x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Oscar frontrunners leave some snoring in the cinema

The movie theatre has long been a place to catch a good nap, and this year of long films and protracted soliloquies from the likes of Lincoln provides ample opportunity.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field star in Lincoln. AP Photo / DreamWorks
Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field star in Lincoln. AP Photo / DreamWorks

Nancy Zwiers was genuinely psyched to see Lincoln but something happened between the ticket purchase and the credits. Off screen, that is.

"Yes, I fell asleep," confessed the 54-year-old New Yorker. "I only have two clear memories of the movie: a bunch of old white guys sitting around talking and Sally Field in a perpetual state of angst."

That was shortly after its release in October. Now, a dozen Academy Award nominations later, a different kind of accolade has emerged for the 150-minute epic: it's nap worthy, with and without apologies to Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Movie napping is almost certainly as old as cinema itself. It strikes the overtired and the well rested, film nuts and occasional theatregoers. Some blame it on soporific popcorn. Others on the enveloping darkness and a comfy seat. The theatre is too hot. The theatre is too cold, too crowded or not crowded enough.

Any which way, cinematic snoozing seems near epidemic proportions this awards season with buzz with extra Zs for Lincoln, the 157-minute sung Les Misérables, the 169-minute The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and others cited as good for a snore but not always due to extra minutes.

Forget the theory that movie watchers of a certain age are more heavily afflicted.

"I don't realise I do it and I wake up 20 minutes later and then everyone's, like, you were asleep," says Rose Liu, 31. "I snore and then it's embarrassing, but I really can't control it. I wake up and I'm re-energised."

Liu has movie dozed on dates and while out with friends, some of whom have nudged her awake at the request of strangers sitting nearby.

She, too, was done in by Lincoln. She also caught some shut-eye during the two-hour Argo, which she liked. A power napper in regular life and a moviegoer about once a month, Liu says it would make sense to avoid late screenings but that's usually not possible.

Count the psychologist Jennifer Thomas, 43, as a nap person outside of theatres and in. With four kids at home, she watches a lot on Netflix but gets out to the theatre about once every three months.

Thomas decided to take in Life of Pi in 3D on the recommendation of friends who enjoyed the book. In a rare moment of parenthood, Thomas was alone in the dark, in a cushy seat.

"It was somewhere with the boat and the water and the lion. They had settled into the story and I just had this feeling: 'I'm just going to listen to the movie for a while and I'm just going to close my eyes,'" she says. She slept through 15-minutes of the largely symbolic action.

Who among us hasn't been there, at least once?

Collin Roberts has seen four of the nine films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi and Lincoln, the latter of which proved a snoozer.

"The soliloquies started. That was something I didn't know about Lincoln, his tendency to give long-winded speeches at inappropriate times. The elderly lady next to me fell asleep and started snoring softly and before I knew it, I was nodding off, too," Roberts says.

Entertainment Weekly has dubbed this the most thrilling race for an Oscar in years but the length of some contenders has earned attention. A recent Saturday Night Live skit suggested the next two Hobbit movies morph into 18 instead, including The Elf Queen Tries to Pick an Outfit.

The writers at SNL included this mock review from the film critic Peter Travers: "I fell asleep for 45 minutes and when I woke up the dwarves were assembling an Ikea dresser."

In real life, Travers liked parts of The Lord of the Rings prequel but hated the whole 48-frames-a-second thing and thought an hour could have been chopped.

The internet is heavy with lists of all-time snoozer movies but rarely is one season so full of them, or so say the nappers.

Tadd Rosenfeld gets plenty of sleep and rarely naps outside of movie theatres. He's in catch-up mode on Oscar nominees and says his last in-theatre snooze was The Dark Knight Rises, the latest in the Batman franchise released in July. It won a dozen awards, including one of the American Film Institute's 10 best movies of the year and a Hollywood Film Award. Most of his friends loved it.

"But to me it was simply restful. It lost my attention almost straightaway, and as my eyelids felt heavier and heavier, I just relaxed into a lower sitting position in the chair, allowing the colourful scenes to unfold as I drifted pleasantly away," Rosenfeld says.

About an hour in, "I was rudely brought back by the sounds of an action scene", he adds. "But I just closed my eyes again and let the carbohydrates from the popcorn send me back to sleepy-bye land."

That land is a familiar place for Margery Cooper.

"I fall asleep a lot in the movies. I snore, and then my husband wakes me up because of the noise. I go to movies once a month, always before seven to make sure that I'll stay awake," she said.

Her Lincoln snooze was about 10 minutes. "I planned to sleep through Zero Dark Thirty but was surprisingly engaged," Cooper says.


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