrated color film designed to attract the attention of the film industry. Prior to the introduction of Kodachrome and Technicolor film stocks, movies could only be made into color by hand-painting each frame or using a complex process involving mechanically produced stencils.

5. Sons of the Desert

A classic from Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy sees the men facing a series of hilarious setbacks after they sneak away from their wives to attend a fraternal lodge convention.

6. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair

An industrial film that follows a family of five as they look to the future by attending the New York World's Fair. The movie also offers a moralistic message as the daughter turns on her anti-capitalist boyfriend in favor of an industrious engineer who works at the fair.

7. The Kidnappers Foil

The product of a clever business started by Melton Barker, who intuited that people would want to see themselves on film. Barker traveled across the United States, assembling groups of children, charging their families for "acting lessons," and then having the children stage a short, melodramatic story about a kidnapped girl and the children who rescue her. The resulting film would then be screened for the town.

8. The Augustas

Traveling salesman and Amateur Cinema League member Scott Nixon documents 38 streets, storefronts, and cities named Augusta, which he encountered on his travels over several decades.

9. Born Yesterday

Judy Holliday won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this film, a comedic satire on corruption in Washington, D.C., that may still resonate with audiences.

10. 3:10 to Yuma

A western classic based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, 3:10 to Yuma chronicles a rancher's attempt to deliver a criminal to a jail in Yuma, Arizona. A remake starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe was released in 2007.

11. Anatomy of a Murder

This Jimmy Stewart-starring courtroom classic was enormously controversial for its frank discussion of rape and murder, which were largely considered taboo subjects in American film at the time.

12. Breakfast at Tiffany's

Truman Capote, who wrote the novella that Breakfast at Tiffany's was based upon, was reportedly unhappy with the film — he thought Marilyn Monroe should have the lead role — but the film remains a beloved American classic, noted for Audrey Hepburn's iconic performance as Manhattan socialite Holly Golightly.

13. Parable

An enormously controversial film that debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964, Parable depicts Jesus Christ as a circus clown who takes on the suffering of oppressed workers, women, and minorities. Though the fair's president personally attempted to have it withdrawn, he was outvoted by attendees, and it became one of the fair's most popular attractions.

14. They Call It Pro Football

When NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle agreed to form NFL Films to drum up public interest in the game, his goal was to capture the "struggle" of football. This groundbreaking film, which used techniques like close-ups on players' faces and microphones to capture the evolving strategies of players and coaches, offered Americans far more insight into professional football than they'd ever had before.

15. Two-Lane Blacktop

A minimalist classic about a cross-country road race, financed by Hollywood as a part of the first wave of the American booming class of young filmmakers.

16. Dirty Harry

"Do you feel lucky?" In this early peek at Clint Eastwood's acting career, he plays San Francisco cop Harry Callahan, who's trying to catch a sadistic killer who calls himself Scorpio. More than 40 years after its release, Dirty Harry remains controversial for what some have derided as its "fascistic" philosophy, which sees Harry circumvent the law to catch Scorpio.

17. The Spook Who Sat by the Door

An extremely controversial film based on a bestselling novel by Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door centers on a black man hired to integrate the CIA who uses his position to spark a black nationalist revolution in America. Though the film was financially successful, distributor United Artists pulled it just three weeks after its release.

18. Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2

An artistic "tone poem" by filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky, who offers a loose record of a year with his partner, with Part 1 focused on spring and summer, and Part 2 focused on fall and winter.

19. A Christmas Story

A beloved comedy that continues to get extensive play every holiday season, A Christmas Story, which is based on the works of humorist Jean Shepherd, chronicles a young boy's desperate attempt to convince his parents to buy him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas in 1940s Indiana.

20. The Times of Harvey Milk

This winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary tells the life story of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay elected official, who was assassinated in 1978.

21. Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia

Originally filmed as the master's thesis of Stanford University's Ellen Bruno, Samsara chronicles Cambodia's struggle to rebuild its culture in the years following Pol Pot's killing fields.

22. Slacker

An early classic in the American independent cinema movement of the early 1990s, Richard Linklater's quirky snapshot of life in Austin, Texas, which he filmed for just $23,000, earned more than $1 million at the box office and inspired an entire generation of young filmmakers.

23. A League of Their Own

This star-studded dramedy centers on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which sprung up during World War II, capturing a bygone era in American sports and offering insight into one early signifier of the American feminist movement.

24. One Survivor Remembers

An Academy Award-winning short documentary that recounts the experiences of Holocaust survivor Gerda Wiessmann Klein, a Polish Jew whose entire family was sent to a concentration camp when she was 16. She was the only member of her family to survive.

25. The Matrix

Andy and Lana Wachowski's mind-bending sci-fi action thriller set a new standard in the action genre. Keanu Reeves stars as Neo, the savior of the human race in a war against machines, in this film that launched a thousand "bullet time" parodies.

Courtesy of October Films
This Scientist's Idea of the 'Perfect' Human Body Is Kind of Terrifying
Courtesy of October Films
Courtesy of October Films

The perfect human body has the legs of an ostrich, the heart of a dog, and the eyes of an octopus, according to anatomist Alice Roberts. And it’s utterly terrifying.

With the help of anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special effects designer Sangeet Prabhaker, Roberts created a life-size replica of herself that fixes many design flaws inherent to the human body, Motherboard reports. Roberts unveiled the sculpture on April 23 at the Science Museum in London. On June 13, the BBC released a documentary about the project.

Among the flaws Roberts’s sculpture corrects are humans’ inferior ears, spine, and lungs. Roberts borrowed anatomy from reptiles, birds, and other mammals to create a Frankenstein-esque creature straight from the island of Dr. Moreau.

The sculpture of Alice 2.0, left, with Alice Roberts, right
Courtesy of October Films

The sculpture has legs like an ostrich because, as Roberts says on her website, the human knee is complex and prone to failure. Like humans, ostriches are bipedal, but they are far better runners. Bird-like lungs that keep air flowing in one direction, not two, make running and other aerobic activities easier for the perfect human to manage. And a chimpanzee’s sturdier spine and a dog’s heart (which has more connected arteries, leading to lower heart attack risk) make Roberts’s alternate self more resistant to injury and disease.

Robert’s ideal human body also has skin like a frog that can change shades based on the environment, and large, bat-like ears that amplify sound. Roberts also fixed humans’ backwards retina, which produces a natural blind spot, by borrowing from octopus eye anatomy.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the baby head poking out of the sculpture’s marsupial pouch. Roberts says marsupial pregnancy would be far easier on the human body and more convenient for parents on the go.

“This could be a human fit for the future,” Roberts says at the end of a trailer for her BBC documentary.

[h/t Motherboard]

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."


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