After seeing a flick I particularly love, I’ve been known to walk out of the multiplex and say, “OMG… that was the greatest movie in the history of filmed entertainment.” Okay, I’m prone to superlatives… so sue me. I made this comment about The Artist and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Yea me! (That said, I’m pretty sure I said the same thing about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.)
Yet I know folks who hated The Artist as much as I loved it because the movie didn’t live up to all the hoopla for them. Fair enough. Managing expectations is critical when heading to the movies, setting the DVR and buying tickets to live theater. When something is hyped incessantly, we’re bound to be disappointed. And fans like me who say “that was the greatest movie in the history of filmed entertainment” certainly feed the fire.
The pretty hype machine is at its peak during Oscar season. I liked The Descendants and thought George Clooney gave a lovely performance, but I didn’t think it was as amazing as all the critics wanted me to believe. On the flipside, My Week With Marilyn and The Iron Lady didn’t get great marks (save for the performances by Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep, respectively), but I thoroughly enjoyed both films far beyond their award winning leading ladies. The hype for Black Swan was at a fever pitch when I saw it a couple of years ago. I found it laughable. Yet Blue Valentine knocked my socks and I raved about it to my friends, many of whom thought it was a snooze-fest. High expectations = disappointment. Low expectations = enjoyment.
Clearly the vicious expectations/disappointment cycle isn’t limited to artsy fartsy movies. Right now The Hunger Games is a huge hit and most reviewers have been kind to Katniss and kompany, but I just saw a piece that said it doesn’t live up to the raves. Now if/when I’m in the mood to see this dystopian thriller about kid-on-kid murder, I’ll be sure to knock down my expectations a peg or two.
TV is a little trickier, since shows have the capacity to grow on us if we stick them out. “BEST. SHOW. EVER.” could apply to an entire season of Pretty Little Liars or a particularly witty episode of Happy Endings. I’ve certainly used those three words to describe both. Several late-to-the-bandwagon chums who tuned into Mad Men for the first time two Sundays ago told me how slow they thought the show’s pacing was. Of course it is! The show moves like molasses and always has and that’s part of its charm (for me, anyway.) But I totally understand and respect the disappointment. Four Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series can certainly lead to a backlash. I have yet to watch The Wire, Breaking Bad or Friday Night Lights because I’m afraid they won’t be as good as everyone tells me they are. Fear of disappointment can be crippling.
Living in New York, I have the pleasure of seeing a lot of Broadway shows. I finally saw Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway on Sunday. A pal of mine from college who now lives in Atlanta was visiting New York with his wife and sons (ages 12 and 14) and I thought it would be more interesting for them than, say, Evita or Mary Poppins. The bad word-of-mouth for this show is legendary, yet I had a great time. Admittedly, my expectations were lower than low. Conversely, I told some friends that War Horse was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen on a stage; they left at intermission. Ouch. And let the record show that I have no problem leaving an uninteresting play at interval (as the Brits say), as I did last week at City Center Encore’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pipe Dreams. Let’s just say there’s a reason that some classic musicals get revived on Broadway and performed at high schools across the country, whereas other clunkers end up in old sock drawer where they belong.
And there you have it, my friends. Lower your expectations and you’ll rarely be disappointed. By the way, I finally saw 21 Jump Street this week. You’ve got to check it out… it’s the greatest movie in the history of filmed entertainment.
There Will Be Blood