You know what I mean: you see the previews, you read the reviews and if you're a dork like me you even read the websites. So by the time you schlep into the cinema there's not much left to be surprised by. Oh, sure, you might be pleasantly surprised by how good something is (I mean the original Step Up certainly delivered but I must confess I had my reservations about whether Step Up 2 could deliver on the same cheestastic scale ... until I saw it, of course), or shocked by how really godawful it is (seriously I know there are loads of people you liked, nay, loved Transformers but My. God. Sex on the car-bot? Really?) but it's pretty hard, in my experience at least, to be really taken by surprise these days when it comes to movies.
So imagine my delight - in theory at least - when I was surprised not once but twice this weekend by two among a handful of DVDs I had borrowed out to help me pass the pleasant long weekend in a daze of hangovers and movies on the couch. Of course I'm not really a delightful person so as you'll swiftly notice, if you keep reading, this is A Cautionary Tale along the lines of being careful what you wish for.
Let's start with Midnight Cowboy. Okay, okay I should have known more about this movie - it's a 'classic'. But somehow I'd managed to avoid knowing anything about it for 25 years. All I had to go on was the picture on the front of a young Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman (a nice moody sort of a shot), a vague sense of some homoerotic overtones (can't be a bad thing) and that song Everybody's Talkin' At Me stuck in my head (fuck now it's stuck in there again). In my mind the movie was a sort of Brokeback Mountain meets The Sting. I don't know why. So I borrowed the movie, got stuck into it and My. God. Not the most upbeat movie in the world for a lazy Sunday. I must say I would recommend this baby because it's a classic for a reason but you might want to remove the razorblades from the house first. The entire thing depressed Andy so much we had to go for a two hour drive in the middle just to resist the temptation to end it all in a joint suicide pact.
Even so: a mostly pleasant surprise with only a light slathering of life crushing ennui on the side.
Onto my second choice, carefully chosen to follow Midnight Cowboy by virtue of the fact it was light, fluffy and starred Marilyn Monroe. Ms Monroe (AKA: jelly on stilts) may not be my favourite actor in the world but she has earned my love through association with Some like it Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes so I had some expectations for the Seven Year Itch. Plus, you know, it's the one with the white dress.
What I didn't know is that it's also the one with the 'wacky' dream sequences. And the one with its 'hilarious' endorsement of widespread infidelity. And gee whiz gosh don't even get me started on the 'bawdy' 'humour'. My. God. I turned it off hours ago and still all I want in the world is that hour and a half of my life back. Sure Midnight Cowboy filled me with a kind of soft, existential despair but it did, at least, turn in some very decent performances, a killer soundtrack and succeeded in wringing a few reluctant tears from me (c'mon - the end scene? Am I made of flipping STONE?). The only tears The Seven Year Itch got out of me were tears of frustration and the tears of pain as I repeatedly stabbed myself with a kitchen knife just to be sure I hadn't died and gone directly to hell.
To conclude: the fact that it's a rarity these days to go to a film with only the vaguest idea of what it's about and who is in it is a shame. A delightful film is made doubly delightful when it takes you by surprise and you have no expectations it is required to live up to. If I think about it most of my favourite movies are the ones that have caught me unawares or slowly crept into my life: not the ones I have hotly anticipated only to be disappointed by. On the flipside, if I had the opportunity to see a preview for The Seven Year Itch I would have been able to make up my own mind that it was a piece of dull, unfunny and slightly misogynistic claptrap for myself instead of being required to take the opinions of the many film buffs apparently part of a wildworld conspiracy to pretend this shit is comedy gold. Dammned if you do, damned if you don't I suppose. What. Ev.