‘Home Alone,’ ‘12 Years a Slave’ join National Film Registry

‘Home Alone,’ ‘12 Years a Slave’ join National Film Registry

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As the star of both “Home Alone” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Catherine O’Hara can only marvel at the news that both holiday movie classics have been added to the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress’s annual recognition of cinematic distinction, and reflect on her humble Ontario roots.

“Lucky me, born in Canada,” quips O’Hara, now a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, during a phone interview Monday. “I’m glad they’re including me.”

Joking about the honor conferred on two of her films by the Capitol Hill institution, she adds: “I hope the members of Congress can enjoy the films. It’ll help inform their legislative process, I’m sure.”

“Home Alone” and “Nightmare” join the likes of “Apollo 13,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Lady and the Tramp” among 25 movies newly selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced Wednesday morning. Hayden picked the movies, which must be at least 10 years old and carry what the library considers to be “cultural, historic or aesthetic importance,” in consultation with National Film Preservation Board members and other experts.

This year’s class features selections dating back as far back as 1921 (the Kodak educational film “A Movie Trip Through Filmland”) and as recent as 2013 (the historical drama “12 Years a Slave” and show-business documentary “20 Feet From Stardom,” both Oscar winners).

James Cameron lands his third movie in the registry with 1991’s “Terminator 2,” following “The Terminator” and “Titanic.” Spike Lee, however, still has him beat by the numbers: The selection of Lee’s 2000 satire, “Bamboozled,” represents his fifth film in the registry (after “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “4 Little Girls” and “She’s Gotta Have It”). The additions of “Nightmare” and 1955’s “Lady and the Tramp,” meanwhile, push the number of Disney animated films in the registry to 14.

Members of the public submitted films for consideration through an online submission form, which this year generated 6,875 entries. A Library of Congress news release highlighted “Terminator 2” and “Home Alone” as earning “significant support” from the public.

Looking back on “Home Alone,” director Chris Columbus describes production as “kind of brutal.” The seminal Christmas comedy, which stars Macaulay Culkin as a burglar-thwarting tyke and O’Hara as his distressed mother, called for grueling stunt work, long night shoots and frigid filming conditions. But despite mixed reviews, it stayed atop the box office for 12 consecutive weeks after its November 1990 release while earning nearly $300 million domestically.

While Columbus wrote “The Goonies,” which was selected to the registry in 2017, “Home Alone” marks his first directorial effort in the registry.

“I’ve been nominated for an Academy Award once in my career [as a producer of ‘The Help’], but this acknowledgment is more important than that,” Columbus says in a phone interview. “This means the film will live forever. I’m heavily into film preservation, and to have a film on the list that I’ve directed is so incredibly meaningful. It’s the biggest honor that I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Nightmare,” which was directed by Henry Selick and based on a story by Tim Burton, grossed around $50 million after its October 1993 release — making it a moderate financial success. Selick says it wasn’t until years later, when he realized costumes of the movie’s pumpkin king, Jack Skellington, and rag doll Sally (voiced by O’Hara) had become Halloween standbys, that he came to comprehend “Nightmare’s” broader cultural impact.

“We were focused on making the very best, weirdest, most wonderful, most inventive film we could,” Selick recalls during a video chat from his California home, with puppets of Jack Skellington and his skeletal reindeer looming on a nearby shelf. “We felt we were making something really great but had no idea what the overall reaction would be, and especially had no idea that it would come out, go away and then slowly make this return. Now, it’s as much a part of Halloween as any jack-o’-lantern or witch costume.”

Exemplifying his film’s staying power, Selick brings up a recent episode of the FX series “Fargo” in which several goons don masks from “Nightmare” while attempting to kidnap a wily housewife (Juno Temple). Coincidentally, Columbus notes that the same sequence — in which Temple’s character fends off those would-be kidnappers by booby-trapping her house — is a reminder of “Home Alone’s” enduring influence.

“I thought: This is ‘Home Alone,’ but a very serious version of ‘Home Alone,’” Columbus says. “It just makes me smile.”

End of carousel

This year’s selections bring the registry, which was founded in 1988, to 875 films. For the two seasonal selections, the honor comes with an extra holiday gift: screenings of the movies — “Nightmare” on Dec. 21 and “Home Alone” on Dec. 28 — at the Library of Congress.

“It made the work sound very important in a national way,” O’Hara says of the honor. “We were here, and we had some stories to tell. It’s nice to be part of the cultural documentation of the country.”

Films selected for the 2023 National Film Registry

“A Movie Trip Through Filmland” (1921)

“Dinner at Eight” (1933)

Bohulano Family Film Collection (1950s-1970s)

“Helen Keller: In Her Story” (1954)

“Lady and the Tramp” (1955)

“Edge of the City” (1957)

“We’re Alive” (1974)

“Cruisin’ J-Town” (1975)

“¡Alambrista!” (1977)

“Passing Through” (1977)

“Fame” (1980)

“Desperately Seeking Susan” (1985)

“The Lighted Field” (1987)

“Matewan” (1987)

“Home Alone” (1990)

“Queen of Diamonds” (1991)

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)

“The Wedding Banquet” (1993)

“Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision” (1994)

“Apollo 13” (1995)

“Bamboozled” (2000)

“Love & Basketball” (2000)

“12 Years a Slave” (2013)

“20 Feet From Stardom” (2013)

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