Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Don't You See, George? You Had A Miserable Life

Well, it's one of those things. I get a red flag waved in front of me, and I just have to go for it. It's like the bull in the ring. Just in this case, I don't get stabbed by a matador. I might, however, get stoned. And not in the getting high sense of the word, seeing as how I don't do that. In the Old Testament form of getting stoned.

I don't like It's A Wonderful Life.There. I said it. That classic flick of Christmas time (and American Thanksgiving, what's the reason for that? ) is another one of my dislikes. The sugar-sweet sentimental family film that's a must see for so many people year after year makes me want to gag.

We've got ourselves James Stewart, our reliable, good man role, playing the ultimate good guy role, a small town banker of sorts who genuinely helps people, unlike the old miser in town who's filthy rich and who hoards and schemes and plots to make himself richer. George has himself a nice life, a wife and kids and a house that needs a bit of fixing up. Is it so hard to glue in that thing on the stairs, George? It keeps coming out everytime you run up the stairs.

By the way, what is that thing on the stairs called?

Suddenly things go downhill. The old miser sets it in motion, and George finds himself at a suicidal crossroads. And then filmdoms' most befuddled angel shows up. And shows George what things would have been like if he hadn't been born. It's actually something of a daring sequence, very dark and grim, and if only we could have seen the film keep going that way...

But no. Instead, George is returned to the world as it was, and he starts running through the streets like a maniac, yelling "Merry Christmas!!!" To everyone. Including the crotchedly old miser who nearly brought him down. Really, is it so hard to bring a guy in for a psychologist to evaluate for 48 hours in this town?

You all know how it ends. George comes home. All's well. His friends get together and get him out of his financial straits. His brother comes home. Everyone sings Auld Lang Syne. And the bell rings, signalling that our befuddled angel has earned his wings. Meanwhile, the very thought of it has me gagging.

It's not like I have anything against James Stewart. He's one of the great actors. My favourite Stewart film is The Philadelphia Story, for the record. Throw in films like Vertigo or The Man Who Knew Too Much as part of the equation. And there's so much more that he did that I admire.

I particularly like his take in the second Thin Man film, done before he became really well known, where he plays a decent man, a lovelorn chap who stands by the woman he loves as her rat of a husband bites the dust. Only at the end of the film, when he himself is unmasked as the killer, do we see him for who he really is: a sadistic, devious, cruel monster who wanted to destroy the woman who had once broken his heart. It's a shock to see just how malevolent the character is, particularly when you think of James Stewart largely playing decent upstanding characters.

Still, nothing will ever make me want to watch It's A Wonderful Life again. Unless it's the alternate ending as seen in a Simpsons episode. You know the one: the alternate killing spree ending. You can keep your traditions of watching it at Christmas. My ideas of Christmas films tend to lean more towards The Ref or Die Hard. Now those are holiday films!

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