Monthly Archives: December 2012

It’s Still a (Reasonably) Wonderful Life

 

Classic films tend to evoke a decidedly mixed response from me at first blush. On the one hand, I’m drawn to them. I find myself enticed to not only find out what all the fuss is about, but to consume one more piece of our national zeitgeist. Seeing a film that’s as sewn into fabric of our popular culture as It’s a Wonderful Life gives me a connection both to the scores of other people who’ve seen the film and to the America that only exists in Norman Rockwell paintings.

That connection creates a yearning for an idyllic past that never existed beyond the original celluloid. It’s perpetuated annually as families gather ’round for another holiday rebroadcast. I don’t mean this as a knock against the film. In harmony with the story of the movie itself, the viewer can see something that might have been, but never was, and use it to gain a bit of perspective. It creates a connection to the myriad individuals who find themselves reaching for that same popular myth — real people united by a shared, imaginary reference point.

Despite this, and perhaps because of this, I also watch these films with an unavoidable air of skepticism. We live in an age that thrives on and revels in the slaughter of sacred cows. Irony, sarcasm, and cynicism are the order of the day, and I am hard-pressed to resist. I do my best to keep an open mind going into these movies, but there’s a part of me that invariably has to be tamped down — a part that’s perpetually prepared to ask, “what’s the big deal?”

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