10 Films, 24 Hours: Dispatches from the Oscar Endurance Test

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TIME's Gilbert Cruz is attempting to watch all 10 of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees in 24 hours. Read his dispatches below, and follow him on twitter at @gilbertcruz.

Read about his preparations for the ordeal here.

8:58 am How does one say goodbye to a room of a couple hundred people, all of whom just spent an entire day and night together? Probably by dashing out of the place, like I just did, just to get outside and feel the sun on my face. As The King's Speech ended, there was polite applause for the film (which got the marathon's only loud snorer, by my ears) but even louder applause for the fact that everyone made it through together without any fights or unpleasantness.

Over the past few years, I've lost my faith in the moviegoing experience, which is a painful thing for someone who loves film as much as I to admit. And its not so much the quality of the theaters or the exorbitant prices or the wildly varying quality of product — no, its the audiences. Moviegoers today are loud, rude, and crude. I'm not engaging in nostalgia for some golden age of movie viewership, because such a thing probably doesn't exist. I'm searching for the ideal movie viewing experience. One where the audience pays attention to the film on screen, accepts it on its own terms, and doesn't disrespect it or the people around them.

I think I may have found that last night. That movie theater full of people took those movies in wholeheartedly and with such appreciation. Sure, I'm sure many were there for the pure stunt aspect of it all, but you can't sit through that many different films for such a stretch if you don't love movies with a crazy sort of love. The whole experience was stupid and fun and painful and glorious. Like I said, I'll never do it again.

6:45am The Social Network has just ended. All that remains is The King's Speech. We are on a small break. The sun has come up over Manhattan. I cannot think of a single interesting thing to say at this point. Will I even be awake for the Oscars tonight?

4:25am Well, I slept through almost half of Inception. Mostly the talky parts. I'd seen the movie thrice before and am pretty sure I got everything I needed out of it. But I definitely fell asleep. Or did I? Am I even writing this? If I write 500 words in my dream, is it 1000 in waking life. Or vice-versa?

I've been surrounded by people I feel I know pretty well by now, having spent 16 or so hours with them. The guys behind me are sardonic, too smart for their own good. They're the dudes who are always right, so it's pointless to ever discuss anything with them. Inception is "bad physics." Winter's Bone is "poverty porn." Toy Story 3 is "good, but not as good as everyone says it is." They're those guys.

Next to me is are a chatty group of young girls who must have, between the three of them, consumed about nine coke refills each. That's been magical to watch. Ahead of me is a family of three, two of whom are seemingly quick sick. They've been sneezing and coughing and nose blowing the entire time. The son has been walking around with a wad of tissues in his hands all day (and now night). If they have the superflu, we're done for. At least I'll have accomplished this honorable task before I go.

In front of them are the homebodies — jammies, tray table, a carton of fresh strawberries. Near them is someone who has clapped for every movie today. All of them. I haven't pinpointed said person yet.

The blankets are in full effect now. One woman has put up the armrests for three seats — like she's on a half-empty flight, but just with a bigger screen to watch the movies — and made a little bed for herself. There's a really intense and tall purple pillow in the back row. I clearly planned poorly. I would say I'll do a better job next year, but let's be honest, this is insane. I'll never try this again.

Up next, The Social Network. Keep me awake, Sorkin.

1:30 am As suspected, Black Swan is a great midnight movie. It builds to a crescendo that's hard to doze off to. Also, whether intentionally or not, it's hilarious, and that's great stay awake fodder. Also hilarious, though, is that the next movie is Inception, scheduled for 2 am. Insert obvious falling asleep/dream-within-a-dream joke here. Actually, the woman behind me is already napping.

People are getting punch drunk. Lots of giddy, "what the hell are we still doing here" laughter. Many people are humming the main theme of Swan Lake.

It's become pretty obvious that, for me at least, it's difficult to make any critical judgments when everything is coming at you hard and fast. Have I enjoyed The Fighter the most today because it's actually a good movie, or because it had a great soundtrack and a propulsive energy at a time when I needed some propulsive energy? Would I have enjoyed Winter's Bone more if I had seen it earlier in the day? Such are the mysteries of programming.

What I can say is that when you're bombarded with movies like this (not that many people in their right minds will ever have to be), it's the grand emotions that stick out. The great moments of nostalgia, or pity, or joy or fear or excitement. Seven movies in, I'm remembering how they all made me feel — not so much anything about how they actually are, nothing intellectual.

The yawning began in earnest during Black Swan. The number of people in the theater is thinning. I've just popped a ton of Reese's Pieces. Time to get Incepted!

11:30 pm Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent is telling Jules about Europe and about how they call a quarter pounder with cheese a royale with cheese? He also says, "You can walk into a movie theater and buy a beer. And I don't mean like a paper cup. I'm talking about a glass of beer."

Right now I wish I was in Europe.

It's that right-before-midnight time. Winter's Bone just ended (what a quiet quiet movie — thankfully they played it before midnight) and Black Swan is next. A phantasmagoric (I hate that word, but film critics use it a lot, so I shall as well) backstage ballet camp horror flick, Black Swan is perfect for this time of night. It's kind of scary, kind of sexy and, to get back to my original point, would be perfectly watched after a couple beers. Or as part of a drinking game. Take a shot each time Vincent Cassel says some variation of "Nina, you need to get in touch with your more dangerous side." Drunk in 60 minutes, guaranteed.

But they don't sell beers here. So its time for chicken fingers and a non-Diet Coke.

This is the first film for which a small, but noticeable, part of the audience has left. Seemingly for the night, given the late hour. From here on out, it's the hardcore cinemaniacs. The people with the pillows and the snuggies and the jammies. Maybe I should blow up this airplane neck pillow I bought yesterday. I'll give y'all estimates on how many people are snoring by the end of the film.

I've been writing this on my Blackberry in the theater rafters while the first 20 minutes have been playing. Vincent Cassel just said, "If I was just casting the white swan, Nina..."

Take a shot, everyone!

9:08 pm Halfway done. Five movies committed to dust. Which means... holy crap. I still have five movies to go. The dark ones are coming up: Winter's Bone, Black Swan, Inception, The Social Network. That's when the sleep is going to start to set in. But for now, I'm feeling remarkably great. Not tired or sleepy or weak or achey. Its actually somewhat troubling how good I feel. I'm know I'm jinxing myself by writing this. Cut to four hours from now, when I'm gibbering in the corner of the men's room.

I just bought a Coke but it doesn't taste like Coke. Is this Diet Coke? Is this what Diet Coke tastes like? This is awful.

I was so pleasantly surprised by The Fighter. A real shot of adrenaline at the perfect time. Right now, as I write this, there's a little too much adrenaline in this theater, though. For various reasons, we've all been moved to the screening room directly above us. It seemed like a fairly simple process. Move four rows of people at a time so that everyone could keep the same seats. Easy, right? Not for one usherette, who is muttering under her breath "What is it going to take for these people to sit down?" (Which is slightly better than the usherette who kept saying, "I need a drink".) She keeps dashing up and down the stairs and is making me anxious. Let me take a sip of my Coke.

I'm pretty sure this is Diet Coke, by the way.

A young man just changed into pajamas. Soft blue. Earlier in the day, he and his friend broke out a tray table that they had hauled in, took out a loaf of sliced white bread, and started to make sandwiches. They might be the smartest people in this theater. They clearly don't give a whit what anyone thinks about them. Also, Pajama Man is walking around in his white socks. No shoes. Just socks. Why the hell not?

6:20 pm In honor of True Grit, which just ended, I am going to try not to use any contractions in this update.

I do not know if the soundproofing is just faulty in this theater, or if it is just the sound of the subway running below 8th avenue, but there is a giant rumble every couple minutes or so. It is very distracting when you are trying to watch a movie as quiet as True Grit is. The entire theater shakes. It is like I am in the film Inception, and every few minutes I descend to another dream level. (I just asked an usher and he thinks it is the digital sound system from an adjoining film.)

We are in the middle of an hour-long break, the first extended time off we have had all day. Four films have transpired and someone has lost an arm in two of them (three if you count all the plastic appendages lost in Toy Story 3). This is not a fickle audience. Immediately surrounding me are the same people who were here for the first movie. From brief conversations with them, they plan on staying until the end. No point in paying sixty bucks to go halfway, I suppose.

By and large, the audience is mostly young people. A lot of college students, it looks like. Everyone is wearing these lanyard/badge things, which have the day's schedule, around their necks. It is like happy hour at a Capitol Hill bar (if you have never experienced that particular type of happy hour, count yourself blessed).  There is one elderly gentleman in the second row. If he is waiting to see The King's Speech, he has got a long way to go.

So far today, in the eight-and-a-half hours I have been in this theater, I have had the following to eat: one small popcorn, one small Coke, one pepperoni pizza, one box of Raisinets, one large bottle of water. I wish I had not given myself the self-imposed rule that I could not leave the theater. Everyone is coming back with sandwiches from Starbucks and Schnippers and other places that sell significantly better food than is sold here. Also, I am sure the fresh air helps. This theater currently smells like the free fruit snacks (Frooti Tootis) that the theater employees just handed out. Those, and the Raisinets, might be the only things resembling a fruit or vegetable that I eat today.  Actually, now the theater smells like mayonnaise.

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