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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

10 years of Flick Filosopher: not such a wonderful life

My 10-year celebration fell by the wayside last week while I was going crazy with awards-season screenings, but now I’m back this week with a look at some of the Christmas movies I reviewed in the early years of the site.

It’s Frank Capra’s other holiday classic, the one that folks tend to overlook when the Jimmy Stewart movie comes around… but I like it a lot more than It’s a Wonderful Life. From my review of Meet John Doe:

Meet John Doe could be remade today, and you’d barely need to change a word to have it still strike home. Corporate misbehavior, media circuses, consumerism, and wealthy fat-cats thinking they can speak for ordinary people — all things we unfortunately recognize today. The film’s morality is a lot more complicated than Life‘s, too — when Cooper threatens to expose Arnold’s plans, Arnold sets him back with this: At least Arnold believes in what he’s doing. John Doe is a fake. It’s a much more tangled dilemma — and much more realistic one — that drives “John Doe” to contemplate suicide than George Bailey faced. And Meet John Doe has a more overtly religious connection to Christmas as well: John Doe may end up crucified by the press and the public, but the truth of his message remains.

review of Meet John Doe, posted 12.01.99

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