(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#4) It’s a Wonderful Life
Drama • dir. Frank Capra • 1946 • USA
In a rare break from us all whacking each other with sticks (no, not a euphemism), one of my high school friends, Alex, told me It’s a Wonderful Life was his favorite film. I liked the sound of that, and remember being impressed by what was clearly – for a 16 year-old boy larking about in the park – a pretty left-field choice. I had It’s a Wonderful Life on VHS tape and wasted no more time in finally getting round to watching it. Sure enough, I was disappointed. My expectations were too high. And, it turns out, the optimal way to experience the ultimate feel-good Christmas movie is not alone in your bedroom on a beat-up old TV. Or, for that matter, on a rainy day in March.
Thankfully, though, I persevered. Just as Jimmy Stewart spends It’s a Wonderful Life learning not to take his wonderful life for granted, I learned not to give up on a great film too soon. I went on to watch this particular one a bunch more times, including twice at the cinema. That first time seeing it with an audience – along with my good buddy Rob as an undergrad in Canterbury – I realized it’s often laugh out loud funny (“This is a very interesting situation! Man doesn’t get into a situation like this everyday…”). Then the second time, I was utterly overwhelmed by it. You name the hoary old cliché, that was me: drawn in, hooked, swept along, carried aloft, and, my word, crying my eyes out. It was love, plain and simple – invested in the great Jimmy Stewart, and nourished by the dark, ritual comforts of cinema. This time round, the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a shabby little place with a happy knack of screening cult and classics movies. It was a day or two before Christmas, and snowing. No, I wasn’t in one of America’s “crummy little towns,” but it sure felt mighty special: in the company of my wife, a moment, place, and experience to hold tight and cherish.