In My Backyard: Year 9

Apart from a few deep thoughts we strung together for your consideration three weeks ago, dearest readers, it has been a long while since we officially addressed the residents of our Champaign-Urbana backyard, the same one in which we work a lot, play some, dream a little, and sporadically fizzle out when no one is looking. Although we last drafted a full “In My Backyard” from scratch back in 2012, there is probably not much use in forcing a massive MFHQ brain dump in 2017 so we can retro-write the missing annual summaries. Just the same, you are more than capable of reviewing C-U Blogfidential at any time for the names, titles, dates, and stories you need to know about our shared cinema culture. Consider this post a creative placeholder that gives us an excuse to revive old and obscure copy from various sources, flesh out past moments in the Confidential history, and lead us numerically towards a brand-new “Year 12” entry scheduled after our 11th anniversary passes on Saturday, February 25. Much of this material will appear on CUBlog for the first time, providing alternate takes on certain topics du C-U.

In this second trip to the “Backyard,” we revisit a noble proposition shared on this forum some time ago that we believe is relevant still. CUBlog once hosted a much larger array of Pages than can be seen here today; we intended for these spaces to serve as a backbone to our geographically distinct coverage, similar to what is found on the New Art Film Festival Web site, by offering context for the uninitiated and resources for those with vested interest. Review the surviving Pages and you will find that we clearly have fallen short of keeping them up to speed, but we’d love to whip the worthwhile content back into shape and revamp, delete, or add what is necessary to better serve our collective purposes in the present. Looking at the words that have resided under the “Photoplays du C-U” heading since 2008 with fresh eyes, we wonder if they might be useful to preserve “as is” on CUBlog as well as correlate how it foreshadows a bit more of the sweeping editorial upgrades we plan to adopt by the end of 2018.

Since that essay went live, it can be easily argued that the C-U has warmed to the ongoing film activity fostered by its own people and not explicitly tied to the University of Illinois. Yet, the more things change in a college town environment, the more do they really stay the same? Our observations as noted back then do not feel so out of date when applied to the present, if you take the position that increased frequency in cinema-loving fun is not the same as cohesive growth in content, quality, or commerce. To wit, the C-U still flocks to movies in area theaters with regularity, yes; the C-U rallies around “see and be seen” premiere events and “community building” social actions using movies as catalysts, of course; the C-U media incorporates promotion of timely movie happenings, naturally; the C-U serves as home to creators who regularly come and then go to Los Angeles, et cetera, so, what else is new? Walk these towns on an average day, however, and the impact of all this is hardly palpable.

C-U Confidential and the NAFF still attempt to do their part by informing the public and connecting the players, but as of late the badge of honor and participation points don’t quite beam with the same luster. This brings us back to the original function of our underdeveloped Page and how it inspires what will soon appear on CUBlog. If we skim those words and replace the old movie titles with examples current in 2017, we are reminded of the ever-simmering potential for that fabled “filmography of a small town” to develop a critical mass of energy and achievement. One does not need to read the text too carefully to pick up on how it might have introduced an actual filmography – encyclopedic entries describing all the major projects, events, locations, and personalities we could verify in well-researched detail and candor – that never materialized. To our knowledge, no one else in our community then or now has attempted to flesh out its micro-film history in this way, either. Is such a qualitative record even worth the effort?

With our focus to be retrained in large part on archival matters, the revival of this ambitious and useful compilation simply makes sense as we will be digging through the dusty evidence of our film past out of necessity. We might as well be the ones to put it all together, then. Despite our Confidential heart feeling a bit deflated over what we see outside the walls of MFHQ, let’s cross our fingers that it will again stoke our fires and transcend our expectations more sooner than later. All we can do is make the concerted effort to climb new heights in our own pursuits that just happen to chronicle the pursuits of others.

With that proposed, it’s time to read on, MacDuff

~ Jason Pankoke



C-U Blogfidential will be used to achieve a specialized goal by archiving a particular body of film history

by Jason Pankoke

In Champaign, Urbana, and the cities beyond, people love to go to the movies. A cross-section of this populace will also support special film events if enough pomp, circumstance, and novelty provide them reason to attend. Yet, while some premieres of locally made media have drawn exceptional crowds, such as the more than 1,000 bodies that filled auditoriums to see Robin Christian’s CRAB ORCHARD in early 2006 and Mark RobertsWELCOME TO TOLONO in summer 2007, others could not attract 100. I believe that the average citizen automatically views them as “not Hollywood quality” and, therefore, also not worthy of their time or money.

Given the upbeat lip service directed towards the arts in our community, you’d think that local cinema would get a fairer shake in the public eye. The film sector is certainly not treated with the prestige of traditional fine arts, the open-arms camaraderie of performance groups and theatre [sic] companies, or the rock-star status of would-be rock stars and other musical talents. Of course, the irony is that cinematic works often incorporate the contributions of many of the same people involved with these other scenes. Maybe it’s just that movies are usually made out of sight and over the long haul, so it’s easy to ignore them between the wrap party and the big unveiling.

C-U Blogfidential would like to help its neighbors think otherwise beginning with the information that branches off of this page. Filmographies usually list the comprehensive works of an individual, studio, or genre, but here it is meant to bring together movies “tied to the land,” so to speak. While this grouping may seem happenstance when compared to cinema histories of large cities, such as Arnie Bernstein’s Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago and the Movies (1998), it still amounts to a modest whole when put together. Here, long-time residents and their life’s work receive equal billing with various efforts by ambitious underclassmen and singular experiments that wriggle up from the underground.

Need your fix of horrific campus tomfoolery? Unwrap THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY (2006). Want to think twice about academic symbolism and societal repercussions? Sit down with IN WHOSE HONOR? (1997). Desire a nostalgic, lighthearted adventure? Simply PRESS START (2007). Seek a peek into a dangerous void where evil stains a dead-end street? Dare to befriend THE GARBAGE MAN (1993). Think you can pick out your mud-caked and/or naked Aunt Fran? Rock on with INCIDENT AT KICKAPOO CREEK (2006). Believe you’ve seen every trick in the slasher film playbook? Rhyme in time with BUCKY McSNEAD (2001). Have a problem with the pigs? SHOT (1973) proves the joke’s on you, hippie.

These flicks and many others will fill out our “filmography of a small town” as information is collected and verified, graphics are discovered and digitized, old productions come to light while new productions launch, and movie-makers simply come and go. CUBlog is not meant to be the definitive source for this cultural output, especially since most of the contemporary works have sufficient Web sites of their own, but it will contextualize what has been accomplished in our area and maybe, just maybe, help inspire an auteur or two to launch that one film we’ll eventually thank for placing our micro-film microcosm on the map.

It may take a merely attentive person to make the best use of the earthy qualities of the Midwest, but it requires a special personality to mate story, vision, sound, and technology in ways that will register with an audience. Seeing how those are few and far between here in the Land of Lincoln south of I-80, and the instances of indigenous works with significant reach even more rare, we still need to acknowledge all that came before by respecting it, learning from it, and constructively adding to it. Failing all three, we should then shut our mouths if it’s not what we want it to be, the curious little thing that is our cinema history.


“Filmography” originally posted to
C-U Blogfidential on January 20, 2008,
accessed January 22, 2017 at
Article © 2008 Jason Pankoke/C-U Blogfidential.

CUBlog edits © 2017 Jason Pankoke

Graphics © their respective owners.
From the collection of the author.


C-U Blogfidential: Year 8*
Posts: 119 ~ Comments: 5 ~ Interviews: 5 ~ Articles: 0
Columns: 1 ~ Reviews: 0 ~ ** ~ Publications: 1

C-U Blogfidential So Far***
Posts: 844 ~ Comments: 109 ~ Interviews: 15 ~ Articles: 20
Columns: 11 ~ Reviews: 7 ~ Publications: 9

*This should have run in 2014. We know, we know.

**We removed “Links” from these tallies since there is no reasonable method to account for what was added or deleted and when. Even we aren’t that obsessed…

***Ditto for Facebook and YouTube. The mailing list has been deactivated for some time now. Did you even notice?

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