TCM Big Screen Classics: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

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 ;)

Still Discovering Dirk Bogarde - Despair (1978)

June 04, 2016

I'm still determined to blog about every new-to-me Dirk Bogarde movie that I see, so after watching Despair for the first time last night I felt compelled to write something up today. The only problem is that I actually don't want to do a full post until I've seen it again, and that won't be for another couple months.

In 2009 when my obsession with Dirk was in full swing, very few of his movies had commercial releases so I had to resort to watching really horrible probably-recorded-from-a-tv-program-in-the-1980's copies to get my fix. So my copy of Despair was so bad it would likely throw any honest to goodness movie lover into a fit of.... despair.

I mean, I missed at least 1/4 of the dialogue because it kept cutting out or the sound was just that bad. From what I could see/hear/grasp I really enjoyed the movie, though, and as soon as it was over I whipped out my iphone to see it if had had a proper release in the intervening years. It turns out that it was fully restored and released on dvd (AND BLU RAY, MIND YOU) a couple years ago. I'm currently on a pretty strict self-imposed budget of one new DVD per month and June is already claimed by Criterion's upcoming release of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, so it'll be about another two months before I can get a crystal clear copy of Despair into my eager hands. But as soon as that day comes, I will be reporting back with a much better review. I just wanted to kind of log this on the blog to record that it had, indeed, been watched.

It's a funny thing, though, to think that if I had been on the ball and watched this when I bought it in 2009 I probably would have written a full review right off the bat. Sometimes I feel spoiled by things like Criterion and official DVD releases. I grew up on shoddy VHS recordings with terrible tracking, pan and scan movies with commercial interruptions, public domain tapes of Hitchcock movies so grainy and foggy that you could barely make out the image. Even now sometimes a lot of my foreign film purchases are horrible quality because good transfers with English subtitles just aren't available anywhere, and I make do. It's only when I know for a fact that a better alternative exists that I just literally can't even with these mediocre, substandard offerings.

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

June 01, 2016

It's time for Out of the Past's annual Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge! Last year I only managed to finish two of the six books I picked out, but this year I'm determined to knock out EIGHT. Well, I'm determined to start eight. Whether or not I actually finish that gargantuan Truffaut tome while simultaneously attempting to complete seven other books over the summer is yet to be determined...

I've been saving some books specifically for this challenge. I've had the Alain Delon book for a few months (apparently the only book about him in English, as far as I can tell) the Melville book was a Christmas present, and the Hitchcock book came from my dad's book collection. I'd been eyeing it for a long time and he finally just let me take it (such is the case with almost all of his film books that, over the last decade or so, have slowly been transitioning from his bookshelves to mine...)

I only have three Melville movies left to watch before I've seen all of them, so I want to watch those before I start his biography. I think I'll start out with the BFI book on City Lights, since I just saw that on the big screen at the New York Philharmonic last month. If you're unfamiliar with the BFI books, they're little 100-or-so page volumes about one specific movie. They're quick reads (perfect for the reading challenge and for light summer reading) but very informative. It's almost like a Criterion commentary in book form!

I'm also working on The Cinema of Cruelty by Andre Bazin, but it's on my (shudder!) kindle, so I couldn't include it in the photo. I love real books, so I kind of (very much) hate myself for having a kindle, but it's better for me for on-the-go reading. Being a weakling with the upper-body strength of a gnat, it's easier for me to carry around one kindle than three hardcover books..

Part of the challenge includes writing about the books you've read, so hopefully you'll be hearing more about these books in the weeks to come! :) If you're interested in reading any of the books I've selected here's a complete list with links to buy them:

The Cinema of Cruelty by Andre Bazin
BFI Classics: Cat People by Kim Newman
BFI Classics: City Lights by Charles Maland
Hitchcock by Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol
Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris by Ginette Vincendeau
Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s by Geoffrey-Nowell Smith
Jean Seberg - Breathless by Garry McGee
Alain Delon: Style, Stardom and Masculinity by Nick Rees-Roberts
Truffaut: A Biography by Serge Toubiana and Antoine De Baecque