For Round 1 of the Holiday Movie Tournament we'll be focusing on two questions.
Question 1: Why is this movie a good movie?
Question 2: Why is this movie better than the one it's up against?
Keep these two questions in mind as you read the arguments set forth by our two contestants and please remember to vote at the end.
Please remember to vote based on the argument presented and not just on which movie you like more!
Choosing where to start the praise for Home Alone is hard. It is the perfect holiday movie and I say that with no irony and no intention of hyperbole. The movie centers around a young child whose family ignores and berates him, likely for good reason as an 8 year old can be the worst. Through negligence and numerous miscues Kevin McCallister is left at home... alone...while his entire family goes on a transatlantic trip for the holidays. The movie plays out showing how sheltered Kevin goes about living on his own culminating in him defending his home through a series of humorous and intricate booby traps from nefarious robbers who have been casing his entire neighborhood. Reading only the premise Home Alone seems like a Nickelodeon made for T.V. movie but some sort of magic happened when all the elements of this film were brought together.
John Hughes wrote Home Alone as part of one of the greatest streaks of movies ever, a list which includes The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. As with those movies, the characters from Home Alone are what give the film it’s best quality. Charmingly played by the likes of Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern the clever dialogue and quotable lines permeate past the holidays and resonate with seemingly everyone, “Buzz your girlfriend, woof!” An underrated and oft forgotten aspect of Home Alone is that John Williams composed the soundtrack to it. JOHN FREAKING WILLIAMS. Home Alone gave us the closest thing we’ll get to a John Williams Christmas album and for that we should all be grateful. This film has always seemed the most natural holiday movie to me, Christmas is subtly everywhere in it. It is in the crowded airports and copious amount of decorations in the background of almost every scene. Unlike other movies that hinge on traditions like dinner with the family it is a fun movie to sit through but never gets too far away from the spirit of the season with machine guns or Henson creatures to distract from the family friendly fun. The movie would fall flat as a holiday one without a meaning behind it and the final scene gives us that lesson as Kevin and his mother embrace and we see the McAllisters learn what really matters, each other. I feel like this contest was just a formality after I picked Home Alone because there is no question about it, it is the greatest holiday movie.
So what makes It’s a Wonderful Life a great holiday film? Jimmy Stewart. If he alone doesn’t entice you to give this film a watch, allow me to elaborate on not only the best Christmas movie, but overall, one of the greatest films in cinema history. The story follows the life of George Bailey, played by the transcendent James Stewart, who spends his entire life giving up his dreams for the good of his town, Bedford Falls. On Christmas Eve, he is broken and suicidal over the misplacing of an $8000 loan and the schemes of the evil millionaire Mr. Potter. His guardian angel, Clarence, falls to Earth, and shows him how his town, family, and friends would have turned out if he had never been born. It is a beautiful story brought to life thanks to the wonderful performances portrayed by Stewart and Donna Reed who plays his wife, Mary Hatch, in the film. Honestly though, it is worth the watch for Stewart’s performance alone. Aside from being a great production, the message of the film is what makes this the ultimate holiday film. At its core, it is a film about appreciation, love and, to put it lightly, not sweating the small stuff. There are so many messages, but truly what the film is telling its audience is that life is worth living, and that you can make a difference. It is easy to lose sight of what that is every once in awhile, that is true more than ever. Personally, as I get older, I value this film all the more because of what it says about the road less travelled, and what really matters when it is all said and done.
I’m still trying to determine if this is a holiday movie contest or a 'bore-Joseph-to-death-with-old-black-and-white movies' contest. I’m not going to lie I didn’t even try to watch It’s a Wonderful Life because I have seen a enough TV show versions to know the gist of the story. If Al Bundy or Zack Morris can give me all the same lesson in a quarter of the time I'm going to opt for that every time. All joking aside I understand this is an important and an objectively good movie starring all time great actors. That being said even with that knowledge I could still not bring myself to care about this movie. If you haven’t seen it go read the wikipedia entry for it, it is a movie that will never be relatable to another generation. It's a movie that features suicidal desires, war, banking crises and the near poisoning of a child. HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Home Alone however allows viewer to live vicariously through a child with no rules or bed time. Its fun natured, simple storytelling make it a timeless classic that can be enjoyed for years to come, the one current day flaw is facetime would’ve made it things easier but that is true of most media prior to 2005. It's a Wonderful Life ultimately does have a happy ending and a good moral to the story but not before depressing the viewer to wanting to join George on that bridge. I personally could not suffer through that kind of bummer year after year, I much prefer the slapstick hijinks of the Wet Bandits getting their comeuppance at the hands of a “kindygartner.” Given our current cultural and political climates I understand the desire for a simpler time, but do not allow nostalgia to color your judgement Home Alone is by far the better holiday movie.
I love Home Alone as much as the next person. In preparation for this I gave it a watch, and genuinely enjoyed myself. Side note: I now have a very bad hankering for some mac and cheese because of it! But you know what? Without It’s a Wonderful Life, we don’t have a Home Alone. They are both Christmas classics, there is no denying this, but It’s a Wonderful Life is a TRUE classic. So much so that Home Alone is playing the film in the scene where the McCallister’s are stuck in France. The importance of family and friends is a similar message, just as Clarence writes in his dedication in the book to George, “Remember, NO man is a failure who has friends”. It’s a Wonderful Life does it far better though. It may not be as light hearted as its competitor, but it is definitely worth the pay-off in the end. The holidays are supposed to be about family, togetherness and appreciating and supporting one another. No film does that better than Frank Capra’s It's a Wonderful Life. An entire town comes together to help a man who has sacrificed so much of himself for the better of everyone else. In Home Alone Uncle Frank doesn’t even want to help pay for the pizza! And we need to take a moment to appreciate how much better a family, and really the entire town of Bedford Falls is than the McCallisters. They are awful people. Not only are they all awful to Kevin, but they forget him! And don’t even notice until they were halfway to their destination! This would have never happened with the Bailey’s. Plus, Buzz could learn a thing or two from the relationship between George and Harry. It’s no wonder why Kevin thought he made them disappear. It’s a Wonderful Life has it all, and is unquestionably the superior film between the two.