Screen on the Green: Willy Wonka


We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of the dreams…That is one of my favorite lines from Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and last night’s dusk showing of the movie felt like a sweet dream.  The weather was perfect, the Capitol was brilliantly lit, and then it began… an old bugs bunny short played, followed by a retro HBO intro – which by the way the entire crowd got up and danced to (it was more like they were doing aerobics, it was quirky and fun) – and just like that, the screen lit up.

So let me start with the fact that I love the original Willy Wonka.  Through the mind’s eye of a child I can remember thinking that the movie was pure magic.  A poor boy holds out hope that one of five golden tickets will be his, he learns that the 5th ticket has been claimed only to later learn that the 5th claim was a hoax…he buys one final Wonka bar for his Granpa Joe and as he stands on the dingy street slowly peeling back the wrapper the golden ticket shines through and the adventure begins.  We follow Charlie on his exciting trip through Wonka-land flanked by obnoxious kids and equally obnoxious parents and surrounded by a delicious maze of a house that oozes candy and gadgets and little oompa-loompas …it was that simple, to a child. 

As an adult one realizes that:

  • Granpa Joe was faking his illness the whole time – come on, he was bed ridden for 25 years and then can suddenly get out of bed for a trip to the Wonka factory – come off it Granpa Joe, the jig is up
  • Charlie was an 8 year old boy who was essentialy working to buy tobacco for his Granpa Joe
  • Charlie and his family were having cabbage water for dinner, that’s the breaks
  • I’m not saying Willy Wonka was a pedophile BUT he was pedophile-ish
  • All of England, and all of the whole world for that matter must have been white as there were no black faces to be found, but hey it was 1971

Even with all of the things you realize as an adult the movie is still quite lovely…I sang along to the songs, laughed at the campy vignettes – the Wonka bar ransom scene is genius – and took in my beautiful city, she certainly showed off last night.