The 32nd Annual 24-Hour Ohio Science Fiction Marathon – One Man’s Recap

The 32nd Annual 24-Hour Ohio Science Fiction Marathon

marathon_logoby Aaron Einhorn
For over two decades of my life, one event has strongly resonated throughout the spring, and that is the annual 24-hour Science Fiction movie marathon in Central Ohio. When the event started it was located at the Drexel North in Clintonville on the North Side of Ohio. I wasn’t able to attend the marathon for the first few years of the event’s existence, because I was a wee lad, so the first time I attended a marathon was the Sci-Fi Marathon’s sister event, the Horror Marathon in October. I first came out for the Night of the Living Drexel 2 in 1989, and my first sci-fi marathon wouldn’t be until the following spring when It Came From the Drexel North 4 occurred on April 22, 1990.

Because of various life-related events (working at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, my brother’s wedding, having a wife who likes to do Halloween-related activities), my attendance at the Horror Marathons has been sporadic throughout the years, but I haven’t missed a Science Fiction marathon since 1990, even as the event has travelled from one theatre to another. (And yes, you may realize if the 4th Annual Event was 25 years ago, but this was the 32nd Annual Marathon, something weird has happened. We’ll just point out that it involved time-travel, and the thirteenth, fourteenth, sixteenth and twenty-second marathons have gone missing, although we did get the fifteenth to re-appear in 2005 – although it pushed the twenty-second off into the vortex.)

This past weekend, March 14-15, 2015, the 32nd Annual(ish) event happened at the Drexel East in Bexley, Ohio. And I will say without reservation that it ended up being one of my favorite years on record.

The Line-Up

12:00 – ALIEN
2:20 – DR WHO AND THE DALEKS
4:30 – The Midwest Premiere of SHADOWS ON THE WALL
6:40 – 32nd Annual Costume Contest
7:00 – BARBARELLA
9:20 – The Ohio Premiere of TIME LAPSE
11:40 – BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT
2:00 – EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY
4:00 – LUCY
5:40 – HARDWARE
8:00 – THE WASP WOMAN
9:45 – ALIENS

Nice, solid line-up with two premieres, three legitimate sci-fi classics, some serious goofy cheese, and at least one film from before 1960. I knew going in to the event that either BARBARELLA or SHADOWS ON THE WALL would be sacrificed to the gods of getting a solid dinner consumed, but overall, it was a line-up I was really looking forward to.

alien_posterALIEN

I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality. – Ash

To a modern audience, it is astonishing how much time this film takes to simply let the action breathe. There is a ton of gorgeous cinematography at work here, from shots of the Nostromo, to views of the alien planet, to extended views of the Space Jockey. To be sure, there are elements in this film that don’t work as well with the passage of time. The “computers of the future” are incredibly dated, for one thing, and some of the puppetry and suit effects for the xenomorph (not ever called that in the film) are showing their age.

But who cares? The tension in this film is tangible, and the adrenaline surges when the alien does actually attack leave your heart racing. The performances hold up as 100% authentic, and the design work looks lifted straight from the page of HR Geiger.

There is a reason that ALIEN routinely makes “Top Whatever” lists for both science fiction and horror. It’s probably been close to a decade since I saw this movie, but I will not go that long without watching it again. Even better, since it is featured on The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mira is interested in watching it. I’m not sure if it might not be too scary for her, but I’m willing to give it a try.

drwhoandthedaleks_posterDR WHO AND THE DALEKS

Destroy. The. Thalls! – Daleks

I’m a fairly serious recent Whovian. I’ve been aware of DOCTOR WHO my entire life, but never really got in to the classic series. I watched the Fox/BBC TV “Event” with the Eighth Doctor, and enjoyed it enough at the time that if it had gone to series, I probably would have stuck with it, but, of course, it didn’t.

Instead, I got involved with the Doctor starting with Christopher Eccelston in 2005, and have been a loyal fan since then. I’ve gone back and watched a handful of older DOCTOR WHO serials, and have listened to a lot of the radio dramas starring the former Doctors, but had never ventured over to the American film starring Peter Cushing. So, I was looking forward to checking it out.

I was unprepared for a Doctor who was pretty much completely ineffectual, not an alien, and actually named Doctor Who. But that didn’t keep me from being amused at the film. Quite probably I wasn’t amused in the ways that the film intended – in fact, I was more annoyed than amused by Ian’s ineffectiveness – but I still managed to smile through most of the movie (although the mountain climbing scene was more exhausting to watch than it would have been to actually climb a mountain). I won’t be rushing out to see this again, but as a fan of the Doctor, I’m glad to have seen it once.

Daleks manage to somehow still be both completely goofy as villains, and terrifying.

shadowsonthewall_posterSHADOWS ON THE WALL

This ended up being my dinner break, so I have nothing to say here. When I got back, people seemed to have enjoyed it. So, here’s the plot summary for you to decide yourself how you feel about it.

Palmer Marshall, an engineering student with anxiety issues, builds a miraculous device capable of reaching far beyond our understanding of known space. But in breaking this new boundary Palmer and his friends have opened a Pandora’s Box with far-reaching and unforeseen consequences. THE SOCIAL NETWORK meets the X-FILES in this stark and snappy sci-fi suspense.

Costume Contest

I have a love/hate relationship with the costume contest. I enjoy watching it each year, and I love that wit and timing can sometimes count more than costume quality. On the other hand, as a fairly dedicated costumer who puts a lot of effort into his costumes, the fact that I’ve seen people who put a lot of time and thought into their costumes lose to someone with a blanket occasionally really bums me out.

(I didn’t mind at all losing to Zap Brannigan. I was annoyed about losing to a blanket.)

This year offered a better-than-normal group of good costumes that also involved some good timing and wit, and I’m very glad that Barbarella – the later years, Bill and Ted, and the Seventeenth Doctor all ended up at the top of the heap. I felt bad about Jack Sparrow – and actually think he might’ve done better if he’d used a better line from the film.

barbarella_posterBARBARELLA

An angel does not make love. An angel is love. – Pygar

Apparently being married to a director can get you in to a science fiction film where you end up changing your clothing a lot, getting naked a lot, and somehow managing to still succeed in defeating an evil scientist and a world controlled by an evil matmos.

I’ve never completely understood the appeal of this film. It’s goofy, the effects are beyond dated, and Ms. Fonda isn’t even all that hot – which to many people seems to be the justification for the film’s existence.

I feel like I should have a fondness for this film, and I was actually looking forward to seeing it again. but once it started, I just felt bored throughout. When you find yourself wishing that Durand-Durand would just kill the heroine, it’s a sign that the movie is, perhaps, not hitting its mark.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d stayed through SHADOWS ON THE WALL and gone to dinner here.

timelapse_posterTIME LAPSE

Cardinal rule. Don’t f*** with time. – Jasper

I knew very little about this one going in, by choice. I had read the basic synopsis on Wikipedia, but chose not to watch any of the trailers. I was therefore unprepared to see that one of our three leads was none other than Danielle Panabaker, whose turn as Caitlin Snow is so charmingly adorkable on THE FLASH that it’s one of the delights of my weekly TV viewing.

I love time travel movies, especially ones that keep you guessing and that are consistent with their laws of casualty and sequence. The best episodes of DOCTOR WHO manage it, and we’ve had a few films throughout the decades that do it really well (TIMECRIMES, PRIMER, HAPPY ACCIDENTS), and then we have those films where Time Travel is a hand-wave for whatever weird stuff they feel like throwing at us. I am very happy that TIME LAPSE falls into the category of ones that did it well.

That said, a consistent time-travel plot doesn’t mean anything if you don’t care about the characters, and I really did here. Jasper, Callie and Finn are all fascinating characters, and watching them change and become corrupted by what the machine can show them is incredibly engaging.

Solid performances, an engaging plot, authentic tension and a consistent time-travel mechanic all put TIME LAPSE on the top of my list for this event, and I am highly recommending it to my friends.

bladerunnerfinalcut_posterBLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. – Roy Batty

BLADE RUNNER is not one of those science fiction films that I am completely in love with, and in some ways this feeling is exacerbated by the numerous different “versions” of the film that circulate. When someone says “I love this movie,” one’s response shouldn’t be to ask which version. With that in mind, I wasn’t all that excited about the “Final Cut” showing.

To be sure, the film is stronger without Harrison Ford’s voiceovers, and the additional footage of the unicorn dream and the violence isn’t awful – but I didn’t find myself caring all that much about seeing this version over the Director’s Cut, and in some ways I don’t even mind the U.S. Domestic Release.

The digital restoration, on the other hand, was incredibly impressive, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a prettier version of BLADE RUNNER. But maybe it was simply because of the fact that we were edging past midnight, but I simply wasn’t as moved by the film as I have been in the past.

earthgirlsareeasy_posterEARTH GIRLS ARE EASY

I just want to say that being chosen as this month’s Miss August is like a compliment I’ll remember for as long as I can. Right now I’m a freshman in my fourth year at UCLA, but my goal is to become a veterinarian, ’cause I love children. – Candy

After the heaviness of BLADE RUNNER, this was the perfect palate cleanser. There is no part of this movie that isn’t charming in its own goofy, ridiculous way.

Now, this movie is so eighties it hurts, and the fact that it was MTV produced and existed as much to push Julie Brown as to actually make a good comedy is only barely disguised.

But who cares? Sometimes all you want is a film that is fun and goofy and charming, and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY delivers in spades. The songs are upbeat and catchy. The aliens are ridiculous and silly but still charming in their own way, and Goldblum and Davis always have fantastic chemistry together on-screen.

While certainly not a movie that will be high on my “Oh man, I need to see this again” list, I don’t think I would ever object to watching EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY if I was channel surfing and came across it, and I’d be happy to see it grace the marathon screen again in a decade or so.

lucy_posterLUCY

Time is the only true unit of measure. It gives proof to the existence of matter. Without time, we don’t exist. – Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is one of my biggest Hollywood crushes, and I consider it nothing short of criminal that Marvel/Disney has not yet made a BLACK WIDOW film starring her. She’s gorgeous, the camera loves her, and she’s a very capable actress. Despite all this, I never got around to seeing LUCY when it was in the theatre, so I was really looking forward to checking this out.

The premise is completely goofy – in that we actually use all of our brain. But if you’re willing to handwave that, the movie is actually pretty enjoyable. To be sure, there are some ridiculous plot holes (namely “Why does she need the drug from the dealers? With the access to information she has, surely she could have just synthesized it herself.”) and in many ways it never really feels like the stakes are high – because once she starts unlocking her abilities, Lucy really isn’t threatened by any mundane threats.

So, call it more a philosophical film about mankind’s potential, mixed with some Michael Bay-esque action sequences. And in that regard, I think it succeeds. Again, not on the list of movies I feel a need to rewatch soon, but not a movie I regret having seen.

hardware_posterHARDWARE

Machines don’t understand sacrifice – neither do morons. – Chief

HARDWARE originally showed at It Came From The Drexel North 5 in 1991, which was my fourth one of these twenty-four hour events, and at the time, I think I was too exhausted to really be able to get into the film. I remember thinking that the lead female was sexy enough that I understood why she was the object of obsession of her neighbor. I also remember thinking that I didn’t care about any of the characters in the film at all, and that the cyborg was kind of goofy. Even with the post-apocalyptian overlay, I couldn’t see a reason to watch HARDWARE over THE TERMINATOR.

Unfortunately, the passage of time hasn’t done much – if anything – to change my mind. Maybe it was still because of the lateness of when it was shown, but I still just didn’t find myself caring at all during the film. Stacey Travis is still hot, but I still didn’t care.

It’s far from the worst film we’ve ever shown at the Marathon, and I’m not at all upset that it aired. It gave me a good reason to decide “To heck with it,” and close my eyes and catch a few winks. But I don’t ever need to see it again, and retrospect, I should’ve left and gone for a walk to get some breakfast during it.

(Note: The Wasp Woman does not appear like this in the film.)

(Note: The Wasp Woman does not appear like this in the film.)

THE WASP WOMAN

She will kill her as easily as any wasp would destroy its enemy. – Eric Zinthrop

The tried and true “Dangerous Feminist” genre has a place in cinematic history, and the horror/sci-fi trope of the woman who becomes a predatory monster is certainly a part of that. THE WASP WOMAN fits squarely into the middle of the pack of these kinds of movies.

It wasn’t a bad film. The performances were fairly sincere, and the plot was… well… no more unfeasible than many science fiction films of the fifties and sixties. Susan Cabot actually seemed believably conflicted, and she’s certainly not hard on the eyes, which is important when the premise of the film is that the wasp enzymes make you younger and more attractive – at least until you become a wasp monster.

The Wasp Woman makeup itself hasn’t aged well, but it’s no worse than the makeup from the original version of THE FLY. Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about the movie is that at this late hour of the event, I managed to not nod off during its runtime.

aliens_posterALIENS

Take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. – Ellen Ripley

As good as ALIEN is, many people will say that ALIENS is better. I don’t know that I agree with that – if only because in so many ways it is unfair to compare the two. ALIEN is a horror film – it’s the serial killer/haunted house in space, with a significant secondary dose of body horror, and there’s a reason that ALIEN can be shown as a part of a horror film festival as easily as it fits into science-fiction. ALIENS is a much more typical science-fiction film –and that’s not a Bad Thing, it just makes the experience of the two movies very different.

It is funny that – even when you account for the improved weaponry and combat training – how much the aliens suffer from Conservation of Ninjitsu. Any single xenomorph is no threat to the marines or to Ripley (excluding the Queen, of course), which is a far cry from a single creature destroying the entire crew of the Nostromo.

But really, none of that matters. ALIENS is a well-made film, with great performances all around, incredibly solid special effects that have aged quite well, and a compelling personal character story in the midst of the action. There’s a reason this film remains on the top of many lists, and it was possibly one of the best films to end a Marathon in the many years of the Ohio Marathon’s history (which is probably why this isn’t the first time that we ended the ‘thon with ALIENS).

Summary

I was sad that Christina wasn’t able to come out to the event this year, because I think it had one of the more solid line-ups in recent memory. By the time we were done on Sunday (only about fifteen minutes late, despite the delay with getting ALIENS loaded into the DCP projector), that sadness was exacerbated – I think she would’ve had a lot of fun this time around. I’m also thinking that I would love to see the kid’s tickets return, because Mira is getting to the age that I think bringing her for at least the first few movies would’ve been a lot of fun – but I couldn’t justify a $40 ticket price to only bring her out for ALIEN, DR WHO, SHADOWS ON THE WALL and BARBARELLA (which is probably when I would’ve taken her home, although keeping her there through TIME LAPSE might’ve been an option).

Not among the films, but important to note. The tribute to Leonary Nimoy was great, and I really enjoyed both the episode of STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and to see that Mr. Nimoy was overwhelmingly voted in to the Hall of Fame this year. I also thought that the trailer for PROMETHEUS was absolutely fitting to make the Upside-Down-and-Backwards offering for the year. In general, it seemed like we had more shorts and fewer trailers, and I don’t know how much I prefer that trend, but the event still came off well.

As always, Bruce and Joe deserve more thanks than I can put into words for organizing this event and making it happen each year. I had an absolute blast, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year. I don’t know if the Horror Marathon is going to happen – partially because I might end up running in the Columbus Marathon that weekend – but I’m really happy to see both events continue from year to year.

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