Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's A Wonderful Harvest, or The Ice Life

As Wichita Falls... So Falls Wichita Falls.
As I come up on the Yuletide, my common practice of watching seasonal fare is in its usual swing. However, in the last few years, I seem to be seeking a balance of light and dark wares whenever I am hip deep in Scotch tape and gift wrap, or the paper cuts in-between opening Christmas cards. For every viewing of The Santa Clause, I want to throw in Bad Santa. Have a jones for White Christmas? I want Die Hard, too. And when I think of one of my all-time favorite films, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, all I can think about nowadays is its antithesis, the Harold Ramis directed The Ice Harvest from 2005. Fair warning, some of the plot points for both films are revealed in this post. If you haven't seen either, and don't wish to have your fun spoiled, it'd be best to stop right here. For the rest of you, I'll assume you've seen both, or at least the Capra film, and wonder why I think they're very much related.
Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, f*ckin', ho.
The rest of the article has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.


  1. What a fascinating comparison! I never thought of that one before but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for reminding me about THE ICE HARVEST. I discovered this film on DVD and really enjoyed the dark comedy/noir vibe - no wonder it didn't do well commercially. At times, it almost has a Coen bros. vibe as well. It also reminds me of some of the excellent, left-of-center projects that John Cusack excels at picking. I know what I'm going to watch tonight. Thanks for the remind.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, J.D. You're quite right about the Coen Bros. vibe, here. That "Can I get a witness." toe tap by Bill Guerrard on the planted knife is a prime example, I think ;-). And Cusack remains one of my favorite actors working. Thanks for dropping by and adding more food for thought on this film, J.D. Always appreciated.

  3. <p> 
    </p><p>I just finished listening to the audio and watching the film, THE ICE HARVEST last week. I haven't watched IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE in years, maybe even decades; but the parallels you have drawn seem valid.They are the flip sides of the same coin. IAWL, for all it's dark moments, remains a film of light and hope whereas TIH, for all it's humor, remains a dark film (and the audiobook is a testament to existential despair.) 

    </p><p>I do agree with J.D. and you in that there is a Coen Brothers vibe to the movie, particularly with *the* Bill Geurrard  scene. Robert Benton and Richard Russo came up with some great lines for Guerrard that, while not in the book, do not violate the spirit of the book (I'm thinking specifically of the lines BG delivers about not heading the advice to "go into religion.")
    </p><p>My favorite scene was when Oliver Platt delivers his lines in over-enunciated clarity as the drunk who "who knows his limit."  I had seen the movie years before I listened to the audiobook and it was difficult not to project Oliver Platt's performance onto the material I was listening to. I also had the narrator of the audiobook on-hand who, when he found out I was listening to the audio, kept re-enacting his favorite passages from the book for me. That too, was impossible not to project onto the audio experience! You would think it would be the same, but the "live" performance was "more." Anyway, I found it impossible to objectively review the audiobook and opted instead to make a comparison between THE ICE HARVEST, the book, which is truly Christmas Noir and THE ICE HARVEST, the movie which was dark comedy:

  4. Very kind of you to add your insightful comments, DEC! You bring up some excellent points about the film (and the audiobook is something I'm SO looking forward to, especially after reading your equally excellent review of film and audiobook). I really love the cast in TIH, and Oliver Platt and Randy Quaid's spots are particularly great. The way Guerrard asks the Arglist, "Can I get a witness?", definitely has that Coen Bros. vibe  ;) .

    My sincere thanks for contributing to this and the tweet.