I like how the beginning throws back to the claymation version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (in both look and story), which was my favorite Christmas cartoon as a child.
I like Buddy’s sense of wonder about everything, when he leaves the North Pole and shows up in New York City.
I like how some people appreciate his innocence, while others are completely baffled by it.
I like the mishaps he gets into
and the way he fixes things without even realizing.
I laugh and smile so much throughout this movie but I always, ALWAYS cry at the end. When the crowd is trying to power Santa’s sleigh with Christmas Spirit by singing, the camera focuses on a little baby; the sense of innocent awe as the sleigh takes off into the air just makes me lose it! It’s only a few seconds long but I can’t resist tearing up!
I loved Christmas time when I was a child. It was all about magic and love and believing in things that you couldn’t see. I was able to revisit that sense of wonder when my kids were young. The past few years, holidays have been such an ordeal for me, so stressful, so much spite and bitterness on display in my extended families; it just makes my heart hurt.
It makes me want to nail our door shut for two months straight and find that magic again, with just the four of us. I can’t do that, but I can watch Elf to recharge my senses, so that I can brave the gatherings with a smile on my face.
I love to answer questionnaires, which in the blogging world often take form as ‘challenges’. I’ve wanted to do a movie themed challenge for awhile now but haven’t been able to find a set of questions that I liked, so I ended up combining two sets instead. I tried not to think too hard about the answers, just going with my reflex reaction to the question. I’m not out to recommend obscure movies that others may not have seen; most of my answers consist of movies I’ve watched over and over again through the years but never get tired of. These movies helped shape me into who I am, and so I think it will be interesting to remember how I first discovered them and why they continue to move me.
1.) Your Favorite Movie
answer: It’s a Wonderful Life
The first time I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, I was 13 years old. It was playing on TV and my father said I should watch it with him because it was a really good movie. I routinely watched old movies and television shows with my Dad on weekend afternoons and enjoyed them, so I trusted his judgment. I quickly reconsidered that opinion as I watched two clusters of stars floating in outer space, that were supposed to represent angels, talk to each other through the first few minutes of the movie. Really, Dad? As the story started to show different parts of George Bailey’s childhood though, I quit rolling my eyes and started to pay attention.
There are so many things I love about this movie. First, I think it’s funny. There are many quips and winks throughout the story that James Stewart delivers so well.
Second, it’s a love story.
George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down….then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see, and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair…
After missing his initial chance with love interest Mary, they finally get together over winter break while she’s home from college. George pretends like he’s going for a walk but his mother knows better and phones ahead to tell Mary that he’s going to stop by for a visit. George tries to play it cool with Mary but she’s having none of it. She has been crushing on him since they were children and she’s tired of waiting for him to make the first move. When an old friend of George’s (who just so happens to be dating Mary) calls on the telephone and wants to speak to them about a business opportunity, they finally admit their feelings for one another.
As the story catches up to present day, George finds the life that he’s built with Mary and their children crashing down around him, when his business partner misplaces a sizable amount of money. It’s then that George wishes he had never been born, because he doesn’t want to bring his family down with him. In steps Clarence, the guardian angel who was one of those voices at the beginning of the movie. Clarence is a lovable character who grants George’s wish, and shows him how he touches the lives of others in so many different ways. That’s my favorite part of this story, the idea that we’re all connected and our actions, no matter how small, have consequences.
Through the years, I’ve related to George Bailey and his plight in many ways. I’ve felt the longing to get out of my small hometown and experience the world.
George Bailey: You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.
I’ve understood the disappointment and frustration that comes with always doing the right thing.
and I’ve experienced the suffocating stress that makes you snap and lash out at the ones you love.
but through it all, I remember how George’s seemingly mundane life touched others in positive ways, how many lives he made better by just existing. It’s reinforced in me that I matter, that I’m important too, even if I don’t realize how.
Watching It’s a Wonderful Life has become a tradition in our family. A year after my first viewing, I made my brother watch it with me when he came home for the holidays from college. He found it just as funny and meaningful as I did. We watched it together every Christmas Eve, quoting all of our favorite lines and routinely using them in conversations throughout the year.
Last Christmas my brother and I chatted together on Facebook as he watched the movie by himself, since his own family doesn’t get the appeal. Luckily my husband does, and he watches it with me year round. I introduced my daughter to it this past Christmas. She had the same reaction I did at first, thinking those star clusters at the beginning were lame and wanting the story to speed up already! but by the end, she loved it. and so the tradition continues.
Once upon a time, newly married, I spent a Christmas far from home for the first time. My husband and I had spent a lonely Thanksgiving on our own but decided we could not do the same for Christmas; we just had to splurge for those two plane tickets “back home” to celebrate Christmas with our families! I wrote a poem that year to include in all of the Christmas cards, illustrating how the holiday had changed for me but also what it meant to be going home for the holiday: