Tag Archive: It’s a Wonderful Life


Tales of Christmas Emotion

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some times a new book can shed light on an old subject.

jimmy-stewartThis week a friend shared an article about how Jimmy Stewart was affected by his service during WWII and how that brought something new and raw to his post-war movie career. That and many similar articles were based on the new book, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe.

Having read the article from the Chicago Tribune, I was curious to look at the movie again and see what hidden depths I could glean. After all, this book asserts that Stewart suffered from PSTD from his desire to keep his men safe, not a possibility for men bombing Europe in planes.

After two years of service in the Army Air Corps, Stewart came home for some R&R at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and back to Hollywood. After being gone for many years, Stewart was no longer leading man material, his spot had been taken by Gregory Peck. Finally, Frank Capra offered him the role despite Stewart really wanting a comedy. But this was the only offer he had at the time.

its-a-wonderful-life-bridgeStewart imbued his portrayal of George Bailey with desperation. He is a man who wants to travel the world, become an engineer who builds things, and get out of Bedford Falls forever. He sees his friends and neighbors and even his little brother get opportunities that George knows will never fall his way. And yet he has a great life with his wife, Mary, and their four kids.

Well, it takes time for him to recognize that, which is the basis for the movie. With the help of Clarence, George’s guardian angel, we find out that George helped more people than he ever realized. From saving his brother from drowning to providing loans to people to have nice homes and businesses, George has helped many people in his town.

Watching it this time around, I saw the fear in Stewart’s eyes. I saw the desire of a young man to not be stuck as he believes his father was. I also saw a man who passionately loved a woman and how their relationship would be the end of his hopes and dreams of leaving.

The word that came to me during various scenes was desperation. In the lowest moments, George seems desperate to solve his company’s money problems through the years, he is desperate to leave town and go on adventures, he does every last-minute trick to save the business after his father’s death. But the word that comes to mind whenever Mary is in the scene is hope. Mary is the beacon of light that guides George back to clearer thinking.

She saves him more than once in this movie, she saves him when all seems lost. Even coming home from the office on a terrible day, Mary knows something is amiss. She is his touch point, the center point, the sanity is a world gone mad.

Edmund Gween Miracle IMDb com

Edmund Gween as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Picture from IMDb.com

Donna Reed would report that this was not a happy set. It was not a set filled with laughter and jolliness as was ‘Miracle on 34th Street was reported. But they are two different movies. The latter told of the joy of Christmas that can be found all around us, it’s underlying message is of faith. But the former is about a man who sees no way out of trouble but to jump in the river and freeze to death. This movie is about the glory of the unknown blessings we can be if we choose.

As much as we need the simplistic joy that is Miracle on 34th Street, we also need the heart-rendering, soul searching agony that is It’s a Wonderful Life to remember that we touch many people in a day and we might be the only good interaction they have.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Watching a Christmas Movie?

by Karyn Bowman

So what makes a good Christmas movie?

This time of year we all talk about what we like or don’t like in a Christmas movie. But it comes down to a few factors, two actually.

Redemption and Reconciliation.

After much thought and deliberation, it seems true that the best movies in this genre are all about the redemption of a lost soul or the reconciliation of a relationship whether it is between lovers or among family members.

Do I need to bring in a case in point?

Bruce Willis going through a window in "Die Hard." Image from IMDb.com

Bruce Willis going through a window in “Die Hard.” Image from IMDb.com

How about Die Hard? In this movie the good guy, that’s Bruce Willis, is visiting his wife and children in California. He is a New York City police office unwilling to move to California but he still loves his wife. So he comes to visit at her Christmas office party.

To say things go horrible wrong as terrorists invade the party would be an understatement. But with a few smart moves and a partnership with a Los Angeles police officer, McClain is able to save his wife and most of her co-workers. In the end, there is a satisfying reconciliation between the couple.

If you need more, there is always A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer find redemption from being a miser who cares about no one to a man who keeps the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year-long. Granted, he needs the help of four different ghosts and to see what lies ahead in the future if he does nothing. We stick around for the journey because we love the destination of Redemption.

What other movies can we label this way?

Poster image from IMDb.com

Poster image from IMDb.com

Elf   – Reconciliation and Redemption

It’s a Wonderful Life   –   Redemption

A Charlie Brown Christmas  – Redemption

A Christmas Story   –   Redemption

The Holiday  –  Redemption

Love Actually  –  Redemption and Reconciliation

The Cheaters  –  Redemption

Bad Santa  –   Redemption

The Santa Clause   –  Redemption

Miracle on 34th Street   – Redemption and Reconciliation

Any Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie  –  Redemption and Reconciliation

We could go on and on like this. The truth is if movie makers could figure out the perfect Christmas movie we would have more of them that are great. But perhaps we must remember Bette Davis who once shamed a reporter who tried to say there were many great movies in the vaults. She responded by saying that about 5 – 10 great movies were made on any given year but the rest were crap.

Christmas movies get us in the heart whether it is about a reindeer, a journey to the north pole, or an old man who says he is Santa when logic tells you there is no way that man could be Santa. I love watching them and know I will be doing a lot of that this weekend.

So what about your favorite Christmas movie? Is it about reconciliation or redemption?

To

Resolution towards Redemption

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

In this week before the end of the year and after Christmas, some people take a look at their life and decide how to change it.

 

I feel it especially strong as my birthday is on this week. I think about the past year and wonder what can I do to make things better in my life, make my life what one could call ‘worthy.’ Being the best at making sure the couch does not run away is not my life’s goal.

 

Perhaps that is why it is interesting to me that two of the most beloved Christmas stories –  It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol are really about redemption, appreciation and making a change in one’s life.

 

These stories feature men who learn through visitations from other-worldly beings that there are things in life that matter, that how they interact with people matters. Scrooge sees how his bitterness will cause his afterlife to be one of harder work than his life while George Bailey sees how his community would look without his presence.  

 

Because of these experiences, Scrooge and George see the sweeter side of life. They find a renewed appreciation for those who love and work for them. These are the stories that make our hearts swell.

 

Usually at this time of year I recommend Down in the Delta starring Alfre Woodard as a woman who kicks her drug habit and becomes a better person after her mother forces her to move in with family in a Southern state. I love the multi-generational story, I love how the characters grow. I especially love the significance of the silver candelabra. It is a feel-good story on so many levels that features good acting from all of its players.

 

Another movie I have been thinking about in regards to redemption is 50 First Dates. I know what you are thinking, how can an Adam Sandler movie be about redemption? I think Adam Sandler could be one of the greats of our time if his fans did not always expect stupid comedies from him but that is another discussion for another day.

 

This movie is about a man who falls in love with a beautiful girl – Drew Barrymore. The problem is she has no short term memory because of a car accident. She remembers the day of the accident before the crash occurred and relives that day – everyday. Sandler figures out a way to get her up to speed every morning. In doing so, Sandler shows that while his character is a jerk most of the time, for the right person he is willing to change and be better.

 

None of these movies are suited for the smaller members of the house because, contextually, they deal with grown-up themes. However, a movie about redemption that is great for the younger children is Kung Fu Panda starring Jack Black.

 

No one believes that a panda can be the ‘Dragon Warrior,’ the ultimate Kung Fu warrior. Only one person sees his potential beyond being a great noodle maker. And yet when the time comes to fight a great enemy, the panda finds it within himself to do it. He finds the secret ingredient. Our family loves this movie and laugh with it every time we watch it.

 

Happy New Year and good luck on your new year’s resolutions.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.