I have a confession to make: I hate the Christmas season. I realize that this is heresy (quite literally), but I can't help it. I just don't like it. It's not as if anything horrifying has happened to me over the past Christmas seasons: there are no dead relatives or winter tragedies connected to the season. I just am not fond of the season. Bah, humbug!
I think it's the almost militantly enforced happiness of the season. Since well before Thanksgiving, everywhere we go has been decked out festively, with the same happy, upbeat lounge music Christmas carols playing on the speakers. Not only does this get irritating, but also it implies that we're supposed to be happy, all the time. Not that I'm against being happy all the time, but when I'm supposed to be happy and I'm not I feel rather guilty. And the last thing I need is to feel guilty about depression.
Why am I bringing up my very peculiar neurosis in a film column? What does this have to do with movies? Well, the film that I'm reviewing for this week is "It's A Wonderful Life", which, along with Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and "A Christmas Story" (the story of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun), epitomizes the Christmas spirit. No other film can so succinctly sum up "the Christmas spirit" as "It's a Wonderful Life." It is an embodiment of all the values and sentiments that I find so irritating during this time of the year. It embodies the schmaltz of the season and goes against my cynical nature.
By all rights, I should absolutely despise this movie. But yet, I don't hate it, I don't even dislike it. Actually, I love it. As sentimental as it is, Frank Capra's story of a man strung out to the end of his rope is still as powerful today as it was 54 years ago.
If by some impossible quirk of fate you haven't seen this film yet, the story is this: George Bailey is a wonderful, self-sacrificing man, who spends his life giving up his dreams for others. But after a lifetime thinking more of others than himself, George is plunged into despair one Christmas Eve, when his alcoholic uncle loses more than $8000 of S&L through a stupid mistake. When George is driven to thoughts of suicide, Clarence the wingless angel comes down to show George the hell that the world would have been without him. "Every man's life touches so many others," Clarence says, and George has touched so many lives, helped out so many families, and created a lot of joy in the world.
One of the main reasons this movie works so well is because of Jimmy Stewart. Stewart is one of the best actors of all times; his versatile performances in such films as "Vertigo", "Harvey", "Rear Window", and "You Can't Take It With You", show his incredible talent. Jimmy Stewart is the Tom Hanks of his generation. His incredible talent is what makes this film such a classic.
This film is one that my cynical nature should hate, but simply can't. I recommend this movie to anyone. They simply don't make them like this anymore. "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."
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