Monday, March 27, 2017

24 Hours of Movies: My Birthday Movie Marathon

by Patrick Bromley
Here's a 24 28-hour movie marathon I really watched this weekend.

I've been running these 24 Hours of Movies columns for a few years now. They started because I usually schedule some sort of movie marathon as a way of celebrating my birthday and I thought it would be fun to come up with some hypothetical marathons, usually based around a theme. But I'm turning 40 this week and my wonderful wife wanted to come up with a way to celebrate what is traditionally looked upon as a "big deal" birthday. Me being me, I didn't want to really do anything until she suggested doing another marathon, just as I had done when this tradition began on my 30th birthday. That one sounded fun. But me being me, I didn't want to rent a space out as we had done 10 years ago, especially when we have a cool screening room in our basement now and even more so because a decade has gone by and I'm even less inclined to go out and do stuff. If I can do a movie marathon here at home, all the better. So Erika said we could schedule a handful of movies and our friends could "sign up" for a time and come watch a movie or two with us. Good idea. She's full of them. But me being me, I couldn't do something without overdoing it. So I suggested the idea of doing an actual 24-hour marathon, which Erika would normally try to talk me out of doing for health reasons but which she was all for in this case.

This is the first of these 24 Hours of Movies marathons that I actually watched all of. It actually ended up being 28 hours because I had to schedule some down time between the movies for people to come and go and talk to one another and because I stupidly chose a four-hour movie to close everything out. Hope you dig this.

6:30 p.m. - Observe & Report (2009, dir. Jody Hill)
The unofficial theme of all of my birthday marathons has been movies I think are great but which not enough people have seen or embraced. I would just call it "underrated," but I think that discounts the very personal attachment I have to many of them. Observe & Report fits that bill perfectly. I can remember seeing this movie on a Saturday afternoon the weekend it opened and being completely blown away by it. The marketing made it look like Paul Blart as told through a Bad Santa filter, a combination that promised little for me. This movie is not that. It is dark and brutal and hilarious and so committed to being the movie that it is. I love how confident Jody Hill is in the way the movie is shot and edited and how perfect his use of music is. There is a reason, I think, that the film opens with The Band's "When I Paint My Masterpiece." Seth Rogen commits to his character's dark sadness and delusion (this is the comedic Taxi Driver), while Anna Faris is fearless in playing the Worst Person Alive. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that Observe & Report is one of the best comedies of the decade.

It's a very different thing, programming a marathon that you know is actually going to be attended by people instead of just a hypothetical one. You have to really take into consideration what your friends and family haven't seen, what they will tolerate, what they might like. Picking the first movie was probably hardest, because I knew it was in a time slot that would be better attended than most and because I wanted to choose something a little more mainstream in the hopes of being a little more accessible to start out. I thought Observe & Report was the right choice: big movie star, theatrical release, the kind of movie that people might remember coming out but never got around to seeing. At the same time, it's a singular and fucked up movie that represents the kind of stuff I really respond to, so you're getting the best of both worlds. I think it played well.

On a personal note, this movie helped lead to the creation of F This Movie!, albeit in a roundabout way. Coming home from that screening in 2009, I was struggling to wrap my head around the film. It was so different than what I was expecting and such a singular tonal achievement that I took to the internet to find writing about it. What I discovered were mostly the opening weekend reviews, most of which name-checked Paul Blart and mentioned Seth Rogen's work with Judd Apatow and talked about the movie in terms of whether or not they found it funny or offensive. It's what I had come to expect from the majority of criticism. Then I stumbled upon a review from Devin Faraci, a writer I had never heard of who rated the movie 10/10 and who talked about it in the exact way I felt and who was really willing to consider this movie being written off as "just another comedy" by most as a brilliant and lasting piece of art. It was the review that included the line "Just because something has flaws doesn't mean it isn't perfect," a maxim I have carried with me ever since. I realized upon reading the review that there were places to go to read thoughtful discussion of movies that not everyone was talking about thoughtfully, and that's a big part of what led me to launch F This Movie! a year later. I know that Faraci is someone who had a lot of demons, has been a very polarizing and controversial figure in film criticism and left the game last year when he was called out on some truly reprehensible behavior, but on a personal level his review of Observe & Report is still one of the most important pieces of film writing I've ever read.

8:30 p.m. - Turbo Kid (2015, dir. François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell)
This is probably a no-brainer. If you've read this site, you know just how special this movie is to me. I have described it before as a movie that feels ripped directly from my brain, from the '80s aesthetic to the Cannon Films joke at the beginning to the teen romance to the synth score to the insane level of gore and violence. It's a movie that feels made just for me. This one had the biggest turnout of the whole 28 hours, which might have more to do with its placement than with the title. I was a little nervous about how it would be received -- mostly because of the violence, even though it's done as a comedy -- because my affection for it is so personal that for one of my friends to reject it would feel like a rejection of me. Luckily, it went over well for everyone in attendance (I won't be naming everyone who came, except to say that it was a mix of friends and family and the usual rad FTM peeps like JB and Jan, Adam Riske, Mike, Adam Thas and Mark Ahn). So far, so good.

10:45 p.m. - Blastfighter (1984, dir. Lamberto Bava)
Here's the first real wild card. Sensing it was too early to segue into horror but still wanting to program something weird and possibly Italian, I settled on Lamberto Bava's Blastfighter, recently released on a very nice Blu-ray from Code Red. It's more or less an Italian take on First Blood, with Michael Sopkiw as a former cop who tries to disappear into the woods but runs afoul of some redneck stereotypes and is reunited with his estranged daughter all in the span of a single day. Everything about the movie is so much fun, from the over the top violence to the number of cars that explode to Fabio Frizzi's awesome score to the heightened dialogue, which sort of sounds like movie dialogue but also like nothing that anyone would ever really say. I wasn't sure how the film would go over with some friends who aren't all that versed in exploitation, but in this setting everyone got into the spirit and the movie was a blast. Fighter. Mike had all the best jokes. (Example: "So he's a Blastfather?")

12:30 a.m. - The Funhouse (1981, dir. Tobe Hooper)
Again, no real surprise here. One of my favorite horror movies from one of my favorite directors and a super underrated film that not everyone has seen? Perfect. This wound up being just me, Erika and Mark Ahn (who is not super into horror movies), but it played really well for both of them, neither of whom had ever seen it. Every time I see this movie I love and appreciate its construction more. This time it was the crane shots and John Beal's score that stood out to me most.

2:30 a.m. - Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971, dir. Lucio Fulci)
This was another really tough pick. For a long time, the schedule we put together just read "Italian Horror TBA," because this slot always goes to Italian horror but I wasn't sure what to pick. Because I had no idea if this would end up just being me and Erika, I didn't want to pick something super gross and graphic like The House by the Cemetery, even though that one is due for a rewatch. I showed Tenebrae last year, so that was out. Erika just had her first real Italian horror experience with a theatrical screening of The Beyond last October, so I wasn't going to play that one again. I want to wait to show Suspiria until the Synapse Blu-ray is released. I settled on Fulci's Lizard in a Woman's Skin, because at least it's Fulci and because I think it's a giallo that doesn't get quite enough love. It's super fucking weird. JB had gone home to sleep for a while after Observe & Report but came back at 2:30 a.m. for this. Though I didn't mean to, I drifted in and out of sleep a few times during this one, which wound up being the only sleep I got for the whole 28 hours. Mark Ahn told me that at one point during the movie, everyone was asleep. Such is the special power of Italian horror.

4:30 a.m. - Coffy (1973, dir. Jack Hill)
I had originally planned to screen The Lords of Salem in this spot because I wanted to keep the dreamlike, slow-burn horror thing going, but because I originally wasn't sure who would be watching movies with us as 4:30 in the morning I thought it best to pick something that I knew Erika wanted to see and hadn't before. She ended up going upstairs to bed during this one, which wound up being the only sleep she got during the marathon (she is such a trooper that I couldn't possibly love her more). I love this movie unconditionally, and while I don't know who is widely considered the sexiest person to ever appear on film (I doubt such a list exists because what is sexy is subjective), I would hope that Pam Grier in Coffy is at least part of that conversation.

6:30 a.m. - Running Scared (1986, dir. Peter Hyams)
I trying to lighten the mood and watch something a little more upbeat and fun first thing in the morning, I went with one of my favorite unsung buddy comedies. I still love the movie for the dialogue and the use of Chicago and the way it blends comedy and action, but watching it in this setting (after being awake almost all night and watching six other movies) I became keenly aware of what a weird, almost shapeless structure the movie has. There's a middle act where Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines' wisecracking cops go on vacation to Key West and fall in love with the relaxed life, deciding to retire early and open up a bar there. You think the rest of the movie is going to play out in reaction to this, and it does...for a little bit: both Hines and Crystal start wearing bulletproof vests and behave far less recklessly than they used to. But the third act is so long and meandering that it might as well be the first again, which becomes all the more apparent when you're growing impatient for the movie to wrap up. Adam Riske and Adam Thas came back at 6:30 a.m. for this; I think it was their first viewing.

8:30 a.m. - Robot Jox (1990, dir. Stuart Gordon)
Here's where things get a little tricky. I tried to program most PG movies for the daytime slots on Saturday, thinking that our kids would be around and might want to join us for the movies (they ended up spending the night with Erika's mom and watching Sing, which they like much more than anything I showed). This led me to Robot Jox, a movie from a director I love from a studio I love (Empire Pictures, the Charles Band-owned precursor to Full Moon). The movie is cheap and goofy and more than a little clumsy, but that's a big part of its charm. Once again, I became more aware than ever at how seemingly endless the third act is, but not enough to ruin the movie for me. Mike came back for Robot Jox, leading to a funny running joke about every character asking where they knew Anne-Marie Johnson from (because we had that conversation a few times ourselves during the film).

10:30 a.m. - His Girl Friday (1940, dir. Howard Hawks)
Programming one of my all-time favorite comedies gave me an opportunity to check out Criterion's new Blu-ray as well as schedule a real-deal Hollywood classic into the lineup. Aside from Turbo Kid, I think this movie had the best turnout, with a number of friends coming over for just this movie. Even my mom came to watch it with us. Rosalind Russell is so impossibly wonderful in this movie and screwball comedy has never been so breathlessly fast. I was actually finding it exhausting to keep up with the dialogue. Maybe it was the lack of sleep.

12:45 p.m. - Beach Party (1963, dir. William Asher)
Another good turnout -- Erika's mom and our kids joined in -- for a movie I would probably describe as a "guilty pleasure" if I believed in such things. I liked the idea of showing something from another era (era) since the majority of my actual birthday marathons, which usually consist of just three movies, tend to include titles from the '70s to now. Plus, this one fit the PG requirement so the kids could participate. My son seemed pretty into it (he even asked to watch it again the next day), my four-year old daughter less so. The movie is fun but felt longer than maybe anything else in the lineup, including the four-hour film with which we ended. It was really fun to hear some of those in attendance (our moms, JB and Jan) identify some of the actors they recognized from when they were kids.

3:00 p.m. -  Rock 'n Roll High School (1979, dir. Allan Arkush)
I suspect that I might be dragging by this point in the marathon (usually I program them from the morning to the next morning; starting at night increases the difficulty, but I wanted more people available to come to the last movie and thought it would be better at night...this turned out to not be the case), so I wanted something high energy and, again, PG-rated as the penultimate selection. This movie is such a joyous celebration of youth, of rock and roll and of rebellion in such a harmless way, like the sweetest anarchy you've ever witnessed. P.J. Soles' Riff Randell is such a great character and all of the music is the best.

Side note: before each film, I programmed 15-30 minutes of trailers, short films, music videos and old TV spots that tied in to each of the movies. Prior to this one we watched the trailer for its '80s sequel, Rock 'n Roll High School Forever, and I was reminded of what a lame follow-up it is -- a cynical and calculated approximation of everything the original movie comes by honestly.

6 p.m. - Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (2005, dir. Quentin Tarantino)
I wanted something big to close things out and to offer an experience that's new and different than what people might get at home (in the past I've screened stuff like the extended cut of That Thing You Do! and the black and white version of The Mist). I happen to have a copy of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair -- not an official release, but a fan reconstruction -- and thought it would be the perfect way to end as it's both one of my favorite movies and a celebration of all the kinds of movies that I love. The changes to "The Whole Bloody Affair" are minor; it's mostly more violent, with a bit of additional material and the two volumes are married together at the same point. I love every film from Tarantino, still my favorite director, and while I won't argue that this is his "best" movie (a distinction I would award to Inglourious Basterds), it's my favorite of his work. Watching it as one massive epic is now the only way to see it, because Uma Thurman's teary breakdown in the bathroom at the end -- a truly amazing piece of acting, as is her entire performance -- carries so much more weight when not broken up into two films. Yes, the movie is exhausting, in particular after already watching 24 hours of movies, but it is thrilling and fun and emotionally rewarding, too.

So that was it. After 12 movies and 28 hours, I was ready for bed. I can't thank Erika enough for suggesting that we celebrate this way and for entertaining my ridiculous idea of making it 24 hours long. She wanted to make it special and she did, because she makes everything special. I'm so lucky to have her as a wife, as a best friend, as the mother of our kids and as a fellow movie fan who will stay with me for 12 consecutive films. I thank all the friends and family who came and watched one or two or six movies and who helped make it such a fun day. I thank all of the friends and family who recorded brief video messages, which we watched sporadically throughout the day and were all edited together by Adam Thas. I tend to not like my birthday, and one of the reasons is because I'm uncomfortable and dismissive about being celebrated. I thank everyone who found a way to take part and celebrate anyway. I'm lucky to know all of you.


  1. Sounds like a great way to spend a birthday!

  2. So jealous! Most pf my friends aren't into movies and can barely get through one without checking facebook, but this would be a hoot. Just a question, would you recommend seeing a movie for the first time in the middle of a marathon, or would I not be able to fully appreciate it?

  3. You're braver than I could ever be to literally do this, but it sounds like a blast! If you're gonna conclude with an epic four hour experience, I can think of no more enjoyable one than the Kill Bill saga. Good picks all around!

  4. Soy muy celoso, tambien, por supuesto! And Happy Bromday! But Patrick, isn't loving Rock 'n' Roll High School but not Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever a bit like loving Martin Sheen but not Joe Estevez? (And I love that programming a 28 hour long movie marathon wasn't enough work for Patrick; he also had to program a full set of trailers and other ephemera before every single movie. Good on ya, Pēbs, good on ya.)

  5. Great stuff, Patrick! So happy to hear it went well. I share the sentiment of not liking to celebrate my birthday but this type of celebration seems like a perfect way to ring in the big 4-0! Great job, Erika!

    1. I second all of that happy birthday - sounds like the perfect way to celebrate

  6. Happy birthday Patrick!! What an amazing way to celebrate your birthday and I wish my friends would put up with me doing this haha. You are very lucky to have a wife who would help organize this and family and friends who would join you for it. Also, thanks for running my favorite podcast in existence and turning me on to so many fantastic films! Cheers!

  7. Loved Running Scared, I agree though, really odd pacing. So glad I watched it!

  8. PS- Can we make this an annual thing?

  9. Happy birthday, Patrick! That is some sweet/fun way to spend a day.

  10. I've been thinking to myself about hosting a movie marathon on my b-day for a few friends (inspired by Patrick's columns, obviously). 28 hours might be a bit too much, but 10-12 hours could be doable. Well, there's still six months to mull it over.

    Unsurprisingly, the movies I've thought about showing are largely ones I've discovered through this site, like Pieces, Turbo Kid and Revenge of the Ninja, but I'd also like to include something I haven't seen yet myself but is a relatively safe bet. Maybe that Foxy Brown DVD I haven't watched yet?

  11. That's awesome man, impressed you were able to pull it off - I'm honestly not sure I could pull off an all-nighter anymore - not even at the super-young age of 36 - at the ripe old age of 40?! Wow. Glad you enjoyed it!

  12. Brilliant, I was proud to play my tiny little part of all this craziness, small but I'm was glad to be part of the surprise

    You rock Mr Bromley

  13. Nice list, shocked to hear you call 'Observe and Report' one of the best comedies of the decade. I must revisit! I must see Turbo Kid, that movie is so hard to find!

  14. Turbo Kid exceeded my expectations! There is so much to love in that movie. The score is fantastic, great cartoon-like characters, unapologetic violence...pretty much everything needed is there, haha. The direction and editing especially stood out to me. A lot of talent behind the camera.