A few years ago I was lucky enough to see It’s A Wonderful Life on the big screen at the Music Box in Chicago. I had always liked the movie, and associated it with Christmas time and my mom (more on that in a second), but that was about it. But something about being in the old theater in the darkness of a Chicago winter and seeing Jimmy Stewart’s face up on the big screen larger than life, made the movie sing for me in a way it hadn’t before.
I meant to make it an annual tradition to find it showing in a theater every year. And then I went to grad school. There are showings in Austin (at the Paramount I think), but I worked evenings and could never seem to make it work while I lived there. Which is I was extra excited to get my IFC Member newsletter (thanks again for my gift membership Jules!) announcing their annual showtimes of the movie.
One of the great things about living in NYC has been how close I live to my parents. If you’ve read this blog for awhile you know that while I lived in Chicago and Texas I would try to make it back east a couple of times a year and torture them by making them pose for ridiculous photos, or even better capturing candid shots of them unaware and then publishing them here. But now, I get to go on adventures with them much more frequently, and I get to include them in exploring my new city. And last night I got the extra treat of inviting my mom to see her favorite movie of all time on a big screen. (Well, I put an open invitation of Facebook, and she guilt tripped me for not inviting her directly first, but the end result is the same.)
After meeting her at the clock at Grand Central, where she was almost recruited into a group called the “Raging Grannies,” we headed downtown. In search of quick dinner, instead we found Rocco’s, where my mom declared it “smelled like Heaven,” and we had a very nutritious pre-movie meal:
And then of course we got popcorn at the theater to add some salt to counteract the sugar.
An added bonus to last night’s screening was the presence of Donna Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, to introduce the movie and answer questions about her mom.
She pointed out little details I hadn’t noticed before, like the little lasso hanging down between George and Mary in the scene where she tells him she’s pregnant. But more than trivia, she set the tone very well for the movie by talking about how powerful it was for her to see a movie about the community spirit. And how luminous her mom was:
I even liked the Q&A (which almost never happens). Mostly because she answered my mom’s question. (After some guy in the crowd said, “the woman in the Santa hat has a question,” which pretty much made out night.
The movie itself somehow gets better every time I see it. Or, more likely, I understand it more every time. The last time I saw it in the theater I brought my boyfriend at the time, who was highly skeptical. He didn’t like Christmas movies, and he didn’t like sentimental things. But even he came out of the theater loving George Bailey’s story. Because it earns it’s sentimental ending by showing the real hardship and frustration it takes to be a decent man. Especially when fighting against forces more powerful then you will ever be. (It’s really hard not to read Mr. Potter as analogous to certain people officially granted power yesterday.) But, as Clarence’s inscription says:
I don’t have some grand conclusion really. I just woke up today, tired but happy I got to share this night with my mom. And then motivated by seeing she had already posted about going for a run this morning, because she is insane, but I love her.