FROM JASON’S INDIE THEATER — There are very few movies my wife has the patience to sit through, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is her favorite.
The bright colors, the singing, and her obsession with all things Roald Dahl are enough to overcome the mild ADD that has her wiggling out of her seat during the movies I like. So she was like — and forgive me here — a kid in a candy store last night when the local $3 theater gave a midnight showing of the 1971 “children’s” movie.
The place was packed with the gangly and socially awkward denizens of the nearby Oberlin College, which made the experience fun. Dorm life being what it is, they were keyed in to every drug reference and sexual subtext thrown up on the screen. They sang along at all the right parts. How could we not join in?
They went bananas at all manner of phallic symbols — from the pumping pistons of the Everlasting Gobstopper machine to the ejaculatory tubas in the “car wash” scene (especially when Mrs. Teevee was shot in the face with a big wad of… “bubbles”).
There were huge laughs when Bill said, “You were born to be a Wonka-er,” because it ostensibly sounded similar to “wanker.” Everybody started rolling when 13-year-old Charlie insisted on buyinghis grandfather tobacco.
One loud-mouthed frosh in the front row bellowed, “WRONG!” when Mrs. Teevee identified Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” as Rachmaninoff. But for such a literate crowd, they sure were scratching their heads at the Oscar Wilde or Ogden Nash quotes. One girl didn’t get the Shakespearean origins of, “Where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head,” and shouted, “What the hell?!”
And we were all a little uncomfortable together in the dark theater when watching how the on-screen adults acted toward the children. The threat of child molestation has profoundly changed the acceptable ways to touch kids in the past 30 years. When Slugworth (aka Wilkinson) would grab a child from behind and start whispering in his or her ear, it took an insidious tone. And even some comments by Willy seemed wildly unacceptable and inuendo-filled. It’s easy to see why Johnny Depp took the Michael Jackson interpretation in the 2005 remake.
Next Saturday, the same theater is screening Labyrinth at midnight, with several more as-yet-unnamed cult classics to follow through the summer.
I’m eager to see whether the college kids will arrive at the same conclusions as The Greatest Movie Ever Podcast host Paul Chapman about the film — whether it’s all about a young girl’s escapist repression of childhood sexual abuse.
Won’t that be enlightening?
I’m glad for experiences like these. I mean, I have a 42-inch flatscreen plasma TV at home, so there’s nothing really pressing anymore about going out to the movies… that is, unless they offer something I can’t get at home. At least one cinema owner is trying to foster an actual movie-going experience instead of just collecting an outrageous sum to slap people in cramped seats.
The management didn’t get pissy at the kids for being boistrous. Nobody was upset at the singing, or yelling for anyone to be quiet. It was a communal experience, a kind of group enjoyment typically only available at a ball park. And it’s why I’ll be going back to the Apollo Theatre.
So if you made it this far, here’s a reward: