Nine Movies. 24 Hours. 11,000 Calories of Popcorn.
Can two Slate writers survive AMC’s Best Picture megamarathon?
Posted Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at 10:15 AM
Friday, 2 p.m.
Forrest Wickman: Laura, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, we will spend 24 hours trapped in a small Times Square theater with ferocious Aurochs, a tiger named Richard Parker, and Anne Hathaway. Remind me again, reassure me: Why are we doing this? And will you be bringing crabby snacks and homemades?
L.V. Anderson: I will not be bringing crabby snacks and homemades—they don’t travel well, and taste best hot—but we should talk about which snacks to bring to the AMC Best Picture Showcase. By my calculation, the time that will elapse between the beginning of Amour on Saturday morning and the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild on Sunday morning is 23 ½ hours. What's the best way to keep our energy up over that period of time? I'm thinking nuts and maybe some dried fruit (if only so I can dust off my “Mango Unchained” pun).
Wickman: Having seen that first film—who at AMC made that programming decision? I can only assume it was the sadistic Michael Haneke—I can tell you that the answer is booze, of the strongest proof available.
Laura, if my intel is up-to-date, you’ve only seen one of this year’s nominees, Silver Linings Playbook. Are you actually excited to see these movies?
Anderson: That's a complicated question. This year, like every other year, I vowed to see all the Best Picture Oscar nominees so I could better partake in the cultural conversation surrounding them. I also failed, like every other year. I’m not sure what it is about Oscar nominees that makes me so ambivalent about actually watching them—probably the fact that they tend to be self-serious, whereas I prefer my cinematic entertainment to take the form of lighthearted comedies. So when I found out about the existence of the AMC Best Picture Showcase, it seemed like it was tailor-made for me—get all that pesky movie-watching out of the way at once, as efficiently as possible! So in that sense, yes, I am excited about seeing these movies. However, I recognize that movies are not designed to be viewed in this fashion. I anticipate some kind of emotional overload—at some point, maybe six to eight hours in, you can expect to find me bawling hysterically. Or maybe laughing hysterically! Who knows?
Wickman: Considering I have already seen all this year's nominees, I should explain myself. As far as I can tell, I had two reasons for signing up for this, neither of which is stopping me from regretting it:
The first is fairly obvious: I really like most of these movies and am excited to spend more time with them.
The second is perhaps only slightly less obvious: I want to journey deep into the Oscar heart of darkness, to stare directly into the sun around which all this razzmatazz orbits, and have it stare back into me. I want Stockholm syndrome to make me like Argo again. And then I want Abraham Lincoln, or Ben Affleck—whatever—to set me free.
Anderson: I feel like we’d be remiss in our live-blogging duties if we failed to mention the reigning masterpiece of the genre: Xan Brooks’ chronicle of the 11-hour Isner-Mahut Wimbledon match for the Guardian in 2010. Of course, what made that live-blog and its talk of “Everlasting Zombie Tennis Players” so thrilling was that it was unexpected. Our live-blog, on the other hand, will be entirely predictable: We will resemble zombies by the end, no question about it.
By the way, here is our morning, afternoon, night, and morning's schedule, for those following along at home:
10:00 a.m. Saturday: Amour
12:20 p.m.: Lincoln
3:20 p.m.: Argo
5:35 p.m.: Django Unchained
9:30 p.m.: Les Miserables
12:30 a.m. Sunday: Zero Dark Thirty (Nice one, AMC!)
3:20 a.m.: Life of Pi
5:40 a.m.: Silver Linings Playbook
7:55 a.m.: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Wickman: Laura, it's 22 hours to the Bathtub, I've got a liter full of coffee, half a bag of popcorn, it's dark (or fairly dim), and we're wearing sunglasses.
OK, that last part might not be true, but I at least remembered to bring a towelie for my eyeglasses. I'm suddenly feeling very prepared. Are you feeling very prepared?
Anderson: Forrest, I've never been so prepared in my life. I brought kale chips, cashews, dried mango, cookies, a pillow, and a chenille blanket. And yes, I brought a towelie for my glasses, too. Forgetting that would be an amateur mistake. The excitement here is palpable! I'd say we're looking at 70 percent capacity in the largest auditorium in this megaplex. And we've got some lovely emcees who just announced Amour will start in three minutes.
Wickman: But you missed the big opening presentation from Joe! This is his seat.
I am shocked—shocked!—by how many people are here. Amour should at least serve to thin out the weak. By the way, Laura, do you like pigeons? No reason.
Saturday, 10:35 a.m.
Anderson: Surprising amount of laughter during Amour so far in response to Trintignant and Riva's cute little pleasantries. Somehow I suspect the laughter might not last?
Saturday, 11:05 a.m.
Wickman: Yeah, I'm learning new things already. The electric wheelchair bit just killed! The crowd is loving Riva. Amour is a screwball comedy! Or at least most of it is a comedy.
Saturday, 12:21 p.m.
Wickman: So the lights just came up at the end of Amour and Joe said, "Everybody happy?" The audience, whose laughter has long since been stifled, responded with mass groans. I even heard one attendee say, "I thought it was supposed to be a nice love story."
Anderson: I completely understand why they wanted to start with Amour, though! Haneke loves these long, lingering shots, forcing the audience to keep watching way past the point of comfort. It would be difficult to engage with that kind of thing if we had already seen, say, three other movies. (Also, I'm guessing we'll want to rest our eyes later on today—it would be difficult to do that while watching a movie with subtitles.)
Wickman: So by all signs spirits already seem to be sagging here—I think they peaked sometime between the hilarious motor-chair bit and the pigeon—but I'm still feeling good! Though (as those who've seen Amour will understand) your pillow is all the sudden looking a little more sinister.
Anderson: Let's take a look back at what we've seen so far:
Movies watched: one
Total caffeinated beverages consumed: five (one spilled on Forrest's shirt)
On-screen tears shed: two (Great acting, Isabelle Huppert!)
On-screen deaths: one
On-screen musical numbers: three (two piano sonatas, one rendition of "Sur le Pont d'Avignon")
Lincoln's up next. This is my first time seeing it, but I already know we'll see at least one more on-screen death. How many musical numbers, though, I wonder?
Saturday, 1:31 p.m.
Anderson: I wish James Spader were in every movie we're watching today.
Saturday, 3:10 p.m.
Wickman: Free at last! The Abraham Lincoln candle of freedom has made it so. Though I think I could actually have sat on Lincoln's lap and heard his stories—and Thaddeus' Stevens total burns—for three hours more. That's a Best Picture!
Anderson: I found Lincoln much more entertaining than I had anticipated! At the moment, I have no quibbles with Daniel Day-Lewis' front-runner status for Best Actor Oscar—what a transformation. And what a humane depiction of an iconic figure.
I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of Amour's depiction of a happy marriage with Lincoln's unhappy one. But I kind of wished they had saved this one for the middle of the night and/or early morning, perhaps to match the timing (spoiler, but not really) of Lincoln's death. I think we would have enjoyed the heartstring-tugging feel-good nature of Lincoln at a moment of intense exhaustion.
Oh, we should probably mention that Lincoln garnered applause at its end, whereas Amour did not. What do you make of that, Forrest?
Wickman: I'm with the people! I really admired Spielberg's broad direction this time around, which seemed to really land with everyone in the house. It helps balance out Kushner's script, which is even more intimidatingly dense than I appreciated the first time around.
Next up, the movie that has even Jimmy Carter's vote for Best Picture. It's about being held hostage by Ben Affleck, if I recall. Laura, are you excited for this movie? I have a vague memory of a time—before this endless Oscar season—when even I liked Argo.
Anderson: So, I would be excited to see Argo—I've heard it's one of the funner noms this year—but I'm actually ... abandoning you to go get a massage. I made the appointment a while ago and then forgot about it, and I considered canceling it when I realized it would overlap with the marathon—but then I realized I would probably really be able to use a massage six hours into the marathon. And I was right—I could really use a massage right about now!
(I know this makes me a less-than-hardcore Oscar-watching marathoner. But what can I say? Treat yo' self, as the old maxim goes.)
I do think this will be an interesting experiment—will the massage confer mental health benefits that allow me to power through hour two of (3D) Life of Pi at 4:30 a.m.? Or will Argo be the thematic linchpin of the marathon, allowing you to achieve some deeper understanding of this year's Oscar field that I can only dream of? Time will tell.
Wickman: I have another concern altogether. Have you ever heard of deep-vein thrombosis? You're going to feel awfully guilty about your shiatsu if I'm rendered Emanuelle Riva-like by a cerebral embolism before this is over.
Movies watched: two
Combined caffeinated beverages consumed: seven
On-screen tears shed: six (all solitary)
On-screen deaths: 202 (approximately 200 Confederate and Union soldiers, one U.S. president, one old French lady)
On-screen musical numbers: four (two piano sonatas, one rendition of "Sur le Pont d'Avignon," one opera aria)
Biggest laugh so far: Lincoln's Ethan Allen anecdote (with Emmanuelle Riva's motorized wheelchair scene coming in close second)