This is a story of the afternoon I went to see Steven Spielberg’s 2013 film Lincoln, nominated for ten
Oscars ® and winner of two, for Daniel Day Lewis’s central performance, and for Rick Carter and Jim
Erickson’s production design. The film’s imdb page lists a total of 114 wins and 169 nominations
across the awards spectrum, which by anyone’s standards is not too shabby. I walked out of this film.
If you haven’t stopped reading and abolished me from social networking sites, hear me out. I know
this film is good. I’m pretty sure it’s great. I love Steven Spielberg’s work. So what was my problem
with this film? Did the critical praise set my expectations so high that I ended up bitterly disappointed?
Am I an expert on the 16th president of the United States and ended up deeply upset with the historical
inaccuracies of the movie in the name of dramatic license? No. I had to walk out because I was
defeated by a few rude cinemagoers. Whereas Mr. Lincoln was resolute in his will to see his nation
through the Civil War, and put an end to slavery, I left this matinee screening defeated and broken.
What would Abe think of me?
I finally found time to catch Lincoln in the spring of 2013, just as it was starting to die off cinema
screens. I had managed to get tickets to a Thursday afternoon showing, the day before it would end its
theatrical run, after which it would be too late to catch it at a cinema again. I was excited to finally see
a film that had been garnering five-star reviews across the board. I settled into my seat for a five
o’clock-ish matinee, with only a handful of other people in the screening; a nice, quiet afternoon where
I could hunker down and concentrate on this intricate three-hour drama.
About five minutes into the film, a middle-aged couple, some rows in front of me, began burbling to
each other. I was a little annoyed, but told myself that they would surely settle down eventually. I mean
they had to, surely? This film is two and-a-half hours long. But they didn’t. This couple, who were old
enough to know better, continued to chatter. The cadence of their conversation was akin to them being
at home and watching a film on the T.V. The husband (assuming they were married) would burble
something to the wife, and the wife would burble back in agreement. In a large screen, the pair were
some rows in front of me; too far away for me to make out what they were saying, but not so far that I
couldn’t hear that they were saying. And with few people in the screening to absorb the sound, their
chuntering was very noticeable. Now, I like to think I’m a pretty tolerant cinemagoer. And if I’m in a
loud, dumb, explosive action movie and people are reacting to the film and eating popcorn, slurping
drinks, to a point I don’t care. I even like it, it adds to the fun, especially if the film isn’t that great,
consuming sugary confections is a welcome distraction. But in a 150-minute political drama?
It seemed to me the people I was dealing with in this Lincoln performance rarely went to the cinema,
but the positive press and Oscar ® nominations had brought these creatures out of the woodwork.
Certain films are more vulnerable than others to this (horror films, James Bond) the types of people
who still think they are in their homes and have no basic consideration for cinema etiquette or for other
human beings. It’s rude and it’s wrong. I mean, Lincoln starts with some brief loud-ish scenes of battle
and war, but mainly its talky. Because it’s a POLITICAL FUCKING DRAMA.
The murmuring continued. I imagined that their dialogue (obviously so much more important than
Abraham Lincoln and his piddling, petty, slavery-abolishing on screen bullshit) went something like
Husband: ‘That’s Sally Field don’t you know?!’
Wife: ‘Ooh yes, she was in that Steel Magnolias!’
To grasp the full annoyance of this, one must add an upper inflection in the middle of the
‘mmMMmm’. Because that’s what it sounded like to me. Twenty minutes pass and there is no end to
the chitchat. Okay, I think to myself with a sigh, this is really annoying now, and there is no way I am
going to endure two-plus hours of this. So it looks like I will need to ask them to be quiet myself, or get
an usher, assuming I can find one, to ask them to politely (fucking) shut it. Galling, but it looks like
that was the only course of action available. Fine. Perfect. Problem solved. Or so I thought. Because it
was at this moment that a man with a tray of nachos enters the screen and sits right in front of me.
I could not believe this. You couldn’t make this up. And yes, he starts eating those nachos. Of course
he does. Loudly. In a screening of LINCOLN. So while Daniel Day Lewis is acting away, people are
dying and Constitutions being argued over, the enslavement of a people hanging in the balance, A
MAN IS EATING NACHOS IN FRONT OF ME. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. I could not believe what I
was hearing. Between Mr. and Mrs. Gabble-On and, the man WHO WAS EATING NACHOS IN A
SCREENING OF A TWO AND-A-HALF HOUR POLITICAL DRAMA CALLED LINCOLN, I felt
defeated. The talky couple I could ask to be quiet. But Nacho Libre? It was one too many children to
tell to behave. It slowly dawned on me that I would not be able to endure a film of this running time
with this kind of behavior going on. A pair of talkers I could ask to be quiet. But to tell a guy to stop
eating something he has bought, however misguidedly, from a venue that sells this stuff legitimately? I
don’t think that would work. What would I tell him to do? Suck on his nachos quietly? At this moment
in time I was hoping he’d choke on them.
And so I walked out of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. I went to the poor young lady at the box office
and explained the situation. Great. In addition to annoying me, these inconsiderate scumbags had
turned me into a person who complains to minimum-wage staff. So now I hate myself. She gave me the
refund with the look of someone who had had this one too many times. I wanted to tell her that she was
a good person in her heart and that this wasn’t her fault. Instead I said my thanks and apologized once
more for being a complainer. But I did get my refund.
As I walked out of the cinema this spring afternoon, a strange feeling came over me. The profound
annoyance I felt at having to walk out of Lincoln was replaced by a feeling of great liberation. Of
course, nothing like the sense of liberation the slaves felt after President Abraham Lincoln’s battles for
reform did, but free nonetheless. I had made some kind of a stand. I had argued that it was my
constitutional right to live in a nation where I can see an Oscar ® winning political drama and not have
to endure talking and loud-eating. And I won. I felt some sense of sadness for those few innocents who
were left in the screen to tolerate the running time of this film with all the oppression that surrounded
them, and threated to render the money they had spent on their tickets void. They will forever be
remembered in my heart. But I escaped. I was free of tyranny.
I still haven’t seen Lincoln. The half-an-hour or so I did manage that day at the cinema does not even
count, so taken out of it was I by three rude people. So at least I still have it to look forward to. And so
that is how The Battle of Lincoln ended for me. In a defeat, a retreat, but also a refund, and ultimately
To those people who did ruin my cinema-going experience that fateful day I say to you this: I hope
you get a phone call from Liam Neeson, and not Oskar Schindler Liam Neeson, Bryan Mills out of
Taken Liam Neeson, and that he does find you and kill you. Not very charitable of me I know. But then
neither is talking incessantly and EATING FUCKING NACHOS LOUDLY DURING LINCOLN.
Have a nice day.