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The Examiner’s Sam Barron: Movie Marathon Man at The Burns

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I think the moment I appreciated the 24-hour movie marathon was on Sunday at 4:55 a.m., when Theater 1 was showing “Play Dirty,” a 1968 Michael Caine movie set in World War II. Maybe five people had seen this movie in the last 39 years, yet at nearly 5 a.m. the theater was half full, purely for the experience of seeing movies.

Sam Barron after completing the Jacob Burns Film Center's 24-Hour Movie Marathon. Barron, who saw 12 movies in 24 hours, now gets free movie for a year at the theater.

It’s no secret that I am a cinephile. In 2009, I lost a who-can-see-the-most-movies-in-a-year contest to a friend–308-304. I’m still bitter about it, but I rebounded last year to see 322 movies, while aiming this year for upwards of 300 again.
So when the Jacob Burns Film Center scheduled a 24-hour movie marathon as part of its 10th anniversary celebration, it sounded like heaven to me. Spending 24 hours just watching movies? If I could make it through the night, the morning, the afternoon and the night, the prize was earning a year’s worth of free movies. I would’ve stayed for a week.

After attempting to take two naps the day before, I arrived at the theater at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, ready to begin my quest, hoping to get easy-to-sit-through films that would make the day breeze by.

Instead, I began the night with three straight documentaries, the third one on the space program set to the hypnotic music of Brian Eno. This was probably not the movie to watch at 3 a.m. Most of the crowd agreed with me, as I saw many in the audience nodding off.

At 7 a.m., I was excited to see “Blade Runner” for the first time, though my eyelids betrayed me. The first 30 minutes were spent unsuccessfully fighting off sleep. I was forced to take a quick catnap, but luckily it gave me a needed adrenaline rush. And I needed it because I spent the next six hours watching foreign films. I usually jump up at the chance to see films from France or South Korea. It’s one thing on a Tuesday afternoon, quite another to be reading subtitles at 9 a.m. after staying awake most of the night.

My Waterloo would almost come at 1 p.m. when I had two choices: A Janet Maslin pick or a 1950s Japanese samurai movie. I was going to go with Maslin’s pick, no questions asked, until her selection ended up being a musical variety special from the 1960s. So I tried the samurai movie, which given the state I was in, was worse than a really awful board of education meeting.

Things started to perk up at 3 p.m. as the Burns reeled off three straight accessible wide release movies. I loved “Miami Blues,” a dark comedy starring Alec Baldwin and Fred Ward, and then got to see “Taxi Driver” and “Something Wild,” both for the first time.

At 9:45 p.m. on Sunday, there was one film left between me and free movies for a year. The choices were “Chimes at Midnight,” an Orson Welles Shakespeare movie (pass), “13 Assassins” (already seen it) and a 51-minute movie about, wait, what’s that? Only 51 minutes? I just have to sit through a 51-minute movie and I’m done?

“The Miner’s Hymn” consisted of images of an old English mining community set to music. I think a movie called “How Grass Grows” would’ve been more entertaining.
As I reached my breaking point the film ended. I shouted “We did it!”

I had done the near impossible, although more than 60 people also accomplished the same feat. Given that I go to the Burns as much as I do, the free movies is an incredible value.

In retrospect, I saw movies I would never even think to see and classics I’ve always wanted to see. Chris Funderburg and Brian Ackerman deserve tons of credit for running the show and keeping everyone’s spirits up, and the staff managers and ushers also deserve lots of praise. What could’ve been a logistical nightmare ran smoothly. My friends also deserve credit for texting me encouragement and keeping hope alive while I was waiting for poor Ayrton Serra to die.

I hope they hold the event again next year. I could use the free movies, and it was just a blast. Where else can you sit in a crowded theater at 5 a.m.?

Complete List of Movies:
11 p.m.— Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Tabloid
1 a.m.— Point Blank, Resurrect The Dead
2:55 a.m.— For All Mankind, From Beyond, How To Get Ahead in Advertising
5 a.m.— Play Dirty, Essere
7:05 a.m.— Blade Runner, Ninoteha, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On
9:15 a.m.— Love Crime, Bigger Than Life, Out For Justice
11 a.m.— Pennywhistle Blues, Serra, Come Sweet Death
1 p.m.— The Tami Show, Three Outlaw Samurai
3 p.m.— Night Shift, Miami Blues
5 05 p.m.— Diary of a County Priest, Taxi Driver
7:35 p.m.— Something Wild, Lola
9:45 p.m.— Miner’s Hymm, Chimes at Midnight, 13 Assassins

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