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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/
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers star in this 1946 drama. This takes place in the small town of Bedford Falls and focuses on mild-mannered man, George Bailey (Stewart) who longs to go to college and eventually travel the world. His plans change when his father passes away and he takes over his business. George also reunites with childhood sweetheart, Mary Hatch (Reed) and soon they get married. George has always put his plans on hold in order to help the needs of others. Soon, he gets down on his luck when he tries saving his father's failing company from shrewd, wealthy businessman, Henry Potter (Barrymore). George meets guardian angel, Clarence (Travers) who is sent to help him in his time of need and shows him what his life would be like without him. George learns his life is wonderful with him in it and that his good deeds will help him in return. Stewart & Reed are great in this and have good chemistry. I recommend this good holiday film.
George Bailey (James Stewart) is at the edge of financial ruin. He
thinks his life has amounted to nothing and is about to jump off a
bridge. An angel named Clarence is assigned to give George a second
chance by showing him what if he was never born.
This is an unabashed sentimental tear jerker. The movie starts with George's life as it is. His dream is to travel the world, and create great monuments. He is constantly dragged back to the unimpressive little Bedford Falls and the family Savings and Loans. He is a good guy who constantly does the right thing.
This is classic Frank Capra. The nice guy struggles but always win in the end. This sentimental melodrama is especially fitting for the Christmas period, and derives its iconic status from the constant showing during those times. The failure in its original run is a long forgotten memory.
What would the world be like without you? A question many of us take
for granted or even don't understand.
This movie not only touches on the fact that each one of our lives are so intertwined that when you remove a single link, the whole chain falls apart, but also it touches on the importance of family, caring for others, and the most important fact, that without God, our lives are meaningless.
Harry Bailey, Played by Jimmy Stewart, is feeling like hes more of a burden than a blessing, but through the grace of God, he is given a rare gift...a gift to see what the world would be like had he never been born.
This journey is guided by the often misguided angel, Clarence. Who, while he doesn't have his wings yet, is still the perfect one to guide Harry along the way. The fact that a sub-par angel can open the eyes of a 'sub-par' man, is a point that is often missed by viewers. It shows that no one is perfect, but everyone, no matter how imperfect, can still help others.
A must watch for everyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
George Bailey shouldn't complain. Yes, he desperately wants to get out
of his one-horse town and see the world, but he's got a gorgeous wife,
a herd of rambunctious kids, a big house, runs his own business, his
brother is a war hero, and he even scrounges up enough time to build a
model bridge in his living room. The life! It's wonderful!
Okay, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. George (played so memorably by Jimmy Stewart) must go head-to-head with bully banker Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) on a daily basis. Potter wants to own the town of Bedford Falls and it seems like he's one man away from achieving that goal. It's not like the family business (the Bailey Bros Building & Loan) would flourish---or even survive---without George. Absent-minded Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) would ruin the place within minutes if he was put in charge.
It's gotta wear on a guy to take on a money-grubbing banker when that banker's morals are at pre-redemption Ebezener Scrooge levels. After Uncle Billy stupidly puts a large sum of dollars into the hands of the enemy (on Christmas Eve, no less), George feels he'll be blamed and finds himself in a suicidal bout of depression. Along comes a simpleton angel (Uncle Billy's counterpart, perhaps?) to show him a glimpse of what the town would be like if George had never existed.
You know this story, obviously. Everybody does. Either you buy the cornpone or you don't. Some of director Frank Capra's projects lay it on too thick, but this movie balances quaint charm and epic darkness. The American Film Institute clearly loved it because it was in the Top 20 of both their 1998 and 2007 Top 100 lists. I say this one belongs in the Top 5. I may not believe in angels, but I do believe in a movie that can still wring tears out of my eyes after so many Christmas viewings. It's a keeper!
If this briefly wonderful review made you say "more!", check out the website I share with my wife (www.top100project.com) and go to the "Podcasts" section for our 52-minute It's A Wonderful Life 'cast...and many others. Or find us on Itunes under "The Top 100 Project".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In an era where CGI dominates and film budgets are ever increasing it's
refreshing to watch a movie with heart that is uplifting, and is still
as relevant today as it was when it was made in 1946.
I have watched this film countless times, both in the original black and white (which I prefer) and colour and I have to say it is my favourite movie of all time. I think it's because I believe in the innate goodness and kindness of all human beings, and the need for us all to appreciate what and who we have in our lives.
James Stuart is on fire in this film and the way the film builds up to the point of him being on the verge of taking his own life is superb. It sets the scene beautifully laying out all the traits of a good hard working honest man and the relationships he has with the people of his town, and the various crossroads in his life where he has to make life changing decisions.
Stuart perfectly portrays the desperation of a man who realises what joy he had in his life only to throw it away, and his need to get it back at all costs.
Lionel Barrymore plays Potter superbly, the man with only money on his mind hell bent on closing down Bailey Building and Loan and squeezing as much money from the residents of Bedford Falls as possible.
Frank Capra's ability to show the good in people whilst also highlighting the difficulties of life is second to none. This film along with Mr deeds goes to town, and Mr Smith goes to Washington (again starring Stuart)are essential viewing, in fact anything made in the 30's or 40's by this man is superb! All in all a truly WONDERFUL film that lifts my spirits no matter how many times I watch it. If you haven't seen it it's a must watch!
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