AMC Best Picture Showcase 2019

Remember a few years ago when I talked about how I did a 24 hour marathon of the best picture nominees? Guess what. I did it again! Finally! I’ve missed the ones in between since it usually falls on my bday weekend and I’ve already had something else planned. So this year I figured, why not make this the bday celebration? Turns out, it’s kind of a tough sell to get people to commit to sitting in a movie theater thru that many movies. But since when has the prospect of doing something alone stopped me? I did have a few friends who rotated in and out tho, so that was cool. Oh and we had to haul all the way down to Orange County for it. Kinda weird being so close to Disneyland and not stopping in to say hi to the Mouse. Anyways since my previous write up on the experience is pretty famous, at least in my family, (Hi Uncle Phil!) of course I’m gonna document the whole thing over again. I’m feeling very pressured to make this funny, but I do at least have some delirious Stardust reactions from throughout the day to help document things. Okay here we go

Approximately one month before the big day 6:55 AM – It’s the day tickets are supposta be on sale. I check the website as soon as I wake up. Nothing yet.

Same day 8:45 AM – Tickets are on sale, and everything I would have identified as the best seats are taken. I obsess for five minutes about which ones I want, mainly debating between center (better view) or aisle (better bathroom access). And what’s with this auditorium looking like it has 3 tiers? I pick middle tier center.

I proceed to spend the next month or so trying to convince people to come with. I eventually get 3 people, none of whom can be there for the whole thing, but we’ve secured a couple of seats in my row which eventually fills up.

Morning of 6:55 – I wake up. The alarm is actually set for 7:30, but I’m too antsy to sleep. Shower, breakfast, assuring the cats that I will be back some day. I’m wearing the Pulp Fiction shirt my BFFF got me for Christmas. It’s kinda like he’s coming with, plus it’s an awesome shirt. Also opted for my Ready Player One pajama pants. I’ve got a bag packed with my Aladdin magic carpet blanket, neck pillow, and water bottle. I wonder if they’re gonna be weird about bags, but I forsee picking up more items along the way so I chance it. I go back and forth on what outerwear to bring. It’s cold (for LA) so I take the Alien chestburster hoodie and my Donnie Darko jean jacket. I’d initially wanted to buy a bunch of party hats or other fun bday things, but since the group’s on the small side, I figure it’s not worth it. I grab a previous year’s Disneyland birthday pin and a Happy Bday necklace. That’ll do this time. I don’t know that anyone actually cares about these details, but let’s just say I thought about them for way too long. I pack up my truck and set the GPS while waiting for Friend 1’s Uber to get him to me

8:50 – Friend 1 arrives with a present: a tshirt and gift card to Trejo’s Tacos. I’m thinking about how much I love Trejo’s donuts that it isn’t until the next day that I realize I haven’t ever had his tacos yet. I make a mental note to wear the shirt on my actual bday on Mon. We hop in my truck. Most of the ride is spent speculating about who’s gonna win the next day. I hate committing to one pick, since I can usually guess the favorite and the upset but I never know which one is gonna prevail, but I LOVE having full conversations about all the possibilities. I actually have to grab a couple cough drops because I’m talking so much my throat is hurting. At one point, my buddy stops the conversation “What is that playing?” (Because of course my driving mix is blasting) “I have never heard so much bass coming from your truck” “That’s the Grinch” *quizzical look* “Tyler the Creator’s version for the new movie”. Buddy laughs hysterically because this is a completely on brand moment for me.

9:40 – We get to the Outlet mall that holds the giant AMC hosting the marathon. I’m not sure what end of the theater to park at which will get me closer to the entrance when I’m walking back to my truck alone in the wee hours of the morning. We get down and I’m loving how many people I’m seeing walking ahead of us also carrying pillows and blankets. We get into the theater and it’s surprisingly busy. I realize that they’ve actually got a bunch of showtimes starting this early. We’re waiting in line to get our tickets scanned and I’m starting to get giddy.

9:50 – We got less than ten minutes and I’ve got some running around to do. Check in and pick up lanyard. Bathroom. AMC Stubs gives you a free large popcorn and drink on your bday month which I’ve strategically saved for today and need to cash in. Turns out getting those two at once qualified as a combo which currently came with free gummy candy. Score!! I film my first Stardust reaction giving the lowdown on what’s about to go down while Friend 1 gets his mozzarella sticks. I’m frantically trying to add captions to the video as we walk into the auditorium. Uh oh. It’s not recliner seats like I’d just assumed would be in room they picked. They are very tight rows and I’m right in the middle of a bunch of people I will be scooching past many times today. We sit down and I’m trying to upload my Stardust reaction. Announcers come in to intro the movie (that didn’t happen last time). In a surprise move, they tell us we’re gonna be allowed to bring in outside food. In another surprise move, film 1 starts exactly on time, and I hafta wait to get my video uploaded until the first break.

10:00 – The Favourite – This is the movie I’m most looking forward to watching again. The first time around, I was digging the first half, but then bored for the second. I hoped I’d enjoy it more when it wasn’t two hours after going Black Friday shopping. And I did enjoy it better, but I still found the second act to be weaker. Still, the screenplay really impressed me with its smart humor and I hoped it would take original screenplay (tho the actual best original screenplay of the year for me would be Blindspotting, which wasn’t nominated because they chose not to compaign). When comparing Best Actress nominees, a friend had commented that Olivia Colman isn’t in The Favourite much, so I keep an eye on her. Her time is only slightly more than the ladies up for supporting, but the story revolves around Queen Anne, so it makes sense. During the draggy parts of the film, I figure out my food strategy. Chicken tenders now. Nothing in the next break. Outside food during the dinner break. Ice cream later. The popcorn will never run out.

12:00 – The movie is out and we’ve got 20 minutes. Friend 2 should be arriving any minute now. While making a bathroom run, I notice someone is wearing a full animal pajama onesie and I’m jealous. Next time I’m going full pj’s. I get my intro reaction posted while I’m in line, and also post an obligatory lanyard photo on my Insta. I then run over to order my chicken tenders(in a combo with fries and a cookie!) and record my reaction for The Favourite while I wait. I get my food and wait with Friend 1 at the bar, while I’m trying to get my captions on the video. We see the announcers walking out of the theater a couple minutes before the film’s supposta start. Guess that’s our queue to go in. My video’s not uploading. Friend 2 isn’t here yet. But I have my chicken and cookie and we take our seats.

12:20 – Bohemian Rhapsody – Just as I finish eating, Friend 2 arrives. The timing works out because now it’s possible for me to hold giant popcorn because we no longer have an extra empty seat for stuff. This is my favorite movie on the list (tho I will admit, not the best one). With this watch, it officially because the 5th movie I’ve seen 5 times in theaters (after Ready Player One and all three LOTRs). The Live Aid sequence is a big part of why I saw it so many times, and regardless of your feelings towards the rest of the film, you can’t deny the power of that scene. And that’s all I have to say about that

2:35 – Break time. The Favourite still won’t upload to Stardust, so I try the one without captions and it works. I get the feeling that this won’t be the first one of the day where I forgo that addition. I record a video for BohRap and that uploads fine. I refill my giant soda with lemonade. Thank the Lord Jesus for freestyle machines. The caffeinated options are gonna be handy later. I’m not sure that anything else remarkable happened during this break.

2:55 – Black Panther. I get teary when I see the Marvel logo appear. I’ve been watching these movies for 10 years–never missed one in theaters–and to see that this beloved franchise actually has a Best Picture nominee is incredible. As I watch the movie, I’m soaking in all the culture. That’s what makes this movie special. The represenation and the way that Wakanda is brought to life. As we get to the climax of the film, I realize that on the first watch I dozed off for longer than I thought because none of this looks familiar. It’s kinda cool essentially getting to experience the film for the first time a second time.

5:05 – Dinner break! Friend 3 appears as we say goodbye to Friend 2. I am in search of something green to eat. I’ve been trying to eat a salad every day, and this will be my one shot at it. I don’t know where the food court is at this mall ,so we wander and find a couple of restaurants next to each other. There’s an italian place that looks okay and has no line. The Mexican place beside it has a line out the door. Italian it is. Pasta with a double helping of salad as a side. Saving the breadstick for later. I record yet another Stardust reaction while Friend 3 orders food. Friend 1 takes his leave while me and Friend 3 eat our dinner.

5:45 – Back to the theater. I run back into the auditorium to grab my popcorn and soda. The popcorn has barely had a dent made in it, but I bring it out to add more butter. I fill half of the soda with something caffeinated, half without. I put a plastic bag over the popcorn to keep it safe as I make a bathroom run. Once the popcorn was wrapped up, I never touched it again for the rest of the night. Too much effort.

5:55 – I’m back inside in time for the last of the trivia questions. They ask how many nominations did Black Panther get and what were they for? The host encourages people to look it up as no one answers right away. Well, I at least know some of them, so I raise my hand “Picture, Score, Song, Costumes, and Production Design, so five?” “You missed Sound Editing and Mixing, but we’ll give it to you” Clearly she just didn’t wanna deal with waiting for someone who’d looked it up and prolly already won something earlier. The second host hands me a pen with a chewed cap. I assume I’m meant to exchange this for a real prize.

6:00 – Green Book – First of all, I’m glad that I opted for Italian for dinner because I otherwise would have craved it while watching all the gorgeous food they eat throughout the film. Second, I laughed harder watching this film than any other point in the whole day. I know there’s a ton of controversies around this film, especially after its big win. Yes it’s kinda problematic and no it’s not the best nominee to tackle race relations. However for me, I view this film as taking on a micro issue: an initially fraught relationship between two people that becomes a true friendship. Not a macro issue trying to save the world. Yeah it’s a weak and fluffy Best Picture, but I still enjoy watching it.

8:10 – The movie’s over and I go and exchange my pen. They have a whole box of swag to pick from with some pretty great options in there. I pick a tshirt that says “I Bested The Best” and has the year and name of the marathon. Friend 3 wants a photo at the little photo op spot they set up. I was starting to get sleepy and it’s starting to show in my Stardust video. We’re over the hump tho, and it’s all downhill now, right?

8:30 – Vice – As the movie goes on, I’m drinking more of that half caffeinated soda. I’m still not really feeling the effects which may or may not be a good thing. I’m more into the movie on this watch than the time before since I knew what to expect. I wasn’t comparing it in my head to The Big Short, and I knew everything was gonna make me angry, so I really zeroed in on the details that flew over my head before. I pay close attention to Amy Adam’s performance, and yeah, ,this isn’t gonna be the win that finally equals Oscar gold for her (though she very much deserves it). I’m too familiar with Christian Bale’s other work to fully see him lose himself in Cheney. Instead I continue to see bits of Batman and Patrick Bateman sprinkled throughout. Or maybe I’m just trying to confirm in my mind that Rami’s gonna win that race. The credits are rolling, but the lights haven’t come up yet. Um, why? That question is quickly answered when we find a mid-credits scene that I’d missed before. It’s a nice punctuation mark on the movie.

10:40 – I’ve been awake for all 12+ hours of film, but we’ve just crossed into the danger zone: it’s passed my usual ten o’clock bedtime (during the week, weekends are 11). I go to refill my giant soda at the Freestyle machine, intending this one to be fully caffeinated and I remember it’s the rare occassion when I can have a Dr Pepper. Except they only have Mr Pibb. Hopefully it’s been long enough that I don’t remember the difference. I also realize that in the entire day, I’ve only had a couple of sips of water in between all the soda (not very like me at all(. I grab a tiny cup from the bar and fill it up and chug it. That may prove to be a mistake, as we’ll learn in a bit. Stardust reaction goes up, and my ability to talk coherently AND work the caption app goes down. I do manage to acquire an ice cream sandwich. Trivia lady confuses everyone by first asking to name a role besides Vice where Bale gained weight, but then changes her question to a role where he changed weight. The girl behind me is upset that she was yelling The Machinist, but stopped when she realized the question was “gained weight” but it woulda been valid for “changed weight”. Trivia lady then asks what tour Lady Gaga was on when she filmed a scene of A Star is Born at the Forum. I’d already decided I was only gonna try to answer questions that didn’t have a million hands go up, and I’m surprised no one else’s does for this. I raise mine and correctly answer “Joanne”. Now I’m given what looks like a raffle ticket instead of a chewed pen.

11:00 – A Star Is Born – The caffeine finally starts to hit as the movie starts, timed well with the electric music. I’ve got just a bit of jitters and a sudden burst of energy that carries me through it. It’s the third time I’ve seen this movie, and I STILL get chills when they perform Shallow on stage. About halfway thru the movie, the thing I’ve been dreading all day happens. The soda (and water cup) have caught up to me and I’ve really gotta go pee. Except I’m stuck in the middle of the row. I thought the herd would thin out, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I’m counting how many scenes are left in the film. Bradley Cooper pisses himself on stage at the Grammys and I feel jealous. I want to drink more soda to keep the caffeine vibe going, or more water to counteract the jitters, but I hafta carefully measure how much I do so vs how much more movie is left. The lights go up, and Friend 3 is ready to say her goodbye and I race past her to take care of business.

1:10 – I bid adieu to Friend 3, then go cash in my prize. The once full box of swag now only has a book about the production design of If Beale Street Could Talk, a mysterious lamp thing, and about six blind boxes of Fantastic Beast toys. I opt for the blind box and don’t even wanna see the options it displays because knowing my luck with these things I’ll be disappointed. I throw up my penultimate Stardust vid, and don’t even attempt to caption it. All I’m thinking about is how much I want kitty snuggles in my bed right now. But there’s still one movie and a long drive between me and that. I get back into the auditorium. I now have three seats to myself, but the rest of the place still looks pretty full. Or at least all the seats in front and beside me are still accounted for. It occurs to me I never looked behind me. There’s a final round of trivia, but the slim pickins in the box don’t make it worth the effort.

1:30 – BlacKkKlansman – I move all my stuff into one seat, and lift up my legs into another one to curl up and get comfy with the extra space. I decide that if I start to drift off, it’s not worth fighting. Even though it’s the one I consider the best out of the bunch, and the one that would get my vote for Best Picture, I’ve already seen it a few times. I don’t NEED to pay full attention. I’m with it for a bit, but then sleep thru pretty much the entirety of the second act. When I am awake, I’m paying pretty close attention to the editing. Spike Lee had been campaigning for his editor to win, saying that he was mostly responsible for the perfect tonal blend of drama and comedy, and I notice other artistic flourishes he’s added in. I also notice the poignancy of the Harry Belafonte scene mixed in with the Birth of a Nation viewing. I also want so badly for Spike Lee to pull an upset for director. That’s not likely, but I take comfort in knowing he’s a strong front runner for screenplay.

3:45 – We get to the epilogue of the film, and I feel as disgusted and sick as the first time I watched it. But it’s finally time to drive home. I’d mostly packed up my bag when I got into position to watch this last movie, so I only need to do a quick sweep and put on the jackets that I barely touched throughout the day. I decide to wait on the Stardust reaction until I get home. I feel wide awake now, but I don’t wanna push it any more than I have to.

3:55 – I’ve reached my truck, set the GPS and begin the drive back. Funny how much faster it goes when there are zero cars on the highway. I’m still careful not to speed since fewer cars equals fewer targets for the cops. I’m determined that once I wake up in the morning and get my chores done, I’ll watch Roma on Netflix for completion (spoiler alert: I don’t).

4:40 – I’m home! I record my final Stardust reaction, the only one where I’ve been able to take my time and do multiple takes just because. I wait until the last possible moment before crawling into bed to text Mom that I’m back and will be sleeping in past our usual call time. Somehow this marathon felt less magical than the previous one. Maybe because the theater was so generally busy (and we weren’t snowbound), it didn’t feel like such an isolated event. Still, lots of fun, and something I’m looking to do again next year. It feels much more accessible now. And now I can’t fall asleep, so these are the things I think about as it takes me too long to drift off.

5:30 PM – The Oscars start. The two wins I want most happen: Rami Malek takes home best actor (tho I could have done without him gushing about his girlfriend that he couldn’t stop kissing when he won), and Spike Lee wins screenplay (not the award I most wanted for him, but now he’s officially won one). This also becomes only the second year since the Best Picture pool has been expanded that every nominee takes home at least one. The last year that happened? The same year I did the previous marathon. I’m seeing a connection.

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