March 7th, 2010
03:36 PM ET

Dear President Obama #412: And the winner is ... way too noisy...

Reporter's Note: The White House has its own movie theater, which I suppose was a lot more impressive before scads of houses had their own surround sound, widescreen, knock the plaster off of the walls home theater systems. Still, I’ll bet it’s cool sitting there with the president watching some flick. Not as cool as being his pen pal, but cool.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I guess I have been living under a rock because it just occurred to me that the Oscars are upon us. I used to be a movie critic (in my spare time) and the Academy Awards were something I really looked forward too (in my regular time.) Now I can take them or leave them.

Not sure why that is. I still love a really great movie, and certainly some nice movies are being made, so you’d think I’d still be into it, but…not so much. Actually I guess I do have one idea why I’m not so much into it: People talking in the theaters. Drives me up a pole faster than a cat with a pit bull on its tail. There was less talking at the Yalta Conference than I’ve heard in some movies.

I suspect the reason this has happened is that movies just aren’t so special any more. Used to be that any time you saw a movie, whether in the theater or at home, you had to keep quiet and pay attention or you missed it. There were only a few channels, no Tivo, no home videotape machines, no nothing; so if you talked during a scene it was gone and never to be recovered. “What did he say? The butler did it? Or the butter did it? Was the butter poisoned?”

But ever since we got the ability to power up Gone With the Wind, or American Pie 14, or Star Trek: Spock’s Conception at the touch of a button movie manners have gone to pieces. People talk on their phones, text their friends, and yak away as if they never contemplated the idea that other people might actually be trying to watch the film. I get so frustrated. Sometimes I talk to the theater management; sometimes I just avoid going on busy nights like Friday or Saturday; sometimes I just slump down in my chair and sulk.

I suppose it could be worse. A friend in Russia once told me about going to a new American film that had not yet been translated for Russians, and he wondered how the audience was going to understand what was happening. The riddle was solved when the movie started and he noticed a guy sitting on a tall stool in the back of the theater. Obviously the guy spoke English, because as the acting got underway the guy would listen to each line, then raise a bullhorn to his mouth and shout it out in Russian.

Still, talking in theaters is to me one of the great collapses in our culture; an absolute failure of basic manners. If you could impose some kind of massive, presidential penalties for anyone caught doing it, I would be forever grateful. But I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

So maybe I’ll watch the Oscars, maybe not. But if in addition to Best Actor/Actress and Best Movie they’d toss in an award for quietest theater, well then I’d be glued to my chair. Maybe it’s old fashioned, but what I wouldn’t give for a silent movie! You know, you and I have never been to a film together. Maybe we should try that. I’ll bet with Secret Service staked around the room folks would shut their yaps! Give me a call and I’ll check the listings.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Jonah

    Nice piece. It will remain the President not to be working 24/7. A time to relax and criticize too.

    March 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  2. Eneida lambert

    Who cares about the Oscars!, we should concentrate more on the economy and the millions of people who are losing their jobs. And those people back in Holliwood are making millions of dollars per movie, but an ordinary person like me who lives from pay check to pay is being ignored!

    March 7, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  3. Tim Gibson

    While I seldom go to a movie theather myself anymore for the same reasons you mentioned, it never fails to amaze me that people cannot even disconnect from their texting to view a movie. Gone are the days of manners in theaters along with many other avenues where manners once ruled.

    It is so much easier to grab that movie when it arrives in the mail, pop it into the DVD player and enjoy the comfort of my own home. Relaxed as well as not paying $20 for a stale bag of popcorn in order to cover the high cost of a movie all the way from actors who are paid well above their worth to the cost of the building the movie is shown in.

    As to the Oscars, an award given by not the viewers, but the movie folks themselves, what kind of award is that. I never watch them anymore, nor do I base my viewing selection on who won what as I find I am often disappointed when I do. Popularity is not what it is cut out to be.

    March 7, 2010 at 8:13 am |