Thursday, June 18, 2009

Evidently, some people don't feel the same way about It's a Wonderful Life as I do. Fine, I guess. Or: go ahead and be that way.

Wendell Jamieson wrote a piece in The New York Times last Christmas entitled "Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life" that read:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

And in his cynical rant, "All Hail Pottersville" on Salon.com, executive editor Gary Kamiya wraps up his paean to Pottersville with an epitaph for middle-America:

We all live in Pottersville now. Bedford Falls is gone. The plucky little Savings and Loan closed down years ago, just like in George's nightmare. Cleaned up, his evil eyebrows removed, armed with a good PR firm, Mr. Potter goes merrily about his business, "consolidating" the George Baileys of the world. To cling to dreams of a bucolic America where the little guy defeats the forces of Big Business and the policeman and the taxi driver and the druggist and the banker all sing Auld Lang Syne together is just to ask for heartbreak and confusion when you turn off the TV and open your front door.

As King Arthur said to the Black Knight, when the Knight opted against joining him at the Round Table, "You make me sad."

Some people feel the need to skewer much-loved things, and still others feel the need to follow the skewerers. I see it every year at Summer Camp. There will be a massive event of a hundred and fifty teenagers indulging in some shameless, unadulterated fun, all the while laughing their heads off, and yet there will always be one teeanger [sic] off to the side, arms folded, probably wearing black, contemptuous of it all. Filled with scorn, he'll get one or two depressed, disaffected others to join him, and they will be the bane of the counselors for the week. Their strategy often works: they get some attention. And sometimes it doesn't, which is when they turn desperate, break the rules, and then get sent home. A couple bad eggs can ruin it for everyone, and it makes me sad to see it. Some leaders prudently advise to let them go, like they're human chaff, for the betterment of the camp, but I always try to keep the sorry lot around. Adolescent breakthroughs are possible, if you're a good enough youth leader.

But people who hate It's a Wonderful Life? There's just no convincing you. You must be miserable and -I've got some bad news- the only ones who really want to join you there are (guess what?) already miserable. You'll be in good company. (Or, at least, just company.)

Jamieson comes around at the end of his article, admitting he gets choked up in the old flick, but Gary "Pottersville rocks!" Kamiya? Who knows. Yesterday his dissenting piece was quoted in the Wikipedia article on the classic film, and today his quote is pulled. Makes one wonder why.


In 1990, 'It's a Wonderful Life' was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.

In 2002, Britain's Channel 4 ranked 'It's A Wonderful Life' as the seventh greatest film ever made in their poll, "The 100 Greatest Films."

In 2006, 'It's A Wonderful Life' reached #37 in Channel 4's "100 Greatest Family Films" poll.

'It's A Wonderful Life' currently ranks 30th on the IMDB's top 250.

American Film Institute recognition:
1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies -#11
2002 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions -#8
2003 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
George Bailey, hero -#9
Henry F. Potter, villain -#6
2006 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers -#1
2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - #20
2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 -#3 in the genre of Fantasy