By Jamie Neben
Everybody has a favorite movie, right? Actually, I happen to know many people who cannot or will not choose just one above all of the rest and that’s very understandable. How does one reach a decision when considering there could be so many good candidates among multiple genres vying for the honor? It’s difficult enough to make a selection in a single category. For instance, I’d be hard-pressed to name a favorite Hitchcock spy thriller or Stephen King adaptation. Don’t even ask me about 1980’s teen angst movies because I’ll be here all day trying to pick one. However, as it turns out, I do have an all-time favorite film, and this site would be completely bogus if I didn’t share it with you. And remember….there’s no disputing matters of taste!
Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life was my introduction to classic movies when I was a young adult. I still remember first watching it on late-night television with a friend who had convinced me to give it a chance, and I’m so happy I did. Prior to then, I had little interest in anything that was filmed in black and white. Not only did my opinion change about older films, but it lit a fire beneath me to see other possible gems that were awaiting my discovery. It’s a quest that I continue on to this day.
If you haven’t yet experienced the awesomeness of this movie, you’ve undoubtedly seen variations of it in other places. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is in a financial pickle and realizes that he’s worth more dead than alive. An error on the books of his Saving and Loan bank threatens to put him behind bars as mean Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), his business rival who owns most of the town, calls for his arrest. As George prepares to jump off a bridge, his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) arrives and leaps into the water instead, forcing George to save him. While they dry off, George eventually concedes that rather than committing suicide, a better option might be if he had never been born at all. Clarence grants this wish in hopes that George will have a change of heart.
The basic premise alone intrigues me, but there are so many more dimensions to this film, and that’s what I love about it. You’ve got a romantic-comedy element with the love story of George and his wife Mary (Donna Reed) that begins during childhood. You’ve got heavy drama when George sinks into despair as he finds himself backed into a corner. Of course, the trip into an alternate reality where everything is different makes for great science-fiction. Finally, the ultimate lesson George learns is downright inspirational. I was recently fortunate enough to see a presentation on the big screen, and for my money, it still plays every bit as well as movies that are currently being offered.
Audiences can still appreciate It’s a Wonderful Life nearly 70 years after release because its themes and issues remain relevant to this day. These universal and timeless qualities prevent the story from feeling dated. They are also quite obvious. Mr. Potter’s status in Bedford Falls compared to the town folk has a modern-day analogy of Wall Street vs. Main Street. We have personal conflicts to examine too. How many of us have ever wanted to be like George Bailey and shake the dust of our crummy little towns (or lives) and search for greener pastures? How many of us have come to understand that true happiness must come from within rather than being something we can acquire elsewhere.
In conclusion, It’s a Wonderful Life is a review of the life and heart of a human being, and the triumphs and trials that set the stage for his defining moment. It could be about any one of us. The movie is funny, sad, fascinating, suspenseful, and thought provoking all at once. For these reasons and more, I’m certain it will always be my favorite film.