My wife and I recently were able to conduct a little unplanned experiment as we continued our annual Oscar Watch. This past weekend she and I had an odd kind of date night. We went to the theater but she and I got tickets to different films. Back in December I saw American Hustle with a couple of friends from work. A few weeks ago she and our son saw August: Osage County. So this was our chance to swap. She headed for American Hustle and I to August: Osage County.
While this, in and of itself, is at best mildly interesting, the real kicker was that we were each viewing what the other had deemed as their best picture of the year. The stakes were high. We each walked in expecting greatness. Would we be disappointed or would they deliver as advertised?
The expectation factor comes into play anytime we watch a movie.
Whether it’s the trailer, a critic’s review, a friend’s assessment or the track record of a particular film maker, we all go into every movie with expectations. It might be about the quality of the story, acting, special effects or subject matter. But in most situations we usually aren’t sitting down to a movie with absolutely zero expectations one way or another.
Expectations can really impact how you experience a movie. I have been on both sides of the expectation spectrum. I have watched films that were both greatly lauded and films trashed by critics and moviegoers alike. Sometimes the films lived up to (or down to) the hype. Likewise, I have found myself disappointed by a film that had been built up too much or pleasantly surprised by how “not as bad” a movie was.
I can only imagine that the converse must be true from time to time. Have I predisposed myself to like a movie because I expect it to be good? Or awful because I expect it to be bad? I suspect there are some contrarians who insist on loving a movie because everyone hates it or hating it because everyone loves it. But no matter where we land, how much did our expectations influence our ultimate opinion?
August: Osage County was outstanding. As one friend put it “It is an acting clinic.” Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts in particular are both spectacular. So now the expectation factor is kicking in but in a different way. I will be watching Blue Jasmine this week to round out my Oscar Watch in all the major categories. The word on the street is that Cate Blanchett is a lock to win best actress. The expectation factor has me in a position going into Blue Jasmine thinking, “If Meryl Streep is that good in August: Osage County… how great is Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine?” Can you see the dilemma?
No matter how amazing Cate Blanchett is in Blue Jasmine, I will not only be comparing her performance to Meryl Streep’s but I will be looking to see how she sizes up against the buzz that she was even better. And the buzz has even more to live up to now because I thought Meryl was amazing.
Have you found yourself dealing with the expectation factor? What was the movie and what set you up? For me, one of the most memorable was The Phantom Menace. I’m sure I’m not alone in that immeasurably colossal disappointment. What is really amazing is how good that trailer is. Even knowing how dreadful Episode I was, when I see that trailer I want to see THAT movie.
Post your comments about your expectation factor here or tweet at me (@cmselby).