December 19, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life.

It's a Wonderful Life "Sorry, but I turn a deaf ear and a blind eye whenever some cynic tries to convince me that this enduring classic is nothing but cloyingly sentimental Capra-corn," writes Joe Leydon, who's just watched It's a Wonderful Life again and will probably watch it once more before the year is out, and notes: "Frank Capra,' Cassavetes once proclaimed, 'is the greatest filmmaker that ever lived. Capra created a feeling of belief in a free country and in goodness in bad people... Idealism is not sentimental. It validates a hope for the future. Capra gave me hope, and in turn I wish to extend a sense of hope to my audiences.'"

That said, two arguments via Ray Pride, starting with Jim Kunstler on the outcome of George Bailey's good intentions: "Frank Capra could imagine vibrant small towns turning their vibrancy in the direction of vice - but he couldn't imagine them forsaken and abandoned, with the shop fronts boarded up and the sidewalks empty, which was the true tragic destiny of all the Bedford Falls in our nation. Most ironically, today America's favorite main street town, Las Vegas, is Pottersville writ large, and most Americans see absolutely nothing wrong with it. How wonderful is that?"

Updated through 12/24.

And Glenn Erickson proposes that it's entirely "possible that the entire flashback structure of that film was imposed during post production, in a desperate attempt to save a movie that wasn't working."

Updates, 12/20: At Facets Features, Jason Makman reminds Chicagoans that it's screening at the Music Box Theatre. And: Tomorrow night at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica (thanks, Alonso!). And! It opens Friday and runs for a week at NYC's IFC Center.

Update, 12/24: As you'll see below, Cynthia's noted that Wonderful is playing at the AFI Silver Theatre through Monday.

"Pottersville rocks!" exclaims Salon's Gary Kamiya, whereas, "The gauzy Currier-and-Ives veil Capra drapes over Bedford Falls has prevented viewers from grasping what a tiresome and, frankly, toxic environment it is. When Marx penned his immortal words about 'the idiocy of rural life,' he probably had Bedford Falls in mind."

Stephen Cox, author of It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book, has a few behind-the-scenes stories to tell in the Los Angeles Times. There's an accompanying picture gallery as well.

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Posted by dwhudson at December 19, 2006 1:51 PM


It's also screening 12/21 at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, CA:

Posted by: MoroccoMole at December 20, 2006 9:57 AM

Excellent - thanks!

Posted by: David Hudson at December 20, 2006 10:18 AM

and in d.c. at the AFI center it's been playing since the 15th of december, through the 25th...

Posted by: cynthia at December 22, 2006 10:08 AM

"Capra created a feeling of belief in a free country and in goodness in bad people..."

Funny you should say that.

In 1947, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI classified It's a Wonderful Life as an example of communist propaganda coming out of a pinko infiltrated Hollywood.

Posted by: Greg | Wise Bread at December 25, 2006 2:39 AM

Itís A Wonderful Life is a fine example of a well-crafted, well-acted classical Hollywood movie that is, however, a sentimental, sanctimonious Hallmark celebration of 'the little man' and boring, narrow small-town values. It praises the fact that George never left the town and lost his ambition to go into the wider world. We see how wicked big city values are when they come into Bedford Falls - bars and strip tease joints. And worst of all, his wife becomes a spectacle-wearing spinster librarian! A far better film on a similar subject, and more astringent, is Shadow of A Doubt. I also think that The Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is a far better Capraesque Xmas movie, which is not sentimental but has the right sentiments and is funny and satirical and celebratory of ethics, with a superb performance by the wonderful Edmond Gwenn. I also suggest that the Xmas scene in La Grande Illusion is the nearest one could get to perfection.

Posted by: ronald bergan at December 26, 2006 3:39 AM