Day 60: 'The Secret of Kells'

'The Secret of Kells'

I have extremely fond movie memories of Chicago. As a kid, I remember watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off and thinking how cool it would be to ditch school and catch a ballgame at Wrigley Field, visit the Art Institute and stand on the rails at The Sears Tower. I also wished I could visit Hughes' fictional Chicago surburb of Shermer, Illinois, and run through the halls like the kids in The Breakfast Club and find out which street Anthony Michael Hall stalked Molly Ringwald on during the bus scene in Sixteen Candles.

Mostly, though, as a movie pup throughout the late '70s and entire '80s, I associated the Windy City with two of my all-time favorite film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. I watched epsiodes of them on "Sneak Previews" and "At the Movies" religiously, and it's safe to say I wouldn't have ended up where I am today if not for watching their show and reading the reviews of my other favorite critic - Robert Denerstein who wrote for my local "Rocky Mountain News."

So when it came to choosing a theater in Chicago to catch a flick, it was a no-brainer to select the Gene Siskel Film Center. It might not have the stadium seating, thousand-seat auditoriums and deluxe amenities one associates with other modern movieplexes, but it's absolutely amazing as a motion picture center dedicated to a guy who loved movies, loved his city and made that love - along with his famous partner - infectious and palpable for the rest of us.

Located across from the famous Chicago Theatre on North State Street downtown, the Center is part museum screening room (run by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), part upscale gallery (framed pictures of everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Natalie Portman line the walls) and part Tarantino film geek factory (besides an upcoming, month-long tribute to the rebel filmmaker, they're also screening cool indie pics like Fellini's 8 1/2 and The Wild Bunch).

On my day in Chicago, I was lucky to catch the animated The Secret of Kells in one of the Center's old-school, impeccable theaters. The film - a surpise animation nominee at this year's Oscars - is a fascinating piece of art that combines Irish mythology with fantastic hand-drawn art that invokes a lot of different styles, and doesn't shy away from its darker elements. The story of a Celtic boy's efforts to finish a magical book to ward off marauding vikings doesn't have all happy endings - but it works as an impressive, original visual tale.

Mr. Siskel, who always appreciated films that broke the mold, would have likely been enchanted by the way the cartoon takes common narrative elements and renders them in an unfamiliar fashion. He would also have liked that the Center sold out for both afternoon shows. I've seen big crowds pack them in back in L.A. for revival screenings, but it was thrilling to experience that excitement in this unique venue in this town - and remember again how inspired those Chicagoans - Siskel and Ebert - could make you feel to discover great cinema.

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The amazing Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago...

The two most famous film critics ever on the planet...

The equally amazing Chicago Theatre across the street...

And one more famous guy you might recognize...

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Next Article by cwalton

Day 59: 'Under the Sea 3D'

Day 59: 'Under the Sea 3D'

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