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No other film will make you feel more, or more deeply. No other film will leave you in this state. The immediate effect is something like that of a drug. It leaves you feeling very loving, and very loved, and very grateful. I don't think any other film captures what it is to live, as an emotional experience, so well. Capra was unsophisticated, we're told. His film is unsophisticated, we're told. But there is such a thing as emotional sophistication, and often the other kind serves only to render a man unable to articulate just what life is like, emotionally, how deep the despair and how high the exultation. This movie should be a book of the Bible.
George Bailey is you or me as we hope we are, therefore this story
shows us what we can be and the wonderful impact we can have if we make
the right decisions.
Whilst the original story is great, the screenplay to make it accessible is pure genius.
The players are magnificent, especially James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers & Thomas Mitchell.
The cynics today may well see this as sentimental, but personally I think they're missing the point, if life can be more like this then it would be a good think and worth aiming for. Upon release in 1946 the critics preferred 'The Best Years of Our Lives', which is also a great film, but which is better remembered & loved today!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was James Stewart's third (and final) collaboration with Capra,
following on from pre-war films You cant take it with you and Mr Smith
goes to Washington. Later in life he claimed it was his favourite work.
James Stewart, born in 1908, often portrayed the everyday middle class American, usually a character struggling with adverse circumstances to win through, in many ways the reality of his own early life. After studying at Princeton, Stewart tried to establish a career on the stage. Coinciding with the height of the Depression there was little work, and he later claimed only to have had employment for 3 months between 1932 and 1934. Signed by a talent scout to MGM in 1935, he moved to Los Angeles and stated his film career, working with a series of stars including Jean Arthur, Marlene Deitrich and Katherine Hepburn. World War II brought an interruption: Stewart, a skilled pilot, was eventually enlisted in the air corps. Resisting official attempts to use him merely as a recruiting prop, Stewart was ultimately transferred to an operations squadron, becoming commanding officer and flying bombing missions over Germany. He was awarded the DFC and the Croix de Guerre. His return to Hollywood saw a further 4 decades of films, including noted collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s.
It's a Wonderful Life was his first film in five years: in it he plays the part of George Bailey, a man living in Bedford Falls, a small town in America, but yearning to get away and fulfil big ambitions. Using a plot device, the audience sees George's past life up to the point, on Christmas Eve, when he tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. Using a similar device, George then sees what the world would look like if his attempt were to succeed.
The film was not a huge commercial success at the time, but has since come to be regarded as a masterpiece of storytelling. Traditionally associated with Christmas, which forms its backdrop, the film has a wider scope. George makes constant choices of self sacrifice which enable those around him to prosper. This prosperity is more emotional than financial, and a key message is perhaps the value of relationships above money. This self sacrifice is not without cost, but George uniquely gets to see what would have happened if he hadn't existed at all.
The film also examines differing approaches to business and looks at their results. On the one side is the Building and Loan Company, a financial institution run not on a financial basis, but on the idea of mutual support. On the other Mr Potter, who owns most of the rest of Bedford Falls and who wants to end the Building and Loan so he can complete his financial exploitation.
Whilst the film clearly includes many elements which can be regarded as fantasy (changing the past and future, angels descending to earth) it keeps one foot firmly on the ground, offering an ultimately happy ending which only the most jaded viewer will be able to resist.
I was never much of a fan of older movies, especially not movies as old
as It's a Wonderful Life. Being the ignorant teenager I was, I was
turned away from the black and white film. The only other film I had
ever seen in black and white was 12 Angry Men, which I had to see for
my American government class. Although I surprisingly really enjoyed
that film, I was in no hurry to see another like it.
Years later, while going through a rough time in my life, I came across this movie on this very website. I had known the film existed for years, but upon reading the IMDb page I became curious. Maybe it was just because I was lacking direction in life needed an inspiring message, or the fact it was one of the most redone plots in cinema history. Whatever it was, I set all my ignorance aside, looked the full movie up online and gave it a watch.
The outcome was nothing short of life changing. George Bailey (James Stewart) was a very likable character, which made him easy to feel for throughout the movie. The other actors were great as well, making the film feel natural. Hailing from a small town myself, I could relate the family-like atmosphere of the townsfolk. Capra did an excellent job at capturing that quality.
But what truly made the film the greatest of greats was the fact it delivered a message we can all truly relate to and appreciate. It was a message that left me feeling that maybe my life wasn't so bad after all. It left me feeling I had purpose.
This film now holds a special place in my soul and I've grown to greatly enjoy classic films, possibly even more so than films today. If I were to recommend just one film for everyone to see before they died, without any shadow of a doubt my answer would be Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is my favorite movie of all time. I just saw a school do the play and they did just as an excellent job as the movie. My cousin does a radio show of this play also and thy do an excellent job. I like the message of the movie and how everyone came together at the end to help. It also shows how mean some people can be so they can get what they want, but it does not help them as people will turn away from you like what Potter tried to do to George with the missing money. I like how they brought Mary and George together and especially like the dance scene when they fell in the pool and then when they walked home and saw the house that they end up getting. How George stated home so that his brother could go to college, which meant George gave up his dreams for his brother. Showing what like would have been like without George was a scene as it shows that with you around life is good and if some of things did not happen then things and people could be worse off. I also like watching this in the black and white version vs watching the color. The color I think spoils it. The message comes out a lot better in Black and White.
Like many people I had heard about this film and seen the parodies or
things inspired by it but had never sat down to watch the actual film.
However now I am pleased to say that I can understand why this film is so beloved by people and continues to stand the test of time. It's now not just one of my favourite Christmas films but one of my favourite films of all time.
It has everything. It has a strong story (inspired by a Christmas card no less), heart and mixes comedy and drama effortlessly. It's also a beautiful love story between Mary and George as well as showing us the importance of friendship and loyalty.
I can't fault this film - wonderful.
Frank Capra's 1946 drama/fantasy IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is one of the
best-remembered films of all time, and it's no surprise; this
moralistic tale of human suffering, poverty, greed, courage and
determination is one that resounds through the ages, particularly so in
our modern age of fat-cat bankers and a growing gap between rich and
James Stewart gives a dependably decent turn as George Bailey, a family man who finds himself at the mercy of Lionel Barrymore's criminal banker, Mr. Potter. What follows is lengthy and often profound, an occasionally twee but ultimately moving exploration of the human character and the effect one man can have on his world.
What I particularly liked about IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is the way that every part of the narrative hangs together without any unnecessary extras. Even the little bits like the accident on the ice at the outset later come back to haunt our characters. It's very well written, and expertly directed by Frank Capra; an unashamedly old-fashioned, heart-warming and sentimental piece of movie-making on a grand scale.
There are some films that I have trouble writing a review of because of their greatness. Frank Capra's masterpiece It's A Wonderful Life is one of those beautiful masterpieces. It's difficult to make a normal review about a film such as this. It's rare that a masterpiece as great as this is shown to the world. Few characters and stories are as engaging as George Bailey (James Stewart) or his story. This movie deserves a commentary rather than an actual review. The movie gets everything right in telling this story. George Bailey gets an opportunity that would benefit every person who has ever lived- he gets to see what the world would have been like without him. George is the perfect character for this journey. He is the closest to being a real person out of every other character I've ever seen in cinema, even Rocky Balboa. George Bailey is full of love, kindness, and optimism, and he has dreams of going places and doing big things. However, he is unable to achieve these things, and gives them up to help his family and friends. We all can relate to this kind of disappointments, and they can make us all better people. And he is obviously disappointed when he makes these decisions, but he ultimately does the right thing. Then there comes a time where he is desperate. George is a good person, but he despairs when he has upset everyone he knows and is in danger of going out of business and going to jail. He is shattered, and decides to kill himself. George has been such an optimist the entire movie, that seeing him despair is truly disheartening, and yet it's believable when he falls apart because George is so human and capable of anger and sadness. But when his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) shows him what the world would have been like without him, he thinks. He realizes how many people he's affected, how many lives he's touched. Because he loves people so much, seeing his loved ones not recognize him is terrifying. After this night, he learns how wonderful his life is, and how much he alone has touched so many others. This message and journey is more inspirational than those of any other movie I've ever seen. Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey. He plays this brilliantly written character with absolute conviction and love. Few actors have felt as real as Stewart. He talked like a real person when he acted. He stuttered like a real person, and didn't always think through what he said, just like a real person. He gives a chilling performance, one of the greatest in any film. George Bailey is It's A Wonderful Life, just as Rocky Balboa is Rocky. He is part of this amazing story, backed up by an outstanding supporting cast, including Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter (one of cinema's greatest and most despicable villains), and Henry Travers as Clarence. No film could ask for more. A+
If you want to really appreciate this wonderful film, be sure to see it
In 2009, the film was issued on BluRay in pristine form.
The picture and sound are both clean and crystal clear and what you get is a better audio-video experience than theater audiences had when this was first released.
I personally prefer the artfully colorized version and adjusted my TV with the color level up about 10% above normal. Film to video restoration/transfers do not get any better than this.
Frank Capra's masterpiece honors the ideal of a good man who lives a good life but doesn't realize how blessed he is until it's almost too late. Watching it anytime of the year - but especially at Christmas - is an inspiring experience.
It's a Wonderful Life is considered one of the best movies of all time,
and also one of the most beloved Christmas movies in American cinema,
even though it was a box office failure when it was released and
received some negative reviews, and it won just the Academy Award for
Technical Achievements, despite being nominated for five more. What I
like about this movie is that it isn't a classic Christmas movie: the
movie isn't about how things get better overnight for the main
character just because he/she 'believes in Christmas', or some idiocy
like that. Christmas just plays a small, but great role in the final
part of the movie, which is, ultimately, about life.
The movie starts with God and Joseph, explaining to the angel Clarence (Henry Travers) that he has to go to Earth and save George Bailey (James Stewart), who's contemplating suicide. God then begins to show Clarence George's most relevant moments in life, from childhood till the present. Most of the movie is actually spent showing us that George always wanted to travel but decided to stay in his hometown and save his late father's business, and that he's always been a good person, who's always thought more of the others than himself and has led a good life. But when he finds out he can't pay a debt, he wishes he'd never been born and Clarence shows him what would have become of his town, had he never been born.
As I've said before, It's a Wonderful Life is about life. When you're young you have your dreams and ambitions, and you're sure that you'll end up living an ideal life, just like the one you've always planned. But life just happens and you often can't control it, and one day you discover you're a completely different person from the one you wanted to be. Some of us can't stand this and eventually come to a breaking point: George in this movie wanted to end it all and thought everyone would have been better off without him, not realising he had done so much and that even the problems that seem insurmountable can be resolved, with help from friends and family.
Because of its simple but timeless story, this movie has aged beautifully. Add to that the great acting and dialogues, the good sense of humour, the complex characters, the great cinematography and you get a truly wonderful movie. It's impossible not to see and feel that George Bailey represents all of us, and it's easy to share his joys and sorrows as if they were our own. Ultimately, this is a movie that truly sums up what Christmas but also all our lives should be about: being a good person, because it pays off and because the richest people are those surrounded by family and friends, not the ones that have lots of money. It might be a naive and idealistic message, but it works amazingly for this time of the year.
Rating: 8/10 Read more reviews at http://passpopcorn.com/
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