June 26, 2016
Last year TCM announced that Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory would be re-released as part of their partnership with Fathom Events, and it was literally one of the first things that I marked in my brand new 2016 planner six months ago.
I feel like these big screen classics events were such a brilliant idea... it's almost like bringing the TCM Film Festival to people who couldn't travel out to Hollywood. I attended this screening with my parents who could never afford to go to TCMFF, but love classic movies *almost* as much as I do. My only complaint is that the events don't seem to be hyped much outside of the TCM community. At my local theater you would have no idea that Willy Wonka was even playing if it hadn't been on the ticket board above the box office. It wasn't even on the marquee. And all of the Fathom coming attractions advertised their Broadway and Opera offerings, rather than upcoming TCM events.
It's a small gripe, but I think all of us classic movie buffs have a little bit of evangelism coursing through our veins. It isn't enough to enjoy classic films, we want to share our love of them with the world and introduce more people to their magic.
But anyway, enough whining. This was such a wonderful experience for me, and I'd rather be writing about that! Before the show started there were a series of Willy Wonka themed trivia questions to enjoy while waiting for the main attraction. I had no idea that Fred Astaire was considered for the main role! I did, however, beat my dad on the question pictured above (he guessed Pittsburgh while I knew FOR A FACT that it was Munich.)
At showtime we were treated to an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz before the movie, and then he returned afterwards, too, to explain why the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" became the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." (spoiler alert: It helped Quaker Oats to market Wonka brand chocolate bars!)
I've watched Willy Wonka (we just call it "Willy Wonka" in my house -- I don't think I even realized it had a longer title until I was an adult) countless times but it honestly gets better with each viewing. I've read reviews from other adults who revisit this childhood favorite, only to find it unsettling and disturbing, and not really about candy. I kind of wonder if a decades-long break between viewings creates that stark contrast. I doubt I've ever gone more than 2-3 years without watching Willy Wonka, so it's grown with me. Over time I've noticed new things, realized there were messages where I hadn't previously seen them, slowly picked up on Willy Wonka's beautifully dark humor.
A lot of people also seem to complain that the titular character, played by Gene Wilder, is kind of psychotic. But honestly I relate to him more than any other character in the movie. He's so filled with childlike wonder -- probably more so than most of the actual children-- but also horribly world-weary. And with good reason! He invites ten people into his secluded chocolate factory and only one turns out to be a good egg. (And yeah, I'm including Grandpa Joe here. Would Charlie have tried the fizzy lifting drink if Grandpa Joe hadn't suggested it? NOPE. Did Charlie want to engage in confectionery espionage? NOPE.)
In the end, Willy Wonka's message is about being a good egg. Be kind to others, be honest and truthful, and don't lose your sense of wonder. Even though most of the parents are blockheads, one of the best scenes in the whole movie is when Willy Wonka lets everyone eat whatever they want in the chocolate room. The parents look almost as excited as the children, scooping up handfuls of whipped cream or going hog-wild on giant pieces of licorice. For one beautiful but brief moment you're reminded that everyone is still a kid at heart.
Willy Wonka will be in theaters again this coming Wednesday (6/29) You can see if it'll be playing in a theater near you (and buy tickets!) on the Fathom website, right here. In case it wasn't already abundantly clear -- if you're already a fan of the movie, go see it! If you've never seen it before, go see it! It's fun and weird and quirky and beautiful and Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka creates one of the best film characters of all time. Just go see it!
PS. Since I can never miss an opportunity to dress on -theme, I couldn't resist wearing this vintage purple velvet dress to the movies today! All that was missing was a top hat, a cane... and some chocolate ;)