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'Terminator' forever

The National Film Registry has selected the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, among others, to preserve for posterity at the Library of Congress.

January 02, 2009

Well, thank goodness. "The Terminator" has been selected for the National Film Registry and will be preserved forever. Keep your Oscars and your Golden Globes; the film that introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger in his signature role will be safe in climate-controlled Library of Congress vaults long after "Shakespeare in Love" and "Mrs. Miniver" are dust.

But what's the point of storing the first flick in the series for posterity while allowing the sequels to rot? The registry had the good sense in the '90s to keep not just "The Godfather" but "The Godfather: Part II" (and perhaps the equally good sense to let "Godfather: Part III" fend for itself against the elements). So, likewise, shouldn't we try to safeguard "Terminator 2: Judgment Day"? That way, the cyborgs that peruse our archives after our civilization has vanished will learn to utter not simply "I'll be back" but the equally immortal "Hasta la vista, baby."

Plus, they'll learn something of our politics. We've preserved a president (Ronald Reagan in "Knute Rockne All American"), a mayor (Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven") and now a governor. Although it's curious that the Library of Congress so far has not chosen "Predator," and so has missed out on the chance to get two governors (Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura) for the price of one. Nor has it properly considered "This is the Army," starring future U.S. Sen. George Murphy, or "The Hunt for Red October," with future U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.

The registry this week also decided to preserve 24 other films, including "Deliverance," a nice movie about a weekend camping trip, and "In Cold Blood," which apparently is some kind of prequel to "Capote" and "Infamous."

One particularly noteworthy selection announced Tuesday was "A Face in the Crowd," a pre-Mayberry Andy Griffith classic about folksy con artist Lonesome Rhodes, plucked from obscurity, made into a TV celebrity by adoring fans, and apparently well on his way to political power before the common people overheard what he really thought of them: that they were a flock of sheep.

"They're mine. I own 'em. They think like I do. Only they're more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for 'em."

Not as easy to remember as "I'll be back," perhaps, but somehow all the more important to not forget.

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