4.5, United States/Canada

It’s a Wonderful Life

1946 / Frank Capra > The television stations loved playing this every Christmas when I was growing up, but I never actually saw the whole thing. The moments I caught here and there over the years, I somewhat fused together, but until now, I never really understood the mythology of George Bailey. Consider this a spiritual companion piece to Memories of Matsuko: Sometimes the things that we want to do weren’t meant for us to begin with. Luck and circumstance are part of the game, and It’s a Wonderful Life shows us the grass doesn’t always have to be greener in order for a happier day. It’s highly manipulative, but ironically not nearly as sentimental as one would expect. By the end, we don’t really care because the manipulation was for a positive cause, because without it the modern moviegoer may be too cynical to enjoy a scene of sincere, unexpected happiness and joy. Could they make this now? I doubt it, but I’m happy that its spirit has barely aged in over half a century.