The powers-that-be at the United States' Library of Congress have chosen to give the Walt Disney Studios a little support. Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, and starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, opened to solid – though hardly outstanding – box office numbers at 15 North American venues last Friday, December 13, 2013. The movie, which also features Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Rachel Griffiths, opened in wide release in the U.S. and Canada today, Dec. 20.
On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the Library of Congress announced that Mary Poppins (1964) had been included among the 25 movies added to the National Film Registry "to be preserved as cinematic treasures for generations to come." Directed by Robert Stevenson, Mary Poppins remains one of the biggest blockbusters ever, along the way earning Julie Andrews a Best Actress Academy Award. (See also: "Julie Andrews vs. Audrey Hepburn in 'My Fair Lady': Biggest Oscar Snubs.")
Now, will public money be used to help "preserve" – the currently pristine-looking – Mary Poppins? If so, does that mean "preserved" Mary Poppins prints will fall into the public domain?
You must be out of your mind if you think so. That's not quite how intellectual property law works; what's more, you'll be dealing with Disney, which, despite all the "public's interest" b.s. found in Saving Mr. Banks, protects its own properties with the fierceness of a Mama Cobra. (This Boing Boing article on Disney's Christmas Spirit is worth a read. See also: "Disney's Rights to Mickey Mouse Questioned.")
Also worth noting, Mary Poppins turns 50 next year. Expect Disney to come up with 50th Anniversary Blu-ray editions featuring the tagline "National Film Registry Inductee" or some such.
And here's wondering what P.L. Travers would have thought of Mary Poppins being added to the National Film Registry's list. She hated Walt Disney's movie adaptation of her story.
National Film Registry 2013 movies: Only a handful of titles truly in need of preservation
As for the 2013 National Film Registry additions, Mary Poppins finds itself in the company of a couple of dozen other movies, several of which also owned by mega-conglomerates, e.g., Sony Pictures' Gilda (1946); Time Warner's Wild Boys of the Road (1933), Forbidden Planet (1956), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Comcast / NBC Universal's Midnight (1939).
Among the other National Film Registry's entries that aren't exactly cinematic orphans in dire need of preservation are Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), a Best Picture Academy Award nominee considered the acme of cool by some, and Philip Kaufman's Best Picture Oscar nominee The Right Stuff (1983), an idealized look at the early days of the United States' space program.
Curiosities on this year's National Film Registry list include Michael Moore's documentary Roger & Me (1989), which caused quite a stir after it failed to be nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award; the recently rediscovered 1920 drama Daughter of Dawn, featuring a cast of Native Americans and purportedly the first film shot in Oklahoma; and two silent comedies showcasing top stars of the era: Constance Talmadge in The Virtuous Vamp (1919) and Colleen Moore in Ella Cinders (1926).
According to a report issued by the Library of Congress itself, approximately 70 percent of all American silent feature films have been lost, destroyed, or left to rot. Don't expect this year's token inclusion of Daughter of Dawn, The Virtuous Vamp, or Ella Cinders to stem the very real threat to that key segment of early 20th century American culture.
On the next page you'll find the 2013 National Film Registry list, with its usual mix of features and shorts, time periods (from 1919 to 2002), socially conscious themes (Nazism, workers' safety, racism), ethnic groups (Native Americans, whites, blacks), and ethnic minority/female filmmakers (e.g., Bless Their Little Hearts, Men and Dust). Less politically correct is the absence of any gay/lesbian/bi/tri/etc.-themed film, unless you consider Gilda, with Glenn Ford (sort of) as George Macready's toyboy, as an example.
Note: Movies must be more than ten years old in order to qualify for the National Film Registry. So, Saving Mr. Banks, for instance, will have to wait until 2024 to be able to join Mary Poppins.
["2013 National Film Registry: Timely Mary Poppins" continues on the next page. See link below.]
Julie Andrews Mary Poppins photo: Walt Disney Studios.