Tag Archives: It’s a Wonderful Life

The Best Picture Winners That Never Were – Part One (1946 – 1990)

apocalypsenow

“…it’s judgement that defeats us.”

Everyone loves a list. I’m starting to quite enjoy writing them too. And seeing as it’s that time of year, it’s about time for an Oscars list. Given the atmosphere surrounding the awards nowadays – a lack of diversity, no Oscars for DiCaprio and yet another Interracial Double Penetrations sequel being left off the damn best films list – I thought up a list of “Also Ran” films. Those that should’ve won the Best Picture award the year they were nominated over what actually won.

As per usual, I used my very simple, very unscientific methods and rules to put this list together, which are as follows. Firstly, I only picked ten. From that list of films I’ve only picked ones that were nominated for the award but lost. If I didn’t, it’d be a list filled with films like Fight Club, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and American History X. Second, the list is based on nothing but my opinion. Hopefully you’ll agree with me in my choices, but its ok if you don’t.

So, without further ado, let’s crack on with those films robbed of the most coveted of prizes.


1946 – It’s a Wonderful Life

Losing out to The Best Years of Our Lives, this timeless Christmas movie is the first of a few films on this list with the same quality; years, nay decades after the film lost out on its Oscar, its quality and staying power far surpasses that of the film that beat it.

Frank Capra’s Christmas movie about a man who is shown just how bad life for everyone else would have been if he hadn’t existed has far outlasted William Wyler’s post-World War II drama. All these years later, while Best Years is still a great film, It’s a Wonderful Life is a time tested, sitcom approved, feel good journey worthy of its spot on BBC One every Christmas.


1971 – A Clockwork Orange

Ok, this one was tough. I wasn’t sure it should be here but after a lot of thinking, and watching both films again just because I can, I truly believe that Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was robbed to give the statue to William Friedkin’s The French Connection.

I’m very aware that this is likely to get me lynched. Sadly this probably won’t be the last film on the list to do that. Even worse because you won’t find Friedkin’s The Exorcist anywhere on this list. But I simply didn’t think that ’71s Oscar winner – while well made and gritty – was the better of these two films. Kubrick’s social commentary is just as scathing, and maybe more relevant today than it ever has been.


1979 – Apocalypse Now

Beaten out by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s divorce drama Kramer Vs. Kramer, which also took a crap load of other Oscars for its director and stars; Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic is undoubtedly one of the greatest war films, if not one of the greatest films, ever made. Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the film, like its source material, plays with the idea that the line between being a civilised member of society and being a savage is much thinner and much more delicate than we are willing to believe.

Another in the list that is still relevant and poignant today, far more than the film that beat it to the podium that year, Apocalypse Now is a genuinely timeless film that while it still gets the recognition it deserves today. It definitely deserved the statue that year.


1989 – Born on the Fourth of July

Another tough decision. Beaten to the finish by Driving Miss Daisy, Oliver Stone’s biopic about paralysed Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic who, feeling betrayed by his country after he returns from the war, becomes an anti-war/pro-human rights activist. It was the perfect follow up to the director’s Oscar winning Platoon from a couple of years previously.

Obviously, both this and Miss Daisy had hard pressing issues that needed to be brought into the light, of course they did. And I’m not naive enough to say that the racially charged drama didn’t or doesn’t have a place on film history; but while the issues of race in America have been regularly brought into the spotlight by those in Hollywood, those hitting veterans – injured or not – seem to have been forgotten.


1990 – Goodfellas

No, I don’t think Dances With Wolves deserved an Oscar. I don’t even think it’s a good film all on its own. But when you compare it to one of the greatest crime dramas ever made that doesn’t have Godfather in the title, it’s just bloody awful. I mean come on, four hours of Kevin Costner prancing around like Mowgli from The Jungle Book making friends with Wolves when everyone else is busy fighting a war? Just… No.

Fellas on the other hand, is an hour and a half shorter for a start – I mean seriously, I can watch this and Another 48 Hours in the time Wolves is on for – but it doesn’t have a single frame that I’d take out of it. A perfect cast and a perfect script, perfectly directed and worthy of repeat viewings. I’m using the word again, but it’s timeless, it’s a classic. Dances With Wolves is boring, forgettable nonsense in comparison.


So what do you think? Am I right? Wrong? Racist? Either way, I’ve got more to come…

To Be Continued…

Best Films on TV: Christmas to New Year 2015

90545-050-3A0EF478

Every 23rd December, for the past three years, we have released our pick of the films being shown on freeview TV over the Christmas schedule. Last year’s choices were made by Paul Field, but returning to this Failed Critics Christmas tradition is site editor Owen Hughes. It practically guarantees less Carry On movies and probably more big budget blockbusters…

A couple of years ago, we were regularly posting lists of films that we would recommend for the week ahead. Oh, how times have changed. It seems these days that with the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, we’re less bothered about waiting for films to be shown on TV and instead watching whatever we want, whenever we want. Which is great! Except that it’s reduced these articles to annual posts.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a look through the TV schedule to see what tat is being pushed on us this year and tried to sift out some of the dross (although Steve will be pleased to know that The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is being shown on Christmas day at 11am) and chosen five decent-to-good movies each day in the run up to 2016.

Christmas Eve –

Finishing work early tomorrow? Want something to just stick on when you walk through the door to get you in a Christmassy mood? Well, stick Channel 4 on at 2.15pm and get straight into the classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Alternatively, if you’re sick of that bloody film already, try out the Robert Zemeckis animated A Christmas Carol over on BBC One at 2.20pm (it’s the version that I talked about on our Winterval Podcast this week). If you prefer your Scrooge’s to be real rather than cartoony, then stay up wrapping last minute presents until half past midnight for the 1951 version on Channel 5 starring Alastair Sim as the miserly grump. For those of us who relate a bit too much to Ebenezer, and can’t be arsed with this Christmas nonsense – bah humbug – then watch Karl Urban as the Mega-City One Judge, jury and executioner in Dredd on Film4 at 11.25pm or switch over to BBC Two five minutes later for one of Hitchcock’s best with Dial M For Murder.

Christmas Day –

We’ve had two of the most well known adaptations of Dickens’ novel, so why not start the afternoon with Channel 4 and give the other two a watch on Christmas day itself? Starting at 1.45pm with The Muppet Christmas Carol, they swiftly follow it up at 3.45pm with Bill Murray doing his thing in Scrooged. Later that evening, BBC Three have a double bill of animated movies that are safe to watch with granny, the kids, your other half or on your todd with Toy Story at 7.30pm and How To Train Your Dragon straight after it at 8.45pm. For something not at all schmalzy, sentimental or saccharine, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until much, much later in the evening as the Coen Brothers change the mood entirely at 00.05am on ITV4 with the hilarious 90’s comedy The Big Lebowski. Or, like, that’s just my opinion that it’s hilarious, man…

JURASSIC PARK, 1993. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Boxing Day –

It may be somewhat twee, and I’m aware Wes Anderson isn’t for everyone, but if there’s a better film on TV for you to crawl out of your hangover with after getting up extremely late than Fantastic Mr Fox on Channel 4 at 11.25am, then I couldn’t find it. You can time it right to fit in a quick turkey sarnie and a fresh cuppa between it finishing and Jurassic Park starting over on ITV at 1.20pm, reminding you just how good the original was after Jurassic World swept the box office clean earlier this year. Really though, you should be watching the football. I believe that’s what Boxing Day was invented for. Once Final Score has finished, switch over to the horror channel at 6.40pm for the intense Spielberg thriller, Duel. Film4 can round off a very late evening with two modern British classics in crime thriller Sexy Beast (11.25pm) and Scottish sci-fi – and one of our favourite movies of 2014 – Under The Skin (1.10am).

Sunday 27th –

That’s the Christmas movies well and truly out of the way now and it’s Studio Ghibli to the rescue as we kick off the day with one of their most celebrated works, the charming My Neighbour Totoro. Flick over to Channel 5 at 2.25pm to see one of the greatest movies ever made, John Ford’s most revered western, The Searchers, starring the Duke himself, John Wayne. Starting at 4.05pm on BBC One is a fantasy movie returning to where it all began with Oz: The Great and the Powerful, which is actually quite a nice, funny little family movie. You can choose how you’d like to round off the day with one of the following two. Personally, I’d go for one of my favourite discoveries of the year, Cronenberg’s body-horror Videodrome (the horror channel, 10.50pm) over Channel 4’s showing of The Inbetweeners 2 at 11.10pm, that both Steve and Callum tore to pieces.

Monday 28th –

You maniacs! You haven’t yet set your reminder! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to Hell! Well, at least until Monday morning at 10.15am when you switch on More4 and watch the original Planet of the Apes – AND THEN later that day you’ll be fully prepared for Film4’s 6.55pm screening of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At 8.30pm on BBC Three is Kung Fu Panda 2 (read why that’s a good thing in Callum’s brilliant piece from his DreamWorks retrospective). For something a little more… grown up… Steven Soderbergh’s movie Behind The Candelabra (BBC Two, 9pm) features one of Michael Douglas’s best ever performances. Finally, if the forgettable Terminator Genisys hasn’t already disappeared entirely from your memory, then James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day will wipe the last remnants from your mind on Film4 at 1.15am.

Tuesday 29th –

Channel 4, 2.30pm, Coraline. Film4, 6.10pm, Master & Commander. ITV2, 9pm, The Shawshank Redemption. ITV, 10.25pm, American Pie. My pick of the lot: Channel 5, 10.45pm, Erin Brockovich. That’s your lot. We’re running out of quality films on TV as the year comes to a close and I’m running out of patience trying to make these films sound interesting. However, if you think Tuesday’s films read a lot like a list of movies you’re glad that you’ve seen once but probably have no intention of ever watching again, just wait until you see what’s lined up for Wednesday…

Wednesday 30th –hobbit

We’ve got a run that starts with ITV2 at 5.45pm and Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth (that I actually thought was quite enjoyable) with The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyFilm4 will help change the tone to something surprisingly fun with Denzel and Wahlberg teaming up for crime-comedy Two Guns at 9pm. Tune into the horror channel at 10.45pm for some Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse horror at Planet Terror. Furious 7 may have already been voted for in quite a number of people’s submissions to the Failed Critics Awards, but Channel 4 go back a couple of sequels to Fast Five at 11.05pm. Afterwards, prepare for Joy with Film4’s showing of The Fighter at 1.10am.

Thursday 31st –

And here we are! New Year’s Eve and what better way to see off 2015 than with, er, well, The Adventures of TinTin on BBC One at 10.55am. (That was a rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.) More adventures are afoot with a rare screening of The Rocketeer on Channel 4 at 1.10pm and – a Pixar film guaranteed to make you cry – Up, over on BBC One at 2.50pm. I will be at a New Years party by this time (oooh get me) but if you fancy a night in watching movies to bring in 2016, then BBC4 honour Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away this year, with Made In Dagenham at 10.55pm. Film4 are going slightly more modern and again doing the whole David O. Russell / Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper / Robert De Niro thing and are showing Silver Linings Playbook at 11.10pm.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Battle of the Four Critics

get santaWelcome one and all to a very merry penultimate edition of the Failed Critics Podcast 2014! We took a couple of weeks off in a bid to resolve our audio issues, but have returned just in time for Christmas. Joining stalwarts Owen and Steve are our special guests Matt Lambourne and Callum Petch.

Foregoing any news this week, mainly in an effort to keep spirits high, we kick off the festivities with a twist on the regular quiz theme. The team run through which Christmas movies they’ve been watching on the run up to the big day and there’s even time to squeeze in a review of the most anticipated December blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s final journey into Middle Earth.

We’ve even brought you an early triple bill shaped present for such a joyous occasion as this. Steve, Owen, Matt and Calum pick their three favourite films featuring actors who have famously played Santa Claus on the big screen; Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street), James Cosmo (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Tom Hanks (The Polar Express) respectively.

Join us next week for the end of year special as we reveal the winners (and losers) of the Failed Critics Awards 2014!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Best Film on TV: Christmas Special

With a festive season packed full of brilliant films on TV, Owen picks the cream of the crop for you over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself and Boxing Day. Whilst it’s 4 days shorter than the usual Best Film on TV article, it’s practically bursting with quality movies, starting with….

manchurian-candidate1Christmas Eve –

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (ITV4, 12.10) – A favourite of ITV’s as it seems to be on at least once a month recently, it doesn’t make it any less worthy of your time. Starring Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and ol’ Blue Eyes himself Frank Sinatra, this psychological thriller about a returning POW who’s been brainwashed by the commie Koreans is as nightmarish as it is absorbing.

It’s a Wonderful Life (Channel 4, 13.10) – Whilst the proposed sequel is still some way off development, it wouldn’t be Christmas if this wasn’t on TV now would it? Last year we actually outlined exactly why you should see this in James and Kate’s 12 Days of Christmas series.

Fantasia (BBC2, 16.15) – Believe it or not, this is actually the terrestrial premiere of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, despite the fact it was released some 73 years ago now. Blending classical music with spell-binding, magical animation, it’s sure to draw in a huge number of viewers young and old to marvel at the splendour of classic Disney.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Film4, 00.45) – Adapted into a feature film by Finnish director Jalmari Helander from his own short film, this is a Christmas film like very few others! As a horror-comedy about a young boy that discovers the real Santa, an evil child stealing monster, is trapped in the mountains of his home town, it quite obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously! You will either love or hate it. If you stay up to watch it, it could even be the first film you see on Christmas day!

Children of Men (ITV4, 01.05) – Not Christmassy at all. In fact, I don’t even like Children of Men. However, director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity made it into the top 10 of 2013 in the Sight and Sound list and was mostly enjoyed by our podcast team and by Carole, our roving reporter at the London Film Festival, so one of his earlier sci-fi films about a world where women have stopped giving birth may appeal to the cinephiles out there looking for something a little bleaker this Christmas.

theredshoes2Christmas Day –

The Red Shoes (BBC2, 08.50) – The best Powell & Pressburger film that I’ve seen, The Red Shoes is about a ballet.. but don’t let that put you off like it threatened to do to the uncultured swine that I am. It is truly excellent. The actual ballet scene itself is mesmerising. The hissing romance between its two superb lead performers, Moira Shearer and Marius Goring, stuns the film into one of the most enchanting and mesmerising I’ve ever seen. Atmospheric, beautiful, tense. amazing, spectacular, illuminating… I could go on!

Gone With The Wind (Five, 10.15) – The episodic structure to this epic Civil War southern romance story from 1939 starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh means you can quite easily dip in and out of it between your view getting blocked by nan standing in front of the tele and helping with the tidying up without really missing much. If you make it to the end in one sitting, complete with sitting through ad breaks, then frankly my dear, I’m proud of you.

Casablanca (Five, 14.35) – Another film I don’t care too much for but is hailed as a classic is Michael Curtiz’s Oscar winning war time political-romance drama Casablanca. Taking a look at the profile page for the film over on Letterboxd, only one reviewer has given it anything less than 5 stars; even they gave it 4.5 stars! That, my friends, is a rarity. I would wager it will be a while again before I see the likes of that. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow.. ok I’ll drop the cheesy quote-jokes.

Toy Story 3 (BBC1, 15.20) – Whilst it has been argued that Pixar are on the decline as of late, it’s hard to beat watching one of their films on Christmas Day. BBC seem to have developed a tradition of showing their movies on the 25th December, and this year they have decided to air the eleventh highest grossing film of all time. Indeed it was even nominated for an Oscar in 2011! Financial and critical success might suggest Pixar are far from a spent force, but nothing they have released since the third instalment of their Toy Story franchise has come close to matching its achievements.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (Channel 4, 16.35) – As I’m yet to pick a proper Christmas family movie, taking a peak at the schedule, it’s got to be the Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why you should be watching this. It’s plainly obvious.

Big Fish (Film4, 16.50) – Ewan McGregor plays the son of a dying father in this fantasy adventure film. I don’t tend to pick many Tim Burton films for these Best Film on TV articles, however I will make an exception for Big Fish as it’s the time of forgiving. It might just be the last good film he made.

Ghostbusters (5*, 16.55) – If Big Fish.. ain’t your thing.. what else should you watch? Ghostbusters!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC3, 20.30) – Ah, good ol’ Indy. Reliable, entertaining Indy. Proper Christmas day evening adventure film Indy. If you, like many other incorrect people, consider Temple of Doom to be a bit shit, you could wait for The Last Crusade on Boxing day at 20.00… or even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is on BBC1 at 18.05 on Friday.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (BBC1, 00.40) – With the release of Anchorman 2 last week, the long awaited sequel, BBC1 are giving you the chance to go back and watch where it all started. Arguably Will Ferrell’s greatest comedy creation pits the out-dated news anchor against an up-and-coming female counterpart. If you’ve had a bit to drink, just realised the time, and can stomach staying up just another hour and a half, then this is the perfect tonic.

The Host (2006) (Film4, 01.30) – As per my review on the latest podcast, this South Korean creature-feature about a mutant creature from the Han River in Seoul is tons of fun. Grotesque and hilarious, with a great cast of people recognisable from lots of other Korean films, such as Kang-ho Song (the vampiric priest in Thirst, and also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), and Doona Bae (who was also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance as well as one of the best films of the year in Cloud Atlas), it is rightly regarded as one of the country’s best.

BenHurBoxing Day –

Ben Hur (More4, 11.45) – It’s just not Christmas without Ben Hur. Sword and sandal epics are what Christmas TV needs; Ben Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra, Jason and the Argonauts, etc. It’s the time of year where it’s acceptable to watch an hour or so of a 3+ hour long film before giving in and changing channel, yet still feeling proud of yourself. Hopefully you time it just right so that you tune in just as the chariot race scene begins.

Paths of Glory (ITV4, 12.05) – Stanley Kubrick is a favourite of the Failed Critics team, even being inducted into our illustrious Corridor of Praise this year. His anti-war film from 1957 may be rather more tame than his more famous war film, Full Metal Jacket, but it is still just as impressive. It pits Kirk Douglas as the commanding officer, defending a group of soldiers facing a court martial. It’s bold and powerful, arguably the best of Kubrick’s pre-Strangelove films.

Fantastic Mr Fox (More4, 18.10) – Wes Anderson can be an acquired taste for some, but his quirky stop-motion animation based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book is a great film to wind down to after a long and tiring day of unwrapping presents, cooking a massive dinner, and pretending to be pleased at your annual gift set of Dove for Men from Boots.

Sightseers (Film4, 21.00) – As far as road trip films go, Ben Wheatley’s sinister and darkly comic story of a young couple from Redditch, serial killing their way through a caravan holiday, is one of the best, most disturbing and hilarious of its kind. It even made it onto James’ top 10 of 2012 list last year. If that isn’t recommendation enough, then I don’t know what is.

Horror of Dracula (BBC2, 00.10) – Remember when you were young and these Hammer Horror films used to be on TV really late at night? Me neither. I’m too young for that. But my dad assures me this was the case. Dracula, starring Sir Christopher Lee as in the titular role and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, is arguably one of their finest. Certainly one of their most iconic and justifiably so.

Best Films on TV. Week commencing 11th February 2013.

Our #bestfilmsontv list for this week is chosen by our esteemed leader James Diamond. Again. He’s a bit of a control freak. Follow @failedcritics for daily reminders. 

300 This is SpartaMonday 10th February – Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Film 4 at 11.10pm)

I know it’s a little risky (slash unprofessional) picking a film that I haven’t seen, but this methodical Turkish crime thriller comes very highly recommended, and was included in the Sight & Sound Top Ten of 2012. So it must be pretty decent.

Tuesday 11th February – Die Hard (Film 4 at 9pm)

Luckily I’ve no such problems of reaching around in the dark for today’s choice. I’m currently writing this blog while stewing over the news that Die Hard 5 (can we all stop with the ridiculous A Good Day to Die Hard nonsense please?) has been cut by the studio to get a 12a certificate in the UK; despite the fact that our American cousins get the full R-rated shebang. They also get Obama as their president, and breakfast buffet bars in strip-clubs. It’s so unfair! Anyway, watch this and remember when people used to make adult films and didn’t try to market them to 12-year-olds

Wednesday 13th February – The Book of Eli (5* at 9pm)

I have trawled every free-to-air channel for a film to recommend on Wednesday, and for the second time this week I’ve had to resort to a film I’ve still not seen (it’s in a pile of blu-rays I heartlessly snatched for a pittance in a closing down Blockbusters). In a post-apocalyptic future, Denzel Washington travels across a scorched earth protecting a book from falling into the hands of a psychotic Gary Oldman (presumably in Leon-esque overdrive).

Thursday 14th February – Brief Encounter (Film 4 at 3.25pm)

There’s no other choice for Valentine’s Day than David Lean’s wonderful film (from a Noel Coward screenplay) about love, duty, and old-fashioned values. In the same way that It’s a Wonderful Life is the definitive Christmas film despite it’s very dark moments; Brief Encounter is a classic romantic story, without much in the way of sex, kissing, or even holding hands. It’s the story of a doomed and rather mundane not-quite-affair, and it’s really rather heart-breaking.

Friday 15th February – The Last Boy Scout (ITV1 at 10.35pm)

Speaking of It’s a Wonderful Life, you can catch it today at 2.50pm on Film 4 if you’re the type of weirdo who watches Christmas films in February. Otherwise, why not save your pocket money this week and forego the latest sham of a Die Hard film, and watch Bruce Willis as God truly intended. The Last Boy Scout is Tony Scott at his best, and features possibly the only Willis movie cop better than John McClane. Add a script penned by Shane Black and you have genuine (say it like an American, GEN-YOU-WINE) popcorn-eating, eyes-glued-to-the-screen classic.

Saturday 16th February – 300 (TCM at 9pm)

As long as Zak Snyder lives, he will never make a film as unashamedly spectacular, homoerotic, and brilliant as 300. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the Spartans’ heroic stand against Xerxes fortress, it is the film that launched countless memes and resulted in me shouting “Tonight we dine in hell!” at my daughter on more than one occasion. Gerard Butler should just play King Leonidis in every paint-by-numbers rom-com he does in future.

Sunday 17th February – True Lies (Channel 4 at 10.55pm)

The last decent film that James Cameron made was nearly 20 years ago, but what a film. Arnie plays the mild-mannered computer salesman (in as close a performance as Arnold gets to acting), who has to juggle tracking down terrorists who’ve stolen nuclear weapons, while trying to frighten his wife into not having an affair. Explosions and hilarity ensue. True Lies is, and I say this without a hint of sarcasm, as close as James Cameron gets to Alfred Hitchcock.

It’s a Wonderful Film!

its-a-wonderful-lifeWe’ve reached the end of our 12 Days of Christmas Films, and I cannot think of a better film to round off our festive series. It’s a special kind of film that makes you well up just reading the plot summary on Wikipedia. Or so someone told me. No, you’re trying to stop tears saturating your keyboard!

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (a worthy prefix in the style of ‘William Shakespeare’s Hamlet’, or ‘Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’) is simply the greatest Christmas film of all time. It might not feature Santa Claus, someone falling off of a roof putting up decorations, or even take place predominantly over the Christmas period – but its simple message is one that everyone needs reminding of at this particular time of the year.

James Stewart (in his favourite role) plays George Bailey; simply the most selfless and implausibly kind person who ever lived. Seriously, he makes Mother Theresa look like Tony Soprano. At the start of the film an angel (Second Class) by the name of Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) is tasked with saving George as he contemplates taking his own life. Clarence’s line-managers (it helps me to put religion into context by imagining the afterlife as some higher form of bureaucracy) review the life of George Bailey, and the next 50 minutes or so are some of the most depressing and asphyxiating cinema ever committed to film.

George saves his brother’s life and, in doing so, loses his hearing in one ear; George stays at home to run the family business; George gives his college money to his brother; George sacrifices his honeymoon fund to save the townspeople. It’s one crushing disappointment after another, and George remains stoic above it all. He’s not even one of those people who uses their goodwill as a stick to beat the rest of us feckless bastards with.

It all finally gets too much for George though, leading to him meeting Clarence on the bridge where he is about to kill himself. Clarence proceeds to show George how Bedford Falls would look if he had never existed. It’s here where we learn (or are at least reminded of a) vital truth about our humanity. In recent years the trend has been to embrace science, with all its logic and reason rightfully highlighting how insignificant we are in the broad history of the universe. Compared to the alternative, that is a very good thing. But this film’s central message that “no man is a failure who has friends” is one even rabid atheists can use to embrace their humanity at Christmas.

This is a short piece for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m writing this on Christmas Eve before I go to the cinema with my family to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. And I’m not even dressed yet. More importantly though, every extra word I write about this masterpiece is wasted computer ink compared to actually watching it for yourselves. So turn off your computer/phone/second-screen device, track down a copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, and hold your friends and family close.

Merry Christmas!

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far, or catch White Christmas most days on Sky Movies Classics.

Failed Critics Podcast: Christmas Triple Bill

Home Alone Christmas TreeHo ho ho! Merry Christmas to every single one of our beautiful listeners (we hope the less good-looking ones have a decent time as well), and as an early Christmas present to you we present our favourite Christmas films. Well, three of us do anyway. One of the team decided that they wanted to be different and chose some films that might have a bit of snow in them, possibly a tree in one of the scenes. I wonder who…

We’ll be back on New Years Eve with a review of the year destined to be bigger, more bloated, and even less self-aware than late-period Marlon Brando. There’s still one more day to vote for you favourite films of 2012 by visiting the site here – rock the vote!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Whine On You Crazy Diamond: The Cinema

This week’s WOYCD (or “What? I don’t get it. Who the fuck are Pink Floyd?”, as all the cool kids are calling it) is going to be shorter, more confused, and generally less-polished than normal due to the real-life trinity of work, illness, and family celebrations encroaching into my fantasy life as a widely-read opinion columnist.

Not only have I not had time to write about film, I’ve barely had time to watch one. It’s been months since I went a week without visiting the cinema, and it’s affected me so much I’ve accidentally joined a gym. Hopefully normal service resumes this week – I long for the popcorn-stickiness of a neglected carpet; the dull, disconcerting murmur of a patron patiently explaining a film’s intricacies to their partner; the patronising warnings about piracy killing films after I’ve chosen to give the best part of a tenner to the film industry.

I was even watching Orange Film adverts on YouTube last night.

Cinemas are just the perfect places to watch films. Not all cinemas mind, and on this week’s Failed Critics Review we discussed the pros and cons of the cinema chains we happen to frequent.

I’ve watched films on DVD and Blu-ray at home, streamed down the internet to my laptop, and even on my mobile phone this year. I’ve been drunk, half-asleep, keeping an eye on footballs scores, and wrestling with a toddler at various times, and more often than not I have paused a film to make a drink, go to the toilet, or answer the door and have to tell another chugger to LEAVE ME ALONE IN MY OWN HOUSE YOU BASTARDS. It’s really quite difficult to give your full attention to a film unless you take away all other potential distractions.

That’s why I love the cinema. I love the informal agreement between strangers that (in most cases) we will do our very best not to disturb each other. I love that I feel pressure not to get my phone out to check the time, or my Twitter timeline, or just have a quick go on Temple Run because this film’s just got a little boring.

Watching in a cinema forces you to pay attention to a film, and that can only be a good, nay, wonderful thing. I’m so desperate to get back to the cinema I nearly went to see Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. Nearly.

I know it’s not for everyone, and I can sympathise with the thousands of misanthropes out there who would rather grate their own knuckles than risk interacting with the ‘general public’. But if you really want to appreciate a film to its fullest extent, there is no substitute.

This week’s viewing:

DVD – New out this week is the reasonably entertaining Men in Black 3. Josh Brolin joins the cast as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jone’s ‘K’, and his impersonation is the highlight of the film. Some good ideas, executed with varying degrees of success. If you’re after a Blu-ray reissue of a classic, there are a number of options – the best probably being The Evil Dead in steelbook, or the 65th Anniversary Edition of Frank Capra’s peerless It’s a Wonderful Life.

TV – The Gunfighter (1950), Film4, Friday 9 November. I’m not going to apologise for what is a very personal choice. This western, starring Gregory Peck, is a wonderful example of the genre. Like the more highly-regarded High Noon, this is a film that tries to look behind the myths of the legends of the Old West.

Lovefilm Instant – God Bless America (2011). The latest film from Bobcat Goldthwait – known to most of you I’m sure as ‘the guy with the weird voice in Police Academy’. The film stars Joel Murray (Freddie Rumsen in TV’s Mad Men) as an office worker who snaps after being told he has terminal cancer and goes on the run with a schoolgirl – killing anyone who annoys them. Entertaining, but at times comes across as being written by a teenager who thinks they’re cooler than everyone else.

Netflix UK – Be Kind Rewind (2008). From the mind of Michel Gondry, Be Kind Rewind tells the story of Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) who accidentally wipe the videotapes in the video store where Mike works. Instead of coming clean, they recreate the films at the local scrapyard, and the customers love the ‘reimagined’ versions. It’s far from perfect, but worth watching for the recreations alone. Gondry’s visual style has never been better.