The Library of Congress may be able to archive billions of tweets, but when it comes to preserving some of our nation’s earliest motion pictures, much of the battle has already been lost.
Just 14 percent of some 11,000 American silent films exist in an original and complete format; an additional 11 percent survive as foreign versions or in low-quality formats, according to a new study commissioned by the LOC’s National Film Preservation Board. Seventy percent of the works from the American silent-film era — defined as lasting from 1912 to 1929 and including such treasured flicks as The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Jazz Singer (1927) — are believed to be gone forever.
“The Library of Congress can now authoritatively report that the loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation’s cultural record,” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, wrote in the study’s foreword. “Even if we could preserve all the silent-era films known to exist today in the U.S. and in foreign film archives — something not yet accomplished — it is certain that we and future generations have already lost 75 percent of the creative record from [that] era.”
The irretrievable loss of movies is something hard to imagine in the age of YouTube and Netflix, when any electronic media produced and shared online leaves a virtually permanent footprint, assuming that the Internet doesn’t go anywhere. But while archivists always knew that poor-quality film stock, fires, and movie-studio neglect have forever deleted a significant portion of the early chapters of our cinematic heritage, the new data reveal the extent of the damage and catalogue the films that can still be rescued.
Many of the silents that are still in usable condition are stuck overseas, because many were sent to foreign countries for exhibitions — and stayed there because the cost of transporting the film rolls back proved too costly, said Steve Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board. “If the studios know Congress is interested, they might come in here with some money and some help to get their titles back from overseas,” Leggett said. “To do everything would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but with a much smaller amount of money, you can pick and choose a few titles to save.”
He pointed to a recent repatriation project that the National Film Preservation Foundation, funded by Congress to the tune of $530,000 annually, undertook in New Zealand to salvage films that had been decaying in archives for decades. The work led to the rediscovery of several silent titles, including The White Shadow (1924), which now boasts the earliest surviving Alfred Hitchcock credits.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."