The Least Christmasy Christmas Movie.
Last night, the husband and I watched It's a Wonderful Life. This was the first time either of us had seen anything more than snatches of the film. We sat down and watched the whole thing, uncut and commercial free. Watching it was enchanting; a far cry from the saccharine love-fest you might have in mind.
I think the film breaks out of the narrow classification of "holiday movie". It's much more complex than that. George Bailey is a wonderfully sympathetic character with a carefully crafted life story, and I can't imagine anyone other than Jimmy Stewart in the part. The other characters were tightly written with no fluff or wasted dialog.
It also struck me that the "what the world would be like if George was never born" theme was a theme that had been or would be commonly used in science fiction. It certainly hints very strongly of the "alternate reality" or "parallel universe" ideas.
Lastly, I might be wrong, but I think that It's a Wonderful Life actually had Jesus as a character, though IMDB says "Senior Angel (voice)". He was the galaxy talking to Joseph. Think carefully now, how many popular Christmas movies actually roles for any of "Jesus, Mary and Joseph"?