Skip to main content

Memories of Virginia


Having grown up in Champaign-Urbana, IL, I have memories of people and places that are no longer with us: Keith Page, Mr. Roberts (both local weathermen), George Valentine, Nicole Storch (educators), Burnham Hospital (where I was born) and, of course, the movie theaters. There was the Co-ed on campus, which was long ago demolished, the Thunderbird in Urbana, which has been re-purposed as The Canopy Club, a hot spot for live acts, Market Place Cinemas in Champaign (demolished), and Country Fair Cinemas (long-closed). For the most part, these places exist only in memory.

One local movie theater that has stood the test of time is The Virginia. Opened some 90 years ago, it began life as a vaudeville hall, and then made the transition to showing films. By the time I came on the scene, the Virginia was in its waning years as a first-run movie house. Multiplexes were becoming the in-thing, and single screen movie palaces were on a major decline. After closing its doors in 1991, the Virginia sort of stumbled around a bit looking for a purpose, until the Champaign Park District and late film critic Roger Ebert helped save it. Now, it's home to an annual film festival, several live acts, and a monthly classic film series.

I saw movies at the Virginia primarily during the 1980s. There I remember seeing Brainstorm, Terms of Endearment and Dances With Wolves with my mom and maternal grandmother, Gummy. Mom and I went there to watch Young Sherlock Holmes back in 1985, a movie I was quite stoked about seeing. There was a placard placed in the lobby, advising folks to stay until after the credits for a "surprise." It was one of those tagged-on scenes that are so prevalent in Marvel superhero movies now. And it was about as exciting (read: not very).

There was the experience of watching Back to the Future II at the Virginia, with a packed house, and a brief moment when a banner in the 2015 setting notates that the Chicago Cubs are the World Series champions. The crowd around me erupted into cheers, hoots and hollers. At the time, I didn't understand. Only the intervening years have provided knowledge of the pathos that is the Cubs' existence. Then there was waiting in a line that stretched around the corner one hot, summer afternoon as a friend and I went to the Virginia to see 1989's Batman. Watching the opening credits of that movie, as they swooshed around inside the bat logo, up there on the Virginia's massive screen, was something I'll never forget.

Of course, Ashley & I have made our own movie memories at the Virginia. From our first Ebertfest movie (2001: A Space Odyssey), to some of the highlights of the monthly classic film series (Vertigo, Annie Hall, The Long, Long Trailer and Grease), the experiences have almost always been worthwhile. Indeed, that can be said of the Virginia, itself. It is a worthwhile institution. Not only that, but it is a repository of experiences and memories. Flickering images exist within its walls, not only of the films it has shown, but of the people who have gone to see the movies there.

I look forward to returning to it this evening for the start of Ebertfest 16.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

3/4

Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....


1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night


It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

The Best Superhero Movies of All-Time, Revisited

We are just a few days away from the North American release of Avengers:Infinity War. While I am dutifully going to see it opening night, it's not a film I'm looking forward to. It is (spoiler) part one of two, which means we can expect plenty of plot threads left dangling when the credits roll. In other words, part two will probably be better, and provide some actual resolution. Also, Thanos looks like a CGI yawn-fest. Hopefully, I'll be proved wrong.
Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity to rank (again) the major superhero movies (Marvel and otherwise) that we've had so far. As you know, I love making a list, and this one is going to be a definitive one! If you don't see a film on here, it's because I haven't seen it (the first two Thors, Iron Man 2, some of the X-Men features, etc.).   Alright, here we go.

Walk and Chew Gum

Yesterday marked a touchstone moment in the U.S., as students across the country participated in "walkouts." This was an occasion for students to express an array of thoughts and emotions, ranging from a desire for stricter gun control, to simply sorrow over the loss of so many of their peers to school shootings. They were peaceful protests, but protests nonetheless. Where you're at on the spectrum of agreeing or disagreeing with what they did may vary, though not wanting to get shot in your school seems pretty reasonable to me.
Some folks have taken to sharing a meme on social media platforms this week -- in direct anticipation and response to the walkouts -- that encourages students to "walk up, not out." Following are suggestions provided for the walk ups:

Walk UP to the kid who sits ALONE and ask him to join your groupWalk UP to the kid who never has a voluntary partner and offer to be hersWalk UP to your teachers and thank them!Walk UP to someone and JUST …