Film Follies, How Have You Not Seen That?

How Have You Not Seen That?-It’s a Wonderful Life

Christmas is a time of traditions; opening presents, decorating the tree, ugly sweaters, every year when the calendar turns to December we embrace the season and give in to the annual rites. And while many of these traditions go back centuries or even millennia every generation adds to what has come before with its own special customs. It is in this fashion that NBC’s annual Christmas Eve airing of It’s a Wonderful Life has made its way into the pantheon of American Christmas traditions. Gathering around the television to watch this amazing and poignant film with my parents each year is one of the highlights of my holiday season, a sentiment that is shared by millions of families across the country. Which is why, when I encounter someone who hasn’t seen this holiday masterpiece, I can’t help but ask How Have You Not Seen That?
Directed by Frank Capra, the master of Americana, It’s a Wonderful Life explores the question that has been asked by everyone in their darkest hour, “Maybe everyone would be better off if I’d never been born.” At its heart, the film is a meditation on sacrifice and the difference one life can make. It is arguably the greatest work of one of the greatest pairings in the history of American Cinema (Capra and leading man Jimmy Stewart.)
While the above statement could be just the opinion of an overly sentimental reviewer, what is not simply a matter of opinion is this film’s awards pedigree. For instance, the American Film Institute seems to agree with me, having placed It’s a Wonderful Life in every one of their top ten lists for which it was eligible. The movie was nominated for multiple Oscars and won Capra the Golden Globe for Best Director. It was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1990. If you’d really like to see its global appeal, the film won best foreign film at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, the Spanish version of the Oscars.
More than simply a classic film with star power and a shelf full of awards, It’s A Wonderful Life has become a cultural touchstone. Hundreds of Movies, television shows, and even books have paid homage to the film, either by re-using its premise or using it as a reference to reinforce their own themes. If you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life, odds are you’ve seen one of these impersonators.
Really this is a film that should have already been seen by anyone over the age of five. And, if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen it yet, you should go watch it right this second. Then pull out your phone, call up whoever raised you, and chastise them for not exposing you to it in your youth. Because I have to tell you the first time you spend a Christmas holiday with your significant other’s family and they bring up this iconic film they’re going to look at you and ask It’s a Wonderful Life, How Have You Not Seen That?