It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
1001 Movies to See Before You Die (Schneider, J.S, Smith, I.H)
In this article, we will be looking at 2019’s book “1001 Movies to See Before You Die” and going through each film in a random order that I have chosen. We will be looking at what constitutes this film to be on the list and whether I think this film deserves to be here at all. I want to make perfectly clear that I won’t be revealing details from this book such as analyses by film reporters who have written about the film in question, so if you want the book itself you’ll have to buy it. But I will be covering the book’s suggestions on which films should be your top priority. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that everyone reading this article has probably watched many of these movies anyway. But we are just here to have a bit of fun. We’re going to not just look at whether it should be on this list but we’re also going to look at why the film has such a legacy at all. Remember, this is the 2019 version of the book and so, films like “Joker” will not be featured in this book and any film that came out in 2020 (and if we get there, in 2021). So strap in and if you have your own suggestions then don’t hesitate to email me using the address in my bio. Let’s get on with it then.
It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dir. by Frank Capra
One of the most heartfelt and beautiful Christmas movies of all time, this is possibly one of the most beloved films of any season in all of cinematic history. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this movie and I think you have probably seen it numerous times as well. There is something about this film that makes you come back to it and its deeper subtext as well. You commit yourself as you get older, to understanding the main character and why he firstly tries to kill himself because obviously, for a Christmas movie, that is pretty dark. Since its release, it has been represented on many different shows and films as parodies, satires and even tributes. Let’s have a look at the different opinions on this film.
TIME Magazine stated the following about its entry into Frank Capra’s filmography and portfolio as a director:
It's a Wonderful Life is a pretty wonderful movie. It has only one formidable rival (Goldwyn's The Best Years of Our Lives) as Hollywood's best picture of the year. Director Capra's inventiveness, humour, and affection for human beings keep it glowing with life and excitement.”
Bosley Crowther being Mr. Grumpy again, did not see this film favourably and was practically there to pick out the weaknesses and all the things that seem ‘average’ about this picture:
“…the weakness of this picture, from this reviewer's point of view, is the sentimentality of it—its illusory concept of life. Mr. Capra's nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile. But somehow, they all resemble theatrical attitudes, rather than average realities.”
The New Republic were not as enthusiastic either:
"To make his points, [Capra] always takes an easy, simple-minded path that doesn't give much credit to the intelligence of the audience [and it] has only a few unsentimental moments here and there…”
The New York Times though, stated something on the contrary:
“[The film]is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher, and your oppressively perfect wife…”
Whereas, Frank Capra told the Wall Street Journal many years later:
"The film has a life of its own now, and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I'm like a parent whose kid grows up to be President. I'm proud ... but it's the kid who did the work. I didn't even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”
So do you think it deserves to be on the list or is it unfair to have a seasonal film on the list because we watch Christmas films at Christmas out of tradition rather than us actually watching the film because we want to? What do you think?