I've realized something during my hiatus of blogging. Expectations seem to play the biggest role in my enjoyment or lack or enjoyment when I watch a movie or read a book or anything.
Last night, I had just finished watching the newest Judd Apatow Funny People. It was a pretty big movie this summer and I know many people that saw it in the theater thinking "Great! Knocked Up with Adam Sandler: I can't wait." I saw the trailer and remember laughing at one comment or scene, but didn't think the movie was theater-worthy. (When I see a trailer I immediately put the movie into 4 categories: Theater, Netflix, Wait for Cable, No-fucking-way-do-I-Ever-want-to-see-that-potential-piece-of-shit) Funny people was immediately pinned as NETFLIX. So it went on my queue.
Later, many friends saw the movie and came and told me it was horrible. I am quite trusting, and I agree with many of these people's opinion, so it started getting bumped further down my list. These same people saw the Hangover and told me I had to see it. That trailer also was a Netflix to me, but everyone told me how great it was, so I kept trying to see it in the theater, but in the end didn't ever make it. So as a result, that movie got pushed further up my queue.
I'm sure you all can guess where I'm going with this. In, the end I saw The Hangover about a month ago and when I put the BluRay in the player I started getting excited. I was in a good mood and was looking forward to laughing at a movie that even my mother said "I haven't laughed that hard since I saw Animal House in the theater." The Hangover was good. The problem probably was almost all the surprises were taken out. Commercials told me there was a Tiger and Mike Tyson was in the movie. Friends said a joke from time to time about a wolf-pack. In the end, the only scene that I genuinely laughed at was the Rain Man parody when they came down the escalator. So, although the movie was good, and I'm sure I will watch it numerous times when it come on HBO I felt like it did not deserve all they hype and I felt disapointed by the movie.
Fast Foward to last night when Funny People came in the mail. It was #6 on my Netflix queue, and aparently movies 1-5 were Long Waits. When I saw what came I was disapointed, and instead of sit on the movie forever, I decided I should just watch it so I can send it back and get one of the movies I really want to see (C'mon Moon or Hurt Locker!!) I'm really not even an Adam Sandler fan anymore. I loved him on SNL, and even enjoyed my share of his movies like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, but have not enjoyed one of his movies probably in over 10 years. So, I put the BluRay in and was immediately shocked about the tone. It was somber and depressing. It showed the bad side of fame that you hear about often, but don't normally see. It was had some funny parts. I really enjoyed the opening credits too showing a young Sandler making crank phone calls and reminding me of his old-school comedy CDs from the early 90s.
When the movie ended, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Not as a comedy, but as a movie. It was entertaining, it made me think, and was just good. Afterwards, I even watched extras of the disc including gag reels and a documentary that was over an hour long.
Now, I know almost everyone reading this is thinking "He liked Funny People more than The Hangover?" Yes and No is my answer. The problem was the expectations that I had for both based on who I am as a movie fan, and being quite conscious of pop-culture. I have a good amount of friends, and since I am who I am whenever someone sees a movie they enjoy, they often talk to me about it. Same thing with if they hated it. I'll talk to them about it if I have seen it or not since I enjoy that type of banter. People that saw both, there was a general consensus: Hangover = Good; Funny People = bad. Even movie reviewers and end-of-the-year lists agreed. So in my head, before even seeing either film they were placed in a specific category.
I think this is why I often try to see movies or do things before anyone else. I remember seeing each of the new Star Wars films at midnight when they screened simply to be the first to see it, and not want anyone to skew my opinion. This is also why my favorite movie partner for about a decade was myself. Going to a movie alone affords you the ability to make up your own mind immediately, and not having the person next to you scoff at the ridiculousness of the plot or ruin a twist you didn't see coming. And I've even found those 2 minutes when the movie goes to black and the credits start rolling and someone says to me "That was HORRIBLE", and I immediately judge the movie different. I'll usually agree with them, even if I genuinely enjoyed it. I remember watching Benjamin Button last year and thinking it was a well crafted story, with some flaws but overall quite good while my theater-mates were bored to tears. I haven't seen the movie since that night, but it kind of has a bad taste in my mouth. I find myself immediately thinking: What did I like that they didn't? Am I wrong and they're right? and other thoughts of doubt.
There is also the thought that some movies play better at home and maybe Funny People is one of them. It has a long run time, and most theater goers were looking forward to a comedy with Adam Sandler and the 40 Year Old Virgin guy, and this movie is not your typical comedy. -- But that can be a thought for a different blog entry.
In a perfect world, I would go into everything blind and cold. I would not have spoken to anyone or even saw a trailer where I could pre-categorize everything, but this will never happen. I'll just have to make do.
This is not a perfect science. For example, I recently saw Public Enemies and wasn't expecting much from it, and it wasn't too good. While also being very excited to see (500) Days of Summer and District 9 and really loving both of them. But expectations still play a big role and can swing border-line movies over or under the line.
It's also possible, that Funny People spooke to me in some way and The Hangover didn't, and I would have been that anomoly even after watching the Hanover in the theater of someone that did not like it, but really enjoyed Funny People. And these expectations really played no role at all, but I do not think so. When I start something I expect some sort of result, and when the result is different than my expectations, it has more drastic ramifications in my head.
Lastly, I'm curious about what I will think about Avatar whenever I find a time to see it. My initial thought when I saw the first trailer was "That looks horrible", but now all the hype and people saying it is great makes me curious what I will actually think. I wish I could see it in a vaccuum and have previous conceptions of what it is, but it's too late for that. Wish me luck. I'll be sure to continue this theoretical discussion on what constitutes enjoyment in the future.
Any thoughts from my handful of readers out there? I'm curious if I'm the only one. How has outside influences effected your enjoyment?