Destination No Where –

It is the journey not the destination (some bumper stickers add the word stupid at the end of it but that seems redundant).  This pithy phrase is borrowed from a lot of different belief systems.  It has become cliché, however it doesn’t lessen the lesson.

Road movies exemplify this phrase, and that is probably why that particular genre of movies is so popular.  We vicariously get to see the phrase in action, and without risk we get to follow someone’s growth and see the person become different.  In movie parlance it is described as the arc of a character while in real life it is described as someone growing up or not. That or not seems to be more evident in girl road films for some reason.

Thelma and Louise (1991) is a feminist treatise on how women are belittled in society and so marginalized that when they do fight back they end up having to jump off a cliff into the Grand Canyon.  As treatises go this is a good one and done beautifully and really has some fun scenes with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, but as far as road movies go it blows.  They had us up to the Grand Canyon, and we were rooting for them to take on more from the road and to break free and make it below the border into Mexico, but the destination trumped all of that thus the destination became more important than the journey, and this is why feminism can suck.  We finally got a road movie with two really good actresses and they arc and they progress and then they die.

We watched this movie with our mom and dad in the theater, and when they went off the cliff our dad got up from his aisle seat, with tears in his eyes and said, “Goddammit, I didn’t know they died!” and left the theater. That exclamation says it all.  If we are to learn anything from these characters to apply to real life it is this:  no one wants to go throughTexas, but if it means freedom and life then you choose Texas.  Metaphorically speaking Thelma could not get over her past enough to take care of herself in the present and the end result is the big abyss.

A sub genre of the road movies is the geographical cure movie – and girls don’t fare much better there. Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) is an example of this type, and when it appears on cable it is difficult to turn the channel.  Like all fairy tales we are taken in by the magical turn of events, but in this case it is truly unbelievable and it is hard to suspend disbelief.  Julia Roberts portrays a woman in an abusive relationship married to a creepy guy who makes her alphabetize canned goods and keeps an eagle eye on the length of the guest towels in the bathroom.  To get away she fakes her death by drowning in the Atlantic Ocean and flees to the Midwest.  There the light is perpetually early morning sunlight and it is always autumn, I think this is because Julia looks so pretty in browns and forest greens.  In this magical place called Iowa she falls in love with the nicest guy on earth.  Put the brakes on here, and slow down, because this just became a fairy tale.  She goes from a creepy control freak to a cute professor in a span of forty minutes?

Please do not read into this believing that we believe women who have been in abusive relationships can’t meet and fall madly in love with a nice guy.  What we are saying is someone got lazy and decided to bypass the whole epiphany experience when Julia’s character asks herself, “Wow, why would I get involved with such a bad person?  Could it be I have low self-esteem and need to look at my choices in life and do better by me from now on?”  Nowhere in the movie is a self-actualized moment.  It is fantasy that someone who was involved with a psycho-canned-goods-alphabetizer would look twice at a cute theater professor who is sweet and nice, unless that someone has done some work.  The kicker is it wouldn’t even have to be a major part of the story.

For example, earlier in the film there is foreshadowing by showing the husband straightening the tea towels, and then later in the movie Julia saves herself by noticing in her new soft focus home that her tea towels have been messed with and she realizes her creepy husband is in the house.  So, why not pan the camera at the beginning of the movie and show a self-help book or two in the house, better yet show a title or two in her gym bag (like she has to hide this from her husband).  Then when she gets to utopia Iowa and her house is all set up (because they spend a lot of time with a musical interlude showing Julia sprucing up her new home) the camera slows for a moment while she unpacks her books and one quick shot of her bookcase filled with Marianne Williamsons’ and Wayne Dyers’ and Deepak Chopras’. All it would take is one panoramic of the bookcase.*  That’s all, and now the mystery is solved.  She has truly changed her mind thus changing her life.  By showing her investment in self-help books we the audience believe she is serious.  Now enter cute theater professor and cue up Brown Eyed Girl.  I believe.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) is one of my fav road movies ever. And – it has a girl leading the pack.  This movie’s destination reinforces the journey’s message which is you can’t appreciate what you’ve got sometimes until you lose it and then you see that happiness truly is found in your own backyard.  Metaphorically speaking, and not assuming anyone’s stupidity, let’s expound on that by saying you can take the girl out of Kansas but you can’t take Kansas out of the girl.  Or, how ‘bout this one – wherever you are – there you are.  Wish you here. Is it better to see life filled with honor and integrity and standing up against tyranny or to see life as boring and always wanting something that is out of reach?  Dorothy and her friends had fun while living the life of warriors, and when she woke up from her journey she realized that boring old Kansas was home for the time being so why not find happiness there.

Recent road trip movies I love:

Away We Go (2009)

Due Date (2010)

Cedar Rapids (2011)  — okay not technically a road movie. It is a conference movie which has the same elements. Staid lead with a whacky co-lead that helps him loosens up.

The Hangover Movies – (2009 and 2011)

Please give me suggestions for more! (please use “comment” function on blog)

* Why self-help books? Because Kari and I could open a used bookstore with just our cast off self-help book collections.

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Anna Wintour Isn’t That Bad –

The documentary The September Issue, which focuses on Vogue magazine’s yearly four-pound-Bible-of-the-fashion-world September issue, was released in 2009. Why am I writing about it now? I am the director of a film festival and mother to a five year-old who was three when the film was released so basically I only have time to watch movies for purely entertainment reasons on ROKU when everyone is asleep. My husband and son would never watch a documentary on Anna Wintour with me. They have very pedestrian tastes.

After watching this film I realized Anna Wintour isn’t that bad and in fact she is my new role model.

My only reference for Anna Wintour was the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006), which is
based on the book of the same title written by a former underling of the aforementioned Miss Thing.  Meryl Streep plays this character to perfection but I am now convinced that character is not Anna Wintour.

The thing I loved about Anna Wintour in The September Issue was how economical she was – her speech, her gestures, her movements. She doesn’t waste energy with a lot of words and emotions. She conveys meaning with the subtlest of facial expressions. With the minimum of words. Without undue emotions. She is contained. And – commanding.

That’s why I know she wouldn’t waste her time explaining the introduction of cirlian blue into the world of fashion on the likes of that big, dumb Anne Hathaway like Meryl Streep did in the film The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP). That would be a big waste of her time.

Briefest rant on the film TDWP and Adrian Grenier – I wish the film had just been Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blount trading quips. I think Anne Hathaway is a real snore. Further, I can’t stand Adrian Griener who plays Anne’s boyfriend in the film. He’s the star of the HBO series Entourage which I used to love until I found out Griener was a total douche who thought he really was a famous actor and not just a lousy one who plays a talented one. And, where does he get off calling Seth Rogen fat and ugly? Seth Rogen is smart and funny which automatically makes him hot no matter his size.

Back to The September Issue. There is this sort of contrived drama between Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, the creative director and hands-on-stylist at Vogue. Coddington is responsible for styling the intricately layered  and detailed photo spreads Vogue is known for. Her big compliant is that Anna edits her photo spreads. Grace – SHE’S THE  EDITOR OF VOGUE MAGAZINE! She edits. Really, Grace, twenty years working with her and it still raises your hackles?

The real villain in the film is Mario Testino who is hired to shoot the cover and centerpiece spread featuring Sienna Miller (who is like totally obsolete now) of the most critical issue of the year and he takes nine photos. Not nine good ones and the rest sort of so-so. He took nine photos period. Dude didn’t break a sweat.

His is the bad example of not expending enough energy. Anna Wintour expends by my estimation just enough energy. This concept of “energy expendtion”* has inspired me to be Anna Wintour for a week.

I expended too much energy doing everything! I am too talky, loud and emotional for my own good. Take my rant earlier – Anna Wintour would never waste her energy on the likes of Adrian Grenier. So, for the next week I will be like my new role model – Anna Wintour. I will use fewer words, less emotion, less movement. I will be economical in all aspects of human communication. (I should probably think about an iconic hairstyle while I’m at it.)

Thank you, Anna Wintour for being you.

*expendtion – I made that word up.

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The Christmas Story: BEST MOVIE EVER by guest author Lola Sizemore

This is the last of the holiday posts from SATM. Hope you are having great ones!

I know Lola from work-related projects. She is super smart and creative and a fellow Sag. Sags Rule! – KWP

By guest author – Lola Sizemore

One morning in the summer a few years back, I received a voice mail message from my little sister.

“I’m at the Christmas Story house!!! BUMPUSES!!!

There is only one thing, one nostalgic movie that can bring my sister and I together at any time of the year. The Christmas Story. And it makes even a business trip Cleveland, Ohio seems glorious when there is a detour to a national landmark: The Christmas Story house.

There are few holiday movies that everyone can enjoy. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, while beautifully done in claymation, is for the kids. It’s a Wonderful life is lovely but the kids may not get it. Bad Santa is… well… not for anyone without a glass of scotch and a cheap cigar.

Everyone remembers that one toy they desperately desired. Everyone has embarrassing family stories of holidays gone wrong. Everyone remembers the class bully and some even remember the class bully getting a piece of karma as well. There’s a reason it play for 24 hours on TBS the day of Christmas. There’s something we all can be nostalgic about, even with a movie set in the 1940’s when I was surely not even born yet, because some things about the holidays never change.

And with that, I bring you the top 10 moments that make The Christmas Story AWESOME:

10. The Dangummit Furnace: Who has a furnace that blows black smoke through vents?! Pay close attention in this scene: the Old Man also falls on a pair of skates going down the stairs.

9. Santa Pushing Ralphie down the slide with his boot: First of all, the idea of Santa is creepy. An old man dressed in a flamboyantly red suit who wants children to sit on his lap? And then tells them he’ll come into their house at night with presents? How is this story still continuing?! In this movie, Santa is probably a felon. Definitely intoxicated. And his little elves aren’t exactly bursting with the Christmas spirit either. The weirdo kid in line? Amazing. However, they all make the scene great. And as a kid, made me never want to sit on Santa’s lap ever again.

8. Randy can’t put his arms down: Moms love to bundle up their kids when it snows. I had a horrendous one-piece suit that made me look like the purple Michelein man. I felt for Randy. Sure I wanted to be warm, but what happens when you fall? Or as in the movie, what happens when you fall and mean bullies are chasing you? “Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense.”

7. Tire changing incident: “My old man’s spare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense. They were round, they had once been made of rubber.” All Ralphie wanted to do was help his Old Man change a tire. And when bolts and screws went flying into the street, gleaming the road like marbles in a cartoon, he said the first word that comes to mind. “Fudge.” But it wasn’t fudge. Why do parents always ask, “Where did you learn that word?” I’m pushing the wrong side of my twenties and my mother still asks me this.

6. Farkus the Bully take down: Everyone dreams of taking down their nemesis. They push and push until you just flip out and whack them in the head with a homemade knitted mitten. Now, I would never condone violence, especially at Christmas, but you can’t help but think of this as a win for the little guy. Way to go, Ralphie. I mean, very bad kids. Never fight.

5. Flick getting his tongue stuck on a pole: When it’s a triple dog dare, you better do it. The filmmakers accomplished this by installing a vacuum in the pole that would suck the kid’s tongue in. However, if they wanted to be more authentic, they could have easily done this in wintertime Maine. When I was younger, the kid next door was dared to stick his tongue to a metal mailbox. He did. It stuck. And it was legendary.*

*I may or may not have been the one who dared him to stick his tongue to the mailbox. Sorry buddy.

4. A Chinese Christmas: It all started when the Bumpus Dogs devoured the Christmas turkey. The old man screamed “BUMPUSES!!” and the beloved bird was nothing more than a wing left on the floor. “We are going OUT for dinner.” The Parker family went to the only restaurant opened on Christmas day for what Ralphie affectionately called a “Chinese Turkey.” The presented bird? A duck with it’s head still on. “It’s smiling at me,” says the old man. To this day, people in my family will ALWAYS say this before every Christmas meal. There have even been a few holidays where my family has eaten Chinese food because, honestly, if it was good enough for the Parker family, it’s good enough for us.

Side note: Jack Nicholson was rumored to have been in the running to play the Old Man. Can you imagine the joker saying “it’s smiling at me” without being a creeper?

3. The bunny suit: Ah, yes, Aunt Clara. How did you know I wanted a pink bunny suit? We’ve all gotten a “bunny suit.” Mine was a knit sweater with penguins wearing Santa hats. On top of their hats? Bells. Real, annoying, jingling bells. We’ve all been there, kid.

Side note: This isn’t the last embarrassing outfit actor Peter Billingsley wore. He made a special cameo years later in Will Farrel’s Elf as what else but an elf. He also got to cuss a word worse than “fudge”: cotton headed ninny muggins.

2. The leg lamp: The gleam of electric sex. The major award. FRAGILE. Every scene involving this plot line is pure gold (and expected from director Bob Clark who’s previous work was the teen sex romp Porky’s).  But truly the best part is the most devastating… When the lamp breaks and the Old Man’s reactions of: “YOU USED ALL THE GLUE ON PURPOSE!” and “NADDAFINGA!!” It is customary in my family to use these two reactions at any time when something breaks, as it should be.

1. Christmas Morning: Well, of course he got the Red Ryder BB gun. And of course, he almost shot his eye out. But he got the BB gun and all was well. It reminds me of that moment as a kid when all the presents are unwrapped and you’re swimming in a sea of paper and bows. It’s THE END.

Lola is an art director, designer and Sagittarius. And sometimes she writes the same way she talks.


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Holidazed –

During the holidaze one of my most favorite activities is switching on the TV and running smack into the beginning of one of the Lifetime for Women holiday movies. My favorites are the scenarios that include a brittle professional woman who has no time for a relationship, is super busy; and then she bonks her head  on Christmas Eve and wakes up to find she has a husband and a couple of children. She spends a third of the movie acting funny and trying to go back to her old life, but she finds again and again that life is gone, baby gone.

And then at the end of the movie she realizes she likes her new life and is happy and content. These movies include really cool kids and a really dreamy husband. Lots of flannel and big mugs of hot cocoa or coffee and pretty fake snow that get stuck in the actress’s hair during one of her many freak-outs. These movies include a lot of jumping out of windows or running down the driveway to escape. If it wasn’t on Lifetime these scenes would be straight out of a Ira Levin novel (author of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby). But it isn’t – so it’s funny.

What does this network really want women to feel? Mostly fear. It should be called Lifetime: A Channel to Scare Women. Still this network is a guilty pleasure of mine.

 Lifetime has given us their spin, albeit a little skewed with women having to marry and have children to bring true happiness. But, why isn’t the other way around? A woman who is a wife and mother gets bonked on the head and finds herself leading a Fortune 500 company and is really happy and secure. Sure she looks for those kids and her husband for a third of the movie, but at the end realizes, at the helm of her yacht in Barbados, that it is really good to be at the top, alone and rich.

Oh, I get the Lifetime movies. We tend to wax nostalgic at the end of a year and so we re-evaluate and reconsider choices and then at the end of the bottle of wine or carton of cigarettes or journaling or whatever you do when you wax nostalgic – you realize your life is good and you are happy. Or you realize the opposite. Yikes!

Please check out Nancy McKeon in Comfort and Joy (2003). It is exemplary for this theme. And it has Nancy McKeon! Jo from Facts of Life!

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Prancer – guest writer Caroline Nelson

When I was in second grade I became best friends with this awesome kid named Julie. Unbeknownst to me my sister in pre-school was becoming best friends with a kid named Caroline. Imagine everyone’s surprised when we found out Caroline and Julie were sisters. Best friend sisters becoming best friends with sisters! (KWP)

Prancer – by guest writer Caroline Nelson

I’m a sucker for those movies where sweet, innocent kids remind jaded, unsentimental grown ups how hope and goodwill are really what life is all about. If the jaded grown up is Sam Elliott, I get a little faint. Then if the movie is about Christmas, I’ll collapse.

Watching Prancer (1989) is part of preparing for Christmas for me now. I love this little girl named Jessica. She is devoted to Christmas. She rejoices gladly and loudly in the joy of it.   And she’s a firm believer in Santa. So when a mysteriously injured reindeer shows up, she knows who exactly who he is, he’s Prancer.  He MUST be better by Christmas Eve, and taking him in is a no brainer for her. Her dad, not so much

Watching Sam Elliott as her cheerless widowed father struggle with grief and frustration is heartbreaking, and awesome because he does a fair amount of it in long underwear. But slowly he sees his daughter’s unwavering faith in the season win over the people around her, some of who were almost as crabby as him. Then he understands that saving Prancer really will do everything she believes it will do – SAVE CHRISTMAS.   Which of course it does, along with everything and everyone.   And then we all cry and cry and cry because it’s so sweet!

Caroline Nelson lives with her husband and son in a place much like Lake Wobegon. She is a life-long film lover and a best friend to the Wagner sister.

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It’s a Wonderful Life, Part 2: Occupy Bedford Falls – by guest Dan Gillotte

People mistakenly think that this movie is some kind of holiday feel good trifle, but I’m here to tell you that if that’s all you think about this movie, then you’re missing out. Seriously.

Sure, it’s got sweetness, warmth and sentiment, but it’s also got depth and sincerity and disappointment, resentment, anger, bleakness, depression, and evil. It’s also got a significant message about fairness, doing the right thing, and economic equitability that is as resonant now in our time of corporate takeover and the Occupy Wall Street’s push back against the banks and other corrupt financial institution in our country as it was at the end of the Great Depression when it was made.

Few mainstream movies better capture issues of class warfare in human terms than this one. It also demonstrates the importance of community and people working together for the common good. George Bailey and his father are champions of the common man (dare I say the Proletariat) against the fat cats and politicians and bankers. The disdain that director Capra has for these folks is all rolled up and amplified in the truly evil presence of Mr. Potter.

Potter doesn’t like the Bailey Savings and Loan because it gives normal working people a chance to break out of a feudal system that benefits people like him. He prefers a near slave state for the workers and is adamantly opposed to their betterment and getting a chance at the American Dream. He doesn’t even hide it. He is OPENLY scornful of these folks and their attempt to take charge of their lives and has no sympathy when times are hard as demonstrated in this exchange between George’s father and Potter:
POTTER: Have you put any real pressure on those people of yours to pay those mortgages?
BAILEY: Times are bad, Mr. Potter. A lot of these people are out of work.
POTTER: Then foreclose!
BAILEY: I can’t do that. These families have children.
POTTER: They’re not my children.
BAILEY: But they’re somebody’s children.
POTTER: Are you running a business or a charity ward?
BAILEY: Well, all right . . .
POTTER (interrupting): Not with my money!
BAILEY: Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family –– no children.
You can’t begin to spend all the money you’ve got.
POTTER: So I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me.

Later in the movie he goes further with his vitriol for the working man trying to get a piece of the American Dream and those who want to assist in that dream.

Potter: [referring to the fact that the building and loan gave a mortgage to a cabdriver that Potter’s bank turned down… [What does that get us?] A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas.

George who has no love for the Building and Loan is still compelled to counter Potter’s hate with this speech:
“This rabble you speak of Mr. Potter do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this town well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have someplace where people can come without crawling to potter.

As I’ve said in my other post, George hates the Building and Loan and Bedford Falls for that matter, but early in the film his father schools him about the importance of the work that he is struggling for:

George Bailey: I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office…
Oh, I’m sorry, Pop, I didn’t mean it that way, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe…I’d go crazy.
I…I wanna do something big and something important.
Peter Bailey: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge.
It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace.
And we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.

Later in the movie, George recognizes what his father accomplished when he says, “He did help a few people get out of your slums Mr. Potter.”

Mr. Martini, an Italian immigrant, earlier in the film praises George for what he’s done for him through the simple act of a reasonable mortgage-
SCHULTZ: Martini, you rented a new house?
(To George)
You hear what he say, Mr. Bailey?
GEORGE: What’s that?
MARTINI: I own the house. Me, Giuseppe Martini. I own my own house. No more we live like pigs in this a Potter’s Field.

The success of Bailey Park, George’s moderately priced housing development’s success is demonstrated in this exchange between Potter and his rent collector:
REINEMAN: Look, Mr. Potter, it’s no skin off my nose. I’m just your little rent collector. But you can’t laugh off this Bailey Park any more. Look at it.
A buzzer is heard, and Potter snaps on the Dictaphone on his desk.
SECRETARY’S VOICE: Congressman Blatz is here to see you.
POTTER (to Dictaphone): Oh, tell the congressman to wait.
(To Reineman)
Go on.
REINEMAN: Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there.
(Indicating map)
There’s the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter’s Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!
POTTER: Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven’t made a dime out of it.
REINEMAN: You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter.  . .
POTTER (interrupting): Well, you are not me.
REINEMAN (as he leaves): As I say, it’s no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

A couple important pieces in this section. Mr. Potter gets a visit from a Senator and because he is such a powerful figure with political ties simply tells his secretary nonchalantly to have the Senator wait. The Senator is treated as if he’s simply another of Potter’s henchmen. Also in that scene, Potter’s obsession with maximizing profit is shown. He can’t comprehend that the good the Baileys have done matters AT ALL because they do not personally gain from it. In a way, this single line sums up Mr. Potters world view and is at the heart of much of what all the anger toward banks and corporations with Occupy Wall Street is about, too. Community good isn’t part of the equation for today’s corporations. Maximizing profit is the ONLY driver, just like with Mr. Potter.

This kind of approach to running the world is shown to be the horror that it is in Pottersville after George is granted his wish to never have been born. Instead of Bailey Park with its affordable housing, we get the slums and ramshackle hovels that Mr. Potter rents out. People in this version of the world barely scrape by in a subsistence manner and never have access to their own homes or a piece of the dream. It is in fact just a nightmare where Mr. Potter gets richer and everyone else suffers.

George Bailey is a reluctant spokesperson for the 99% and his Savings and Loan is really very much like a Credit Union. In this scene as a run on the bank is about to take place, George describes what the pooling of all his neighbors’ money is doing in Bedford Falls:
GEORGE: No, but you . . . you . . . you’re thinking of this place all wrong. As if I had the money back in a safe. The money’s not here. Your money’s in Joe’s house . . . (to one of the men) . . . right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and a hundred others.
Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can. Now what are you going to do? Foreclose on them?
In a way, George is also being prophetic about the credit crisis we’ve seen in the past few years as the largest corporate banks sit on cash like hoarders while small businesses suffer and people lose their houses. The Bailey Building and Loan, like Credit Unions use our investments to help others in our community buy their home or improve their home or send their kids to college.

Ultimately, It’s a Wonderful Life has a hopeful message about brotherhood and community, but in a way, it’s the dark parts that teach us the most about the kind of world we want. The 99% and the Occupy Wall Street folks and I want a world like Bedford Falls NOT Pottersville.

A couple years ago, New York Times film critic AO Scott made a video about It’s a Wonderful Life

AND, the FBI thought that this little movie was Communist propaganda

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It’s a Wonderful Life is better than you think it is – by guest Dan Gillotte

It’s a Wonderful Life is better than you think it is #1: George HATES Bedford Falls (Fucking HATES it.)

Mr. Potter is a horrific, cruel and cold villain, one of screen’s best, if you ask me, BUT in a particularly chilling and dark scene, Potter does what villains in most movies never do. He sizes up George Bailey, our protagonist, and tells the truth about him. Potter honestly and truthfully states George’s situation back to him. (this link is to a colorized version, but the acting is superb… the main part to focus on is from 1:29-2:40, though it’s all great.)

“Now, let’s look at your side.
Young man, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, married, making say…forty a week…

Out of which, after supporting your mother and paying your bills, you’re able to keep,
say ten, if you skimp. A child or two comes along, and you won’t even be able to save the ten.

Now, if this young man of twenty-eight was a common, ordinary yokel, I’d say he was doing fine. But, George Bailey is not a common, ordinary yokel. He’s an intelligent, smart, ambitious young man, who hates his job, who hates the Building and Loan, almost as much as I do.

A young man who’s been dying to get out on his own ever since he was born.

A young man…the smartest one of the crowd, mind you, a young man who has to sit by and
watch his friends go places, because he’s trapped.

Yes, sir, trapped into frittering his life away playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic-eaters.

Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?”

George gets mad, but he can’t disagree. Potter is as evil as anything, but he does not, in this, exaggerate. George Bailey does hate the Building and loan. He does hate Bedford Falls, that “crummy little town” that he can’t wait to shake the dust of off himself and see the world.

Early in the film when he’s a young man he asks Uncle Billy, “You know what the 3 most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.” His desire to flee and see the world is optimistic and positive, but also desperate. He NEEDS to leave Bedford Falls. “I, uh, I just feel like if I didn’t get away, I’d bust.”
“I couldn’t face being cooped up in a shabby little office. I want to do something big something important.”

Yep, he FUCKING HATES IT. But George doesn’t get away from Bedford Falls because It’s a Wonderful Life has to make him suffer.

There are several instances in the film when George is on the precipice of getting his wish to finally leave Bedford Falls for a better life and something comes up, his father dying, having no money for college, the run on the banks that ruins his planned world tour honeymoon, etc.

And only at the very end is he glad for the hard choices he made. Throughout the film he is tortured by the choices he makes and what choices he feels he is forced to make. Throughout the entire film he is conflicted, frequently mad and still SO desperate to GET OUT! It takes a near suicide and a vision of a horrid dytopia where evil reigns for George to think that maybe he’s better off alive. George has to see people he loves destroyed in terrible ways before deciding his life was worth it and That’s some straight up dark shit.

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