Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Event journalism is a special kind of art. It does not aim to uncover truth or deliver it to the masses. It is, in its purest form, an opportunity for writers to subject themselves to needless suffering in hopes of generating page views and an anecdote. The pursuit of this noble goal can take many forms, from the Gawker writer who spent 14 hours inside a TGI Fridays to the AV Club writer who watched every Marvel movie in 28 hours.
We, Grant Torre ’17 and Allison Hrabar ’16, have been trying to find an opportunity to follow in their footsteps. AMC theatres’ annual Best Picture Showcase, a 24-hour movie marathon where misguided cinephiles can watch every film nominated for Best Picture in one sitting, was just around the corner. Unfortunately, the nearest Best Picture Showcase was two hours away, in New York City. Undeterred, we planned one of our own, to be held in the Science Center last Sunday. It was unclear if anyone genuinely supported our plan, but as a former and current Co-Editor-in-chief of The Daily Gazette, nobody on the editorial board could object.
We attempted to recreate the Best Picture Showcase as best we could, with a few minor improvements. We shortened breaks in order cut down our schedule to 18 hours and formulated rules that we had to follow for the marathon:
- We cannot leave the building until 6:10am Monday morning (except for a one-time emergency ten-minute pass).
- We can only eat food that we bring in by 11:30am on Sunday or have delivered by friends.
- We must devote full attention to films we have not seen before. (Grant missed Mad Max, Allison missed Bridge of Spies, and both of us avoided The Revenant)
- One of us had to be awake at all times.
Beyond creating rules and writing some fun Facebook posts, very little planning went into the event. We were, to put it lightly, unprepared. We believed we could count on our upbeat attitudes and history with all-nighters to power us through. Our complete lack of forethought became increasingly ironic as we struggled to sit in a heated classroom and watch movies about survival in harsh conditions. Below is the record of our 18-hour journey.
11:30a.m.: The Martian
11:30a.m.: After downing Sharples Sunday staples—omelets and biscuits—we arrive at Sci 102, our home for the next 17+ hours. We immediately hit our first setback: there are four dedicated students studying some kind of science in the room. We had reserved the space. Luckily, they leave very graciously. We leave their…chemistry (?) notes on the board because it fits the mood. Three friends join us, and they seem incredibly enthusiastic about witnessing our eventual decline.
11:43a.m., Grant: Just like the crew on the Ares III, we have left civilization behind and must survive on our own with limited resources. Very soon, Allison and I determine that we would be terrible astronauts for a variety of reasons. We can’t even decide what personal effects we would bring into orbit (though we both agree we are totally the kind of lapsed Catholics who would take a wooden crucifix into orbit but never unpack it).
12:11p.m., Allison: Matt Damon begins to speak about thinking long-term to survive on Mars, and Grant takes his advice to heart and decides to nap. He’s balled up his jacket as a pillow, because we both forgot pillows and blankets! According to our rules, I need to stay awake until he’s up again. I’m concerned about what Grant’s immediate surrender might mean for the rest of the night.
12:15p.m., Allison: As Grant naps, I try to lend this event some legitimacy and lead our guests in a discussion about adventure and survival. Jay Clayton ‘16 says he would never go to space, and mentions something about cosmic radiation. Anneliese Herrmann ‘16 insists she would rather have an adventurous life than a long one. I side with Jay. When we pause our conversation to admire the shots of Matt Damon watching the sun rise and set on Mars, I only become more confident that I would never risk my life to see a nice sunset.
1:30p.m., Allison: Visiting alum Ben “Books” Schwartz ‘13 bursts into the room, shouting “WITNESS!” They are roughly nine hours early for Mad Max: Fury Road, and have ended Grant’s peaceful slumber. They also brought pizza, so we do not complain.
1:44p.m., Grant: I begin engaging in one of my favorite activities: thinking about what I will be eating for future meals way too early. We won’t be eating dinner for another six to eight hours, but searching GrubHub seems very rational under the circumstances.
2:00p.m.: Even though we now have a whopping seven guests from Brooklyn, the room is very quiet. Allison made a long speech about how jokes are a distancing tactic before telling everyone they should refrain from making “faux-witty running commentary” and instead embrace the movie’s earnest, open approach to love. Grant decides to do readings for his two classes tomorrow in an attempt to refrain from talking with Allison about this film.
2:41p.m., Allison: We have some technical issues with Brooklyn, which leads to our first fight. Grant has, allegedly by accident, skipped a FULL SIX MINUTES of the film. I insist that the scene is vital, while Grant insists that he is tasked with keeping us on schedule, not watching “boring dance scenes.” This (absurd) comment inevitably leads to a larger argument about the movie. Grant hates it, calling it “unbearably ordinary.” I stand by the importance of “small, earnest stories.” We are shouting, but no one else seems interested in taking sides. The fight fizzles out.
2:47, Allison: Already tired and ready to overshare, I lament that no one will ever love me as much as Emory Cohen loves Saoirse Ronan. But, I admit that someone so intensely focused on commitment would probably be repellant to me.
3:30p.m., Allison: Grant agrees to put down his reading, embrace emotional openness, and answer the 36 Questions To Fall In Love with me. We have been friends for about two years, but I’m surprised at how much new information we share. Grant tells some very endearing stories about his younger siblings, while I repeatedly bring down the mood by talking about my father’s death.
3:55p.m., Grant: I am sorry to report that Allison and I are not in love, but are really good at slyly complimenting each other! Allison’s favorite “compliment” was telling me that I am very honest (read: blunt and mean) so when I tell her nice things she “really believes it.” My favorite questions involve death, as I had to imagine myself (ideally via a heart attack as I sleep) and a family member dying (hopefully not my little brother!). Who knew falling in love could be so positive and lighthearted?
Before we begin Spotlight, some backstory: last night, Allison remembered that she is Co-Editor-in-chief of The Daily Gazette, which has meetings on Sundays. This means she will have to break the rules and leave to lead today’s editorial and staff meeting. She has already seen Spotlight, and attempted to excuse her egregious mistake by saying both the meeting and the film are about journalism. It was a weak argument.
4:12p.m., Grant: Allison has left to go to her meeting, and Michael Lutzker ‘19 comes in to talk with us about his less-than-stellar Screw date (his costume: The Bachelor). I love the opposition between his awkward story and Spotlight playing in the background.
5:20, Grant: Everyone has flocked to pasta bar, leaving only Jay and I. At one point, he recognizes that Spotlight’s Billy Crudup as the voice of Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke and I have never been more impressed by anyone’s pop culture knowledge. Sorry, Allison.
5:41, Grant: Allison returns from her meeting. Total time out of the room: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
5:46, Allison: Grant and I are starting to get antsy. The friend who was supposed to pick up our dinner has fallen through, and we can’t find someone else who has a car, a driver’s license, and the free time to keep us from starving. After a few desperate phone calls, guest Daniel Lai ‘17 reveals he has a car. The excitement over eating a warm dinner distracts us from the end of Spotlight, but looking back on our mistakes will only hurt us tonight.
6:20: Bridge of Spies
6:35p.m., Grant: Every time someone who is not me or Allison takes some of the food sitting on the table, I feel very angry and helpless. I proceed to hide food in my bag in hopes nobody will notice.
6:37p.m., Allison: This is the first movie of the day that I hadn’t seen beforehand, but I am already bored. I try to kickstart a conversation about national identity with our guests, but it goes nowhere. We are all too hungry.
7:00p.m.: Dinner arrives, and we all immediately abandon our pretense of focusing on the movie to eat.
7:05p.m.: Future Swarthmore professor Frederic Pryor has arrived on screen! His introduction gives us all a great opportunity to mock economics majors. We all chuckle when it becomes clear the police guarding the Berlin Wall do not care about his econ dissertation. So relatable!
7:40p.m., Allison: The anti-econ-major excitement is short lived, and Grant starts to nap again.
8:22p.m., Allison : We’re hitting the portion of the night where we are tired enough to be fun but not yet exhausted enough to be miserable. The sense of levity in the room is making me anxious. Are we doing event journalism wrong? Shouldn’t we be going stir-crazy? How have we only had one fight?
8:50p.m., Allison: It becomes clear I should not have been concerned about having too much fun. Our guests turned off their phones and computers to focus on Room, and everyone is essentially silent for two hours. At one point, Casey Schreiner ‘16 whispers “this is going a lot of places,” and everyone nods quietly.
10:45p.m., Allison: The theme of isolation becomes too much for us and our long-term guests, and as soon as the credits roll everyone bursts out of the room. A few people walk outside, but I cannot leave, having already (over)used my ten-minute emergency pass. I stare out of Sci Commons’ glass walls, and think about how big the world is.
10:50: Mad Max: Fury Road
10:55p.m., Allison: Our ten minute break comes to an end, and, with it, my existential musings. It is time for Mad Max: Fury Road. We have five guests, most of whom are super fans. Grant and Anneliese are the only newcomers, which will probably end badly.
10:58p.m., Grant: I ask “Wait, what is this about?” and everyone who has seen this movie collectively yells “DON’T ASK, JUST WATCH!” I am still in the Room mindset and cannot endure the vastness of Mad Max’s visual world.
11:11p.m., Grant: Everybody is talking about “shredding” and “blood bags.” I am still confused. There are a lot of men screaming and objects shooting fire. I want to go back to the confines of Room.
11:12p.m., Allison: I am less than helpful to a struggling Grant, shouting “ALL HAIL THE DOOF WARRIOR!! WITNESS ME!!!!!” every time he asks a question.
11:25p.m., Grant: Casey leaves because she “needs to go to sleep” and I hate her for saying those words.
11:30p.m., Allison: For the second time today, I remember that I am Co-Editor-in-chief of this fine paper. I schedule the stories for Monday’s send out.
11:35p.m., Grant: My first yawn.
11:57p.m., Allison: Mad Max is like a very strong drug: I can’t stop watching it, but its ability to distract me wears off a little every time. I reminisce about last night, when I happily went to bed at 12:20am. I love sleeping early. I love quietly listening to a podcast as I drift off to sleep in my cozy bed. My evening routine makes me feel happy and healthy and full of potential for the next day. I have to look away when The Doof Warrior fights for his flamethrower-slash-guitar so he can keep shredding. I want to go home.
12:02a.m., Grant: Dan Lai offers to get us Wawa after Mad Max, single handedly giving me hope for the last leg of this event.
12:50a.m.: Everyone applauds the movie, and then immediately abandons us. Dan Lai and Andrew Taylor ‘16 are going on a coffee run, Jay and Anneliese are going to sleep. We are alone.
12:55 a.m. The Revenant
12:58a.m., Allison: Neither Grant nor I had any desire to see this movie. We openly mocked classmates who paid money to see this movie. We purposefully placed it late in the schedule to keep people from watching it with us. We realize, as soon we press play, that this was a mistake.
Grant starts pack up food to convince himself we are almost done. The first line of dialogue in the film is “I know you want this to be over,” and we grab our phones to Snapchat the moment. No one replies. Everyone we know is doing something less self-destructive than watching The Revenant.
1:04a.m, Grant: I finish packing up food, and start doing cardio in an attempt to stay awake and not pay attention to this terrible, terrible film.
1:14a.m., Allison: I make the mistake of looking up how long this film is, and discover it is two hours and thirty-six minutes long. Grant desperately tries to convince me that everything is okay, making a joke about how tonight is just a “fun sleepover” for film majors. He stops himself when he remembers that it is a) not fun and b) started at 11:30am. Dan Lai and Andrew arrive with coffee, but don’t stay. Grant halfheartedly takes a selfie with his cup.
1:49a.m., Grant: We are no longer fun-exhausted. We are only able to making mean, angry comments about the film. A lot of people are impressed with the crew working in sub-zero temperatures to film it, but I’d be much more impressed if the movie was actually good.
1:50a.m., Allison: The room is suddenly very, very cold. I put on my jacket and mittens. Grant and I are just sitting in the back row, staring at the screen. We hear EVS workers arriving, and I pray that they don’t come in and see us doing this.
2:06a.m., Grant: At one point in The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio appears to stab himself in the neck with fire. Allison very flatly says: “I would just give up. I am not a fighter.” We are sitting in a heated room at our $60,000/year college surrounded by food brought to us by loving friends. We have no endurance.
2:30a.m., Allison: Suddenly, the projector turns off. There’s an error message explaining that it has overheated. I attribute this to God.
2:51a.m., Allison: Ariel Rock ‘16 brings us another round of Wawa coffee, but leaves when the projector comes back to life. Grant steps into the hallway to get some water. I am alone, watching Leo pull out a horse’s guts so he can sleep inside it. I wonder if it’s warm.
3:24a.m., Grant: Allison may or may not be asleep. I am still awake, but unable to find any humor in this situation.
3:28a.m., Grant. The Revenant is OVER. We start the next film 20 minutes early because we want to go home as soon as possible. Allison immediately goes to nap on the floor. I must stay strong and watch The Big Short, which at least has Ryan Gosling.
3:30a.m. The Big Short
3:38a.m., Grant: One of my friends from Australia texts me asking me why I am doing this. I have the same response as Steve Carell’s character: “NO. I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT.”
3:55a.m., Grant: Lanie Schlessinger ‘16 comes to surprise us with even more WaWa, and McDonalds breakfast food. She wakes Allison up as she enters, but Allison is surprisingly cheery.
3:55a.m., Allison: Still in a daze, I ask Lanie why she came by so late. She said she came “to support you and your very weird vision to do something that nobody has asked of you.” It is brutal, but also impossible to argue with.
4:01a.m., Grant: Brandon Torres ‘18 arrives, and I am very confused. He greets us, and stumbles out as quickly as he comes in. We are down to three, but I have Wawa Mac n’ Cheese and a McDonald’s bagel in my hand, so I am happier than ever.
4:35a.m., Allison: We are losing steam. Grant and I stop speaking, but Lanie is undeterred and begins brainstorming ideas for dinner parties.
??:??a.m., Allison: At some unknown point, The Big Short ends. I usually applaud after movies, but I can’t remove my frozen hands from my pockets. We take a photo before stumbling outside, where it is still dark.
Did this night change us? Much like Leo and Matt Damon, we were humbled by the frightening world around us. Our journey may have been less impressive (and will almost certainly go unrewarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) but we finished it.