Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Heath Holland On...Expectations, Great.
We’ve been talking a lot about expectations lately. Seems like it started toward the end of the summer, when many of us realized that the level of enthusiasm we had for certain movies wasn't realized by some of the films themselves. All summer long, we seemed to collectively stare at our shoes and sigh.
The most recent Weekend Weigh-in asked us what movies we were looking forward to most in December. My two most anticipated movies, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, were on a lot of your lists, too. But that question made me think a little deeper and want to qualify my answer. You see, one of those movies is directed by the Coen brothers, whom I completely trust. The other is directed by Peter Jackson, and…yeah. I love PJ and think he’s a really gifted director, but he doesn’t have the near-flawless record of the Coens.
Example: the first time I saw the The Godfather, I was pretty disappointed. Like I did with so many of its critical peers, I first watched it during my college years with a keen critical eye, expecting the movie to reach out of the screen and batter me about the face and ears. Watching this movie will make my smooth, teenage face blossom with manly beard hair. I will be a man when this movie reveals the secrets of life to me.
It did not.
The wedding scene seemed to last forever and I had little patience for the characters they were building during those scenes. Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone was such a staple of pop culture that seeing him deliver a performance I’d seen satirized for years was a let down. He seemed sleepy and bored.
The same thing happened with Citizen Kane. That film is touted by just about every film school student, critic, and high school movie enthusiast as being the greatest movie of all time. How many years has it crowned the AFI list of 100 Greatest Films?
When I watched Citizen Kane, I wondered what the fuss was all about. I gathered that it was important, and it certainly wasn’t BAD, but when something is routinely touted as the greatest thing ever, how can it possibly live up to that reputation? For the record, I do now very much appreciate Citizen Kane as well. I don’t think it’s even close to the greatest movie of all time, but I understand what makes it so important and I do value it. I named my penis Rosebud.
Is there really a way to avoid expectations? You can try, but I don’t think you can ever truly succeed. Sir Mark Ahn (sage elder and he-who-knoweth kung fu) has suggested that you avoid marketing material from a movie, maybe even trailers, until you’ve seen the film itself. Read as little about it and don’t follow the breaking news as it shows up in the news feeds.
I always aim toward this goal, but it’s so hard in today’s technology-driven world. I stopped going to movie news sites a while back, but Facebook always gets the last laugh. “Heath, you have a friend request.” Oh, lovely. Let me just click confirm here, scroll down here to see—OMG, Colin Farrell has been cast as Ambush Bug in the new Superman movie. I suppose the best we can do is our best.
In this age of information, we’re blessed that we can find out the most trivial of facts about the movies we see with a few mere mouse clicks. I can find out what toilet paper Leonardo DiCaprio used on the set of The Wolf of Wall Street, or which brand of razor Joaquin Phoenix used to shape the mustache he sports in Spike Jonze’s Her.
But what I can’t do is turn off the flow of information, no matter how much I want to (and do I REALLY want to?). Expectations carry such power! What was the last great movie you saw? Now ask yourself, what were your expectations? More often than not, the movies that blow me away are the ones that I didn’t even see coming. Yet now, more than ever, I can’t stop myself from allowing the movies I’m looking forward to run wild with my expectations. I love movies. I look forward to them for months, sometimes years, at a time. I put my hopes on them, and I anticipate and plan my life around them. I seek meaning in their artistic expression. I put them on pedestals that few can attain.
And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.