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

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3:50 pm Film three comes to a close. (I almost said film four. I'm losing track of time already.) There's a couple dudes in the lobby standing against the wall, just staring into space. Very appropriate. Six hours of movies is slightly affecting my mood. No headache yet, but like an ambulance, I can feel it coming five blocks away. The films have been well timed so far. Cute (Toy Story 3), Quiet/Introspective (127 Hours), Funny/Sexy (The Kids Are All Right). We're about to move into Slow/Linguistically Complex with True Grit.

Right now, a couple of guys from the theater are standing up front. The lights are up and they're asking Oscar trivia questions. The best part about this is that the lights are up. Now its easy to see how much of a disaster this theater looks like. When one of the movie ushers comes in to clean up, someone tells her it's not even worth it. A kid I take to be a college student walks past and says, "It smells like 600 people just sitting and rotting away in here."

I run into Mark and Greg again. They're the two guys who have done this for four years now. They give me one of the spare patches that they've attached to the back of their t-shirts. It reads, "2011 Best Picture Showcase. 24 Hours, 10 Movies, No Mercy. If watching movies 24 hours is wrong — I don't want to be right." I'm not sure if I want to be wrong or right, but their devotion is heartening.

1:40 pm You know it's gonna happen, but that arm-cutting scene still comes out of nowhere. A few people scream. Like not just gasp, but scream — loudly. It's awesome. Otherwise, the crowd is really, really silent. A real theater of film lovers. No stupid shenanigans with talking in cell phones, etc. I once came to this very theater to see a midnight showing of King Kong. Worst. Screening. Ever. People talking for three hours straight. After 127 Hours breaks, we have a half hour until the next film. I dash to the concession counter to get a pepperoni pizza and Raisinets, my first movie theater food of the day. To my left, about 20 people stand on line for five minutes before realizing that no one is at the register. After housing my pizza, I talk to two men wearing T-shirts touting their experience with Oscar-movie marathons. This will be their fourth in a row, starting in 2008 at an event in Farmington, Conn. Their advice for me? Take it easy on the soda. I plan to talk to them some more later. Up next, The Kids Are All Right.

11:45 am One down, nine left. Toy Story 3 was a smart way to open this. Full of more laughs than I remember, and the audience is completely into it. Spirits are high. Then the movie ends and dozens of people head into the lobby to get their first sodas of the day. The lines are troubling. Two rows ahead of me, a woman is wearing a blue snuggie covered in white stars and crescent moons. She seems foolish now, but I suspect she'll be the smart one 8 hours from now. Next up, 127 Hours. I'm already hungry.

9:55 am I skip the line. (This is New York, after all.) Have scored an aisle seat near the exit. I plan to hold onto this seat all day and all night. Everyone in the theater is excited; half of the theater (including myself) is holding some kind of phone, checking in on Facebook or possibly Foursquare. Many people have bags (full of food, I assume — I just bought two large waters for nine bucks. Outrageous.) I've already seen three people with pillows. I should have brought a pillow.

9:30 am I arrive at 9:10 and the line already reaches three storefronts down, to an Applebee's happily playing loud adult contemporary hits. It is freezing out here. My plan to dress lightly because I'd be indoors the entire day and night is not paying off right now. After 25 minutes, the line reaches down past the Dave and Busters to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Across the street and down a bit, a shorter line stretches outside of the Spider-Man musical. I wonder who is going to have a better day, us or them. They finally let us in. Apparently, everyone else came last night to pick up their tickets in advance. After getting mine from the automated machine, I'm now basically at the back of the line. With the Ripley's Believe It Or Not People. My seats are going to be great.

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