Opinions, Column

31 Movies in 13 Days

Absurd and unnecessary challenges compel me, especially, it seems, as they become more and more useless or self-destructive. On Jan. 24 at 8:30 a.m., I decided to attempt to watch 31 movies in 13 days.

And if there’s anything I’ve learned from this, it’s that you should never, ever believe in yourself.

Why 31 movies? Well, on the aforementioned date, the Oscar’s committee announced the 54 films that were nominated for Academy Awards. Once you subtract the short films, the documentaries, and the movies that were only nominated for best original song, that leaves a mere 32 pictures. Unfortunately, the only way I could watch the Polish film EO (nominated for best international feature film) would be at a theater in Salem, Mass. at 7:30 p.m. on a Friday, so I decided to strike it from the list. This left me a nice, prime 31. If you flip those digits around, you get ANOTHER prime number, so I arbitrarily decided to give myself 13 days to finish my challenge.

The first movies on my docket were the animated features. Last year, I was let down by this category as the judges decided to pick Encanto as the best animated feature instead of my favorite movie from the bunch, The Mitchells vs the Machines. Since 2007, only two of the movies that have won the category have been made by non-Pixar animators, and it looks like this year we might be getting the third. Over the first few of my 13 days, I watched the five films nominated for best animated feature. The Disney-produced Turning Red definitely felt like the weakest link of the batch. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was my favorite, followed by Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.

Day three marked the first appearance of a non-animated movie in my queue. The Quiet Girl is an international film from Ireland—and I liked it so much it encouraged me to watch two more movies that day. It was at this point that I began to regret watching all of the lighthearted animated films first. After a late-night Causeway viewing in the dark as I did my Italian homework, I started to realize that some of these movies would require emotional investment, and I wouldn’t have any lighthearted breaks. Luckily enough, Causeway was not a good enough movie to emotionally manipulate me. Causeway was also the first movie I watched that had a weird, droning violin motif that strangely carried on through several of the other heavier films.

All my plans were derailed on Jan. 27, 2023. I started the day, not with a movie, but with Arrested Development season 2 episode 12. It’s a good episode, but it was not nominated for an Oscar. I then let the following two days pass without watching a single minute of one of the movies because my hubris-riddled brain believed it could somehow fit the remaining 24 films into a single week. When I did the math, I realized that this would require watching 3.4 movies per day, and my heart was crushed. Who would’ve guessed that watching this many movies in such a short span of time while balancing work, school, and my social life would be so difficult? Not me.

Nevertheless, I decided to continue my journey, and on the following Monday I watched Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Aftersun. Disappointment overwhelmed me when watching Mrs. Harris because, despite being nominated for best costume design, the featured dresses were nothing spectacular. Aftersun was a very uncomfortable movie to watch, and I believe that was intentional. To me, the most interesting aspect of the film is that the camera spends a lot of time pointed at objects while characters occupy the background—the inverse of a typical cinematic move. It also was the second installment of that weird violin drone sound, making me feel haunted by my lack of movie watching during the previous week. Although Aftersun was well made, it did not inspire me to attempt to watch any more movies that night. In fact, the opposite was true, and I immediately went to bed.

Of all the movies nominated for best picture, the only one I had never heard of was Triangle of Sadness. That Tuesday, I had several club meetings, so I was only able to watch one film, and it definitely did a good job of fulfilling my cinematic appetite. The following day it all started to catch up to me. The first film of the night, Women Talking, also had the weird violin drone sound, and each time it was introduced, the phantoms of my past movie-watching mistakes flickered in the shadows on the wall.

After I finished Women Talking, I walked out into my dorm’s common room and found my roommates watching the Will Ferrell movie Old School, which, according to some sources, “is a classic comedy.” Afraid of falling further behind on my now impossible goal, I made the choice to watch a movie on my laptop as I watched Old School with my roommates. Luckily, neither Old School or my movie of choice, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, were particularly hard to follow. I went into Glass Onion expecting very little because I did not like the last movie in the series, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the first 90 minutes rather enjoyable. But after Old School ended, my enjoyment of Glass Onion also began to falter—the final 30 minutes disappointed me so much that I felt justified for not devoting my full attention to the film.

I started to watch Tár the following day, but I turned it off to do some homework and never turned it back on. The next day, while my roommates attended a social function, I locked myself up in my room and finished the two and a half hour behemoth before plunging into a deep sleep plagued with dreams about my inability to complete even the most straightforward of pointless self-challenges.

On Saturday, I decided to have a double-feature of the only two nominated movies that I had seen prior to the start of this challenge. The two films, The Batman and Everything Everywhere All at Once, both excelled in the movie theater format and the pitiful setup in my dorm did not do them justice. Nevertheless, Everything Everywhere All at Once was definitely the best 2022 movie that I’ve seen.

I ended the weekend by watching Reservoir Dogs and Scott Pilgrim vs The World with my roommates. Neither of these movies were nominated for awards this year. Neither of these movies were even released this year. But I had a good time watching them, and I don’t regret a thing.

The title of this article was a lie. 

In the end, I watched 18 movies and one episode of Arrested Development. If my self-imposed movie watching challenge was a race, I most certainly lost. But as I am learning, winning is not everything. I had fun, and as the saying goes, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

Of course, this may tarnish my legacy, but I will gladly accept my “participant” ribbon so I can hang it above my bed to always remind me that I could not overcome my herculean trial.

February 19, 2023