Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Presumption Disparity

There’s a phrase that I learned about recently that describes a lot of movie watching; ‘presumption disparity’ – it’s the difference between the actual reality and the perceived reality. If you walk into a bar and ask for a tropical drink – what the barkeep would hand you would be far different than what people in the tropics actually drink – that difference is the ‘presumption disparity’.

When I get really excited about seeing a movie – I’m wagering that it I have no ‘presumption disparity’ – and that it will live up to exactly what I want it to be. When I’m pleasantly surprised by a movie – it usually means that I expected the movie to be all right – but exceeded my expectations.

When I sat down to watch BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID – I thought it was going to be a more traditional western – but it turned out it was a kitschy buddy film. This affected my opinion of the film quite a bit – but is it the film’s fault? No. My ‘presumption disparity’ was too large and that is made it seem poor to me – I didn’t fairly judge it for the content that was – I judged it based on the content that I wanted it to be.

I try my hardest to go into movies with a 5 out of 10 mentality – and it’s the movie’s job to either improve on that score or degrade that score. It’s hard not to get excited about certain films – people are paid to figure out ways to get you excited and advertise based on that excitement. It’s also hard when you go in expecting a “classic” when you’re told over and over how great something is.

People have told me that THE BLUES BROTHERS is hilarious – one of the best comedies ever – which isn’t really fair considering that this praise puts an unfair burden on this film to deliver. Thus, when I finally get around to watching it my ‘presumption disparity’ is probably going to be way off – and I’ll think it’s overrated. Unless everyone of course is dead on and not exaggerating about their love for a film – which is a blog topic onto itself.

As I’ve been thinking of this ‘presumption disparity’ factor more and more – I decided to axe my ratings of ‘x out of x’ – and just give an honest opinion of what I watch. I will lavish praise on films I like and give reasons as to why I loved the film. I will cut down films I dislike and I will argue as to why it was not good.

I think cutting out a rating system will reduce the amount of high marks given out based on an initial exceeding of my ‘presumption disparity’ – which is more common than I care to admit. I also feel like it will give people more to think about if they chose to take my movie recommendations rather than “it’s a 5-star film so it better be great” – and with 5 followers – I’m really concerned.


  1. For me,Inception is your Blues Brothers. I was fed so much hype about this film before and after release. I still have yet to watch more than 5 minutes of it. I just don't care and it will never live up to the inflated expectations.

    I now just tell people if you like "X" (or dislike "X" then skip it) then this might be worth a watch.

  2. Amen, ian!

    I avoided all the reviews and talk of INCEPTION - I wanted to watch it as fresh as I could... So, my girl and I went out with one of her friend's the day before I was going to catch the matinee - and he couldn't shut up about it...

    I put it off for another week - and when I went to see it - his words kept rolling through my head... and I was pissed... I was getting a headache straining to watch every detail - then found myself hating the movie... It was almost over by the time I stopped caring and just sat back and watched it - and it was good.

    I've watched it with others for their first time and they'd sit there guessing and pointing at stuff - and my advice is always "just watch it - it's not a puzzle - it's a movie - if you spend the entire time "figuring it out" you won't like it"

  3. I hate the "I figured it out!" crowd. I want to watch a movie and not figure it before the end. That means it was properly written. If within the first 30 minutes you know what is going to happen or who did it, then it is just poor writing and presentaion. The last few times I was taken by suprise in movies was the Sixth Sense, The Others, Fight Club and The Usual Suspects. These are all well put together stories that you can't figure out.

    They are also "old" by today's standards but when I saw them then, they blew me away. It also helped going into them hype free.

  4. The Blues Brothers may well be the worst movie ever made. In any country. In any genre. Ever.

  5. I've tried using a rating system but I find they always break down when you try to apply them to the kinds of cult movies that I enjoy.