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It's hard to review a movie such as this. Everything worth saying about
it has already been said. No words truly do it justice. It's one you
have to sit down and watch. Every year without failure, millions of
people plop down in front of the television to be spellbound by it.
One only needs to refer to its ranking on the IMDb top 250 at #30 to see how well-regarded and beloved this classic is. It's one of those giants in film history that everyone needs to see.
I wasn't introduced to this film by my parents like many were. In fact, I'm the one who instituted the policy that we must watch It's a Wonderful Life every December in my house growing up.
This is the type of film which doesn't age. The themes and morals expressed in the film are the definition of timeless.
I would strongly encourage anyone thinking of viewing this film to watch it in black and white. Some networks have aired the color version and the Blu-ray also contains the colorized version. The colorized version was not what the filmmakers and actors intended. Here's what James Stewart thought of the colorized version: "I tried to look at the colorized version, but I had to switch it off--it made me feel sick." James Stewart and Donna Reed are one of the best on-screen pairings I've ever seen. This isn't just a Christmas movie. It's every bit a romantic drama and explores some dark themes.
Neither the director, Frank Capra, nor James Stewart knew what they had when this film was made. They hadn't discovered all the layers that existed within this movie. It took the viewing audience to find this classic on television for it gain the following it has today.
We found it then and we do again every year.
No doubt about it that Frank Capra was one of the best directors of all
time and James Stewart was one of the best actors of all time, so it
shouldn't come as a surprise that this is also one great movie to
This movie always on a lot of top-lists and many well known and respected film-makers consider this to be one of their favorite movies, including director Frank Capra and actor James Stewart themselves. And really, it's not all that hard to see why. No, I won't call it one of the best movies of all time but its themes, the characters, the story and its message make sure that this is a movie to enjoy, over and over again.
Basically it's being a very warm, heartfelt and honest movie, about real characters in real life situations. The James Stewart character feels very humane and realistic and James Stewart was always a great choice for playing a sort of average Joe, everybody in the audience could relate and identify themselves with. It's also part of the reason why his character is often being voted one of the best out of movie history.
It's sort of funny how this movie has grown into being a sort of a Christmas classic, while about two-thirds of the movie are totally not Christmas related at all. It isn't until it last 30 minutes or so that the movie is suddenly all about Christmas and its themes and messages of giving and sharing with each other. It's definitely showing some parallels to Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. It's what makes the movie a very warm one, even though the movie itself remains a drama and a quite heavy one as well.
The story itself is just great. It's really typical for its time, with all of its drama and developments but with a great twist to it as well. The movie has a fantasy theme in it, which is not typical for its time or genre at all. It perhaps even makes this movie feel a bit like a 'modern' fairytale. Needless to say, it makes the movie a very original one within its genre and its where the movie gets most of its charm and warmth from.
The movie is really a great example of some fine film-making and wonderful storytelling. It shows once more that you don't need all that much to create an unforgettable movie, that has an impact on a lot of people, even now days. The movie is about simple little things in life and perhaps that's the movie its greatest power. Everybody can relate to it, which causes them to be easily touched by the movie its themes and messages as well.
Big part of the reason why it all works out so well is James Stewart but you also need to give credit to some of the other actors as well. I for instance, also really liked Lionel Barrymore in this, as the villain. I'm normally a not too big fan of Lionel Barrymore, or any of the other old Barrymore's (John and Ethel) but I must say he was perfectly cast in this movie, as the tough, old, mean Mr. Potter.
Basically a wonderful made, simple, honest, heartfelt movie, with some great, effective and timeless themes in it, which all ensures that this is a perfect movie to watch over and over again.
Upon first inspection it is easy perhaps to understand why when first
released, Frank Capra's Christmas movie, inspired by a simple seasonal
card, was not well received. It is a movie that opens with a
fantastical scene of a star, later revealed to be an angel, talking to
a faceless God, the voice-over obvious, stilted in sweet humour, and
immediately suggesting the film is going to be one that is too
saccharine a pill to swallow. The thing is, beyond that, "It's A
Wonderful Life" is the ultimate exercise in feel-good cinema, its
virtue as such much parodied and referenced in TV and other films.
The film presents George Bailey, played by James Stewart who would go on to refer to the film as his own favourite, who stifles his lifelong dreams of travelling and discovery in order to save and run his father's Building And Loan Association. It has long been responsible for the affordable housing in his hometown Bedford Falls and he cannot see it lost to the scoundrel of the piece, Henry F. Potter, who is a major shareholder in the Building And Loan and the only man residents could otherwise turn to. After a run at the bank leaves the Building And Loan on the brink of financial ruin, and George's Uncle Billy misplaces $8000, in an act of desperation he attempts suicide, at which time he is saved by the angel Clarence. Understandably confused, he wishes he had never been born, and so his wish is granted.
If the plot seems familiar even though you have not seen "It's A Wonderful Life", it is probably because you saw the idea loosely re-worked in the Nicolas Cage film "The Family Man". For all its up to date technique, its colour, modern setting, etc, this version could not capture what made the original.
So, what did make the original? What could surprise people is how Capra clearly believed in the notion that you have to suffer the low to get the high. The second act of the movie gets really quite dark, with Bailey seeing what the world would be like without his birth, coming to understand just how important a person is to everybody else's existence, and bringing him to a full appreciation of his worth as a husband, father and friend. The finale is obviously that classic scene that we all know, even if we do not realise it, with his daughter's famous, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings", and despite how much you might think the whole thing sounds cheesy, silly, saccharine and sentimental, the power of the film is to bring a genuine tear of pure enjoyment to your eye regardless; for a while you are full of the joy of life and completely happy, no matter what.
A lot of the film's success comes down to how believable James Stewart makes the plight, and for any flaws you may find with it, its colourful characters, its tremendous performances, humour, heartbreaking moments, perfectly pitched highs and lows, and its' unabashed final sequence make this an inexplicably perfect film.
No wonder it remains at the top spot of many people's favourite Christmas films, and so it should.
Notes from my recent intro, I have five favorite scenes: the shared phone call; the hat tipping rainwater in the doorway; the prayer at the bar; when snow starts falling again on the bridge and the brother toast in the closing scene. IAWL partially succeeds because of its small town charm and values. James Stewart was from a small town -- Indiana, Pennsylvania (now his museum needs a Capra miracle). You may not know this but Stewart was a real WWII hero, enlisting as a private in 1941. He flew over 20 missions and when he finally retired from the reserves it was as a brigadier general. (true story) Frank Capra was from a small town, Bisacquino, Sicily and during WWII he made a series of films called, Why We Fight. And on a personal note, Frank Capra is my favorite director because his movies inspire me. Back in the 1980's I used to write him and call him on our birthdays to chat. Donna Reed in real life was an Iowa farm girl. She sweetens the film and is lovely, innocent and pure representing both Stewarts reward and proof that he made the right choice. Trivia: "The Greatest Gift" story did not sell so the author Philip Van Doren Stern had copies printed and included them in the Christmas cards he sent out in 1943. Just like The Wizard Of Oz, IAWL did not cover its high cost upon its original release and was deemed a box office flop. And although Oscar nominated for Best Film, Director and Star it received no Academy Awards. Frank Capra wrote in his autobiography that he closed his book on the film. He thought his dream was over But something had happened, fans found the film and wrote to him, mostly praising some complaining but they kept writing. Decades later he was still answering letters, but the studio forgot about the film and it fell into public domain. In the 1970s, hundreds of TV stations started to play it every holiday season because they did not have to pay royalties. And so people had the chance to see it more than once and with repeated viewings word of mouth began to build and spread. But I'm here to tell you it's not the only one. There are dozens, no make that hundreds of films nearly this good just waiting to be discovered. I'll toss out a few titles: MEET JOHN DOE; YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU; MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON; LOST HORIZON and MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN. Anybody know who directed those masterpieces? I have a hand written letter I got back in the 1980s that reads,"Dear Larry, Frank Capra was a fine director with high ideals who was able to put them up on the big screen without preaching. Sincerely, James Stewart." Well find some friends & family to watch it with you and then sit back for some fun, and enjoy this gift from Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart. Or better yet, see it the way they meant for it to be shared, on THE BIG SCREEN just before Christmas. And one last thing, I am sure they would want me to wish you be sure to have a Wonderful Life!
This movie is one of the best (for an American film). Taking into
consideration that it originally flopped. Couldn't believe they even
have an phone App for the movie:
Either way, this movie will go down in history as one of the best and you will enjoy it every year. The movie has some excellent quotes like:
George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.
Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.
George Bailey: There they are! Bert, what do you know about that! Merry Christmas!
It's a Wonderful Life is another classic that i had not seen before but i knew quite a bit about it through reading about films and i am so pleased that this movie lives up to it's reputation. This is a fantastic movie. It's not just the acting which is memorable , its the message that this film sends. If you and your family have money problems like George Bailey it's not the end of the world because you have each other. Your children are everything and that's the feeling i got from this film. It takes a lot of it's ideas from Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" and gives it a modern edge. Even though this film is 65 years old it does not matter. It will guarantee to put a tear in your eye and that last 10 minutes is what feel good movies are all about. James Stewart puts in the performance of his life and will probably always be known for this film and quite rightly so. This movie deserves to be high up in the list of the best movies of all time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is my first time writing a review for a movie. Seeing this movie I had to write the review. The movie really touched my heart. The script was beautifully written and the character development was great. How the main character George Bailey struggles with his life and always makes the right decisions was really beautiful but sometimes sad to watch. How he struggles in his childhood, how he struggled in his school to win the girl, and how he had to dash his dreams of going to college so he could take care of the family business and also so that his brother could live happily. I recommend you watch this movie with your family.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How often does a movie come along that changes the way you think and
feel about your life? If you are like me not that often. Don't get me
wrong I am a "movie-guy" I watch movies all the time, yes even
"chick-flicks". But this movie is separate, its not obviously Hollywood
in its approach to its core topic but rather it follows the path of an
everyday man, in his thoughts and methods of thinking.
If you, like most of us have seen this movie, then you know that most people in our society today could walk away from a job which was unintentionally handed to us. A job which controls our life and has impact on our goals, we could walk away. But George does not he is caught up trying to do the right thing. He wants to indulge in the "its my oyster" society but does not.
Husband, Father, Nephew, Son and most of all Friend. George Baily is the common man, he is you, he is me, he is within all of us. We struggle, flounder, fall get back up. Wish and want more from life. Dream of doing and being and seeing different things. George finds he is far more rich than he thought when he considers how those around him feel about him.
You have probably heard that It's a Wonderful Life is one of the
happiest, most uplifting movies ever made. This is so true. I watched
this film for the first time last night on Christmas Eve, 2007, and all
I have to say is that, besides being close to tears when it was
finished, it made me feel blissful. Now feeling happy is not too
exciting, but this film made me feel absolutely cherry. It is the kind
of movie that, were I to be abandoned on an island and I could only
choose five movies, this would most certainly be one of them. The film
is oddly scary in that it is truthful...not in the sense that angels
will come down and make a man continue to live, but in the sense that
is shows what would have happened had someone never lived in a fashion
that is entirely realistic.
It's a Wonderful Life is remarkable, if not life changing.
It was Frank Capra's genius to translate America's fondest dreams into
irresistibly emotional movies. Maybe it takes a Sicilian to capture the
essence of America.
The movie's power is certainly enhanced by its terrific cast: Lionel Barrymore as an irresistibly evil villain, Donna Reed as an imperfectly perfect wife, and Jimmy Stewart as, well, Jimmy Stewart. (Like most movie-goers, I am enormous grateful to Tom Hanks for taking up this mantle.)
I could go on, but why bother? Get out the Kleenex and enjoy! "It's a Wonderful Life" beats roast turkey, roast ham, roast beef and even apple pie as a holiday tradition.
All the best in 1999 --
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