Smile Politely

Weekender: December 19-21

FRIDAY, December 19th

Catch It’s a Wonderful Life at the Virginia Theatre, 7 p.m., $4

Just four bucks to see one of the greatest holiday films ever made, in a beautiful auditorium. The 19th and 20th will conclude the Virginia’s run of “The Best Christmas Movies Ever” (according to them). Plus, if you wear an ugly Christmas sweater, you’ll get a small popcorn free. I won’t rehash the plot, because you’re probably from this planet, but suffice it to say that this is the rare mix of feel-good nostalgia and serious Twilight Zone darkness. Plus, unlike previous feature Holiday Inn, this film contains no singers performing in blackface. Honest. Happy holidays. (MG)

WHIPLASH is finally at the Art Theater Co-op!

One of the best reviewed and most anticipated films of the year is finally here in Champaign-Urbana. Now playing at the Art Theater Co-op, this story of a drumming prodigy and his demanding instructor has all the earmarks of a sleeper classic. (And, in case you didn’t know, the film was produced by Helen Estabrook, a native of C-U!) Starring Miles Teller (The Everlasting Now) and J.K. Simmons (list of awesome credits much too long to put in-between parentheses), this promises to be a treat for movie lovers and music lovers alike. (MG)

The Snow Queen and the Goblin, Parkland Theatre, 2400 W Bradley Ave, Champaign, 7 p.m., $8-$12

There’s still time to catch the Parkland Theatre’s annual holiday production, The Snow Queen and the Goblin, a dramatization of a story by Hans Christian Andersen. This well-known fairy tale was the original source material for the highly acclaimed and successful Disney film, Frozen. The production will take the audience back in time and into a world of imagination and fantasy. There is also matinee shows on the 20th and 21st at 3 p.m. (RP)

Acker, Engine Summer, The Autocorrect, Mike N Molly’s, doors at 9 p.m., $7

I can’t tell you too much about Engine Summer or The Autocorrect, but I can say that Acker is a hard working band and seeing them play is an intense experience, especially having watched them grow from a post rock group trying to find its footing to the powerful, heavy noise rock band they’ve become today. Each song is an assault on your ear drums — in a good way of course. (MR)

SATURDAY, December 20th

Take visitors to a free coffee tasting, Columbia Street Roastery, 24 East Columbia Ave, Champaign, 10 a.m., free

If you have family in town, this is a lovely way to entertain for virtually no cost. Bring them to CSR and you can take part in a family cupping–that is, a coffee tasting. The actual cupping part is free, but I’m willing to bet you’ll leave there with some goodies. (JH)

Go ice skating, 1:30-4 p.m., 406 East Armory Avenue, $2-$7

If you didn’t already know, Champaign-Urbana has a lovely ice rink where you can go

show off your moves or just play around on the ice. Prices are cheap for a good time with a few friends. If you’re a UIUC student they wave the entry fee and you just pay the skate rental. For general public older than 4 years old, it is $7. If you’re under 4 you probably should be watching Sesame Street instead of reading Smile, but you get in free to skate. Skating at the ice rink is truly a unique experience so I recommend you go out and give it a shot! (SL)

Kids Event: Merry & Bright Candy Cane Hunt, Leonhard Recreation Center, 2112 Sangamon Dr, Champaign, 1-3 p.m., free

Folks with kids ages 3 – 10 might want to stop by the Leonhard Recreation Center Saturday afternoon for candy canes, hot chocolate, and a glimpse of Santa. This event is hosted by the Champaign Park District. (RP)

Wintertime, The Station Theatre, 8 p.m., $15

One last chance to see this “loopy operatic farce, the surreal collides with sex and the profound smashes up against slapstick” (according to the Station website). Plot: “During a late December snowfall, Jonathan and Ariel, a young couple in love, arrive at Jonathan’s family summer house for a romantic getaway. Ready to propose marriage, Jonathan is interrupted by his mother Maria and her lover Francois, who have also decided to use the house for the weekend. This unexpected turn of events is followed by the arrival of Jonathan’s father Frank and his father’s lover Edmund who have also shown up for a romantic weekend. As pleasantries snowball out of control, Bertha, an elderly woman, bursts in and explains that her lover Hilda has fallen through a hole in the ice and is drowning. As the group frantically runs around gathering rescue equipment, Hilda enters alive and soaking wet. It does not take long for suspicions and jealousies to resurface, and soon all of the lovers demonstrate their frustration in a performance that is both operatic and farcical.” (MG)

SUNDAY, December 21st

Babes in Toyland, Rantoul Theatre Group, 2 p.m., $10

Final performance! From the RTG website: “The villainous Barnaby has fallen in love with sweet Mistress Mary Quite Contrary. If he can’t buy her love, then he’ll force her to marry him by threatening to foreclose on her mother, the poor Widow Piper. Mary already has her heart set on marrying Barnaby’s nephew Alan — but not if Barnaby can help it! He hires two bumbling ruffians to do away with Alan, but Alan returns to Mother Goose Land amidst much rejoicing. Mary journeys to the mysterious Toyland through the dangerous Spider Forest. But wait! Barnaby hasn’t given up, and he herds the whole gang of Mother Goose Land characters to Toyland in pursuit of Mary.” Directed by Garth Gersten. (MG)

Back up your harddrive, your house, all day

When was the last time you backed up your these? Your photos? Your garage bandtunes? If you’re an average users it has probably been a good long while since you’ve backed up those precious files. Let me tell you a quick horror story. I knocked my external hard drive, the one with all of my photos, off of my desk the Geek Guys and EP computers says in order to recover the data, I’ll need to send it to California for a $1,400 data recovery procedure. So spend a few hours today and back up your shit! (SL)


2nd Annual Triptych Festivus, Triptych Brewery, 1703 Woodfield Dr, Savoy, Tuesday, December 23rd, 3-10 p.m., prices a la carte

There will be beer: 2013 Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (aged in Heaven Hill barrels); 2014 AJ’s Stout (aged in Buffalo Trace barrels); 2013 AJ’s Stout (aged in Four Roses barrels); and some more. There will be Dragon Fire Pizza. There will be an airing of grievances at 5:30 p.m. This is something you need to attend. Photo from Facebook. (JH)


Christmas Eve tasting menu, bacaro, 113 North Walnut, Champaign, by reservation only (217-398-6982), $85; $45 for wine pairings

Here’s the menu: ocal carrot soup, fresh turmeric; poached bay scallops, osetra cavier, nasturtium blossoms, micro onion; lobster ravioli, uni butter sauce; pan roasted wild turbot, Himalayan pink rice, braised baby leeks, blood orange beurre blanc; veal scallopini, chestnuts, white truffles; selection of cheeses, bacaro honey; chocolate ganache cake. Photo from Facebook. (JH)

Get your Hobbit on, local cinemas, $74 including popcorn, nine hours long or thereabouts

As if you need reminding, the final (sure) film in Peter Jackson’s seventeen part series (feels like it) will be playing throughout the holiday break at the Savoy 16 and Carmike 13 cinemas. I’m not familiar with the source material, but I think it involves a barefoot child and a bunch of heavy metal dwarves who kill a dragon or something. I should look that up.

Anyhoo, go see Sir Ian McKellan (who is British), Benedict Cumberbatch (as Spock), Martin Freeman (as Benedict Cumberbatch’s little friend), Idina Menzel (Queen Elsa), Wesley Snipes (pretty sure about this), and many more in a film that cost literally thousands of dollars. Long live Hollywood. (MG)

Have a meal at Layalina, 401 South First Street, Champaign, Wednesday, December 24th and Thursday, December 25th, 12-10 p.m., call 217-607-5455 to make a reservation

Layalina is one of the few places open on Christmas day, so if you need a place to eat, this should be at the top of the list. Need a reminder? Check out my review from earlier this year. Don’t forget to call to reserve a table. (JH)

Eat at The Great Impasta,156C Lincoln Square, Urbana, Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

This local institution will permanently close its doors after dinner service on December 31st. Get there before to enjoy a last meal and say your farewells. Photo from Facebook. (JH)


The Lounge: #blacklivesmatter, THE HUB, 912 W. Springfield, Urbana, January 3rd at 7:30 p.m.

Stay politically engaged over break by attending this #blacklivesmatter event, which will use the arts to promote racial equality and justice. Spoken word, song, and storytelling will be featured. If you’re interested in performing, email (RP)


Dinner at Big Grove, 1 East Main Street, Champaign, 5-10 p.m., Tasting Menu $65 per person; $20 optional wine pairings.

Tasting menu includes: duo of oysters; grilled octopus confit; seared black cod or grilled lamb; lime sponge cake or burrata. Regular dinner menu will also be available. Call 217-239-3505 to reserve a table. Photo from Facebook. (JH)

New Year’s Eve Speakeasy, Seven Saints, 32 East Chester Street, Champaign, anytime after dark until 2 a.m.

Seven Saints is hosting a speakeasy-themed New Year’s Eve celebration. So if you’re looking for an excuse to reuse an old Halloween costume (or just wear your regular Gatsby-inspired clothing), here’s your chance. Drink specials include the cranberry gimlet, the pomegranate basil martini, and Hemingway’s champagne. Photo from Facebook. (JH)

Veronic Bleaus hosts NYE, Boltini, 211 North Neil Street, Champaign, evening until the wee hours

If you missed Veronica Bleaus, the self-proclaimed “worst drag queen in the Midwest,” as she ruined Christmas in a nude body suit and hot-glued derby, don’t worry: she’s back for more bad times on New Year’s Eve. Stop by Boltini for warm lights, strong cocktails, and the campiest of drag. (RP)

Grandkids, Resinater, Jorts, Mike N Molly’s, doors at 9 p.m., $5

This is probably the best NYE deal you’ll find around town, and the biggest variety in one place. The return of formerly local band Grandkids, stoner metal by way of Resinater, and Jorts, the mysterious hazmat suit-wearing light up techno weirdos of Urbana, all playing Mike N Molly’s to ring in 2015. (MR)


All event information is accurate to the best of our abilities, but sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes event information, times, prices, etc., change after we look them up. Whenever possible, we’ve provided a link to the original event page; you should always double-check the source before you make any firm plans. Thanks for your understanding.

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