Fast times in Urbana-Champaign; Watching a movie the American way

After attending a metal gig in the Downtown of Champaign, Illinois, I took a stroll through the streets of Downtown. I literally rushed out of the bar, when the headlining band began its set. The band was awful with their sound. It seemed as if the guitarist had kept the gain at full. Must be a noob, who didn’t know that increasing the gain does not equate to increasing the volume. I had to leave that damn place. The band sounded as if someone was scratching the chalk on the board. To get a good vibe I had drunken Crowne Royal on the rocks earlier that night. The bar had run out of my favorite Cognac Hennessy. I guess it was an unfortunate night, I didn’t get my favorite drink nor was I able to listen to some good music.

To get over the discordant music I heard in the bar, which made a shrill treble noise tearing my hearing chords, I was trying to find serenity in the quiet streets of Downtown late night. Before I boarded the bus to home, I passed by the Art Theater. I saw on the display board written in bold black letters, Batman. Art theater was screening the 1966 Adam West starring, Batman. I believe this was like a homage paid by the Art Theater to the seasoned actor who recently passed away. I was excited about the screening. The next morning, waking up to a mild hangover, I assumed the Virginia theater was screening the movie, so I called them. The customer service at the Virginia Theater was kind enough to tell me that they were not screening Batman but it was the Art Theater.

Then I checked the Art Theater’s website and figured out the schedule. I sent a text to the WhatsApp group which has all the people from my grad school cohort. All of whom are in the city for the summer. No one responded, except for one, who unfortunately was unable to make it to the screening. I was very thrilled to experience cinema in a classic American theater for the first time in my life. I have seen such theaters when I would see a 1950’s or 60’s Hollywood movie. Such movies where a scene depicting a theater would begin with the projector rolling from the projector room, then an advertisement is shown where a white man in a bass tone would give the voice with high optimism. In the audience, there would be a couple who would slowly kiss and only their silhouette would be visible, and then there would be a lonely guy with a large popcorn and Pepsi who gradually dies from the inside feeling envious about that couple.

The Art Theater located on the north of Church Street in Champaign, Illinois is a 104 years old theater. This theater screens classic and independent cinema inviting audience from all age groups. So, feeling very zealous, dressing rad and smelling as good as an early morning breeze I hit the Art Theater. I buy my tickets, a large popcorn, and Pepsi. I found a seat in the last row with a good view. I had the entire row to myself. Spread out like a new bedsheet on the bed, I sat on the seat with legs so spread that my balls had an inch gap between them.

It was so enthralling. Blue walls, with white miniatures made on them. There were medium-sized lamps placed vertically on the walls in between the miniature, which was the source of light inside the hall. They slowly faded away. When the lights were slowly fading, I felt I was entering a void which was pulling me back in time. I felt I was going back to 1960’s. Before screening the movie, an episode “Beware the Gray Ghost” from the cartoon tv show “Batman: The Animated Series” was shown. Adam West had given the voice for the character of “Gray Ghost” in that episode. The episode begins with Bruce Wayne watching the tv show Gray Ghost. Since the scene was Bruce Wayne’s flashback, it was exhibited in sepia tone. I started to trip on that scene. I felt I was being pulled much back into the time. It was so enigmatic. Trust me, I had not consumed any hallucinating substance or psychoactive drug. But the scene made me feel so euphoric that it was beguiling. The episode made me feel nostalgic beside making me go through such experience. It reminded me of the time when, as a kid, I would come home late in the evening after playing with my friends. My mother would expect me to get into my room and study but I would just hang out in the living room while she would be sipping on her coffee and I would try to get the glimpse of the cartoon show. Screening of this episode from the cartoon tv show was a good segue into the movie.

Batman, the movie starts with a long list of cast and crew, with this goofy noir kind of a scene running in the back. After the starting credits get over, (yes sir, old movie, long list of credits in the beginning) enter Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson on a convertible, rush to the Wayne Manor. After series of running, jumping and flying, by Batman and Robin, the villains of this movie are shown. Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman. Joker looked as if he was always high on speed or coke. He was an over-enthusiastic, high on energy and perpetually ecstatic, sociopath clown. Riddler was portrayed as an evil and shrewd antagonist, always planning to destroy Gotham and Batman. Penguin was depicted as an old pirate who had money and muscle to execute the diabolic plans of the evil crew. While Catwoman was seen as a very seductive woman trying to entice Batman into the vicious trap of the gang. The film was colorful and bright, unlike Nolan’s Batman. The costumes were very flamboyant. All the scenes were also shot in a hilarious way. Bruce Wayne is such a pervert when he goes on a date with Catwoman. I could literally see his boner. Dick Grayson had some witty lines. The baby boomers inside the theater were having quite a laugh on his dialogues. I heard one man saying that this was the first movie he saw as a kid with his dad. It was quite a comical experience overall.

Hence, watching Batman at the Art was thrilling and nostalgic. Very puerile compared to the Dark Knight Trilogy. I did not bother much about the movie, but rather the fact that I was in an old theater which is of historic importance in Champaign. I wish old theaters in my home city, Delhi, India also screened such classic movies on several occasions rather than just the latest ones. I would be really stoked to watch the 1970’s Bollywood classic Sholay again in a theater.


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