This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Prior to going to see It's a Wonderful Life in a midnight screening three years ago, I hadn't seen it at all in probably 15 years if not longer. I had grown outright resentful toward the very existence of the film at times, for reasons ranging from being saccharine to perpetuating the notion that angels are deceased people who get "promoted" in the afterlife. Yet here I am, having just watched the film for the second time in three years and holding it closely.
I just read through what I wrote after that midnight screening:
What I appreciate most is that the message really isn't about gratitude, as so many people mistakenly think. It's about recognizing our own individual worth, which is something that we don't really talk about very well as a society. We can talk about it when people like me come along and struggle with it, but we don't really talk about what that default is really like for people who don't have this problem. I've said it countless times this past year and it bears repeating: What helped me most about my depression was not magically appreciating the things in my life more, but truly believing that I had value as a human being. That's George Bailey's story, and it's my story, too.
As my therapist can attest, I still struggle mightily with the idea of having value as a human being. I almost lost that struggle again this summer, and maybe that's what brought me back to the movie this Christmas season. I've never owned it on any home video format, but recently decided that I should, so I treated myself to it on Blu-ray. One of the little things I've begun doing has been to designate my Amazon purchases as gifts, and I write little notes to myself to accompany those purchases. The note I wrote for this Blu-ray reads:
"Sometimes it is, I suppose!" - Past Travis
I'll confess that I began to cry in the final two minutes of the movie. I've proclaimed often that if I've only ever done one thing right in my life, it's been to have surrounded myself with wonderful people. Last week, my therapist challenged me that if I was as worthless as I say, I couldn't account for why so many wonderful people would continue to be part of my life. I still haven't got an answer for that, but I can say that I sincerely appreciate each and every one of them despite not understanding what any of them get out of having me in their lives. Seeing everyone rush not only to help out George, but to have done it with such enthusiasm, was truly heartwarming.
As for the Blu-ray Disc, the a/v quality is spectacular. I found myself astonished at the details in textures of clothing and hair. I've gained a far greater appreciation for black and white films after seeing some in high definition, and I suspect I'm not alone in that. It's been a revelation.
The bonus content, however, leaves something to be desired. It's truly surprising that a film as beloved and revered as this should be released with only a 22:45 making-of TV special from 1990 and a trailer (listed as "Original Theatrical Trailer", though it's clearly labeled for a re-release, but whatever). A colorized version of the film is also included on a second disc. The making-of special, hosted by the affable Tom Bosley, is a nice little overview of the film's genesis and production, but it's a rather superficial survey.
Would I buy a more supplement-laden edition, were one to be released? I would have said, "Probably not" as recently as a few hours ago, but now I have a strong desire to learn more of its trivia and to hear insights from film historians and critics. There are some movies where I'd love to be a participant (anytime anyone wants an essay about The Transformers: The Movie, just tweet me), but this is one where I'm perfectly content to curl up on the couch and absorb what I can.
It's a Wonderful Life Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#32/1720)
It's a Wonderful Life > Dirty Dancing → #32
It's a Wonderful Life > Cruel Intentions → #32
It's a Wonderful Life > For Your Eyes Only → #32
It's a Wonderful Life > Shakespeare in Love → #32
It's a Wonderful Life > Licence to Kill → #32
It's a Wonderful Life > Persona → #27
It's a Wonderful Life < Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country → #27
It's a Wonderful Life < Doctor Zhivago → #27
It's a Wonderful Life < The Bridge on the River Kwai → #27
It's a Wonderful Life > Star Trek: First Contact → #24
It's a Wonderful Life < The Princess Bride → #24
It's a Wonderful Life was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #24/1720