In Case You Missed It

Over at the Action Institute, Joe Carter published a series of articles on the Economics of Bedford Falls. Joe writes:

Upon it’s initial release in 1946, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life was something of a financial flop, failing to reach the break-even point of $6.3 million. Although it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it wasn’t until subsequent decades that it became recognized as one of the greatest Christmas film ever made.*

The film is long overdue for another reappraisal, for it’s also one of the best films ever created about economics and financial services.

In a series of three posts (to be posted today, Wednesday, and Thursday), I’ll highlight some of the financial aspects of the film (the first two posts) and a few of the broad economic lessons from one of my all-time favorite films.

At his blog, Faith and History, Dr. Robert Tracy McKenzie writes about what “It’s a Wonderful Life” can teach us about thinking historically.

Do Americans still watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas time? I used to think that everyone was familiar with it, at least, but now I’m not so sure. I met a woman in church the other day who is “old enough to know better”—that is how my dad used to categorize anyone his age or older—and she stunned me by confessing that she has never seen this holiday classic. In case you haven’t seen it, I heartily recommend it. It’s a heartwarming, even inspiring story, but its realvalue is in how it teaches us to think historically. As effectively as any movie I’ve seen, it drives home the importance of historical context.

Historical context is critical to historical understanding for one basic reason: none of us lives in a vacuum. Humanly speaking, our lives are influenced (not determined, but profoundly influenced) by what has gone before us. Indeed, if there is a single truth that inspires the serious study of history, it is the conviction that we gain great insight into the human condition by situating the lives of men and women in the larger flow of human experience over time.

Andrew Barber writes about how movies can make us feel like kids again, but also how we shouldn’t need entertainment to save us from our colorless adulthood.

The commercial opens with a young man sitting in a high-rise office, alone and working overtime. Desperately bored, his eyes stumble across an old R2-D2 toy displayed on his desk. The familiar score softly echoes as the man sees his childhood flash before him: sleepovers with lightsaber-flashlight duels, Star Wars-themed birthday parties, bicycle rides as Tie-Fighters.

Suddenly, back in the office, the walls begin to shake. Our depressed businessman looks up to see an honest-to-goodness X-Wing, hovering outside his window. His childhood friend, piloting the craft, waves and beckons. A second X-Wing then rises up, cockpit empty. Without hesitation, our hero grabs a chair, throws it through the window, and leaps into his X-Wing, off to face the Empire. The final shots are of the young man, now fully enlivened, engaged in an epic battle.

The commercial is for a new Star Wars: Battlefront videogame; and, for better or for worse, I can think of no better statement as to the function of high-end blockbusters like Star Wars. Even in the most prosperous country on earth, in which most have never experienced hunger or homelessness, we are desperately trying to smash through the windows of our adult world and fly back to our childhood.

At the Ligonier Ministries blog, Peter Jones writes an interesting post: “Star Wars and the Ancient Religion“.

The appearance of a new episode of the Star Wars film series is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to what we might think is a beloved, harmless yarn. Or we can—and should—discover in the series an occasion to sharpen our presentation of the gospel message and help our children and grandchildren, and anyone else who might be interested, to understand the culture in which they live.

In this famous and creative saga, which we must respect for its artistic value, we find many positive ideals—bravery, friendship, love, and spirituality, and others—which help explain the success of the series. However, in examining Star Wars’account of the mystery and nobility of human life, the Bible’s answer, in comparison, emerges with incomparably more convincing power.

Finally, as Christmas is one of the big seasons for new movies to be released, be sure to check out these three posts from Dr. Bruce Ashford from back in 2010, Taking God to the Movies. You can find them here (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

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