C-U Biz-en-scène: 12.30.2010

“C-U Biz-en-scène” appears every Thursday/Friday on C-U Blogfidential to give our readers a succinct snapshot of the cinema activity in and near Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, USA. Please support the artists and their work, attend screenings and events, and otherwise become active in our esoteric little world!


You’re a Mean One, MTD, or, The Snowman Splateth

In the truest sarcastic sense, we at the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters are simply aghast at all the attention heaped upon the YouTube video capturing a CUMTD (Mass Transit District) bus driver plowing over an innocent snowperson in campus-area Urbana the first weekend of December. So grotesque is the footage that we’ll simply link to it; so rampantly did the footage squeeze out its 15 minutes of fame from legitimate news sources like CNN, The Associated Press, MSNBC, and (a-hem) The Huffington Post that we can only shake our heads in disgrace for the University of Illinois community. (It’s been implicitly assumed in reports and on-line comments that UI students were the videographers and snowperson artists, although the former claimed to CNN they were not also the latter and set up this Facebook page to save face, er, show solidarity.) It’s a simple set-up for a prank, awaiting drivers to encounter Frosty or Frostina in the road and trusting hilarity will ensue in the tradition of CANDID CAMERA, PUNK’D, and oodles of Japanese game shows. Yet, in all seriousness, the figure was an obstacle on a thoroughfare covered with shitty Illinois winter weather and our pranksters should have known better. Same goes for the bus driver. What if the ersatz effigy might have been built around an immobile object or shielded a human being? We’re not sure the driver’s resignation was warranted, unless he or she had a tarnished work record going into the incident, but we’d have no argument if MTD handed down disciplinary action such as a suspension. We offer diminished sympathies to the ex-employee, who should have contacted the police or public works, and even less to the immature morons who erected the snowperson in the first place. Think instead of all the locals we champion regularly on C-U Blogfidential who would kill to land the national coverage for their films that this video garnered, and its poorly blocked “money shot” was completely obscured by the bus! Amateurs.


During a dark and flurry-filled night two weeks ago, right after the first snowstorm of the season hit C-U, your humble editor slipped and slid to the set of THE WINDOW INTO TIME within the Nuclear Radiations Laboratory on the UIUC campus. A smaller team ported over from ONCE UPON A TIME IN 1972 carefully made use of every square foot available to them, led by writer/director Thomas Nicol of BEDTIME FOR TIMMY fame-in-the-making. He and cinematographer Tim Meyers took advantage of compact digital DSLR photography to set up a variety of shots featuring actors Bill Kephart and Stephanie Swearingen with help from assistant director Chris Lukeman, production manager Anne Lukeman, and grip Sean O’Leary. During a break in the action to fix hair and change the lighting scheme, Nicol offered CUBlog a look at rough-edited clips from WINDOW, a strange tale in the H.P. Lovecraft vein about a scientist (Kephart) and his assistant (Swearingen) who experiment with forbidden knowledge and encounter inter-dimensional trouble as their reward. Additional scenes feature Michael Kilcullen as a colleague whose ancient manuscript is the catalyst of the duo’s tribulation. We’ll let you know when the Tangeant Productions film will be unveiled! No word yet if Timmy himself will cameo…


Local PBS affiliate WILL-TV Channel 12 has announced that it is accepting entries on behalf of WGBH/Boston and its showcase series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. WILL is looking for videos about “the challenges of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in east central Illinois” in the 21st century. All entries will be considered for posting on the WILL Web site as well as WGBH’s “Open Call” page, while the top five entries will be awarded $1,000 cash and one of the five aired as part of a nationwide AMERICAN EXPERIENCE broadcast in April 2011 of the documentary STONEWALL UPRISING, which recently played the Normal Theater as part of a LGBT series that included LEADING LADIES. Videos must run three minutes or less and be entered by Monday, February 14, 2011.


As we attempt to chronicle indigenous cinema and build its corresponding archive here at MFHQ, nothing frustrates us more than gaps in the canon. This may result from a lack of information, ephemera, or awareness that a movie even exists. One narrative we have known about for some time (note CUBlog’s subtitle) which is most likely lost to the ages is THE CITY BEYOND, a one-reel romance-drama produced in Champaign-Urbana and Rantoul during the summer of 1923. We’ve located nothing concrete about the film apart from several News-Gazette articles of the time; this same material informs a section of the impressive hardcover volume, Remembering Robeson’s: Champaign’s Department Store, released two weeks ago by Sagamore Publishing of Urbana. Completed by the Robeson family after the untimely passing of main author Cal Acosta, Remembering Robeson’s dedicates 10 pages to BEYOND due to the on-screen presence of charismatic Frank “Roby” Robeson, Jr., the second of three generations to operate the downtown Champaign institution for more than 100 years combined. (This inclusion surely pleases his grandchildren, Eric and Kim Robeson of the philanthropic Robeson’s, Inc., since they are movie and “Ebertfest” fans.) With only a cursory first look at the 368-page book, we’re impressed by the quantity and quality of vintage photography and hope to read Acosta’s Robeson history when the opportunity presents itself.

Another curious aspect of covering the C-U cinema is the relative lack of related memorabilia in the classic Hollywood mold – one-sheets, lobby cards, press kits, and so forth. This is understandable since most local movies have been produced in the modern indie age, whereby promotional efforts start and mostly end in the digital realm, and the few produced pre-2000 did not inspire much collectible collateral. So it is with great amusement that we direct you to a Café Press store loaded with product hawking a project that, to the best of our knowledge, is not yet finished. Feast your eyes on t-shirts, hoodies, and other stuffs emblazoned with DUCKMAN VS. ZOMBIES, a genre mash-up intended to showcase Urbana’s D.I.Y. rapper Duckman – self-stylized as a young Hunter S. Thompson accessorized by Ted Nugent with certain affects recalling the animated “private dick/family man” voiced by Jason Alexander – and a supporting cast of wacky townies battling the pot-headed undead. A while back, CUBlog did get glimpses of the backyard shed/garage dressed up (down?) as Duck’s lair along with raw footage of Ernie Springer as a mad scientist type, so the process did begin at one point. Until the haze clears on this mystery, feel free to burn some Christmas cash and support DvZ: The Concept; we hear that El Presidente is all about lighting up in his own honor.


This week, ‘tis the season to reconnect with friends and former neighbors by investigating a few links about their activities outside MICRO-FILM Country. To start, we’ll announce that our man Chris Folkens, the former Illini and Illini Film & Video member whose Super Bowl Doritios spec commercial we pointed out in CUBiz a few weeks ago, has a high-octane short film called DIVERSION which will receive its Windy City bow next Tuesday, January 4, 6 p.m., at the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, 28 N. Clark St., 5th Floor screening room, in Chicago. We’ll also draw attention to the positively bonkers KILL YOUR TELEVISION, a school project produced through the Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne, Australia, as a hyper stylized ode to Eighties youth-gone-wild and future-war flicks that is loaded with CGI sleight of hand; writer/director is Champaign native Andrew Mitchell. And then, Urbana native Michael Wiese of filmmaking book publisher Michael Wiese Productions will premiere his latest documentary, TALKING WITH SPIRITS, on April 12, 2011, as part of the Global Social Change Film Festival and Institute in Ubud, Bali. Moving northward, DePaul University digital cinema graduate student and Bloomington native Jason Huls divulged news on his Weblog about several items including the shorts BEYOND THE BASEMENT DOOR, THE DRONE, CITIZEN IN THE TEMPLE, and a Ten Wing Films Website-in-progress; he directed the B-N no-budget adventure LATE AFTERNOON OF THE LIVING DEAD prior to enrolling at DePaul. Finally, we move even farther northward to the Michigan headquarters of indie video label Synapse Films which just released its 100th title, Hammer Films’ VAMPIRE CIRCUS (with extras produced by K. Gordon Murray documentarian Daniel Griffith) on Blu-ray and DVD; company president Don May, Jr., founded Synapse in his native Bloomington in the late Nineties. The lesson to be learned? No matter where you go, there you are … so just do it!


@ The Art Theater, Champaign, IL: EASY A (12/30, 10:30 p.m.), THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (12/31, 1/2/11, 1/4/11, 1/6/11), THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (12/31, 1/1/11, 1/3/11, 1/6/11), THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (12/31, 1/1/11, 1/2/11, 1/5/11), Verdi’s Aida (1/1-1/2/11, 12 p.m., Opera, Free)

@ The Avon Theater, Decatur, IL: THE FIGHTER, TRUE GRIT, BLACK SWAN (12/31 on)

@ The Normal Theater, Normal, IL: THE THIN MAN (12/30-12/31, 7 p.m.), SOME LIKE IT HOT (1/1-1/2/11, 7 p.m.)

@ The Lorraine Theatre, Hoopeston, IL: LITTLE FOCKERS, YOGI BEAR (12/31 on)

@ That’s Rentertainment, Champaign, IL: THE AMERICAN, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, TWELVE, more! (12/28 on)


Locally produced movies and events featuring locally produced movies are marked with an asterisk (*). Go see ‘em!


NEW! 1/13, 2011: ACT YOUR AGE* (new cut)
@ The Canopy Club, Urbana, IL, 5:15 p.m., Free

1/13, 2011: DISPOSABLE*
@ The Canopy Club, Urbana, IL, 7 p.m.

1/18, 2011: DVD release: SHEEBA*

2/11, 2011: DVD release: PRESS START 2 CONTINUE*

@ The Canopy Club, Urbana, IL, Midnight

2/18-2/27, 2011: Big Muddy Film Festival
@ Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

3/22-3/27, 2011: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann Arbor, MI

3/30-4/1, 2011: Wisconsin Film Festival, Madison, WI

4/27-5/1, 2011: Roger Ebert’s Film Festival
@ The Virginia Theatre, Champaign, IL


“Real Vs. Reel” Movie Series
@ Danville Public Library, Danville, IL, 6:30 p.m.


The News-Gazette Film Series 2011
@ The Virginia Theater, Champaign, IL, 1 & 7 p.m.

1/22/11: TOP GUN; 2/5/11: SOME LIKE IT HOT; 3/12/11: THE MATRIX; 4/23/11: TOY STORY; 5/14/11: REAR WINDOW

UPDATED! WILL-TV/Independent Lens “Community Cinema” series
@ Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL, 6:30 p.m.



Let’s take a few moments to touch on another notorious December video. As you might have heard, the Smithsonian Institution removed an excerpt of the late David Wojnarowicz’s unfinished film, A FIRE IN MY BELLY (1986-7), from the National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” on December 1 due to protests from a Catholic group and members of Congress. Apart from the typical cries against using taxpayer money to fund the creation or presentation of “questionable” art, one specific image inspired the eruption – ants swarming over a crucifix. As explained in this Holland Cotter article published by the New York Times, the mix of the sensational and symbolic often teeming with religious iconography was nothing new for Wojnarowicz (1954-1992), a painter, writer, and filmmaker whose fame in the New York City art world of the Eighties paled next to the complications from contracting AIDS that killed him. Not long before his death, he sued a different church-based organization for appropriating his images out of context in a pamphlet intended to criticize the National Endowment for the Arts and their support of shows featuring “blasphemous” work. The source for said images was most likely the program for Wojnarowicz’s career retrospective “Tongues of Flame,” hosted by four galleries in succession between 1990 and 1991 including University Galleries at the Center for Visual Arts, Illinois State University, Normal. In the printmaking room a few miles away at the fine arts building of Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, hung a promotional poster for “Tongues of Flame” featuring a single, stark image of a red-hued, bald, and wildly screaming Wojnarowicz, possibly attempting to drown out the inanities of the world with his frustration and pain. It meant little at the time to your humble editor as he sat at the work tables below, chipping away at designs for class assignments, although he did have presence of mind to take in the subsequent ISU solo show “Future Primeval” featuring a comprehensive sampling of work by another famous NY artist felled by HIV, Keith Haring (1958-1990). Ye Ed did not begin grasping the scope of Wojnarowicz until years later by reading both the autobiographical Seven Miles a Second, groundbreaking as a singular piece of mature sequential art published by a major imprint (D.C./Vertigo) of a media empire (Time Warner) way back in 1996, and Deathtripping, the landmark Jack Sargeant history of the NY “Cinema of Transgression” in which the artist played a small but pivotal role. This brings us back to the Internet age; with news of the Smithsonian expulsion spreading rapidly, not only did A FIRE IN MY BELLY surface on-line for streaming to the masses but many art institutions across the United States – including ISU’s University Galleries – set up monitors specifically to display the most complete, 21-minute version of BELLY in constructive protest of the protest. The government would be wise to practice “gallery neutrality” by protecting the right to field voices of all creeds drawn from the American experience with their own hallowed halls. The public should be wiser and use its head when considering art in all its forms. The enlightened need to be wary at all times of forces attempting to shield thoughts and imagery through political and financial means, for artists are nothing without their voices regardless of what or how they vocalize.


Holy crappity crap! Was it really 40 years ago today that your humble editor joined us here on Planet Earth?! We really don’t know what to say. However, he apparently does since he keeps muttering “39 forever” under his breath and pumping his fist into the air. Look for a clarification-slash-announcement about it in the next few weeks.


That’s it for the “business of our scene” this week!

If you have relevant news, opportunities, dates, or promotions that you would like included in CUBiz, please forward the who, what, where, when, and how much to cuconfidential [at] gmail [dot] com.

Compiled by Jason Pankoke



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“C-U Biz-en-scène” no. 23 © 2010 Jason Pankoke/C-U Blogfidential.

2 Responses to C-U Biz-en-scène: 12.30.2010

  1. Eric Tucker :

    Happy birthday, Jason! I have no doubt that you will bravely lead the way into 40+…I’m right behind you, man. 🙂

  2. Administrator :

    Thanks Eric! I’ll do my best to stumble through the beginning … you may want to leave a little space between us … and you should take notes on what not to do. Happy 2011!