I am not usually a masochist. I say this in order to preface the following story, in which I tackle the Best Picture Showcase, a marathon of every Academy Award-nominated Best Picture film in one sitting. It's a nearly-24-hour slog through this most prestigious of Oscar categories, held in an AMC movie theater in Orange, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles, and it costs $60. I arrived a little before 10 a.m. on March 1.
At 9:50 a.m. I was already crying at a commercial for ALS. There were still 21 hours and 49 minutes until the AMC Best Picture Showcase was over.
The staff gave everyone in the surprisingly crowded theater a badge shaped like a little bow tie. Three women who had been to the showcase before would tell me that it isn't usually this full. I was dressed in layers — I noticed that at least five people had brought blankets. For some reason I tried not to know what order the movies were shown in, and so I was surprised that the first was Philomena.
10 a.m.: Philomena
We cheered when Philomena started, but it seemed more like we were cheering for our masochism. The woman to my left took up a bunch of seats and laid herself down as if to take a nap. Philomena is about an old Irish woman named Philomena (Judi Dench) whose baby son was sold to Americans by asshole nuns; she meets a journalist named Martin who helps her track him down. Right when they first meet and Martin (Steve Coogan) learns about Philomena's excruciating breach birth where the nuns wouldn't give her painkillers, he says, "Excellent. Story-wise." It sent a shiver down my spine. If a mirror had been handy, I would have taken a hard look at myself.
As far as I can tell, I am the only person who laughed when Dench said, "Just 'cause you're in first class doesn't mean you're a first-class person." PHILOMENA LEE, you keep it so real. Philomena's depiction of hyper-intense runners in Washington, D.C., also jibes with what I know of hyper-intense runners in Washington, D.C. Points for realness AND realism, movie.
At one point my throat made a very weird squeaky sound I've never heard before while I started to cry.
Times I cried: Four — when she says she's been looking for her son ever since he was taken; when she finds out — SPOILER ALERT! — it was her son's dying wish "to go home"; when she puts the Jesus statue on her son's grave; right before the end credits roll when they tell you that "shamed" women are still looking for their children. I am literally crying about that last one again as I type this.
This is a really awkward bathroom selfie I took after seeing Philomena.
The toilets at the AMC in Orange are overzealous. That first time the toilet flushed once right before I began to pee, once when I was still peeing, and once more when I stood up. Keep in mind that it was still pretty early at this point and I still had my wits about me.
When I returned to the theater, a woman said "woooooo" and "one down" and gave a theater employee a high-five, which seemed ridiculous considering there were eight more movies to go.
11:50 a.m.: A woman tripped a little on my left knee as Her started. Also, I hate Her.
At 11:53 my nose started to run.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), as you may have noticed from the photograph, has a terrible mustache in this movie and also glasses that I am somewhat ashamed to say I want for myself.
The most radical idea in this movie is probably that pregnancy photos are sexy, but this gets less radical for me when you actually see the pregnant woman naked and she has this weird, tiny little bush. If Spike Jonze actually wanted to show pregnancy as sexy because it is so WOMANLY, that bush would be running wild and free.
Also, right when Theodore meets his operating system, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), she fucking tells him she read an entire goddamn book in 2/100ths of a second. Where does this Theodore cat have the audacity to put the moves on her? Why is Samantha so interested that she plays his stupid video game with him? Doesn't the fact that he feels as if he "can say anything" to her mean he doesn't think of her as a real person because he's not afraid she'll judge him or leave him? Why is he dating someone who's essentially his servant, at his beck and call all the time? Also, Spike Jonze, am I really supposed to believe that Los Angeles still has fountains in the future? DROUGHT, guy, drought!
God, the sex scene. "I want you inside me" has to be the most disgusting example of metonymy.
I noticed that I was starting to smell a little B.O.-y, but at this point there was nothing to be done about it — my apologies to the mom sitting next to me. At 12:40, I left to pee and get a hot dog. I instantly felt guilty about the hot dog (pigs are smarter than dogs! Think of their suffering!). I unfortunately went back in the theater in time to catch Amy Adams saying that love is "socially acceptable insanity." The hot dog was more thought-provoking than the film.
Times I cried: Zero, although there was one moment when Theodore was being a dick about Samantha's breathing when I was reminded of that ALS commercial, and I was moved thinking about how beautiful it was that a man who had lost control of his muscles could still talk to his son with the help of eye-tracking technology.
2:10 p.m.: 12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave is probably one of the best movies I will ever see. Also, someone described the Benedict Cumberbatch character to me as "sympathetic," and I think he probably didn't watch this movie very carefully. It was especially chilling to me when he gives Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a violin and says, "I hope it brings us both much joy over the years." Pretty dehumanizing, no? I don't really see why we need a sliding scale for certain types of evil.
At the end of the film, I couldn't feel myself crying, but there were tears rolling down my cheeks. The lady to my right said this movie was "too violent" for her, which.
4:50 p.m.: The Wolf of Wall Street
There are many naked women in this movie. I also get the sense that from the relish with which these characters compare themselves to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick that none of them know the first thing about Moby Dick. Homies, Captain Ahab never catches that whale. The whale eats him. Maybe choose a different archetypal obsessive.
Hours after this lunch hot dog, I was pretty hungry at 7:44 p.m., when I left The Wolf of Wall Street. I ate a sandwich next to some yo-yo who said his favorite 2014 nominee was Captain Phillips.
8:50 p.m.: American Hustle
At one point in the middle of this movie, I went to pee and the toilet flushed while I was in the middle of peeing AGAIN and I thought-hissed at the toilet we are in a drought.
Drought aside, this was the second time I'd seen American Hustle, and sometimes Jennifer Lawrence's relatability makes me forget that she is a really good actress. U crazy, gurl! But my main takeaway from this movie is that nipples and adultery were big in the '70s.
After this movie ended, I texted my boyfriend, "Only four more movies, motherfucker," and then I laughed out loud at my use of profanity for a full minute.
11:25 p.m.: Gravity
I attempted to sleep during Gravity. This failed because the movie is very loud.
1:10 a.m.: Dallas Buyers Club
Riveting. I feel weirdly energized. I am happy that there's another movie about hypocritical people in power abusing their position and making vulnerable people suffer.
Times I cried: Two — When Ron (Matthew McConaughey) makes T.J. shake hands with Rayon (Jared Leto); when everyone in the Dallas Buyers Club claps for Ron when he comes back from San Francisco, even though his case failed.
3:09 a.m.: I'd been awake since 6:45 a.m., and I felt strangely fine. This is a photograph of the Chiquita "To Go" banana I had eaten for breakfast.
Why was I thinking about this "To Go" banana? I was hungry at 3:09 a.m. and I wished I had another banana. Plus, bananas are the original to-go food; it seems ridiculous to market them as such. Like, duh. I can tell it's portable, it's a fucking banana.
At 3:18 a.m., I felt my left eye twitch.
3:20 a.m.: Nebraska
This movie is shot in black and white for a reason I am too tired to figure out. It is about growing old and having a disappointing life and trying to make sense of your family. Actually, maybe this is why it's shot in black and white? I found it surprising in that it surprised me many times by not being over yet.
I realize that Gravity is the only nominee that can be described in one sentence, not leaving anything out. I realize that my teeth feel mossy.
5:25 a.m.: Captain Phillips
I fall asleep almost immediately. When I wake up at 7:03 a.m., I am amazed to find that there are still 36 goddamn minutes until this movie is over. I leave the theater to poop. I start to walk back toward the theater. It is light outside, and I consider leaving right now, half an hour before it ends, because you don't fucking own me, AMC. Was this some kind of sick joke, making the last movie the one about a hostage situation? Is this a commentary on what you're doing here? Is there going to be an encore movie about fucking Stockholm Syndrome?
"But I've come this far," I say to myself. "I can't leave now."
"You're weak," I snap at myself as I walk back into the theater, drawn in like a fly is drawn to the rotten scent of a decaying flower.
Until the very last moment, I consider leaving before it ends. And then I don't, and AMC wins, and some guy tries to start a slow-clap but only succeeds in getting people applauding, regular-style.
AMC beat me.
Or did I beat AMC?
Why do I feel so awake?