Meditation on Movies and Expectations

Okay– so the kids are gone, right? Off in the wilds with my parents, where I will worry about them appropriately until they return, and fret about the fact that, seriously, we haven’t done a whole lot with them this summer and I feel HELLA FRICKIN’ GUILTY.

But in the meantime, gone they are, and it’s time for mama cat and daddy cat to…

Well, for us, it’s go to movies.

Now, today there was actually a choice, which is pretty frickin’ awesome, because I’m telling you, pickings have been mighty slim this summer.  Anyway, we had Wolverine, we had Reds2, we had The Heat and we had RIPd.  (We also had Pacific Rim, but we forgot about that until we got to the movie theater, and we’ll go see it tomorrow.)

Anyway– it was an embarrassment of riches after months during which we’re going back to see classic stuff on the screen because there’s really nothing good.

And it forced us to choose, and that made me think about what people want from their entertainment.

Sometimes, we really do want our hearts ripped out.

Seriously– that’s what I go to Superhero movies for.  That’s why I go to Star Trek (twice so far!).  Yeah, some people go to their family dramas for that, but honestly?  I get my feels much more thoroughly when they’re pumped through my body with adrenaline and clenched-fist humor.  When I’m writing a contemporary story and my heroes are faced with an impossible choice, or an impossible way to retain their humanity, it’s that sort of intensity I’m going for– I adore me a good, painful, oh-the-fucking-humanity story about someone trying to be better than human– who fails miserably.

But, that being said, we did not see Wolverine.  

Because the trailers look awesome.  And there are some movies that you know you’ll sit down to, and it will be like a roller coaster.  There will be five horrible minutes of “what have I done!” followed by a breathless thrill ride that you’re glad you’ve taken, but that you know has drained some time off of your final resting clock.

Yeah.  No.

I wanted something funny.  But not stupid funny.  There is a troupe of very talented, very rare and amazing actors– Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, Will Farrell, Steve Corel, Zach Gallifiankis–  yeah.  I can’t watch any of their stuff at the theatre.  Like I said– they’re brilliant– but watching their movies makes me have to run out of the room to hide my head under the pillow and scream “La la la la la la la la!!!”  at the top of my lungs.  If I ever went to the movie theatre to actually see one of their movies, I’d spend a lot of time checking my e-mail in the bathroom, and that’s not kosher in the least.

So I was looking for a smart comedy, but one not based on embarrassment, and one that didn’t make me feel old, and one that didn’t make me wish I was in my own house with a pillow nearby.

And it had to be good.

Now see, in this mood that I was in, if I’d seen any of those other movies, I would have hated them.

I would have flat out hated them.  I wouldn’t have panned them because as I get older I’m better at recognizing when it’s the stupid movie and when it’s me being a mean bitch, but I know myself– I would have hated it.  As Mate and I get older, we get more and more adept and reading between the lines of the trailers and figuring out whether or not the only funny parts really are on the trailer, so we don’t make that mistake ever during our precious movie time, and we’re also pretty good at differentiating.

For example?  The Others was really not like The Sixth Sense because in the end, there was no redeeming message about humanity so there!  So when we watched it and it scared the shit out of us, we knew enough to tell people what not to expect–and what to expect, and people were happy.

Because the audience– of a movie or a book or a theatre piece or whatever– really does bring it to the table when they allow themselves to be entertained.  If you tell someone that they’re going to a Christmas concert and they end up at a Motley Crue cover band, they’re going to be disappointed.  That disappointment is difficult to measure in terms of their own expectations– they’re going to take it out on the cover band when it might have actually been pretty decent.

And the older I get, and the more I talk to people who come out of a movie or a book or a television show complaining, the more i think that what they missed was (very often) overall quality of the product, but expectation.  Now some people are going to say, “Yeah!  I expected it to be good!” but that’s not true at all.  We went to see Season of the Witch expecting it to suck, and yet to be entertained. And we were entertained–and the movie was campy as hell!  But we didn’t leave the theatre angry or unsatisfied– we left it in a good mood.  We’d known what to expect, and the movie fulfilled our expectations and in spite of the fact that it really was one of the shittiest movies ever, we deemed it good.

And I’m sure actors and producers and content creators everywhere live in fear of the product that really is very good overall, but that is given a bad rep by misleading expectations.  Because it’s funny– we the audience have no idea that this thing inside us–that very often we’re unaware of–has such a powerful effect on what our perception of quality is.

It’s a thing I’ve always found fascinating– I mean, I have no “conclusion” here, because really, what am I going to exhort people to do?  “Don’t go into that piece of literature with any expectations at all!”

Uhm, that will fly, right?

I guess I just wanted to ponder it a little–how the audience is the unquantified ingredient that can make or break the movie.  You can have the best actors, writers, producers, intentions and results, and still, because the job is out of your control, have a movie that flames out spectacularly.

It’s daunting, isn’t it?

It’s like that plane I was boarding that was lifting off in Salt Lake City.  There was some confusion as to whether or not passengers from another, bumped flight, would be boarding on our flight– and it came down to weather.  Salt Lake City is so high that if the plane had been loaded to capacity, and it got higher than 95 degrees, well, the plane might not take off so well.

And it was 93 degrees, and they were wondering if they should stuff the plane chock full of  victims, I mean virgins I mean passengers, right?  (I counted almost 30 Mormon Missionaries– not great for dragons no, but a little easier on the conscience in airplane travel.)

So, we boarded the plane: me, the gentleman by the window, and the empty seat in the middle.

As the airplane filled up, we both looked at that seat between us, and came to understand the truth:  should that seat fill up, that meant the airline was going to try to risk it, and we were going to try to overload the plane.  Should that seat stay empty, our odds of living to Atlanta had just dramatically improved.

So, at the end of the boarding process, the door closed, and that seat was still between us.  I put my stuff there, and both of us looked at each other and said, “Yes!” quietly, with little arm-pumps of triumph.

We were going to live!

So, given that, when we hit turbulence and a violent thunderstorm over Atlanta, the gentleman opened his window, looked outside at the tumult of clouds and lightning, and said, “We didn’t need to see that.”

Then he shut the window.

And we both agreed at the end, it wasn’t a bad flight at all.

See– it’s all about expectations, right?

0 thoughts on “Meditation on Movies and Expectations”

  1. Anonymous says:

    But Amy, what movie did you see? Inquiring minds want to know (and also to know whether it lived up to your expectations).

  2. So, it wasn't just me… What did you see?

  3. Amy Lane says:

    LOLOL Red 2– THAT night. Wolverine last night. BOTH were AWESOME.

  4. Donna Lee says:

    I love RED and am looking forward to RED2. I don't usually expect much from movies so I'm not disappointed. Usually I go to be entertained and as long as they do that, I'm ok. If I want deep, profound discussions I'll stay home and watch some PBS.

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