The second to last movie I watched in 2016 was Rogue One. As I walked into the theater, I had low expectations. Sure, with Lucas out of the way and after the success of The Force Awakens, I had no reason to expect a bad movie. However, the prequels are all too real, and after reading a few reviews that brought up concerns that, if true, would ruin the movie for me, I did my best to lower my expectations.
The last movie of the year I saw was La La Land. My wife and I went to celebrate her birthday. I had heard nothing but good about this movie from people I usually tend to agree with. It was sitting at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time, plus both my wife and I are actors and have enjoyed our fair share of musical theater, both on stage and off, so La La Land appeared to be something that should be right up our alley. Expectations were high.
In the end, Rogue One was fantastic and La La Land … wasn’t. Boy oh boy, it wasn’t.
One might assume the lesson to be learned here is to always keep your expectations low, to always assume the worst. Similar to Peter La Fleur’s philosophy about goals:
I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed. And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal.
But that seems like a crappy way to go through life: expecting everything to suck and waiting for the times you are surprised. I also don’t think you should go through life thinking everything is going to be great, or always assuming things will work out. Having a good attitude is one thing, but if you think every movie you are about to watch is going to be The Godfather, then you will be let down 9.9 times out of 10. Even when that movie is The Godfather: Part III.
From now on, I am going to try to go into every movie, and every life experience, with neutral expectations. I will not put too much stock into what others say, and I will try my best not to listen to the doubts and fears in my own head.
Mr. Myagi said if you walked down the middle of the road you will get “the squish just like grape.” That might be true for things in your control, like learning karate and wearing huge headbands, but for all those things that are out of your control–will the movie be good, will she say yes, what’s going to happen tomorrow–I think the not too hot, not too cold world of neutral expectations is just fine.